Saturday, November 28, 2009



Dear readers, followers & friends,
Because I began typing in October, namely Max Ryan's Allen Ginsberg story, and although I've worked through November on the surrounding poems & pieces, Blogger publishes the entire issue as though complete at the initial date instead of the final one.
My advice is to refer to the index for any of the following names : John Bennett, Glenn Cooper, Andrew Franks, Pete Spence, Dave Ellison, Tim Sheppard, Warren Burt, Kenneth Trimble, Max Ryan, Cornelis Vleeskens, Andrew Burke : click on the name and expect to find the current issue. And/or follow the index until you find the title, The Merri Creek : Poems & Pieces, #15, November, 2009. And/or find October 09 archive. And/or (because somehow Blogger has done it for me!) find "Tune in to the music" at the top of the index & click!
My apologies!

Thursday, November 19, 2009




Mok: a magazine of contemporary ink & paper

The influential poetry/art magazine Mok (issue 5), first published in Spring 1969, is being re-issued in a limited edition to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Mok will be launched in Melbourne at Collected Works bookshop at 2.30pm on Saturday December 5th, with a poetry reading and discussion including Kris Hemensley, Richard Tipping, John Jenkins, Rob Tillett (TBC) and a tribute to Vicki Viidikas.

Mok 5 was published offset in an edition of 1000 copies at the price of "40c or yr soul". The magazine has large pages (278 x 215mm) with striking black and white page design, combining some memorable poems and experimental writing with bold photographs and graphics.

Mok was the first of what became a wave of alternative magazines in the late 1960s, introducing new ideas of what poetry could be. The fifth issue was national in reach, with the co-editors in Adelaide (Rob Tillett) and Sydney (Richard Tipping) attracting contributions from across the country. This was “when Adelaide / Melbourne / Sydney took a formal step towards the New Australian Poetry we felt in our bones!" as Kris Hemensley has written.

The re-issue is 100 numbered copies, laser printed on xxxxx paper. Scanning and design have been supervised by Warren Taylor at The Narrows, collaborating as co-publishers with Richard Tipping's Artpoem press.

Mok 5 anniversary 40th re-issue

2.30pm Saturday 5th December 2009

Collected Works

Level 1 Nicholas Building 37 Swanston Street Melbourne, VIC 3000

Phone: (03) 9654 8873

Richard Tipping phone 0415 292 939

Press Release - further details

1969 was a dynamic year, with American cultural politics impacting hard. The Vietnam war was growing increasingly unpopular, astronauts landed on the moon, the Woodstock festival and its musics played as “the great '60s insurgency of hippies and revolutionary socialists startled and alarmed the cosy world of corporate calm and suburban slumber”. The Yippies arrived, regenerating urban communities with cooperative zeal. Mok was connected to new American poetics through correspondence with magazines such as The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle. Mok was also a part of alternative culture in the 'Festival City', Adelaide, through the rock band Red Angel Panic (the editors were musicans)- and the co-operative cafĂ© Geranium where poetry was performed with music and written on the walls.

The production of Mok 5 in Adelaide grew from a wide range of collaborations. Richard Tipping sent poems and ideas from Sydney, while Rob Tillett typed out all of the copy on an electric typewriter (very advanced for the time) and worked on production with a small offset printery. The layout and design was influenced by Marshall McCluhan's The Medium is the Massage, and put words and images together in dynamic relationships.

Rob Tillett writes that: “Offset was a new toy and we fooled with its potential (probably a bit much, as some of the text is too small and the layout's a bit erratic). Some of the pics were originals, but others were lifted from various sources (unacknowledged, as 'property is theft' etc etc). However, it broke new ground. The mag was assembled and bound by the Holocaust drama group's members and associates on a big table at the old Jam Factory. Some of these luminaries helped with the actual production and layout, too, in the spirit of 'contemporary dissolution and intemperance'. At the launch party we had music by the Red Angel Panic, a barbecued pig on a spit and a lightshow room in the basement.”

Poets in Mok 5 include Kris Hemensley, Vicki Viidikas, Charles Buckmaster, Nigel Roberts, Garrie Hutchinson, John Jenkins, Jacques Moncrieff, Toy Dorgan, Simon Bronsky, billbeard, Jonny Goodall, and the co-editors Richard Tipping and Rob Tillett.

Richard Tipping's poem Soft Riots / TV News was first published in Mok 5 and has been constantly in print ever since through anthologies, the latest being The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry, edited by John Kinsella (Penguin, 2009).

“Of the 57 contibutors to Mok, 34 currently appear in AustLit despite the contents of the Mok magazines not yet having been included in the AustLit database.”* * Sabrina Caldwell

Richard Tipping was 19 years old and Rob Tillett 20 when Mok 5 was published in September 1969. The magazine was completely self-funded and independent, and relied upon street sales to return its costs. Whereas the first four issues (in 1968) had been printed with a Gestetner roneo machine (with a screenprinted cover, in a run of 300 copies), the 5th issue leapt into offset printing with its graphic possibilities and a large print run of 1000. Unfortunately, although the edition sold out, it was hard to keep the finances together - and Mok 6 remains in manuscript. Richard had connected with many poets in Sydney through moving there from Adelaide in early 1969, and both editors were frequent visitors to Melbourne as the half-way point on this pendulum swing between cities. In 1970 Richard returned to Adelaide to continue studies at Flinders University, and edited several issues of a broadsheet called Mok Up included in the student newspaper Empire Times.


“Richard Tipping, born late in 1949, and co-editor of the underground Mok magazine, uses typographic innovations, headlines, concrete poetry, shapes like tears, humour, satire, radical politics, lyricism and irony. (…)

The student revolution has more fish to fry than straight politics. Perhaps one of their greatest strengths is that they refuse to separate the components of living. Poetry is a kind of demonstration too, against the philistines, and admass culture; a great raid on the inarticulate by a generation brainwashed by McCluhanism. 
In a country like this it's doubly important, where the tribe's dialect is overdue for a big dose of purification.”

Dorothy Hewett, Poets Alive in Westerly No. 4. December, 1971.


“The beginnings are back in 1968 when the poets chose to ignore the Australian literary scene: (…) the influences and catalysts were elsewhere. The most important thing it did was to stop the need for a poetry license in this country. If the poets could not find someone to publish their work (and they didn't really bother trying), they published themselves: they took the mystique out of publishing; it was no longer the light at the end of the tunnel, no longer the great success but just part of the process of poetry and from that the poem became a living thing: an inter-reaction between poets became possible. Any predictions must be optimistic.”

Robert Kenny

Introduction to Applestealers, 1974

RT 15.11.09

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Gallery 101 [Ground level, 101 Collins Street, Melbourne];
November 4-28th, 2009

At Christopher Heathcote's opening the other night at 101, red in hand & generously at hand, the trio smoothly dipping in & out of Coward, Brubeck, Monk, Miles et al, not yet 'playing the paintings' as I fancied could be done when we first noticed the adjacency of jazz band to paintings --Mondrian/Malevich topographies but just as likely musical staves--, I deliberated with Stephen McLaughlin on how many local art-writers also painted & actually exhibited? Jeffrey Makin; Robert Rooney for a long time; Bernard Smith? --but not too many more (that's a statement not a plea). We did see an exhibition by Bernard Smith? I say to Retta, doubting myself --she nods in the affirmative, yet for some reason Tucker's in my mind now --portraits after photographs? --or Smith's portrait of Tucker, or vice versa? --golden opportunity with McLaughlin & Heathcote both in the room to corroborate, but we're having a conversation, folks, not writing a thesis!
I remember Christopher telling me the show had been hung according to palate, and perhaps the groupings & progressions did peg back the large white, albeit divided, space to a series of harmonic clusters, which is what the paintings are. A moot point, I suppose, whether there's greater or lesser aesthetic coherence in studio or gallery (or do I mean 'explication', implying that the environment for the art's literal making is the fuller context)? Telling, though, that Christopher's invitation is a photograph of his studio in the Nicholas Building, and one can imagine that the pipes & windows opposite his studio, through his similarly partitioned window, is the model for the canvas on the floor leaning against the sill. There too are his brushes, a painting on an easel, objet d'art, two small framed portraits, &, instructively, piles of books propped against which is a Readers Feast shopping bag bulging, probably, with recently acquired booty!
He's a scholar-writer, a reader-painter. Expect correspondences, then, between the monographs he's written --in recent years there's Roger Kemp & Yvonne Audette --& his own painting? Well, the references exist, but no should or shouldnt about it. To converse people employ the same language, simple as that?
Exhibition launching, as with book launch & reading, is sometimes like the mega-, meta- artefact often promised. For me, Christopher Heathcote's 'artist reception' was the expanded painting --jazz trio fulfilling the paintings' jazz titles (Around Midnight, Twentieth Century Blues, Kind of Blue), encouraging one to see the paintings' grids as fretted with the whimsical points & angles which have denoted City & its Sounds since ever art made virtue of the naturally traducing popular culture!
I recall looking back down the room, to the right of the gallery entrance, at a particular work which then opened up to me as red base (the painter getting down his initial energy & excitement), overlay of grey squares (reflections : thinking aloud the problem of what to say), gathering details (or story subsumed to & expressed as pattern). Generalizing, I could say Heathcote's paintings elicit ideas from emotions, ultimately presenting or, dare one say, expressing a state of mind, a mood, a kind of blue! According to the notes, the paintings have accrued over a long period of time spent in the inner city, and maybe that explains their combination of movement & tranquility --both states rely on repeated signs & lines for their effect.
Writing these words, Ben Shahn is suddenly in my head, --exemplary of a calligraphy that's also choreography. Shahn & Saul Steinberg both? 50s, early 60s motifs, decor, design... And confirmed easily as I turn up the copy of Perspectives (Autumn, 1952) which my late uncle Dennis gave me, my last family summer holiday before I came away to Australia, first as a one-voyage mariner then an assisted passage migrant,1965 & '66 --a magazine which introduced me to Shahn's pictures &, as it happens, W C Williams' poems & prose, & much else besides, Rexroth, Barzun, Jarrell, Dahlberg --resonating forever after!
There it is : Shahn's Composition for Clarinets and Tin Horn (1951), in which a figure of anguish, face hidden in bent fingers & forearms, & mocked by the clown face on the horn, might even be missed in the strong line of instruments, which almost indicate a kind of grid. And grid it is that's foremost in Paterson (1950) & World's Greatest Comics... Selman Rodman commented, "Shahn has not been unaffected by the drift toward nonrepresentational abstraction in the past decade. The emphasis on background pattern in such transitional pictures as World's Greatest Comics (1947) and Convention (1948) has assumed a dominant foreground position in the more recent May 5 and Paterson. The latter picture was inspired by a passage celebrating 'invention' in William Carlos Williams' strictly 'nonrepresentational' poem with the same title and has been criticized by some of Shahn's admirers as 'arid,' 'empty,' and 'too abstract.'"
I'm not sure if the discussion around abstraction & realism that Rodman reports of 1952 is or isnt passe in 2009. Certainly no reference to Ben Shahn in Heathcote's exhibition note, though Leger's La Ville, Wyndham Lewis's The Crowd, Mondrian's Broadway Boogie-Woogie, & architects Van der Rohe & Gio Ponti are all acclaimed. And the jazz goes without saying.
In the exhibition note, Christopher Heathcote doesnt talk about abstraction or at all abstractly --quite the opposite. And he could easily share Shahn's axiom that form is only ever an expression of content...
Resoundingly then, a cool event, a cool show; two weeks left to dig it some more!

--Kris Hemensley,
November 6th-15th, 2009--

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Come for the entire afternoon to the Australian Poetry Centre's final programme at the historic Glenfern mansion in East St Kilda, before they join the VWC & co at the Centre for Books, Writing & Ideas at the State Library of Victoria.
As far as I know, there's the launch of the new edition of the Famous Reporter, as well as Sarah Day's new book of poems, Grass Notes (Brandl & Schlesinger, Sydney). The meat in the sandwich is Carol Jenkins' River Road Press's double launch of Chris (The Domestic Sublime) & Kris (My Life in Theatre)'s spoken word CDs!
Some meat, some sandwich!

Thursday, 18-11-09
C O R R E C T I O N :
Am reliably informed that Famous Reporter will not be launching. Wires crossed for wch many apologies. In actual fact, Simon West will be launching his new book, Selected Poems of Guido Cavalcanti : Critical English edition (published by English press, Troubador). Now there is a little bird making noises in my left ear : get it right, she's saying : no more mistakes!

Friday, November 13, 2009



We welcome the poet, critic and editor, Susan Schultz, to the Melbourne leg of her short Australian tour. She will be reading at Collected Works Bookshop, on Wednesday, November 18th, '09, 6 for 6.30, accompanied by Michael Farrell and friends (Bella Li, Sam Langer, Aden Rolfe, Jal Nicholl, Joshua Comyn, Jacek Pakula, Claire Gaskin).
Many of us know Susan Schultz as the editor of Tin Fish magazine and publications. She is a prof at University of Hawaii, author of collections published by Salt (UK) amongst others, and editor of The Tribe of John : Ashbery and Contemporary Poetry (Alabama, '95).

A great meet and greet occasion at the poetry hub of the City of Literature! Further enquiries, Kris Hemensley, 9654-8873.
Collected Works Bookshop, level 1, Nicholas Building, corner of Flinders Lane and Swanston at 37 Swanston Street, Melbourne.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


TIM [Timothy John Andrew] SHEPPARD (1955-2009)


[What follows is a small selection of poems from Tim Sheppard's handwritten & typed manuscripts, entrusted to me after his death by his partner Kevin Tims. A year or so before, Tim had shown me his typed selection, Celtic Harmonies, 1975-79. Apparently the last editor to see the poems was Stephen Murray-Smith of Overland magazine, perhaps 30 years ago. (Tim wasnt entirely sure it was Overland to which he'd submitted; perhaps Clem Christesen at Meanjin, --and had Clem actually published a poem? We discussed it a couple of times & he firmed on Overland.) A mutual friend had played go-between. A long time elapsed before the editor communicated he'd appreciated the poems but confessed they "werent for us". It's not difficult to see why! 'Bias Australian, temper democratic' didnt describe his poetry whatever his own political preferences! After that experience, Tim didnt approach the literary scene again. Some hurt or confusion might have persisted, but Tim was probably not meant for the literary life, except as a reader of course. Although always returning to whom he'd regard as Traditional poets, he was curious about the Modern Contemporary. If he favoured the Romantics, Hopkins, the Georgians, Edward Thomas, Eliot, Kathleen Raine, Edwin Muir, it wasnt that he didnt nibble at Berryman or Ashbery or modern Europeans in translation. Mind you, he also spent time & money on Emily Dickinson & Auden before releasing them too!
The foolscap-sized hard-covered book, with handwritten entries from the early '70s & even one from childhood, containing poems & thoughts & some essays (for example, a study of The Piper at the Gates of Dawn chapter from Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows), is "dedicated to 'the motion and the spirit that impels all thinking things, all objects of all thought, and rolls through all things.' " --quoting from Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey. Between the Wordsworth quotation and the equally famous verse of Blake (To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wild flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.), Tim added "and also dedicated to Kevin my friend and lover 21.7.99". On the book's inside cover is Virgil's "Sunt lacrimae rerum; mentem mortalia tangunt", from the Aeneid of course, of which Tim assumes general knowledge; the best translation of which might still be R D Fitzgerald's, "They weep here / For how the world goes, and our life that passes / Touches their hearts." (See the fascinating discussion of translations of Virgil's line on the Raminagrobis site, November 9th, 2006 posting.)
It's clear that Tim Sheppard wrote a religious poetry, Christian & mystical, 19thCentury in its expression, classical in its accommodation of divine forms. Poetry was an expression & embodiment of his philosophical search. It was autobiographical but without what he probably regarded as the literal banalities of self expression. Perhaps the most contemporary sounding of his poems are the haiku, which he included in his book from its beginning.
On an inside page is stuck a portrait of Rupert Brooke, beneath which Yeats' lines, "A pity beyond all telling / Is hid in the heart of love..."
It's astonishing & humbling to hold such a book/ such a life in one's hands. I'm sure similar documents/histories abound in our society --that life-writing, as it were, which intersects literature by dint of its existence let alone its form of expression. There is a book to be made from these manuscripts by Tim Sheppard's family & friends, --one which properly records his Christianity, his sexuality & psychology. I hope that this will happen one day.]


LOVE : A Haiku

Kingfisher's colours

Eyes reflected in water

Two solitudes touch.




Solitary Gull

A thousand wings extending

Throughout the cosmos




Darkness and light

Unopposed, blend with the

Emergence of form

Slowly creating itself

From within its own mystery.




Form, slowly breaks the silence of the void

While the soul extending, awakens the marvel

Of their flight across the evening sky.



For each lie told --

God wears a new mask.




Dusk, and the shadows lengthen,

and the heart surrenders to a beauty

of deep sorrowing -- ,

for in the silent-peacefulness

I am asked : "Who am I?"



I have come once more into the moment --

where sunrise does not follow night -- as

thought follows thought -- ,

but is complete as bird and sky

in stark relief -- , where

cry is not of bird alone

but of meeting

where bird and sky and eye combine --

somewhere, nowhere

dumb in the heart of man....

(for Kevin)



Between the Buddha

and the Christ I walk;

No distance --

for the hem of the Son

is wide. . . .

For the Compassionate One to touch. . . .



Tuesday, November 3, 2009



Serendipity, then, in lieu of claiming it for the dream it all seems to be (even synchronicity, which depends upon the perceiver & perception's right place & time), that Vera Di Campli San Vito should place in my hands, at the Bookshop, copies of Poetry Review (London), amongst which pile were vol. 92, #2,Summer'02, containing Michael Haslam's statement on poetry (his reply, alongside Kathleen Jamie's & Kenneth Koch's, to the question, "Which poet, or poets, provide the measure against which you judge your writing?"), & vol.92, #4, Winter '02/3 his 10 page sequence, THE HIGH ROAD BROWN and The Soft Dethroned, --serendipitous because he was reoccurring to me just then as significant to the discussion I'd mooted in my review of American Hybrid (ed Swensen & St John, Norton, '09), viz, "how does British sing-song inheritance come through to the contemporary, & the postmodern contemporary at that?" : triggered by reading Martin Corless-Smith who'd brought to mind Nicholas Johnson & a tweet of Douglas Oliver --but Mike Haslam, unmentioned, was momentously adjacent! : -- "Witness, how a being's thought is like his being thought / arising slowly as an heron from the heron shaw - / arose, a marvel not unusual, aloft." (Like an Ivor Hitchens painting, where expression & depiction perform each other's tricks at no cost to beauty or sincerity...)
And a chap asked, as they do, innocent at the broad shelf, What do you think of Shakespeare (meaning I think, what's a poet of today's take on him given readers are all at sea with modern poetry?) Surprised him, I think, with my terse reply : Shakespeare is the language, isnt he? Of course there's the Anglo-Saxon, Chaucer et al, but for me, as a poet, it was Shakespeare : my writing issued from that language, and out of everything so derived...
All this been & gone and my head down again in the quiet of the room when I flicked through the magazine and found the questionnaire. Astonishingly, Michael Haslam's response was like an extension of the conversation in the Shop. Straightaway : "Shakespeare, in As You Like It, has Audrey ask Touchstone what poetical is, "is it honest in deed and word, is it a true thing?" Touchstone replies, "No, truly : for the truest poetry is the most feigning." And this I'd take for my measure : a technique of feigning, as much as the poet in person, in regard to poetical truth (....) Let me cut my own guff, then, and name my measure : Shakespeare."
Haslam, the gentle dialectician, confesses, "I've seen myself suffer the megalomaniac delusion that I'm, almost singlehandedly, charged with the conservation and transmission of an essential technique of English poetry, but it takes a Fool to compare himself to Shakespeare, and I had to laugh out loud (...)Imagine my (fairly incompetent) Genius told me : Look up Touchstone, and the feigning thing -- The Clown is your personal measure, but he's just one aspect -- Remember Jacques, remember Rosalind, remember Everything --"
Aside (dramatist's permission) : 'remember' means 'know', and no difference between knowing & imagining. This 'self', the doting 'I' (dotty, but follow me) is attracted to subject as well as imposing upon it --that is, it's found in subject without necessarily articulating intention and recalls it as what was always owned.
Patently there's a connection between sound & place, and this plays out as anxiety for me in recent years (ironically, the years I returned, happily, to poetry after the avant garde cul-de-sac) : the sound of the poem amplifies the precariousness of the expat ('where am i?')...
Haslam's place is where he does his wondering/wandering. He goes against Pound/Olson political geography --that is, poem as map which contains maps, a world which contains the world. Not that he isnt referential or associative --he is, but his poetry's fundamentally phenomenological not epistemological. Like Hopkins, the place is experienced in its music (the sound of the words). So too WS Graham, Dylan Thomas, Bunting, Yeats, all the way to Shakespeare : song, song, "continual song"...
Thus Michael Haslam's major work, after the Welsh Triad he explains, which says "there were three places in Britain where monks, time out of mind, took shifts to sing praise for Creation, round the clock (at Bangor-Is-Coed, Caer Caradoc, and Glastonbury). In a notion of that spirit, I had tried to make my book continual, by supposing the book could be read round in circles (...) Poetry is music, but, at its most musical, cannot be sounded. I can write, but can't sound, a chord of three meanings, three tones of voice at once. I can only imagine spirit ditties, polysemous pipes in multiple forms, of alchemy, and alcohol, and alkathene. I'll worship Dick or Gob, and drink and think in peace how Life is Good." [Haslam's website,]
According to Michael Haslam's website, he's attempting to assemble his life's works but not sure he has any more to write. Selfishly, I hope the opposite occurs.
Michael Haslam (b. 1947)'s major books are CONTINUAL SONG (Open Township, West Yorks, Uk, 1986), A WHOLE BAUBLE : Collected Poems, 1977-1994 (Carcanet,UK, 1995), MID LIFE, Poetry 1980-2000 (Shearsman, UK, 2007).

Kris Hemensley,
November 1st/3rd, 2009
-finished Melbourne Cup Day-