Sunday, December 28, 2014


To be an innocent just hit town, walking down Flinders Lane from the Nicholas Building toward Elizabeth Street, and cross paths with loping, lunging, grimacing, gesturing man, waving bleeding hand & shouting This is Hell, demanding of the figures to the left & right of him or even in the air since his gaze is there, Cant you see? ---Imagine dreamy kid, any summer since "Flowers In Our Hair" but haywire Spring 2014 which one day'll have that handle to it, as beginnings are memorialised as must be, the mystical angle anyone brings to the resonant years ---Innocent as Charles Buckmaster summoned from tunnel of 42 years only yesterday by Barry Dickins who puffed out relief & smile that at last he'd found the Bookshop & myself in residence, a long time he'd been looking for or thinking of or wishing it ---I met Charles Buckmaster once, he said, at his bookshop, The Source, & invited him to come to my show of paintings at the Athenaeum, and took him there right then & opened up the gallery for him, put the lights on, and he looked at the paintings but didn't say much ---Barry says Charles' father was a painter, beautiful chocolate-box landscapist, Ernest Buckmaster---Um, uncle I say, ---and we drank some wine, and I liked him Barry says ---and saw him another time ---and then heard he'd shot himself --same as his brother, same gun I say ---same as Hemingway he says ---Barry right then eyes lowered from the postered wall and my face, down to the counter level, stopped in his tracks by our naming of suicide ---And I'm not sure whether Barry isn't the more likely figure of the innocence I've retained for Charles via memory of the knowing of him in 1968-'69, corresponding with the schoolboy for weeks before we physically met, and then after leaving Melbourne for England '69-'72 receiving his hopeful epistles, returning to Melbourne then but not to see him, put off by mutual friends that he was in a deeply anti-social phase ---Could be that I was being protected by them from the total deshabille of a fallen angel given my language had fashioned a Melbourne family of poets, Melbourne's Black Mountain (& read commune for college) if you will, whose collective love & genius was poetry's carapace, impregnable whatever politics' & personalities' tumult ---And they'd known of our correspondence, the teaching & nurturing, the expectation of most joyous restoration upon long awaited return ---as Black Mountain's mysterium had transferred to the West's hinterland & coast so now, after England, the bush & beach, mountains & sea of Australia promised similar extension---partly fulfilled but maintained thereafter in & as the Dream ---To be protected from the reality of  addiction & its degradation, similarly depression, the dissolution of dreams, the letting it all go, everyone's failing? ---Ken Taylor's Nothing Could Be Done echoed by the others, Michael, John, Ian, Garrie et al ---so strong the investment in 'our' & 'us', poetry scene & poem-making as togetherness, Charles' death was a mortal blow ---Despite the three years of Whitlam-Cairns Australia, hippiedom's Indian Summer, whatever-it-was was over ---Innocent as I seem to have been, innocent as Barry himself appreciating the humour & absurdity of our daily lives but constantly amazed by the cruelties, incredulous that the heaven on earth should or could be undermined, each long sentence of his stories ending with a sigh ---A long long lane it is though, irregularly spaced by drops of the troubled soul's blood upon the pavement, like tears or big raindrops on hot dusty road, tracking his lurch all the way back to the Elizabeth Street crossing ---Innocent at start of this tale would have passed the man who crouches in the alley, eyes averted, chain-smoking, all day every day, burrowing into the flagstones from which he may have emerged  --And the Middle-eastern belly-dancer whom I've picked for an exhibitionist, arms above his close-cropped head, revolving pelvis to the music percolating from his little amp, but then brings hand to face & produces impish peek-a-boo, and suddenly it's a performance, his nasty grin, tiny steps, abdominal gyration a species of theatre, sacred transvestite albeit unshaven in couldnt-care-less grey trackies & sandals ---My point is that it's all to be interpreted as Amazing World ---Now innocent's all eyes for queues outside of new coffee-shop (which once housed ancestor bookseller Ross Reading's final store), & tourist group following guide's description of historic architecture, & buskers in-between sets sitting on milk-crates, & students of all ages in & out the CAE,  & hairdressing trainees in white uniforms lighting-up, & lame & elderly's discombombulated snail-pace overtaken by the determined blind, & skateboarders, & young corporates without ties, & travellers carrying mountains of equipment departing backpacker hostel for airport Skybus, & slow prams, & fast pushchairs, & bikes ridden or wheeled or padlocked to racks, knocked flat by passers by or awkwardly parking truck ---And within the innocence described another feeling or gleaning which makes of this present cavalcade a match for the culture's previous great change ---It's as if we've returned to the Sixties or that the Sixties never disappeared, that is to say on this particular strip & on this day, its signature is reinstated in the strolling, ambling, eating, drinking, everyday Sunday Market's perpetual pedestrian traffic surrounded by the city's music, daily festival of Flinders Lane including though not every day Ross Hannaford's quintessential jazz & blues, every whichway guitar with tablas mate alongside, scruffly toughly duo,  real class for not so fast passers by, remembering something? ---Same flowers & hair of once-upon-a-time Right Here…

[November, 2014]

3 QUICKIES : in lieu of The Beach Report (numero uno, Melbourne summer 2014-15)


Everyone & everything connected yet one's been unaware that James Koller actually died on the 10th December, three weeks ago, on the heel must have been of Bob Arnold's first posting of Koller junior's news of his father's stroke. The notes I've been making over the period are all, therefore, after the fact. Man alive : celebratory; passed : memorial.


Shouldn't have been a surprise but off sparse Clifton Hill platform onto packed City train, any observation to accurately contain the word 'abuzz'! Carriage full of cricketers, all Australian & male supporters, day-after-Xmas casual style, except for two younger Indian men, orange T, floral shirt, sunglasses… And here we are, Jolimont-MCG where the carriage almost totally clears --platform bulges, the Test begins… Naturally I'd like to be amongst them despite colosseum style cricketing not my style even when i was a regular in the '70s relishing the density & atmosphere… If carriage's buzz is notable then the Melbourne Cricket Ground's is incredible; and once bitten, the bug is forever!

(Elwood Beach kiosque, 28-12-14)

Loretta says all the beach cliches are here like a Jacques Tati film! Large woman squeezed into tiny bikini with little dog on lead; vain old health-fanatic joggers; fast-walking middle-aged keep-fit duos etc… I wonder where we might fit in that scenario? L. in blouse, shoulder shawl, earrings, bead necklaces, bangles, straw hat, shades,  rather like my mother when she was younger --but 'sempl',  my mother's French pronunciation, with 'chic' never too far away! And moi : beach bum, stained old cap, pen & notebook, seamless alternation between the words & the world --thinking & watching… On the bus ride thinking of the local poets of the sea(side) --inevitably, then, Tsaloumas, not too far a stretch to add 'with whom we swam'. Second degree familiarity with Bob Morrow & Brook Emery as per their reports of ocean swimming & surfing. A bay dip or two shared with Claire Gaskin, Susan Fealy… --How far back does one want to go? History is a companion whenever & wherever one travels --perhaps I live here after all, sea soused & sun bathed senses warming the mutually excluding Northern imagination, softening the heart to acceptance of nearly fifty years of the Great Southern's actual life…  

Thursday, December 11, 2014





On outset (see how I avoid 'get go') Robert Lloyd excuses his representation of Dylan Thomas from the "academic", by which one understands he wont be critically analysing the poetry but intersecting with it as an enthusiast. No slight at all to call Robert Lloyd a fan, after all he recognises Thomas as first pop-star, fore-runner of British Invasion, taking New York a decade before the Beatles. And it's true --Thomas's concerts were sell-outs --and at the end the poets of the day kept his hospital room pretty busy too…

Robert Lloyd has listened to the recordings, read all the biographies, seen all the movies, and made his Welsh & NYC pilgrimages. Personality, therefore --charisma, reputation, image, legend, & all fulfilled as myth -- defines this Dylan Thomas. One thing the academic approach doesn't do is elevate the artist above the work. For example, "the kinds of things artists have to do to survive" (RL) neither here nor there when the composition is the only essential. Except that in our age, where biography is the most popular form of history (as history itself collapses into a continuous present), familiarity & personal identification are imperative as the virtual reality is achieved.  "At his best between the third & eighth drinks", according to the Richard Burton anecdote RL quotes, indicates for him the liberated tongue, delighting in word play, performing the self, as it were, amid social cacophony, the broth & froth of the everyday. All of which one can go along with given that the Thomas oeuvre, in verse & prose, original & interpretive, has long been absorbed.

"For many people these days poetry is song lyrics" is Robert Lloyd's grafting of the other Dylan & Mr Cohen & Nick Cave, Lou Reed, John Cale et al, to the body poetic, which nicely begs the question. I remember exemplary practitioner of poetry as art, John Tranter, saying as much over the radio years ago in response to the habitual question that assumes poetry's decay if not disappearance. It's alive & well (as popular form) in rock & pop lyrics, he said. He may have mentioned rap but needn't for the point to be made. Which isn't at all to posit equivalence but, in my mind, to imply the multiplicity of poetry, poetry in all of its genres, as complex ecriture & instantly available song, & all points in between.

Instructive when Lloyd described the difficulty of setting Dylan Thomas when, necessarily, the poem's formal scheme collides with the form the composer/musician is constructing for it. That tricky shit (as RL would say), & I'd contend, and probably for the benefit of poetry virgins, is at least as important as the verities of the drunken poet. Scholarly diligence & critical insight cannot be mutually exclusive of the ecstatic. With Thomas, language playfulness & profound thought & emotion co-inhere.

No review of the Holy Trinity gig this jumping out-take, which would would otherwise include description of the vaulting that a cello (Adi Sapir Cohen's) creates about a guitar, filling the sails of the songs --it's simply the after-taste of that  Saturday late morning in East Melbourne, at the church's anniversary arts festival, celebrating Dylan Thomas, as one trammed happily back to the commerce of the City.



As native as a nearly five decades Melburnian endows, and to that extent aware of Australian anniversaries including Collected Works Bookshop's 30 years or  the La Mama Poets' Workshop's 46th (--the original La Mama one must stress, which isn't to detract from La Mama Poetica which the late Mal Morgan inaugurated in 1985 after Val Kirwan's short-lived attempt earlier in the '80s to re-establish the September '68 incarnation --and Poetica is still going) --one's more than happy to leave mainstream majors to the official calendar, --the Henry Lawson, for example, now in Tony Lambides' hands --Ken Trimble part of that too?-- while rising to the fanfare (pun intended) of Dylan Thomas's centenary which enjoyed three previews all involving Robert Lloyd, plus the Melbourne Writers Festival's own session, before the official date of October 27th '14 was reached, unleashing the world-wide centenary celebration…

Happy memories persist from last year's event (the Dylan Thomas [99th] Birthday Celebration) at Collected Works Bookshop, led by Robert Lloyd & myself, --the programme comprising R L's song-settings of Thomas poems, play (Caroline Williamson, John Flaus, Patrick Boyle memorably reading from Under Milkwood), and poetry & commentary featuring Ray Liversidge, George Genovese, Ken Trimble, Valli Poole, Michael Reynolds, Earl Livings… Add to this Lloyd's presentation of Dylan Thomas at Holy Trinity's arts festival on August 16th, accompanied by Adi Sappir Cohen who brought her sublime cello to the show, and once again at the World Poetry gig at Federation Square a week ahead of the birthday. World Poetry's run these days by Dimitris Trioditis in the wake of founder Lella Carridi's coordination. Quite a detonation to hear the Greek translations of Dylan Thomas which Trioditis rattled off at the conclusion of the Lloyd/Sapir set, and definitely needed if only to offset the rising clamour from the bar below's amplified muzak!

Two small Melbourne publications have been the direct product of the original event and all the talk around it. Shall God Be Said To Thump The Clouds : Poets Celebrate Dylan Thomas, is published by Valli Poole with her Blank Rune Press, & sports a great cover portrait by Karl Gallagher of the tousle-haired boyo, cigarette held spivilly between sensual lips. It features American poets Alexis Rhone Fancher, Bryn Fortey & Catfish McDaris, and locals Gallagher, Poole & Ben John Smith. There's also Ken Trimble's The Ghost To His Green : A Tribute to Dylan Thomas, published by Christine Mathieu's Little Fox Press, which was spoken of as a Blank Rune Press chapbook until a classic change of plan (ah, poets). Significantly, the covers of both books disport with green, befitting the age's greenest poet. Who could forget Thomas's  poignant double edge : "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower / Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees / Is my destroyer."  If not for its Red Dragon, Wales would be green all over too.

The thirteen poems of The Ghost To His Green are elegiac transpositions of Ken Trimble's life upon Thomas's --in October Children for example, "We are / October children / yet as different and distant as Mercury's sun / and those visits though not Fernhill were filled / with innocence now / gone". It's a passionate identification with another of his exemplary poets, just as the Beats have been in his reading & roaming life. Thomas is the figure which the biography's cut for him, amplifying the famous poems. In this regard not unlike Robert Lloyd & the poets of the Blank Rune anthology, intersecting & interacting first & foremost with the legend. In Valli Poole's  & several of her contributors' cases, Caitlin has joint billing. Irrelevant to poetry, which is Dylan's first to last, but everything to do with a feminist rebalancing of the history book. No doubting the document of Caitlin's story, so what's important is the quality of the particular prism --who or what distinguishes the biography or poetry when the tag of this time is the 'bright star'.

Robert Lloyd's poignant & amusing description of his journey to Dylan Thomas country,  is, for mine, always part of an attempt to redeem true poetry & feeling from the show-biz & commerce in the poet's name. Yet I have a measure of 'why not?' even to that aspect now. Springing James Joyce from Bloomsday, similarly, has its point, yet this is the age of elitist & popular culture's convergence. Postmodernism anyone? 'Here Comes Everybody'? So why not enjoy the best of both worlds and accept the versions not as trivializations but as enlightening riffs & translations as happens with the great Indian classics and wherever in the world poetry appears at the heart of the culture.

Robert Lloyd is a storyteller for whom even the day's doings are potentially edged with mystery if not the mystical (--remember Robert Kenny's memorable lines, "Everything mystiqual, enveloped by a lovely intelligence / that seduces the rigmarole of the hours" , from his 'Poem' (Poem in inverted Commas), 1975)…  Chutzpah & charm is endearing and practice makes perfect but simplest to say that Robert Lloyd addresses the audience not as a poet with a guitar or a guitarist with his poems but as a performer of the poems & songs of his personal Dylan Thomas journey. Allegories, parables, revelations along the way, all along this green year…

[23-30/10 (11-12/14]