Friday, September 24, 2004


I've been reading a production version of a collection of poems and prose reminiscences this morning - dabbling with it when I should have been writing. I pick up books to put them away - and read them. I know I'm not alone in this, but it made me rather sad this morning to think of all the people who will never see this feltschrift. It is a wonderful collection for a good friend of Western Australian literature - William Grono. (His sense of humour is one of his many graces - I once wrote a review where he featured as a poet, and I called him 'Bill Grono' in the review. He wrote me a letter (snail mail) in which he said: Dear Andy - my name is William. Regards - Bill.)
This book is to mark Bill's 70th birthday. Phew. How the years flick by ... He has retired from teaching at ECU and a million other outback schools and teachers colleges, and a million past students are thankful for him for any of their interest in WA lit especially poetry.

This book carries salutations from Peter Porter, Roger McGough, Robert Drewe, Randolph Stow, Fay Zwicky, Merv Lilley and lesser knowns like Phil Salom, Hal Colebatch, Adrian Caesar, Lou Klepac, Glen Phillips and myself ... and pieces from his family and teaching colleagues. It is all so damn witty and skillfull that it would make a fabulous book to publish.

Bill's beautiful and charming wife, Janet, did a grand job in lassooing all the contributors, and fielding their contributions, which were then put together by their techno-whizz grand neice, Jodi. Of course, the photos are amazing - going right back to 'First Day at School'.

The only piece I am probably authorised to print here is my own, so bear with me.

Playing Knuckles

They're selling postcards of the hanging ...
Literary movements were slower then,
The Fifties took till the Sixties to hit town -
They're painting the passports brown -

First pub, then publishing, the work
In network sub-textual, the forked-tongue
Of language tripping over its dancing feet,
dragging itself through the Negro streets

at dawn
, and landing like The West
on dew-decked, sunburnt lawns.
To teach, we must first learn -
And in the learning, earn.

To play knuckles, someone must lose.
Volumes yellow and gather dust.
It's no trick of daylight arguments,
Or the brief disguise of midnight mints.

Time is in our blood, halting rhythms
Thick'n'thin like copperplate writing.
Rumours lie in fact. To many, the same -
Faceless dice in a bored game.

Oh time enough when the blood runs cold ...
How are your trousers? Cuffed or unfurled?
'New' poems are neglected and old,
The New Critics repackaged and retold.

It always was dangerous, tying
Time to titles - like trying to hold
The tides back. Each moment new
Unwrapped, and placed between two

Other presents. The literary tree
Grows from its bucket, decorated
And daubed with schools and schisms,
The aging pages of the ... isms:

The 'logues of life lick by
In their passion and spit.
At midnight it comes down to this:
A last shout and a quick digress.

... but how I wish I could show you the entire manuscript.

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