Sunday, May 27, 2007

Be Patient

Sometimes the ads up beside the email list on Google are very interesting. I am often fascinated by the relevance or not of the subjects of the ads, and this evening one of them had in the tiny encapsulated copy the familiar lines quoted below: ... if funding permits ... A little dabble at satire:

Be Patient

If all goes well and funding permits, ...

Content is never more than
an extension of form these days –
application form, that is.
If funding permits, we will
sing a song in the field.
No ticket, no art. It’s all
plastic valves on a human heart.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Pasternak Poem

I'm not asleep at the wheel, as my old computer used to accuse me of, but rather busy on other fronts. However, I want to keep you coming back, so I must present you with something scintillating and wise, perhaps.

I read a lot of poetry; I write a lot of poetry; I teach poetry ... and out of the rich harvest recently of other people's poems, including 8 renga by my Chinese writing students (!), I have a gentle favourite - a translation of a Boris Pasternak (Russian, 1890-1960) poem, Hops:

Beneath the willow, wound round with ivy,
We take cover from the worst
Of the storm, with a greatcoat round
Our shoulders and my hands around your waist.

I've got it wrong. That isn't ivy
Entwined in the bushes round
The wood but hops. You intoxicate me!
Let's spread the greatcoat on the ground.

Translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France and taken from Making Your Own Days by Kenneth Koch.

Any discussion is really superfluous. You either like it or you don't.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The upside of Linfen life ...

Blue skies over Linfen - with obligatory white cloud. Plus the little urchins of the night sit astride the basketball courts wall at Shanxi Normal University.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Wanalirri School Picnic - Fun in the Sun!

Wanalirri School Picnic

At last! I have tried different combinations of photos for two days to upload some photos of Wanalirri School's picnic up in the Gibb River Station area of Western Australia.

My wife Jeanette and the headmaster Steve took the students out for a day's picnic. The boys had no bait so they caught frogs under rocks, and used them for bait until they caught their first fish, then used it as bait for others. I will endeavour to post more photos of this magic day. Sure beats sitting in a classroom all day!

I will now try to upload a couple of photos with students in them ... Wish me well.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

after Ted Berrigan's 'sonnet' after Frank O'Hara

It's 7.26 a.m. in Linfen it's the 16th of May and
it's probably 7.27 in Gibb River but I'm
in Linfen I'm eating Chinese bananas and drinking
Yunnan Mocha and I'm thinking of how Linfen is Old
London town too how odd I usually think of it as
something putrid like a Philippines’ rubbish tip like Cher-
nobyl like Hades
I never thought on the Narrows
Bridge I'd come to live in Linfen
just to see coal-hearted businessmen and corrupt
government officials take life away and call it
and I never thought Li Bai would be climbing Tai Bai
flagon clinking teeth rotten from too much wine
brush and inkwell splashing the peach blossom black
when we were Young Poets reading Pound and
watching the sun come up over North Cottesloe Beach
across Rottnest Island
I think I was thinking when I was
ahead I'd be somewhere like Paris cool
fit awash with wine and beautifully loved
contemplating my new book of poems
to be printed bi-lingual on fine art paper
elegant dripping with ennui

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Still at the Helm

Many things tweak my emotions these days, as I grow older among my heroes. So this little story probably means more to me than you'd realise. Way back in time I worked at a MOR radio station, and there met my best buddy Murray Jennings, poet and broadcaster. Murray played me an album one day which blew me away: Music from Big Pink by The Band, Dylan's backing group at the time. I bought that album and wore it out! To my mind, The Band is one of the greatest bands ever in 'popular' music, although their particular niche would be difficult to define.

Enuff rambling. Have a read of this:

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Take a look at my friend flickr

I've been steadily posting photos to my flickr account at so you are invited to view. Sorry there's no wine and bickies ...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Today's SNAP poem

There is a man peering down a hole in China. The man is bent over, very intent on staring down the hole where dark shadows mask almost everything. Fireworks rattle sparrows from the trees. The hole is a very square hole, a manhole in a courtyard where a building is under construction among other buildings. It is a tight fit. Perhaps the hole travels clear to the other side of the world and sunlight is a mere pinprick in the far distance. Fizz, bang and crackle of fireworks stops as suddenly as it began. The bad spirits have all run away. In a corner of the courtyard, beside the wide trunk of an old oak tree, a young woman raises her voice at the young man beside her – raises her voice to tell him how she sees it. He hangs his head and wishes he was somewhere other than where he is. Fireworks explode again. As a child I was somewhere else – on the west coast of Australia. And I dug such a hole. Round. I dug and I dug and my brother said, 'You'll reach China soon if you keep digging!', so I kept digging. My mother raised her voice and I hung my head, wishing I was somewhere else. Now I am in China watching a man staring down a hole at a small boy's freckled face sweating as he digs in the sunshine. Suddenly he looks up - fireworks!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Guest Poet: Li Bai

Li Bai manuscript

I've been reading a little book called 'Five Lectures on
Chinese Poetry'
by Lui Zhiwei (1935) so I thought you may like a couple of little poems by Li Bai, aka Li Po in the West.

They are jue ju style and these are in 7 syllable lines (they can also be in 5, but Li Bai favoured 7):

In the Mountain, Drinking with a Man of Leisure

While we two drink, the mountain flowers have opened -
one cup, one cup, yet another cup.
Now I am drunk and drowsy, so you had better go.
Come tomorrow, if you wish, and bring the harp.

An Answer to a Worldly One from the Mountain

Ask me why I live among the green mountains?
I laugh but answer not, for my heart is free.
The peach blossoms and running water have quietly gone,
In another heaven and earth, not the world of men.

And lastly, one to his wife when he was going to exile (he was
forgiven before he actually got there, so he used a lot of poetic
lisence in this one >g<):

To my Wife, from Ye Lang, the Land of Exile

Divided from you, I lament in Ye Lang beyond the skies.
In my moonlit house a message seldom arrives.
I watch the wild geese all returning northward in the spring.
And they come south, but not a word from Yuzhang.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Gone fishin'

Photos of the Hann River in The Kimberley, Western Australia, where my wife Jeanette went fishing yesterday.

Jen's Research Services supplies this info: HANN RIVER – the Hann River in the central Kimberley is a 224km long tributary of the Fitzroy River. It was probably named by Surveyor General H F Johnston in 1900 after the explorer Frank Hann who had sighted the river in 1898 and named it the Phillips River. It was renamed to honour Hann as there was already a Phillips River in the south of the state.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Swan Lake, Xi'an

I come from Perth, Western Australia, where the swans are black as black, so to see white swans, so gracefully swimming on a lake, was this shutterbug's delight. If I'd had more time, I would have shot from more angles, but tours being what they are, we were soon on our way.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Tai Bai Mountain Poem

for Jen so far away

I saw a shining moon last night
through leafy poplars and pines
on Taibai Mountain
and thought of you awake
amid the lowing of Brahmin bulls.

I thought of Li Bai
spilling ink down the mountain
leaving black stains
and wondered whose Dreaming
spilt red on the Kimberleys?

Moon waxes and wanes
in rippling mountain streams
and pulls the ocean’s tides
like the force that draws
me to you, you to me.

Getting hitched in Linfen

Congratulations, Chen Gang and Hu Yan who were married yesterday in a delightful ceremony with many of their friends participating in the actual ceremony. In Australia, we call it getting 'hitched' - like being tied up to pull a wagon together as horses. Cynical lot, aren't we. The Chinese keep their cynicism behind philosophical doors, rarely letting it out to play. Around 200 guests filled out the colourfully decorated fourth floor of Lingfen's majestic gate building, a building now reserved for the preservation of various artifacts of Chinese civilisation. This area is seen as the 'cradle of civilisation', hence the giant display areas housed in a majestic building with an enormous square out the front for the people to mingle.

People in the photographs include the wedding couple, Chen Gang & Hu Yan; the woman at the microphone is my step-daughter Tania Jain and the man next to her is Unity; the 'littlest angel' is my grand-daughter Sophie.

May this marriage 'bring forth coral and pearls' (Abdu'l Baha)

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Li Bai Climbed Taibai Mountain

Read a Li Bai (aka Li Po) poem today and gaze on these images. I felt honoured to walk on the same mountain trails as Li Bai and Du Fu. The long and winding road which took us nearly to the top wouldn't have been there in their day, so it would have been several days hard climbing to the historic spot attributed to Li Bai's folk tale. I wonder where his nearest grog shop was? Or ink shop, for that matter?