Monday, August 22, 2005

neglected corners

I came across this article in The Guardian, about neglected masterpieces, you know, the stuff that’s as good as the ‘same old same old’ list but never gets a guernsey. You know, it’s always Beatles, Dylan, Stones or Mozart, Bach, Beethoven. Or Citizen Kane, You know what I mean.

There was more discussion at The Observe. Some of it made me laugh, such as the folks that would say “if so-and-so becomes more famous I don’t want to like them anymore”. We want to keep out little secret corners of pleasure away from hyping eyes. As someone else said, look what they did to Nick Drake, after the fact. Indeed!

I had a bit of a think about my private lists. So, in film, why not Jacques Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating. I had assumed you couldn’t even get it on DVD but, hey, it does exist. I better track it down now. I saw it twice, late 70s and early 80s. Both prints not so good and only viewed in a mouldy old art house cinema, and when did anyone last mention it to you? To me, it was a complete magic dream, a circling teasing narrative, with a girly friendship at the centre (how often did that happen back then?). Formal as well as loose and improvised. And summer in Paris and thereabouts.

And poetry? Well, I don’t think you can go past Robert Harris’s Jane, Interlinear and Other Poems. So much guff gets talked about this ‘n that these days. Harris’s book is the real deal.

And music. I’d plump pretty categorically for Richard and Linda Thompson’s I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight. Don’t argue with me, “The Great Valerio” is amazing, shattering.

I could go on but it would start to get a bit like trainspotting but maybe there’s other ideas out there, you know, for following up.

But, yeah, it's fun unpicking the canon and top 100s. I mean, hey, I've been on a bit of a Dylan kick lately, don't ask me why, just have, but I gotta go check some of my old vinyl downstairs. Anyone remember Sea Train? Or If?

Sunday, August 21, 2005


low sky

spring fragments

aspires to

sews body

great amazements

radio soul

the grid

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


Cute kitties on on Laura's blog. I'm not always serious, despite appearances.

I had a cat once, and I hope he's still alive and a happy old grumblebum.

miles ahead

Seems my mention of Miles Davis's album, On the Corner, stirred up some echo in Chris and Kasey - see comments below the entry. Cool!

Here's an excerpt from a Down Beat review of the album in 1972: "Take some chunka-chunka-chunka rhythm, lots of little background percussion diddle-around sounds, some electronic mutations, add simple tune lines that sound a great deal alike and play some spacey solos. You've got a 'groovin'' formula, and you stick with it interminably to create your 'magic'. But is it magic or is it just repetitious boredom?"

Sounds like a kind of magic to me and miles ahead of its time, certainly in jazz, though maybe not in classical circles. It raises all kinds of questions about 'reception' and about 'genre'. Miles was supposed to be playing 'jazz'. It didn't matter if what he was doing was good, bad, interesting, whatever, it didn't fulfill the requirements of the genre 'jazz' and, therefore, only got a two star rating back then. Of course, others outside the jazz field thought it was pretty good. Ring any bells?

The liner notes to the reissue by Bob Belden go into great detail how Miles and producer Teo Macero used techniques like overdubbing and, effectively, tape looping, to create the tracks. And it was done in analog, no laptop electronica, no ProTools in 1972. Also, apparently, the last time Miles heavily edited his recordings. He just went on, eventually, to do other things. People don't like it when you go off and do other things.

Apropos of nothing, I picked up a cheapie tonight, Talking Heads Remixed. Not sure what I think of it yet, or if I'll play it often, but it's kinda fun, at least.

Monday, August 08, 2005

late poem

Grot among root
still thaw
but the chill
crawls a glimmer
dawn dark’s cold
hasten and haze
hill line’s blur

Ground brown
seed furred
branch flare
splay to orange
ochre and flange
year’s fit
now for fire

Sunday, August 07, 2005


That Miles Davis album, On the Corner, is wicked, and has stayed wicked. John McLaughlin's guitar riff is big and bad. Plus all the other stuff on the other tracks and in the mix. I played it twice in a row. I might play it again.

the age poetry book of the year shortlist - alright!

Just have to say I was surprised and shocked (happily) to hear I was on the following shortlist. The Age, of course, is published down south in Melbourne (a very fine town, if I do say so) and, though it's available online, I never thought to particularly read it today. I'm spending the weekend by myself (Annette being away in Wollongong) and have been 'pottering without guilt' (as Patrick Cook once said) all day. I was especially and deeply immured tonight watching England's second innings on the telly tonight and just picked up an email by chance after midnight from Alison Croggon detailing the list.

If I may be allowed ... woohoo!

In his judge's comments (see below), Kris says I have an 'obvious affiliation with "language poetry"'. "Yeah but no but ..." - this make me a just a tad uncomfortable. 'Language' is a movement, grouping, what have you, of its time and place, and I would never dream of making any claims to affiliations. But, yes, I certainly have an affinity for innovative US and, to a lesser extent due to lesser knowledge, British poetries. There's always genealogies stretching in various directions. And, hey, I was just browsing Ron Silliman's anthology In the American Tree tonight, between Warne and Lee's overs and Flintoff's brave and stunning batting (he had injured his shoulder, poor love).

Anyway, I'm honoured to be in amongst my fellow Australian poets. The truth will out later this month. Now, all cross fingers.

Judge's comments - Kris Hemensley

In 2005 the new poets of the '70s and '80s are now comparatively well known; even the emerging poets of the '90s have names. Newer and less publicised poets will regard the former as the establishment but in truth its hold is as tenuous as that of poetry itself in the Australian literary scene.

Well known among whom and for whom? Wearing both my poet's and bookseller's caps I can say that there is an increasing readership for Australian poets and that contemporary poetry itself is buoyed by traditional poetry's status in the prolonged moral and political crisis we recognise as Our Time. The discipline of the bottom line, which apparently excused the majors from even nominal poetry publishing a decade ago, hasn't dissuaded the small presses, all of whom are hereby thanked and blessed.

What can one say anew of the themes and styles of the 2005 shortlist that isn't already known of poetry at large? Perhaps, simply, reiterating a postmodernist axiom, language and not land is the site of this poetry and its abiding concern, and that subjects and subjectivities are alive and well.

More or Less Than 1-100
M.T.C. Cronin


More or Less Than 1-100 is astounding as much for its structure, rising from one line to 50 lines and back again through a sequence of a hundred sections, as for the hypnotic flow of its language. The poems' conjunction of end and beginning might seek to emulate the famous "a' long the / riverrun" of Finnegans Wake. Cronin's "ice follows water follows / not simply the stream but they who thought of following" , more like channelling than story-telling, immediately establishes a dense and heightened poetry. While the purpose and identity of both speaker and addressed is withheld, her language-world is marvellous and open.

Jill Jones


Broken/Open courts the great themes of modern poetry notwithstanding Jill Jones' obvious affiliation with "language poetry", a practice often implying the abandonment of traditional subject and object relations and the dislocation of syntax and grammar. In her case the celebration of language itself is variously grafted to her poems of romantic love, the experience of nature, evocations of the city. Writing that calls attention to itself by deformation of narrative or extreme elision often jeopardises the beauty of shape, sound and perception, yet many of these poems are riveting examples of poetry's pure pleasure.

Ian McBryde

Five Islands Press

The title poem is a swastika in the middle of the page, constructed with multiples of the word "domain". Another poem repeats its title in the shape of the sinister double "s". Such visual poems punctuate McBryde's history of Nazism's rise and fall but also puncture the expectation one might have of history as the fact of the matter. The poems are cameos in a nightmarish newsreel inhabited by spectres rather than reliable persons. Beyond the horror and, of course, heroism, one's left with poignant paradox and the darkest mystery.

Blister Pack
David McCooey


The crucial contradiction suffusing Blister Pack is between the authoritative style of its language and the vulnerability or natural limitation of its anxious subject. David McCooey's opinions and observations are so cleanly spelt out they might be omniscient epigrams rather than the partialities of the typical citizen the poetry supposes. Although he plays with language, building poems out of conversational habits to represent the speech of the day and describe processes of representation, his poetry is determinedly social and, such is his gift, charmingly sociable.

The Colosseum
Dipti Saravanamuttu

Five Islands Press

The poems in The Colosseum are startlingly bare. The poetry is strenuously autobiographical, which is always a burden for lyrical language and one that postmodern work readily relinquishes. Yet this collection could be described as a postmodern confessional, it being discursive even in the midst of its often rueful, albeit wryly amused testimony. It keeps its wits while baring its soul. The inventory of oscillating exultation and despair, recorded with as much worldly-wise as world-weary self-criticism, traverses Dipti Saravanamuttu's islands of origin, yearning and ultimate settlement.

Friday, August 05, 2005


Listening to a few K7 cds I picked up cheaper than normal. Daddy G: DJ Kicks - you know, one of the Massive Attack guys; Kruder and Dorfmeister: DJ Kicks, maybe better than the K & D Sessions (maybe); and the first of Peace Orchestra.

You can hear real audio versions of them on the K7 website by following the above links. A good way to try before you buy. That's what I did. They ask you to sign up but it costs nothing and they've never bothered me.

agenda australian issue

The latest issue of agenda is their double Australian issue. No wuckers, mate, check it out.

a poem by Basil Bunting

Just after I found the Gael Turnbull poem below, this Basil Bunting poem turned up on poetryetc, courtesy of Jon Corelis.

What The Chairman Told Tom

Poetry? It's a hobby.
I run model trains.
Mr Shaw there breeds pigeons.

It's not work. You don't sweat.
Nobody pays for it.
You could advertise soap.

Art, that's opera; or repertory -
The Desert Song.
Nancy was in the chorus.

But to ask for twelve pounds a week -
married, aren't you? -
you've got a nerve.

How could I look a bus conductor
in the face
if I paid you twelve pounds?

Who says it's poetry, anyhow?
My ten year old
can do it and rhyme.

I get three thousand and expenses,
a car, vouchers,
but I'm an accountant.

They do what I tell them,
my company.
What do you do?

Nasty little words, nasty long words,
it's unhealthy.
I want to wash when I meet a poet.

They're Reds, addicts,
all delinquents.
What you write is rot.

Mr Hines says so, and he's a schoolteacher,
he ought to know.
Go and find work.

Basil Bunting

a poem by Gael Turnbull

National Poetry Day

"Transform your life with poetry"
the card said, and briefly I fussed
that this overestimated the effect
until I remembered how it had thrust
several old friends,
plus near and dear,
into distress and penury,
how even I, without the dust
of its magic, might have achieved
peace of mind, even success,
so maybe the advice is just,
not to be ignored, a sort of timely
Health Warning from the Ministry
of Benevolence
at the Scottish Book Trust.

Gael Turnbull

No-one needs poetry

Poetry is not good for you

Satisfaction is not comfort

You can't eat a poem

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

all gone

The day is teetering already
the sun cannot guard us against winter
there are no loud clothes

But, wait a minute
the imprint of rogue colour
dazzles and one white billboard
blank, edged with rust red
sharp as a cymbal on the edge of the mix

It’s not as though it’s ready
for your free inscription
this is all bought space and paid for
next to the trees

And what if I made up a song
out of nothing but half seconds
quartered time, a great tearing sound
as if the words went, all gone sound
and this blinking empty board
waiting, flexing the ink
but I am whitened into day

What of tomorrow
even if the weather change
and I find all that I am, still pale
between the notes and beside signs

friday night

go by
does this seem

within the
basics of Friday

the lights
shine less lonely

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

downside and up

A few artistic grumbles lately, say, a disagreement in the way critics configure the field, but, no. musn't grumble.

It’s been a sunny winter’s day here, my fingers were caught badly in the lift door. I’m always working through the contradictions.

And to end on a better note, have been meaning to point you all in the direction of James Stuart’s c-side journal/ project/bunch of interesting stuff on-line. Latest ‘issue’ has work in the ‘collaborate” section by my good self but plenty of others including visual artists and musicians/composers/djs. Enjoy, world’s full of good things and all, you just have to walk out your own front door and take a look.

in medias

I did a reading/performance recently in Melbourne, which focussed on a collaborative work I made with Annette - a long text mixed with her photos. It was prepared using PowerPoint and, this time, a soundtrack I put together using (royalty-free) samples. I was nervous about the technology, as I'd never flown a data projector before with my humble li'l iBook, but there were no probs. Well, one or two slight things which I sorted in the hour before the event.

I realise that the work, Hidden Shrines, exists in many 'performance' spaces. There's a text version, ie a poem only, in my latest book, Broken/Open, which I'm sure you all have a copy of (not). It's also available online at fusebox.

Then there was the original 2003 version, done for the c-side project, presented in a bar kind of venue with djs accompanying the visuals. There's the flash version on Annette's website with me reading over the visuals. And now a re-zooshed PP presentation with a soundtrack accompaniment composed by moi (with no voiceover, just music and visuals). I think this latest version is closest to working as I want it to. I feel quite ambivalent about the voiceover.

It was interesting to get the reaction of print-focused poets, even those with a performance bent. By using animation, the 'page' in this work is visually dynamic and the placement and movement of the text creates different moments/movements (ie. text can appear on screen and disappear in various ways) to a print page or a performance/reading in time.

The questions I was asked afterwards were along the lines of, how does it relate to the page, ie., how do you read it? I was curious that these questions would be asked and I think it relates to the continuing primacy of the fixed page in many people's minds. Whereas I see this version of Hidden Shrines as a continuing performance which I can tweak and re-edit as needed. Of course, at readings poets all tweak page poems either purposely or by mistake, and many re-jig poems when they're re-published in a book or an anthology etc so we're all engaged in ongoing 'performance' (even our voices or our pages change with circumstances). The other thing which was said, almost the opposite reaction from the same people, was that they were having to read a poem as performance - this was said favourably.

By the way, I also read from page poems as well.

I found this all fascinating. I had rather taken what I was doing for granted but I realised I shouldn't. I hope to find the time to muck about with it all a bit more. The ongoing dependence on technology which can be awkward (though it's getting less so) and expensive-ish still to hire is the main drawback. I have had similar work transferred into DVD form - cheaper and more
straightforward to 'show' - but the images become too degraded and pixillated for my liking.

I always approach each situation, as much as I can, on its own grounds. The screen is often equated with the page but it is a different space. When you add animation (ie movement) and when you add the possibilities of different media/forms interacting in that space simultaneously, you've got a whole different ball game. It is something else.

The question of origin is a whole other thing. Is origination (awful word) something that happens before the mind/imagination (or whatever) gets to the page or any other media, or does it occur with some particular medium in mind, ie a paper page?

On the other hand, writing is visual. We can tend to forget that. But bearing that in mind, I don't think it's a great shift to 'see' writing in contexts other than a fixed, ie printed page.

Another question that came up later was about reproduceability, that if there's a moving text, then is it also possible to score in text on the page?

I guess the first reaction is, why would you want to score into a text something that exists in another medium? I like to think it can work in its own context. Again, it does have a ring of the page being primary, that digital media are secondary/inferior/johnny come lately and need somehow to partake of, conform to, work around, whatever, the way a fixed page operates.

By the way, don't get me wrong, I love paper and pens (I'm a fountain pen slut) and pages and type and all the rest. I am also interested in doing some basic, almost grungy, print stuff. Almost hand done, small print, cheap and accessible. And also, at the other end, some fine art publication, focus on design and print/image/presentation as much as the text stuff. In fact, I'm beginning to think seriously about such projects and talk with people.

Poetry is pretty flexible. I'm happy to bend with it, so far as I've got the energy, curiosity and chutzpah to do it.


For some reason I've been on a Dylan jag. I re-read Chronicles, a book I don't believe, but at least the first third of it was thoroughy enjoyable. It's a book which has a lot of interesting words and phrases and sentences but the parts hide the whole.

But I've trawled back through the music as well. I'm pretty much stuck on the 60s stuff but am starting to see some merits in the later work.

a thank you

You may have guessed I’ve been in a bit of a trough lately, I won’t labour it too much. In the midst of it all, Mark Young sent me a copy of The Cicerone. his latest chapbook, which is powerful, shivery and sharp writing. And a much appreciated gift.