Sunday, October 31, 2004

A Quick Single

On another poetry list, tatjanalukic (from Canberra) asked -
> andrew, is there any way to explain very briefly, in two lines,
and in the best tradition of your clear and to the point poems:

what are all these man in fact doing when they play cricket?
my basketball-soccer-volleyball-handball mind just can't get it.
what is this all about? <

So I wrote 'a quick single'. (Chris Mansell picked up on it being a six-ball over.)


I like a dark mystery
in the sun for five days

there is a book of rules
and lots of people have read it

my friends and I
don't talk about each other
but about the men out in the centre
who we attribute various character faults to

it has the wonder of chess
with a touch more athleticism

australia is good at it
and we beat the poms and kiwis
on a regular basis

what more could you ask?

once upon a time
i could hurtle down balls
at boys who were bullies
in the playground but
were hopeless batsmen

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Yannis Ritsos

Days ago I mentioned Yannis Ritsos and his Monochords. Well, now I have stumbled across a magazine The Salt River Review with some new translations of the Monochords by Paul Merchant, and a sonnet by my friend Hal Johnson ... Here's some biographical info from that mag about Ritsos:

Yannis Ritsos - "...the stars quietly sawing through that raised bronze arm." (May 16, 1968) - Plagued for years by the same strain of tuberculosis that killed his mother and elder brother, unable to finish law school, and disturbed by his father's mental illness, Yannis Ritsos (1909-1990) became a writer and a communist, not necessarily in that order. He wrote enough poetry to fill a hundred books, and this popularity with readers, critics and translators was matched only by his unpopularity with the right-wing governments that came into power in post-war Greece. One of his books was symbolically torched with other banished works at the foot of the Acropolis, and for several years of house arrest on a remote Greek island he was forced to write poetry on scraps of paper small enough to fit into bottles, which then had to be buried to ensure survival. Resilient, resourceful and prolific, like his Chilean peer, Neruda, Ritsos wrote many political poems and outlived several tin-pot dictators. Of more lasting value, perhaps, to those of us who shared the vagaries of the 20th Century with Ritsos, is his deeply resonant exploration of exile and persecution, of the assault on the integrity of the self.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Warmth In the Cold Again

for Roy

Standing out in the cold again
Like spies that never came in
Under streetlight lit gum trees
Running the voodoo down
Running the voodoo down to ground

We could be whistling against the wind
We could be in the ambulance again
But we’re standing out in the cold
Running the voodoo down
Running the voodoo down to ground

The meeting’s closed, the others gone
But we’re banging our jaws together
Like superannuated talkback hosts
Running the voodoo down
Running the voodoo down to ground

History books don’t mention all
The campaigns and pains we’ve done,
Been through, dished out and won –
Running the voodoo down
Running the voodoo down to ground

It’s the way it is ‘cause we made it so
Altered attitudes from altared starts
The main change the will to change
Running the voodoo down
Running the voodoo down to ground

Icelandic Snap

Arni Ibsen, a writer and poet from Iceland, has translated my Snapshot poem 'Editing' into Icelandic as part of an inhouse competition on PoetryEtc. He has broken the line breaks into prose:

brauðristin smellur upp en ég heyri það ekki með
höfuðið ofan í blaðsíðunum flyt 16 til 21 á milli
5 og 6 og þurrka út stöðugt að snyrta eins og
brjálaður garðyrkjumaður um vor með hausinn
fullann af hugmyndum hendurnar hamast með
klippurnar lífin þeytast um allt undan hnífnum
(hver er eiginlega fréttastjóri veruleikans?) ...
ó og dagurinn virðist sólríkur úti (kannski getur
það farið á blaðsíðu 13 þetta sem áður var
blaðsíða 7 ...

Fascinating! Arni has translated all the snapshots from this week and left it up to us to guess who is who. I know this is mine simply by the numbers in it - and there are like clues in some of the others - words like Chicago, etc. What a strange little competition.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

JAS Publication

Here's a site to go to announcing the publication of some of my poems, plus the site has a great variety of information on other sites and journals:

Poetry Review by guest Miriam Wei Wei Lo

Review of smoke encrypted whispers by Sam Wagan Watson (St Lucia: UQP, 2004).

I first heard Sam Wagan Watson read at the Subverse Poetry Festival in Brisbane in the late 1990s. I thought his work was interesting but didn’t manage to get hold of it in print. I chanced upon him this year at a poetry reading in Wagga Wagga, while I was on the road with Five Islands Press. I was really pleased to be able to get hold of a copy of his collected work, smoke encrypted whispers put out by the University of Queensland Press.

smoke encrypted whispers includes of muse, meandering and midnight (2000), which won the David Unaipon award, boondall wetlands (2000) (which I assume is excerpted from Sam’s website), hotel bone (2001), itinerant blues(2002), and smoke encrypted whispers (2004), which showcases some of his most recent work.

Sam’s work can best be described as poetry that takes an urban aboriginal perspective on the world. It’s a young perspective as well — it’s poetry that has the energy and sense of adventure that belongs to a young man. The one thing missing from that formula is the in-your-face anger. This really surprised me at first, but it becomes one of the real strengths of Sam’s work: anger is there, but it is not the dominant emotion, and when it appears, it is tempered. This ability to temper anger and other emotions (love, regret, lust, fear), to hold these things back, to examine these emotions, and to place them in their context is what produces Sam’s art, his poetry.

One of the things I enjoy most about a chronologically arranged collection is the opportunity one gets to trace a poet’s development over time. of muse, meandering and midnight is typical of a poet’s first collection — it’s readable with flashes of talent (I say this with my own first collection in mind!). Brisbane is there, so is love, loss, irony, and sarcasm. The poetry materializes as free verse, with considerable experimentation with line-length, but no other forays into formality. The poetry is strained in places where Sam is trying too hard to be A POET, and there is a sense of two voices in struggle (a voice attempting some form of poetic diction, and a more laconic, casual voice), but when Sam relaxes, the poetry comes, in poems like “waiting for the good man” and “cheap white-goods at the dreamtime sale”.

boondall wetlands continues in the same register, but something starts happening with hotel bone: “the street resembles a neck / from a wayward guitar / with Hotel Bone sitting idle on a vein, / wedged between two frets / where the bad tunes can reach her”, but the tunes are good, something’s starting to sing. That voice keeps emerging through itinerant blues, there are some really good poems here, I particularly liked “jaded olympic moments” and “last exit to brisbane … ”. The last poem, “hollow squall” comes like an epiphany: Sam moves out of free verse into the prose poem and it’s as if his voice finally finds its perfect form: “Twilight is for the communion of soil and water. For a brief moment the haemorraghing skin of the bay shares no separation with the failing land.” This poem about love and loss ends in a one line haiku, a coda: “My heavy heart beats for you; a black rock at the bottom of the sea.”
It is to Sam’s credit as a poet that he recognises this moment of epiphany in his own work. The last series in the book, smoke encrypted whispers, takes the prose-poem-with-haiku-coda and runs with it. The poetry is really good. I can’t fault it at all, it is strong poem after strong poem, and suddenly it’s all there, the things that matter to this poet: Brisbane – cityscape and landscape; the ghosts of memory – growing up black in Bjelke-Pertersen land; the ghosts of history – ancestral spirits, the history of Boundary St; being a poet; family – Mum, Dad, Grandpop, the ex-wife, the son; these things have been there before, but they crystallize in this series of poems. An excerpt to end on:

“I was born in Tigerland, on the south-side of Brisbane. Saturday morning smelt of hardware compost and the static of horse racing. … Under the orange and black stripes of sunset, bouncing off Mt Gravatt, were the colours on the jersey of Easts Leagues Club. That growling big-cat patch that really meant something to us all. … Those colours paved our streets. And from those streets, I was inspired by my first ghosts as they rose from the bitumen like O-rings of smoke.” (“tigerland”)

(PS. If you’ve ever rehearsed the not-ready-to-publish argument in your head and have wondered why we should publish emerging poets, read this book, it will tell you why itself).

Miriam Wei Wei Lo

current title Against Certain Capture, New Poets 10
Five Islands Press, ISBN 1 74128 055 9


Here's the address of a new poem published:
It's a form originally from Yannis Ritsos. I read his Monochords in a past issue of Salt magazine and loved the form. So I tried it, with this result. I've tried it since with mixed success. I'll post a couple of those in coming days.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Editing / snapshot poem

toast pops up
but i don't hear it
head stuck in pages
moving 16 to 21
between 5 and 6
and deleting

always cutting back
like a manic gardener
in spring
head full of ideas
hands pumping secateurs

lives thrown around
under the knife
(just who is
the news editor
of reality?)

... oh, and
the day outside
looks sunny
(maybe that can go
on page 13
which was
the old page 7 ...

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

There are still some places for our Melbourne Cup Luncheon ... Leia's Hichair Cafe Posted by Hello

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Drama Hints

For an entirely different audience, I have just devised a list of hints toward dramatic scriptwriting. It has been thirty odd years since a play of mine has been on the stage, but I'm still being an expert. In the mean time, many teledocumentaries and similar scripts have been written for that lovely money stuff, so I suppose I have some credibility. Here they are what use they are to anyone out there:


Here are some basic hints for developing a good dramatic script. As with any basic rules in the arts, it is the creative artist’s duty to break them only when it improves the resultant piece.

1) Always remember it is a dramatic art. It needs to create an emotional impact. (In comedy, this is called vitality.) Very early on in the script, a dramatic question should be set: eg, whom are they waiting for? Is the stranger a threat? Why do they hate each other?

2) Drama is a visual art. The characters must DO something – action is the core of the production. The old ‘show, don’t tell’ dictum for creative writing was never truer. The visual art encompasses the scenery, costumes and lighting as well.

3) Drama is an auditory art. Here words are primarily speech. From chanting to musical comedy, from verse plays to the eloquent silences of a Pinter play, the playwright/scriptwriter must write with his/her ears, hearing the sound of the scenes.

4) Drama is a physical art. It is a false world made to look real or to symbolise aspects of a reality. Actors and audience are in a physical relationship with each other, projecting and accepting this illusion, this make-believe reality, for two and half, maybe three, hours

5) Drama is a continuous art. The audience cannot ‘read’ it at their own pace; they cannot go back and forth to check facts or characters. The playwright determines the pace of the story – he or she can make a scene move slowly or quickly. He or she can drop hints and move on, relying on the audience to keep up. It is a continuous art in the present tense.

6) Drama is a spectator art. A playwright is concerned with the audience’s reactions: did they laugh in the wrong place? Did they miss vital clues or facts? Were they bored at any point, and ‘let off the hook’? Nowadays, many plays are workshopped and then presented in front of a ‘charity’ audience to gauge just such responses. The reaction is often completely different on the stage from on the page. It is a writing skill which experience teaches.

When looking at the storyline of a script, make the central character(s) want something straight away (desire), then put obstacles in their path. Let the audience in on ‘secrets’ before the characters know – this bestows a privilege upon them which they enjoy and brings them emotionally into closer intimacy with the drama. Use humour to create light in the shadows of your characters’ interplay. (Shakespeare often used a clown or a ‘fool’ to say the wisest things early on in a play - the audience listened and were the wiser but the other dramatic or comedic characters were deaf to the wisdom behind the words.)

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Poetry note

Floating around on my desk for days has been this quote from Robert Duncan via Ron Silliman:

Poetry fails when it seeks only to include the rational.

There is also another side to this: I really respect poems that cannot be paraphrased in prose. Ezra Pound said something along the lines of, 'If it can be expressed in good prose, then write it in prose'. It is a bit stringent, but a height to aim at.

(Garth) McKenzie Pavilion at Cresswell Park, Swanbourne - home ground of Claremont Nedlands Cricket Club Posted by Hello

C'arn, Tigers! Posted by Hello

Claremont-Nedlands (batting) vs University at Cresswell Park, 23/10/04 Posted by Hello

Apropos of Spies

Uncle Slam
(a manipulation for anny b)

Where would that
wonderful literature be
the one on spies and spies
spying on spies and
spies spied by spies spying
on spies if they plainly
popped in from the main
door telling everybody
We're spies ?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Laughter's the Best Medicine

Struck down with a heavy attack of the blues over a work-related matter yesterday, I took myself off to The Comedy Lounge at the Hyde Park Hotel. A friend's son Ollie Raison was on the bill, with Aussie comedian Bob Franklin as the headliner. Two breakfast announcers from a radio station were the comperes - they'd been together as an act and as partners for thirteen years, and still bounced off each other well -in a comedic sense, I mean, of course. The first act was a young man who had no timing and no microphone skills ... and very thin material - all 'dunny' humour. But he'll learn - you have to start somewhere, don't you. Claire Hooper was up next. She was very good, especially with her last item - a song sung in a classical style & - surprise surprise - she could sing! The words were the joke and we could hear every one of them. I thought by this stage that my friend's son was gunna be embarrassed if he wasn't topnotch - which, thank goodness, he was. He walked out full of confidence, with a well-devised series of sketches which sequed well into each other. Ah, his mother's face was one of the highlights, of course! Her reactions were far different than the drunken audience who delighted in any colourful joke or aside. By the end of it, she was very proud of her boy - She kept repeating 'I don't know him! I don't know that person!' He had a little cluster of fans around him later, after he came off - including a very drunk older lady who had obviously taken a shine to him! Bob Franklin was very funny - and super relaxed, as is his style. His timing and mike sense were perfect, built up over many years of performance on comedy shows like Jimoen's etc. As a final act, he read some 'poems' from a notebook - a couple to his dog were extremely funny the way he performed them - true 'performance poetry' perhaps ... They'd die on the page but came alive on stage.

But my last couple of years contact with a uni must have rubbed off on me: I kept comparing the audience with the audience in the pits at Shakespeare's plays back in merrie olde England. Theatre seems to have lost that common touch these days, but this comedy lounge certainly engaged the audience in a very Rabelaisian fashion.

Where do comedians go for work? Keep your eye out for any such show in your area. This full night's entertainment cost me a mere $15 - That's good value in anybody's book. (In fact, all my books cost more than that!)

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Silliman's Chinese Notebook

I have been reading Ron Silliman's blog at for some years now and enjoy it everyday. (He was away from his computer for some days recently - and I was lost!) Now Ubu has published his complete Chinese Notebook online, so I thought I would direct you there. Please enjoy :

nth position

This month's POETRY from Ian Brand, Andrew Burke, Martin Burke, Patrick
Chapman, WB Keckler, Jessica Langer, Hilary Menos, Sarah Sloat, Sue
Stanford, Wendy S Walters and Jonathan Ward.

The other Burke is no relation, btw.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Biscuit School

My three year old grandson
points to the skull on
the BlazeVOX poster
and asks, 'Wot's dat?'
I say, 'That's your head
without the skin on it.'
He looks at me doubtfully
and says, decidedly, 'No!'
'Yes,' I start to explain,
'behind my face and your face
and your Mum's face there is
a hard-boned skull. It holds
our brains and things in.'
He laughs and looks at me
with merriment in his eyes, 'No!'
And the grey matter behind his skull
is in denial - it thinks he's immortal.
He's as mortal as the whale beached
and dying on the tourist beach, as
the mosquito swatted in the night,
as the young man trying out
a cocktail of chemical hits.
Everyday examples for an ordinary life.
'Can I have a big one?' So we adventure
in the biscuit school of philosophy -
covered in delicious fine chocolate
with a delicious soft mint centre.

Andrew aka Grandpa
20/10/04 Mt Lawley

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

'Hello, I'm a stranger in your parts. Will you trust me?' Posted by Hello

Musin' over Muesli

Here's a quote from a meditation book I have, called Touchstones (Hazelden, 1991):

One of the main reasons wealth makes people unhappy is that it gives them too much control over what they experience. They try to translate their own fantasies into reality instead of tasting what reality itself has to offer. Philip Slater

Recently on a poetry list I am on, we were talking about the often impecunious lives of poets. Not too much was said (only the middle-class proudly call themselves poor in our society) but I am wondering if this quote hasn't hit the nail on the head. To be a poet you must needs 'taste what reality itself has to offer' ... But there is no complete answer because there is no all-embracing question: some do, some don't. I like a poetry with reality in it; some like an escape from their reality. To some, an intellectual reality rises above their physical reality, the 'real' world.

Just musin' over muesli ...

Open Oppen

Tonight I have been searching and searching for an anthology of plays I need for some upcoming work, but it is hiding somewhere among the cardboard boxes that still remain with books in them. Not many but some. My bookcases are full now, and I don't like making piles of books or gawkish improvised bookcases. It's off to the second hand furniture store today/tomorrow.
But of course, as I searched, I did the time-honoured thing: I opened and read some of the books I came across, including The Best American Poetry 2002(Scribner Poetry, 2002), edited by Robert Creeley. Inside I was surprised to find a George Oppen poem. Surprised because he has been dead for awhile - since 1984 - and the poems included were meant to have been published that year. Well, the poem titled 26 Fragments was 'sewn' together by Stephen Cope from notes written on scraps of paper and one note written on the wall. I'm not sure that George Oppen would have liked the way they are used, but Number 4 stood out for me tonight:

In the play, the actors cry out
But in the poem the words
themselves cry out

The poem originally was published in 2002 by Facture magazine.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Minipoems - a Chapbook

I was talking about chapbooks with a friend today, a new poet who is just putting one together. And when I walked back inside my study, where books are in constant flux, a little chapbook had risen to the surface: 'Minipoems' by William Hart-Smith. Bill has been dead for some time now, but I held this little book in my hands (with its pencilled price inside $1) and felt him close. Being an honest-to-Bill chapbook, it has scant information inside - but it has little poems with his touch on every page. I'm sure he wouldn't mind me quoting one:

Full Moon

The full moon
poking about in the dark under the house
came up over the edge of the verandah
with a whisp of sooty cobweb on his face.

There was a collected William Hart-Smith published years ago by Angus & Robertson (ed. Brian Dibble), but I don't know what is still available of his in print. If ever you see a Hart-Smith book in a second hand bookshop, just buy it. Delightful poems from a man who always seemed to have pollen on the toecaps of his boots.

Derrida on Narcissism

I stole this wonderful quote from Jacques Derrida from Anny at

- Narcissism! There is not narcissism and non-narcissism; there are narcissisms that are more or less comprehensive, generous, open, extended. What is called non-narcissism is in general but the economy of a much more welcoming, hospitable narcissism, one that is much more open to the experience of the other as other. I believe that without a movement of narcissistic reappropriation, the relation to the other would be absolutedly destroyed, it would be destroyed in advance. The relation to the other - even if it remains asymmetrical, open, without possible reappropriation - must trace a movement of reappropriation in the image of oneself for love to be possible, for example. Love is narcissistic. Beyond that, there are little narcissisms, there are big narcissisms, and there is death in the end, which is the limit. Even in the experience - if there is one - of death, narcissism does not absolutely abdicate its power.

Jacques Derrida

I came to contemporary theory late and still like to take it in bite-size chunks. This I like, particularly 'Love is narcissistic.' And, even in death ...

Click go the Seers ...

Excuse the pun in the title, but it means what it says. The best way to see the photos published on this site is to click on them - and they will expand and show a much bigger version on your screen. This enhances the quality, of course. Mind you, this happens happily at home here on my machine because I have the software that goes with the camera - a little Kodak Easy-Share CX4310. I am hoping the same enhancement possibilities happen with a simple 'click' to 'seers' of Hispirits. (Now, do I get a free product bag, Kodak? :-)

Night-time at the WACA during the same game. The brilliant lights give us many opportunities to enjoy day/night one day cricket games throughout summer. (WA vs Tasmania, 15/10/2004) Posted by Hello

Friday, October 15, 2004

Daytime at the WACA Oval - WA vs Tasmania, 15 October 2004 (from the Lillee-Marsh Stand) Posted by Hello

The sounds of summer

Ahh, I love cricket. I love the game, the sight of the players on a green background, the skill, the tension, the ebb & flow ... and the traditions. I have tried to explain the game to a visiting American diplomat, but gave up in desperation after a day's viewing. He was only slightly the wiser. I grew up with the cricket from England on the radio, and newsreels before the Saturday matinee, and my eldest brother making us play cricket (backyard cricket, we call it in Australia) everytime he was 'in charge'. I loved bowling and never was any good at batting - too impatient. Still am.

Nowadays we have instant cricket replays from four different angles when we watch a game - either in 'real time' or delayed - with wonderful commentary in many accents from all the countries of the old Commonwealth. Radio commentary is still better than TV commentary, so it is with some amusement that I found a transcipt of the broadcast from the subcontinent in the current game between Australia and India. I've seen it before at the website of the Australian Cricket Board ...

This is from Day One of the match (the first number is the over number, and the second is which ball in that over):

12.6 Warne to Pathan, no run, outside the off stump, defended on the
12.5 Warne to Pathan, no run, tossed up outside the off stump, defended
12.4 Warne to Yuvraj Singh, OUT: got'm! wide outside the off stump and
turning in, Yuvraj goes after it hard, ball takes the inside edge
and goes behind, Gilchrist takes a fantastic catch to give Warne
the wicket that will put him on par with Murali

India 28/1, Partnership of 28
Yuvraj Singh c Gilchrist b Warne 8 (40b 1x4 0x6)
V Sehwag 20* (36b 3x4) SK Warne 1.4-1-1-1

Gilchrist had very little time to react, it's Warne 532 - Murali
Pathan is the next man in
12.3 Warne to Yuvraj Singh, no run, tossed up outside the off stump,
defended straight to the silly point at one bounce
12.2 Warne to Yuvraj Singh, no run, wide outside the off stump, left
12.1 Warne to Sehwag, one run, tossed up on the pads, Sehwag reaches
forward and drives it away to the deep cover region

Thursday, October 14, 2004

New BlazeVox now ablaze

Go directly to BlazeVox
Do not pass Go
Do not collect $200

It's worth it.

Do one brave thing a day ...  Posted by Hello

A powerful little poem

Every Wednesday on a list called 'poetryetc' certain brave souls around the world put forward a little poem about how their day is, how the world is for them that day. Sometimes it is merely a weather forecast, other days it is a literary leap, and this week Doug Barbour, Canadian poet and teacher extraordinaire, posted such a powerful little poem that I asked him if I could share it on my blog. Here it is - as beautiful as a diamond, and just as tough.

just one
just one child
just one child dead
just one child dead just
just one child dead just one
just one child dead just one just

ice in the eye of
such beholders hold
ing such power all
righteous mess all
gone down as

just one child dead
lies there demonstrating
lies there

Douglas Barbour
Wednesday October 13 2004

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Monday, October 11, 2004

Leschenaultia in the bush on a side of a hill at Toodyay. Shot off the verandah at Pat's place. Posted by Hello

Toodyay Toodle-oo

I have been in Toodyay for days, visiting a friend and writing my novel. My writing's never good enough and it's never enough. But I suppose if I was ever satisfied it would be a bad sign, and I would stop developing. It is an old saying among poets that a poem is never finished; it is merely abandoned. I have a feeling I will be like that about this novel - never satisfied, but at some stage I'll have to abandon it.

Beckett said, All art is fidelity to failure. I know what he means.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Here's one of my favourite photographic images - once the cover of 'Scratching the Beat Surface' by Michael McClure (North Point Press, 1982) Posted by Hello

Thursday, October 07, 2004


I am on a poetry list - poetry etc - on which each Wednesday we post a 'snapshot' poem - a kinda instant poem for the day, originally created so all the many poets from many nations could tell about the weather and their living conditions on that day. It has gone on for many a year, and I can supply a few sites to view the poems on, but firstly here is my snapshot from yesterday. You'll notice (or maybe you won't) that it has no commas. We have been having a conversation about punctuation in poetry recently, so I wrote this poem - then went through and denuded it of any commas. I think it works, and perhaps its 'music' or its 'sound' is clearer for not having commas. I leave it up to you to judge.

SNAPSHOT 6 October 2004

Spring sprinkle outside but I'm in
deeply engrossed in first draft mode

words a-plenty coming out
like a Tony William's solo when

a giant *smash*! from the front yard
followed by silence and a plaintive voice

asking, 'Are you all right, mate?'
twisted metal but no blood.

Maori postman on the ground
scooter lying sideways on the drive

letters and packages spilling onto the road ...
I bring him a seat with a floral cushion on it

but he stands and swings his damaged leg
keeping the muscles warm ...

'Been hit harder than this!' he boasts,
and the driver and I obediently go 'Yeah?!'

'Yeah,' he says, 'on the footy field ...'
and swings his leg again to make a point.

Now, here are some addresses to view snapshots over the years:
Wild Honey Press ( , under poetryetc projects)
The Drunken Boat (
The most recent are archived at

Wednesday, October 06, 2004


Well, spring has given us here a few beautiful days - and now some rain, wind and overcast days. We are all thankful for the rain - we are still down on our annual average waterfall and still on permanent water restrictions. But as I went out walking yesterday afternoon - after too many hours in front of the computer - I found this amazing bottle brush bush up the road. For those of you in other lands, it is immediately apparent why it is called bottle brush ... My point is that the native plants do so much better in dry times than the imports. Australia is covered with many imports and the whole idea of an English garden has also been imported, as a short walk down any Australian side-street will show you.

To give truth to the old adage about 'a picture paints a thousand words', here's my photo of the bottle brush in a neighbor's yard - just before the rain caught me walking the streets.

Well, I'm still on 'L' plates, so I'm post the photo separately. Be patient.

Bottle brush bush in Mount Lawley front garden. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Location, location, location

I'm simply musing here today on what location means to writers and to writing. This from Ron Silliman at
>Thus, finally, I’m reminded that in poetry & politics, as well as in real estate, so much comes down to “location, location, location.” <

So I was with Sunil Govinnage, a Sri Lankan poet, the other day. He is either caught between two cultures, or straddling two cultures, and in the course of conversation about all things poetic - mainly his and mine! - it became apparent that his homeland and his adopted land are forever figuring in his poetry as a kind of frisson or tension that keeps his words taut. Occasionally he will write a Sinhala word into an English poem ... or 'a poem in English' would be more accurate because they are nearly all about Australia. Yet when he recited his poems in the original language (Sinhala), they were so close to singing as to be inseparable to Western ears. The blurb on the back of his first book - 'White Mask: A collection of New Australian Poetry' (iUniverse at ends with this paragraph:

'In Govinnage's poetry, we find not only a nostalgic presence of a rich culture, but the ability to recollect and narrate an interesting interplay between home and exile.'

A small quote:

My Sinhala poems sleep in a back room
Lamenting their exile
Like children forbidden from play.

(from his poem 'My English Verse')

Such a rich singing language! & yet in the English it is diminished and 'flat' - straightforward. Just as you can't be in two places at once, you can't be in two languages at once - hence, the exile of his language.

Sunil pointed out to me what an effect an early story of mine had on him: The Presley Girls (pub. Summer Shorts Two anthology, Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1994) was a story set on Rottnest Island where two teenage boys chat up two young girls - who are saving their lips for Elvis! It is set in the late Fifties when the resort island was still fairly rough and ready. Now it is a glorified monster, with airconditioned holiday homes, etc. With progress, you lose some, you win some. That story is very Australian - not only Australian, but very regional to this corner of Oz.

Do you have to know a lot about Rotto (as locals call it) to understand the story? Not a bit. There are such holiday camps all around the world. (Unfortunately at this time in history, too many camps are refugee camps.) But the regional flavour gives my story character. If I'd scrubbed it clean of regional references it would have been plain and dry, a dull background to an earthy story of young lust.

As Sunil spoke, I grandiloquently thought of Joyce and his settings - regional again. And the American grain that William Carlos Williams wrote in - a regional syntax and often a regional diction (one of the many englishes that exist on this planet at any one time ...)

Samuel Beckett is a rare case for 'the opposition'. He consciously took out the specifically historical references and geographic locations from Waiting For Godot to make it more universal and 'timeless'. To me it is a powerful anti-war play - showing nobody wins a war. Even those left standing after a war are severely diminished by it. Perhaps only the makers of war weapons and machinery benefit - and they live only in the sterile region of Greed.

I've often thought that in Perth, this city perched on the edge of the Indian Ocean on one side and deserts on the other, a rich anthology could sprout, even a grand poetic, from all the streams of Greek and Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese and Malay poets who must be living 'in exile' in our neighbourhood, but are too shy or frightened to bring their poems forward in this monolingual society. They suffer dislocation within location: not location within location in location.

Hearing Sunil read in Sinhala was enchanting - imagine such song being multiplied and amplified a hundredfold in our midst. I see some day there being a distinctly West Coast Oz literature - maybe with its ancestors being Gavin Casey, Mary Durack, Katharine Sussannah Prichard, et al, but its vibrancy and point-of-difference being the mixture of dislocated language writers brought into location ... a Vietnamese Tim Winton or a Sinhalese John Kinsella ... maybe Miriam Wei Wei Lo and Sunil Govinnage are paving the way.

I have neglected to mention indigenous writers in this post. I am not being dismissive when I say their voice too will influence Oz lit - In fact, today there is a kind of subterranean indigenous voicing beneath Oz culture, much of it unfortunately trivialised for cultural tourism, but still there. Perhaps contemporary writers like Kim Scott and singer/songwriters like Yothu Yindi and Archie Roach and artists like Mary McLean are planting the seeds. Sadly, their original culture (the song cycles, the rock paintings, etc) seems destined for cademic books and research sectors of the library.

Monday, October 04, 2004

2nd Australian Haiku Anthology

Here are the submission details for the Second Australian Haiku Anthology.

Second Australian Haiku Anthology (SAHA)

Guidelines, Conditions & Submissions


HaikuOz is pleased to invite submissions for the second of its national anthologies.

The first anthology (FAHA) was intended to provide an overview of haiku in Australia at the turn of the last century and broad representation of poets was a major consideration in its compilation. This second anthology will pay greater attention to the quality of haiku.

HaikuOz does not compete with national poetry publications and most of the haiku in HaikuOz anthologies will have been previously published in outlets such as paper wasp, Yellow Moon, Famous Reporter, Stylus and overseas publications. SAHA aims to publish the "best of the best" so choose your submissions with care. The quoted publications and FAHA provide guidelines on the type of haiku which might be accepted for SAHA.

A difficult decision has been that to restrict entries to those composed by Australians. We have done so to nurture growth of haiku within Australia and to encourage the development of a distinctive Australian haiku identity. We hope to receive submissions that reflect the Australian environment and character.

Editors for SAHA are:

Janice M. Bostok & Vanessa Proctor & Katherine Samuelowicz

Conditions & Submissions

Eligibility: haiku written by Australian citizens.

Style: there is no requirement for kigo (seasonal words); haiku are not restricted to 3-line format; no distinction will be drawn between haiku and senryu

Closing Date: Will be set later but it would ease the editors' task to receive submissions as early as possible.

Financial: there is no fee to submit and, unfortunately, no payment for haiku published.

Submit up to 10 of your best haiku (not ones published in FAHA) to:
Email: with "SAHA Submission" as the subject field.
Mail to: Janice M. Bostok, 260 Campbell's Road, Dungay, NSW 2484, Australia

* For previously published haiku, give publication details.

* Provide a biography, of about 10 lines, which you agree to have published in the SAHA.

Note -- By submitting haiku you agree to those selected being published, without payment, in the anthology. Copyright remains with the author.

We hope every eligible member of HaikuOz will submit and we encourage you to extend the invitation to your friends and to any writing bodies you belong to.

Katherine Samuelowicz
Secretary, HaikuOz, The Australian Haiku Society

Haiku in Russian?

Here's an interesting email I received today. Ever suspicious, I didn't believe it at first, but Norton let it in unheralded, so I cautiously opened the site. And it was on the up-and-up, ridgey-didge, true blue, so here it is. Have a look ... I suppose haiku in Russian is no more outlandish than haiku in English.

Dear author
some of your haiku found published on the Internet have been translated into Russian.
We apologise that we published them without first obtaining your permission.
Is it possible for you now to grant us permission to publish them on the
Internet with translations?
Please visit your author's page on the Russian haiku site "Version"

These haiku and many more from Aussie poets are available at

Saturday, October 02, 2004

Walking and Talking

Ah, today was quite a day: at one stage I was in the company of a Welsh poet, a Sri-Lankan poet and an English poetry student. And now I am about to put you in the company of a Russian poet - Vladimir Mayakovsky. A member of a poetry list I am on asked for a quote when I mentioned that Mayakovsky wrote about walking as a rhythm for poetry, so I dug out this old Cape Edition:

‘I walk along, waving my arms and mumbling almost wordlessly, now shortening my steps so as not to interrupt my mumbling, now mumbling more rapidly in time with my steps.

‘So the rhythm is trimmed and takes shape – and rhythm is the basis of any poetic work, resounding through the whole thing. Gradually individual words begin to ease themselves free of this dull roar. (...)

‘Rhythm is the fundamental force, the fundamental energy of verse. You can’t explain it, you can only talk about it as you do about magnetism or electricity. Magnetism and electricity are manifestations of energy. The rhythm can be the same in a lot of poems, even in the whole oeuvre of the poet, and still not make his work monotonous, because a rhythm can be so complex, so intricately shaped, that even several long poems won’t exhaust its possibilities.

‘A poet must develop just this feeling for rhythm in himself, …’

Vladimir Mayakovsky ‘How Are Verses Made?’ (Cape Editions, pp.36, 37 – trans. G.M.Hyde)

I wonder if this little gem is still around ... Anyone else got it? In the same series was Mayan Letters by Charles Olson, Although by Miroslav Holub, and Cold Mountain 100 Poems by Han-Shan - great little books all. Here's Holub:

'Although a poem arises when there's nothing else to be done,
although a poem is a last attempt at order when one can't stand the disorder any longer,
although poets are most needed when freedom, vitamin C, communications, laws, and hypertension therapy are also most needed,
although to be an artist is to fail and art is fidelity to failure, as Samuel Beckett says,
a poem is not one of the last but of the first things of man.

~ ~ ~

'Certainly a poem is only a game.
Certainly a poem exists only at the moment of origin and at the moment of reading.
And at best in the shadow-play of memory.
Certainly one can't enter the same poem twice.
Certainly a poet has the impression from the beginning that no purpose exists, as Henry Miller has said.
Certainly art becomes generally acceptable only when it declines into a mechanism and its order becomes a habit.
But in its aimlessness, in its desperate commitment to the word, in its primal order of birth and re-birth, a poem remains the most general guarantee that we can still do something, that we can still do something against emptiness, that we haven't given in but are giving ourselves to something. The most general gurantee that we are not composed only of facts, of facts which, as Ernst Fischer says, are deeds withered into things. Provided a poem, which is the poet's modest attempt to put off disintegration for a while, is not regarded as the philosopher's stone, bringing salvation and deliverance to stupefied mankind.
For art doesn't solve problems but only wears them out.
For art is fidelity to failure.
For a poem is when nothing else remains.
Although ... '

Miroslav Holub 'Although' Cape Editions 1970

Where Poems Come From

David Bircumshaw replied today to a question from another member of a poetry list we are both on, and I have his permission to print it here for you to enjoy:

'Thanks, tatjana, it is like a bit of a gift from the gods, the lines are just dropping into my hands. What kicked it off was something unexpected, a sudden combination of thoughts that made the universe open from a different angle: a very badly written book on Rosicrucianism and the Tarot and the Kabbala; a particular bra of Victoria's; an intellectual biography of the early years of C.G.Jung; the traffic on the roads where I live and one of my mates, 'mad Chris', going through a bit of a mid-life crisis. And something secret besides (!)


David Bircumshaw '

People often ask, Where did you get the idea for that poem? Or, they state the corollary: You should write a poem about it!

Most of the time poets don't know where poems come from. Oh, they make up stories, or - like David - can give you a list of ingredients, but the secret ingredient that sparks brilliant word use and original imagery, accurate rhythms and just the right cadence is all a mystery. It lies somewhere deep in the recesses of a poet's entire being - not just their brain or mind or memory but the entire blood and muscular system of some such a person who, in full flight, will let themselves go where their wings will take them. A Romantic notion? Well, yes, when taken to extremes.

I believe everybody is a poet when born - maybe it's the shock of the cord being cut that takes it out of most people, or our education system that aims even toddlers at a 'job', a 'career' ... What are you gunna be when you grow up? How many answer, Poet? And a clue to what's wrong with a lot of our society is in the 'What' of that question. It would be more illuminating to ask 'Who'. What's more, I've noticed many people introduce each other by their name and occupation - Meet Joe, he's an electrician ... Are we all in a 'game show'?

Back to poems. A wonderful image by Ben Bellitt comes to mind: He wrote a poem in his book The Double Witness about flying a kite. Once it was up and flying, after running down the hill with it and letting out the string, he decided the kite was flying him. It is that type of concentration that lifts a poem out of a poet's everyday-world, between the morning wash-up, the office or classroom, and the evening meal ...

Now, here I am speaking of poetry, not necessarily verse. It is entirely possible to write an epithalamium or somesuch quite consciously and do a good job. I have written verses for people retiring from places where I have worked, and many many jingles to sell you more than you need - but these are not instances of poetry. If poetry did creep in, I had to banish it! It was all together too weird ...

The moment of a poem's birth is like all the planets suddenly lining-up at once: the sensory data, the layers of language, the sound of it (often called the 'music', but that in itself is metaphoric), the occasion for it. I come full circle around to myself now and ask - and does it matter? A poem that sings or roars is a gift from - somebody. A muse, perhaps. I like to invite my muse into my lair but it seems when I consciously invite the muse, she stays away. She comes in her own good time for her version of a 'good time' ... Not quite the same as the phone box graffitti - 'For a good time, phone Muse on Iambic Pentameter ...' No, not the same. For a poem - a song upon the breeze to be pinned to the page. I will later skite about it and say it was all my invention - but it is hers almost entirely.

Friday, October 01, 2004


Damn blast it, that 'author's photo' was meant to mysteriously appear over in the profile section. As you can see, it didn't - and I don't know how to move it. So, we'll just have to live with it.

Andrew at a book launch. Posted by Hello

You Live and Learn

I have no idea when I first heard 'you live and learn', but I hear it in my mother's voice with that tone of evident surprise, like 'Well, I never!'

Today I learnt a lot from going to a postgrad writing group at Edith Cowan University and listening as they - six ladies and one gentleman - responded to the first draft of the first chapter of a novel I am writing. In the chapter a girl of around twelve or thirteen has run away and is living in a city bushland setting with an old tramp. Later, she is found to be pregnant when captured by the authorities, so I thought I needed to make her start her period in chapter one ... Well, I got a lot of things wrong! The critics were very subdhued at first but as the various mistakes were paraded, they pointed out more and more. By the way, they had the text for over 24 hours before hand, so it wasn't off-the-cuff criticism.

I thought I knew enough, having been married at one stage for many decades and not exactly being a monk all my life - but I still got a lot wrong. (Thanks for being there, Ben! I think you knew about as much as I did ...)

Which only goes to prove the value of such groups. The writing of it I can handle, and we did discuss style, etcetera, briefly, but the facts which I thought were 'obvious' were not credible and in some cases were down right wrong. Secret women's business indeed ...

How long to make the chapters, whether I had put too much detail in and raced it or slowed it down with too much description - all these things were also covered. I was a very lucky author to have such concentrated attention on my work. The participants were all PhD candidates themselves, and I think all were Writing candidates, although not all were writing novels.

One or two had not heard the plot outline, so I went through that - which they all thought was dark and bleak, whereas I see it as one woman's heroic quest to stay above ground with her head held high even when fortune frowns heavily upon her. Perhaps it will all be in the writing ... Wish me well.