Monday, February 28, 2005

Anudder poem

This poem came from a game we were playing on 'poneme' a poetry list. I wrote it directly after seeing The Widower, a film based on some of Les Murray's poems. The director was there, and Slava Grigorian played guitar 'live' as part of the sound track. When they had an informal chat after the show, they praised the singer/screenwriter, the cinematography, the direction, the series of films and the acting. They didn't mention the wonderful poems that it was based on. I wrote this poem as half review and half metaphoric response to the film and the poetry. I've heard Les read a number of times, hence some of the imagery.

'The Widower' a film based on some of Les Murray Poems

last night a giant possum
was being chased by
a blue heeler across the roof
of les murray’s family home …
a shack in the forest …
just one of the rhythms of his poetry
that skittering scattering sound
of paws on galvanised iron
rattling of fallen tree limbs
knocked about by chasing animals …
maybe a boobook looked on from the forest
and we sat in our deckchairs
in the pine-treed amphitheatre
watching the scurrying
listening to the paws as fingers
plucked out the organised sounds
of an acoustic guitar amplified
for our saturated ears … it was
a cultural event
bringing shack life into a cinema
it was a cultural event bringing
les murray’s poems to the screen
through a screenwriter’s pen
with a voice that played havoc
with the syntax of man and beast …
some of the shots were ‘poetic’
some of the singing pleasant
but the poetry was in
the scurrying claws of the blue heeler
and the worrying snout of the possum

Friday, February 25, 2005

It is hard to portray a film in one frame, and this doesn't do it at all for Human Touch, which is more about the older man and younger woman. An interesting and thought-provoking flick ... Posted by Hello

Human Touch, Paul Cox movie

I've been off to the flicks again. And, as a 60 year old man, going to the movies with his late twenties daughter and mid-fifties ladyfriend, I was interested in the subject matter of Human Touch, a film not too shy to talk about aging and the relationship between older men and younger women, sex and sensibility, written and directed by Paul Cox.

The film was luscious to see, and certainly played off the audio track against the visuals in a very interesting manner.

If you were looking at the plot, then there may have been some things that were unnerving. I personally would rather things had remained implied rather than explained. Some misty elements of human relationships were tidied up by film's end, which I felt rather negated the truly ambivalent feelings of the major players. There was a man in his sixties, married and an artist/photographer, who wanted to see and touch a female under 40. She was not particularly beautiful, although very attractive, and I liked that about the film. Maybe it was just an accident of who was available, but it felt right - and made the film more credible. The young boyfriend of the young woman was a well-written character - driven by sex, and possessive as we are when young. A dying mother gave some depth to the older man's feelings, and a near-rape (or was it a full rape?) scene expressed the worst side of man's need for 'human touch'.

Interesting film, with a rather inconclusive ending - but that's life. It continues, with or without us.

At the Movie City News website,, David Poland said: This is a film that might improve in memory. And I think he is right. We will think about this film after the cinema has closed and the ice cream containers have been swept up and put away.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Talkin' of 'Chronicles'/New York Times Review of Books

I quote from Volume 52, Number 4 · March 10, 2005 available at

'I Is Someone Else'
By Luc Sante

Michael Gray, who is probably Dylan's single most assiduous critic, turns up a quatrain by Robert Browning that the mind's ear has no trouble hearing in Dylan's voice, and not only because the end rhymes prefigure "Subterranean Homesick Blues":
Look, two and two go the priests, then the monks with cowls and sandals
And the penitents dressed in white shirts, a-holding the yellow candles
One, he carries a flag up straight, and another a cross with handles,
And the Duke's guard brings up the rear, for the better prevention of scandals.

Dylan himself, in the Songwriters interview, cites a Byron couplet that is equally convincing: "What is it you buy so dear/With your pain and with your fear?" But then, as he told Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times,

It's like a ghost is writing [the] song.... It gives you the song and it goes away.... You don't know what it means. Except the ghost picked me to write the song.

Chronicles Volume One, by Bob Dylan, pub. Simon & Schuster, 2004

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, the film of the book, starring Johnny Depp - a high point in HST's career.  Posted by Hello

Hunter S Thompson RIP

Andrew Hunter at the Herald Sun wrote this in his piece on the death of the father of Gonzo journalism -

While his fans mourn the death of Hunter S. Thompson - journalist, novelist, humorist and politician - his family, friends and colleagues are dealing with the loss of the man behind the myth. Whoever he was.

Yeah. Sad. But a brilliant man in a country that doesn't nurture its creative talents. Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas is one of the great books of the 20th century.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

'Word Thirst' Announcement

WordThirst literary magazine
Issue 3
Available from BJ Thomason <>
A$9 plus postage.

A few highlights, in order of appearance:

An intriguing novel extract from Andrew Burke. "Now, N phones me, just as I am using her in a novel."

Kevin Gillam's poems, the most experimental in the magazine, are light at first glance, then reveal layers of meaning. "... serendipity. dressed as thievery. thin / on the inside."

Three poems by Joanna Hall - more layers of meaning. "strike out for me lance me / lay me down not bleeding"

A story all in monologues, by Roger Horton. Very effectively done. "Night falling. Soon it will be time to be getting out on the street. How many tonight, I wonder."

Four of my (Janet Jackson) weird poems! "the healing highrise hellfire of your hands"

An amusing short story from Matthew Jessett. "'That's the last time you piss in the house you filthy bitch,' he hissed."

Two well-crafted poems about life and death, from Flora Smith. "... the day / death changes me, takes me, / breaks me and rearranges me"

Janet Jackson

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Zen Master Daruma portraits

I was going to try to illustrate the following items with a Zen monk drawing, but I found this site of wonderful scrolls, so I thought you would like to go there/here more than just one ill.

Shambhala edition 'Zen Flesh, Zen Bones'

Looking up to see how I could most appropriately direct you to copies of the book Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, I found this reference at

16. ZEN FLESH, ZEN BONES: A COLLECTION OF ZEN AND PRE-ZEN WRITINGS by Nyogen Senzaki, Paul Reps (compilers) Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc. (ISBN #: 1570620636, Paperback, 285 pp, January 1994)
Summary -
Here, in one volume are four original sources for Zen 101: Zen Stories, The Gateless Gate, Bulls, and Centering Together serve as a desirable volume of source readings for one already familiar with Zen. For the reader not familiar with Zen, this is an ideal introduction.

The Gateless Gate

For many years I have been reading, off and on, the Pelican paperback Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, compiled by Paul Reps (Penquin Books, 1971).
Today I've been pondering Text 38 from The Gateless Gate by Ekai, called Mumon, and transribed by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps. It is entitled An Oak Tree in the Garden:

A monk asked Joshu why Bodhiharma came to China. Joshu said: 'An oak tree in the garden.'

Mumon's Comment: If one sees Joshu's answer clearly, there is no Shakyamuni Buddha before him and no future Buddha after him.

Words cannot describe everything.
The heart's message cannot be delivered in words.
If one receives words literally, he will be lost.
If he tries to explain with words, he will not
attain enlightenment in this life.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Projectamentia poem

TEXT 173

is tail-feather
and rather not

is line and length
and over

is why the grin
and vicious

is all the above
and doubtful

is drown the sorrow
and hateful

is tell it well
and sickness

is all the apes
and creation

is the final fear
and going on

'Who do you write for?'

This question off PoetryEtc, poetry list ...

> I wonder if I might ask this "old" question:
> Whom do poets write for? What is the "audience" we seek
> to communicate with?
> Tom

Yes, an old question, but one that is always as equally relevant as it is not.

I (really) write for myself - to get my inside self outside, to be able to see it. (As in 'I see what you mean'.)

Then, when I have words on paper, I often times show them to friends. They boo and hiss or laugh and applaud. Whatever.

So, my ego-based self says, Maybe this will win me some attention and some further applause from strangers, so I send it to a publishing medium - mag or publisher or email list or whatever. Then I ignore them when they appear out of some perverse self-preservation mechanism.

Illustrative of my thoughts on all this is my first publication. I used to frequent a coffee house in Perth called The Coffee Pot when I was a teenager. I was playing drums and thoroughly into modern jazz at the time, and poetry was a kind of 'hip' sideline - pseudo beat poetry in rebellion against the Milton and such I learnt at school (a classical school). I wrote a 'cool' poem about Oscar Peterson's 'Porgy & Bess' album -which was couched in pseudo hip language (I was a very white boy in an isolated capital of the failed British Empire, so what kind of hip could I be?) - but the poem turned out to be more about the Coffee Pot and the 'ambience' than the music itself, so I showed it to the woman who ran the joint (who of course I had a crush on!) ... She loved it and stuck it up on the wall with my name attached to the base. I took all my mates in to see it on various nights ... My first note of fame ... It hasn't got much bigger than that, and I still love the memory of that first publication - like a Broadsheet on an old forest tree.


Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A beautiful moment in a film with many earthy (as in the forest) scenes ... The elder father having a fanciful dance with his young wife ... from The Widower.  Posted by Hello

The Widower

Last night I went to the movies at the Somerville Amphitheatre, the oudoor cinema which hosts the Perth International Arts Festival's film series, sponsored by Lotterywest. It was an interesting evening because the film was to be accompanied by Slava Grigoryan on guitar and the singer Lyndon Terracini, who was also screenwriter of the film.
I had another reason for wanting to see this film: It was based on some of my favourite poems by Les Murray, Aussie poet and a shit-stirrer from wayback. Well, actually he is from Bunyah ... I have taken the following blurb from the Melbourne International Film Festival where the film was first exhibited. The score is by Elena Kats-Chernin and Paul Grabowsky.


Director: Kevin Lucas

The Widower
is a music-drama structured around a collection of quintessential Les Murray poems that tell the story of two Australian men—a father and a son—who have lost the most treasured woman in their lives. Exploring the themes of love, ageing, isolation and loss in an Australian rural setting, this evocative tale is from MusicArtsDance, the creative team behind the award-winning One Night the Moon (2001).
Following the death of his beloved wife, emotionally isolated woodcutter Neville (Chris Haywood) is paralysed by the loss and unable to care for his son, Blake. Shipping the boy off to a distant boarding school, Neville plunges further into despair, escaping into a world of the imagination, and living in a suspended reality where dreams appear real. Several years later, Blake, now a young man, returns to his former home, shocked to discover what has become of his father.

“The Widower is a love story played backwards. It’s about what loneliness can do to the imagination, and the enduring strength of the spirit to help us overcome loss and grief. It’s about how the vitality of life, the essence of life, is found in the things we love.”—Director Kevin Lucas

I found it an inspiring movie, full of dark and light, humour and pathos. I liked the music, although baritone operatic singing is not my favourite ... Lyndon Terracini was ill on the night, so luckily they had another cut of the film with the singing which Slava played along to. The music was often haunting and the forest scenes were majestic. The fine acting and the lack of dialogue led to a film for the audience to interpret personally, instead of the old Hollywood trick of leading you by the nose. This film was subtle where it needed to be, and obvious in others - particularly the very humourous sex scene. The poetic moments weren't awkward or syrupy, as so often happens, but implied with an artistic restraint that mainstream films could learn from.

'The things I write about are mainly religious or metaphysical – I’m concerned with relations between human time and eternity at the odd points where they meet and illuminate each other, for example where matter becomes immortal, or spirit enters time ‘for a season’.'
Les Murray

'In the poetry of human grief Murray has no modern peer.'
Peter Alexander

Monday, February 14, 2005

Poneme project - new response

Response to TEXT 137

It is just a pocket handkerchief piece of lawn
But it is upkept diligently gently

I imagine my father’s island lover
On her knees trimming the little

Swords of grass with her nail scissors
And my mother humphing

And turning over in her grave.
The years will bring them together

Flesh to dust and bones to powder.
Lust dies but love remains.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Claremont-Nedlands vs Scarborough, Abbett Park, 12th February 2005. This is just a couple of blocks from the ocean. Good clubrooms and playing fields. Posted by Hello

This is a hilly part of the suburb of Scarborough. All visitors ever get shown is the beach. Here is some current architecture for your interest, overlooking Abbett Park. Posted by Hello

Just looking up at the sky between overs ... Posted by Hello

Friday, February 11, 2005

Just a little something I read ...

I took a book out of the library the other day (thank you, LISWA, our library service - which is free and which has been an enormous help to me over the years) ... It is titled TIM WINTON : a Celebration, and was published by the Friends of the National Library of Australia. It has essays about Tim (a local boy) and charming photos of him and his family and friends (and dog). Hilary McPhee, one time publisher of Tim's early works and his best selling novel Cloudstreet (McPhee Gribble, 1991), includes this assessment from George Stade when he reviewed The Riders (Pan Macmillan 1994) in the New York Times Book Review:

As things now stand, good books are seldom best sellers, and best sellers are seldom very good - if by good we mean intelligent, artfully rendered, fresh in approach, faithful to some aspect of what goes for reality. Tim Winton's novel The Riders is all of that ...

This is a good list for me to tick off when writing my novel - well, when editing it perhaps: intelligent, artfully rendered, fresh, and faithful to some spect of reality. It's worth aiming for ...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Poneme Project

Response to TEXT 057

suburb smells of seaweed
rotting in the gardens

ducks waddle up
from lakeside to investigate

schoolchildren flick
garlands of weed

sun dries out strands
like skins in drying sheds

it’s good for the garden, mate –
don’t the flowers look lovely?

Snapshot poem

my cock rises a(head of me
like the mascot on
an old Studebaker my father
bought when he was drunk
pink it was with
a smooth snout ...
mine looks panel-beaten
weather-beaten women-eaten.

some days it's my
morning Vespa, others
my raging Range Rover ...
now it is sleeping
curled up like a kitten
in my lap. Nothing
for it to do today
but piss and look
occasionally out
at the world.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005


A friend of mine sent me this, but didn't say where it came from. If you know, maybe you could tell me. (The second and fourth lines of each verse are meant to be indented, but I can't get it to do this here. Sorry.)

Familiar Lines

THE boy stood on the burning deck,
His fleece was white as snow;
He stuck a feather in his hat,
John Anderson, my Jo!

"Come back, come back," he cried in grief,
From India's coral strands,
The frost is on the pumpkin and
The village smithy stands.

Am I a soldier of the cross
From many a boundless plain?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
Where saints immortal reign?

Ye banks and braes o' bonny Doon
Across the sands o' Dee,
Can you forget that night in June --
My country, 'tis of thee!

Of all sad words of tongue or pen,
We're saddest when we sing,
To beard the lion in his den --
To set before the king.

Hark! from the tombs a doleful sound,
And phoebus gins arise;
All mimsy were the borogroves
To mansions in the skies.


It's a New Game/The Poneme Project

Lawrence Upton has started a new collaborative text - a game - over at Poneme, a poetry list. It is impossible to give you the entire text yet, because we are in mid-stream, maybe even early stream, so here are two of my responses out of context. (Besides, I really only have permission to flaunt my own wares, don't I ...)In fact, I don't even know who the other writers are. It is like a masked dance with us all singing different songs.

Response to TEXT 048

it walks out before you
a parody a panoply


it tricks and shrinks
and walks beside you

thinner sinner

it puddles at your feet
the black between your toes

thinner sinner

it trails behind you
slothful are we there yet?

thinner sinner
meaner betweener

Response to TEXT 020

Pain is the pleasure. It is the principle of the sting, the prince of lightness and the prince’s pal. Don’t horse with me, p … But then we could go on, and I do, it wasn’t the same back then, is it now. The stern look afore court, the skills of criticism mixed with the cut and thrust of large family life, remembering forms, glancing passes. Unformed in uniform, the daily parade before the prepubescent eyes of ignorant love, the hasty hands and jumping film stock, lolly kisses and burnt frames. When you’ve got nothing to say, sing it … ‘April love – it slips right through your fingers – so if she’s the one, don’t let her get away’ … It’s a bakelite prediction on the Craven A Top Ten, sister in matador pants, brother in black priest outfit – training for their future, slewed by the past. ‘I’m seeing the real you at last …’


Is every text we ever write a collaboration with the texts we have read? Are there spiralling family trees of influence and collusion? Can you trace my latest writing back to 'A is for Apple' past Sherlock Holmes through Kerouac?

The humming sounds of indecision are in my head.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

'Ray' the movie - See review. Posted by Hello

Who 'Ray'? Maybe

I've been out to the flicks again, when I should have been writing.

I went to see 'Ray', the movie based on Ray Charles' life. I must say I have mixed feelings about it. It does tell the story, simply and directly - but it also has those dreadful dramatic short cuts and shallow tricks that are standard Hollywood fare. It belittles the genius of Ray Charles, and as such I would not recommend it to serious Charles fans. The general public will like it no doubt, for its sensationalism about his drug taking and womanising, and they will obviously learn a little about the innovations in popular music brought about by Ray Charles. No doubt it will sell the soundtrack which must be a good thing, I suppose - more people to love the music of Ray Charles.

A couple of scenes are very embarrassing: one where Ray and his lover on the road, and leader of the Raelettes, Marjorie, is telling him she is leaving, and he is intent on his next composition at the keyboard in her room ... She yells more abuse at him after telling him she's pregnant and having his baby (he's got a wife and kids at home)- and he says, 'That's it' and begins to play 'Hit the road, Jack' ... If that ain't bad enough, she joins in and sings the response! Right there, in the room, ad lib! It's like extremely bad opera ...

Other scenes which may seem unlikely to the viewer are based on fact. Like when Ray sends the Raelettes out of a recording session and records the three or four part female harmony part (the well-known 'chick chorus') himself later. True, that's how it happened.

Ray Charles was a genius, and I doubt that any movie could ever capture his creativity, or the circumstances of it, on the screen. A documentary would be more satisfying, using old footage and talking with his mates, like Fathead and Quincy Jones, maybe his wife and sons. This movie doesn't cut the mustard, for all the brouhaha surrounding it at present.

Go to for all the industry info and hardsell.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Poems! Poems! Poems!

Over at 'poetryetc', a list which encourages talk about contemporary and ancient poetics and poems and poets, we write a weekly poem on a Wednesday - and because they are meant to be instant diary entries of where we are at as individuals throughout the world, they are called 'snapshots'. I've posted a few here of mine over the last couple of months - but now you can go to one site and see dozens of poems written this way by over 40 poets! From Canada, Iceland, England, America, Italy, New Zealand and both sides of Australia, the poets send forth little messages tied to the legs of virtual pigeons, and here they alight. The hardworking person who put them altogether is Alison Croggon, to who I offer thanks. (It would just sound too lardy-bloody-dah to say 'to whom', so put the red pen down, Chalkie).

Here's the pathway there -


Simply titled 'k' by the enigmatic Miles ... Posted by Hello

Dirty Hippies by Miles Burke ... For those of weak eyesight, it says 'I hate dirty hippies'. Yes, I prefer clean ones myself, but I wouldn't go to this trouble to state it :-) Posted by Hello

Tattoo Shop Graffiti by Miles Burke, one of many excellent snaps at Posted by Hello

More Manhire

Further to the article Poetry & Exploration / How To Write by Bill Manhire, I thought I would post this link to an interesting introduction he wrote - about writing about what you do know and what you don't know. Very interesting ...

Poetry & Exploration - Bill Manhire

A friend of mine has just brought me back a copy of the New Zealand Listener, January 8 - 14 2005. It is a great issue, with poems in it by Bob Orr, and articles on writing by Owen Marshall, Bill Manhire and Margaret Mahy. They are all entitled 'How To Write', and if you have ever attempted such an article you will know how difficult such a feat is. (Especially in one page ...)

Bill Manhire's article starts off with a wonderful anecdote, which I shall share with you now ...

There's a story about the great Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton. Somewhere in the far north of Russia, towards the end of World War I, he found himself gazing across a desolate expanse of snow and was sufficiently moved by the sight to declaim some lines of poetry to a Russian army officer.
"Do you know who wrote those words?" he asked.
"No," said the officer.
"Well, Shackleton wrote them."
"That explorer-man?" said the officer. "I never knew he was a poet."
"Then why the devil," said Shackleton, "do you think he became an explorer?"

Late on in the same article, Bill Manhire quotes Canadian poet, George Bowering: "If you write about what you know, you will keep on writing the same thing, and you will never know any more than you do now."

Ain't that right! So, go out there, into the vast expanses of your own mind, and explore. Even walk out your front door if you have to! (Exercise is good for poets, I hear ...)

Thursday, February 03, 2005

'Closer' and 'My Life as a Fake'

Last evening I went to see 'Closer' with Julia Roberts, Jude Law and two other stars I have forgotten the names of. It was a waste of time and money (only $6 on a cheap movie night). Julia Roberts is a joy to behold as usual, but the storyline is silly and shallow. I know what it all means - about couples, sex, loyalty, trust, etc. But don't we all know that already? If you're over about 22 years you've probably enjoyed and suffered all the manifestations of relationships so pointedly displayed in this film. There is little to no subtlety. It is certainly a well-constructed piece of entertainment, and if you're a Bold & Beautiful fan, it is probably up your street. I'm not being snobbish: it's just I want more than entertainment out of a movie.

Whereas, I'm just in the last stages of the novel 'My Life as a Fake' by Peter Carey. I'm a fan, I'll admit, but this book is different. It is highly structured and each chapter is consciously written to begin and end as a snap reading you could manage in bed before putting the light out. Even though it is famously inspired by the Ern Malley affair (Australian poetry hoax perpetrated on Max Harris and his mag Angry Penguins by James Macauley and Douglas Stewart), the book takes off from this historic incident and creates its own exotic tale. Very very readable and highly entertaining, whilst being written superbly. As John Updike says about it, 'Confidently brilliant.' Phew, wouldn't you love someone of his position in world lit to say the same about your next novel?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

I Sing the Body So Mortal

a bloodied nose -
the Bug did it
(just like the Bomb
in the Fifties)

the body winds down
but we repair it
like patching
an old bike tyre

out the back a cat
plays with a frog
out the front a cat
eats a lizard

boxed in my own
I toss between
past and future

pills before breakfast
pills after -
oh let the garden
grow wild

Brilliant, depressing article

Thank you to Alison Croggan, Australian poet and novelist, for directing me to this site:

The article is a horrific indictment of the war in Iraq. It has long been said, The first casualty of war is Truth, but here we have a war manufactured by the manipulations of the facts and the 'public relations' work of one part of the American government not only against another country but to con and dupe their own people. How it is going to end I cannot imagine. There is only worse to come.