Saturday, April 19, 2014


[April 17/'14]

Off the top of my head about Ikkyu on or about 600th anniversary of the death of his master, Keno

for Bernard H & Robert L

A few days after a conversation about Ikkyu, Robert Lloyd leant me a copy of John Stevens' translations, Wild Ways : Zen Poems of Ikkyu (Shambhala, 1995). We stocked it years ago, perhaps in a different format? Also Stephen Berg's versions of Ikkyu, Crow With No Mouth (1989). I'm enjoying this re-immersion in Ikkyu. Ever tickled by dates I realize this is the 620th anniversary of the year of Ikkyu's birth, and, importantly, the year of the 600th anniversary of the death of Ikkyu's first great influence, Keno, "the Modest Old Man, abbot of Saikinj. Temple of Western Gold." Via Google I found very interesting extract from Perle Besserman & Manfred Steger's book, Zen Radicals, Rebels, and Reformers (Wisdom, 2011). Nothing wrong at all with John Stevens' potted biography, there's just more in the Besserman & Steger.

"Keno's example, and Rinzai's beforehand, exerted such a powerful influence on Ikkyu's mind that he never accepted or gave inka throughout his life as a Zen student or teacher. For the legitimate heir to Rinzai, true Zen meant transmission beyond words, scriptures, or written certificates of enlightenment. And Keno was just such a master --unconventional, uncompromising, strict in his dedication to meditation, with no worldly ambitions whatsoever. Ikkyu spent four years training in the lonely temple of Western Gold [Ikkyu was his only student], until Kano's sudden death put an end to his Zen idyll."

Suicide attempt, the search for a teacher, from Keno to Kaso, & eventual enlightenment --awoken from meditation by "the cawing of a crow in early evening, Ikkyu achieved his great satori. the entire universe became the cawing of the crow..." John Stevens translates the enlightenment verse : "For twenty years I was in turmoil / Seething and angry, but now my time has come! / The crow laughs /, an arhat emerges from the filth, / And in the sunlight a jade beauty sings!"

Writing this as crows are popping up again hereabouts, bringing in Autumn & Winter in Melbourne, reminding me of my feeling for crows. Here are two from The Millennium Poems (1997-2000), contributed to Raffaella Torresan's anthology, Literary Creatures (Hybrid, 2009) :


milkcloud-sky canvas
leafless branches red tin roofs -
artist-crow due now


raven on favourite branch
confides to the tree
that as far as friends go
ravens' loyalty outdoes

trees' imperturbable
where raven's merely proud -
a bunch of people scuttle past -walking trees! scoffs raven -
leaves! exhales the tree


Amours, sex, & philosophy in Stevens's Ikkyu but no crows! Lots like this though :


One short pause between
The leaky road here and
The never-leaking Way there:
If it rains, let it rain!
If it storms, let it storm!


Sexual love can be so painful when it is deep,
Making you forget even the best prose and poetry.
Yet now I experience a heretofore unknown natural joy,
The delightful sound of the wind soothing my thoughts.





Amazin', as Tommy Hafey might say... Sitting yesterday, late afternoon, at the Kiosk on the beach, writing abt Dimitris Tsaloumas who swam right here for years, --thinking about that sentiment he expressed in a poem, that the mermaid doesnt swim here anymore, --pollution on his mind but also the degradation or loss of meaning, the loss of significance of classical myth, and probably his own sense of meaning as he turned back to Greece again, --writing about this when I saw dark shapes, fin, disturbance in the sea, and thought 'whale' but then 'dolphins'... And so it was! DOLPHINS, at least three, maybe half a dozen. WONDERFUL! Man with family sitting under brolly beside us leapt to his feet, shouting for people to LOOK! Everyone peering at the dolphins swimming from right (Point Ormond) to left, and then the sunbathers along the beach, standing, looking... I say swimming : the dolphins were jumping, up & under again, --and of course then Ezra Pound in my head, "Came Neptunus, dolphins leaping" --and I felt it was a 'reply' to Tsaloumas... You had to have been there!



Bernard Hemensley's message : "Jack Shoemaker : Alive and Well!...You'll be pleased to know, our telephone conversation. Ah! How we enjoyed those yellow-paged paper catalogs from Sand Dollar some 40 years ago!!!"

Yes indeed... very relieved & happy for this news! (For some reason I'd suddenly thought otherwise...)
Hugely deserved award! Another bookseller, publisher. poet! I'll drop him a line! 



[copied from B H's page] Rereading : So the award was made in 2013. Missed it or have forgotten, but thinking of the news today all the sweeter! As you remark about his catalogues, they were like a curriculum; for example, and at random. I've picked out Sand Dollar Books new titles list #23, dated 26 April 1978, --his categories were poetry & fiction; literary magazines; Japanese fiction; Sources & texts. It was the 'sources & texts' wch indicated poetry's reach, if you like, an expansion of the possibility not a single track. For example, from this 'yellow-paged paper' marvel : J Blumenthal's The Printed Book in America (Godine); Alfred Brendel's Musical Thoughts & Afterthoughts (Princeton); Haslam, The Real World of the Surrealists (Rizzoli); Mitchell, Blake's Composite Art (Princeton); A Rich, Of Woman Born (mass p/b); E Weston, Nudes (Aperture).... The most expensive book Jack listed in that catalogue was the Bibliography of the Grabhorn Press 1957-66 & Grabhorn-Hoyen 1966-73, ed R Harlan, printed by Andrew Hoyen, ed of 225 copies; "this supply is already exhausted and we have only one copy left", $250... worth what today? I published a poem sequence by Jack --Magical Mayan Survival Techniques : A Gathering for Michael Palmer-- in my mag The Ear in a Wheatfield, #17, Autumn 1976. My contributor's bio for him goes : "Jack Shoemaker is better known as a bookseller (1205 Solano Avenue, Albany, Cal. 94706) & as a publisher (the excellent Sand Dollar programme). His identification of Australia as the stop beyond Fresno on the American poetry circuit is an indication of his rare perceptions." For 'American', understand 'new poetry' tho I do recall Michael Wilding at the time suggesting that Oz become the next state of the Union & thereby qualify for its subsidies & literary recognitions! Of course, political teasing but a smidgin of the truth of the feeling of the time!

[B H on his own page] : "Yes, wonderful catalogs to complement what came thru via Nick Kimberley at Compendium and then his Duck Soup etc. What i obtained from Jack were lots of rare books (now) = titles by Bukowski, Enslin, Eigner, Creeley and Dawson. i would receive special lists of the titles available and order = Well-paid social-worker at the time! Of course, it was Jack Shoemaker's MAYA QUARTO chapbooks which caught the imagination for me when i started Stingy Artist publications in 1978....and the first one was!!! = Montale's Typos by KH!!!"‬


[March 26/'14] 

‪Thanks for the link, Kent MacCarter...[‬‪] I remember all of this from when it occurred... the controversy surrounding John Mateer's poem for and about the Noongar warrior Yagen... Reading the 'Nativism..' essay I'm struck by John's split or double characterizations as also last night at his excellent reading at Collected Works Bookshop... I'm moved by John's investment in the Poet which is both the simple & the imaginative figure, sincerely bearing the existential burden... Seemed very strongly to me that Mateer's poetry is the act which precedes politics (even its own). Felt, thought, expressed, and as I would say, warts & all. The alternatives are of diplomacy & politics; decorums which are not essentially poetry, that is Poetry, the parallel dimension where The Poet might exist... Part of that parallel dimension is Storyteller, --contemporary lyric poet become or returned as storyteller. Different subtleties, different transparencies... Asking me about the 'few words' of my introduction to John's reading last night, Fiona Hile wondered if it was 'off the top of my head'. Yes, sort of! Off the top of my head, but I wrote the words down, I joked! Like I do here --which always feels like someone else thinking through me (however straightforward); off the top of my head, thinking with my pen... No obfuscation in John Mateer's dreams of the world; to reiterate, he is bearing the existential burden --dreams of the parallel worlds... 'next life' always this life, which is where I meet him...


[March 23/'14]


Quoting from what might be the last of the series, several not yet posted, --in this piece I'm discussing Fielding Dawson :

(......) I abjure saying 'one dimensionality' --he was a collagist damn it! --not only the frisson of the cut & paste but the curious images & strange feelings emerging between the rough cut edges, flickering like revelations but for the understandings thereof, & like shadows, Jung & all, --because the whole truth of the matter's what's at stake, otherwise odious conformity, dissembling that negates the particular in favour of at all times politically correct cypher --which Fielding Dawson never was. His greatest value surely candour about personal relations, its powerful resonance founded on fine ear & fluent speaking style... And he wrote this --first words of his I ever read, published by the late, lamented Andrew Crozier as a beguiling, black-covered Ferry Press booklet, THREAD, which begins, "I have green eyes, I sit at the table nervously listening to them I am watching myself listening and looking I am telling myself to pay attention, see and listen and not see and listen, my hair is a little grey, a woman walks in me, she pays no heed, I sit there and listen and look, I am myself(....)" --I was hooked, riveted -- "a woman walks in me" spoke to me of floating gender, a poetic life's polymorphous potential... I set it as an exercise in the Adult Education classes I taught in Melbourne, mid '70s, the phrase as is for the men, the reverse for the women ("a man walks in me"). It seemed always to open things up --themselves, the class, their writing...

Apropos here a reference to Fielding Dawson in letter from Larry Eigner, written Sunday, Feb 16, '75, included in the pamphlet AH ! published as # 15 of my mag, The Ear in a Wheatfield (August, '75). In the letter Larry describes what he's read of issue #9 of The Ear : "(....) AE Coppard stories on Masterpiece Theatre these last two Sundays [and Dawson's story is after Coppard]. I never got to a Dawson story much, following it and taking it in (a lot here for years unlooked at) til last night when I read "The Man Who Changed Overnight" before watching "Boy", 6th in a series of Japanese films with Ed O Reischauer (et al) commenting. Eye-openers, quite a lot. That Dawson hits very substantially (H James, G Stein, Creeley, Dawson...) --the vivid mix of experience. (.....)"


[January 23/'14]

Thank you for this, Nick Dryenfurth [Norman Geras: an obituary;
... The obituary went through to the keeper, as they say, so it's opportune to reconnect here...
N D : "It's now 4 months since the great Norm Geras was taken from us all too early. I miss his blog everyday. Reading over his many obits I was struck by the ungenerous offering of Overland. In this fantasy Trotskyite world of the Sparrow-ites Norm's ethical and morally-grounded politics is utterly disconnected from his Jewishness. Indeed, the author cannot bear to call him a Jew at all. In a word: shameful."
Re- 'ungenerous' : relates for me to what Ive thought about for many years as 'humility before the fact' versus a variety of 'vanity'... I understand Philip Mendes' reading of Geras (above) within that perspective... Best wishes to you & all who sail with you!


‪From the Guardian [UK]'s obit last October, this summary does for me : "From his perspective, the response to the events of 11 September 2001 was appalling. He found the readiness of many to blame the US for bringing the terrorist attack down on its own head to be intellectually feeble and morally contemptible. He argued that this section of the left was betraying its own values by offering warm understanding to terrorists and cold neglect to their victims. He detested the drawing of an unsupported and insupportable moral equivalence between western democracies and real or proposed theocratic tyrannies in which liberty of thought and speech, and the protection of human rights, would play no part. Norm wanted to engage in this debate and not just with academics. So he went online, to provide himself with a space in which he could express these and other views, and Normblog was born."


The name 'Normblog' rings a bell now but I'd never followed it... These notes & comments, conversations, encounters, are all occasions within a journey; opportunities for clarity, knowing oneself better, as clean & bare as one can be... Romantic anarchist & communist beginnings, mixed with art & literature & poetry's education, mixing DHL & Miller & Durrell & all & the cavalcade of existentialists, surrealists, dadaists, Beats, --and that's just into my 20s!!! ---45 + years since then --and the examination continues as it must vis a vis individuals, communities, society in which one lives... Here, via Nick D's interjection, accept serendipity's invitation to reflect upon it again. Much dismay there has been (since, for example, the party sec in 1962 equivocated & lied about Hungary --Ive written that story, must resurrect from moth-eaten mss!) -- but these days 'warts & all' is the sometimes rueful but oftentimes best of smiles I visit upon the world!


Olson & that curriculum from '67; cant underestimate the political influence, elicited, imagined, as much as taught-- '67 to '75 contradictory paths, and all the way through to the early '80s when my 'turn' began! Rereading, rethinking the whole shebang... EP Thompson pamphlet re- implications of independent  East European Peace Movements, yes I remember that --and the East European & Soviet dissident literature & criticism... A return to the Zen which sits in with the existentialism & etc of early '60s... Incredible to think of such journey or spirals...Haha! impossible encapsulation! So must insert that comment of Lawrence's wch fired me very early on, For God's sake let us be men & not monkeys minding machines! The main dynamic ['crucial contradiction' the axiom as I taught it at CAE many years] is libertarian/individualist alongside social/communitarian... Kerouac's Dean (in On the Road) who excuses himself from the partying discussions for a few hours to go do his job then returns to the real life! That was something of a lifesaver for me, not to be defined by the necessary rent/food job... Ginsberg's 'be kind to yourself' mantra at Dialectics of Liberation conference London 1960s I heard on tape... Nat Tarn turning me on to Nishitani Keiji early '80s (I published his review in my H/EAR mag) was my opening to the Kyoto philosophers & their ancient & modern practice & theory wholly contemporary & present spin! And --this'll get up someone's nose-- G Gentile's remark abt the awful utopian error of 'sugaring the pill' (of the facts of life) --And and and...


[January 23 /'14]

via Ken Edwards' posting on Alan Burns' death 

Takes me back... Mid '60s in Melbourne began following the Calder & Boyars 'stable' of authors with Alan Burns very much at the heart of this new &/or 'experimental' prose --Carol Burns, Anne Quinn, --I'll have to think who else. Back in Southampton '69+ , publishing my own mag Earth Ship (mimeographed of course, '70-'72) wrote to him, solicited a piece, very proud to publish... Sad to hear of his passing... must reread the work... Uppermost in my mind is AFTER THE RAIN...

Philip Salom : He taught for one year at Curtin Uni - 1975? A great shock to that otherwise earnestly conventional system (then). His cut-ups and experiments in class were exciting highlights that long ago. His Europe After the Rain was read with wonder/doubt but read all the same. He also contributed to the 'dark' side in two agreeably interesting ways. ‪He was popular even among the students who wouldn't go along with his provocations. Sad to see (assume) his career didn't grow as I'd imagined it might. UK lit just too conservative.‬

K H : ‪Calder & Boyars was a life-line for this strand of prose... Of course, British literature not French whose authors we read avidly in the same breath so to speak, C & B publishing Beckett & the nouveau-roman at the same time... 'Just too conservative' like Oz I guess? Though my grumbles of the '60s & '70s have their best place there... Good experiences, grist to the mill happily still turning, grinding!‬
P S :Yes, like Oz. Or the publishers... At least poetry gets it done - in shakes and shebangs!‬

K H : And ‪how interesting to have been in his class, Philip...

P S :‪ Aye, it was. He talked about Max Ernst in one class, those rubbings and palimpsests etc, and asked us to take print and images from mags and make collages. One bloke who hated this resisted by ripping up paper and gluing it into a rough-edged ski-slope of cheap print. Burns loved it and praised him over all the rest of us!‬

K H : ‪Brilliant! Can imagine it! As writer as teacher! Superb!‬

P S : ‪I liked him a lot, was sad to see him leave. When he left, he did what most teachers at least fantasise when faced with weeks of marking - he gave out marks but took all assignments to the dump and burned them!‬

K H :  ‪Re C&B, as with Editions Minuit, this 'new novel' reflected the publisher the writers had in common as much as a poetics or practice... As a young reader one probably attributed a commonality, and some of that adheres to this day... Your last comment about A B 's penchant for the bonfire is most amusing! Also strikes me as very Zen! Am reminded of an account I read of Bukowski's stint as poetry editor of a mag... you can imagine the time passing and the pile of mss growing... he realizes he has to act and finally, months (years?) down the track he separates the SAEs from the submissions, sets fire to the pile of poems, pisses on it, & places a black deposit in each envelope to return! Zen bastardry!‬

P S : ‪This tale of burning arrived via a staff member who drove our Burner and our ms to the tip! I thought it was a bloody hoot. Zen, yes, but also Freud - anxiety over the children rising above. I had only written two stories (if that) when I entered his class, knew nothing at all, and only broke into poetry (with Bill Hart-Smith). Alan (giving me high but not v high mark) said I don't know what H-S means (with your extraordinary mark!) but I accept HE knows what he's doing. The nicest back-handed praise. I've thought of him often.‬


Friday, April 18, 2014


Reading poems by Gu Cheng --a prior vague memory of his short life, killing his wife, his own suicide, but didn't know of his high reputation in China. Ouyang Yu would probably dispute it? He's certainly not one of the hundred contemporaries in Ouyang's anthology, In Your Face (Otherworld, Melbourne, 2002) --but he is a reference, an image, in the poem of one who is --Xu Jiang's The xiao jie at Dongdan (translator's note : xio jie = little sister, prostitutes).  I liked those poets, poems, when I first read the anthology, and right now Xu Jiang's impresses me as the kind of poetry I'm thinking my way into as the feeling of writing poems stirs inside me again.

Preamble : On the inordinately long bus ride into the City this day (the trains at Clifton Hill bizarrely unable to proceed down the line in either direction --imagine scores of passengers suddenly having to seek other transport, running across the freeway to the Queens Parade bus & tram hub) I read the poems of Dimitris Tsaloumas, --Helen Nickas's selection for the French edition (in which I'm astonished to find myself quoted in her introduction, in French so I cant really read it) --Un chant du soiree, published 2014, Orphee / La Difference, Paris. It's the book Petr Herel mentioned to me a few weeks ago when he popped in to the Shop and said it was a good translation as far as he could make out. I, of course, read only the original English, though Dimitris's earliest poems would have been translated from the Greek, followed then by the poems he wrote directly into English --the couple of decades he seemed to have accepted English language & life in Australia, in Elwood, alternating six months in Australia & six months on his beloved Leros in Greece. But not at the last --one day he dramatically claimed English wasn't the language nor this the place he wanted to be poet of or in. I read his poems on the stop start crawl from Clifton Hill through North Fitzroy & then Carlton & finally the City, and liked again the local settings, appreciating, again, how his classical poems, mythological & historical, have a similar purchase, --the parochial elevated to the Elysian & the Elysian made accessible, colloquialised --a switch of reference but the same tone of voice, --his tongue in one cheek & then in the other --chasing the same morsel around his mouth, doggedly. I quote here, Of Trees and Birds :

Three are the hardy trees that haunt
the space of my obsessions;

the cypress, pointed sharp in starlight
gathering shadows of friends long gone,

piercing the song of nightingales,
the break-of-day exuberance of larks;

the poplar, tremulous of yellowing leaf
in a far island's marshy cove

where September cranes land on their flight
from the oncoming snows of desolation;

the gum, its vastness of land and horizons
and sun-struck screeching birds that mock

the stubborn traveller who staggers on
trusting the certainties of maps.

I remembered some of the poems I wrote in The Red Book (1981-83) --naturally, another unpublished collection, still in handwritten exercise book, though at one time I began typing it, airmail-thin paper easily punctured by heavy handed typing, long lost now I think. The Red Book wasn't so much a parody of social, even socialist, realism but a redeeming of a bad idea by the lyrical & anecdotal of the higher literature. One poem imagined my own mum as its reader, the poem written for her to understand, intended to explain itself while holding a tone & shape which seemed true to poetry when it was done :

the rooster is bigger than the tree it's perched upon
the rooster is the rooster as the tree is the tree
nothing more a name could give to me

sky is blue
ground is white
houses village this terrain
snow pillages what spring'll regain

rooster is whatever rooster seems to be
ordinarily rooster's on its farm
out of harm's way
where's the farm you say
surely rooster's lost
and where is village come to that
& why's there snow on the longest day of summer?

sun's refraction above the hills
rooster's beak cued for crowing
metaphor & allegory might not at all
be blowing through
what breeze there is doesn't ruffle vermillion-red
yellow brown black & blue

you see through eyes which know what to see
does rooster see through our dreaming?
we groom our dreams & leave rooster to its crowing
what is is what it is & also what it's seeming
tree dreams its rooster whatever its human
coming & going

So now there is Gu Cheng (collections published by Copper Canyon & New Directions) & Xu Jiang --Xu Jiang's poem about working girls jumps with topicality yet is elegiac-- "it's knock-off time for them / the morning breeze in beijing was so gentle, blowing / across the faces of the harvesters / another night of labour / as gratified as gu cheng or hai zai [another suicided poet] / having just finished writing their immortal poems". I feel it's my kind of poem! --the language, the sound. As for Gu Cheng --five years of exile, predominately in Aukland --imagine that little house on a little island, the Chinese poet in New Zealand? --five years a lifetime and New Zealand another universe. At the last, October 1993, in the letter he wrote to his parents, this philosophy : "We have now returned from America, via Tahiti, to our small island in the sea. With that sudden change of winds, I have a better understanding of people now; I bear no hatred or resentment. To be separated, in the furthest corner of the world, is not easy; that people can be born and be together is the fortunate thing. Whether life is good or bad is really only a state of mind." (translated by Joseph Allen, Sea of Dreams : The Selected Writings; New Directions, 2005) --what equanimity! --but immediately followed by his atrocious act.

What is Xu Jiang's poem but a homecoming? --"at dongdan, i knew my life was light  / in that instant, waking up from all my wasted and tormenting / hours" --the "xiao jie, (in fact just women)" --that is the fact of the xiao jie, --thunderclap half-hidden in the bracket as Ouyang Yu translates it, --the otherwise diminutive or qualification 'just' is here the crucial foundation of the poem, the poem-of-perception --and not surprising 'so dazzling that i was shocked' --because 'grrrrls' aside, it is the way of seeing that's conclusively justified --the humility (as I'd say) of it, open sesame to golden treasury of world given up to poetry --the fact of the world, --& 'humility before the fact' first principal in my book, the which becomes 'The Book' through the years I've used it. Xu Jiang's poem ends : "i was lucky to encounter you at dongdan / and in that instant / i experienced the long-forgotten call of poetry again"... Touche! We shall see...


Monday, April 14, 2014

I.M. KEN TAYLOR, 1930-2014


[Kris Hemensley :
Facebook post, April 3, 2014

Sad tho' not unexpected news told me by Loretta who had heard from Robert Kenny : our friend & colleague from the Sixties, fellow poet Ken Taylor, died last night at the Epworth Hospital in Richmond, Melbourne, where he'd been rushed some days ago. He's been in & out of hospitals & emergencies latterly. His friends from the poetry world in recent years have been, in addition to Robert, Ron Pretty, Michael Sharkey, Jennifer Harrison, the late Alan Murphy amongst others... Ken was 83 or 84 years of age, and a boy at heart. Will write more later. A sad day.
Last Saturday, Terry Gillmore came by, out of the blue, no better way as the decades pass, with the words from imagined conversations the main sharing, --the constant turning over in mind & imagination of the time(s) of our lives, in lieu of the social. A wonderful hour it was, recalling our dead & living friends, setting me off on another spin in & through time! As Ken had it, "the brothers & sisters of La Mama", --reconvened, actors & augurs. ]



Kris Hemensley :

Sad news Terry, and on a continuum with our good talk on Saturday last : I'm sorry to have tell you that Ken Taylor died at the Epworth Hospital on Wednesday night, 2 April, '14. Ive posted abt it on F/book but just now copied it all to my blog : see,

Look after yrself, dear poet/gardener who reads Olson & Williams [your biog in Mike Dugan's Crosscurrents where i delightedly found you in 1968]!

best wishes, Kris


Terry Gillmore :

Dear Kris

I feel many things with this sad news and one of them is shame. Shame that in 1984 or thereabouts I voluntarily entered the prison of the Commonwealth public service leaving so many behind, and particularly Ken who offered me his life-home at Macedon (I was homeless) and I had moved a few things in and then the fires came, and came again.
When we were at Aragunui for a night long poetry reading under the full moon on the rock: there was a momentous storm and that is when his burning begun. Inarticulate speech of the heart. What a loss of a truly beautiful man, for he was that even though it shames me and is a failure of language. What a heart he had,  what generosity accompanied it. Death surrounds me tonight, tomorrow I will visit with a friend who lost a loved one this week. I foolishly thought I could console her. I have lost a long lost brother. 
Take care dear Kris



K H :
Death surrounds" as you say, but the depth of life it arouses, thank God for that too...
You too Terry, look after yrself, good thoughts, very best, kris

T G :
 Dear Kris
As you say ""Death surrounds" as you say, but the depth of life it arouses, thank God for that too..." Thanks for reminding me that what we are in is the precious, momentary, only game in town.
Solomon said, something about a wise man hiding his shame but use what I have written as you will, if you are to speak you can be the editor of death and use whatever you like from it.


Kris Hemensley :
[April 3, '14)
Hi John, 
Youve probably heard? from Robert K? Sad news that Ken died last night, at the Epworth... Ive posted something on F/book, can copy & paste for you if you like?
Commiserations to share.

John Jenkins :

Hi Kris
Yes, I did hear from Robert. And it's very sad to hear of Ken's death.
Oddly, as I mentioned to Robert, I was reading 'At Valentines' again, just a few days ago, and thinking of KT.
It is such a strong poem in its own right, purely in its own poetic terms, but also a wonderfully specific audit of aspects of Australian cultural history.
Ken and I had our ups and downs over the years, but the last few times I saw him we were on very good terms indeed, like the old days after La Mama. (It's nice to recall that, at this moment. ) And we had a vague idea of me seeing him at Mt Macedon, but that final meeting never eventuated.
I can access Facebook, and will read what you have posted after sending this email.
Yes, commiserations...!
Best wishes, John


Laurie  Duggan :
[April 4, '14]

thanks for sending this. I didn't know about Ken T. I'll post something soon on the blog. I have a couple of his books, At Valentines and Africa but I missed the middle one (through being in the wrong place at the right time or whatever). I didn't ever meet Ken or hear him read for similar reasons. But I've always liked what I've seen of the work.

It's strange to think back to the La Mama years. In one sense us Monash types were your adversaries, yet a lot of the separation simply had to do with the fact that La Mama was twelve miles away. It seems ridiculous now (esp. given my own peregrinations) but twelve miles seemed a long way - once. When I started coming in to Carlton on my own it seemed an adventure. So I never met Ken (and I didn't meet Charles Buckmaster either though he may well have sold me books at Whole Earth [Bookshop]). My loss.


K H :

Hi Laurie, good to have yours... By the way ive been reading yr edition of LEAVES [Monash University magazine, ed Philip Chubb & Laurie Duggan, 1970] wch has my play [Stephany, directed & performed by Malcolm Robertson at La Mama] in it but also fascinating document gathered by Dennis Douglas &/or you of the La Mama poets... Certainly brings it back... Could/should be republished as part of the documentation/recapitulation of the period... wch never ended!!!

L D :

LEAVES was a strange publication. It was only half laid out, so there are a handful of pages that look ok then the rest is terrible. My co-editor added some not very good poems and in our innocence we used a press that then filled most of the mag with adverts. But I was pleased to have gotten Dennis to do the La Mama piece. I don't know that I'd want to republish it but I certainly wouldn't have any objections to pieces within being republished somewhere.
(April 5)


Kris Hemensley :
[April 5th, '14]

Hi Barry, thanks for ringing, good to hear you, you spoke wonderfully clearly incisively perceptively abt Ken & especially "Africa" tonight.... Therell be a service followed by public memorial on the Thursday... will manage the Church not sure abt the Yacht club, but maybe too...


Barry Hill :
[April 5th]

Well done Kris, for I squibbed the sea today, can’t say why, just did not feel like the cold wind beforehand.
And I have been caught up in words again today: a poem partly arising from Ken, and more fiddles with PEACEMONGER as Tess Morris Suzuki, Prof of Japanese History at ANU is going to read the straight history bits, and now you and blog.


It was good to get yr feedback to our chat about Ken. I needed the chat because I had my sorrow to myself, hardly knowing any other poet who knew him. On hearing the sad but inevitable news I had to pour at least one whiskey in his honour. Not that I ever really drank with him: we met only ten years ago, and we had both started to slow up. Still, in the grog shop before he came to dinner at our place in Queenscliff, he had his credit card out wanting to stock our top shelf, the debit sheet notwithstanding. Same, on that day, his wanting to pit into the hat I had began to pass around to cover some of the costs of your moving shop. The point is he had his eye and mind on what he thought mattered most: conviviality and art, money be dammed. I met him through the family: he went to school with my wife’s father, a skilled farmer, and a man who was more patient with arty self-indulgences than you might think. He stuck with Ken, sensing his unique talent, which I was struck by as soon as he put Africa into my hands. I told him it would win a prize, and it did, of course. His pleasure at that remained understated, as if he knew it would happen. I had dipped into At Valentines a long time ago and was most struck by its cultural ambience: the period here that I had missed while living in London. But there was the ease you write about in yr blog, where you start out on other poets (who I don’t know): the graphic precision, the naturalness of the unfolding, a flow like the water up there at Erskine Falls, below which it all happened in those day, evidently, garlic and wine and dope on everyone’s breath. But the lines were better than culturally expressive. They struck the bell of a clear inner self, one clarified by self interest and a kind of aristocratic sense of entitlement. Of course, he was, in a way, simulating Ammons, that was clear. Yankee ease. But much more than that, as I was also trying to get to say when we were on the phone.

Africa lay in the palm of my hand like a lover’s hand. It was a book that kind of fell out into the hand, from one hand to the other, Ken was so grateful to be gifted with the love of a beautiful and younger woman at that stage in his life. Her about 30 him about 70. Picasso could eat his heart out. When I met her, and found myself in their bedroom because he insisted I go in and look at his drawings of her, leaning against the wall not far from the underwear she had scatted near the unmade bed, I felt almost as transgressional as when a guide to Frieda and Lawrence’s house at Taormina said I should go upstairs to their bedroom. This I did, because I could not not but I did it with a silent plea that Lawrence would understand my lack of prurience. The thing about Africa, with its body heat and candor, is that Ken is more Matisse than Picasso: his aesthetic is as cool as it is hot, his designs are created standing back, their colours are perfect detachments. His lines, ravishing though they can be, hold themselves just a little away from the swoon. And I am saying lines here with his wonderful paintings and drawings in mind, thinking mainly of the Xmas cards some of us were lucky to get. Collectors items in their own right, of course. Perfect lines, and a colour spectrum as perfect as the patterns on a bird. After a few years of getting these beauties in the post it struck me that they were the direct counterpart of his most skillfully joyous poems.

After our talk you wrote back to me saying you enjoyed my remarks (words to the effect that I'd spoken "wonderfully clearly incisively perceptively abt Ken & especially Africa tonight…."). That's good, as I have never spoken them before, as I say: had no need to. And I think I added that he was, really, a classicist. Oh his stream gushed forth as romantically as anything, that was what you seem be calling the urgency of his lines and reading. But their control, to me, was the thing, the balances of their form, their measure, their grace, I suppose we might say. It was with a pure grace, it seemed to me, that he saw his lover off into her next and necessary relationship with a younger man, one she would marry. I know that various people have their stories about Ken’s excesses, but this part of his story, its expression of respect and tact, struck me as a wonderful poem in life. As selfless as his perfectly pitched lyrics.

Ken was the first poet I have met who made me feel, on first reading him, that he was the most natural of poets. Back home, in some shed of his on that mountain, he may have toiled for such a natural perfection. We know the poets who do. I don’t know if he did or he didn’t. And don’t much care, really, such was his success so often on the page. Africa made me want to set off to Africa even though Africa was never mentioned, if you know what I mean.

This poem I have come to dedicate to him began as a rough draft to a cat. It was its grace of movement in and out of sunlight which triggered it. Then, after our conversation about line and movement through spaces in Ken’s work, I found myself wondering if he would like what I was doing with the cat’s presence. If I was trying to do a Xmas card like his, I would want the cat to be in it as he did flowers, or the sea in their limpid movements.

Anyway, have a look at the poem and see what you think. Not that I need to talk about the poem. Its just good to put something down that I would have been happy to read to Ken as we drank whiskey.

All best in life and art!


Under the Wisteria

I.M.  Ken Taylor

    our cat with the Chinese markings
        sniffs the morning
        all nostrils and twitch—
a whiskered breath-quiver of ears.

The Chinese character for listening
    has two ears
        one above the other
        beside dish over heart.

Then he’s stalking, slow-mo
    in and out
        of sunlight:
willowy patches, pond-shadows.

He crosses the lawn.
He pads, like some rich kid, on bare earth
beneath the Loess-coloured wisteria.

Not a sound on the way
to the door of the room
with the rosewood floor.

He regards the sheen that becomes him.
He senses the unwelcome table
laden with dictionaries.

No sign, as yet
    of his plans to vanish
        for the night.

(Autumn, 2014)


K H :

 "The most natural of poets" --yes. From the first (& I heard him Winter 67 before we met, and he had that same breathless, short-of-breath), his poems sounded like him! And because I was fascinated by the physical poetics of Olson & Creeley, I heard Ken as doing precisely what they asked for, even tho he wdnt have studied them. (I suppose another way to that wld be to investigate whether any of it is in Ammons? I mean formally but also, with Ammons, innately --ie his own & not out of the big O's thigh!)
And I like your poem, touched by the dedication of course. Its title almost sounds like a Ken Taylor title! And love your cat! That graphic first stanza description! And the easy crossing into the Chinese. Yep. Very good. 
So, all in all, you deserve a drink now! The writing's great reward for a deep & heavy week --the shock, the sadness, the thought, the talk, the poem... Well done that man!
All best,


B H :

yes, his forms were different to Ammons, he was more open than A I suppose, less affected in his openness also, somehow.
He did not need to create a lower case world, hey.
And I realised today why the Orientalism of the poem felt right. Ken had an important connection to Kyoto; he had clearly peered long and hard at those brilliantly inked Japanese woodcut prints.


Ian Robertson :
[6 April '14]

Hello Kris
it is sad news and thanks for letting me know... we never did catch up, though came close some years ago when Robert used to have his birthday gatherings at Redesdale.
Thinking of Ken immediately transports me back to the house in Parkville, the way Ken & Margaret welcomed everyone in. I see the living room and the steps down into the kitchen where food and drink and conversation flowed in an atmosphere of living intelligence, warmth, acceptance and conviviality such as I had never experienced... serious and searching conversation was mixed with stories and hearty laughter, a great humanity at a warmly human scale... to a 19/20 year-old, Ken seemed an almost giant figure but there was no distance, no separation about him at all... he was immediate, disarming, inclusive and engaging... it was surprising and so encouraging to be not just accepted into this atmosphere, but also, amazingly/apparently, to be appreciated... I remember thinking, so this is how life could be...


Susan Fealy :
[April 13th, '14]

Dear Kris,

I cobbled this from my original notes.

 Visit to Ken Taylor with Ron Pretty. Monday, October 20, 2008.
(Ken, Ron and I had attended the Glenfern Salon on Sunday, 19th : feature poets Kris Hemensley and Peter Porter.)

 His home rides over an ocean of forget-me-nots and bluebells. Huge trees on the ridges, low stonewalls and paths lead to secret ponds, closer to home,  a rustic tower, a garden shed.
Ron and I sat in his kitchen after a walk around about (he’d left the door open) and began to wonder if we had mixed up the arrangements. Then we saw his black beret and figured he would be back to get his hat and he was! He arrived with his mate Steve and brought some supplies for lunch. He wore a thin black jumper over white, white trousers .White beard, grey face. He’d laughed and said he could not believe that he had travelled around France and the only man to be found wearing a beret was his own reflection in a shop window.
From the window, in the middle of the courtyard a snow drop neighboured the rusted brazier. It tossed out its green leaves like a fountain, they shone in the afternoon sun, infant grass sprinkled the bricks.
Outside the window: bright blue-green, delicate, almost feathery leaves and old old wood, shining in the afternoon sun, outside his kitchen. What kind of tree is that? It’s a Yew Tree he said. There are more on the hill. Steeply above the house, but not far away.. a row of yew trees above a stone wall.
Ken said that his own paintings on the walls were reference points for him.Crab, sea, octopus..seals, I said border dwellers? Then he said sharks. I said sharks are not border dwellers and then we decided that maybe they are. That pure aggression ( jn us), Ken said, you see it when you arise from the sea after a swim in Brittany And it is disturbing because you see the gun slits in the wall where the guns would have killed you. We chatted about the Kris Hemensley and Peter Porter event that had happened the day prior. Ken had disliked violence used as a trope in some of Peter’s poems, said Kris’s work spoke to him more.
As he discussed the prose he was developing into a book, he said some sentences are waiting for him to turn them into drawings. We looked at his water colours, some set on the large tables, often of marine creatures. He said when I draw it is almost always from a photograph as there is so much information. We agreed that you have to find the line.
We talked about proportion, and his friend Steve suddenly formed Leonardo’s proportion of man with his outstretched arms and legs and it felt like  all four of us found a magic proportion in that moment inside his large studio. I asked Ken about the sculpture scattered around his property : he said some had been left there by sculptors, and had yet to be collected by them. Ken said sculptors are on different time , maybe they will come back in seven years… they have to listen to nature.
He let me run up the hill to collect some Lily of the Valley. He said, get as near to the earth as you can and pull straight up : it unmoors itself. I found it under the bright red Camellia tree. Tiny flames of green, green fire on the hill, tiny pearls. I said, it smells like frangipani a bit but it is not. No, he said , (somewhat sternly) it is Lily of the Valley. 



Terry Gillmore's reference to Araganui [near Bega, NSW; Mimosa Beach National Park] returns me to the correspondence from Alexandra Seddon, published in the HEART issue of H/EAR magazine, #5, Summer 1983/4.


so in this place I must write to you. Terry Gillmore here, John Anderson, Geoff Eggleston, Ken Taylor, Leigh Stokes, & Dorothy Swoope (near Wollongong), Simon Macdonald, Cornelis Vleeskens & Jenny Mitchell, Frank (?), plus many others. A lot of my students. Trish from the Mornya Womens House with her lover, Kathy, my friends Angela Koch, Venie Holmgren. Lots of people on the rock last night, reading by hurricane lamp & fire. We (Angela & I & 2 German girls who are staying at farm) had arrived a bit late. Terry & others helped us across to the island -- the tide having risen quite high. The climb up the rock was not easy. It was amazing that so many people managed to reach that remote place. The reading did go on for most of the night, then we came back to camp & sleep for 2 hours till dawn.

What can I tell you? The atmosphere of the reading was sea, fire, wind, night -- wonderful. At about 1 o'clock when I read for the first part, I felt impelled to read Owen's Mantra -- just the first part. Although I knew it to be unwise, it seemed necessary. Terry & Ken felt it went over well. I had no way of judging. It was like switching back to a time when one lacked any confidence in the writing. Geoff's reading was alright, a bit turgid. Ken read clearly, laying things out to be seen. Cornelis read some family portraits -- excellent, precise gestures, colours, framed. Very good for reading aloud. And also some pieces where he & Jenny Mitchell read alternately, sometimes whole poems, sometimes lines. She chanting "Manna Gum" between his lines at one point. She is a painter. John Anderson's reading was wonderful -- like seeing the movie after reading the book, & being totally satisfied by it. Leigh Stokes did some strange operatic chanting in the midst of a poem for which he had made peculiarly arrogant apologies. Dorothy Swoope reminded me of Marilyn Kitchell [ex Rhode Island poet & publisher of Salt Works Press with Tom Bridwell, last heard of late '80s when she was in Mississippi]-- that fabric of things was very apparent -- clear deliberate reading. I remembered her from Wollongong. Terry read with warmth -- a sort of gentle communication. Tonight we will read again, this time not on the rock but in the tamer camping ground. There is an old thin wallaby close by. Simon Macdonald is feeding him. Terry is talking of reading your 'Being Here'. And I feel that you should be made present more obviously, perhaps in that way.

And I am trying so hard to be here. I am not planted yet, flittering at the edges, trying to grasp or enter the being here. I cannot find the words to frame anything. I am struggling with the words more than ever. I want to give you the feel, the flavour of being here but I cannot find it clearly.

There are tents set up more or less in a circle -- a table in the middle. Modest food, tea, coffee. The talk surging, going around, people wandering off to the bush or to swim. A lot of cigarettes, fires. John standing loosely by the table. He has come now to sit beside me & tell me dreams of Candelo & a radiant face in a tree -- an Aboriginal face & he is reading now from the note book which Retta gave me. He says he would like to come to the farm. I feel chastened by his gentleness & careful words. I feel chastened too by Ken Taylor's silence & speech -- both -- his economy of words...


[According to Mr Google, ca 2013 :

Alexandra Seddon, the founder and patron of Potoroo Palace, has a background of community, conservation, education, farming and the arts.

She came to the Bega Valley in 1975 from Papua New Guinea, where she had been working with PNG teachers, mostly in drama and creative writing. She began farming with her brother in Candelo, and so Cowsnest Community Farm came into being, with a kibbutz type structure: to each according to his/her need, from each according to his/her ability.
The idea of Cowsnest was to set up a community farm where anyone could come and contribute their skill and labour even if they had no money to buy land.
Out of Cowsnest, in 1985, grew the Candelo Arts Society, which continues to flourish.
There is also a 57 acre feral-animal-proof Sanctuary at Cowsnest, a half-way house for injured and orphaned native animals who are on their way to soft release.
In 1996 Alexandra initiated the Waterbird Sanctuary in Pambula, which has become Panboola, Pambula Wetlands and Heritage Project (over 200 acres right in Pambula).
In 2000 she began the Pambula Flying Fox Hospital and Conservation Area (34 acres protected by Voluntary Conservation Agreement).
And on September 25th, 2006, a senescent Yellow Pinch Wildlife Park was bought, and slowly rejuvenated to become Potoroo Palace, Native Animal Educational Sanctuary.]


Re- Laurie Duggan's LEAVES magazine... The La Mama poets' segment gathered by Dennis Douglas, who was teaching at Monash then & editing poetry at The Age, quotes as its title K H's line, to be a poet amongst poets / not to be THE poet.
The segment begins with my letter (of October 25th '68) to Dennis, reproduced in the original typewriter script, from which the following paragraphs :

"(......) andy jack [correct spelling jach] another local poet wrote me the other day saying do you have to write american to make poetry today?? no. but the american influence is undeniable & one can only be enriched by it - the american [poetry] experience takes in every important writer of the postwar world - the british poets macdiarmid & bunting / the younguns pickard/liverpool/nottingham/london poets/ are all following the open way of poetry....tho this is not the only way for me and for many others...obscurity [obscurantism?] is the the thing that has been demolished!
How about doing an article on the new [La Mama, Melbourne] poets? we cd help you with the field work! wed have a ball!! [Ken] taylor/[John] romeril/[Bill] beard/[Charles] buckmaster/ [Mal] morgan/ [Geoff] eggleston /[Elaine] rushbrooke/ [Andy] jack [Jach]/[Michael] dugan/[Ian] robertson/ and i bet there's a score & more!!! interstate a free mag has started emanating from terry gillmore in sydney "free grass" [actually not! --Free Grass was John Tranter's superb hoax; Free Poetry was the real magazine, edited by Gillmore, Nigel Roberts & Johnny Goodall --I'd enthusiastically conflated fact & fiction!] - gillmore/thomson/heaslop/ from nsw - this is a sizable number [of new poets] - at la mama ive had 26 different poets read /invited &/or from the audience!.... for me its the culmination of an ambition to have a poetry workshop - there has to be a new basis for [ poetry &] society - it has to "among" instead of "sole" :-- to be a poet amongst poets/not to be THE poet.

The letter is followed by Denis Douglas's description of the new poets.


Who were in the park [Exhibition Gardens opposite Queensbury Street, Carlton, where the Hemensleys, invited by the actor Frank Bren, lived in the terrace house at number 21] that day? Kris Hemensley, stocky, bearded, expatriate Englishman in his early twenties, Loretta, his wife, who helped produce the magazine Our Glass, which was printed on a fordigraph duplicator purchased by Kris in the expectation that with Our Glass and other poetry jobs it would pay for itself, Bill Beard, a small, wiry, smiling fugitive from the RAAF - he had conducted a one-man non violent campaign of protest against its involvement in the Vietnam war from within the Air Force and eventually been discharged - studying philosophy at the University of Melbourne, Charles Buckmaster, who had been sent home from an upcountry high school to get his hair cut and instead of getting it cut had come to Melbourne to work as laboratory assistant and produce a poetry magazine The Great Auk, Michael Dugan, former member of a fruit picking commune, former book salesman, former publishing editor, former children's writer, former rocker, who was to do it all again (except for returning to the commune).

Who was not in the park that day? Geoffrey Eggleston, burly, aggressive artist-designer much given to the poetic exploitation of obscenity, Ken Taylor, ABC producer, who had used some of the new poetry on radio programs and written well himself in a style influenced by Whitman, Williams, and Charles Olson, Nigel Roberts and Terry Gillmore, who were living in Sydney and producing a magazine called Free Poetry, Richard Tipping and Rob Tillett, who were producing a magazine in Adelaide called Mok, Sweeney Reed, who regarded himself as the manager of a poet called Russell Deeble, and was at that time regarded by the "free magazine" editors as a trendy dilettante, although they later settled their differences (It was Sweeney who had first suggested that I get in touch with the group, remarking that no poet under thirty regarded the established literary magazines as anything but a self-enclosed and self-perpetuating middle-aged clique, utterly indifferent to anything written overseas since 1960 - Terry Gillmore was later to tell me that the mini-mags broke down the resistance to the newer verse forms within two years, suggesting almost that they were instruments used in a campaign to establish communication with an older generation, or to be able to compete with them on even terms).

Dennis Douglas's survey/celebration continues with quotations from the editorials of the little mags, & culminates with the segment, WHERE HAVE ALL THE POETS GONE?

Although the law of diminishing returns turned their minds to other things, Mike's to a rock-poetry combination, Ian's to India, Charles's to becoming the nth replacement editor for a Penguin anthology of the new poetry [for which Ken Taylor & K H  had initially been solicited by John Hooker but after much debate declined because of the political & philosophical compromises anticipated] which never appeared, Sweeney's to the Tolarno Galleries - and the amount of bread and energy that was lavished on the broadsheets should not be underestimated - although Tom Shapcott's Sun Books anthology and Poetry Magazine led the shift in critical forms that encouraged their acceptance, so that "establishment" outlets became available - although a new generation of poetry readers altered the atmosphere of the readings now held at the Arts Co-operative - although some people got busted and others got careers - although the "new thing" was no longer new - although Kris returned to England and Ken started making TV films about birds and Bill went beach-combing, there are still readings and a newer crop of magazines, and rumours of a great new well-produced publication are circulating [Dark Ages Journal, which didnt proceed beyond the manuscript], connected with rumours of Kris Hemensley's return.

What happened was not greatly different from the forging of other poetry schools in the forties and fifties - the attempts the new poets made to gain acceptance for their poetic were no more outrageous or ill-mannered than the tactics of other literary pressure groups - they generated no more antagonism - they excited no more sympathy - which is to say, they were outrageous, ill-mannered, generated much antagonism, excited much sympathy. The differences stemmed from the differences in the world the new poets inhabited, a dangerous, competitive, and hence more communally-minded world. Like other vital schools, they produced much that was ephemeral as well as much that was forceful and effective, and they made themselves known at an earlier age than most Australian groups of poets.

The main point they made was that creative forces can be channeled into the communal life of a large group of people and function there as a positive, enlightening, life-generating impulse. Perhaps the poetry of the future will be made by a by-product of the inner life of societies and less a simulacrum of some kind of collective public address system than the poetry of the past.


[edited & typed by Kris Hemensley,
April 12th/14th, 2014
Westgarth, Oz]

Saturday, April 5, 2014



Launch-speech for GIRLERY by Melinda Bufton (Inken Publisch, 2014), at Collected Works Bookshop, March 1st, 2014

First, some thanks. I’m not even sure who I owe thanks to, but definitely to Ann Vickery for feedback, and to Melbourne poetry editors Gig Ryan, Jessica Wilkinson and Pete Spence for publishing some of the poems, and of course Greg Taylor the book. And maybe Duncan Hose as an example of Boyery. But mostly I – we – have to thank Melinda Bufton for being the person who can write poems like this. Free verse isn’t a waste of time. I already knew that really, but Girlery’s a reminder. It’s a fresh book: 2 parts Tyra Banks and 3 parts country girl. The first poem ‘Goddesses, the Bomb’ is a declaration that the poems will be as literary as fuck, but they won’t groan about their own weight. Hooray! [Optional signing of punctuation with your finger.] Bufton’s lines are like planks that shift about a treehouse, like you’re playing an electronic xylophone with your feet-eyes. You can tell why she’s had so many office jobs too: she makes it sexy. ‘Lessons learned’ manages to be light-hearted and feminist while integrating an under-emphasised activity of country life: a lot of TV. Pop stars seem to already have everything, but ‘Lapel’ shows us the work involved, the subversive-sounding complexities of online shopping, perhaps suggesting that the Marc Jacobs dress was rescued from the store. Clothing is a medium for Bufton, the way feminism or cricket is for other poets: it is its own romance. The voices can be something like a fairy godmother entering with her lines of advice but who then starts talking about her own life while nudging the princess bassinet away with her foot. And really, princesses have had enough attention. There’s something like Frank O’Hara in Melinda’s vignettes of a Girl-about-town – like Colette out of bed – and the way she can get out of a poem like the narrator getting out of the lift in ‘Like a fingerprint’, part good-humoured don’t-need-a-man-today, part Warholian blank intrigue. The variably light tone allows for throwaway brilliance in verb and adjective, such as alice (a verb) and carethrift (an adjective) in ‘Pincushion’. Girlery abjures earnest diction, while showing how deft the playful can be: ‘Bunnies of yore my gate to the wallop’, from the church of WTF, or the devastating ‘Sonnety’, for example, which not only does the sonnet but puts it in its place, both by giving it a one-word volte (‘divot’), and concluding with a summary that’s a meta-psychological-ethical complex. A question for reviewers is how a daggy version of punk comes off as stylish? The answer’s here as plain as Paris, however: study and practice (and did I mention ‘tuneliness’?) Letter cases go up and down like heels or collars coming off, just to check your attention. Bufton knows that work can be dreary and tiring, but – and perhaps there’s a fallacy that names this – the poems don’t have to be. You can call it Romanticism, putting a nice edging on your view of the world and its working dairy, or you can call it synecdoche, citing the sweetspot that makes life worth living. A quote from ‘Bumper book for girls’:

     Never mind whose territory. We had all reason to
     shudder when seeing texts flung about, aimed by the
     lipless to pelt us on fishnet hip, or worse,
     in the soul. Look here my satin-doubters

     I have never looked better than this costume
     allows, there is no evidence it kills my healthy sponge
     brain cells. I read theory faster in heels.

Australian poetry can risk being a bit more chick literate, ie Girlery is for boys too: a unique book in the Victorian Grain, I give you Melinda Bufton and Girlery, the bomb. [Exit as you will]

[Michael Farrell sent his text from Rome; it was read for him in Melbourne by Fiona Hile.]



[uploaded from the Alive and Well and Living in Dorset blog,‎]


Saturday, 10 March 2012


Written IN Weymouth & environs - ON buses or ON coffee-house tables - ON my laptop, IN a notebook, or ON my lap - here, there & in various PREMISES - but essentially @ home @ Golden GOJI Hermitage, drinking IN & out of poetry - ingesting this or that - and THAT  is what drew me to Paul Blackburn many moons ago = ALE HOUSE POEMS, BAKERY POEMS, THE PROVENCAL TROUBADOUR POETS.....earthiness & classicism. BUT what does this Great Fool, w/out a passport to his name, know of such a wor(l)d ? Albeit that his mother came from Alexandria, and gestated sons who loved books and great libraries !

#1) My brother in Oz, prodded me to write about P.B., following my quirky, previous blog-post on here, which referred to Paul Blackburn. i dismissed the idea w/out even considering that i write anything = just not up to such things (?)....less than 24 hours later, i found myself working, as if on benzedrine, on this essay/blog-post. And it is work. And it is a practice...s'thing i had never accepted 100%, as i had the practice of zazen. Just sitting, was all that mattered = SHIKANTAZA = the practice of DOGEN. Katagiri Roshi's remark to Nathalie Goldberg, that WRITING should be her LIFE-PRACTICE, never quite accorded. After-all, for Dogen, ZAZEN WAS BUDDHISM. Likewise, when Franco Beltrametti told me in the 80's, that he practiced WALKING MEDITATION, i thought - not the real thing. i had not matured by a mile. Slowly, more teachings percolated into the mind of this great fool. THICH NHAT HANH talked of WASHING-UP itself is the great practice, life and death, THE GREAT MATTER.

#2) Could not, for the life-of-me, find Paul Blackburn's books when i wanted'em. Searched the library in vain. Then, sidetracked by rearranging some BLACK SPARROWs in studio/conservatory, i find "THE JOURNALS" under my hand & gaze. i flick thru, happy to have found s'thing. i knew Blackburn had died "young" - but OH! - only 45! (1926-1971) and realised, in that moment, that when i first read him, he was already dead. Robert Kelly writes, as editor of this book - "The last writing in it comes up to six weeks of his death in September, 1971."
What i "liked" about Paul Blackburn was the "open form" and his ease with contemporary NEW YORK city & translating from the Spanish eg. LORCA. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship...etc...To quote Robert Kelly, once more - "In New York which was most his home and center, he could find the sunlight on a wall not different from Barcelona."

#3) It has been so long now, since my readings of the 70's that, as i sit in "COSTA COFFEE",(decaff.espresso & soya milk), with "THE CITIES" before me & to hand, it strikes me, that these poems are "new"/still fresh. @ 45, Blackburn was still "young enough" to have gone on and worked & practiced, for many, many years. i think of Bob Dylan's refrain = "may we be forever young"...but not in this way, to not have gone on...And there are many...THE POETS OF THE GREAT WAR, JIM MORRISON, HEATH LEDGER...and in "our" family, TIM HEMENSLEY (of the POWDER MONKEYS) - i blub into my coffee. No one notices.

#4) "THE CITIES", (Blackburn's "first, extensive collection of verse" -(Grove Press - 1967)) the Author's Note reads - "Every man's stand be his own. Finally, it is a construct, out of my own isolations, eyes, ears, nose and breath.."  ....i hear an echo of CHARLES OLSON in that ="No such thing as mass, as much as, many people, each with eyes in their heads, to be looked out of." Do i misquote ? That is what i have as my memory of it. i do not want to rise from my place and search it not even really know where to look...Human Universe essay ? Do not wish to interrupt this flowing of "mountains  walking"...?....? BUT, maybe i will...SUDDENLY,  i feel i have written enough in this first draft/ this blog-post...appropriately, it is young/ still fresh...ready to be played with in this warm and early spring of ours in Weymouth, where the cherry blossom, out front, has passed full-bloom, and is falling to the ground,  even as i write.....i will wait, stay my hand, and WAIT and see if it PROVES, like the bread-dough in tins, waiting for the heat of the oven.....i will soon make my way into the world - to find some fresh, young heirs (pun intended)...."The air sweeps out the odor of love from rooms / the air we love, we weep, we read, sing.."(from "The First Round", Paul Blackburn - AGAINST THE SILENCES - Permanent Press - 1980).

#5) I'm going to THE KING'S ARMS on the harbour. Not a drinker as such - i like a good taste - a good taste of real ale, home-baked bread and poetry....a half-pint will do me. & a packet of s'thing salty....just a half-pint to keep me hand in!!....How else to encounter the world ?/ this world. It is the friction / our continually rubbing-up against / this buffering away, that will reveal the new in which we are moment by moment, breath by breath, being reborn...and it is in this, that those who are no longer visible are held in our hearts. This is all we have and it is the whole created world. It is enough....

[finished @ 17.30 hours,10 / march / 2012.]

Kris Hemensley's COMMENT

(collectedworks10 March 2012 18:06)

Evidently youll be continuing from yr favourite spot in the Kings Arms, perhaps the higher bar, looking out onto the Old Harbour... So,you have your Blackburn in place, you have him as poet of 'being-in-place' rather than the distinctions of any particular place? Or it seems i might, which is ironic given the inventory, the wardrobe he sits up in, peers out of! Similar search as you (where are my Blackburns?!) find first of all his poem in Allen de Loach's INTREPID magazine, #18/19 , '71, one poem's kind of ho-hum (Windsound), mere sketch, the other's HUMMM-HO, justifying the triumphant claim "All of it sung." Last line, is psycho-topography, genealogical geography, the roll-call of his place that whiskey'd moment, glass in hand saluting Olson, Julio (is that Cortazar?), Ginsberg, Snyder, and most of all Pound --memorable snapshot, "Ez's eye fixes the machine from under his neat / Alpine hat, the clean raincoat . fierce & friendly to / the mustache bristle, beard-jut, but the eye questions / the other end of this gondola, where do the steps lead? / The oarsman ferries him across to / wrap a death with windows...." etc.
 Second thing i find is Pierre Joris's excellent Blackburn issue of Sixpack, (Spring/Summer, '74), indispensable really, i bet you have it under a mountain of health mags! --wch has in it this contra note, from Barry Alpert (edited the splendid Vort in that era, and who popped up on F/book recently!), whose comment puts in a nutshell not only Blackburn's situation but a larger gauging of poems/poetry... For, despite PB's obvious relish in Lorca's idea of duende, 'the straight fight with the creator on the edge of the well' (Alpert's source dramatically clearer than P's paraphrase) --& despite one knows that's the whole point of the daily witness poem, --yet in Blackburn acc. to Alpert, "most of his published poems uphold his self-abnegating conception of himself as street poet, bar room poet, occasional poet..."
 That is to say, the huge risk of so-what/ery in that type of stance (i joked in my classes 40+ years ago, "I came, i saw, i wrote a poem!"), the loss of distinction or the memorable in the apparently ancient Chinese humble happenstance. 
Very good to read you here!
 Cheers bro!
 As Blackburn has it in that instructive poem for (& against?) Ed Dorn, Pre-Lenten Gestures,"Thank God one tone or / one set of decibels is / not all there is."



INTRODUCING JOHN MATEER; Notes, March 25th, 2014

Welcome to Collected Works Bookshop for this reading by John Mateer.
I have a few copies of Emptiness : Asian poems, 1998-2012, just published by Fremantle Arts Centre Press, and some of the previously published but still recent Unbelievers or 'The Moor', from Giramondo. So, although this isnt a formal launch, it is a celebration of John & his practically concurrent new books.


Yesterday was the Seminar at the university ["LIFE IN THE SECOND LANGUAGE : Taking his own work as example, poet John Mateer present an argument about the origins and strategies of his last four books – Ex-White: South African Poems, The West: Australian Poems 1989-2009, Southern Barbarians and Unbelievers, or ‘The Moor’ – and will read and reflect on his relationship between history, poesis, translation and self-hood. He will discuss the circumstances of Afrikaans as national language in South Africa, the problem caused by Aboriginal language or its absense for a grounded poetics in Australia, and the possibilities presented by reconsidering the cultural formations of East and West through imagining the colonial effects of Portugal and Spain in this part of the world. "]-- Today, here at the bookshop, it's the Reading. Not having participated in a seminar for a very long time, I'm not sure how different a poet is in the one situation from the other. I guess this evening the poetry is expected to stand up by & for itself --which I'm sure it will have every opportunity to do!


For introduction to the well published & travelled John Mateer, perhaps an anecdote instead of interminable CV --I don't mean John's CV is interminable but CV per se!

I remember the judging of the Victorian Premiers Prize back --when? --late '90s, early 2000s? --in the company of Doris Brett & Kevin Hart. Our deliberations had come down to a debate about the merits of collections by Bob Adamson & John Mateer amongst others --I cant remember --Tranter, Gray, Rowland, Ryan?-- all good names anyway. We'd read the books, discussed, ticked & crossed, totted up our little columns of scores on pieces of paper --crass & brutal but there it is! A competition with only one winner! The decision was made easier by the technical requirement for the majority of a collection to be "new". And so Kevin regretfully let his man, or men, slip. Adamson, Gray… At least I think so, I think that's who & what it was! I'm sure it's in my diary of the time but confess I don't quite know where that is!

In retrospect --in this possible/ retrospect --it's fair to say we found the young Mateer's poetry quite unlike anyone & anything else in that particular Premier's Prize season-- And I wonder now whether the matter of 'location' came up-- If, for instance, we were attracted by Adamson's (if it was him) --his Hawkesbury River (and perhaps the book was Juno Gemes' beautiful photo anthology, the Language of Oysters and not the Mulberry Leaves as I've been thinking? --late '90s & not early 2000s then?) --Adamson's Hawkesbury & Mateer's --what? --what & where would it have been? W A salt & wheat? A South African elsewhere? The Non-White African's elsewhere? (Tutuola's My life in the Bush of Ghosts?) Already then the awareness of John's neither here nor there --the no place or no where (which sounds like Paul Celan) --and the possible Japanese pun, the Noh where!--

Ah well --

Absence & presence
as though each other's

And so, John, to quote & misquote you from a poem in your latest book, --"dear poet, close your eyes, this brothel is the only world, and we are the bhodisattvas!" -- Please welcome John Mateer...

[April 5th, 2014, Westgarth by the Sea]

Thursday, April 3, 2014

KEN TAYLOR, 1930-April 2nd, 2014

[These posts retrieved from Facebook.]


Sad tho' not unexpected news told me by Loretta who had heard from Robert Kenny : our friend & colleague from the Sixties, fellow poet Ken Taylor, died last night at the Epworth Hospital in Richmond, Melbourne, where he'd been rushed some days ago. He's been in & out of hospitals & emergencies latterly. His friends from the poetry world in recent years have been, in addition to Robert, Ron Pretty, Michael Sharkey, Jennifer Harrison, the late Alan Murphy amongst others... Ken was 83 or 84 years of age, and a boy at heart. Will write more later. A sad day.


I want to mention John Bartlett's blog, which has republished his interview with Ken which appeared in Meanjin in 2003. The address is :

Thanks for contacting me John.

Last Saturday, Terry Gillmore came by, out of the blue, no better way as the decades pass, with the words from imagined conversations the main sharing, --the constant turning over in mind & imagination of the time(s) of our lives, in lieu of the social. A wonderful hour it was, recalling our dead & living friends, setting me off on another spin in & through time! As Ken had it, "the brothers & sisters of La Mama", --reconvened, actors & augurs.

I should have mentioned John Jenkins in my first post of course --& have an idea he went up to Macedon with James Hamilton when James was getting into his Charles Buckmaster & 60s-poetry research, a couple of years ago? I'm sure there are many others who've seen Ken in recent times. Sad & ruminative, I should also have added : in fact the consolation for us who survive the death of friends (& I'm particularly thinking about fellow poets) is the work (to the extent it's intact) --the poems themselves-- & the large estate of memories. We're all in that circle of living/dying in any case (as per John Donne). And for us literary lot, history & biography's our version of immortality. Dear Ken... a life which included poetry, never an academic or a pro... A life lived large & in his own way... I wont be alone in thinking & writing on Ken in the reflective & celebratory period beginning now...

Ive been reading Ken's letter to me, published in The Ear In a Wheatfield, #16, 1975, and the piece I sent from England in June, '75, to Robert Kenny, For the Launching of Ken Taylor's Book, "At Valentines" (published by Contempa). In his letter, Ken writes that working on the book with Robert he "begin[s] to feel another chance -- the second go." And also, "I agree with you completely about writing being a dictation, however before that comes an exercise or two. This is where I must begin again, still in the landscape, but "once more at the cutting edge", the counting again and saddled with the need to change..."

And this paragraph from the piece I sent to the '75 launching, which, interestingly, reflects the mood I'm in right now : "I am as moved to write about Ken Taylor for this event as I am to dwell in the house of poetry itself. For it is all particular, & personal, all of the heart's notation when you know it as a sweetheart, realizing it at the swell of its condition, grasping it as doers of any thorough thing, say, as lovers do, as here we do as writers & readers, & thus consigned we take it on."

[April 3rd, 2014]