Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Happy Dragon Boat Festival - meet The World's Worst Poet

Dragon Boat Festival celebrates a great Chinese poet, Qu Yuan, and his untimely death by his own hand in protest against the corruption so rife in the Chinese government of the day. I posted a lot about him previously, last week, so scroll down and have a look if you haven't read that posting.

Today I want to introduce you to William McGonagal, deservedly dubbed the World's Worst Poet. He hailed from Dundee and didn't believe the reason for his own fame but rather thought it was his Muse that drew the crowds.

Take a look at http://www.neatorama.com/2007/06/18/the-worlds-worst-poet/ and judge for yourself. He is a poet who is still in print today, many moons after his departure from centre stage.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Picnic at Flat Rock

Wanalliri Catholic School in The Kimberley area of Western Australia had a picnic during the week. My wife Jeanette took these photos.

Steve McCaffery's CARNIVAL online

Well, it may have been there for years, but I have just discovered Steve McCaffery's ground-breaking CARNIVAL concrete masterpiece at http://www.chbooks.com/archives/online_books/carnival/
I loved his use of the typewriter way back when I was pounding on one (so hard the 'o' was a see-through eye through the page). Take a look and marvel at the patience, craft and style of the man.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

from Li Sao by Qu Yuan

Nine fields of orchids at one time I grew,
For melilot a hundred acres too,
And fifty acres for the azalea bright,
The rumex fragrant and the lichen white.
I longed to see them yielding blossoms rare,
And thought in season due the spoil to share.
I did not grieve to see them die away,
But grieved because midst weeds they did decay.

Next Tuesday is Dragon Boat Festival, a day that celebrates the suicide by drowning of China's 'father of poetry', the historic patriotic poet Qu Yuan(ca. 340 BC - 278 BC) who had a really hard time of it. But more of that later. This quote is a gentle taste of one of the great poems in world literature, a poem with political truths which are just as relevant today as back then in the Warring States Period.

Thomas Carlyle once said, Man does not change. He merely stands more exposed. It is great poets like Qu Yuan who do much of the exposing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

USA Poetry Map

A USA poetry map is available at http://www.poets.org Interesting! Here's just a sample of some States:


Georgia: Homestate of Sidney Lanier, Conrad Aiken & James Dickey.
California: Root of both the Beat Movement and Language poetry.
New York: A tremendous generator of inspiration. It’s a capital of inspiration.
Ohio: Birthplace of Hart Crane, James Wright & Rita Dove.
Florida: Elizabeth Bishop called it the state with the prettiest name.

Now, let's start putting together an Australian map. Phew ... big job ...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Hispirits and Sons

The splintering of self happens with the advent of children in your life. And so I offer you two very different sites to check out. Miles, my eldest son, has a blog which is a feisty mix of graphic design industry talk and computer jive, and leads somehow on to a photo blog which is of course very bloody good: start here - http://www.burke.id.au/

Then my youngest son, Charlie, a full decade later, has this site, the title of which is suitably enticing if you're into cricket at all, like I am: http://www.nextgenerationcricket.com

My daughter, Alice, is in the fashion business, sans website.

Shanxi Normal University Basketball Finals

I have done a lot of Linfen bashing while I've been here, due to the pollution and the filth, but there is another side to it - the healthy energetic side of the people here, from kindy kids to retired academics. The city squares are often filled with people in the morning doing exercises, lead by a volunteer instructor. They are thoroughly informal sessions and very useful for those stuck inside at home all day or behind a desk or counter. At Shanxi Normal University, all the students have an obligatory physical education unit - something that Australia could implement with great benefit (for students and academic staff). They play basketball or soccer, ballroom dancing, ping-pong, tennis, athletics, and tae-kwon-do.

Two nights ago I was privileged to be invited as a special guest of the university to the Grand Final of the inter-school basketball competition. I went rather casually dressed, not expecting such a grand event. I had seen some of the lead-up games, and they were fiercely competitive but casual in setting and tone. This event was under lights and packed - in the aisles, on all the seating, at court side and even on the roof next door! True to form throughout the world, I would hazard to guess, the English Department weren't in the finals. They very consistently lost every game in the prelims - but they played with spirit and pluck!

The final was between Law and Engineering, and the brouhaha that went with it all was stunning. The music was disco/hip-hop cross, and played many decibels too loud for old ears. The students were ready for a good time and as vocal as any Aussie football crowd - in fact, a lot louder! They chanted and screamed, and clacked their clacker things with great glee and energy. The players were of extremely high standard, and two of the Law team were just short of brilliant - Number 9 and a player without a number, but the biggest player on the team. The referees were in complete control of the game and sent two players off ... The court wasn't a place for the weak-hearted.

But my favourites were the cheerleaders. The Chinese are a very moral people, so the cheerleaders clad in very athletic more than glamorous outfits. My guides for the evening, young female students themselves, were very proud of their 'beautiful girls'. I am proud to say some of my freshmen students were in the squad who certainly had the best choreography and execution. The other s1quad tried to be glamorous, but their routines were not a match for my more sedately dressed girls. The accompanying photos give you absolutely no idea of the din that started and continued throughout the game and especially with the music at the breaks. My ears have just settled down now ...

WA Premier's Book Awards

Glen Phillips has supplied this list of winners:

The results of the WA Premier's awards are: fiction—Simone Lazaroo
(The Travel Writer); Poetry—Dennis Haskell (All the Time in the World); non-fiction—Quentin Beresford (Rob Riley) and Peter Edwards(Arthur Tange); Young Adult—Kate McCaffery(Destroying Avalon); Script Prize Hellie Turner; Premier's Prize—Shaun Tan(the Arrival).

Sunday, June 03, 2007

On the eve of publication, Malouf talks

David Malouf is a quiet man who doesn't especially like publicity, but if his audience is to hear what is happening in his writing/publishing life, someone's gotta tell 'em. And who better than the author himself? Here is a charming interview from up there in sunny Queensland: http://www.news.com.au/sundaymail/story/0,,21819775-5003425,00.html

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Portrait of Qu Yuan by Australian Chinese artist Zhang Cuiying

Illustration accessed from http://www.answers.com/topic/chu-ci

Qu Yuan and the Dragon Boat Festival

Today, a Chinese friend Jack came to my flat with a friend of his, bearing zong zi - Chinese rice puddings wrapped in bamboo leaves and tied with thin white string. All I could understand was that it had something to do with a festival and that the festival was prompted by the actions of a patriotic poet of ancient China, Qu Yuan. We cooked, we eat, and we talked - about Tibet and about Australian Aboriginals. After they left, I researched the zong zi and Qu Yuan. Again, another fascinating Chinese tale unfolded. Many scholars must spend their entire lives trying to learn the enormous wealth of folk tales and history of the people of these lands - and what a fascinating life that would be. Here is lots of information for you courtesy of Wikepedia, a site I have expressed academic doubts about but which came to my rescue today.

Qu Yuan
(Chinese: 屈原; pinyin: qū yúan) (c. 340 BC - 278 BC) was a Chinese patriotic poet from southern Chu during the Warring States Period. His works are mostly found in an anthology of poetry known as Chu Ci. His death is commemorated on Duan Wu or Tuen Ng Festival (端午节/端午節), commonly known as the Dragon Boat Festival in the West.

Qu Yuan was a minister in the government of the state of Chu, descended of nobility and a champion of political loyalty and truth eager to maintain the Chu state's sovereignty. Qu Yuan advocated a policy of alliance with the other kingdoms of the period against the hegemonic state of Qin, which threatened to dominate them all. The Chu king, however, fell under the influence of other corrupt, jealous ministers who slandered Qu Yuan, and banished his most loyal counselor. It is said that Qu Yuan returned first to his family's home town. In his exile, he spent much of this time collecting legends and rearranging folk odes while travelling the countryside, producing some of the greatest poetry in Chinese literature while expressing his fervent love for his state and his deepest concern for its future.

According to legend, his anxiety brought him to an increasingly troubled state of health; during his depression, he would often take walks near a certain well, during which he would look upon his reflection in the water and be his own person, thin and gaunt. In the legend, this well became known as the "Face Reflection Well." Today on a hillside in Xiangluping in Hubei province's Zigui, there is a well which is considered to be the original well from the time of Qu Yuan.

In 278 BC, learning of the capture of his country's capital, Ying, by General Bai Qi of the state of Qin, Qu Yuan is said to have written the lengthy poem of lamentation called "Lament for Ying" and later to have waded into the Miluo river in today's Hunan Province holding a great rock in order to commit ritual suicide as a form of protest against the corruption of the era.

The origin of the Duan Wu Festival
The villagers carried their dumplings and boats to the middle of the river and desperately tried to save him, but were unsuccessful. In order to keep fish and evil spirits away from his body, they beat drums and splashed the water with their paddles. They threw rice into the water as a food offering to Qu Yuan and to distract the fish away from his body. However, late one night, the spirit of Qu Yuan appeared before his friends and told them that (unknown) because of a river dragon. He asked his friends to wrap their rice into three-cornered silk packages to ward off the dragon. These packages became a traditional food known as zong zi, although the lumps of rice are now wrapped in reed leaves instead of silk. The act of racing to search for his body in boats gradually became the cultural tradition of dragon boat racing, which is held on the anniversary of his death every year.

Today, people still eat zhongzi and participate in dragon boat races to commemorate Qu Yuan's sacrifice on the Duan Wu festival, the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar.

Qu Yuan is generally recognised as the first great Chinese poet with record. He initiated the style of Sao, which is named after his work Li Sao, in which he abandoned the classic four-character verses used in poems of Shi Jing and adopted verses with varying lengths, which gives the poem more rhythm and latitude in expression. Qu Yuan is also regarded as one of the most prominent figures of Romanticism in Chinese literature, and his masterpieces influenced some of the greatest Romanticist poets in Tang Dynasty such as Li Bai and Du Fu.

Other than his literary influence, Qu Yuan is also held as the earliest patriotic poet in China history. His political idealism and unbendable patriotism have served as the model for Chinese intellectuals to this day.

Urban Myths by John Tranter

2007 NSW Premier's Literary Awards

Christina Stead Prize for fiction ($20,000)

Peter Carey, Theft: A Love Story (Random House)

Douglas Stewart Prize for non-fiction ($20,000)

Robert Hughes, Things I didn't know: a Memoir (Random House)

Kenneth Slessor Prize for poetry ($15,000)

John Tranter, Urban Myths: 210 poems (Uni of Qld Press)

Friday, June 01, 2007

Moonlight in The Kimberley

photo by Jeanette Burke


for Judy Siddons

This poem is confidential. If
you are not the intended recipient
you must not disclose or use
the information contained herein. If
you have received this poem in
excelsis ditto
please notify us immediately
by return and delete all emotions
evoked. The Muse is not responsible
for any changes made to a poem other
than those made by the Prince of Parnassus
or for the effect of the changes on the
poem's meaning.The Muse accepts
no liability for any damage caused by this poem
or its attachments due to veritabilities
interference interception corruption
or unauthorised excess.


The Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize is open to all Australian citizens or permanent residents of Australia. The Prize will be awarded to an original, unpublished poem not exceeding 50 lines. There are no generic or thematic constraints Entries will not be under offer to any publication, or offered for publication, until the adjudication is finalized and the winner is notified. The Prize will normally be awarded to a single poem/poet, with up to three unpaid highly-commended entries notified. The winner will be notified personally, and announced on the website the first week of October. Entrants may submit no more than three poems for consideration. Each single entry must be accompanied by a non-refundable fee of A$6.00 per poem for administration expenses, ie: one poem, A$6.00, two poems A$12, three poems A$18.00. Personal cheques, bank cheques, postal/money orders should be made payable to: USQ. As a copy of the Entry Form can be kept for tax purposes, receipts will not be issued unless requested.Entries should normally be typed, one side only, on A4 paper. Entries are assessed in their original submitted versions only. No subsequent editorial amendment or resubmission is permitted. Personal details should not appear on any manuscript to ensure discretion and fair-dealing in the adjudication process. Please supply full details as required on the separate Entry Form. Do not submit original manuscripts. Please submit copies only of poems. If you would like your poem/s returned, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Entries will be retained for twelve months. The Trustee of the Prize accepts no liability for loss or damage of manuscripts. The decision of the Trustee’s adjudication panel is final. No subsequent correspondence will be entered into. The judges reserve the right not to award the Prize in any given year.

For entry forms or queries: Phone: (07) 46311065 or Fax: (07) 46311063.
Email: daweprize@usq.edu.au Website: http://www.usq.edu.au/daweprize .

Closes 30th June.

WA Premier's Book Awards 2006 shortlist

The Minister for Culture and the Arts, Hon Sheila McHale, has announced the shortlist for the 2006 Western Australian Premier's Book Awards. Thirty-four books/scripts have been shortlisted in the seven categories. A record number of 158 entries was received. The presentation of the Awards will take place on Friday 8 June 2007 at a gala dinner held at the State Library of Western Australia.

To view the shortlist, go to: http://www.slwa.wa.gov.au/pbk06shlst.html