Sunday, May 22, 2011
THE MERRI CREEK : POEMS & PIECES, # 23, May 2011
history teaches us
to walk to paris on a fishing boat
with mercury retrograde
recipes for ice so rarely include
a detailed analysis of the advantages
to miniscule machines in bike path gridlock
or descriptions of that hill
where morning is first measured
& any linkage to rachmaninovs recent status
is to our minds self evidently spurious
we suggest a working party
an online survey
at very least a stern letter to the editor
perhaps a new chef
perhaps sunset over the oasis
idols revelling in the luxuriant garlands
of arrested early childhood development
local or general
we will always have the irreducible complexity
of weddings on a paddle steamer
the interminable wait for a new suit
beneath the glistening slate roof of the fossilised house
the unclaimed spliff in the breast pocket of a blue shirt
discussion of bourgeois economics insinuating itself into a gleaming
a sculpture partially eclipsed by snow from a mind known for its disinterest
not only in central european but also & perhaps particularly
we will always have the emergent properties
of one day cricket in a convent
the rush of late wickets
the terror of a lost limb
the night out that ends with poetry
our backs toward the ocean in a hermit kingdom
little red riding hood botoxed for the mysterious woodsman
enthusiasts trusting a high school crush on the girl who can tie herself
through a wall with her own golden tresses
is based at least in part on the benevolent fallacy her blue echo
arrives last monday
another day on earth
venture with us to a land of sunshine
behind the waterfalls sparkling curtain
a simple rope trick
& we leave that sheepish mask
at the bottom of the stairs
in a drear grotto
with as much time as we need
to find that bowl
of very specific
if unspecified shape
in some quarters this is known as keeping a lid on things
in others two chairs
or mountains mountains mountains
before the space race
it was not uncommon to flit from one thing to the other
scanners riled parlours & dinner parties
with their erudite contributions
Talking about the immense scope of the universe
And the length and depth of the world
Of the lifespan of huge trees,
And typically apologising profusely -
I told Virginia about the ants by the freeway
She had seen the dying bees
And how the ants were acknowledged
As being , as entities
Rare living things
And said , write a poem , we'll talk about it.
It was Christmas time and everyone was thinking deeply
The weather was warm and people were celebrating
Virginia was playing the temptress in a passion play
In front of 3000 people
And taking counselling, sorting out experiences.
Virginia , tall as the sky
Unique , bold and valiant
Infinitely worldly and wise
A modern day Saint with long brown hair and jeans
On a personal quest
Dealing with contradictions
Guided by the deep impulse of light
Steadfast in her pursuit of well being
Who does not suffer fools , let alone me
And she passionately strums her guitar
Singing songs of hope and inspiration
Let it be better , in the future
It can only get better , once the plan is in place.
In the city somewhere , Lee was sleeping on cardboard
Barefoot with rags over her head
Drinking cheap wine and thinking sad stories
With 20 dollars in her pocket , a gift from a friend
Whom she hugged and kissed in desperation.
I confirmed Alex's deep strong aura
Almost an overpowering silent presence
And likened hers to sea currents
I was concerned for all , hoping for individual success en masse
In a determined attempt for psychic alignment
For a better domination and overall effect
Where emotions are thoughts
And atomic molecules can be volitionally directed
When white matter expands and flowers
With wishful evolving neuroplasticity
Aiming for holistic geometrical harmony
Against all odds , trauma and despair
Without losing any sleep
Where some parts of the world were collapsing
While in others there was hope
And some special places were mysteriously shining
With an inspired contentment aglow with warm brilliance and peace
My legs were stronger but I was going in for the chop
Another one of those guided near death experiences
"You're shouting into the phone...", Virginia said quietly , wary of my excess
I tried to control my nervous volume
And gulped for breath.
On Christmas Eve , the gargoyle busker acting like a stone sculpture
Entranced a crowd with his antics on Swanston Street.
I rolled by and caught his still eye and tipped my hat
He acknowledged with a wry smile and salute.
On Christmas Day
Mum found a small brown bird in the yard
Its leg was injured , and couldn't fly
Others birds were picking at it.
She took it in and fed it porridge
Put it in a basket to rest
And later put it outside again,
But it kept coming to her,
From around the front
Onto her shoulder.
Mum saved it
She said , "I am its mother."
On the day before New Year's Eve
When it was bright and hot
I got off the bus
With a rolled up film poster of Enter The Void in my bag
And went by the path next to the freeway.
A large, scrawny , scraggly rat
Came out of the long grass and followed the footpath
At a leisurely pace in front of me
To the ramp road
It waited for traffic to pass
Then crossed onto a grassy patch on a traffic island.
I followed , on my way home.
The rat was wobbling sideways but kept up pace
I followed it around the grass
then it impatiently crossed the busy wide road
I was concerned for this wily rat
As it made its way across three lanes of tarmac
But in the last dreadful lane
Got clipped by the spinning wheel of an accelerating car
And lay there writhing , tail flickering
This was the worst I could imagine
I was helpless
then another car suddenly squashed it completely
that was the end of the adventurous grey rat
Who had travelled so far
Where was it going?
There was still another four lanes of traffic to go
And beyond that more concrete.
I was sad for this unlikely little creature
Though bush rats in the city are out of favour
I considered an untimely fatal accident
Of one of the smaller things
And the terrible road
What a way to see out the end of the year
With a poor squashed rodent
Amongst the merciless turning
Relentless charging noisy traffic
An unforeseen death one day before New Year
The word rat in Greek is arooraeo
yellow pollen edges the spring pools
enjoying the interval
unravelling theandric threads
the universe's great joke;
can you hold this for a minute?
ah the poignancy of failure
a bitter little dessert
with a twist of Rumi
but to linger a while longer
in your fine company
o press me closer
to your voice
to hear again
your rippling arpeggios
and relieve this hard rock
that weighs on my tongue
the well chronicled
minutiae of addiction
in the usual font
dream hands reach out
but my attentive heart advises
you've been gone now
a tidy week
across the doona
a harvest moon
drapes its casual arm
tomorrow you'll be here
our life slipping
with every relocation.
under a black hill
the future leans
plunged deep in arrhythmia
I lurch around this broken mind
another skulking fox night to endure
wide awake imagining your headlights
snaking through the pines.
the tangled orchard
coffee-pot, pain-cracked enamel
shadows dance the river stones
in the tangled orchard
a woman scatters grain
the hens scratch and scrabble
stepping backward for a look
worlds fall from her skin
a twinkle still in the ashen sky
will inevitably bring loss
storm birds rise -- wheeling south
over Black Hill.
[these poems are from the collection New Skin (Greendoor Publishing), 2010]
PAUL HARPER's poems appeared in Poems & Pieces # 21
PHILLIP KANLIDIS is a visual artist & filmmaker, lives in Melbourne.
FRASER MACKAY lives in Central Victoria; a music/spoken-word performer. Link to firstname.lastname@example.org. See www.greendoorpublishing.com. Published by Deakin Literary Society, Going Down Swinging.
Sunday, May 1, 2011
THE DORSET JOURNEY, 2011 : A CONVERSATION WITH THE STINGY ARTIST
KRIS & BERNARD HEMENSLEY
[20 April, 2011]
K.H. : So what is the 'Abbey' part of 'Goldy Abbey'?
B.H. : It's gone... it's the 'Hermitage' now.
K.H. : 'Goldy' of course is self-explanatory...
B.H. : From 'Goldcroft Road', plus 'gold' is a nice metaphor.
K.H. : What is the hermitage?
B.H. : It's just my place... people always equated my place with wherever I was working...
K.H. : Is this where the hermit lives?
B.H. : it's where a hermit lives, where he would like to live, he's still on the path –maybe he's an Anchorite! --I've always thought of that –I don't think it'll ever happen now : a self-limiting definition which suited the agoraphobic I was –just practice & meditate & see where that led...
K.H. : I always liked the conceit of the 'Abbot of Goldy'... I was interested in the possibilities of a certain kind of fantasy... like, to take on a role or image which did express a sense of who one was or would like to be?
B.H. : Yes, of course. You & Robin [Hemensley] dubbed me the Abbot because of my meditation practice –at one time it was three hours a day –on & off since 1970. You grow into who you're meant to be, both by the way people see you & how you see yourself. And now I feel I've got the life I always wanted & dreamt about. I'm 'busy' for up to 20 hours every day.
K.H. : So, what is this house?
B.H. : One concept derived from Robin's description of 'art houses' in Belgium, when he lived there in recent years : people would visit a house, the whole of which was an exhibition. My idea was that anything & everything in the house was for sale, including the house! Apart from that it's a place for quietness & contemplation, no longer following any one tradition but with its roots in Buddhism & Zen.
K.H. : The whole house is a living gallery –no dedicated exhibition or shop space?
B.H. : Yes, the whole house as home & studio...
K.H. : Regarding the Buddhism & et cetera : from the look of it –the vast library of contemporary & mostly American & Japanese literature –the tradition you refer to must also be based in the themes & practice of the poets, I suppose the West Coast poets?
B.H. : Not totally –I'm still interested in the New Englanders : Ted Enslin, William Bronk, Cid Corman, Larry Eigner, Wendell Berry. Otherwise it was West Coast, Japanese. The first book to get me going was Paul Reps' Zen Flesh, Zen Bones –my copy is the 1961 Anchor Books p/b edition –bought in the mid to late '60s. The reason for getting it was probably the influence of Dad's collection of of Yoga & esoteric books –also the Master Theiron magazines!
K.H. : Yes, and that's a whole other story!
B.H. : Yes, still very interesting. Dad was ahead of his time –auras, colours, diet –all of the New Age interests predated by Master Theiron!
K.H. : What would you like to happen in this house?
B.H. : I'd like it to bring into focus my interests, in the company of other people.
K.H. : So, is it a kind of b & b for esoterics?
B.H. : Only in a very private way –not open slather. It's not business! By invitation only --via family or my own connections...
K.H. : The obvious connections between literature –or let's say poetry --& Buddhism, say, appear to me, as I look around the house, to be Gary Snyder, the Beats –which aint exactly what you'd expect in an English country garden?!
B.H. : It's not what any other local expects either. My nearest English 'collaborator' is Owen Davis, who lives in Bournemouth, 30 miles away, who's into Bukowski, Kerouac, Patchen, Snyder, jazz... He seems to be following another direction now though these are still references in his head.
K.H. : Yes, I remember interviewing Owen in 1987, at Cemetery Lodge just down the road when you lived there. I had an old tape-recorder & a kind of commission from John Tranter, then with the ABC, to record some interviews with English poets to offer a picture of the contemporary situation in the UK. Pretty eccentric though : Owen Davis, Paul Buck, F.T. Prince! Nothing came of it! Actually, I'm a bit confused about the date, because I also interviewed Nicholas Johnson. Perhaps it was Owen & Paul in '87, and Frank & Nicholas in 1990? We sold a copy of Owen's Che Hamzah's Monkey, which you published (Stingy Artist, '88), at Collected Works recently-- nice poems –
B.H. : Yes, Catherine [O'Brien] thought so too –she bought some copies for I : Cat Gallery (in Vientiane). Also Cralan Kelder, on the phone recently from Amsterdam, said he was very taken by those poems...
K.H. : Ah yes, Cralan Kelder [his collection Give Some Word, from Shearsman, UK, 2010] –he'd contacted me via email having found the Poetry & Ideas blog –he's interested in Franco Beltrametti and read references to Franco in my article on Cornelis Vleeskens. And I put him in touch with you as immense stockist of Black Sparrow / Bukowski titles & everything else. And so you were able to send him the two publications of Franco you've produced...
B.H. : Yes –Three for Nado (Stingy Artist / Last Straw Press, UK, 1992) & Two Letters to Nado (Stingy Artist Editions, 2010). Nado was my nickname and in Japanese means “et cetera, et cetera” (as described in one of the Franco letters.
K.H. : It doesnt refer at all, then, to Franco's character Nadamas, in his novel of that name, a section of which I published in my mag, Earth Ship, back in '71 or '72?
B.H. : I didnt think of that --I dont know...
[Break for lunch : bottle of Old Thumper, Bernard's home baked bread, spring onions, cheddar cheese, hommous.
Bread : organic almost 100% wholemeal flours consisting of kamut, wheat, barley, molasses, barley malt, sunflower seeds, fennel seeds, salt, dried yeast, warm water, olive-oil, oat flakes decoration.
Beer : Ringwood Brewery's Old Thumper --”A Beast of a beer” --wonderful picture of boar on label, full frontal & tusked. Alc., 5.6% vol.
“Hampshire's New Forest was historically the hunting ground of legendary fierce wild boar, the prize kill of many an English king. Ringwood Brewery celebrated this heritage with a real beast of a beer in 'Old Thumper'. It delivers a deep brown strong ale with a spicy fruity hop aroma and a warming nutty finish. The distinctive taste has made it a champion Beer of Britain, popular at home and abroad.”]
[via telephone & email, 1st of May, 2011]
B.H. : Coming from a background of residential social care-work, I naturally tend towards providing a nurturing environment at Goldy. How necessary do you think that might be for writers & artists?
K.H. : I'd like to pull your question into a slightly different discussion, namely the kind of therapeutic occasion such a residence might enhance and whether the making of art, the writing of poetry, benefits from nurture! The thing is, you are making an environment at Goldy, which includes its whole house library of poetry & related literature, and, importantly, or important to you, the food you provide & its informing philosophy. You are simply but thoroughly the host. The environment itself is what will or wont nurture your guest or guests. Being a host to such visitors is not social work in the way your professional background understood it. As you say, the house is where you'll “bring into focus [my] interests, in the company of other people.”
B.H. : It's a resource for writers & artists containing an extensive Zen & Buddhist library. And I'd like to offer a healthy, mainly plant based diet. I have also imagined a Zen sitting group. And do you think a structured environment is necessary?
K.H. : Your artist & writer guests (I'm sure you include readers in that swag) might not of course be Zennists or Buddhists, but they'd be accepting of such as the accent of the place. Fundamentally for visitors it'll be a rather special pied a terre. I wonder if you ever came across the term “eco-monastery”? It was used by John Martin & others in the early '80s here, to describe places which tried to live up to (Deep) ecological principals and to be a combination of retreat & sanctuary. The structure youre wondering about is surely more a general environment or ambiance than a workshop with curriculum!
I actually feel there's a connection between your place in Weymouth, Catherine [O'Brien]'s I : Cat Gallery in Vientiane, Laos, and our Collected Works Bookshop in Melbourne. Cathy told me today that she's been congratulated on her gallery's “independence”. I think that means she just gets on with it : providing a space for poetry, art, film events, and a guest-room, for which she takes the responsibility. She's not waiting on other people or organizations' say-so. I:Cat is becoming known in Vientiane but not at the cost of her personal freedom. This her life, her contribution to the creative life where she lives & works. As you say for Goldy, it's not a business! The same at Collected Works : we are a bookshop in the marketplace, but our economics are about surviving & maintaining a particular kind of creative, literary space, not being a commercial success per se.
B.H. : Based on what youve seen of Goldy on your visit, do you think rapprochement between local & international is possible?
K.H. : Well, without being cute, the existence of your house in Weymouth is that rapprochement in practice! And the contradiction of terms, local & international, is only formal; that is to say, it's not mutually exclusive, nor ever was (as if, as said elsewhere, the Ecole du Paris wasnt local)! If you mean, how will you connect with the local when what you've experienced of the local (Weymouth, Dorset, England et al) doesnt connect with you? --then you have to expand your physical/social ambit as well as your definition, otherwise wither on the vine of mutual exclusivity!
When I've asked the question, most recently in context of our Dharma Bum correspondence (elsewhere in this blog), I only ever thought in terms of connections. At the same time, Weymouth isnt Melbourne, Vientiane, California or Japan in its external forms & expressions, but must be connected as yet another place in the world with the potential for authentic encounter & practice!
[Stop, for walking in one hemisphere, sleeping in the other.]
(edited Kris Hemensley, Melbourne)