Thursday, January 27, 2011

READING JOHN RILEY'S "PROSE PIECES" AGAIN : Remembering him on the thirty-second anniversary of his murder (October 27th, 1978)...

Where does one piece end & another begin? With the exception of the three short series of aphorisms called How To, John Riley's Prose Pieces (Grosseteste Review Books, #14; 1974; Stafforshire, UK) are seamless. A piece begins; the poet (I wont call him anything else) proceeds, & when the writing's finished the text ends. (And this isnt quite self-evident!) It has nothing to do with plot or character, although characters, including the narrator, are easily elicited. It's simply (perhaps 'simply' isnt the right word --simple things are accounted for but it's hardly a simple mind informing the telling) the stop-start style of it, the natural run.
I've always imbued a comment Riley made in his prose work, Correspondences (pub., The Human Constitution, London, 1970), with something like a rationale : " 'Authorship will gradually cease. Future generations ought to set up offices in which every person, at a certain age, should hand in a truthful biography, which could provide material for a real science of human beings, if such were needed.' A certain pondering over that little remark of Strindberg's probably set me to planning this as yet roughly mapped-out series(...) If it were merely an autobiography, none of us would be interested. What engaged my attention is the attempt to make a series of truthful biographies, which, either singly or considered together, may not be without a certain significance. (....)"
I dont think he'd have taken kindly to anything compulsory! 'Offices' & 'at a certain age' --bah! Still, I imagine him embarking with good intentions, but soon enough the statement he was compiling would go skew-whiff --in the name of honesty --a semantic honesty at least & not evasion. Avoidance of narrative cliches would be deliberate.

Against criticism's usual (& often proper) caution that art's product isnt life, I actually hear & see the man in & behind the prose-pieces, if not transparently then lucidly. No stranger, our man, adherent to Russian Orthodoxy, to artefact's palpably divine perspective : why would John Riley abandon his writing, of all things, to materialist one-dimensionality?
Riley is a man by whose thinking he's supposed. His thinking aloud, that is --as though thinking aloud must jump around and thinking in silence be continuous (modern prose vs the Nineteenth Century's).
"If you could set yourself altogether to music, would you? Choose your instruments, your form; take your time, your rhythm." (p24)
Riley's style is unhurried even as he bobs in & out of stories, ideas, like the arch-agent of discontinuity (recall its modishness in the '60s & '70s).
"Deja vu and pre vu : I badly need a theory of time to put this in. Not a circle not an ellipse not an escalation of universes, not not not, but a complexity so precise that it leads by poetic right to that I know about." (p25)

Yorkshire is his rejoinder to anything high-minded. He resorts to Yorkshire to undercut capital 'l' literature and though poems occasionally rise out of the text, a line or two, a verse, his vernacular quips disperse abstraction even as the sound which is the poem speaking. Paradoxically, this is usually the freedom sought by the poet dissatisfied with the occasional --as though Doc Williams hankered after Wallace Stevens or Buk hell-bent on William Bronk!
Prose is where John Riley can be himself --poet keeping tabs on the literally adjacent. It's the frame afforded by ordinary vantage, principally, one feels, the pub. Perfect for hearsay; dictum : "If you could record all the stories round you, and only do it simply enough. Like the man who said to me : 'Ah but the sweetness of the first kiss.' And it was his story." (p23) Relish the hops'-drowze one might dream-write in --slide into pew, surreptitious pen at the ready, and drop into the middle of it.

But this isnt the style of Living In, which is a crafted piece of writing or sets out to be. The "Every holiday I go to my cottage" (p7) paragraphs contrast with those beginning "Every holiday I do not"(p8). The poet-philosopher sounds a little like Rilke or Kafka, whose reverie is located in the actual world from which the narrator is cocooned by desire & despair --desire for the divine or corporeal beloved; despair at his powerlessness &, except for writing, enervation. It contains the existential conundrum, "Who wants to die? Or more accurately, who does not want to die?" Compared to other, no less interesting, pieces it's a construction despite the ad-libs.

The Pig And Whistle Section begins, "And then what we start to do when we have realised all that." (p21) In my mother's Alexandrian family they'd say "and then?" --to induce conversation or to cap it. John Riley's "And then" points also to 'the literature of exhaustion', ca. 1970s, --that is, how to proceed the literary project when it's thought everything's been said --literature after the end of or death of literature.
"And then what we start to do" regales his life as well as his writing (the modern heart laid bare implying no story without bruised & bloodied testament).

Down By the River Side combines all the Riley traits & gambits. The high & the low --thoughts, turn of phrase --standard (even poetic) English & Yorkshire, esoteric & common subjects. As we've appreciated, Yorkshire will always be his stock-in-trade come-uppance.
After the philosophy of the first paragraph ("Always this atheistical 'chance'; which nevertheless alters nothing, salvation or damnation no nearer." (p37)), ships are introduced or, let's say, the sea is. Boats, sailors, flags... "Ships come in and out of the harbour, either under their own power, or towed in by the tug." His registry of ships as evocative as an index of flora, but not a simple list because of the way it commits &, similarly, escapes. Quintessential Riley :
"In Spring rain a seagull cruises with curved-down wing tips. And then the rain clears. The very familiarity of the scene.
Caleyo, Simon, Soviet Mariner, Pelikan, Navigare, Wakenitz, Aramil, Grada westers, Outokumpu, Wega, Tourmaline, Ocean Blue, Harald Bles, Nogat, Valle de Orozco, Madaleine, Jastarnia, Bleikvassli, Poolster. Hasewint, Noblesse, Sota, Emmalies Funk, Ivan Bolotnikov, vaterland, and, I suppose, Dynocontainer I, Dynocontainer II. And certainly the Gribbin head.
This stream is a river big enough to float 3,000 tons.
A forest path through the forest : analogous to setting out to read a history of the Byzantine State, a clean white page, an impetus to restoration." (p38)

Popped into the jump-cut of the narrative is schoolroom & pub slice-of-life.
"You want a good stingy cane and hit 'em across the ballocks. That'll do it. You can hit 'em round the head as much as you like, go all day, break your hand. Get the buggers round the ballocks." (p41)
Often wonder which is the counterpoint : aphoristic musing --"Freedom as a state is creation, which is timeless" --or the one about "a wanked out lad of a painter's mate who'd dropped his bottle of linseed oil"?

John Riley's self-definition isnt over & against nothing, as they say, though figures of nothing might spook him ("memory patterns of almost unsubtle tyranny : an exact repetition of the meaningless." (p40)). He's more gnostic than nihilist ("Our wreckage / is too obvious, the pause between performances too long. / Why else should we speak of that world there / and this one here as if there were a gulf there to be bridged / by senses or ideas? / There is no cure for similes, / or none I know of." (p40)). Good reason there must be for apparent misanthropy --"There are people who wear their bodies comfortably; to be there when needed. And very relaxing they are too for a time. At the other end madness, in various outbreaks or permanencies. There are those denials." (p33)
No disqualification in my mind that these words are from Mary's African Buttenhole Co., a parody, as I recall him impishly confiding, of writing published in a little magazine, (Richard Downing & Andy Wachtel's Sesheta?) possibly by Mary Ferrarri & other New Yorkers. Or for that matter, the nods elsewhere, positively, to Flann O'Brien, Basho, Stevens, Holderlin...

Perhaps all of the pieces turn around the relationship of language to the world's objects & events. Not much doubt attaches to his feelings though plenty to his sense of the living (language) enterprise.

Allow the full circle then : Riley's always the poet writing this prose --the prose, mind you, of thinking aloud, musing, amusing himself, letting himself go just a little off the taut leash. The taught leash? --steeped of course in the language --various languages --Russian, German, French --think only of Riley's unique Mandelshtam & Holderlin versions... How (or did he?) come to rest in English?

"Words are words, man. And a fat belly is a fat belly." (p33)


[7/11/10 to 10/12/10; cleaned up & typed, 27/01/2011]

Thursday, January 20, 2011

AROUND & ABOUT RICHARD GROSSINGER'S 2013 : Raising the Earth to the Next Vibration (North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, Cal; 2010)


The last occasion I found myself in Richard Grossinger's vicinity was the mid '80s when the equation I'd coined, Being Here (body : text : world), at last seemed a way of making sense of the sometimes contradictory concerns I'd followed since the 1960s (--e.g., the local & the international -- which at times meant junking one to attend to the other-- the hermetic & expressive notions of the art, and literature vis a vis social & political domains).
My head was full of Deep Ecology then --my lack of activism assuaged by the spiritual & non-instrumental imperatives of this revamped environmentalism. It was initially funded by John Martin's perspective, via The Deep Ecologist (his newsletter from Warracknabeal, Victoria), which also included poetry as a category of its eclectic consciousness-raising. And then came Warwick Fox's mind-blowing lecture at a Deep Ecology conference in Melbourne (ca '86) in which he collided psychology, philosophy & the environment in transpersonalism's headiest mix --all the more remarkable, I felt, for his linking of some authors & ideas I'd 'discovered' for myself amongst the dozens he cited never broached at all! I took up his reading list with alacrity!
Editing the Being Here issue of my magazine H/EAR in 1985 allowed me to recover some key references from the magazine's first series, Earth Ship, ca 1970-72 (Southampton, UK). I named them then as Kenneth Irby, John Thorpe, Richard Grossinger & Carolee Schneemann, and heralded "the reconsideration of Richard Grossinger's work, which is prolific & still accumulating..." Unfortunately I never managed to do it.
This mid '80s' reaching back to the late '60s/early '70s uncovered an interweaving of references involving Richard Grossinger & Clayton Eshleman, and the second bite as exciting as before.
I felt that Grossinger's Io magazine & Eshleman's Caterpillar together contributed "a desperate restatement of visionary poetics", specifically identifying Eshleman's Open Letter to George Stanley, Concerning the State of Our Nation, The American Spiritual Body, Which I first glimpsed in Peru; Schneemann's Notations (1958-66); Robert Duncan's Man's Fulfillment in Order and Strife (which I called "a rich & dramatic argument concerning the orders of poetry, & the Orders of the World, incorporating universal poetical & local political commentary, relating to that reality which is an order born of language other than the political, which contained a magnificent plea for a new language to repulse the slanders of the era." ).
About Grossinger's Io magazine I wrote : "Io was a further shift away from the 'literary', after Olson's example. (The whole import of the 'projective', for instance : that human act which prospered thereafter as one of Nature's things; active concordance, together productive.) Io's interdisciplinism was exciting, exotic yet practical because so evidently resonant of the planetary lot."
Grossinger's shift (explained in his preface to Charles Stein's Poems and Glyphs (Io, # 17, 1973), which I read in '84 via Melbourne poet John Anderson who'd bought it after I named Stein as a reference for his own writing) derived from his sense that the New American Poetry figures "The Beats, the Bay area poets, the Black Mountain people, and our own group are all concerned with matters of consciousness, vision, prophecy, cosmology, geography, etc., few of which are even peripheral to academic poetry in America, which is more involved in description, emotional reality, wit, and political rationalism..."
My own direction was subsequently away from the mutual exclusivity implied in Grossinger's distinction & my endorsement of it. The 'Whole House' idea I came up with in the late '90s, whilst relieving some observers, doesnt do justice to the contenders. But, that's another (& continuing) story...

Richard Grossinger, either held in Olson & co's force-field or that of his own making, always walked with an aura . He saw things, he said things --a bit like one felt about Bob Dylan in the mid '60s --the young seer. (Grossinger's image of flocks of seagulls on city rubbish dumps as evidence of the ocean's depletion has stayed with me from the first --such a thought wasnt common in 1970...)
Every time I encounter him these days I think "long time no see" --yet a year or two ago I had looked at The Bardo of Waking Life (& liked Robert Kelly's compliment to him, "To talk about the world as it happens in your head when you are in it." --which is the mercurial nub of our project), --and years earlier books like Planet Medicine & The Night Sky. It seemed to me that our counter-culture, new-writing buddy was now addressing the world audience that the Sixties' oracles assumed.
But it's as if no time has intervened between then & now --no time since the cyclone which that era submitted as our cultural beginning & whose windfall we might be forever gathering (probably the truth of every beginning so perceived).

Imagined as one of 'our generation', admired as 'one of us' who'd already achieved more than a little of our own ambition (like, for example, 20 year-old Tom Pickard being published in Paris Review!), Grossinger's publication of a book with Black Sparrow Press in addition to his magazine Io (not just a poetry mag but a gathering of all categories of enquiry that a poet of the field, let's say, as of Olson's multidisciplinary curriculum, could naturally come into) was awe-inspiring.
The achievement was celebrated by Robert Duncan (or ratified --such was the connotation of the New American Poetry hierarchy one had accepted --& gratefully, as though it were the ascendancy of Camelot).
I hold again Duncan's pamphlet, Notes on Grossinger's Solar Journal: Oecological Sections, which accompanied the Black Sparrow book, and relive the thrill of it -- truly the older generation blessing the younger. And although, typically, two-thirds of the text doesnt name Grossinger, Duncan's concerned to bear the prodigy up & through the literature --that is, literature as though science or as evidently revelatory (--& instantly I'm pinged by memory of Roland Barthes' reference to Marxism as science, the absurdity of which appeared ever clearer for the time succeeding its brazen assertion : 'science' as authority against poetry, philosophy, religion? --considered speculations or, after Merleau-Ponty, events in language but not of the world? --miscasting objectivity, then, within the most ridiculous binary, misapprehending subjectivity also therefore). Robert Duncan's exemplars --Darwin, Whitehead --distinguish the latter. In this view literature is a portal (to use Grossinger lingo), thus Pound, Williams, &, inevitably, Olson --: through that Literature & into the beyond that the visionary, whom Duncan would take Grossinger to be, always made his here & now.

Now it is we encounter an important problem --and I may as well make this its occasion as another more precisely located : the status of the discrete object in a context of the winningly suggestive & infinitely analogical expanse. I suppose the problem isnt so much with the golden chain (perhaps we'd say 'string' now!) but with the damage such understanding deals the discrete object (poem, person, place). Although Duncan himself had it that the truly 'open' poetics necessarily contained the 'closed', the transformational attitude as regards poetry tends to disqualify (certainly traditional) craft. I've always wondered why avant-garde friends could entertain the poem as performing every possible role, as vehicle &/or vector, except its function as poem. Of course, there's just as much error from the other direction : lifeless, soulless form. Yet, since Language-poetry & other strategic practices, 'lifeless & soulless' could describe an array of both conventional & experimental poetry.


Cut to the chase : In the foreword to Grossinger's book, Daniel Pinchbeck (author of 2012 : The Return of Quetzalcoatl) asks these rhetorical questions : "Is there some other dimension of being that our human species has the capacity to access as our current mistreated world convulses around us? Does the tremendous intelligence and integral efficiency of our biological matrix suggest some deeper wisdom operating in the greater universe with which we can resonate and harmonize?" (And his instant caveat : "My own quandary --it has almost silenced me recently-- is the question of what the writer, the artist, the thinker should practically and actually do in this ruinous era.") [p ix]
The first proposition is actually premised upon the second --a reiteration of a philosophical commonplace that one is within Meaning whatever it may be (thus also the World, the Universe, God, Being et al).
Regarding the New Age excitement around the Mayan prophecy, Grossinger cautions, "But I am not looking for indications of renewal externally and historically. I am looking for a gateway inside --inside consciousness, inside DNA potential, inside the zodiac. My book is not what is going to happen (or not) on December 21st, 2012 or January 1, 2013 but a 2013 context for what is already happening and has been happening since the emergence of our species, the advent of life on Earth, and the creation of this universe --impossibly big venues that cannot be queried but that mark abysses we must explore." [Introduction, pp2/3]

I identify with Grossinger's style of thinking & writing; by no means haphazard but the natural order of an intelligence following the maze of references his experience has endowed. Closer to innocence than magic, one's also been receptive to that internal/external match-up of which Grossinger derives a dramatic concordance. But it's the scale of his table & therefore the ability to exclaim & encompass (literally the same breath, the same perception) that distinguishes him.
Reflecting on his lack of recognition of Jose Arguelles' Mayan thesis at the time he was offered it for publication, Grossinger submits, "My snub became an unconscious throwback to old elitist publishing habits as to what constituted a worthy curriculum, attitudes that I was in the bare beginnings of overcoming and that were still largely unexamined. I was an intellectual snob, with vestiges of Black Mountain literary machismo in my head, and I was pretty much in thrall to the anti-kitsch imperatives of Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Ed Dorn, Robert Kelly and crew." (Introduction, p15) True enough. Which is why, perhaps, the New York Scene is what it is --serious, sincere & hilarious with the junk of the everyday --and not Black Mountain!
I simply havent delved into the authors Grossinger respects as teachers & companions --Richard Hoagland, Arguelles, Terrence McKenna among others. Some I remember from Io magazine & the milieu North Atlantic Books described. I respect that he's done the hard yards (to use an appropriate Australianism) in the mind/body practices either side of orthodoxy.
David Bohm doesnt figure in Grossinger's cavalcade but remembering my '80s reading prompts the hologramic here as relevant to his perspective. And my own sense of the infinite trajectory of pivotal, that is life endowing/defining, events which are always available to intersection & continuation (according to the apprehension one has of any one of them; that is, to reengage with the event's infinite possibility against apparent historical closure; remembering, crucially, that the dynamic is personal), assuredly resonates with Grossinger.

No surprise, really, that Grossinger shivers off association with Ken Wilber --not only because erstwhile comrades criticise him as a "self-aggrandizing, parasitical worm; even worse, a Ken Wilber wannabe" (p 551). He reflects, "Without your accusation, without its gauntlet, my writing is just fancy words, shoplifted at best, restless and hollow, dispensable, a betrayal and a failure of everything they stand for --not even third-rate Ken Wilber, as you duly say. But given what else my work must withstand, the trials coming this way in an ill and binding wind, it must be judged, scoured, and obliterated anyway, and then allowed whatever smidgen of truth and honour, if any, endure. That is the only goal worth striving for, the only reverie that might redeem us both at the final call. What I'm attempting here, consumer-culture drivel albeit, is more interesting to me than what Ken Wilber is attempting, but that is beside the point. He is doing fine at what he's doing and he's not on my radar and I don't wannabe him." (p554).
For my part, what I call the existential imperative, the here & now, flesh & blood vouchsafing of any vision, is what's sacrificed in formalizing & abstracting (whether or not intended) any definition of reality. (In my unschooled mind, totality & the totalitarian conspire.) I seem always to prefer the poet to the logician, the authorial to the theoretical, poetry to the prose of systematization...


One pitfall of history or critical commentary as autobiography is the lack of distinction between the 'gross natural array' (Goethe) & the valued (by attribution or inherent), between the en passant & the gleanings of perception. But Richard Grossinger doesnt want to evade his own fact in the midst of it all. Par for the course in poetry, problematic in prose (because laid bare, unsynthesised).
I give him the benefit of the doubt despite intemperate & wrongheaded political judgments --e.g., what a truly awful analogy here, "In China people who manipulate goods or markets are executed. In the US they are allowed to keep their ill-gotten gains because they are too big to fail and anything else would be class warfare, and, god forbid, socialism..." The context for his comment is an aside on the billionaire swindler, Bernie Madoff, that he wasnt the worst : "The worst are names we will never know, secret bankers behind the global conspiracy and its invisible depositories and exchequers (and maybe even 9/11 and the missing black boxes too)." (p281) Naturally, then, the chic Left conflation with conspiracy theory on Bush, the Clintons, Obama, on Israel, even the Al Qaeda terrorists, monstrously bloated by their New Age appendices.
One's appalled that the American complexion of this politics doesnt cause the embarrassment that might engender a humility and then occasion some worldly reality to the prognostications.
Grossinger's partisan political swipes & snipes --sounding off as a lefty whose profound disappointment with the Democratic Party is matched by the vitriol he would always pour upon the Republicans-- and his rallying to the belated cause of American Pop-music in the wash of the 'the British Invasion', strike me as odd indulgences for a Time Lord. At least, though, he demonstrates fallibility, that is a humanity pursuant on This-world desires & responsibilities.
Can't help thinking that alchemy, homeopathy arent, perhaps, the best analytical tools for This-world politics! Esoteric understanding of the behavior of opposites cannot release us from our solid & historical weight, nor do dreams replace daily discourse. The contrary pertains.
To speak as though one were a player in the Big Scheme, in which game present-day humanity is qualitatitively reduced, smacks of the kind of bad faith which Michael McClure might be compelled to protest (in capital letters) : "I AM A MAMMAL PATRIOT!" Of course it's a conundrum, especially fraught because the transformative impulse, the suite for the new, arises within the breast of unknowing.
We are always in progress, knowledgeable or wise, forever on the way. And no doubt at all Richard Grossinger knows all this & more. He remains tuned in & turned on, abounding in brilliant ideas & memorable expression --loquacious, erudite & gratifyingly flawed.

The 'idiot's guide' to Richard Grossinger's book would instruct that the author doesnt expect anything to happen on December 20th, 2012 or 1st January, 2013. Nothing will necessarily happen except what is always happening. Whatever the Mayan calendar construes is held by DNA & dreamt, as it were, by the consciousness in which humanity is subsumed. Prophecy, it might continue, concentrates the mind. Transformation is inevitable; life in all its forms teleological.
In short, 2013 : Raising the Earth to the Next Vibration is a music of the spheres, and it could only have been written in 2010, in America, on this planet!


[30th September, '10 to the 4th November, '10; cleaned up / typed, January, 2011; Melbourne]

Monday, January 3, 2011





country life

every evening the same story in silence at the windmill

no more poultry
until the officials bow to the river
on a morning the colour of train tracks
near the stadium where we had that mix up with the tickets

laughter in those twin cavities in a kitchen wall
& a shared taste in literature resolve so much

a watering can reminds us of summer holidays
small ferns beside a fence
concrete cool in a place of scant sunlight
mystery & solitude fusing with the smell of green

thunder or fireworks
on a sunday we can scarcely tell
transcription of the protocol proceeds languidly

for each stroke the lustre of banana leaves & the bouyance of balloons released



in response to an official notice
a blue hound may be reconfigured as a playful black cat

letter about a coral tree may be classified
unlikely to be assistance

& the eight eccentrics encouraged to no longer linger in the undergrowth at dusk
marvelling at fighter jets

the centre does
recognise the attraction of such machines

their velocity

their silhouettes
black against evenings sapphire

in her classic of the inner landscape
our village elder speaks harshly of our recently acquired painting

our latest cargo plane escapes comment











BERNIE O'REGAN [1938-1996]


Every day you wait for the mail
some times it comes late
ten years late
or never

just "one man's opinion of moonlight"
Retta is silent
you are talking

we go to the galleries
we look for delight
in front of Melbourne university
we wonder if we are getting old


[Jude Telford sent me this poem ages ago, typewritten on water stained A-4 page; salvaged from Bernie's papers, aftermath of his sad demise.]






You say you 'love the song of currawongs
when they strike up their orchestra'.
Everything is tendrils, special tendrils.

Song is growth; no we are not spared
sentimental formulas
of minimalist photosynth-pop
and acorn percussion. What pomp,

twirling a pencil in the humble world,
or twirling the self, effortlessly.
Perfume on the pencil. Whose?

The future and the frond fan outward.

Maailma: World
Maa (dirt), ilma (air).
Marry me, broadly speaking.



In the bus from the highland to the sea
garlands of bougainvillia and marigold
offered to Our Lady of the Highway
glow and swing through fields of tea.

as tired eyes yield to sleep of dream
of gentle scenes more puzzling than art,
so our bodies relax and are vivified
by faith in the invisible and unforeseen.

Looking back, many details are lost,
fine layers of experience shaded,
so that a scene in a life is reduced
to bas-relief: a road, foliage, a bus.

Smoke and mist in the ancient valleys,
your smile on seeing the wide white smile
of the Kerelan girl in the turquoise dress,
or the nun travelling alone. I find my keys

to the many sections of that hasppiness
overlap like clouds, everything touching.


[from the pamphlet, The True Maps;]





for Will Knox

First, the tunnel metaphor will smile on you too
If the desperate sides be avoided, estrangement
From all that we were never invited to understand;
A sometimes unstately progress through not by
The myriad reasons we have for not being here.

Then, unwelcome, untie that hurt from our own hurt;
There is no minor skirmish that is worth the battle
That lost the war. Anyhow, we’re survivors, not soldiers.
Leave all battles internecine and your self unscathed
As you choose your way carefully through the night.

Then, untouched by insult, chicanery, and deceit
We will at last emerge to daylight on the other side
And looking back…but no, we will never look back
At the unhappiness we did not cause, nor the pain
We did not stop to answer. We were not saints.



for Roberto Bolano

After three wrong turns, a tractor and a flat
You're at The House Of Vanished Writers
After all, that was always your destination
You park your unreviewed car and go right in
Sitting and waiting, smoking and watching
Joe, the Indian, who never could get started
Sophia, who once was beautiful, great shorts
No power to stay long enough on the page
Fred, whose fiction fried like a skillet, killed it
And you, who are merely visiting, get a key
A towel and the schedule of daily readings
Who are these happy people you are thinking
Why do they look at me like that? One part pen
One part the next event, one part is wind
Where did all the vanished writers go?
When did they write their perfect poems
Who said they'd had enough and could leave?
Your room has a limited view of the forest
It is possible the birds will sing there again
Second seating meal is vegetable soup with bread
Dessert is an autumn ice cream you don't remember
Afterwards the word games and the music upset you.




It took seven years to build the box
From discarded paper and dreams
As deep as it is wide, at times you forget
Exactly how you decided its dimensions
No candy store, no Chinese restaurants
Many a stained-glass window at the top
Everything is blue when the sun pours in
Deli, record store, a massage parlour
Open all night, oddly buzzing, no customers
There's a very good small library
Of books you always meant to study
Furniture copied from another tidy book
A fireplace that heats but doesn't burn
A few students were allowed in once
They dusted off their prints and fled
On the inside an ornate exit with a sign
That reads Don't Leave Till You're Ready
Next to it a fire axe, a cheap suit on a hook
Today that box is almost empty
Outside is a sunset and birds.

( 2010)



A GO BY, for Jack Collom

ute with 2 dogs
out back goes by

blue ute
with roll bars

2 birds go by
sans ute!

car does u turn

white car
white car
white car

flaming red flash!

turquoise station wagon
through the trees

the trees aren't moved!

floods in central N.S.W.
roads closed ac/dc!

how many ways
can you close a road?

Jack Collom goes by
looking for the elusive
red car!



from The Glen Innes Collaborations



i don't
think i've met
Agnes Day!

but i know
her mum!

didn't she
have a sister


that's a burger
playing Tesla!

Kyrie & Kyrie!

is you lisping?


ahhh! amen
to that!



figs can fly!


that's straight!

i have five
sad forests!

i'll raise you
ten matchsticks

must be a pyro hand?


that's a soft bet

chips of down!




4 Poems


for Billy Jones

tiger tiger
old stone house
creeping vines
stony rises

floaters belch

keep those sheep
off the road Velsen!!

Livingstone stumbles
into the Stanley camp
grass orchids
open to the sky

as we cross
Mary Smokes Creek
a blue iris goes by



blue heron out of his depth
egret pale and wan
weeks now and no let up

road closed

moorhen clings to her nest
as it bobs and eddies
(as in whirlpool)
ochre waters rage

road closed (bis)

high and dry
on the verandah
a cheese platter
dolmades avocado
a Chemin des Papes

red cedar floats by

dead cow dead cow
bloated sheep



the kitchen midden
shows the remains
of a great feast

blood drips
from the seabird's beak
red cargo goes by

the ancestors smile



line dangling from my big toe
misty mooring dry red

blue whale goes by



Launch speech for Lee Fuhler's We Pale Inhabitants (Earthdance, 13 Jones St., Brunswick, Vic. 3056),
at Collected Works Bookshop, December 15th, 2010.

One of my many distinctions in the literary world is to be the first to publish a poem of Lee Fuhler's. That was in about 1993 when I was bringing out a folded double sided A3 of poems called Poetry on Paper. There were fewer readings then but with bigger attendances and I always thought they doubled as drinking clubs. Less so these days. Much has changed, many people alive then are now dead. Or not so dead but remembered and incorporated into our work, sometimes without our knowledge or permission.

I think Lee was off the sauce by then -- there was something about the intent with which he read -- so I approached him and, I think this is the technical term, solicited a poem from him.

I've brought it today to give back to him -- kind of like the completion of a circle but in a bigger
circle. Before the poems in this book, or most of them, Lee didn't write for some years. So you can get better, but it doesn't get any easier.

You wonder what happens to poets when they go home -- if they get to their desks -- how they drive their minds -- if they can reach into their hearts -- what they can face -- what they can't -- nights alone -- reading poems out of a book -- or dreaming at an empty window -- it's so slow and the notes are so far apart.

The first line of the first poem Lee gave me was : "your heart it is a thief". The final line of one of the poems in this book is "we're only poor tenants and here for a while". I did like that first line but these days he writes fuller, with more depth like the stones are watching. With these poems you can read a line and see how strong everything is, what things are invested with -- you can see everything in the light of a huge apricot -- the man who's wrestled with his blues can split the wind

-- everything is burning -- we're losing it all
what can we do but sing.

[at Collected Works Bookshop, December 15th, 2010. Other poets supporting Lee Fuhler, reading from his new collection, were Ian McBryde, Lyn Boughton, & Lish Skec (who also read for Kerry Scuffins who couldnt attend).]



Excerpts from Satori Blues


What fails to be reined in

pushes out, freezes, breaks off—crashes.

No telling who might place a chunk

in their mouth. (Who wouldn’t pay to watch them

taste it?) Some protrusions merge with air, but

not before melting a little, flowing everywhere

within the self, hardening in places it never

meant to make a home.


Fields of emptiness between the wild arc

of electrons and every atom—a vacuum not

nothing after all, but the purest form

of something like compulsion that fixes

us into being, stopping the self from

coming, no, flying everywhere apart.


What we talk about when we talk about loss

are the catastrophes: walls collapsing

and the terrible flood. What we forget is what

we fail to detect: the line opening like an eye

from one end of a dam to another;

a startled look and the averted vision

at a wrong word at yet another wrong time.

Loss is an ever-growing thing. The same

is true of how we win.


[Typed-up the 2nd & 3rd January, 2011. NOT the Boy's Own Edition of Poems & Pieces, simply how the pieces fell together at this time! --so saith yr holidaying ed!]



PAUL HARPER, a friend of Collected Works Bookshop, has poems recently in Roomers magazine (Melbourne).

BERNARD HEMENSLEY, previously published here; has revived his Stingy Artist small press (85, Goldcroft Road, Weymouth, Dorset, DT4 OEA, UK) after many years hibernation. Hot off the press are a bunch of ephemera including a Franco Beltrametti fold-out. Welcome back bro!

BERNIE O'REGAN, fourteen years since the photographer/super 8 filmmaker/poet died in Melbourne. See index for Archive of Miscellaneous Critical Writings #11 (7/4/07) re- K.H.'s Introduction to the Archive of Enigma screening of B O'R's films (June 15,'98); also Archive, #10 (24/6/07) re- K.H.'s Words for Bernie : Eulogy... (15/11/96)

NICK POWELL is living in Brisbane after some years overseas, mainly Finland. In 2007 his chapbook Of Fallen Myth was published by the Poets Union (Sydney). The poems here are from The True Maps (Horse Drawn Press,'10), mostly written in Finland.

ROB SCHACKNE born in New York, came to Australia in 1971. We made his acquaintance via the Bookshop in the 90s. In China for a decade, currently Shanghai, where he's published a couple of collections; Snake Wine ('06), Where Sound Goes When It's Done ('10). His self-portrait reveals, "He listens to The Grateful Dead. He claims that he can read Shakespeare in the original. Some days he thinks there is nothing easy about the Tao." His blog is The Tao That Can Be Named,

PETE SPENCE & CORNELIS VLEESKENS have appeared in Poems & Pieces before (see the index). They're both active in the Mail Art internationale. Their most recent publications are (P.S.) Sonnets (Footura press, Germany) & (C.V.) Divertimenti (Earthdance, Glen Innes).

PETER (FREDDY) TIERNAN is one of the Melbourne scene's true gentlemen. Co-edited with Rex Buckingham, From the Rochester Castle anthology (1988), and his own Poetry on Paper (1989-93). Included in Raffaella Torresan's Literary Creatures anthology (Hybrid Press, 2009).

CYRIL WONG lives in Singapore where he edits Soft Blow poetry journal. One of a group of Singaporean poets who've made substantial connections with Australia over the past 10 years. Has published 8 poetry collections & 1 book of tales. Co-authored with Terry Jaensch, Excess Baggage & Claim (Transit Lounge, Melbourne, '07). Satori Blues, from which the poems here are taken, is published by Soft Blow (2011). Website,