Thursday, December 21, 2006

seasonal sonnet 2

These temptations & spare Change
- something like a flip
waiting the station like rain
& leaving the Umbrella
for the homeless office worker
and another spreadsheet
Revisions demand the Rising
actions speaking louder than
Other than the phone

Pick me up o southerlies!
there is no snow
just some sort of ancient kindness
Nothing gone begging
But we're up for it

seasonal sonnet 1

At any end it's about Durance
And title - tho' calling a spade
A shovel near Xmas
Gets lost without party
Some years end in yellow
Some in smoky cumulus
This day is a slender Green
You can almost see the brush strokes

So holding on, like 'holding the man'
Is hard
But we are not men!
Which leaves us Outside, our arms
Lifting the minutes of the Rest
And holding our own green

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

fire season

becomes us
between each space

have learned
to keep secrets

in the life

Inspired by Tom Beckett's Day Project, here's the jumble of my day yesterday, as my head remember late last night.

dream and real, radio
evacuate and spiel
forgetting on a desk
and horizon has forgotten me
until I see leaf movement
friends leaving
excavate work lines
white soap, pale body

phone phone ascend and phone
descend, a fiddle tune, humidity
documentary about the Queen
a little Urn in cricket hands
coffee, tea, Peking noodle, stain
ascend, lift, rise
fall, incessant
voice beginning to crack

looking for a last signature
eyes still itch
long distance till you return
own bed, book on Cook
sauvignon blanc, sports screen
negotiation stalls and flows
green dusty air
escape, you wish

Sunday, December 17, 2006

catching up with things

The much esteemed Cordite is refreshed with issue number 25: Generation of Zeroes.

And at last something to come home to, the sixth issue of Divan is finally on line.

Some of my thoughts on blogging are here .

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

the woods today

Yesterday I saw a bloke holding a teddy bear today, at the Devonshire Street entrance to Central. The man's thin greyish hair and beard matched the teddy bear's fur. That seemed kinda neat, I thought, as man and bear went off in a different direction to mine.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

looking for horizons

"What if, say, the manner of going over the ground were itself a poetic act, and not merely a prosaic means of getting from one place to another."
Paul Carter, The Lie of the Land

They have taken away our signs. Many years ago I mourned, ever so slightly, the disappearance from the main city train stations here in Sydney, of the large static indicator boards. Well, no, they weren't static - there was movement. A light would go on beside each station the next train would stop at. Anyone who was a regular could tell just by looking at how the board was lit if the next train was theirs. They didn't have to read, they could just sum it all up in a look. When you're running, the ability to sum up the situation in a glance is important.

For some years these major stations have used screen-based indicator boards, which you must read as the names flow by quickly - or you must take a chance when a train is standing there as you rush up. More than once my chance has been wrong. Besides, on outdoor stations the screens are hard to read due to reflection. Some stations, such as St Leonards and Sydenham, do use black screens with orange or red text, kind of an electronic tickertape. I can do that, almost.

But today (Monday) at Marrickville, no more wooden, manually operated indicator board, no more clock face with moveable hands. We have a screen, which you can't see coming down the stairs as it's halfway along the platform. And I cannot read it from my usual spot. (One's 'usual spot' is important in the hierarchy of city needs.) Anyway, I squinted and scrunched and concentrated but, nup, no could read, unless I walked right up close to the screen (there's only one per platform).

Screens may be exact and quick but you have be right up on them. Horizons are starting to become a thing of the past, like wood and brass and sign writing. I wonder what is becoming of the peripatetic eye, or what of changes made directly by hand, inexact and human, what is happening to how we see perspectives, the folds and turns of the land. I shall need to take more time at my desk to stare out into the limited but reasonably interesting and changeable horizon I can see from the fourth floor. Not because I'm bored or distracted but because it is necessary to keep seeing, that reading which is beyond text and isn't pixellated, squarish, flattened and tiring. And take my chances with timetables.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


"The more daily life is eroded ... the more we must counter this trend with complex, initiatiary sets of rules ... A work, an object, a piece of architecture, a photograph, but equally a crime or an event, must be the allegory of something, be a challenge to someone, bring chance into play and produce vertigo."

Jean Baudrillard, The Intelligence of Evil: Or the Lucidity Pact, (trans Chris Turner)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

listening ...

Sakura, Susumu Yokota ...


Literary Histories [Le storie letterarie]

I have always been of the opinion
that Shakespeare was a cooperative.
That for his jests he always used charlatans
like himself in genius but careless
of everything else except money.
Survival can't swallow too much.
At times it digests a platoon,
at others it distills a few syllables
and throws a monument in the wastebasket.
It reproduces like mushrooms, you might find
a whole lot of them at once, and then
you are empty-handed for a whole day,
or a year or a century. It depends.

Eugenio Montale
(trans G. Singh)

better git it in your soul

My everyday soul plays like the wind in litter and noise. Am I soul-less? Maybe so.

I was asked on Friday afternoon: 'Are you an artist or a bureaucrat?' I have to say that, by this stage of a rather long day, wearing outwardly my bureaucrat's hat, I was rather tired of sitting in an auditorium listening to the usual shots at my day job, beloved of hack journalists in this country (who can forget the 'fat cats' line, flogged around many years ago now) and those more interested in deferral and distant academic pontification. So I replied, rather tartly I must confess, 'I'm both. Is that a problem?'

My interrogator, someone I did not know, took a deep breath (I said I was very tart by this stage) and then came out with questions along the line of, what happens to your, and I quote, 'artistic soul' - in other words, you couldn't possibly work as a bureaucrat and be an artist as it would damage your art, irreparably, I was to suppose. My next tart response was: 'I don't believe in an artistic soul.' He blanched as I continued. 'It's a rather romantic notion, don't you think.'

He appeared to concede rather than agree and then, grasping at some kind of straw, he suggested that a far older notion, the Greek Muse, was what he meant. Again, you can guess what I said. He then said something along the lines of, 'So how do you write if you have no soul?'. Now, that wasn't what I had denied (nor confirmed, for that matter), as he had been talking of an 'artistic soul' or 'the muse' not 'the soul' or the 'git it' kinda soul, but as I was about to tell him what, as a writer, I did do, my phone rang and the conversation terminated.

I walked by later and overheard the same man speaking animatedly to another man who, from the conversation, appeared to be an artist from an Indonesian background. They were speaking of art and Islam and then I heard the word 'Jesus' mentioned. Had I escaped a god-botherer, or are there people out there who seriously do believe in an 'artistic soul'? I was curious and repeated the conversation to a few people I know, people from writing, theatre and visual arts practices. Most of them softly laughed or grimaced, as though they too had not heard such a notion for a long time.

So, I was not alone, but am I soul-less? I'm not worried if I am, as the absence of this 'soul' hasn't stopped me making work which has got there to some effect. I have language, emotion, and thought (though there's a tricky notion) and the material physical wherewithal to write and type. There it is - poems happen through work, they happen in the world. I have my own thoughts on 'spirit' which I keep to myself, though they have nothing to do with Muses and everything to do with being in the world (errgh, that has a resonance I don't really intend, but I'll let it stand). What I am worrying at, like a cat worrying at paper, is that someone would ask such a question. I don't think I am affronted, I think I am genuinely perplexed.


And now, I have just alighted on this page, from an essay Italo Calvino wrote in 1967:
"Various aesthetic theories maintained that poetry was a matter of inspiration descending from I don't know what lofty place, or welling up from I know not what great depths ... or the Voice of the Times with which the Spirit of the World choose to speak to the poet ... or at any rate something intuitive, immediate, authentic, and all-embracing that springs up who knows how, something equivalent and homologous to something else, and symbolic of it. But in these theories there always remained a void that no one knew how to fill, a zone of darkness between cause and effect: how does one arrive at the written page? ... Literature as I knew it was a constant series of attempts to make one word stay put after another by following certain definite rules; or, more often, rules that were neither definite nor definable, but that might be extracted from a series of examples, or rules made up for the occasion - that is to say, derived from the rules followed by other writers. ... The so-called personality of the writer exists within the very act of writing: it is the product and the instrument of the writing process ... Writers, as they have always been up to now, are already writing machines; or at least they are when things are going well. What Romantic terminology called genius or talent or inspiration or intuition is nothing other than finding the right road empirically, following one's nose, taking short cuts, whereas the machine [the current and future state of cybernetics Calvino was speaking of] would follow a systematic and conscientious route while being extremely rapid and multiple at the same time."

Calvino, of course, goes on to prefigure Barthes' famous 'death of the author' (of 1968), by saying:
"The author: that anachronistic personage, the bearer of messages, the director of consciences, the giver of lectures to cultural bodies. The rite we are celebrating at this moment would be absurd if we were unable to give it the sense of a funeral service, seeing the author off to the Nether Regions and celebrating the constant resurrection of the work of literature; if we were unable to introduce into this meeting of ours something of the gaiety of those funeral feasts at which the ancients reestablished their contact with living things.

"And so the author vanishes-that spoiled child of ignorance - to give place to a more thoughtful person, a person who will know that the author is a machine, and will know how this machine works."

And I have this other feeling worrying at me, that whatever way one uses to talk about or fill in that 'zone of darkness between cause and effect' will consist of something out of the symbolic, whether it is genius or soul, or merely the journey that Calvino describes. But journeying, finding the way, is at least something we do, physically everyday, even as our eyes open (if we can see) or our legs move (if we can walk) or, indeed, the heart beats in changefulness as the different states of consciousness register from sleep to wakefulness. That is, getting on with it.

[quotes from Calvino, 'Cybernetics and Ghosts' in The Literature Machine, pp 14-16, Vintage, 1997, trans Patrick Creagh]

while cleaning up

I wish I did not need this green plastic bag
I would walk on sand and carry nothing
if I did not need action and reaction.

Rope would be useful but not steel
I would love the grain of sticks, deltas of leaves
But not the noise of this bag

Thursday, December 07, 2006

to return

Questa sfera arida parte ogni discorso e ogni poema; e ogni viaggio attraverso foreste battaglie tesori banchetti alcove ci riporta qui, al centro d'un orizzonte vuoto.

"From this arid sphere every discourse and every poem sets forth; and every journey through forests, battles, treasures, banquets, bedchambers, brings us back here, to the centre of an empty horizon."

Italo Calvino, The Castle of Crossed Destinies (translation by William Weaver)

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

angels and ovals

this is a tough journey hussey
enjoys vultures monitor attitude devour uncertainty
angels appeal & grunt they have longevity
and bowling brains bones

Nick Whittock from "magnum ponting"

What a magnificent match! Whosoever says cricket is boring does not know the way of the way, in all its reversals and dramas.



To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee.
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.

- Emily Dickinson

on the way

Reversal is the movement of the Way;
Weakness is the usage of the Way.

All creatures under heaven are born from being;
Being is born from nonbeing.

Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching (trs Victor H. Mair)



A Route of Evanescence
With a revolving Wheel-
A Resonance of Emerald-
A Rush of Cochineal-
And every Blossom on the Bush
Adjusts its tumbled Head-
The mail from Tunis, probably,
An easy Morning’s Ride-

- Emily Dickinson

Monday, December 04, 2006


"In intention, the ego progressively loses its ego individual character
and finds itself carried to a universal value
that makes it escape from the strictly ego form of the ego. It is, nonetheless
only through intention that the formless ego becomes
self-consciousness. Thus the ego is a transient fact, not only as a result of its
chance birth and its approaching death, but also because
the process that determines it is also the one that
exhausts it. it is impossible even to reach
a clear distinction between determination and
exhaustion. The determined ego is, by the sheer fact
of determination, an exhausted ego."

Georges Bataille, Critique of Heidegger

from Bataille's original manuscript, Biblioteque Nationale de France (trs Stefanos Geroulanos).
In October 117, Summer 2006.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

weight & appearance

The Trees

"Because we are like tree trunks in the snow. They appear to lie smoothly, and with a small shove one should be able to push them away. No, it is impossible because they are firmly bound to the earth. But see, even that is only appearance."

Kafka, 'The Trees', from Contemplation, (trs Kevin Blahut)

possibilities - amongst atoms

"The poetry of the invisible, of infinite unexpected possibilities - even the poetry of nothingness - issues from a poet who had no doubts whatever about the physical reality of the world."

Calvino - on Lucretius, from Six memos for the next millennium.