ON THE RUN : as though a journal : posts retrieved from Facebook
December 2, 2012
I.M. Charles Buckmaster, 40th anniversary of that terrible day, 26th November, 1972. Tonight i share a paragraph from my December 1972 journal, a page following report on Gough Whitlam's momentous federal election victory :
"[3rd December,'72] The suicide of Charles Buckmaster was the sad news forwarded to us from 2 different sources last week. Michael Dugan phoned one evening --& Margaret Taylor on the Thursday evening we were out (visiting Betty Burstall & later Paul Adler & Ena in Carlton). It was not unexpected. Margaret sd that he had seen 'top consultants' & that he was 'doomed'. We are told that there is a family history of this... Charles was 21. So young. & yet --the poem he published in The Age 2 years ago --which i hadnt seen until Judy Duffy [Loretta's sister] showed it to us a couple of weeks or so ago-- was astonishingly authoritative & mature. [The Age poem was 'Starting Out', beginning, "That the changes have been swift / and uninvited. // That their year tore by, your holy face / matures like the dawn: centering / on some great simplicity / of right living. // I can't know you at all..."]] In retrospect all the poems appear to be suicide notes (Mark Hyatt [English poet] was another such case) --but 2 poems in particular --The Age poem, & 'Seed' which i published in Earth Ship #7 --the most moving epistles. i wrote a piece of prose for/to Charles three evenings ago....
January 7th, 2013
Turn on the telly and who should be on the screen but Silka Genovese being interviewed by Jane Edmondson (from Gardening Australia and 3AW's Big Back Yard) about the w/ful horticultural history of an Italian family's hectare in Brunswick, ultimately gifted to CERES (for whom Silka works). If that wasnt sufficient fame to absorb, turn the telly back on for the doco on Twiggy (England in the 60s via Carnaby Street, King's Road, Chelsea et al) and there's Jeremy Reed, sociologically erudite, sharp as a pin and dressed to the nines (as befitted the subject).
It was nice to catch up with Silka at George G's book launching at Collected Works late November, but havent seen Jeremy for ten years? Last time was with John Robinson driving us to & fro Marc Almond's book launch at Borders in Brighton; stuck in central London grid lock (wch we werent to know was consequence of Brixton bombing), and then all that tea at the Grand Hotel finally catching up with us : hilarious attempt to relieve bladders in a side street wch John brilliantly discovered but only to be lit up like rabbits when the apartment block's security lights turned night into day! I'll be tuning in for tonight's trysting with celebrities with baited breath!
January 17th, 2013
A great night, kicking off our Summer in the City series (next is the Yeats Poetry Prize committee's lunchtime session to celebrate another Yeats anniversary, 29th January --cdnt have it on the official date, wch is Australia Day & a holiday) : Pam Brown lead in by Corey Wakeling, Duncan Hose & Ann Vickery. A full house --thanks everyone for turning out.
A distinctive feature of the reading was its curator's introduction & mini-critique of each of her guests, ie, what & why Gig Ryan [poet & poetry editor at The Age, Melbourne] appreciated in their poetry & poetics. I think that was valuable in itself. The 'proof of the pudding' beside the point...
During the a/noon had another conversation with Alan Pose abt the way we think of & listen to contemporary (any) music --i've been enjoying Chris Dench & Diana Burrell CDs, recent purchases. But i was unaware of any connection between the two until Alan told me of Chris Dench appreciation of her. Excuse the long-windedness of this comment but to an extent the conversation [in my mind, that is : Alan is hereby excused any responsibility!] turned upon the adequacy or validity of the pictorial/representational vs abstract categorisations often fielded. All too obvious that there's no clear or absolute distinction : envisaged space (landscape eg) & aural or phonic space (music) occupy a continuum. I could say that it's governed by perception rather than description (seen/scene/seen)...Listening to the reading i felt beautifully prepared by that discussion (as well as the music)! Pam Brown (& what a great long last poem she read --vernacular's sleight-of-hand, the diary meta-poem) described the Melbourne posse as fellow experimenters --i guess she meant poets who're seriously engaged with the late modernist english-language poetry, all new yorky even when it aint!
It is invidious here to call preferences because the reading was very much a conversation or collective demonstration of shared mode at the heart of wch was a 'golden laughter'...
[January 21, 2013
Lecture | ‘Broken Pastoral and the English Folk’ Professor Tim Barringer
Paul Mellon Professor of Art History, Yale University
This paper examines the revived interest in folk culture in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain, exploring the relationships between ethnography, musicology and the study of historical arts and crafts.
It places within this matrix the work of photographers, painters and composers, who derived both motifs and models for avant-garde artistic identity from the study of the rural poor. Professor Tim Barringer contends that the aesthetic potency of visual and musical compositions drawing on folk sources lay in the widespread acknowledgement of the imminent disappearance of folk culture in the face of modernity and mechanized warfare.
Under consideration are the photographer P.H. Emerson, painters George Clausen, Henry Herbert La Thangue and Augustus John, the gardener and writer Gertrude Jekyll, ethnographer E.B. Tylor, and composers Sir Hubert Parry, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Percy Grainger.]
The art & music we've come to know, love, and fundamentally refer to, elicited by yesteryear's avant-garde from "the rural poor" (according to the abstract above) has surely became an optic for the general culture's celebration of the non-metropolitan, sourced in the country & ex-urban environments. What did i see on F/book the other day? : oh yes, a lovely painting by Eric Ravilious matched to a photograph of the actual village & landscape... nothing earth-shattering abt that but simply a tiny example of the way art reflects life reflects art : creativity's essential dynamic! What i dont want to hear at the lecture is cliches abt elitist exploitation, wayward nostalgia & etc! But, yes, sounds good!
Furthermore (yes! ive been sitting in the front room/library, thinking), a great resource for this discussion is Alexandra Harris's brilliantly researched & exceptionally readable book, Romantic Moderns : English Writers, Artists and the Imagination from Virginia Woolf to John Piper (T&H, 2010). Reflecting upon Benjamin Britten's cynicism abt the relationship of the folk movement to the English Musical Renaissance, she says, "He was certainly right(...) : folk song had not played much part in musical life for centuries. [But] The point of the revival was to close over the gap, asserting by sheer force of will that the vital rhythms of English music had been continuous across the ages. Where the folk revival was potentially limiting, the closely related return to Renaissance court music offered both patriotic appeal and more scope for complex experiment. Britten turned to the 'discordant harmonies' of Purcell, taking inspiration from his fusion of the familiar and the strange. Extensive scholarship on 16th & 17th C music, pioneered by Arnold Dolmetsch and gathering momentum all through the 1920s and 1930s, opened new possibilities for composition. Just as medieval stained glass suggested to John Piper ways of understanding the abstractions of Leger, early music offered English composers new perspectives on the modern. it is characteristic of this generation that Peter Warlock, whose 1926 book The English Ayre recovered a whole corpus of early songs, was also the first Englishman to write a substantial appreciation of Arnold Schoenberg." I doffs me cap and rests me case!!!
January 28th, 2013
Hemensleys down to the sea again this morning, and once on the beach, altho no one else in the water, just had to go in! Coldish but quickly adapted. Beach & Bay report classified Elwood as Good and believe me the sea was clear, gentle waves, no burning sun, totally acceptable. Float on back, dog paddle, stick head under water & look around, the whole biz! (No, didnt actually swim hard or far!) How many more beach days does this summer hold? After drying/changing on the grass banking, breakfasted at the little kiosque and once more made short work of the toasted cheese & tomato s/wiches! Washed down with tea/coffee. Continued my latest note on Ivor Gurney in notebook. Dawned on me i was sitting in the particular way with the very expression Dad adopted when the aggregate of an occasion's pleasure suffused like a blush. He'd have liked this, i said. In his prime. Hopefully i'm still in mine!
January 30th, 2013
One can but note & mourn the passing of the men & women of one's time. Anselm Hollo (1934-2013) a little older than us lot. His UK class would include Edwin Brock (1927-97), Tarn (b.'28), Alan Brownjohn (b.'31), Geoffrey Hill (b.'32), Jeff Nuttall (1933-04), B S Johnson (1933-73), Harry Fainlight (1935-82), Michael Horowitz (b '35)... Come to think of it, same era as Peter Porter & Chris Wallace-Crabbe... Different kinds of poets, all mortal... I think Hollo went to the US ahead of Tarn, had only been in London a few years. I loved the image of him as per a review in the English papers ca '65/66, the Venusian from Helsinki or was it the Finn from Venus?!! RIP, indeed.
Of course, most of the above well behind him as he became an American poet. Many lives indeed. An interesting paper wld be abt those who left the UK for the US & other places. Whether they commuted (like many of the Irish, feet firmly in both) or cast off old world like previous skin. You hear my own song in that, hopefully not a wail!
February 9th, 2013
Tim Barringer's lecture last night worth its weight in gold if only for the audio-visual illustrations, the singing of the great Joseph Taylor for example. I suppose the prof was running the gauntlet between latterday 'everything's a construct' cynicism & erstwhile 'the real thing' nostalgia. Like the good thing he evidently is, Barringer resolved the 'argument' with that hybrid which close-reading encourages. The extension of his presentation would, I hope, throw it all into another spin as 'tradition' & 'avant garde' exchange positions through the years! I'm on the run this morning so more later! Excellent support for the lecture.
I wish you'd all been there! I wonder if papers from the conference (Tim B's talk was a keynote) are up on the web anywhere? Naturally one brings one's own box & dice to any such presentation, for example my long standing belief that the sincere response (in this case to the pastoral) is a meeting with and extension of that source. It is manipulation on technical/techique level but not distortion or falsification in ethical or moral sense --Vaughn Williams, Delius, Percy Grainger were surely proceeding from the folk songs, riffing in favour of their own music. In the case of the Joseph Taylor recording which the prof played, the singer's distinctive trill in Brig Fair is actually quoted or retained in the modern version. Pure magic to my ears! So yes, i had a number of "yes but"s in my notebook at lecture's end, which didnt in any way diminish my respect for the presentation & quality of research & suggestive insight. The William Barnes example was one such. I loved his reference to Barnes but disagreed totally that V Williams' Linden Lea sanitized the dialect, as if (my point) Barnes were some peasant-innocent and not the grammarian & linguist he was, who wrote in Standard English as well as Dialect. Etc etc etc Most stimulating as i hope you appreciate. Washed down with a pint of cider at Percy's (most appropriate) in company of Alan Pose!
(Tim B told us at the start that he'd spent the day at the Grainger Museum in Parkville and what he'd gleaned had affected his own thesis! Local boy makes good on one level ('we love you Melbourne') but pretty interesting...)
February 12th, 2013
Letter to Ted Reilly, re- 50th Anniversary of Sylvia Plath's death
Hi Ted, wish i had been given Plath at school but it was all too new then! I loved Lawrence, disliked Hardy, got Spender but struggled with Hopkins & McNiece. That was in 1963, unaware of contemporary poets, wch also might mean the teacher was too; or she stuck to the GCE syllabus so as not to distract us. Southampton Tech College, 1962-64. I was writing vastly more prose than poems, dropped out the next year, didnt really encounter Plath (& it was Plath & co, that is Lowell & co) til Xmas '66, in Oz by now, when i was given the The New Poetry anthology, edited by Alvarez, masquerading beneath Jackson Pollock cover. I say 'masquerading' deliberately because i didnt find the "new" i desperately wanted to encounter... I'd taken to Williams in '65, and Ginsberg, Snyder, Levertov & the Beats followed. Not much room for Plath... I recall hating Lowell in that anthology, but liking Berryman (still a poet i read)! And Nat Tarn's essay World Wide Open, published in International Times in '67, gave me the excuse for my avoidance & ideological repudiations : Tarn's quip, 'we cannot afford madness' (that is in this politically apocalyptic time)... as though it were a choice... I preferred Bly, & older poets like Jeffers, and Pound NOT Eliot... you get the picture Ted!!! I guess it wasnt really until i was a (still) young poet & teaching at the Council of Adult Education in Melbourne, mid '70s, through the '80s, that i allowed myself to read the other side (as it felt), if only to join my students in their reading tastes. So Hopkins, Eliot, & Plath... The teacher taught by his students! That is, the openness i was encouraging (Olson & Duncan my mentors) opened my ears & eyes to the poems themselves, free from partisan distraction & fashion! Letting the words (the poems) enflame, not the lives of the poets! Or, not merely the misleading lives...Thanks for yr words Ted... Are you still teaching?
February 14th, 2013
My best sense of Robert Bly admittedly from a long time ago, 60s, The Light Around the Body etc I wrote to him ca 1967 when he donated his Pulitzer (or Nat Bk Award?) money to a draft resister. Also sent him copy of my little mag, Our Glass, wch had published translations from contemporary Swedish poets by Peter Adams (student of Marianne Berregren in Swedish Dept at Melb University). Mr Bly endorsed them!
His 'Leaping Poetry' essay was important i think. And 'Deep Image' out of Lorca, Rilke et al brilliant contradiction to A-A-A-American localism (itself attractive --WCW, Olson etc)... Iron John was fun but so too the Great Mother he thought to supplant... His Mirabai wonderful... CONGRATULATIONS!
February 21st, 2013
I hadnt thought too much abt Richard Alpert (+ Timothy Leary) after the '60s, but mid '80s when i began re-thinking & rereading philosophical, political & literary positions, i came upon Baba Ram Dass --probably via Transpersonal Psychology journal, and that via wonderful lecture at the 1984 Deep Ecology conference in Melbourne given by Warwick Fox. And then, Cathy O'Brien said she'd always had this copy of Be Here Now by Ram Dass, since the 70s at least...!
February 21st, 2013
To Pamela Robertson-Pearce re- Graeme Miles' Recurrence (John Leonard Press, Melbourne,2012)
Graeme Miles' Recurrence is one of the best of the recent crop (and it's a veritable Aussie harvest these days)... Elizabeth Campbell's discussion could have been described as "the status of myth in post-modernity"! Naturally her respect & enthusiasm for the poems ultimately had Graeme's unique collection centre stage. I wonder if there's a discussion to be had around the highly individual accomplishment of a number of ex-West Australian poets in recent times? Michael Heald, Phil Salom, Mal McKimmie, & Marion May Campbell also spring to mind. By individual i mean determinedly out-of-left-field works... and heady without sacrificing the palpable. Something like that!
March 6th, 2013
Thinking y'day about my own change of mind re- Thos Hardy, wrote in my journal : "When Eric Mottram described my poems [Poem of the Clear Eye?] as the opposite of 'Hardyesque modesties', i felt vindicated --ambition in terms of subject & form being my register --& for many years -- Ah well, the wheel turns -- Ancient Chinese & medieval Japanese (current reading) hardly modest in the way i was opposing when i was younger --but if Hardy has a place for me now it's within the equanimity established by them (the T'ang ancients)..."
This still in my mind as i listened to Lyn McCredden's brilliant encapsulation of Chris Wallace-Crabbe's body of work, that (if i remember correctly) despite the 'thing itself' yielding to the facts of the day (& everyday), his doggedness & stoicism, his wit to see & respond, there were the darker edges, deep sadnesses...
Not sure as i write this how the two states of mind coalesce! Still thinking this through...
Maybe it's the Hardy of "he was a man who remembered such things" (--the poem i'd disliked when young but came around to understanding later) i'm relating to CWC...
March 9th, 2013
Preparing for my next trip to England. Consult Vivienne Light's great compendium, Circles & Tangents : Art in the shadow of Cranbourne Chase (Canterton Books, 2011). I remember conversation with Bernard H years ago : he'd written his Cemetery Lodge Poems and we envisaged ever widening circle, thus the Thomas Hardy Poems, and further, further... Vivienne Light explains, "The 'circles' of the title are of interconnected artists, though 'loose networks' might describe them better, for they are rarely neat or circular. The 'tangents' of the title are those in which I, as author, have spun off in pursuit of some theme or connection in the life or work of an artist, often travelling far beyond the bounds of Cranbourne Chase. As Virginia Woolf once put it: 'smooth narrative can't be right. Things don't happen like that'."
She describes Cranbourne Chase, "a landscape of bare-bone beauty and for many has offered a place of retreat. Its dramatic landscape and sense of remoteness (though now under two hours from london), have been its foremost attractions. Spanning Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire, it was originally established by William the Conqueror as a royal hunting ground, with the rivers Avon, Allen, Stout, Fontnell and Nadder as its boundaries. Its physical geography is both demanding and spectacular, nurturing and isolating, consisting of high, exposed rolling downland, steep escarpments, winterbourne chalk streams and vertiginous valleys, as well as old broad-leaf woodland, shadow-flickering coppices, junipers, hedgerow yews, and bird-nesting hawthorn thickets. The Chase is an ancient landscape."
And then Vivienne Light quotes H J Massingham. My Massingham! Wow! That was an obsession late 80s, 90s, Must look at him again too.