Thursday, June 7, 2012



The series I'm currently working on isnt a sequential narrative; that is, the poems arent episodes of a continuing story. It is a sequence though, and contains narrative. Thinking aloud : what kind of a step between 'series' & 'serial' and, by the same token, between 'sequence', 'series' & 'serial'?

In this series, each poem stands alone but gains value from the overall gathering. The opening gambit ("More Midsummer Night's Dream than Dante") is a constant. It registers the sound of the poem & marks its place, both tonal & topographical. It's the crucial refrain. Resonances obtain, but apart from the major references, Midsummer Night's Dream & Dante's Inferno (principally the 1st canto's famous beginning), it isnt a meta-poem (that is, a poem about poetry or the writing of poetry).

Autobiographical material occurs spontaneously, memories arising as riffs off the Shakespeare & the Dante. Astonishing to me when the characters or situations seemingly echo Shakespeare & Dante; as though, for example, the women in the poems are mediating Beatrice! And then it occurs to me that the Shakespeare & Dante, important as they were in their time as literature & language, a kind of mnemonic for the entire tradition, are archetypal by nature and stand now amongst our very own ur-texts.

As writer I'm interested in what poem & series will deliver, and being the writer doesnt preclude any such revelation. I look forward to what each poem will make of itself even as I write it. This species of authority is rather like W.S. Graham (from the third of his series The Dark Dialogues) : "I speak as well as I can / Trying to teach my ears / To learn to use their eyes / Even only maybe / In the end to observe / The behaviour of silence." Not it exactly but Graham is always a propos, even in broad daylight.


Still early in the education (firstly via Allen & Creeley's The New Writing in the USA, which I bought in Melbourne in the winter of 1967, when it was published, & secondly, a little later, via Allen's The New American Poetry, published seven years before, but at long last in my hands) one encountered Jack Spicer, though not yet his imprimatur for serialism. Actually, serial composition back then was well & truly in contemporary music's domain, and not even from the Schoenbergian source initially but reading John Cage & hearing Keith Humble lecture! (Isnt it always the case : 'knowing' more than one's yet experienced, that is thinking one knows!) With ginormous benefit of hindsight, Spicer's nine part Love Poems, in The New Writing in the USA volume, does resemble a certain type of serial music's recombinatory technique, as he recalls a line or phrase from another part (for example, "for you I would build a whole new universe") without compromising the integrity of its various renditions. And though one read Billy the Kid (the New Writers' Press edition) in Dublin at the turn of '69/'70 (which Michael Smith published at the urging of their man in San Francisco, Pearse Hutchinson) and around a year later, After Lorca (another pirate, this time from Allen Fisher's Aloes Books in London, except that copyright wasnt an issue then given Spicer's largess), I didnt have the poet's own word on practice until I read the wonderful Spicer issue of Clayton Eshleman's Caterpillar magazine (#12, July, 1970, bought of course from Nick Kimberley's indispensable poetry section of Compendium Bookshop in London). Yet the transcription there of Spicer's contributions to the Vancouver Conference of '65 doesnt actually include Spicer's spelling it out as appears in the statement for the anthology, The Poetics of the New American Poetry (ed Don Allen & Warren Tallman, Grove, 1973) :

"A serial poem, in the first place, has the book as its unit as an individual poem has the poem as its unit, the actual poem that you write at the actual time, the single poem. And there is a dictation of form as well as a dictation of the individual form of the individual poem. And you have to go into a serial poem not knowing what the hell you're doing. (....) What I'm saying is you have a unit, one unit the poem, which is taken by dictation, and another unit, the book, which is a more structured thing. But it should be structured by dictation and not by the poet. (....)" (p233)


I'm tweaked like a deja-vu as I reread the first pages of Earth Ship (the magazine I published in England, 1970-72), # 4/5 (September, '71). It was intended to be an Olson issue, committed as I was to reviewing The Archaeologist of Morning (good to be reminded that this labour of love was coedited by George Butterick, Albert Glover & Peter Riley), sent to me by Tom Maschler at Cape Golliard, to whom I'd written on Nathaniel Tarn's recommendation. I was particularly pleased to publish there a letter from John Thorpe to Ken Irby (tho unsure now whether Thorpe or Irby sent it to me, or perhaps even Riley or Andrew Crozier), for it included part of a J H Prynne missive to Olson (containing the epochal line, "Singleness is emphatically not to line up as showing the individual at the helm...").

Apart from anything else that letter illustrates the disparity between my enthusiasm & their learning --how much of a school-kid in the heavy-duty classroom I must have seemed! Olson's Projective Verse essay was one thing, The Human Universe & other essays something else but that English Olson-language entirely otherwise! At least I could open my mouth in the Olson discussion with such colleagues as John Hall, David Chaloner, Allen Fisher, Paul Buck, Tim Longville & John Riley. True to say, though, the English discourse was always more cerebral than what I'd known around the Melbourne/La Mama (cafe theatre) poets, ca 67-69, particularly that fraction one had in mind as 'Cambridge' (Prynne, Crozier, Peter Riley & others, John James, Doug Oliver & John Temple), exemplars of a perspective one had only begun to nibble at (convolutions of the 'land & language' equation Hall had offered me). Even now, forty years on, reading Peter Riley's latest collection, The Glacial Stairway (Carcanet, 2011), encountering the line (almost a quip?), "I am entitled to make elisions / between geological and moral structures.", the authenticity of that particular perspective with its special vocabulary is clear.

Around that time, Nick Kimberley related to me John James' comment (refering, I think, to a poem I'd published in Nick's little mag, high on Ed Dorn as it happens and not at all a send-up), that "he knows not the ground whereon he stands." If he meant the English scene I'd recently joined he was right --I was happily enrolled in the second English education I'd promised myself when I set sail from Australia for the UK in late '69. However, I never thought I required excuse or permission for my own interaction with the New American Poetry, which was surely the basis for all of our expeditions. The new poetry as, for example, demonstrated in the pages of The English Intelligencer (a great bundle of which John Hall had presented me), was more readily approachable than that very particular Cambridge poetry, and in its diversity not unlike the new poetry movement Down Under...

I'd hoped for more Olson related materials than the handful I presented in the 35 Roneod full-scap pages of Earth Ship, #4/5, but there were adjacent pieces. Rereading it the mag feels like a typical late '60s, early '70s log of the Trans-Atlantic correspondence, which will always lead a reader to the "Anglo-American" sobriquet, correcting the cliche of mutually exclusive (British, American) domains : Gael Turnbull on Cid Corman, my brother Bernard on Larry Eigner, the Snyderesque topographies of Jeremy Hilton, the (possibly Ginsbergean) diaristic passions of Nathaniel Tarn & David Tipton...

I'd retrieved the mag from the trunk because I remembered Tim Longville's poem there, SNOW MAN : A Poem Begun The Day Charles Olson Died, for him and for Jack Spicer, but until it was in my hand again didnt recall the lines I'd quoted from Spicer's A Poem to the reader of the poem at the head of my Olson review. It's a misquotation actually since "The eagle was / God or Charles Olson" doesnt follow the opening salvo, "I threw a naked eagle in your throat / I dreamed last night / That I was wrestling with you on the mountainside". Truer to the tone & sense had I continued the proposition, "The eagle was men wrestling naked / without the hope of men wrestling naked. / The eagle was a wet dream." --after all, Spicer's poem is a many-sided quandary and the quote, reflecting my callow mind-set, supposed the categorical.

Crucially Peter Riley's 'essays' on Olson, Duncan, & Spicer had slipped my mind. I quote the last :

Jack Spicer. An Essay.

1. No, not a voice in the night.
Which leads to the supposition, there is nothing
to be done.
Which leads to masochism and chauvinistic moans.

2. Indians, Esquimos and the dead East in general,
help keep alive the Aristotelian flame in various
outposts, San Francisco, e.g.

3. Fortunately, such men do not often rationalize.
Only in teaching situations.
Some of which got called "poems".

4. Well, it's a difficult place to live in, Vertigo.

Reading Spicer's Textbook of Poetry in that issue of Caterpillar, I'm tempted by the resemblance of Riley's 'essays' to Spicer's enigmatic sections despite the poets' different intentions. It's that final line of Riley's essay which pings the keenest right now, especially as W.S. Graham reenters my thinking. A Spicer/Graham connection has been tickling me throughout just as a few years ago I was want to proffer John Berryman as proximate to Graham in dexterity & idiosyncrasy despite the different stages for their soliloquies. And no vertigo without Paul Celan, --and for Celan eternal indebtedness to Walter Billeter --his translation of The Meridian (I think the first in English; Paul Celan : Prose Writings & Selected Poems, published by Paper Castle, Melbourne, 1977 ) --thus Buchner's Lenz. Says Paul Celan in his Buchner Prize speech, "Who walks on his head, ladies and gentlemen, ---who walks on his head, has the sky as precipice beneath him."

Celan, or Beckett, or any writing, sick of the replete-sentence assumptions of author, the spectrum of omniscience which cant help but relegate the language/the words as both carriage & frame --as per Spicer's conjunction, "Language is a complex system which involves word, gesture and all of that sort of thing and it's a higher abstraction than words. (....) Words are things which just happen to be in your head instead of someone else's head, just like memories are (....) Now, language is a more complicated thing, but at the same time it's a structure..." (Vancouver Lecture, June 13,1965, published in Caterpiller #12, p204).

And I say this despite simultaneous queasiness at the opposite end of practice, that accumulation of sophistication, against which my Inner Peasant rises up, suing for a rough & ready transparency --"lost land", "last hand" --also vertiginous, --the forever thinking through of such natural contradiction.

[April/June 7, 2012]


Thursday, February 23, 2012


So, the poem, the fifth of a proposed sequence of ten, is done! --in spite of itself. Let me explain. There was no through-line at all, no momentum. What I had was the dream I'd woken on and its affect on me, thus the initial scribbles. There was a wish to recognize concealment or at least abstain from the superficial hail & heartiness which logic places upon affable humanity; and this could be characterized as "monster" (the persona raised thereon), which figure was consonant with the most obvious aspect of The Midsummer Night's Dream (twisting my peculiar way the enchantment ruling its characters), that being the formal source of the poem(s). It's not giving too much away to offer that the first words of each poem are : "More Midsummer Night's Dream than Dante". Literally, bit by bit, from 31st January, '012 to just the other day, 16th February, the poem was constructed.

Big deal! But as I consider it now, making the poem (making it more than writing it, where, for me, writing holds natural fluency) I experienced certain truths of composition which in my more-or-less spontaneous approach had slipped from consciousness. For example, that one doesnt know where the poem is going or how to get it going ought not disqualify the process. I confess, and against the way I used to teach back in the '70s & '80s, I was ready to scrub the poem several times because it wasnt immediately working! There is a psychology to the "work in progress" : one must relax & have faith... And so I did --a word here or there, a phrase, rejigging the order, but not knowing how it would or if it should coalesce. And then it did --how many days & drafts? --the words & lines came together as a poem! I was amazed!

Because I'm writing a fixed line & syllable type of poem for many years now, and also imagine series or sequences rather than individual poems [see my chapbook, EXILE TRIPTYCH (Vagabond Press, 2011) for most recent published example], the spontaneity is qualified, but even so it better describes me to myself than ever construction could. Which isnt at all to say I dont work & re-work lines, relishing the redrafting, counting, sounding out. I plainly do. I should also note there's always prose on the go (journals, journalesque criticism & review, chronicle, fiction), which means I either work simultaneously on poems & prose, or I let one go entirely for the duration of the prior commitment. Obviously, my experience of prose is free of this stop-go construction : no narrative, no prose. But maybe that's similar to the type of poetry I write --always referring to the theme or working it out. 'On song' & 'on subject' in this process are essentially adjacent.

--17/23, February, 012

Thursday, January 19, 2012

THE MERRI CREEK : Poems & Pieces, #26, New Year Issue, 2012



(For a dear lady)

In a burst of longing

Dawn grows through darkness

The heart love gives

Breathes time into us

This is the everyday

Hard work and heartache

We gain our sight

All by one sky

In a moment of light

Observe the way

Paths cross our town

Clouds parade into view

We approach night

Face the same midnight

With our candles and carols

For the child in everything

In the court of the moon

With magic of starshine

The street wind sings

May we gather a feeling

Live the new life

As great trees in our midst

And noble towers

Bow to holy night

[12 Jan. 2012]



"the pilgrim piece"


(October 7/2011)

Dear Kris,
I hope you enjoyed 'Shores' [Shores of American Memory, Littlefox Press, '11). I read that poem on your site about the Albion. [David Pepperell's The Albion Jukebox Murder 1972 ] Yeah I can totally relate to that. There are so many or so few depending on how you look at Facebook where I can call a person friend. In you I feel totally at home & although distant, meaning we move in different circles & distance is hard, I regard you as a friend..................cheers Ken


Dear Ken,
Yes, of course! Very much so! Book, friendship, the lot! I'd been reading it from the beginning then today began from the end! You're very much the 'silent witness', kind of imperturbable. You dont get in the way of the poem/the perception. Laudable.
By the way, I have s/one coming in next week for a copy of the new collection, and hope that another acquaintance will also be interested!
Loretta just told me she was at the Rainbow wake you write about [Nights at the Rainbow, p1]. Small world!
We'll talk again soon!
Best wishes, Kris


(October 8/2011)

Dear Kris,
Thanks for words. I was a regular at the Rainbow for some years. I used to see the Paul Williamson Hammond Combo on a Monday night. And the Grand Whazoo, and on a Sunday afternoon. Chic was a very personable fellow who had the ability to treat everyone as a friend. By accident I hadn't heard that he died. A mate who ran the Rob Roy told me that Chic had this amazing funeral so I just imagined it. While pubs can be destructive they can also be great community gatherings like a family. In the poem 'Shores Of American Memory' the section on O'Reilly's is a case in point. I met a guy who told me to go to that pub on a Monday night because they have an Irish jam session in North Beach. He sent an email to the owner Myles that I would be coming down and that I was a poet. Anyway Myles happens to love Australians. That night I met Myles and for the whole night I didn't buy a beer. He even sang And The Band Played Waltzing Matlida for me. People came up to me and said, you're that Australian. There I met a fellow who sang with Rambling Jack Elliot, & the great grandson of Gurdjieff the philosopher. It was if I was being honoured. I guess places like the Rainbow & O'Reilly's make you feel special for no specific reason, it makes you feel as if yes there is a family and life is good..........cheers Ken


(October 8/2011)

Dear Ken,
Your evocative, inspiring reply re- the Rainbow has me thinking that we could attempt the"conversation" by email? How about it?!!! (This was to be a conversation abt this & that, especially the pilgrimage aspect of both poetry and yr journey to the US, Merton , Jeffers etc)
I salute your energy & openness, I mean that you can be there in such a way as the O'Reilly's scene opened up to you! And those connections are astonishing...
Better get back to the Shop!
All best, Kris



Dear Kris,
Sure thing, that would be great. Do you mean explore more avenues of the pilgrim experience or in relation to my America trip? Because pilgrim travelling can open up a whole new world to everyone, artists, poets, anyone who is open to the journey. Personally, Joe Campbell's books on myth had a great influence. One has to cast off or shed your old skin and believe in the path. Even if a thousand people say you're crazy you have stick at it and believe in yourself. And there are times when you go 3 steps back & 1 step forward but the point is you have to get up. I am no angel and I sort of liked what St. Augustine said, 'Lord make me perfect but not just now', or something like that haha! It was like going to the monastery and meeting the gardener Joseph Bottone who turned out to be a mate of Creeley. He had a hermitage on the grounds overlooking the Pacific Ocean. One time he invited me over for a joint and a couple of shots of rum. Certainly we played up but it was great! And the whole thing becomes infectious, the pilgrimage. Suddenly not only poetry but also the monastic along the Big Sur coast became a powerful adventure for me. Because you know that Robinson Jeffers' home is in Carmel, and a few kilometres from the monastery is the Henry Miller Library and you're riding over the Bixby Bridge where Kerouac stumbled and hooped & hollered in the foggy night. That below the bridge somewhere is Ferlinghetti's cabin. You become sort of tuned into the poetry of the land. You know that Ansel Adams & Ed Weston two of America's great photographers had homes there as well so it becomes a symphony. Even New Orleans I got to know the stories of Johnny Whites Bar. A fellow by the name of Paddy told me that when hurricane Katrina rolled through, the only bar open in the whole town was this one. So I checked it out, it runs off Bourbon Street almost opposite The New Orleans Preservation Jazz Hall. A tiny bar where twenty would be a crowd and I'm having a drink while watching Germany kick our arse in the World Cup! You get immersed in the moment & because I studied photography when I was young I became a good watcher. And the whole idea of watching takes you into another world. A lot of people travel but never see or they only see postcards & that isn't travelling.............cheers Ken



Dear Kris,
More reflections on Thomas Merton this time. You know he went to Columbia University just a few years before Kerouac and others. In fact he published a novel (not sure of name) at same publishing house as Kerouac's first novel Town & City, Harcourt and Brace. His mentor & friend was Mark Van Doren who also taught Kerouac. Merton was a few years earlier than the 'Beats' but he was interested in the jazz scene, drank and smoked and had his way with women. Yet Merton was called to be a monastic and lived that way for twenty odd years. I am attracted to him because he struggled nearly every day he was in the order. Yet he stayed true. When he wrote his autobiography, The Seven Story Mountain, from his Trappist Monastery in Kentucky, people in America went crazy about it. It came out just after the war and I guess people were dealing with that sense of loss that war brings & so they found a prophet in Merton who spoke their language. The irony is he went in the monastery to deny his writing talent but the church had other ideas. They wanted him to utilise his talents so he could be of use in getting converts etc. Another irony and I didn't know it at the time, Merton wanted to leave the order of the Trappists and become a Camaldolse. That is the order I am in. It is more hermit whereas the Trappists are more community. You know, when he went in the church was far more restrictive than it is today after Vatican 2. The time he went in the church was convinced that it was their way or the highway as the saying goes. Meaning they had no time for other faiths and his order were very strict. There was no talking except only with meetings with the Abbot about spiritual direction with either him or a Director. Life was lived by sign language. And life was hard work. Most monasteries are run like farms. You get up early work in the fields, pray, read, eat, sleep then repeat. In fact it is a hard life. Some work in the kitchen, others may be allocated to cleaning guest house accommodation and in Merton's case he was told to write. There was tremendous tension with Merton I think because on the one hand he wanted to deny his writing talent & on the other he loved the celebrity. Even not being allowed out of his monastery he still had this aura that people craved. People like Huxley corresponded along with Joan Baez and many others. When Merton was finally allowed to attend a conference in Thailand in the 1960's he went to India & Sri Lanka. At a place called Polonnaruwa there is a giant stone Buddha reclining on his side. In his book, Asian Journals, he tells of this One Moment or unitive experience. The writing is sublime. From there after all those years in the monastery and his epiphany in Sri Lanka he is having a shower, and after he's finished he begins to shave, and is electrocuted. I reckon wow what a perfect death. So Merton in a strange way was the fore-runner of Kerouac and Jack devoured Merton but sadly couldn't grasp him...............regards Ken


(October 9/2011)

Dear Kris,
[re KH birthday greetings to KT] Facebook have it a bit early. I have it on the 12th, the same day as Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. Actually my father has the same day as well and mother is on the 12th June & my brother the 13th December, the 12th month.
Began reading Kerouac's The Dharma Bums. It is a fine book.
My friend and spiritual head of the Australian part of the Camaldolese has just returned from his own pilgrimage. He went to Italy where they have a General Chapter once every few years. He is an interesting fellow. He went to India in the Eighties and stayed with Bede Griffiths & was initiated into sanyassa. Now I went through a similar process but as a bramachari student. Am I right to say you stayed at the monastery in Kentucky where Merton lived then went onto Sri Lanka and later Thailand? If so wow. Did you see Polonnaruwa? Michael (priest friend above) is taking me out for a curry meal for my birthday. Lastly thinking about putting book in for awards. Who knows if I don't give it a go? The only thing is I get mixed up with their enrollment dates. Like the John Bray award you have to put your form in about 6 months before award is given. The only thing I worry about is that people think I am writing it as an American poetry by proxy. From my point of view it isn't, instead I wanted it to be a pilgrim piece if you will. Anyway that's the way I wrote it and that's that. Thanks for birthday greetings....................kind regards Ken


(Wed, Oct 12, 2011 at 6:36 PM)

Dear Kris,
Any further news on that interview on pilgrimage?..................kind regards Ken


(Thu, Oct 13, 2011 at 12:37 AM)

Dear Ken,
just back an hour or so after cleaning up the shop following [Owen Richardson's] launch for Gig Ryan [New & Selected Poems, published by Giramondo] ... very big affair, exhausting, and heaps of fun!
Re- the pilgrimage i/vw, --yes, will look at it again on Thursday (my day off)...
If I can get away on Saturday for your reading at Federation Square I will!Good luck!
talk soon, k



Dear Ken,
I managed to get away from the Shop around three p.m., and DID catch half of the reading at Fed Square... Was disappointed that I'd probably missed your set; heard several of Robert Lloyd's poems & couple of songs, then all of Michael Heald and then, a small miracle, you were returned to the stage for one poem! Was very interested in yr reading voice; it reminded me of Robt Lloyd's singing voice! Probably the most resonant poem I heard this a/noon! Well done! Can only guess at how you felt (reluctant?) but you sounded swell! I had to hurry off straightaway afterwards and anyway i cld see you guys closing in on one another so better (I thought) to drop you quick line than to cut in. Time for me to recouperate now. Will see what I can get together for you around yr splendid Pilgrimage responses, and will send before too long.
cheers, Kris


(15 Oct/11)

Dear Kris,
Didn't see you sadly, I was in another zone haha! Glad you liked my voice hope poem was good too. Not sure where the voice comes from but it helps with the delivery or spell of poem. Robert & I thinking of doing something together more duets in future. I really like him, he's a real nice guy. I really appreciate you coming, and when pilgrim thing is right for you I'll be here. Just got home, now 9pm, had to walk half up a mountain pitch black. Now settling in at home with a good red.....Youre the best..............Ken


Kris Hemensley
End-piece, 1

Mine have mostly been head & book journeys, Ken, though I did follow in Merton's footsteps to the King's Palace in Bangkok in 2005. Loved the Ramayana murals there but afterwards, when I checked Merton's own response in my brother Bernard's copy of Asian Journals (--I was in Bangkok en route the UK-- ) realized that Merton had only qualified appreciation (Disney kitsch etc). But yes, was well aware of Merton's Bangkok story, and so to that extent it was a kind of pilgrimage in itself. But Gethsemane in Kentucky only in my reading, for example via Merton's book. The Sign of Jonas (I have the 1953 1st British edition, Hollis & Carter, London), and appreciated immediately the tough rigour of that practice. (Penultimate paragraph in the Prologue is a beauty & somewhat a propos of even our correspondence : "A monk can always legitimately and significantly compare himself to a prophet, because the monks are the heirs of the prophets. The prophet is a man whose whole life is a living witness of the providential action of God in the world. Every prophet is a sign and a witness of Christ. Every monk, in whom Christ lives, and in whom all the prophecies are therefore fulfilled, is a witness and a sign of the Kingdom of God. Even our mistakes are eloquent, more than we know.")
Regarding Sri Lanka : I went ashore in Colombo as a 19 year old, working on the Fairstar (the Sitmar line's flagship), latter part of 1965. I only did a taxi round-trip with workmates but absorbed massive sensation & inspiration from my one & only Ceylon experience. For example, classic deja-vu on a river bank when, leaving my colleagues to the display of working elephants, I wandered off by myself, towards the cries & laughter of kids diving into the water, and suddenly realized I knew the place, that is I recognized it from a dream which I'd had in Southampton before the voyage... the colours, the heat, the angle of embankment to water, the screams of the children, the splash of water et cetera. I was shocked & amazed, walked away from it probably because called by colleagues to resume our taxi tour. But could have stood there forever, in wonderment, trying to understand what it meant!

[16th January, '012]


End-piece, 2

A Note on Shores of American Memory

It's as though sentiment (one's disposition towards the world) might parallel insight : the personal simultaneously a universal. But Ken Trimble isnt Khalil Gibran! Dont intend unkindness or ingratitude for what was a consolation & stimulation at age twenty, but the person walking around in these poems is no spiritual cipher. By way of contrast, David Ellison & I often refer to one or another example or exemplar of the school of Desperate Mysticism. No doubt at all that this poet's a seeker, one who doesnt shy from either big Metaphor or Reference, and the imprint of the world is all over him. It's audible like the Charlie Parker & Sonny Rollins, the Hank Williams & Bob Dylan who pop up in the poetry --visible like the place names, the brand names of daily consumables, let alone the influential books & authors (Kazantzakis, Jeffers, Rimbaud, Bukowski, Hamsun, Kerouac, Whitman, Ginsberg, Micheline, Kaufmann, Shelton Lee et al) which glue his soul-scape together. Not half bad for a "beggar poet nothing more, nothing less" (p. 44, 'Sixty-Seven Cents'), --which in the Post-Literature era, as I call it (and I'm not sure I dont 'simply' mean Post-Modernism) is a pretty good manifesto. "I cannot dazzle with verse, rhyme or rhythm" the poem goes, --G M Hopkins ? (but who can after The Windhover ?)!
"Just stories of what I've seen / And what I've done. / I walk the streets of the world a homeless drifter / Australian my heritage the planet my home / Listening to stories, writing them down"...
(16th January, '012)



Jack Kerouac’s Holiday House

Jack Kerouac built a holiday house for Beat poetry,

Mountain climbing Matterhorn in Mill Valley California,

He took Gary Snyder from the road and made a summary,

Jack Kerouac normally lived with his (sick old) mother in Florida.

The traveller never had a daughter till taking the blood test,

“You can’t fall off a mountain” in the height of beat mania,

He wrote some good freeflow haiku - history composed the rest.

He never read every book in the Buddhism (text) library,

His confusing stream of consciousness was typing from the chest,

Rehabilitation became spirituality,

Jack Kerouac would hit the road again when he drank alcohol.





i don't recall the arrival
or having left. the point
of departure is the same
as the plosive of the asterisk
on a map, monosyllabic arrow
saying 'you are here'. contexted,
antiquarian, rigidly published.
spinal-tapped into parts of speech.
i am grammatically unscathed,
unbound on page or board
detectable only in the drawing
of breath, erasure of exclamation.

in the swoop of transitive verbage
a haunting space
lifts from the flatlands. never mind that
dislocation is in the reading.
i pick at threads of frontier
with my left-handed thinking. in the torn
apparel of second language
i remove full stops from islands
of air, listing under the salt
of problematics, participles
and suitcases. i am otherly compassed,
declining rite of passage and needle.

every place was once
somewhere else. meaning unsilts
ragged settlement, indexes
the gravel of logic.
stone and ink chapter memory
under weight of light, creasing
the eye, slubbing the tongue,
less engraved, i dissolve
sediment of interpretation,
inhaling contours,
landing at the point of it all.




assertive with grace & charm

counter intuitive as it may seem
grow a beard before train travel
& be accosted less by evangelists
particularly if your destination
is a small commune of musicians
across cow paddocks
from a bed & breakfast haunted
by freshly retired footballers

if you have a fly buys card please scan now
if you have a fly buys card please scan now
if you have a fly buys card please scan now

acquire a butterfly
some barbed wire or a tall ship
but when the toaster decides
an intricate mishmash
of marvel characters
fire & brimstone
& your topless girlfriend as a centaur
may assist two marathon runners
with their mission to negotiate peace
among rival factions
the black suits & the grey suits
in a breeding ground for ibis
not noticing can be highly functional

if you have a fly buys card please scan now




* * *
* * * *
everything porcelain
except the milk jug
spills endlessly

light * (oO enters
from the left
photons (o* exacted
by craft into
radiant iguazuae fall
* oO * *
Oo(o)Oo ***
* * * o *
gleam)"around the house
on hogshair
plasma ):''''(((whooo***
wave ((((from *
particle to
painters article
annealed and calcined
onto the days
unuttered to forever

a box of quanta
the imprimatur of hand
through a fashioned utensil
the brush not the pencil
and thence and thus
the documenta

this alchemy will not defraud
fall from
the board
nor be marauded
by a god of love





From the newspaper, I didn't know I was on the way
to a wake. When the white horse appeared
I rode so long that I forgot
the gold star'd cloak I didn't wear

on the way here. Regret of what
she could have told our new lives
made old. Sphinxes? sure.
No state yet certain, the reddened head

glows in seeming fire. Tent in an orb
of alleyway dreaming. Seems I lost
my white horse amongst her images
maybe dreams are only an imagined "snake clock"

Here then is our cloak of stars
the cloak we take to night, to love.
A grin beneath clouded hair
levels a demon, empties a stare

of the always familiar coral skied
or basalt eyed. The kind of minotaur
that floats above knowing children,
hooded. Greenpool shade of light

which drifts above our horseless wake,
floating sound of glowing eyes, one dead star
in our mouths. Now we ride back on our blanket
of colours, life now at "the house opposite"

in the shudder-hum of art. We return to the country
we never knew, but now with her silent hall of maps
in our eyes. Nothing starts to burn. Seated at our table,
the real news fresh on the page, concealed ocean high and low

We raise our glasses to the cartographer
of "Down Below"

[Melbourne, 28th May 2011]



[NOTE : I'd remembered Finola's mention of her "painter cousin" but was astounded when I came across her name in Paul Ray's The Surrealist Movement in England (Cornel University Press, 1971), & later in Breton's Painting & Surrealism. Her book, Down Below, was praised by Pierre Mabille & Maurice Blanchot; & in 1946, Claude Serbanne described her as the "greatest English surrealist poet, and, without any argument, one of the four or five greatest poets of surrealist tendency on the international scene." Her paintings were included in all the Surrealist exhibitions since 1937, & occupied a prominent place at the 1960 Surrealist exhibition in New York. --August, 1981; Kris Hemensley]

Nth Fitzroy,

Dear Kristo --,

I'm terrified of my cousin Leonora Carrington & I'm not terrified of many people but when she is drunk & I am too, our ability to get on is positively genetic. And you have gotten the very correct word for her P R I V A T E. Her play Penelope (I think) written when she was 17 was produced 1st in something like 1966. The Hearing Trumpet written for her friends in 1954, or something, was first published in English in 1975, and so the story goes, her writing is her own and whoever wrested the mss from her to publish them must have approached her personally, got her drunk, got her respect then said it for me, go on etc. etc. I spent six weeks in Mexico with her husband, Chiqui Weicz, for whom The Stone Door was written in 1947 or something. During the war, she was put in an Asylum in Spain because she wanted to save her previous lover, Max Ernst, from the Nazis & there is an account of her time there, which is a brilliant merging of the alchemical & the surreal (truths) in the subjective (misunderstood necessarily) in booklet form, called Down Below. On the other hand her painting is public, famous in Mexico City, N Y & Paris (little bit London) & those people here who really know the Surrealists (and there are apparently FEW) of course know her work well. Periodically she'll have an exhibition in one of those Madison Ave commercial galleries which sell out --she's constantly fighting with her agent as she feels she has to KEEP her 3 men, who are those narrow-fingered aesthete demi-jewish Europeans --two sons and husband; the older son, my age, Gaby is in theatre, Pablo in medicine. She is notoriously a non-letter writer, has friends like Larry, Trotsky's son, and Luis (Bunuel) & is herself one of the big expatriot names in Mexico City where there are lots... too shy and multilingual... Chiqui was telling me of when Antonin Artaud came to stay & find out the secrets of the Shamans, pre-pre-Castaneda, & wrote that crazy book The Peyote Dance. I stayed in her house in Cuernavaca which is under the same volcano as Malcolm Lowry's. To ask me about Leonora Carrington is to ask me to explain the mysteries of my own DNA. It's queer that locked in my gaol of English Language & bonny Aussie enthusiasm I should meet or have the possibility of meeting such names so closely ... for to be the prima de Leonora Carringtom is almost to be her when she is absent, 'cos family is all-hallowed when your language is Latinate. But my ignorance beneath the enthusiasm & the awe is it, for I could only approach on the personal ... not the professional, or careerish, so I don't know really what to say. I've gathered that I should respect the private, as I know how much mail arrives to be ignored or laughed off in the Calle Chihuahua. None of them write letters, but your best bet is Gaby --Gabriel Weicz-Carringtom, Calle Chihuahua 194, Mexico City, Zona 7, for information, opinion about living surrealism, or an approach to his mother, or possibly a copy of Down Below.

A day later : yes Gaby would be more approachable & possibly a more rewarding correspondent as Leonora is at the moment incommunicado in N Y city & some Tibetan Buddhist retreat, rehashing her whole life & for her these things are passed, whereas for Gaby to put it into perspective would be good (they are muy mucho close). Perhaps you could think up some inspired questions & suggest publishing what he has to say & show him the Merri [The Merri Creek,Or Nero was Earth Ship magazine's 3rd series, & in turn presented H/EAR, eight issues, 1981-85] --whatever, it's not as though he's not a writer himself. And they're all deeply in the Anarchist tradition, so the Merri should stand on its own merits. My meetings with Leonora are/were too personal & as yet out of historical perspective to make any sort of a piece at the moment ... still haven't decided whether to use the ticket I have for Nov. 7th to return.
Wish for myself the secret of the freedom of the surrealists, for my writing I mean, but don't have it, can understand more what the Bauhaus was about, even that quite newly & to do with my own experiment [the work in progress which would become Remember the Tarantella, 1987, -ed.]...

with love,


NOTE (1) :
After the issue was published, Finola sent an urgent note, "I have not read everything yet in H/EAR ye'll understand that. One thing I read & if you've not sent all away, fix it : I am LA PRIMA DE LEONORA, not her PRANA ((that's embarrassing for PRANA is the magical Life Force that invades orange juice & fresh air & so on and PRIMA is only 1st cousin feminine))" The correction is made in the above.

NOTE (2):
When James Hamilton told me he'd recently written a poem for/about Leonora Carrington, having read the newspaper obituary, I responded with my story of Finola's family connection and my publishing her reminiscence 20 years ago in H/EAR. We thought it would be great to publish the texts together! I sought Finola's permission to reprint her letter here. I have reinserted a couple of passages omitted from the 1981 publication. As Finola & I have agreed, publish & be damned!



PAUL HARPER & JAMES HAMILTON have appeared in previous issues [see name index]. They're all active in Melbourne, outside of the mainstream, wholly tuned in to the music...
ALICIA BEE is a freelance journalist & blogger; has published 2 collections of poems, Bathers On The Beach, & The Book Of The Dead And Wounded, both from Good Look Books (Brunswick, Vic.). Her webpage is,
CECILIA WHITE, artist, photographer, poet; first met when she performed Vicki Viidikas jazz poem at the MOK Anniversary event at Collected Works couple of years ago. Studied in Germany ('80s) & presently in New South Wales. Winner of inaugural national Cricket Poem Prize. Current project is Breathing Space.
ALBERT ROTSTEIN stalwart of boho Melbourne city & country art & poetry scenes over the decades. His poems most recently appear in Pete Spence's irregular pressings, more publicly & regularly in Pi O's Unusual Work magazine.
FINOLA MOORHEAD , poet, novelist, playwright. Books include Quilt ('85); A Handwritten Modern Classic (Post-Neo, '87); Remember the Tarantella ('87, reissued by Spinifex in '011); Still Murder ('91); My Voice ('06). Fiction editor with A A Phillips on Meanjin Quarterly in the '70s, illustrious member of the Rushall Crescent Avant-Garde in the '70s/80s.