Sunday, July 29, 2007

where i'm going

Just to say, I'm not taking off for other climes immediately but quite soon.

Mid September in New York then Quebec into October, then across the Atlantic to Frankfurt for the Book Fair, then some time in Paris. Then very late October for three days in Helsinki and a quick stop in Hong Kong.

Happy to catch up with anyone or anything along that way.

very sydney

Over the last day and a bit I've been thinking about the villages of Sydney. It's common to think of the urban spread as something either amorphous or monolithic, when it isn't. Inner city types sneer at the burbs and 'westies', certain people won't cross the Bridge either way and everyone else thinks North Shore and eastern suburbs types are up themselves. (I was born on the North Shore, in case you were wondering.)

This is all partly because I have family on my mind. I was having dinner with friends last night over in Paddington - on the sports ground side, meaning we had to make our way through Sydney Swans supporters to get there (Swans won, by the way). At one stage of the evening we were speaking of Manly, a suburb I've never lived in but where my parents had a second-hand bookshop for many years, and which I managed on week days for quite a while. But one of my friends remembered it clearly. 'The Manly Book Exchange,' he said. Indeed. These days the Corso seems to be one long eatery, but in those days Manly was full of holiday flats and had a slight bohemian or raffish air. I recall writers coming into the bookshop, Dymphna Cusack with her impossible hairdo and bossy manner, and a fellow whose name I can't recall, natty dresser with moustache and cravat, after second-hand copies of his own books of south seas adventures. Frank Hardy also lived there. And Molly Askin, widow of the notorious NSW Premier, Robin (later Robert) Askin, coming in to buy crime novels. The shop, when we ran it, existed in two locations, and in the second, larger one, my father also had his paintings hanging on the wall for sale.

Anyhow, last night, we left our friends at a late hour in search of a cab, mistakenly heading for Oxford Street (on a Saturday night, what were we thinking?) From the Paddington edge down to Taylor Square all we encountered were hordes of moderately pissed persons, mainly heterosexual, also looking for cabs or milling about various pubs and clubs. Actually, I don't think I saw one obviously gay person. That in itself was kinda odd. It wasn't too ugly, just unsettling. We found a cab outside Arc nightclub in Flinders Street. Good! And we headed home via Redfern and Sydney Park. First, we got the gen about where we should have gone for a cab - South Dowling Street.

As we passed through Redfern, and the cabbie locked the doors, he told us of a recent encounter, assuring us that a locked door wouldn't keep you safe. He told us of seeing an incident where a young guy, 18 years or so, knocked on a window of a stationary car asking for money. After the driver told the kid to 'fuck off', the kid punched a hole in the car's window, reached in, stole the car keys, grabbed the driver by the back of the neck and repeatedly smashed his head against the steering wheel while his female passenger become hysterical, as I suppose you might, as blood and all was apparently everywhere. The kid raced off before anyone else could stop it. It was about five in the afternoon. Shit happens. It's an area where shit happens like that, as any Sydneysider would know. I've had drink containers thrown at my taxi's window while going through there. You're always careful and best not rile anyone. We got home OK, of course.

Today we had to drive over to the Northern Beaches, Mona Vale, to visit my mother. I was thinking of all this as we drove, first through the Harbour Tunnel to avoid any fallout from a 'practice run' in the city by the cops and powers that be for the upcoming and unwanted APEC meeting. I always feel the weight of the harbour waters as we go through that tunnel. Then you hit the north side, the dozens of bitumen and concrete ways of steering cars in various directions north. At that point it seems like any road system in any big city. Shanghai comes to mind for no particular reason.

Then begins the suburbs and memories of my earlier years. Cammeray, with its quaint stone tower bridge leads on to Castlecrag, where I was born, in the old Walter Burley Griffin hospital, which I think has gone now. Dark brick houses, red tile roofs, suburbs on hills. My father built a cape cod style house there after the war (the WW II one). It's still there. In between, small industrial zones, then Roseville Chase and the modern bridge replacing many many years ago a wonderful but rickety bridge and heading into 'new' suburbs, that is, the post-war spread of housing into bush lands. These suburbs are a mix of blond brick sixties housing and newer mcmansion styles. Lots of trees and even more as we turn off to the left, where there used to be the old 'blinking light' intersection. This is Oxford Falls, which is semi-bushland and market garden territory. The Ba'hai Temple is nearby. At this point the drive becomes more pleasant as we skirt national park until we reach the bottom and Narrabeen Lakes, past the Sports Institute. Then, oh dear, we have to stop as I desperately need a loo break. There's a picnic area with the requisite. Right on the lake, sandy grass, she-oak leaves on the ground, 21st century versions of kids play areas, clusters of trees, clusters of families. Picnic areas seem to dot my childhood.

And the northern beaches. My adolescence - the old fibro shacks, the sixties three storey walk-ups, the tacky streetscapes of small industry, the sense of the sea, sand hills, just there - and an alien territory now, with the bloated mcmansions overtaking each little housing block.

I do what I need to do, family-wise, and we finally get back to our own suburb, the traffic jam along Illawarra Road, the Vietnamese butchers and fishmongers, the Tibetan shop, the Happy Cup, the coffee and nut shop run by Lebanese, the busyness of Sunday afternoon shopping that seemed completely absent from the other streets we'd been in today, everything normal as anything is normal. Nothing is normal and I have run out of things to say about all this. My history seems both heavy and irrelevant. Tomorrow I go to work, alongside the suits and junkies, Korean tourists and backpackers, the beggars and blokes that hang round Central. I'll be going back northside this week, I'm sure. Some things come to an end, in the continuum, in this city where they began.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

electric north

Here we go! Finnish poetry in all-electric verse.

I am going to Helsinki soonish (also New York, Quebec, Frankfurt, Paris and Hong Kong, sort of in that order) so I better get to know some more. I'll have never been so far north, that's for sure.

on bloggering around

Australian writer Sophie Cunningham has written a useful
article on writers and blogging in this week's Age. I knew this was coming as it arose partly from a discussion about blogging which took place on the Australian literary weblog, Sarsaparilla, and regarding which yours truly made a comment.

It surveys why a lot of writers blog and don't blog. F'r instance, James Bradley says: "I suspect the reason a lot of novelists and fiction writers don't blog is to do with an unease about dismantling the psychological barriers a lot of us erect to allow us to write in the first place", while Miss Boynton says, "I wonder what writers can learn from blogging? (the electric speed of playful language for one, where ideas seed)."

The article won't sell the idea to bloggers, cos we're doin' it, but might get a discussion going amongst the sceptics. But, in the end, each to their own process.

talkin' poetry

There's a new feature at British poetry site metaroar consisting of a group Q&A between NSW writer Angela Meyer and three Australian poets, David Prater, Paul Hardacre, and myself.

Angela's introduction says, in part, "Australia’s physical distance from the rest of the Western world can make its artists informed reflectors. It is a mish-mash of cultures, of opinions, of denials. It is still young. Mostly, modern Australian poetry recognises its roots but rejects becoming entwined with them. It wanders, delves, is frightened and influenced by a global environment."

The article makes for an interesting play between different poetics and experiences, the things similar and not the same.

From Paul: "I’d say that beauty has been vanquished. So you can see that my politics is a politics whose source is invariably love, compassion and a shared sense of humanity; a politics of similarities, instead of differences."

From David: "I didn’t start writing poetry till I left school, and even then the first five years I was writing are best forgotten. I stopped writing poetry in the mid-1990s but took it up again in earnest when I moved to Melbourne in 1998. That being said, of course I have an imaginary life, wherein my poetry forms the language I speak, to myself."

From Jill: "Poetry is a social thing, but I don’t think of it as having a ‘role in society’. Maybe I should. Poetry does things with language, language is important. Perhaps poetry’s role is to be resistant. And to refresh language. Lively it up! Stop it corroding. But now that makes it sound like a product, for polishing language. It is language work, something you do, not use."

Check out more at metaroar!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The beyond elegy

Those in a landscape know
on the road systems assemble
goals, the black ones
sectioned in newspapers
those not abundant in love
know the parted edge, the torso
beloved of rain, of summer
that love song, delayed, delayed
on extinct avenues, preceding
the thousand eyes, which fire
the future rather than regrets
mobilising bodies of the narcissus

To increase without knowledge
comment hidden by the heart
like any sound in distant sectors
under palms, the practice of death
in a world where ardour survives
an expensive one
which denies you
so that you exist, only you
if the systems are be-jammed
will you not walk outside
into the loneliness of a scene
in front of armours, goodbye speak

Quandary makes its night song for you
who it constructed, as expensive harms
increase in storm, producing victims
to ask for your sisters, orphans
the song trespasses slumber
delivers the black swan to a place
of noise and famished dancers
who go, in order to stay while
you sink through pagan screens
a morning with its unicorn
whose narrow fragrant crosspiece
still tastes of one, of fields which

la vie en rose

You get swamped
by the peleton
if you can’t find the wheel.
Turning on a rhapsody of pain
your own chateau
seems strange in summer light.
It’s not enough to be valiant.
The sermons say different.
Four slim points can seem
an abyss. Getting up
is just a job, no thanks
to dawny fingers
drumming the soul’s office.
A sprint, a climb.
There’s an elephant
in the garden
a tank down the road
under god’s control.
The timer blinks.
Polish the giro helmet.
Hey ho, let’s go!

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Down at root level
amongst pearlite mulch
I am drawing vastly
of rain and air.

Planes make you believe
in forever, elsewhere
as they tremble
above the sere leaf line.

At home in dappled
21st century shade
I feel the gnarl of secateurs
scattered iron chelates.

I want to expose a hazy line
to wound the tissue
green sap wood
with love.

East facing I call
to companion plants
as if we’re home and hosed
with care.

we are seeking

Business Programs cannot
move us
not while bulbuls fatten
on the cherry tree.
Highly motivated, results driven.
Direct sun wakes the winter.
We would like to abscond
with beauty over the hills.
As spills on the road
great management opportunities
Robust Next Generation Detection.
Thanks for the heads up but, no
thanks, the sky seems wider
when crossed with wings
and sounds of ravens.
Quit the dream!
My next step is out into the yard
the yellow leaves given to ground.
But I scoop them together
sounding dry, sounding.
Raise them up for the seconds
it takes to catch the clouds
rolling from the south.
My only gift
another thing I’ve stolen.
A suitably qualified person
will always hunt you down.
Not if I see them coming
first, no way.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

el hay(na)ku

Hay(na)ku from The First Hay(na)ku Anthology have been translated into Spanish and available at Periodico de Poesia associated with the National Autonomous University of Mexico/Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). On the site are translations (and originals) by:

Michael Chmielecki
Craig Freeman
Harry K. Stammer
Crag Hill
Jill Jones
Tom Beckett
Sheila E. Murphy

The translators are Argel Corpus, Rebeka Lembo, Liliana Andrade, Itzel Rivas, Melisa Larios, Alfredo Villegas, Luis Felipe Alvarez, Alejandra Navarrete, María González de León, and Álvaro García. They are part of UNAM's Faculty of Literature and Philosophy/Facultad de Filosofía y Letras.

listen in

You can listen in to all good things at the latest i-outlaw. Cast of thousands (almost a dozen?) including Annie Finch, Aaron Belz, Emma Barnes, Andrew Burke, Jim Goar, Lisa Gordon, Lewis LaCook, Amanda Laughtland, Rebeka Lembo, Ashraf Osman. And little ol' moi.

found poem - things to do in melbourne

Sales Representative

Research Fellow - Hydrogen

Computer Systems Officer

Research Fellow - Functional Foods

Director of Research

Associate Professor/Senior Lecturer/Lecturer – Bioprocessing Engineering

Postdoctoral Research Fellow - Stratospheric Ozone

Research Fellow - NIMS Group (Multiple positions available)

Associate Professor/Senior Lecturer/Lecturer – Bioprocessing Engineering

Postdoctoral Research Fellow - Climate Change (2 Positions)

Sunday, July 01, 2007


music white bird
dream the

mini georgic

That the body goes back to its field or mulch

That ground speaks in hum

To ask how we've wrecked time

small press stuff

In late May I attended a conference (as an observer) run by SPUNC, the Small Press Underground Networking Community. SPUNC was set up to represent and promote collaboration within the Australian small and independent publishing sector. Good idea.

I'll be interested to see what becomes of the ideas raised at the conference, which were many and varied, as you'd expect, with a lot more ground to cover. I'll be interested particularly to hear more about engagement with the web and the possibilities, in particular, of web 2.0 (ie, web as 'communities') for networking, publishing and distribution, and discussion and debate.

starting to become

"We must be who we are." So said Georgina Beyer at a fund-raising dinner for the gay/ lesbian/ bisexual/ transgender/ queer (you know the drill) community at the Sydney Town Hall last night. This was the 10th Aurora dinner run by the Aurora Group which was set up to organise events within the lesbian, gay and transgender community to bring friends together in celebration as well as raising funds for community organisations and projects, including Twenty Ten GLBT Youth Support and The Gay & Lesbian Counselling Service.

I must say I wasn't on the wavelength and prolly ought not to have been there, having been pretty ill all week and for other family reasons, although it was a grand and glam sell-out affair, peopled by dykes, queens, trannies, pollies (Malcolm Turnbull, Federal Minister for Short Showers and Tanya Plibersek, Federal Member for Emerald City) and on-side corporates. The Town Hall, I have to say, looked stunning and the James Bond theme was suitably over-the-top, indeed, camp (d'oh).

And Georgina Beyer? In case you were asleep in recent years, she is the first transexual in the world to be elected mayor and the first transexual in the world to be elected to Parliament. We're talking New Zealand here, the first to give women unrestricted suffrage in terms of voting rights in a self-governing country in 1893 (yeah, I know, there were other more restricted cases before then).

Anyway, Georgina's inspirational, and I don't say that kind of thing lightly. She was looking particularly fab last night (she was sitting at our table, which was cool) as she was wearing a cossie that had been made for her appearance on the NZ version of Dancing With the Stars. She's looking forward to a trans-Tasman head-to-head (or should that be toe-to-toe) with Pauline Hanson. Hmm, that would be something.

So, in amongst all the song and comedy and raffles and auctions, she was the guest speaker. "We are starting to become," she went on to say. "[We are] practising our rights of citizenship." So, there was a message that I wonder if the pollies in the room heard. Neither the Libs nor Federal ALP have a good track record on continuing the job, of standing up for the rights to all citizens, including GLBTQ ones. They may be OK on tolerance (so, who wants to be just tolerated) but not on recognising our relationships and all the rights that entails, for instance. Georgina threw out the usual and necessary challenges: "to ensure that gay and queer people of the world have a much better life than we started off with" and "to offer support to those who still struggle in adversity".

Sure, as with all these things, you hadda be there, but it was worth it, even if I was scratchy and tired and didn't quite last the distance.

on jennifer rankin

One of the few places you get some in depth discussion of Australian literature, including, from time-to-time poetry, is the Journal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature (phew - just call it JASAL).

In the latest issue there's a fascinating article by Bonny Cassidy on the poetry of Jennifer Rankin. Bonny did a terrific paper at an ASAL mini-conference in February of this year, looking at Rankin's work through an eco-poetic lens.

This article takes a different tack. To quote the abstract: "Attention to Jennifer Rankin's poetry was spare within her lifetime. Twenty-eight years after her death, the time has come to challenge her critical reception and to recognise the importance of her poetics on its own terms. Her work has an antithetical relationship to the generation of '68, and the shadowy place that it takes among the poetry of her peers can be defined by its struggle against subjectivity; a poetics at odds with John Tranter's descriptions of a new Australian poetry. This article reads several of Rankin's poems closely, and in comparison with a poem by Robert Adamson, to demonstrate Rankin's approach to subjectivity and the influence of painting on her poetry."