Thursday, January 29, 2004

i.m. Janet Frame

When the sun shines more years than fear

When the sun shines more years than fear
when birds fly more miles than anger
when sky holds more bird
sails more cloud
shines more sun
than the palm of love carries hate,
even then shall I in this weary
seventy-year banquet say, Sunwaiter
Birdwaiter, Skywaiter,
I have no hunger,
remove my plate.

by Janet Frame 1924-2004
from The Pocket Mirror, published 1967

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

working where we are - a quote

"It makes sense to say that Australian poetry is different from the work of many (it not all) modern American and British writers because a disproportionately large number of Australian poets intuit that the theme of local feeling, place and placement is important to them and their readers. More, what such poetry deals with is not just a feeling about landscape or land in a romantic or nostalgic way. One thing indeed that sets Australian work apart is a prevalent sense of that 'country' (definitely not 'countryside' but nearly yet not quite what Americans and Europeans call 'land' and 'landscape') is something you are a part of, something that changes your sense of self and placement and that requires a change in envisioning if you are able to see it and understand it. Land, in other words, is active and mallaeable; it can also be oneiric and ancestral; while, as if in contradiction of those symbolic and poetic facets of a sense of place, many of the discussions and sentiments best associated with country are technical, environmental and technological matters, in part discontinuous from human images and uses of it. Besides, country does not easily offer back a comfortable image of white Western presence, either in terms of colonial history or in terms of technological intervention. This in turn obliges anyone writing about Australian poetry to recognise that a claim about the wider contemporaneity of Australian poetry must reflect a fairly high level of discontinuity: the claim is that almost inevitably in a specifically Australian relationship between poetry and place you will find a fragmented sense of subject and land."

Martin Harrison, in "Self, Place, Newness", Meanjin, 2.2001, p.23-4.
The Midsumma Festival literary program in Melbourne looks exciting. Check the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art which is hosting a series of three free public Word is Out talkfests, starting Thursday 29 January with American sound poet John Giorno and partner Ugo Rondinone.

Giorno, of course, was a friend and contemporary of Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs and has created more than 20 recorded albums and ten books during a career spanning four decades. He will perform with Melbourne writers Michael Farrell, Margaret Vandeleur, Will Day, George Taleporos, Moira Finucane, Steven Dawson and Spiro Panagirakos.

Other events include Fine & Dandy: The Rise and Practice of a Queer Aesthetic on 30 January which will question the nature of 'queer' and how it governs the principles of art with Nikki Sullivan, the author of An Introduction to Queer Theory; Robert Reynolds, author of From Camp to Queer: Remaking the Australian Homosexual and History on the Couch: Essays in History and Psychoanalysis and broadcaster and film critic Deb Verhoeven. The following night, February 1, the Sacred Sites discussion will survey queer and Indigenous aesthetics as visionaries and academics discuss our place in the world.

All nights are free.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Australia Day full of sport and awards
A cricketer is made Australian of The Year.
The Australia Day honours are released but how many writers? So very few.
A third of those on the lists are women. I recall our population is pretty much 50/50.
We say Australia is the land of the fair go.
Advance Australia Fair, yeah?
Fair go where?

It was a fair day, of fair winds
cleared sky, clearing head.
A. went to survival day with Aboriginal friends.
I needed space, inside, time for working.

Breeze works around me.
A radio in late afternoon plays something that sounds like sport.
I listen to 1960s Bollywood, Asha Bohsle and co. 'Seekhlo ...' 'Learn to ...'
I'm learning, trying a layout, wishing I had a decent DTP app.
No Australians left in the Open.
No Australians get Golden Globes for film (OK, a couple for TV).
As if this matters or measures.

It was a good day.
A bad weekend with bad news.
The real thing, not celebrity hype.
So much wrong.
But a good day.
Learn to ...

Survival day

no new moon
can ever replace
never replace"

- Lisa Bellear, 'Colonisation'

Saturday, January 24, 2004


We walk bent into the wind's rip
scuffing the turf cut to the bone
by the scalpel of sunlight

- John Bennett, from 'Wessex Archaeology - White Horse'

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Hey, I'm on special this month at the new Salt shop. Other special goodies also available, including Kate Lilley's book.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

walking the UK

"Opera singer David Pisaro has set off on a 200-mile musical odyssey across England. The American tenor is walking the coast-to-coast path from St Bees, in Cumbria, to Robin Hood's Bay, in North Yorkshire. He will stop each evening to perform Franz Schubert's Die Winterreise in 13 venues along the route including village halls, shops and churches with pianist Quentin Thomas."

Read more at BBC news
... density, articulation, effect (and some ornament)
... aleatory operations within certain parameters

- thinking away from theme and narrative

Poetry is impossible. Is it this pressure that makes me write it?

"We can't mask the anxiety for long,
but we can produce good and cherishable deeds
to be ransacked by those who come after us.
True, nobody visits anymore. ..."

- John Ashbery, from 'Lost Footage', TLS, 9 January 2004

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

phones don't take you
anywhere of course
but the kid stares into
the future
a vending machine
he'll get there
quicker than me
he's got all the gear
I have a tunnel to go
as this is not
a message to you

summer is an umbrella and trails a shadow as well as blinding light
standing around under stars is easy to do, flick into the same old tune
somewhere between the sentimental and the cynical, that's where you'll find me

- notes towards ... something

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Another wee trumpet blast. Some work of mine in FUSEBOX 3, on the rattapallax site. The issues also contains Fusebox3 poems edited by Rosemary Dun; poetry in audio by Nathan Filer, Bucky & Khadijah Ibrahiim; an article: The Age of MC Solaar; some football poetry (there's a concept); poetry by young Pilipino Americans; Nigerian poetry, and much more.

Hey, listening to Kronos Quartet- Nuevo. Crazy, fantastic!!

Saw them last night at the Sydney Opera House. Brilliant. As an encore, their version of Hendrix's version of the Star Spangled Banner. Yes, political but also mind blowing.

OK, I lied, it's our second Sydney Festival event. So, because we notified the Festival (nicely) about our terrible experience with bad sightlines at Hashirigaki, we got free tickets to Kronos - and a refund (because we were very nice and didn't carry on like a pork chop). Which means we'll invest the refund into tickets for Strindberg's Dance of Death with Sir Ian McKellan, another Festival show. Everyone's a winner!

Saturday, January 17, 2004

"A good deal of bad reviewing is more concerned with inflating the self-worth of the reviewer, rather than raising the standards of the published word. Authors can and do learn from professional, critical reviewing. But neither they nor their readers gain anything from the sort of self-indulgent hyperbole that is the mark of most reflexively negative reviews."
- John Birmingham, 'Fighting Words', The Weekend Australian, 17-18 January, 2004.

Mr Birmingham must be expecting bad reviews for his next book. Then, haven't we all had those kinds of sad and scabrous reviews from time-to-time? Birmingham is urging a fightback. He says give the author a right of reply. I'm in two minds. Most bad negative reviews, as opposed to good negative reviews, are so obviously self-indulgent and gratuitous that Blind Freddy could see them for what they are (ie, unadulterated bile and envy). Why give these sad literary cowboys any further publicity?

But there is another sad fact. There are so few reviews, especially of poetry, that perhaps the old saw 'any publicity is good publicity' holds true. And, in that case, there is an argument for a literary stoush. The on-line environment would be an ideal environment for this but I have seen little evidence of virtual space for rejoinders or fightbacks. Sure, there is always the good old 'letter to the editor' but this usually has an air of whingeing. My only foray into this area, many many years ago, was to correct an error of fact. I reasonably stated at the time that the reviewer was entitled to their opinion of the book. Sometimes I wonder, though, how entitled, in a public forum where reputation is at stake.

Mr Birmingham states at the end of his article that 'he stopped reading reviews of his books a long time ago'. If this is true rather than bravado, it would be a reasonable stance. Others take the 'no pain not gain' option, preferring to know who the opposition is and hoping against hope that someone, somewhere (even if they didn't like it, or especially if they did) actually 'got' the book. Is there nothing more irritating than a review which is positive but still doesn't 'get' it? This happens far too often and I'm not the only one thinking it will be a long time between drinks.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Some walking

David Herkt
from 'Daypoems' in The Body of Man (Hazard Press)


Dark morning, the barefoot

on cold gravel
to return to
white distances
of still warm sheets
which never would be
creased beneath
& always lie between

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

On walking

Zhai Yongming
from Jing'an Village: The First Month

"As though it had long existed, as though pre-arranged
I walk here, the sound quite beyond my control
It installs me in a side-room facing south

Even the first time I come across a pitch-black day
Everywhere there are paths that look much the same
The brisk wind leaves me cold and lonely
The maize-fields are exhilarated at such moments
I have come here, I hear the roar of Pisces
And the ceaseless trembling of the sensitive night. ...."

- translated by Tony Prince and Tao Naikan

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Blowing my own little trumpet. Three poems of mine in the January 2004 Poetry section of Nthposition. Also featuring REN Allen, Gary Glazner, Louis Armand, Alison Trower, Jayne Fenton Keane, Stephanie Bolster, Giles Goodland, David McKelvie and Adeena Karasick.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Have just been to possibly my one and only Sydney Festival performance event. This was called Hashirigaki. Conception, music and direction is by German Heiner Goebells and it was inspired by Stein's The Making of Americans. Apparently hashirigaki is Japanese for: 1. n. flowing text; 2. adj. forward motion; 3. vb. rushing.

Well, 'we were pleased' apart from the fact that our seats had shocking sight lines so we had to stand for most of the performance. (We were up the back and no-one was behind us.) This is in, supposedly, one of Sydney's newest state of the art theatres, the new Parade Theatre at NIDA. I sometimes wonder if Australians have any understanding of how to produce theatre but that's another discussion. NIDA, by the way, is the National Institute of Drama and has produced some well-known actors, at least to Australians. Maybe you've heard of Cate Blanchett, Geoffrey Rush, Mel Gibson, Barry Otto, the vastly overlooked Kerry Walker, but, then, maybe not.

Back to Hashirigaki. It was performance and music theatre which used parts of Stein's text, recited by three women actors, plus some of the best lighting design I've seen for a while and a variety of music, including Japanese music, but very specifically the music from Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds. No Beach Boy vocals are used but the three women do sing some of the songs in a cracked, funny and moving way. (They are no singers.)

The piece is as abstract as Stein can be or certain movement pieces can be but it was funny, sad and strange. The three actors also played a variety of Japanese, percussion and early electronic instruments. The women were Charlotte Engelkes from Sweden, Marie Goyette from Canada and Yumiko Tanaka from Japan. Tanaka was the naughty one and I wished I understood Japanese as a number of the audience laughed during her particular solo moments. The texts also were recited in such a way as to bring out the lesbian subtext.

I loved it so if it comes to a town near you somewhere in the world go and see it.
Norman Talbot

Sad news for Australian poetry. Norman Talbot died last Thursday 8 January 2004. He was an important and larger-than-life figure in Australian poetry and will be much missed.

Norman Talbot was born in Suffolk, and educated in England, getting his BA from Durham and Ph.D. from Leeds. He came to Australia in 1963 with his wife Jean (also a fine poet) to take up a university lectureship in English at the University of Newcastle. He remained in the Hunter area of NSW ever since. After teaching at University of Newcastle for 30 years he retired in 1993 to write full time, poetry, fantasy, science fiction, among other things.

He was always active in writers’ circles and in publishing. In 1964 he and a group of friends founded Nimrod Publications, which he took over in 1965. This small firm published over four hundred writers from the Hunter Valley, in nearly forty books. He was president of Catchfire Press, another Hunter-based press, when he died.

He published hundreds of poems plus a number of poetry books, which included:
The Book of Changes, a collaboration with artist John Montefiore, Nimrod Publications, 1999
Australian Skin, Suffolk Bones, Hamlet Publishing, 1997
Four Zoas of Australia, with introduction by Gwen Harwood, Paper Bark Press, 1992
Where Two Rivers Meet, Nimrod Publications
The Kelly Haiku and Other Widdershin Tracks, Nimrod Publications, 1985
The Birds of Britain Series: Poems, Nimrod Publications, 1989
Son of a Female Universe, South Head Press, 1971
Poems for a Female Universe, South Head Press, 1968

Four Zoas of Australia was short-listed for the National Book Awards and the Victorian Premier's Award. He won the Broadway Prize in 2002 for the poem sequence, 'Seven New South Wales Sonnet-Forms'.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Speaking of walking:
the hot roads
- Andrew Burke

Andrew thought I might like his haiku (which he told me he's just used as a hokku) and here it is. So he's made it to blogland. Andrew's from Perth, as you may know, which is hot. So is Sydney.

Thinking about walking and the line. Is the line the walk (a lot of walks in a poem), or the stanza (a few turns), or the poem (many blocks or paths)?

I'm wondering about the line at the moment (a) because I'm always writing and (b) there's been some discussion on it by Ron Silliman and William Watkin. I'll wonder some more and get back about it.

Also wondering about 'the moment'. If the poem stretches beyond 'the moment'. And what moment is that? Moments mean nothing - one moment any more than another, that is - except for meaning invested in them. This is connected to the emotions too, the body and its history. Felt intelligence.

Poems are also about process. How to talk the continuous.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

What is c-side?

I posted a listing of the next c-side event - c-side 1.1 - in the side bar to the right but, well you might ask, what is it? Well, c-side is a project giving space, both physical and virtual, to poets, photographers, visual artists, musicians, DJs, etc to broadcast their works, either as individuals or in collaboration. It's the brainchild of Sydney poet, James Stuart.

The fundamental philosophy behind the event is that collaboration both increases the audience for each art form involved and, importantly, encourages focussed, artistic dialogue. It's hoped this leads to an increased presence of the arts in the wider cultural field as well as new possibilities for the encounter of meaning. Anyway, that's the theory.

James is producing the project through his non-generic productions, which has been in the business of producing stuff like this since 1997.

So far, c-side has produced one event at the This Is Not Art Festival in Newcastle, Australia, held in October 2003. So, on Saturday night 4 October, after much anxiety over whether all the tech stuff would work and the fact the proceeding event, an MC battle, went wa-a-ay over time, c-side rolled itself out. The works were by Gareth Jenkins, James Stuart & Andrew Worssam, Peter Minter, Annette Willis & Jill Jones. The DJs were Guillaume Potard, Neotoke (aka James) and Jon Wicks doing their own live mixes. Under the above circumstances we thought it went pretty well.

I had to learn the intricacies of Power Point (yep, that program) to get my words working with Annette's pix. Then I turned it into a 15 minute Quick Time movie. Theoretically I could have done it in iMovie but James was working off OS 9 so Power Point it was. So easy, so nerdy. Fab!

Part of the project has been an audio CD also featuring a poem and photograph (have to mention the poem was mine and the pic was Annette's).

The next c-side arrives in Sydney as part of the sea-side Live Bait arts festival at Bondi Pavillion on 22 January, 2004. It will include the works that were presented at Newcastle but different mixes, different ambience. By the way, the idea is that folks don't have to sit and concentrate on the show as such but to feel free to have a drink, socialise as well as check what's on the wall. The shows feed through a few times so it's a swings/roundabouts kinda deal.

There'll be a number of other events taking place at the same time as c-side 1.1, including Frigid in Dub, Box Set theatre performances, etc. Live Bait, like c-side, is also self-funded and needs support! Sydneysiders should go along and make a night of it.

For more details on the festival, including the program details, visit Live Bait.

For more information check out c-side.
It's the fire season here. I can smell the smoke that's drifted in from the outskirts and can see a brown haze in the air.

We're hoping it won't be as bad as some years have been but there's some concern. Here's the latest from the Sydney Morning Herald. I was also listening to the state's fire chief, Phil Koperberg, saying on the radio that the current fires are bringing out all kinds of fauna, including funnel webs. These are aggressive and poisonous spiders, for those that don't know, and are best respected and kept clear of. I recall being in Taipei two years ago and reading the english language newspaper whose sole news of Australia consisted of reports of the bad bush fires and how they were badly burning a number of koala bears. All due respect to the iconic bears (which aren't 'bears' at all), but there were other effects.

I remember the year of the very bad fires, it was 1994, when smoke clouded the Harbour Bridge and I could stand on one side of the Parramatta River watching parts of Sydney burn just on the other side.

Waiting for the hard light
after dust wattle dance
when fire rings the city

In our day-worn sweat
our city brown horizon
lungs singed petals

Friday, January 09, 2004

Have just been in lift drift. The lift seemed to hover between floors two and four, drifting and dreaming as Jimi would have said. OK, it's Friday and I'm still in the holiday drift.

There were messages on the email saying one of the lifts wasn't working and, then, they were both working again. But I think this lift has ideas of its own.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

On walking - a quote

"And I walked. I walked. Indeed if all the marks of my walking feet had been left inscribed on the paddocks and roads and playing fields of that suburb, you would have seen lines, arcs, ovals, rectangles, figures of eight, and any other shape you might care to name, all imposed and impinging on one another so thickly that it would have been impossible to trace a single journey."
- Jessica Anderson, Tirra Lirra by the River

I've used the figure of 'arcs' in my own work. I see those lines, the cross hatch and arcing of journeys all the time in the city I walk through.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

laughter in the new year
night open
the last tinkling balcony

here I wonder
what am I doing?
the question seems to matter

but the night laughs
if it's all questions
it matters it doesn't

Movie preview tonight. 'In America'. Too sweet and kid-like. But it's good to laugh and cry, be sentimental Irish. I kinda liked it. Samantha Morton has an interesting face. And the irony is that most of the interiors were most likely filmed in Dublin. Best moment - when they played 'Do you believe in magic?' when the family drives into New York. Stock city night scenes, sure, but well-filmed, immediate, involving.

Monday, January 05, 2004

First, thanks to Cassie Lewis and Chris Murray for their warm welcomes to blogland. I also see that Ron Silliman has added me to his list pretty quick. Nice. Sort of like family.

By the way, I'm learning how to do all this stuff on the fly as Blogger's help wasn't working when I started this last week.

Just a pondering evening now I've had some relief in airconditioning land (formerly known as the office):

I'm questioning, the arrangements, what goes
in here or
here? - along
and I, well, the sun, hidden today
or whatever, romance myth-god
loves as it licks (my sunburn, oooh) or lays out
grey and blue cloudy layers
oh, all my breath, breathing
you, whoever
that wishes reading

Saturday, January 03, 2004

"It has always been the fashion to talk about the moon."
W.C. Williams, Kora in Hell, XVIII.1

sea land sky here on my skin
something about sweat accentuates voices
I am out there I am in here
music rises a slammin' votive
cars are cheering in malleable night
I am looking for the next key
and the changes
the moon steamy night blossom

Blogger doing very strange things today. Repeating my posts. Etc etc.

I will retire gracefully and get back tomorrow.

All our windows open last night to welcome some cool breeze. There's a sense of waiting for the next onslaught of sun. Some people love this, by the way, but I fade into a sweat trickle.

The early morning parrots have just flown overhead. And I am up early to get ready for a visit from my brother and sister-in-law. Will be doing standard issue Sydney barbie. Well, not so standard, but the only place to be is outside alongside some moving air. I wish I could hide myself in a green shade but such a romantic notion is obliterated here.

Last night was Lolita Thai's. To explain. For many years there was a cafe on Glebe Point Road, Glebe (a suburb close to the city) called Lolita's. The food was cheap but good and they had an upstairs room with a couple of long tables. Ideal for a group to meet. For a couple of years an informal group of poets met there regularly to talk about everything under the sun, including a lot about poetry. But one night we turned up to Lolita's to find it was closed on our regular night (and has now closed for good). So we had to find another venue on the fly. Across the road is a restaurant, one of many, called Kata Thai. It's now our venue but we preserve the name of Lolita for our meeting.

Our crew? At the moment includes prime mover Martin Langford, as well as Brook Emery, Peter Kirkpatrick, Andy Kissane, Martin Harrison, Anna Kerdijk Nicholson, Rosemary Huisman and our token non-poet, Tony Blackshield. Jann Harry used to come but she's a bit tied up these days, and there have been others from time-to-time.

Last night we were mainly catching up after Christmas and talked about travel and surf movies, as you do. I was recommending a movie called 'Step Into Liquid', opening in Sydney soon. (There's also another one coming up that I may get to preview, called 'Billabong Odyssey', but Step Into Liquid is the one to see - a bit gee whiz Californian but great footage - 'amazing', as you'd say). Brook E, our resident surfer, was recommending the latest book by Australian novelist, Fiona Capp. Called 'That Oceanic Feeling', it's not a novel but is about her revisiting her old surfing days in Victoria and also reflecting on the things of the sea and surf. Sounds good. I'll follow that one up. And I'll post my review of 'Step Into Liquid' soon, as I'll be doing that one for the column when we start up reviews again this year. A bit of poetry chat too, but not much to speak of. Martin and I had visited Gleebooks just before dinner and we had new books ready to read in 2004. His, the latest August Kleinzahler and another I can't recall this early morning (sorry). And me, a selected of Mahmoud Darwish, 'Unfortunately, It Was Paradise'. More on that when I can. Have to move into domestic mode now.

Friday, January 02, 2004

"Poetry is astonishment, admiration, as of a being fallen from the skies, taking full consciousness of his fall, astonished about things. As of one who knew [what] things [were] in their souls, striving to remember this knowledge, remembering that it was not thus he knew them, not under these forms and these conditions, but remembering nothing more."

Fernando Pessoa
Introduction to 'The Keeper of Sheep'

The day was blue
now it is grass
shaking and singing
this heat

Thursday, January 01, 2004

The poem snap below is just to quickly catch last night's festivities courtesy of an invitation to overlook the harbour and the fireworks (thanks Mel and Jos). OK, naff perhaps, but fun. Fun is good.

I'm eating ginger candy at the moment - Ingwer Bonbon - barely coping and wishing for a breeze from anywhere but the west.

Hot in night's layers, north easterlies
and acidic beverages
we climb over the city
the harbour's wide amphitheatre

The cliplock roof is safe but hard to traverse
as a world
the busy black lit sky
(Mel says an engineer has checked it out)

At count down end
(Jay, joking, begins calling the show
all on standby, pyros go)
fairy flash in hundreds & thousands
of useless cameras
flicker and miss the bursting drifts

Sky fills with cartoon stars
streaks, pompoms, blooming breasts
rose orchid galaxies
disturbing the night trip of flying foxes
ghost white against
the illuminated noise

Our awe is real
and ironic - we do that easily
under this boom crash opera
with a million friends
as the Bridge - our chunky old Bridge
dances in the light
(Mel says Martin got the gig
playing wonder games with decks and switches
in a room in Centrepoint Tower)

Another 'event' for sure
we've done events and know the wrangle
but we're happy in this smoke and energy
all exit stage left and easier now
getting across the roof though
I need your hand to steady me
until we are level

Thursday 1 January 2004, Sydney, 12.45pm

Ruby Street's sweaty new year is ticking over. Planes doing their usual swoop. The weather isn't big, no wind, not much breeze. The to-fro doof doof from over the road has quietened down. Bird sound, sparrows likely.

On my desk a flyer - 'Colin McCahon A Question of Faith' advertising the exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW with his great 'I am' painting (real title, Victory Over Death 2). But the temperature doesn't suit this work. We are trying to keep out the heat by drawing down all blinds but the light slips in at corners.

I'd be better off lying on the lounge and watching dvds but I've plugged in the latest music favourite: Toufic Farroukh's Drab:zeen. Paris sessions and Beirut sessions. Middle eastern jazz and some beats. French and Arabic vocals.

Learning how to write my way into this. Some have said you can't write in Sydney during summer, heat drains the means from you. We'll see. Green tea is a good thing.