Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Best American Poetry blog

The BAP blog gave me this image of Emily Dickenson and her dog Carlo, who seems to have played a significant part in her life. David Lehman, series editor of BAP, and friends have made this blog - originally to extend the poetry basis of their annual, but now with a wider agenda, including such subjects as baseball and sex.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jerome Rothenberg's blog and Poems for the Millenium volume 3

Jerome Rothenberg, one of my favourite living poets and movers&shakers in ethnopoetics, now has a blog: It is rich in information and creative sharing. He announced its presence on another list, so I quote below part of his invitation to view:

The following anyway are the last ten entries on the blog,, and will be followed in the next couple of weeks by further previews from Poems for the Millennium, volume 3, and by contributions from Pierre Joris and Charles Bernstein, among others:

From The Medusa Interview: Anthologies, Modernism, & Postmodernism

Ian Tyson's "17 Horse Songs X-XIII" with a Note on Ian Tyson...

Reconfiguring Romanticism (6): Poe's Eureka, with commentary, for Hanon Reznikov

Rae Armantrout, BABEL, a Poem & a Comment, plus an excerpt from Collected Prose

A Note and Poem (Bless├Ęd Terror) for Jean Pierre Faye and "Change"

Reconfiguring Romanticism (5): Dionysios Solomos Poem & Commentary..

Clayton Eshleman: The Left Foot of King Ramesses I, with a note on Clayton Eshleman

Gematria (1): Seven Poems in Dedication

Reconfiguring Romanticism (4): Hugo & Dickinson

That Dada Strain Continued: Three from Tristan Tzara, with a Note on Tristan Tzara

(end quote)

Elsewhere, in 2002, Jerome Rothenberg said: We proceed in the spirit of Gertrude Stein, often quoted by me: The exciting thing about all this is that as it is new it is old and as it is old it is new, but now we have come to be in our way which is an entirely different way.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Portrait of Zimmy

This is our playful pup, Zimmy, a Jack Russell who rushes around day and night, and then collapses in a heap. Here she is in a very unusual pose - quiet and serene on a colourful rug as we holidayed down south last week.


Yesterday, I started tuting in a unit at Edith Cowan University called Creativity & Writing. First major topic was Journal useage and value for a practicing writer. I pulled out notebooks and a journal from my pockets and bag, surprised myself that I carry so much hopeful paper when the love of my life is this laptop and its talents. Old habits die hard.

Then, this morning, long after students have left, I suddenly realize that blogs are a form of journal. Why didn't I realize that yesterday and tell them?! Awk, personal shortcomings are my frustration.

For example take a look at where Stephen Vincent utilises his camera (see photo above off his blog) and his language responses to the images created to create a great dialogue with the reader. A small quote should give you a taste of its flavour:

"Is context everything? No. One lives - or has the opportunity - between zoom and focus, between the microcosm of the particular and the multiple approach of the the broad. Mythology, legend, narrative - no matter how conventional or avant are drawn (created) from the inherrent juxtapositions or coherrences of the picture."

... and elsewhere on his blog, very moving moments with his aged Mum and her words as poetry. Take a look. I will direct students there next week.

Monday, July 28, 2008

David Brooks finds a new (true) voice

A new book from my old friend David Brooks is on the horizon from UQP. I'm excited to see a write-up in the Sydney Morning Herald, from which I quote:

'Now comes The Balcony, a volume of nearly 100 poems, different from everything else he has written, Brooks says.

It is a question of voice, one he has been searching for for a long time.

"I have been struggling, trying to shift myself out of some very old and deeply lodged ideas about how I should write poems. I have been trying to find a new voice - I mean, I didn't know that I was trying to find a new voice, I didn't even know I was lodged in some old ideas of the poem - but now with what has happened with these poems, I at last know that I am speaking as myself.

"I also realise now that at last, after all this time, I am not afraid of speaking as myself. I realise that I hadn't before. But now I know that there is nothing else you can do: you come to a point in your life where you don't worry about how you seem to other people. That is where I am now. That really is a huge relief, getting over yourself. And I am getting over myself at last." '

See the entire article at

Handwritten Typographers

Take a look here. Those great designers who create the typefaces we use often have a variety of handwriting styles! Take a look at

Monday, July 21, 2008

poetry performance event


FAWWA Masterclass poets

Flora Smith

Carol Milner

plus open mic

La Tropicana Cafe
177 High street Fremantle.
Thursday August 7th at 7.30 pm.

cost: $5.00/$3.00conc

Ah, this lady stars in a lot of jokes that come over this desk, but I particularly like this one at present.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

One man's muse is another man's ...

And what of women poets? Who or what is their Muse? A muscle-bound new-age sensitive guy? Nah. This musing is only for amusing - more serious work awaits without ...

(I went looking for a classical image of a muse, and found the above. She's a backstreet muse, thoroughly unlike the image I was searching for, yet 'grounded and sensual', if they be two of my criteria, as exposed in the next posting ((which, of course, was posted prior to this ... as all good bloggers know.)) )

... and that cover illustration is such a lovely contrast to my portrait photo, with wife Jeanette, up in the coner of my blog >g<

Nurses ARE muses, as you know full well...

Thank you for the rich replies to yesterday's tale, one of which stated: 'Nurses ARE muses, as you know full well...' Yes, they have been good friends to me throughout my life - grounded and sensual. Only as an adult poet (that's often a conflict in terms) have I realised the Muse(s) is not some airy fairy, mythical goddess, but living breathing people who inspire a poet to think beyond the mundane, be it in a highly charged sensual response to the perceived or a heightened awareness of the spiritual. I think it was Robert Graves, of 'White Goddess' fame, who said a poet always must be in love, and for this he had various women other than his wife. Maybe I've got the guy wrong, or the story wrong, but any infatuation with another woman in my writerature tends to lend itself to schoolboyish poems about their breasts and eyes/thighs, and their mock-heroic unobtainableness. Luckily I soon notice this and throw such poetic reveries in the bin. (Perhaps my doctor is a muse: she is middle-aged, mother, caring, well-grounded, and laconic, with a wry Aussie sense of humour. Any doc who'll prescribe salmon for every meal is a friend of mine!)

Speaking of the 'highly charged sensual', among the viagra spam subject headings this morning was this unintentional pun or play on words: Member Listing. Huh! Listing to starboard, perhaps!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I said to my dog this morning ...

I said to my dog this morning, freezing in the backyard at 6.07am, ‘If you eat your own poo, you’ll probably spew!’ It is a basic rhyming couplet, not unusual in the playground, in rap music or in advertising jingles. Yet here I am, 63 years and eleven-twelfths, semi-retired uni lecturer, retired ad land Creative Director – and that’s all I can come up with for my wisdom of the dawn.

So, what’s with the rhyming couplet? I’ve been dropping rhymes on the ears of the unsuspecting since I was a pup – like ‘shave, shower, and smell like a flower’. Painful stuff, but perhaps more pleasurable than my other long-term habit, punning.

Anyway, this is a pre(r)amble without purpose. My main subject here, which I was hoping to segue into nicely but it ain’t gunna happen, is this week’s self-inflected homework. This week, at my Wednesday morning Creative Writing class at Tom Collins House, Swanbourne (10am to Noon. If you’re not busy, drop in) I set homework of writing a narrative situated within a job you have held. As part of the project, we all had to make a short list of our occupations. I listed three – uni lecturer, Creative Director, and rubbish tip scavenger. It took me until this morning, Saturday morning, to realise that I had not listed my raison d’etre: writing poetry. I am a poet. I won’t change the world, I probably won’t win a Pulitzer Prize, but I am a poet. It means the world to me. I am depressed if I’m not writing, and over the moon if some words of mine are graced with printer’s ink.

So, why don’t I list it as an occupation? Poet.

I once put it on a Commonwealth Employment Service form as my occupation when I was about 18 years, annoyed that no-one ever saw it as a valuable act. They told me to be serious. And now I’m neglecting it in a similar vein. (Will the cock crow three times before dawn?) It’s the forces of society, isn’t it: everything is indexed to the Holy Dollar. (The USAmericans even had ‘In God We Trust’ on their dollar at once stage – a holy item.)

Now, to get back on task, my homework should search out an incident in my career as poet and tell that in a narrative style. Yes, I have a few anecdotes, stories I trot out at the drop of a hat in the company of attentive students or at literary parties.


I was a bearded, bongo-playing Beatnik at eighteen years old. Kerouac had supplanted Saint Francis of Assisi as my hero about eighteen months before, and I had consumed as much Beat literature as I could lay my hands on in Perth, the world’s most isolated capital city. It was 1962 and my home town on the west coast of Australia was a country town with pretensions. Contemporary jazz and Beat lit were scarce. Invisible would be closer.

So, my best mate Viv Kitson (poet and surfer) and I decided to hitch to Sydney. Long story short, we arrived in Adelaide, capital of South Australia, and a desert and two days drive away from home. We hit the booze one afternoon, and met up with two other strangers in town: two Scottish folksingers who were travelling the world courtesy of their vocal cords. Amazing. We were in awe of them, their bravery and their stories. But likewise, they liked us, and our crazy claims to be poets. I pulled out my exercise book in which I had painstakingly transposed twenty four of my best poems in copperplate handwriting. It was entitled “24 Poems”.

We yakkety-yakked and drank all afternoon until they had to get ready for a gig at the Catacombs, a folk club in town. We left them and went to a pub to drink more, then wandered through town until opening time for the club.

It was the days of the folk boom, so little imitation Pete Seegers and plastic Bob Dylans vied for the spotlight with out-of-tune Joan Baezs … We were still drinking, cheap wine by this stage, and I was well away. At last, our Scottish friends were announced and got up to sing. They wowed everyone with true whaling songs sung a capella, interspersed with tales of their travels in broad accents. We were so proud to be their friends. All of a sudden I heard my name, Andy, said with an original origin accent.

‘Come on up and treat us to a couple of ya poems, Andy, lad. Come on! Wouldn’t you like a few poems, hey?’ they asked the audience. The audience indicated ‘Yes!’ and I shrank further down into my coat. After some fruitless cajoling, one of the Scottish boys leant forward and grabbed my exercise book out of my hands.

‘Okay, if Andy won’t read his own poems to us, I’ll give ‘em an airing.’

The light was dim, if you can picture it, about one and a half watts I reckon. Smoke filled the room. Scotty started to read my favourite poem which I had read to them that afternoon. It was called ‘This Body, World’, and I was very proud of it. I can’t remember it all but some of it went like this:

My God, a Muse jumped on me
From a Darkness and the World
Did the Big Act with a shuddering
Orgasm. Between the lovelegs of life,
My senses bright – the rain is real!

Etcetera. It was about sixteen lines long (I had studiously avoided such a pedestrian thing as a sonnet).

Scotty began reading: My God, a nurse jumped on me …

Ahh, I lost the rest of the poem, ashamed of his gaping gaff. What would they think! My masterpiece ruined!

… But they loved it. And me. I was a hero, a living poet, just recently returned from the heights of Mount Parnassus.

I learnt a big lesson about poetry that night: use the concrete and not the abstract. Write with images of the five senses and avoid abstract posturing.

I have written a million poems since then, and luckily I have lost ’24 Poems’ along the track, but if you are writing poems, the best way to progress is to keep listening to the reactions of those you respect and trust.

Publishers and authors in book fight: The Australian

Justine Ferrari | July 10, 2008

PUBLISHERS and authors are joining forces to campaign against the proposed lifting of restrictions on booksellers importing books that are also published in Australia.

The Australian Publishers Association and the Australian Society of Authors are organising a grassroots campaign to educate the public that cheap books will come at a cost to the local industry.

APA chief executive Maree McCaskill said yesterday that the two organisations had retained the services of influential lobbyists Hawker Britton to organise the campaign and would meet other industry groups next week to map out a strategy.

The campaign will pitch former NSW premier Bob Carr, now on the board of one of the nation's largest booksellers, Dymocks, against his former chief of staff, Bruce Hawker, the managing director and co-founder of Hawker Britton.

The Council of Australian Governments decided last week to ask the Productivity Commission to review copyright laws restricting the parallel importation of books.

These laws give the Australian copyright owner control over who is allowed to import books subject to the 30-day rule. Under this rule, local publishers must supply a book within 30 days of its publication overseas, otherwise booksellers can import directly from the foreign publisher.

Booksellers and reports by the Productivity Commission and its predecessors argue that lifting the restrictions will result in cheaper books for the consumer.

Authors are joining publishers in opposing the move, with Nick Earls writing to Kevin Rudd, Wayne Swan and Queensland's Premier Anna Bligh and Treasurer Andrew Fraser.

"Through the internet and discount outlets, Australians' access to cheaper books has already improved over time, and the cultural cost of allowing parallel imports is simply too great," Earls says.

"It would be a strong disincentive towards the publishing of Australian stories, and to the unearthing and nurturing of new talent."

Dymocks chief executive officer Don Grover said the publishing industry was ignoring global changes, such as the huge rise in people shopping on the internet, where books were exempt from GST, making them even cheaper.

May the Force be with you ...

Photo taken at Bondi during the past week.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Poem for my grandson Quinn

the price of petrol is up again
but you’re not going anywhere:

you lie
snug in your hospital crib,
visitors 3 to 8pm, Mother’s milk

on tap
and a wardrobe mistress to attend to
those messier moments. This

is life
on the outside.
Takes a little getting used to, I’ll admit.

A word in
your shell-like:
always own toys,

shine a light
on skeletons in
or out of the dark,

and make it a habit to sing in the bath.
From history, learn to create
the future.

Now, go forth.
I think you are ready.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

It isn't necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice. There are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.

Frank Zappa

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tim Winton's Breath

I'd like to quote the whole review here, but I'll be circumspect and only quote from it.

Tim Winton

Farrar Straus Giroux
ISBN 978-0374116347
217 pages
$23 [American price]

Reviewed by Carolyn See, who can be reached at [I had trouble getting through there, so good luck]

I used to teach an undergraduate class in Australian literature. It was open to non-English majors and fulfilled a general requirement, so routinely a couple of hundred disaffected youths would crowd into a large classroom and emerge, at the end of the course, as dithering fanatics saving up for plane fare to Australia. They fell dead in love; they loved Peter Carey, Elizabeth Jolley and Thea Astley, but they worshiped Tim Winton. For a while they went around asking each other, "Why don't people know more about this guy? He's the most amazing man in the world!"

And it's true. When Winton was still in his 20s he wrote "Shallows," a dark masterpiece about whaling that ranks with (or above?) "Moby-Dick." His "Cloudstreet" talks about class and caste and love and our inexplicable wish for death and our relationship to the universe. It's the Hope Diamond of novels -- the one that set my students' teeth to chattering. He's produced 11 volumes of novels and short stories, but he lives in western Australia, one of the remotest parts of the world. People don't know about him. They don't know what they're missing.


"Breath," Winton's latest novel, is stunning in the depth of its audacity. Because, when you think about it, breath is our relationship to the cosmos. We breathe in an iota of the universe, we breathe it out; without it, we die. But then why is there something in us that makes us want to hold our breath as kids until we pass out, or makes us just stop breathing while we're sleeping until our rattled partners shake us awake?

In "Breath," Winton sets up an ancient Australian forest against a beautiful seacoast with plenty of turbulent weather -- there seem always to be storms coming in. All this dwarfs a brutally ordinary little town with a mill where the father of a boy called Pikelet goes every day to risk his life. Pikelet is 11 when the novel begins and spends much of his free time swimming in the river, diving down, holding on to tree roots, holding his breath until he sees stars. That's how he meets Loonie, a year older, who shares the same obsession. Pikelet, little fish; Loonie -- yes, he's crazy as hell. The two swim, dive, goof off, do odd jobs and finally bike out a few miles to the ocean where they meet some surfers.


This would seem to be a novel about surfing, from fiddling around with your first little Styrofoam board to riding waves that are three stories high and a mile offshore. (...)

Surfing is only the metaphor. ... But "Breath" is about moving out of your depth, getting in over your head, having your soul damaged beyond repair. ... But against all this pointless sorrow, there remains the evanescent beauty of the world, and Winton matches that with limitlessly beautiful prose.

Copyright 2008 Washington Post Writers Group

Friday, July 11, 2008

dishes washed
dog walked
mail retrieved
I can't settle

ah nostalgia
welcome home again
bearing The Whole Earth Catalog
and photos of Li Bai's mountain

my mind is trying to settle
on current concerns
but whirls around
a kite tail in the wind

Of interest to Beckett fans ...

"I must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on." So ends The Unnamable, Samuel Beckett's inscrutable and very nearly unreadable 1953 novel. Irish actor Barry McGovern has taken those words to heart. For 23 years, he's gone on, performing his distillation of The Unnamable and two other Beckett novels, Molloy and Malone Dies.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Creative Connections Opening at Warwick Centro

photos: Tibor with video camera; Val Shields opening the exhibition; Sue Clennell in blue, myself with sheets of paper; Flora Smith reading; Glen Phillips and myself

This afternoon, Maureen Sexton and a team of volunteers put on an exhibition of art from differently abled people from various hostels. This art event is an annual event called Creative Connections - Invited poets responded in recent weeks to individual paintings, and today was the opening of the July exhibition. There will be another exhibition in September for National Poetry Week, complete with booklet marrying the painterly images with the poems that go with them.

The exhibition will run from Thursday 10th July to Saturday 12th July during normal trading hours at Warwick Centro Shopping Complex, Beach Road and Erindale Road, Warwick.
There will be a second exhibition in September.

The aims of the project are:
- to demonstrate through creative pursuits, the diverse abilities
and personalities of people who are differently-abled
- to enable differently-abled people, the community and
community groups to connect with each other.

Here are a couple of my poems which I hope to team up with their images, when I get permission.

ARTIST: Michael Hoey

so much depends
upon Nature

force that through
the green world

sunlight that licks
the leaves of

bark and low and gobble of
all creatures, great and

so much delight in
the garden of our

ARTIST: Katie Bassett

Action! Lights!

yellowness of yolk echoes
yellingness of children
laughter of birds

The painter is painting
Psychedelic jellyfish
Beyond words

we’ve let out
our thoughts
to play

Action! Lights!

Willam Stafford article in The Oregonian

I'm a longtime fan of William Stafford, American poet. His habit of writing every morning inspired me to try to do the same many years ago. I am still an inconstant holder of this habit.

There is a wonderful article on him, entitled Oregon poet William Stafford is hugely popular -- 15 years after his death at The Oregonian, from which I quote a middle paragraph:

'In the [CO]camp, Stafford began a lifelong habit of getting up early to write, responding to the persistent scratching of what Portland poet Judith Barrington calls "the little daily dog eager to be let out." The routine was get up, go for a walk, then write until his wife arose. When his daughter Barbara was young, she decided to get up early and keep her father company. Stafford never let on that she was interrupting him but kept getting up earlier and earlier until she stopped.'

Read the entire article at

In you're interested in reading and hearing William Stafford, try

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

One of my colleagues in China

At Shanxi Normal University, China, they had a Walk of Famous Men. My favourite statue was this lively image of Einstein. Fellow lecturer John Jain took this photo, in 2006. Thanks for its use, John.

Monday, July 07, 2008


Creative Connections and WA Poets Inc bring you the 2008 Creative Connections Art and Poetry Exhibition. This exhibition is supported by Disability Services Commission of WA.

There will be two exhibitions this year.

The first exhibition will be held on Thursday 10th, Friday 11th and Saturday 12th July 2008 at Centro Warwick Shopping Centre, during trading hours. There will be a launch at 3 pm on Thursday 10th, with guest speakers, to coincide with filming by Community Television.

The second exhibition will be held in conjunction with National Poetry Week on Thursday 5th, Friday 6th and Saturday 7th September 2008 at the Galleria Shopping Cente in Morley, during trading hours.

There are 55 Artworks by 30 Artists and 26 Poets are busy writing poetry to the artworks.

2008 Artists:

Jane Gribben

Bristol Hostel

Craig Hockey
Kathy Adair
Katie Bassett
Kristen Cameron
Laurie Coyne
Lisa Bernic
Matthew Bowen
Meryl Harris
Michael Hoey
Robert O'Dwyer
Vivienne Sharp
Wayne Russell

Norwich Hostel

Adrian Chadwick
Barry Tonkin
Cecilia Hynes
Cheryl Ham
Douglas Patching
Mildred D'Rozario
Terry Haynes

Sussex Hostel

Avril-Jo Coppping
Emma Biaisin
Emma Tamblyn
Dennis Goater
Graham Hoffman
Graham McNally
Harry Wheeler
Raymond Thomas
Tony Santoro

Buckthorn Group Home

Julie Dace

2008 Poets:

Tasha Adams
Andrew Burke
Saz Campbell
Coral Carter
Liana Christensen
Dr Sally Clarke
Sue Clennell
Peter Evans
Trisha Kotai Ewers
Jenny de Garis
Kevin Gillam
Peter Jeffery
Paula Jones
Christopher Konrad
Melanie Kwa
Deanne Leber
Mardi May
Julienne Miller
Scott-Patrick Mitchell
Jan Napier
Val Neubecker
Maureen Sexton
Flora Smith
Cathy Szathmary
Bron Thomason
Michael Williams

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Video shows Mugabe vote-rigging and more.

My daughter Alice and myself

... many moons ago!

John Updike's Book Reviewing rules

Thirty-one years ago, in the introduction to "Picked Up Pieces," his second collection of assorted prose, John Updike laid down his own six rules for reviewing. They are still the single best guide to fairness today:

"My rules," he writes, "shaped intaglio-fashion by youthful traumas at the receiving end of critical opinion, were and are:

1. Try to understand what the author wished to do, and do not blame him for not achieving what he did not attempt.

2. Give him enough direct quotation--at least one extended passage--of the book's prose so the review's reader can form his own impression, can get his own taste.

3. Confirm your description of the book with quotation from the book, if only phrase-long, rather than proceeding by fuzzy precis.

4. Go easy on plot summary, and do not give away the ending. (How astounded and indignant was I, when innocent, to find reviewers blabbing, and with the sublime inaccuracy of drunken lords reporting on a peasants' revolt, all the turns of my suspenseful and surpriseful narrative! Most ironically, the only readers who approach a book as the author intends, unpolluted by pre-knowledge of the plot, are the detested reviewers themselves. And then, years later, the blessed fool who picks the volume at random from a library shelf.)

5. If the book is judged deficient, cite a successful example along the same lines, from the author's ouevre or elsewhere. Try to understand the failure. Sure it's his and not yours?

To these concrete five might be added a vaguer sixth, having to do with maintaining a chemical purity in the reaction between product and appraiser. Do not accept for review a book you are predisposed to dislike, or committed by friendship to like. Do not imagine yourself a caretaker of any tradition, an enforcer of any party standards, a warrior in an idealogical battle, a corrections officer of any kind. Never, never (John Aldridge, Norman Podhoretz) try to put the author "in his place," making him a pawn in a contest with other reviewers. Review the book, not the reputation. Submit to whatever spell, weak or strong, is being cast. Better to praise and share than blame and ban. The communion between reviewer and his public is based upon the presumption of certain possible joys in reading, and all our discriminations should curve toward that end."

Taken from

Saturday, July 05, 2008

li'l poem

in last night's dream
words spoke through
puns and play

words are acts

when you constantly
refer to yourself
i see you constantly
defer to your self

you take rain
out for a walk
you let sun shine in
but you never leave
your self at home

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Welcome, Quinn

My eldest son, Miles and his wife Meredith are the proud parents of child number three, Quinn Nathaniel Burke, born June 30th at St John's in Subiaco. All well.

The photos are by Miles, and show Quinn at 1 hour, 5 hours and 8 hours old.

Of course, I am a proud grandparent, too!

Kris Hemensley's Collected Works Bookshop has got a blog