Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Some small poems

Interior
morning register
exaggerates daily danger


Stairs
renew windows
organise east balance


Therefore
to end
where existence enters


Knowledge's
internal conclusions
vibrates considered rain


Given
yesterday's regulations
the ash began


Collapse
of forms
an outside possibility


Abundance
equips fabric
this outside broken


Until
my night
taste equips hours


Letters
depending dust
too many problems


Morning
fixed in
newspaper more cold


Chronometer
drops ash.
Here's the rise!




Hey now, maybe they're like Eileen Tabios's hay(na)ku.


I'm leaning on each hour

and now the hours get darker

have to finish up the loose ends I can
so I can travel

meetings in Melbourne
meetings in Hobart

all the decisions of packing
unable to predict Melbourne weather

and to breath the Tasmanian air
after all these years

If the night comes

underneath cloud
courses the end

to refresh
within marks of rain

to fly night
immediate

but nervous with
probability

constant loss
in direction

that beginning
strength, sky

these lists verify
storm, tolerance

pretty commerce
exceeds everything

the interior moors
traffic, writing it

castrati, tremolo
whirrs of construction

a fine strap of sweat
sighs and nerves

and the jokes
green ones

to each morning's expenses
slowly, exactly

everything rigid, hurt
distant protection

moved far
from lucent cut noon

the lobby quiets
the fist's mark

ashes leached
of the original rose colour

a zone of another way
raises light

elasticity is
more than advisable

to distil payments
of the hour

Thursday, March 25, 2004

I feel like hiding this week. Quietly.
Why is there no quiet?
OK, given there is no quiet, I'm hiding behind my Grado SR-60s.
Rather my noise, if it must.
Last night listened to Bill Evans, Waltz for Debby.
That was what I needed.
Tonight, Freeform's Audiotourism. Vietnam and China remix album.
I read somewhere it's a good album to listen to with headphones.
They were right.

Preparing for holiday is wearing.
The world is full of stuff, full of forms, and the drag of technology.

I couldn't get time off for a funeral today.
I have no time, only noise.
Hiding in the bass tonight, and the ambient noise of China and Vietnam.

Monday, March 22, 2004

The subject of every conversation

planet-wise birds further travel
planes dash moments

sleepers pass into other zones
cargo leaves us here for water

the original message loss


Sunday, March 21, 2004

What can I say? The reading in Canberra went well, but the overshadowing of other things. I know that regret is a useless emotion but today, to find out I should have gone - who cares about visiting hours? - and now ... too late. Goodbye always too late.

Friday, March 19, 2004

For the first time since about 1994, I think, my name is no longer mentioned anywhere on the Sydney Star Observer masthead. I've been reviewer, columnist, staff journalist and board member almost continuously since that time, for nearly ten years. I'll still be doing the odd film review but no longer consistently enough to rate a regular mention. An era has passed for me.

Reading the Star this week, Thursday 18 MArch, SSO 705, I came upon this article about texts commissioned for a new orchestral work, Seven Last Words, by George Lenz for the Australian Chamber Orchestra. The writers include poets David Malouf (he will always be a poet to me), Dorothy Porter and Peter Goldsworthy. And maybe cartoonist Michael Leunig also is doing poetry for this one as well.

Here's what Malouf said to Star editor, Marcus O'Donnell:

"Malouf offers seven short poems, all versions of the Emperor Hadrian’s short poem to his departing soul.

Soul, small wandering one,
My lifelong companion,
Where will you go
– numb, pale, undefended –
now the jest we shared is ended?

"Many people have tried to translate the original Latin but in fact no translation is possible because the Latin words are so precise yet have so many gestures that you can’t get across in a very short poem in English," Malouf says.

"So what I’ve done is seven versions of it … they are teasing out the associations that are in the poem. It is a sort of love poem in the original but I’ve also certainly teased out that aspect of it.

"I thought it would be interesting to put a serious poem in the program that was about death and about the body and the soul but that didn’t necessarily belong to the Christian tradition but belonged in fact to a pre-Christian tradition. That’s the other half of our inherited world and the classical world often speaks as movingly as the Judaeo-Christian world does about these serious matters."

There is also a love story behind the poems. Hadrian had a male lover Antinous who tragically drowned in the Nile at the age of nineteen. The distraught Hadrian commanded the priests to declare Antinous a god and as a god the face of the golden youth haunts the statues and engravings of late classical culture.

"Antinous is probably one of – if not – the most recognisable face in classical art. It’s a well recorded and very famous relationship and the poem must reflect that," Malouf says."



The last hours of Christ seem to be taken over by Hollywood mega-hype at the moment but these 'seven last words' seem much more imaginative. The texts are to be read by legendary Australian actor, Jack Thompson, but unfortunately for me, the concert will be on Sunday 21 March, when I will be doing a poetry reading in Canberra.




Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I've tried it with grids but I usually fail. I'm pretty visual but not with graphs and xy axes. The only exam I remember failing was maths. But here's a bit of discussion about poetry grids, from Josh Corey, Aaron McCollough and Kasey Mohammad. It's part of the discussion about poetic reception, about where we place poems and how we read them. We or I? Hmm.

There's something in this that reminds me of those psychological graphs, and variables like introversion/extraversion and Myers-Briggs tests, which I always found deeply worrying yet fascinate many people. I always scored near the middle - what does that say?

I go along with Kasey. Poems exist in time and space, which, stated like that, is the bleeding obvious. But more specifically, their effects will be different if, say, they are encountered on the page or read live or on a CD or radio/TV. And will depend on what page they are read - print v. web; magazine v. monograph v. anthology. That is, varying kinds of time and space. This can account for "measurable" effects such as lineation and meter - voice, intonation and page size, etc can change that.

It also depends on the company poems are keeping (which is probably the big discussion) and also how the reader is feeling at the time of encountering them. And that 'feeling' is made up of all kinds of states. Anyway, you get my general drift.

But I like Josh's point about it being a 'naive' tool for himself. Naive is good. (I also like Aaron's little dog and Kasey's pictograph.) I'm probably too this-but-that Libran to be able to lay it out flat like that. But if I think of a grid that's me I'll post one. Could be a long wait.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

walking - two translations

"I was heading off with fists in tattered pockets;
My overcoat also becoming idealised;
I rambled under the sky, Muse, your supplicant;
Oh! So fantastic! What exquisite loves I dreamed.

A gaping hole in my only pair of trousers ...
-- Tom Thumb the dreamer, I sowed rhymes while wandering ..."

- Arthur Rimbaud, from 'Ma Boheme' (A fantasy), trans by John Kinsella


"On the road again, one fist in the hole I've poked
in a trouser pocket, my topcoat notional
as the sky I'm wrapped in, muse, your slave, your liege
lieutenant. Oh my! The affairs I've had a hand in
through that hole in my pants, Tom Thumb at his dopey dreamwork. ..."

- Arthur Rimbaud, from 'Ma Boheme' (A Gipsy's Life), trans by David Malouf


movements of dust
the same music that shakes I
is distracted

walls
the wind is
smooth colours

the song, that one
will have GONE soon
uncounted morbidities of day

the color of which
will
GONE soon


(some transformations of a previous poem)

walking

The real miracle is not
to walk either on water
or in thin air
but to walk on earth.
- Thich Nhat Hanh



walking

"Let us walk back now.
Let us walk back to the city of time,
let us abandon the violin-maker
making his circuits around the cottage
...
the cottage is sinking back in its valley,
we walk along a peculiar music,
walk back to the city of time."

- Alex Skovron, from 'The Violin-maker, the Forest and the Clock'
in The Man and the Map

Sunday, March 14, 2004

a baroque needle figuring
intricacies through my body
the very arch of music

dust makes me tremble
I'm scattered by the walls
singing the wind outside

sweet day soon gone
colours uncounted
shadow soft soon gone

taking today easy - a day undecided in the sky - walking is good, walking and talking with Annette - our doubts, irritations and disappointments with 'the art world', 'poetry inc' - but you can't escape cant, gossip, ego parades, buggeration - how we're in it anyway, and not innocents, though neither of us good hustlers

also a visit to the past - someone I knew so many years ago, lived with/ flatmate/ friend - the books, the music - how the past, though gone, is resonance - no new thought, it's only as it happens that I think it - the folds in time

there may be a storm - the rumble at the moment is a plane but its echo under clouds presages rain - I've smelled rain all day and the birds are ansty - Annette doesn't believe me but there is so much water in the air, the grey clouds moving and a strange stillness underneath the suburban tick-tock



Thursday, March 11, 2004

Been a strange tough old week. Maybe just the product of getting into things after being so unwell.

I managed last week by listening to Miles Davis at the Blackhawk San Francisco (the full Friday and Saturday night sets). Miles at his most exuberant, post Coltrane pre Shorter.

This week I'm having to chill down a bit with Bill Evans - the Waltz for Debby live at the Village Vanguard album.

Both live albums and the sound of the two is just ... there. Make me breath better. Even though they are cds, it does make you long for the days of analogue, warm and bright.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

doin' the do

I feel good. Had my hair 'done' this evening. Coloured and snipped and styled. Weight off my shoulders and all that. On the way home, reading on the train, which eventually came (Sydney has no discernable train timetable anymore, it's a mixture of potluck and anarchy), I lighted upon this quote in the street press:

"Do your hair in different styles, makes people notice."
- James Brown

Is that right on, or what? Get down!!

I'm serious, a do is important!!

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Indifference as a strategy.

cathedrals of light
corners of human company

light the escort of dark
texture of space

leaves scatter on the lines
of our life coming and going

and what we leave behind
our indentations, signatures


Some notes after the end of Annette's exhibition.

... negative sublime

... rhapsodic quotidian

... no originary meaning

Monday, March 08, 2004

"... that the noise is only beginning to rise. (And yet how quiet here.)"
- Michael Palmer in Chicago Review, 49.2, Summer 2003, p74


I had a small epiphany yesterday. Yes, the world changed and everything stayed the same.

I had chosen to read some old poems, 1990s poems of mine, at a reading. And they actually weren't bad, they didn't make me cringe, they worked according to some audience comments. These were poems I didn't include in 2002's Selected and now I have a twinge of regret. OK, I know that regret is a useless emotion but I've never been a subscriber to economical theories.

It made me look again at what I've been doing all these years and how much all that is still a part of what I am doing though I've been recently in love with doing 'new things'.

It also made me think about how one's work is received (or not, as the case may be). Everyone's a critic, of course, including oneself, but I wonder how useful reviews are, for the poet being reviewed, that is. A review isn't critique, a review is a once-off, a toss-off in many cases - I know, as I've done a few myself. A review is about the reviewer mostly, not the poetry.

What am I trying to say? Keep faith in my own vision sounds awfully pop-psych and hokey, but it's something like that. Don't try and please the reviewers, maybe? Take what's useful from critiques, those that may come your way, and stay open to what you might be learning as you're writing. Well, 'you' is me. Some poets are better at pleasing.

Hmm, funny kind of epiphany, makes me feel OK and not so OK in the same breath.

Time to move on but also not to forget.


Friday, March 05, 2004

on being at home ... sick

I've been at home sick on-and-off for about three weeks. I've mostly been able to function at work, just a day off here and there, until this week when everything crumpled inside me.

Staying in bed finally brought out strange memories, childhood memories for me. Probably because my window looks out into the Japanese maple's leafy green (dappled green, truly it is but you can't say that kind of thing these days, can you?) and also green painted lintels and bars. It's all very green with bright yellow blue sun in the background.

When I was a kiddie at home sick, or with a long illness like measles, it was the same, the sense of green in the foreground at the window and sun backing up.

Then there's all the life happening, noises of cars and builders and passers-by, so close yet distant because you're stuck inside. This gives it all a kind of echo effect.

I wrote this during the week, posted elsewhere but I'll place it here as well:

the knocking goes on over hours
at intervals
a drum beating the day
at least I have no headache
someone twists a machine
it hums for a minute at a time
otherwise leaves wash
under the green sun
as processes inside me
tremble and stutter
how could you picture this?
as if capturing souls departing
on wax or an old glass photographic plate
sprites maybe in the garden
asking for rain like birds
or these hours are less deja vu
than common
memory darkens
a badly developed snap
but within it still the traces
fibres of light material
a child prisoned in the green grey
room of sickness
where hours are long and gates
creak all the same

4.30pm Wed 3 March Marrickville


I have to say staying in bed gave me a backache. Now I'm lounging and my back feels better, so I will get away from this desk now and return to the sick lounge.



Just been reading one of my favourite magazines, The Wire -

"We're on the outside looking out."
- John Zorn, quoted by David Stubbs


"Epiphanies ruin everything, all the while leaving everything intact. The world you once knew has now gone for good, yet still it refuses to lie in ruins before you. It is consequently in the nature of an epiphany to illuminate its subject rather than the other way round. Its significance remains reflected at best. I can't imagine anyone wanting to stand for too long in so treacherous a light, but that's probably just me."
- Pianist Ken Hollings on first hearing Martin Denny's Quiet Village in 1981.


"I can't undersand why people are frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones."
- John Cage

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

And congratulations to Australian poet, Dorothy Porter, for winning not only the John Bray Poetry Award but the overall Premier's Award in the 2004 South Australian Festival Awards for Literature. The work is a verse novel, Wild Surmise.

The Premier's Award is for the best overall published work and the works in consideration are those that have already won prizes in the categories of children's literature. Fiction, innovation, multi-media, non-fiction and poetry.

On receiving the Premier's Award, Dorothy said, 'this is an extraordinary honour and one in my most wildest and conceited dreams I never thought I would get it … It's a win for poetry … Existence is a miracle, poetry is its hymn, but conscious of that existence is a real gift, and apart from music, poetry is its most rapturous expression.' She dedicated the 2004 Premier's Award to the memory one of Australia's greatest poets, Bruce Beaver. He died late last month at the age of 76, following a period of long illness. (see a previous entry in this blog for a tribute to Bruce Beaver)

The judging panel wrote of Wild Surmise: 'it's a 'large, ambitious project carried off with brio and mastery; it encompasses the lyrical and the dramatic without losing an essential poise, holding the reader's attention through to the resonant and haunting ending. A sexy work on passion and desire, Wild Surmise explores the nuances of a complex yet interdependent marriage situation as well as the subversive energies of an extra-marital affair with style and mature observation.'

Good on you, Dorothy!