Sunday, January 14, 2007

needs to be said

Very good post from Ernesto. about that film Apocalypto.

The consensus of reviewers here in Sydney seems to be that it is a very violent and rather silly but well-filmed action pic, if that's what you want, but it's sense of 'history' is off-beam. Ernesto analyses it much more deeply.

I haven't mentioned the director's name. I once wrote film reviews for a gay and lesbian weekly paper. The previous film reviewer whom I took over from, Simon Hunt (aka Pauline Pantsdown, for those who remember) told me, when handing over, that he had never reviewed or mentioned this certain person due to his well-publicised rants about gay men. I continued that tradition. But sometimes things need to be said.


I came across this good idea, Tom Beckett riffing on an idea from Jim McCrary - that a sonnet could be fourteen words, though Jim's poem is a fourteen line poem, each line of fourteen words. I wrote a number of sonnets this year and last year, but thought I might just try this idea. Not sure how it goes, but no harm in trying.

Material quivers even something away underneath dark clangs down patterns breeze place unravels moving

The mallet squeaks against its material echo and hovering crack around the wind blows

Constructs nails chocks the circular alarm quivers then stilled heart pulse and hot wind

The image is in the language but you cannot find it there even looking

Wind hustles along fortunes opinions always something said done nothing blanks road you’re on

Letters fall away into pages into paper all layers and pulp scratchings birds eat

Carry away grass to nest a parcel of lies the lies are again underneath

Always lived by seeing how love proceeds the thin path from the dark room

Remembering layers force fuse metal breach clangs nothing is effortless wings have their motion

Ichor across the concept insect brushed aside and down the page easier than blood

How thick waters and patterns perhaps reflective or dull as perceived the spinning machine

Diesel rushes up tatters day gone sun crows clouds outlines washing black in breeze

Take me down slowly into that place an empty room you’ve been in before

Sky never disappears and if it did that’s bad the road home unravels familiar

Filling in the blanks but land slides years filled with minutes within the moving

on the jukebox today

Ain't That Peculiar, Marvin Gaye; Tell Mama, Etta James; Dancing in the Street, Martha and the Vandellas; Papa Was A Rolling Stone, The Temptations; Get Up ... Sex Machine; James Brown; Walking the Dog, Rufus Thomas; Green Onions, Booker T. and the M.G.s; Born Under a Bad Sign, Albert King; Move On Up, Curtis Mayfield; Rescue Me, Fontella Bass, etc, etc.

Friday, January 12, 2007

roun' & about

the poem written with experience, not about experience

but there is the 'about', as the words go all about experience

listenlight - new

A new issue of listenlight has just been published.

"Fire on the water" --- listenlight 06 contains poetry by Frank Lima, Antonia Cima, William Allegrezza, Tom W. Lewis, Maurice Oliver, Jill Jones, Jordan Stempleman, Hugh Behm-Steinberg plus Letters to Poets by Dana Teen Lomax and Clair Braz-Valentine.

Editors: Jesse Crockett, Guillermo Parra

Good poetry, good design. Have a read.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Sunday, January 07, 2007

the smell of rain

I went out for a brief walk this afternoon. It was raining, but not so hard you needed an umbrella (I hate umbrellas anyway). And so very strong, the smell of rain.

I remember once reading out a poem of mine and having someone come up after the reading and note that I'd used the phrase 'the smell of rain'. I couldn't tell if he liked it or was simply taking the mickey (the latter, I suspect, as he was a very 'cool' poet and I am, manifestly, not).

I wondered about the smell. To me it's always been obvious. But today I decided to go and find, and here, via the ABC and CSIRO, is some hard data. The common rain smell comes from a gas called petrichor. Apparently, volatiles evaporate from plants and are absorbed by rocks, concrete etc. When the rain hits the rock, the volatiles are released into the atmosphere. That's why I can particularly smell it wandering along concrete paths and past sandstone walls.

If it's good enough for CSIRO, it's good enough for my poem.

Now to use petrichor in a poem.

the state of australian birds

If you're interested in the state of Australian bird life there are a number of reports available from Birds Australia, including the latest one on the effects of invasive species.

The report (a large download by the way and in a format that's a bit hard to read on a small screen) suggests that some native species are doing quite well, possibly too well (eg Australian white ibis) in some areas and others not so in other areas, for a number of complex reasons. But suffice to say that introduced plant species, as well as ferals (cats, foxes, etc) and many other invasive human factors, have upset the balance. This is no surprise in general but the details are worth reading.

The most common birds I see around my home include the noisy miner (introduced), spotted turtle dove/pigeon (introduced), blackbirds (introduced), pied currawongs, magpies, lorrikeets and Australian ravens (or crows as most people call them) plus silver-eyes and New Holland honeyeaters. The point is, are the natives in this list the ones that would normally have been seen around here a couple of hundred years ago, let alone 20, 50 or 90 years ago?

and, yep, I'm just wasting time now ...

ok, an occasional - for the sake of it

Stray elements

How do you deal with
Make religions of it?

Elements, strays and appearances

What flies up into a place
you cannot tread?

It’s also a quality of waiting
“please listen to the announcements”
Every day requests
mounting your shoulders in a list

There’s the smoke between us
and upon us
it comes from the mountains
it’s a truth of forests, burning
eucalyptus that saves itself
without definitions

Flames take up meaning
and shut it out
lungs lose their syllables

Once you were breathless
laughing round the table
gossipy and as real
as ashy litters

Extremities seem to have origins
They can become so
within the slur space
of the tongue

That rivers have causes?

Written late last year whilst the bush fires were happening in too many places in the nation. If that makes it 'occasional'.


I've been trying for some time - months, it seems - to write something. Not just the occasional, but something. I get a run on, then realise that ain't working, put it away, start somewhere else, have 'grand' ideas for 'projects', and, by jingoes, it just doesn't work, none of it.

It's nothing to do with 'writer's block' - by crikey, I'm writin' and the thumbnail dipped in tar is wearin' out.

It doesn't help that I've been reading these rather dispiriting posts, starting with Ron Silliman's reference to a US poet called Bill Knott who wants most poets of a 'certain age' to go and off themselves. Now, I don't know this bloke's work (tho' all the US comment-box responders seem to) and I wondered if he was bunging it on (hey, just saying what it seems to me, no assumptions - the cove could be making a serious suggestion - as I said, I don't know him from a bar of ... but wish him all the best with his work and life, nonetheless).

And I was also looking at this rather odd US phenomenon called Foetry. Geez, there's some seriously ticked-off people on their forums. True. I'd advise a once-only visit, if at all, notwithstanding that I recently heard some mildly disturbing things about processes relating to a poetry prize. No, that way madness lies.

And in the end (not that I'm quoting The Beatles), it's got me out of myself - or at least up and dressed and onto my third coffee - with the thought that ... what ... something will work, at some stage, eventually.

I'm also in a clean-up mood and am thinking of heaving out a whole lot of old stuff. All that yellowing paper with drafts that go nowhere are not a good look (I'm giving a recent heap the evil eye as I type). Cleaning up, I know, is avoidance behaviour but it does make your endorphins do a little dance for a moment. There's also a possible storm coming. I hope it rains.



South Winds jostle them-
Bumblebees come-
Hover- hesitate-
Drink, and are gone-

Butterflies pause
On their passage Cashmere-
I- softly plucking,
Present them here!

- Emily Dickinson

Just a way of saying that there have been a number of butterflies in the garden recently. And also, amongst all the birds, the silvereyes again. Annette found half of one of their eggs on the ground. We want to assume that the little one hatched and that is why they are flitting round, teaching the child/ren well.

note to self - on assumptions

I think, after all, what really gets me is that we think we know. So we pontificate, even lightly, over 'what is happening in poetry', or 'what the poets are thinking this week, what the poets are writing this year'. And we have no idea. I include myself.

I am reading a literary magazine which has a 'theme'. (I'm not a fan of themes, but I understand why it's done.) And I can envisage what comes from that. The poets represented in that issue will get picked up as being those interested in the 'theme', as if those not in it are not, to some extent. This gets replicated in lazy critiquing (usually via journalism, reviews, essays, the like - we all see some pretty lazy stuff these days, not much above a cut-and-paste of a press release or regurgitation of a much-rehearsed pontification).

This is a weakness of anthologies, best-ofs, omnibus-style reviews, themed publications and the like. It's a form of 'representation' that becomes viral. And results, often, in various poets become identified with a certain style or content without any real investigation of the breadth of what they are actually writing.

If it irritates me with regard to my work, it must get others as well. Note to self - no easy assumptions.

clog dancing

Marjorie Perloff puts her finger on something that one knows, but perhaps it needs to be said from time-to-time. Writing in the TLS Dec 1 2006, on p. 11, she is discussing Terry Eagleton’s How to read a Poem, and begins by quoting Eagleton:

-- ' “Like thatching or clog dancing … literary criticism seems to be something of a dying art”. The villain, he [Eagleton] believes, is not, as is often supposed, theory: some of our best readers of poetry – for example, William Empson and Roman Jakobson [and one could add Perloff] – were, after all, theorists. No “what threatens to scupper verbal sensitivity is the depthless, commodified, instantly legible world of advanced capitalism, with its unscrupulous ways with signs, computerized communication and glossy packaging of experience”. In my view, a more powerful enemy of literary criticism has been the new Cultural Studies, with its insistence that poetry must do “cultural work” – must, for example, expose racism or imperialism – if it is to be taken at all seriously.’ --

I would question the notion of ‘sensitivity’ and would take part of what Eagleton says in a Virilio direction, rather than the rather pat way he puts it (but, sure, it’s a quote taken out of context). And I would put a slightly different slant on Cultural Studies than Perloff – that it’s not the exposing we’re really worried about but, yes, the expectation that criticism and, indeed, poetry, is expected to do cultural work, which at its blandest, means that curricula are built around themes such as 'imperialism'. In other words, poetry is primarily considered under other rubrics, not for what poetry does (which I know begs a huge number of questions).


There's some good stuff available here from the archives of The Chicago Review.

feeling slightly dislimned

In the Times Literary Supplement of November 3 2006, our favourite curmudgeon J.C., wishes to ban the use of the word 'limn' from reviewing pages, which is fair enough, and points out that the only two users of its opposite, dislimn, so far as he knows, have been John Buchan (eg from The Thirty-nine Steps - "The plump men's features seemed to dislimn, and form again") and Shakespeare. Well, it seems De Quincy also used the word, rather appropriately one would think, at least according to Speller's Diary which says that:

-- 'Dislimn has nothing to do with removing arms or legs. It reverses "limn"-- which means to paint, delineate or describe. [Yikes, I can see a mini-essay on THAT word someday...]. Thus, "dislimn" means to obscure or efface. A secondary meaning is to vanish. The Bard has pride of place in using it. From Antony & Cleopatra, "Sometime we see a clowd that's Dragonish, A vapour sometime, like a Bear, or Lyon..That which is now a Horse, even with a thoght, The Rack dislimes, and makes it indistinct..."(4.14). "The Rack" here is a bank of clouds. We see a shape in the clouds and then, poof, it is gone. The clouds shift their position or fade in color and all of a sudden the lion or bear we saw has disappeared.Why say "the rack dislimns" rather than "the clouds efface?" Well, why study words rather than watch reality TV? I don't know, but I don't take it as my task to write protreptics. Didn't Jesus say, "Those who have ears to hear, let them eat cake?" Something like that.

Well, you can tell that dislimn at least affected one writer. In the 19th century De Quincy could say, "The flash..of colourable truth, being as frail as the resemblances in clouds, would, like them, unmould and 'dislimn' itself." An amarathine splendor never dislimns, but anything that aids in the fading process, anything that obscures or wipes out, can be said to "dislimn" something. I think the word has lots of life left in it.' --

I think there have been times when I've felt a tad dislimned, especially in 2006. And 'dislimes' is great. Who will use that in 2007?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

these times

in a landscape not abundant love
we were lowered the edge
like torsos .......... of the days

on the road assembled
into sections:
newspaper, autumn, a tonne
of energy

- pleasure of childhood
the cat, the black one -
were no longer .......... the goal

we went interior (to joy
before death

of red) Beloved
............... of rain
yes, the interior ..... breathe!

...... of summer
tore me out of it