Sunday, June 28, 2009

THE MERRI CREEK : POEMS & PIECES, # 11, June, 2009; PART 2




He now has a new song to sing--
The ambient fire that blinded him
Is no longer part of his memory.

God is making a cup of tea
But he has no sugar.
Other things are there, too numerous
To list: grey clouds, engines,
Secret codes - such things
Trouble list compilers, but
Where is the sugar?

God goes into the goldmine,
And when he re-surfaces to heaven
He leaves behind our planet's
Blind copulation in the dark
Nights bereft of love.

A thousand bibles on street corners,
Ten thousand bibles in schools.
Jim Morrison no longer breaks
Wind, no longer fears needles.

Elvis and Oscar Wilde look
At the fort. They have exchanged
Their greying hair for haloes,
Bad habits for certainty, for hope.
God is good, and his unfailing love
And faithfulness work miracles.
Several cubes of sugar have
Ben conjured up.

All those premature ejaculators who say,
"Aha! We've got him now!" are really
At heart, decent souls who would benefit
From the serenity of a day's fishing. Their wives
And girlfriends cook muffins in the colder months,
And their recourse to blonde tints and streaks
Isn't disgraceful, but it is a bit sad.

The delay in ending this poem has to do with
Reverence, and sincerity. I am a committed
Believer in the Father, Jesus, the Holy ghost, and
Jim Morrison, Elvis, and Oscar Wilde. My
Premature ejaculations drip over an army of
Ants, and yes, I am neither poor, nor
Needy, but rather warm in my bedroom. Finis.



Welshmen deliver milk as mountains become pebbles--
In the laboratory quarks sing their strangeness like divas,
And Poseidon and God play scrabble,
Both claiming unquestionable as the longest
Seven letter word imaginable. And so
The oceans roar and foam, and so a small,
Costumed boy throws pebbles into the sea.

Go to a river bank to seek refuge from eternity--
See how the city's water supply is polluted
By ghosts of Welsh shepherds who can ethereally
Tip muck in from earthenware jars. Philadelphia
Is where God has his east coast base, and
All the baseball bats in all the houses
Cannot destroy it. A native American offers
A passer-by a sweet thing on a stick--
God is our fortress, no matter what Zeus and Cronus say.

Two vagrants set fire to a rubbish bin.
This is destruction equivalent to the loss
Of love at twenty-two, the dim bestiality
Of our planet. As John Lennon
Said, "Perfection is counted only by tossers,"
And God has fire extinguishers aplenty.

A wax sculpture of a butterfly is placed
Near the exit of the Gallery. It hardly moves.

A native American offers a passer-by a
Sweet thing on a stick - God
Is our fortress, no matter what Zeus and Cronus say.


[NOTE: In essence, Sofdolreadic Meditations on the Psalms involves writing a poem for each of the 150 Psalms in the Holy Bible. I have begun writing in the order that I pull slips of paper out of a box, believing as I do in the purposeful nature of chance. Number 46 was the first slip of paper I drew out, so two poems written and 148 to go. Though I'm still way behind William Shakespeare in this respect, since 1989 I have coined some words, and sofdolreadic is my latest. The dictionary entry will go as follows:

sofdolreadic / sof'dol'reed'ic/ a. poetically unique

The etymology of the word is: "sof" from The Doors song The Soft Parade,arguably Jim Morrison's finest moment; "dol" from 'dolmen', a megalithic tomb (nothing can be poetically unique without it being cognisant of its past); and "readic" from 'read' (a little less esoteric).





a broken computer rotting
under jasmine
graffiti stains the fence
the neighbour's cat
descends a tree branch
the barbecue rusted
like a hulk long washed up
weeds press their claim
possums and rats
along the fence after dark
saturday night goths
drop a port bottle
from the laneway alongside
the dog three doors down
barks like a chainsaw
choking to start
an old concrete bench
protects a patch of grass
like a doting mother
last year's tomatoes
hunched like tumbleweeds
yet to be set free
a metal pipe wedges
the Hills Hoist upright
a cracked path
leads its way
out on fold-up chairs
the knee high grass
tickles our calves
drinking beer
the mosquitos moving in



A new Michael Ondaatje hardback
is something to savour
like a good op shop
rarer these days
seconds a boutique
elegantly squeezed
like a council sapling
edged in concrete
you skirt around
like a bruise
commerce doubles up
like birthday cards
stood up next to the tele
chiming media doctrine
my hawaiian shirt
wilts off the line
a page one rendezvous
scores the next decade





he stands over the fire
cooking souls in a frypan
prodding them with a knife

an attempt to discover their names



a thought has been found

a philosopher will be called in
to determine the cause of its death



a white horse rests in a paddock
wet green safely coloured in around him
accompanying grey sheets squeeze from discarded eyes

a white horse is resting in a paddock
as far away from George Stubbs as he can get




I won't think about where it all begins or ends
each grain of sand, blade of grass, drop of rain

I'll disregard the minutiae, even though it all starts
with a single gene, cell, idea -- on the molecular

level it's all waves anyway, all interconnected,
therefore I'll let myself forget the singular

blade, grain, drop, besides these days no one
much remembers rain, so I let go of rainy days,

even months when it must have poured
I'll allow them all to subside,

only this momentary pause--
where experience might endure beyond itself

instead I'll just accept my limitations
and let one stand for each and every

like that day walking back from the park
when I misjudged the weather, a mother

with her two children, both overshadow her now--
but then that rain, it came from out of nowhere

heavy drenching rain, with children running
sopping, running, laughing, soaking, laughing

as though nothing existed, but us and that rain,
that would stand for each and every drop.



MICHAEL FITZGERALD-CLARKE, born in England, lived in Melbourne (where he participated in Poor Tom's street poetry a couple of decades ago), & for many years in Canberra. Has published two chapbooks of poetry, S-h-h-hidelplonk (Pudding House, USA, '02), & Deep Wings (White Heron Press, USA, '04). Numerous poems have appeared in magazines here & overseas including Blast, Hobo, The Adirondack Review, The Wormwood Review. Has written poetry since he was "captivated as a teenager by a biography of John Keats", & also includes Shelley, Rilke, Lorca, Bunting, Dransfield & Olds amongst his influences.
CHRIS GRIERSON, lives in Melbourne. Has written songs, poems, short-stories & novels, some of which have been published, won awards, been performed. Publisher of poetry chapbook series, Soup, in the 1990s, whose authors included Kierran Carroll, Claire Gaskin & Cassie Lewis. Currently working on a long piece based on the life & times of Melbourne gangster, Squizzy Taylor.
ANN SHENFIELD, lives in Melbourne, recent residency at Varuna (Blue Mountains); see Poems & Pieces #8, and Poems & Pieces #2 for previous contributions.
NATHAN SHEPHERDSON, lives in the Glass House Mountains in Queensland. The son of painter Gordon Shepherdson, he is a poet & writer on visual art. Has published Sweeping the Light Back Into the Mirror (UQP, '06); What Marian Drew Never Told Me About Light (Small Change Press, Qld.,'08). Has won the prestigious Josephine Ulrick Poetry Prize twice, in 2004 & '06, & same year won the Newcastle Poetry Prize. When not scooping prizes he follows the cricket.



It's been a fascinating leg of the journey... finding your blogspot and having contact with old mates from the Melbourne push... and what a buzz to see our poems/freeverse published....! What I envisage as a worthy project would be to gather absolutely everything still accessible from that time... the broadsheets, mags, posters, pics, etc., and bring it all together in one magnificent book... paintings, sculptures... I won't do it... but putting the idea out there might spark someone else... You've started something... how do we broadcast your blogspot to a larger audience? John Yule (not a relly), John Tranter, Geoff Eggleston, Adrian Rawlins, all have references on the net... that's a start... and some of the living may still have memorabilia...



6th May,'09
It bowled me over that you would devote an issue to devotional/beat poets of Melbourne and Meher Baba, it just seemed so out of the blue, a left field sort of thing. I was also impressed with the 40 year thing, because 40 is a significant number in Sufi tradition. Hafiz especially mentions 40 in connection with a couple of significant events in his life. I have a strong feeling about this year because it's 40 years since Baba dropped His body.
But when I thought about it, the devotional or spiritual aspect was very strong with the Beats, it was obvious. And it was what attracted me to Kerouac et al all those years ago...before I got connected to Baba. But the way you have focussed on that characteristic of the Beats strikes me as something not really stated by other writers. But Kerouac, Cassady & the others were very drawn to the spiritual/sacred...despite all their character defects...

12th May, '09
(....) I'm sure it has been said by others [spiritual/religious characteristics of the Beats, ed] but I don't recall that it was given more than a passing was other things about the Beat characters & writers that were given more significance. But a large part of Kerouac's alcoholism was due to disenchantment, disillusionment with the world...his path through existentialism, drugs, Buddhism, and return to Catholic (mysticism) faith of childhood, and of course his withdrawal from his old friends and social network, and his own statement prefacing last publication about being lonely, solitary, Catholic mystic madman.
And of course Neal was wired bigtime for the connection to God... "now we know TIME man"... and was in the habit of prayer and meditative reflection... His karma was also high wired to the physical domain and driven sexually and drugs too...sort of complicated things a bit. But then that's the hero's path aint it, strewn with obstacles, challenges, failures, tragedy. I think they were both tragic figures.


Finally published this partly sunny now nippy but dry Melbourne winter's day, June 28th, 2009

Monday, June 8, 2009


In the wake of the publication of The Divine Issue & Dave Ellison's spreading the word, I've enjoyed a wave of correspondence with some of the figures recalled there, one email leading to another --Karl Gallagher, Frances Yule & Paul Smith.
The characters & poets of that time are living treasures, gold mines of the history they embody, further chapters of our story. I'm heartened --not that I thought or think it'll all be lost, for there'll always be a younger & later generation with a yen for research & the inkling of vital connection & the ability to bring it to life once more. Rather, I'm heartened that some figures of the time we're calling ours, are as charmed as I am, tickled from normal inertia back into the quick of it as the wheel turns again (I'm anticipating Frances Yule whose poem/riposte appears anon).
Bringing me up to date with his own activities, Paul Smith has reminded me of his large 2nd hand book-store, Book Heaven, at Campbells Creek outside of Castlemaine at 47, Main Road, and refers us to his web-site which fully describes his prolific writing, translation & scholarship. (See .)
Out of the blue, a week or so ago, Ross Keating popped in. I told him we'd been in touch with Paul Smith recently & restocked some of his New Humanity publications, for example translations of Hafiz, Omar Khayam, Kabir, & Francis Brabazon's Stay With God. We got talking about Brabazon. He asked me if I shared his good opinion of the poet. I said I remembered thinking how like Allen Ginsberg & Bob Dylan I thought some of Brabazon's poetry was when I first read it : surprisingly hip, for an Australian back in the 50s! Ah, he said : the Beats! And he wondered whether Australia ever had a Beat generation? I said that although it had never been formalised or announced, there definitely was a body of work which qualified as Beat, attending to the same variety of subject & style as distinguished the North Americans. Oh what a project that would be for a young scholar! No wonder I'm feeling the house is jumpin'!


I want to think aloud around & about Alison Hill, who was much more than an en passant name in TDI's roll call. For many of us who encountered her in the late 60s, early 70s scene, she was one of the stars, if only for the effect of her first riveting reading of a poem/manifesto, Reach Out (eventually published in the first number of Mal Morgan's mag, Parachute Poems, c 1972) --something of its charge is there on the page but truly you had to have been there as they say!
She was rightly included in Thomas Shapcott's anthology, Australian Poetry Now (Sun Books, Melbourne, 1970), alongside other La Mama/Melbourne 'new poetry' luminaries such as Geoff Eggleston, Michael Dugan, Garrie Hutchinson, John Jenkins, Ian Robertson & Charles Buckmaster. Her biographical statement notes marriage to Terry Gillmore as his includes her. I thought of it then as a Melbourne/Sydney union, as though we really were making a family! La Mama's Sydney confreres included Nigel Roberts, John Tranter, Bob Adamson, Michael Dransfield & Vicki Viidikas; from Adelaide Frank Starrs, Rob Tillett & Richard Tipping, & American-Queenslander Billy Jones.
Shapcott noted in his preface that, "There are a few omissions which I regret : a few writers actively involved in the Melbourne experimental scene either did not reply to personal invitations to contribute, or advised that they were suspicious of the validity of anthologies." (p xi) Those writers were myself, Ken Taylor & Bill Beard. Only Bill has continued to absent himself from anthologies & publishing per se. Taylor & I have been in a couple of others but in recent years I seem to have reverted to that original reluctant type!
Having been invited by John Hooker at Penguin Books to edit an anthology of new Australian poetry in '69 and rejected the proposal, Ken & I were in no frame of mind to contribute to Tom's anthology. If as editors we feared impossible compromises in selection or packaging for our own anthology, we were hardly going to be acquiescent contributors for someone else's.
I was living in England when Mike Dugan sent me a copy of the anthology early in 1971. Distance hadnt made me regret my decision though it did soften my opinions. In my U.K. mag, Earth Ship (#4/5 September,'71), I wrote that Australian Poetry Now, "includes good work from some of the new poets (ie post-68 Australian poetry 'renaissance') whose activity was the reason for the book tho their subsequent placement in the anthology & the editorial qualifications render them harmless -- their own innocent vanities painfully bared! Ce la vie! However -- notwithstanding the omissions of certain poets (on ideological grounds!) from the anthology & the excesses of many who were included there is still the work of eg. Nigel Roberts Terry Gillmore & Garrie Hutchinson to savour."
It's obvious to me now that the efficacy of Tom Shapcott's anthology was determined across much wider perspectives than my localist, avant-gardist, counter-cultural imperatives allowed me to see then. Though it might be true that one of the editor's objectives was amelioration in which a slightly older generation, only recently projected as the New Impulses poets (1967), would redeem its share of the spirit of the 'new' raucously claimed by a slightly younger generation as its own, a move that could justifiably be politically critiqued as I for one did, it's also true that the anthology achieved what the little mags couldnt, and that is the distribution to the poetry readership of a large swathe of Australian poetry rising to the time's acute sense of contemporaneity irrespective of age or publishing history.
Apropos The Divine Issue, it's Alison Hill's edition of Jargon, the 32nd annual of the RMIT student body, Summer 1968/69, which she entitled A Crimson Jargon (the cover tells why), that demands attention here.
Designed as a double-header, it contains the student/tutor writings & articles the journal would ordinarily have been defined by (articles on marijuana, Jean Luc Godard, writings by Jeff Edmunds & Damian Coleridge, whom I specifically name for also participating in the La Mama readings, & et cetera), but, like the Trojan Horse, it also carries the cohort of the out-of-school alternative. For instance, the virtuoso rave by Adrian Rawlins, Image & Entity : J.S. Ostoja Kotkowski's electronic images in the micro macrocosmic field of the Now Culture Situation, in which he cartwheels from one high art reference to another, apparently celebrating the liberation of consciousness from culture's old categories...
Alison's edition promotes the emerging new poets (Buckmaster, Beard, Gillmore, Roberts, Tranter, herself) and also showcases Meher Baba & some of his 'lovers'. Adrian Rawlins, Jim Miskias & Denis Smith constructed a portrait of Baba from his published words, and David Pepperell, whom I assume was a Baba-lover then, published a surrealist tour de force, For All My Seasons. The entire issue of Jargon may well be dedicated to Meher Baba : "Postscript : Present Indicative" describes his death, more or less coinciding with the journal's publication --"On Friday, 31 January, 1969, Merwan Sheriar Irani called 'Meher Baba' and revered by millions as a Divine Incarnation or Avatar, shed his physical body to 'live eternally in the hearts of His lovers everywhere'.'"
The journal included graphics by George Baldessin who taught at the RMIT, which reminds me that Baldessin created the original La Mama poster template for Betti Burstall's cafe-theatre & designed the poster for my play Stephany (at La Mama, September,'68). Looking at his "personages"(heads) in A Crimson Jargon, I'm struck again by the floating finesse which distinguished his style as well as shock for his early death --of which I was blissfully unaware until a Hemensley family trip to the NGV happened upon the large & brilliant retrospective of the apparently recently deceased artist. Where was I to have missed it?
1972/73, out of the country for three years, I experienced a second migration rather than a simple return. There was no picking up where I had left off. I was now beholden to an internationalism garnered from the English perspective; I was involved in Anglo-American new poetry on which I grafted the new Australian work. Notwithstanding the Australian push at that time for the international context, to which I naturally contributed, I was diverted from the depth & breadth of the local (as though 'elsewhere' is always ultimately abstract, when abstraction is not what one thinks one's about). So, by the beginning of the new decade I wanted to recommit myself to a 'being here' in which the local would not be waylaid by the international. I wanted to be present in & to the life of the time, here & there. I entitled a new series of my Earth Ship mag, H/EAR --deriving a double plea from its pun : "us here now / hear us now". I stuck "1980" postcards received from Paul Vangelisti (editor of Invisible City, San Francisco) on my walls. In that era of the Super-powers' stand off & of nuclear war fears, I felt a new urgency to attend to what was literally at hand --in amongst the international correspondence, a recommitment to the local, to Melbourne. I described my project then as an "active archive", as good a tag as any for the immanence it's probably always about, dependent upon the flash one causes as active principal, flesh & blood, here & now : history with a palpable halo!
The title of Baldessin's wonderful sculpture, Banquet For No Eating, perfect metaphor for the above. What a feast was that exhibition of George Baldessin's graphics & sculpture, but posthumous, posthumous : 'Art' now when I'd love to have had Baldessin himself alive at the table, indeed the whole city would. Thirty years on and still an awful loss...
It's been an even longer mourning for Charles Buckmaster who perished in 1972, aged 21. The publication in A Crimson Jargon of his long poem all up along 1984 times, gave him a lay-out no mimeographed mag of the period could have matched. There it was, poem-as-score, poem as graph-of-the-mind, poem as spontaneous but accurate apprehension of the moment. Whatismore, photos of the poet with partying friends are superimposed on the poem. How strange & consoling to have his image, play-acting in the Melbourne Cemetery for Robert Adai Westfield's camera --chess & tea-party on a grave-stone, cups & saucers spread over the Australian flag, Charles & friends sprawled around. --and one of Charles by himself, standing tall in sun-haze beside an obelisk, as though peering through the mist of eternity... Incidentally, I assume the photographer is same man whose Web reference as Robert Adair Westfield records a year's study at the RMIT before training with Newton & Talbot? If so, he's a commercial photographer himself now, currently living at & serving the Shiva Ashram in Mount Eliza (founded by Shankarananda, an initiate of the Saraswati order of Kashmir Shaivism)...
Forty years on, attrition's to be expected --Buckmaster, Baldessin, Rawlins, Eggleston, all gone; "shed their bodies"...
Alison Hill is still around. Late 80s, I think it was, South Yarra library, she greeted me at an evening dedicated to Charles Buckmaster & Jennifer Rankin, upon whom Judith Rodriguez & I gave lectures. First time I'd seen her in years. In the 90s she was contributing to the anthologies produced by the Aardvarkers poetry group (the most recent of which, Melting Clocks, published in 2000, has her Dali-esque painting on its cover). Last time I saw her we talked about the rereading I'd undertaken of the 60s, 70s poets, and hoped to keep that conversation going.
The poets of our time, "eternally in our hearts"...

Kris Hemensley
23 May/8 June,2009


A GHOST BETWEEN US (for Joan Sedorkin)

Around 1980, aged 37 I was standing
at the bar of the Albion in Carlton
taking notice of nobody
watching life passing by the window
in the early afternoon drinking alone
although several friends were around
I was away with my own thoughts
so long as I had a drink in front of me
and one on the way
that's all i really cared about.

Jukebox sounds came from the back bar
I was lightly swaying to the music
friends passed by saying hallo
smiling generously I replied
feeling good man feeling good
but I was disinterested
interested only in myself
listening to some hidden beat
some universal soul
alone in a crowded bar.

A voice I hadn't heard in years said
'Hey Karlos how are you man.'
I turn and face Nigel a sydney poet who's
grinning grabbing my arm telling me he's
here for the poetry festival
talking loud he says
'Why don't you say hallo to Gary Snyder, over there.'
which I don't believe but look anyway
I see two guys nearby leaning against the wall
drinks in hand watching me
one I recognise from photos as Snyder
it dawns on me that
they have been there for some time
have they been watching me, for how long?
I've been at the bar for maybe an hour and half.

We are about eight feet apart
and for a few seconds our eyes lock
and suddenly I feel ashamed to be seen
getting drunk
alone in a crowded bar
oblivious of the company of others.
I felt the ghost of Kerouac pass between us
Snyder takes it all in
sees a well liked energised guy
sees that I am on the same greased slide
of alcoholism
that took Jack down
the path of bitter loneliness
the scrambled brains
the mindless bad mouth
the deep disconnection

I didn't go over and say hallo
we both knew what we had seen
I turned back to the bar
picked up my drink, downed it
and ordered another.





in between the passing
of joints
talking about God
anti-war protests
poetry raves
performing plays
creating art
drinking coffee
eating Turkish, Greek, Italian
moving from one house to another
working briefly in shit jobs
playing pool
popping pills at parties
and hallucinogenic experiences
we were the nuts and bolts
the spokes the oil
of the 60s revolution
we were cogs in the wheel
of the revolving wheel

the wheel still turning

[May 19, 2009]


Thursday, June 4, 2009


Farewell Autumn, welcome Winter! April & May have come & gone! We'd better advertise Bloomsday then, the annual June 16th celebration falling this year on the Tuesday, which will be the next event at the Shop. In recent years, the profusion of Bloomsday events elsewhere leads us to concentrate our reading into the lunch period, midday til 2.30 or so. All James Joyce fans welcome!
The Autumn report, begun late March, was put to the side while I composed The Divine Issue (published in April), and though I took up the former again in early May, I was then wonderfully diverted by correspondence flowing from TDI as well as revisiting the same period's literary material, some of which research accrues now as its Addendum.
Had I been better organized I'd have flagged the two May events, namely the launch of Mary Napier's spoken-word CD, Open Thoughts, on the 15th, and the tribute reading for Dorothy Porter on the 28th.
A major distraction has been Loretta's health glitch (--an irregularity detected via breast screening which led to needle biopsy and then surgery for breast cancer; disappointingly this is a continuing story with further though smaller surgery in the offing)... On the day Dorothy's tribute took place at Collected Works, Loretta was having her operation at the Peter Mac. What I called 'exquisite irony', Jenny Harrison (who, with Gig Ryan, curated & catered the Tribute) named a 'symmetry' in which Dorothy was linked to Retta & all women touched by the illness. There was never a thought to cancel the event; Retta would have been appalled. She was certainly at the shop in spirit just as all her well-wishers were with her at the Peter Mac...

Disaster & disease affect everyone; the poets die the same kind of deaths as everyone else. Today I've read a notice posted by Lorin Ford on the Overload Nation poetry site concerning the death of Andrea Sherwood. We catch our breath, then breathe again... Geoff Eggleston, Dorothy Porter --mourned & celebrated by their families & literary communities in December... In February the fires came. Entire hamlets, towns disappeared. Family & friends were burnt out &/or killed. Young poet Ella Holcombe's parents perished in Kinglake. The subsequent memorial service at Montsalvat, attended by Melbourne poets in solidarity with Ella, was also a grieving for that whole community... In Redesdale, Robert Kenny faught for his house for ten minutes before abandoning it to save his own life. His academic work-in-progress was backed-up at La Trobe University but library, archives, art work & studio are all gone... From Berlin the shocking news of artist, print-maker Julia Harman's tragic & untimely death --she was Tim Hemensley's first serious partner, and felt that however separated by distance in life, & then by his death, she was always with him, and now she is I guess... Concentric circles of all whom one considers family. A good friend of the Shop, Tim Sheppard, died on the 11th March after illness. A great devotee of poetry, especially the 1st World War British poets, he also wrote poems although a collection never saw light of day...
For the poets, as I'm fond of saying, t'was always so. All of this in the midst of life. And life goes on (--and it does go on despite the traumatisation of survivors --so well and still do I recall the experience of 6 years ago when the fact of my son's death was like an imposed nakedness upon me -- worse : I felt skinned, scourged of my skin, wearing only the fact of his death, feeling as I stood there in the world that only I knew the catastrophe and no one could see what I was feeling)... Some of the life that goes on, for the poet, involves the readings & launches, gatherings of the clan... For the Melbourne poet these are all around town, constantly, if the handbills or emails I see are any indication.

Collected Works' Autumn season kicked off on the 12th March with the first of two new poetry collections published by Barry Scott's Transit Lounge : Kent McCarter's In the Hungry Middle of Here (--launched by Jenny Lea, whom I dont think I've seen since I dropped in on a Meanjin/Overland cricket match on the Domain Oval in South Yarra --early 90s? --I'm not sure whether she was playing or barracking but we chatted at tea in amongst the trestle tables & eskies --and what a dynamo was Meanjin's skipper, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, clapping for attention, darting hither & thither in the field when he wasnt bowling --but that's another story!), & Jennifer Mackenzie's Borobudur (launched by Tim Lindsey from the Asia Law Centre) on the 20th. Good attendances for both, more local poets at McCarter's, lots of Asian Studies people at Mackenzie's.
It's a truism in the Melbourne writing & performance community now that with the scene's current proliferation there are always going to be new names, poets one hasnt previously encountered. Blurbs from Gig Ryan & CWC for McCarter underlined my ignorance. Conversely, my blurb for Jenny Mackenzie attests a long acquaintance with author & family punctuated for the times she lived in China.
I remember twenty years ago Jennifer thinking of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's City Lights as a potential publisher of her Borobudur project. This must have been canvassed around about 1985 since that was when Robert Kenny's Rigmarole Books withdrew from the fray, having to decline such new writers as Brian Castro as well as foreclosing what had become a new writing stable including John Scott, Anna Couani, Ken Taylor, Ken Bolton, Chris Barnett, Ania Walwicz, John Anderson, Laurie Duggan, Walter Billeter, Kenny himself & yours truly. Who knows how it might have developed had personal & financial conditions played out differently? Rigmarole might now still have been the major small-press in Australia that one or two publishers in North America survived sufficiently long to become over there. But then again, gaps are inevitably filled and the culture is always changing, implying different aesthetical & political imperatives for different times. Rigmarole in the mid to late 80s would have been a natural home for Borobudur. While congratulating Jenny Mackenzie's tenacity and sighing with her At last, at last, one realizes it was more the case of putting something aside than of battling for twenty years; even so, twenty years is quite a hiatus.

A note now on Tim Lindsey's comments (overwhelmingly in the poet's favour)... Inevitably it was an Asian Studies/Foreign Affairs appreciation of the book as a cultural-political object --that is, Mackenzie's poem was read as a long overdue Australian translation of a classic Javanese story subsuming crucial aspects of that tradition, a belated but worthy act reflecting Australian recognition of the antiquity & authority of an important geopolitical neighbour.
Lindsey's pitch was not uninteresting --indeed, in the context of an exotic literary publication, his political & economic language was an instructive counterpoint. However, as I quipped to him later, I'd contend Indonesian-Australian relations, as with East-West relations in general, are a two-way street. Interesting that Australian ignorance of Javanese epic is supposedly indicative of an Australian know-nothing arrogance which will marginalise us in the future; yet the lay observation of the Asian neighbours' voracious appetite for Western popular forms, from democracy & personal freedoms to t-shirts & rock & roll, is unmentioned. Actually, Western translation of Asian literary & religious classics is the typical form of the Anglo-European interaction with Asia over a very long period, and as fast as we gobble up their elite texts so do they our popular ones.
It also occurred to me last year, after meeting a Singaporean poet & academic, that his expertise in modern British poetry, from Hardy to the present, surely curries our conception of the post-colonial! Furthermore, the considerable East-West collaboration of artists & writers, including Australian & Asian, in my opinion significantly corrects the postcolonial ideological cliche. I offered Tim Lindsey the examples of Sandy Fitts (whose View from the Lucky Hotel (Five Islands Press, '08) has won this year's Anne Elder Prize for a first collection) & Jane Gibbian (Ardent is her first full collection, published by Giramondo Press, '08) as Aussie poets redeeming quality collaboration from their trips to Vietnam. I also mentioned to him Cathy O'Brien's description of her meeting in Vientiane, Laos with an Australian colleague's partner, the Iraqui poet Basim Furat, residing there after a spell in New Zealand where, according to Mark Pirie, he had impressed the local scene. They may well collaborate in the future. For me a tiny but interesting example of the hybridization increasingly possible in global culture.
Of course, violent displacement is also increasing & is one obvious explanation of such unlikely crosscurrents. Yet let's recall Ford Madox Ford's witty definition of English culture, against the xenophobia of his day, as the happy result of "successive periods of unrest amongst the Continental peoples".
Kris Hemensley
March/May/June 4 '09