Sunday, October 15, 2006

thank yous

Thanks to Michael, Candice, Mark, Jean, Derek, Meredith, Louise and others for birthday wishes and/or get well wishes.

I definitely can't do anything fancy with a keyboard and mouse at the moment. I will catch up on some reading.

I've let the poor old thumb out into the air this morning for a little while. It's not that gross, and that's thanks to everyone at Royal Prince Alfred on Thursday night and Friday morning. It should heal well and join one or two other minor scars on my hands.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

birfday blues

Just to say that I got an unexpected birthday present yesterday (13th). Five stitches in my right thumb after a misadventure with glass, late on the 12th. So I won't be doing a lot of tapping on the blog keys next little while, as my lefthand skills are rudimentary and way slow. Can't even write proper. No real pain and no extreme damage but a hindrance.

The worst thing was having to endure some very dire late night early morning television in the hospital waiting room. Not only Mel Gibson's so-called confessional interview (yeah right), but a phone-in 'quiz' show (in reality, a guessing game) whose subject was Biscuits. A Tim Tam, Salada or Kingston, anyone? The local anaesthetic and the sewing bit was, almost, a welcome alternative. And did I mention I'm not good with blood? Oh well, I have a bit less of it now. Looking forward to next birthday.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

how does the moon see?

I should tell you about a new book, The Moon Sees the One, by Candice Ward. It's been produced and published by Randolph Healy's wonderful Wild Honey Press, based in Ireland. As with all Wild Honey books, it is made with care and love, hand stitched and beautiful to read.

The book holds the ghosts of nursery rhymes and old songs alongside the ghost of theory. There's also the ghosts of various poets and singers, many of which are quoted or gestured towards. There are ekphrastic gestures as well. The book is full of delight as well as shadows, and there are lines that will make you laugh with their punning fervour. Candice, of course, knows how to use the line which, in this chapbook, is deft and dancing. And overall I felt, as I read it, a form of ecopoetics, of speaking beyond the self, a restless entanglement with both the intimate and larger things, as well as a full immersion in the language material.

I'll quote this following poem, which I published in a much earlier version in a small chapbook I edited entitled Landscape Poems, part of a series of books that arose out of the Poetry Espresso list.

Alphabet Trees

thorn of the downs
I hear your breath
fast fold fast fold
isle, fold, clasp

ash of the hills
you have more names
than even ice's kinds-
the higher to prune
us, cows send
dung to laurel, cherry
down in the valley

oak of the clay
get the lead out
absent your ac
how can birch
make a start


- Candice Ward


Do yourself a favour and get a copy of The Moon Sees the One. You can order direct from Wild Honey.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

lilies and thunder

As anyone who knows me realises, I'm not a one for any common or garden poetry anthology, but I picked up one today which is quite intriguing. It's called The Thunder Mutters: 101 Poems for the Planet edited by British poet Alice Oswald. The fact that its selections are from poets such as Ashbery, Marinetti, Ponge, Popa, Beckett and Bunting as well as Auden, Hopkins, Clare, Heaney and Burns as well as the prolific Anon, is of interest.

I suppose you could call it an anthology of 'nature' poetry. I am always wary of the concept of 'nature' - I ask 'what is natural?' and then get into political debates, or wonder why people point at 'nature' away from human. Nonetheless, I was interested in the 'ecopoetics' of this selection. And the more obvious anthology pieces (say 'God's Grandeur' or excerpts from 'Leaves of Grass') work along with Aboriginal song cycle poems. Or John Barleycorn, as interesting as any a work of ecopoetics ('They've ploughed, they've sown, they've harrowed him in ...').

Oswald says that she's preferred 'restless poems ... At their best they work like little lists, little heaps of self-sufficient sentences that keep the poems open to the many-centred energies of the natural world’ and that there are 'no prospect, pastorals or nostalgic poems'. This listy, cumulative approach, as well as the many old songs, works as a kind of rough litany, if not elegy, for the planet.

It sends me back to a funny old volume someone picked up at a sale for me. It's called 'The Poetry of Earth: A Nature Anthology', published by George G. Harrap and Sons, with no editor named nor date given. It's a hard cover with foxed pages and a frontispiece portrait of Wordsworth. It contains a lot of mixed poetry and prose excerpts from the likes of Emerson, Wordsworth, Ruskin, Sir Walter Scott, Longfellow, George Eliot, 'Mrs' Browning (this shows its age) and Marlowe as well as a lot of names I am not familiar with. For all its worthy post-Victorian flavour, I quite like to browse there as well. And to be reminded of even this: 'Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.'

Belatedly, I should note:

Issue Number Five of Melancholia's Tremulous Dreadlocks wherein, amongst many others, are these poems, and

nthposition wherein these poems.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

so
I have
been busy - ok?

no
wonder I
don' have the

time
to be
writing a poem

a walk in the park

As I said, I couldn't make it to the Picture Show launch last Friday night, unfortunately, as I was being Annette's handbag at the launch of Art & About. Annette has a photograph in the Sydney Life part of this public art thingie. Sydney Life consists of 29 photographs blown up onto canvas and strung up in the trees in Sydney's Hyde Park. You can see Annette's pic, 'Annette Willis: Niki and José, 2006' and others here.

A good way to see Sydney Life, I believe, is to go to the night noodle markets,. Annette and I intend to do just that some time soon.

this is not chocolate?

Also a pleasure to catch up again with Ivy Alvarez. Last time (indeed, the first time) Ivy and I met was over a hot chocolate in Dublin. A mighty fine hot chocolate, I must say. Ivy currrently lives in Cardiff now but she's back in Australia for the Poetry Picture Show, another project from the indefatigable Johanna Featherstone and her Red Room Company.

Ivy gave me a copy of her chapbook, 'What's Wrong?', another mighty fine thing. We definitely agreed that sometimes you need to make your own stuff (a chapbook, a zine, or whatever) - just do it and get it out there. I have some ideas, but nothing to show for them quite yet.

this is not poetry?

I also caught up with Michael Farrell, who was up this way for the Critical Animals component of TINA (This Is Not Art) in Newcastle, and also was staying in Sydney. In fact, some of us toasted his birthday while he was here. Another Libran, like yours truly.

Michael has a new book out, BREAK ME OUCH, which is a poetry comic book (or 'poetry cartoons', Michael says) in a neat A4 black and white format, funny, zany, cool. He put it together himself with the help of 3 Deep, but I can't find a direct link to it on their site. I'm sure Michael would direct you to where you could get copies.

a bit of ub-ub

I had the pleasure of hearing, live and in person, the work of Christian Bök last week. He was in the country for work down in Wollongong but was able to visit Sydney for a gig at UTS, for Martin Harrison's poetry class and for a few interlopers such as myself and other Sydney poets. Christian is supposed to be able to do the fastest rendition of Schwitters' "Ursonate". I'm sure that's correct and we got a taste of that work, plus readings from parts of Eunoia, including Vowels, which was cool. One of my other favourites was 'Valuveula', which he called an 'alien hymn', originally written for one of those Gene Roddenberry's sci-fi television shows. The language has no nouns or verbs, so there's a lot of 'as iffing' needing to be 'translated'. I also admired a beatboxish poem (well, that's what it sounded like to me) which used no mikes, no tapes, no technology, just the body, the voice, and all its textures. And very funny was "Ubu Hubbub" which Christian says is one of his few 'political' works based on what he imagined Ubu Roi might sound like when he hit the hustings.

Phew, I was amazed, let me say. Talk about your materiality of language, talk about working, talk about high energy and enthusiasm, talk about the breath. And afterwards, chatting with another poet, I and she thought we had to go home and practice making all our own fabulous sounds. But I know my body's too far gone for that these days. My throat and sinuses just wouldn't perform and as for my lungs ... oh dear.

Christian is a great guy, too. A bunch of us got together with him a coupla times, for a bevvie and a meal, including dinner at the Emperor's Garden in Chinatown. (This venue must be heading into legendary territory. Many, many poets' dinners have been had here. We've all discussed a plaque at the EG. One day, maybe.)

Not sure what's with me but I'm dawdling. Spring shouldn't be tiring. Perhaps barometric pressure changes things, every whichway. I can barely scribble, let alone write.

I stare at my hands which seem dry in the southerly that's blown up our valley today. It knocks down our pot plants - big pots, I'm telling ya. Boof boof goes the wind and down they go.

I tried to tidy my desk which means sweeping away one layer but not the many.

I'm listening to jazz - Bernie McGann's fabulous alto.

I'll get some more things here soon, Dawdle, dawdle, dawdle.

Meanwhile I'm drinking a lot of water trying to replace those 'precious bodily fluids' the high wind dries out (besides I've been a little poorly for a day or two and need something clear and cold to wash through me).