Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Vintage Book of African American Poetry

from Vintage:

In the Vintage Book of African American Poetry, editors Michael S. Harper and Anthony Walton present the definitive collection of black verse in the United States—From the neoclassical stylings of slave-born Phillis Wheatley to the postmodern artistry of Yusef Komunyakaa. Here is the oracular visions of Nobel Prize winner Dereck Walcott, the plaintive rhapsodies of an imprisoned Etheridge Knight. Here, too, is a landmark exploration of lesser-known artists— including perhaps the tradition's most accomplished practitioner, Sterling A. Brown— whose efforts birthed the Harlem Renaissance and the Black Arts movement&mdashand changed forever not only our national literature but the course of America itself.

Meticulously researched, The Vintage Book of African American Poetry is a collection of inestimable value to all those interested in the ever-evolving tradition that is American poetry,

paperback; 403 pages

Priced kindly at $15US

Order now at

Monday, December 29, 2008

Walking to the River

The river. Dogs swim in it, fish piss in it. It washes its dead up on the banks. The banks ignore it. The river is our destination through flaking trees and salty flowers, across riverside roads and sign-posted paths with people celebrating the invention of the wheel. Out of the river a bird sticks its black arse, a Rabelaisian greeting, and I half expect a cartoon balloon to belch into the air, saying, ‘Fuck off, will ya, I’m trying to fish here!’ I look down and at my feet, at my dog’s front paws, there lies a complete river bream. It seems healthy enough, but if so why is it dead here, washed up in dirty yellow sand? There’s not a mark on it, so I look around for other fish, thinking it might be some poisonous algae or such that has caused many fish death. No: just one stark fish, glistening in the sunlight, its silver scales shining. My dog is not interested; one sniff and into the river for a swim. I call her back but there is no stopping her and I trust her instincts to judge fresh water from foul. Reeds grow green and straight, the cormorant appears again, with its knowing look. The river seems healthy enough. Here again, today, two pelicans do their strange ritual: one swims up river, close to our bank, while the other swims down river by the far bank, the bank with the restaurant nesting on its jetty. Like pedestrians walking both sides of a suburban road in different directions. My dog comes to shore and does her shake dance. ‘Go, girl, go!’ I say to her, half laughing, wet dog taking me out of my questioning mind, and we both turn for the path home, leaving the dead bream for birds to peck, the pelicans to come to their conclusion, and the cormorant to his fishing.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Today, in wonderful summer sunshine, my wife Jeanette and I went to lunch at the Rose & Crown Hotel, Guildford, with my youngest son, Charlie. He is back home for a brief holiday from his Melbourne base.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Quote of the Season

"There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child." Erma Bombeck

Early Bernstein Book online ...

No chitter-chatter today, like those willy-wagtails on the woodchip path by the swamp, just a direction to a wonderful site by Charles Bernstein at

Friday, December 26, 2008

Hear the Author interviewed

You can hear an informative and very interesting interview with Miles Burke, author of Successfull Freelancing (SitePoint, 2008) on SitePoint Podcast, at

The book is selling well and is available through all the usual outlets, both online and in your local bookshop. (Angels we have heard on high / Tell us to go out and Buy!)

Harold Pinter dies on Christmas Eve 2008

Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, who had cancer, died on Christmas Eve aged 78.

He wrote more than 30 plays including The Caretaker and The Birthday Party. His film scripts include The French Lieutenant's Woman.

His style was so distinctive, "Pinteresque" entered the Oxford English Dictionary.

more at

Monday, December 22, 2008

Reindeer Report

Since 1974, the poet UA Fanthorpe has been writing poems in her Christmas cards to friends – poems now collected in a single volume. Here is one of them:

Reindeer Report

Chimneys: colder.
Flightpaths: busier.
Driver: Christmas (F)
Still baffled by postcodes.
Children: more
And stay up later.
Presents: heavier.
Pay: frozen.
Mission in spite
Of all this
Accomplished –

There's more at

Thanks to Max Richards, Australian poet, who brought this to my attention.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Adrian Mitchell RIP (1932-2008)

I was saddened this morning to hear of the death of Adrian Mitchell. He was one of the original British 'pop' poets of the 60s/70s, and stayed a strong voice for the Left all his life. My favourite among his books was Autobiography, and many students here would have heard of him through my quotes in autobiography writing units.

From the Bloodaxe Front Page:

We are enormously saddened by the sudden death of Adrian Mitchell, one of our most beloved poets. He died last night in his sleep from a possible heart attack, after suffering from pneumonia for the past two months.

Adrian was a prolific poet, playwright and children’s writer. His poetry’s simplicity, clarity, passion and humour show his allegiance to a vital, popular tradition embracing William Blake as well as the Border Ballads and the blues. His most nakedly political poems – about nuclear war, Vietnam, prisons and racism – became part of the folklore of the Left, sung and recited at demonstrations and mass rallies.

Born in London in 1932, Adrian worked as a journalist from 1955 to 1966, when he became a full-time writer. He gave many hundreds of readings throughout the world in theatres, colleges, pubs, prisons, streets, public transport, cellars, clubs and schools of all kinds. Many of his plays and stage adaptations were performed at the National Theatre as well as by the Royal Shakespeare Company and other theatre companies. In 2002, the socialist magazine Red Pepper dubbed him Shadow Poet Laureate and asked him to write regular republican poems for their columns. In a National Poetry Day poll in 2005, his poem ‘Human Beings’ was voted the poem that most people would like to see launched into space.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Quote of the Day

"metaphor--I use them. They keep me regular."
--Paul Violi

... as quoted by Halvard Johnson

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My wife, Clint Eastwood and What's Her Name

My wife leaves some coffee
in her cup, so I hear Mother say,
It's polite to leave a little in the bottom.

Memory. It's a steeplechase at my age -
I forget and search for names and dates.
Last night on TV, Clint Eastwood was
old: seventy seven years on the clock.
Even his socks looked old. And
when he reminisced he stumbled
and fell between names and dates.
Beside him, Angelina What's Her Name
bubbled with life, with
names and dates.

The first hurdle is easy –
you fly over it, no worries, but
come the last stretch, fences
are taller, water traps wider,
and the finishing post gains
a forbidden glow.

Merry Jolly and Happy Holly

This tree has weathered a year in our garage, and - with a couple of replaced baubles - will serve as this year's nod to the Harvest Festival or whatever it once was. (Please tell me, someone with a better memory than mine.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry - Out Now!

Kinsella John (editor)

'A very fine anthology, with exemplary introductions. It is refreshing to see how much has been done so well.' - Peter Pierce

Wide in scope and bold in ambition, this exciting anthology covers the range of Australian poetic achievement, from early colonial verse through to contemporary work, with a strong recognition of Indigenous voices. This collection brings together great and familiar names with those that deserve better recognition.

Including valuable introductory essays by John Kinsella, and biographical notes for all the poets, The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry presents the full measure of Australian poetic talent in all its richness and diversity.

North Adelaide Book Sale #4 - 4 January 2009

You are invited to attend a sale of secondhand books, which will take place between 10am and 4pm on Sunday the 4th of January, 2009, at the North Adelaide Community Centre. This is located behind the North Adelaide Public Library, at 176 Tynte Street, North Adelaide (next to the Post Office, and opposite the Daniel O'Connell Hotel).

The venue is AIR CONDITIONED and entry is free, with EFTPOS available to help with payment (American Express, Mastercard and Visa). On offer will be around 8000 secondhand books - small paperbacks mostly priced 50cents - $2, larger volumes mostly $2 - $10 - and not many are ex-library books. They’ll be sorted & displayed in the following categories ...


Australiana / Crime Fiction / Horror / Literature, Poetry & Plays / Science Fiction & Fantasy / Thriller / War Fiction / Westerns, plus a wide range of general fiction.


a considerable number of books relating to Doctor Who, Star Trek and other Cult TV programs, plus associated magazines (Dreamwatch, DWB, Fantasy Empire, Starlog, TV Zone, etc).


Art & Sculpture / Australiana / Cooking & Gardening / Economics / Environment / Family & Health / History & Politics / Movies & TV / Music (classical, jazz, pop & rock + sheet music) / New Age & UFOs / Philosophy & Psychology / Reference / Religion / Science & Nature / Sport & Leisure / Theatre & Dance / Travel & Adventure / True Crime / War / Women's Studies.

Plus a selection of children's books

Friday, December 12, 2008

'December, 2008' by Frederick Pollack

The new house adjoining the park –
with shingles, gables, verandahs, trim
a rich cream, a feast
of postmodernist set-pieces – flickers.
Two gray weeks, unseasonably,
if the term now means anything, cold
or warm, must have heralded
this strangeness, while leaves downslope
held pointlessly on, then fell at once in no wind.
At issue is whether that house would exist
in a just society. The garage, no question,
could house a dozen otherwise massacred
people, provide powder-room access
while they chopped the park,
built fires in the driveway,
cooked chipmunks and strays. One would like
the construction of the house
to be less flashy-cheap – damp sheetrock,
warped boards – but if even the rich
are sold such things, how shall justice be made
of stone? The current residents
communicate with an uncertain cosmos
through lawyers who say their kids are decent,
one’s in law school, and the family
has paid enough, enough,
for the right to be left alone.

So it flickers, the house, sometimes there, sometimes not,
like the car in the driveway, like wealth
or gas. When it isn’t, man isn’t,
man never was; but the hunted
and hunters among the thick trees lack
a voice to express their joy. Or perhaps
it’s my mind that fades in and out,
like some words, like the idea
of justice? I knew an old man once
who still nagged at the Purges, the Icepick,
the Spanish Republic. Lately I
myself remembered the slogan,
“Don’t forget to smash the state!” –
its meaning a dried, buried cyst.
And during the campaign, our friend Lily,
pushing eighty, volunteered.
Obama’s people sent her to Colorado.
For six weeks she made phone calls.
Burnt out one night, she heard herself pleading,
“Imagine the windmills and clean cars.
Imagine the citizens’ groups.
Imagine the earth being healed and revitalized.
Imagine being very proud.”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Resource for DOROTHY PORTER writings

There is much to read and ponder from Dorothy Porter at
A quote from The Art of Writing by Robert Louis Stevenson:

There are two just reasons for the choice of any way of life: the first is inbred taste in the chooser; the second some high utility in the industry selected. Literature, like any other art, is singularly interesting to the artist; and, in a degree peculiar to itself among the arts, it is useful to mankind. These are the sufficient justifications for any young man or woman who adopts it as the business of his life. I shall not say much about the wages. A writer can live by his writing. If not so luxuriously as by other trades, then less luxuriously. The nature of the work he does all day will more affect his happiness than the quality of his dinner at night. Whatever be your calling, and however much it brings you in the year, you could still, you know, get more by cheating. We all suffer ourselves to be too much concerned about a little poverty; but such considerations should not move us in the choice of that which is to be the business and justification of so great a portion of our lives; and like the missionary, the patriot, or the philosopher, we should all choose that poor and brave career in which we can do the most and best for mankind. Now Nature, faithfully followed, proves herself a careful mother. A lad, for some liking to the jingle of words, betakes himself to letters for his life; by-and-by, when he learns more gravity, he finds that he has chosen better than he knew; that if he earns little, he is earning it amply; that if he receives a small wage, he is in a position to do considerable services; that it is in his power, in some small measure, to protect the oppressed and to defend the truth. So kindly is the world arranged, such great profit may arise from a small degree of human reliance on oneself, and such, in particular, is the happy star of this trade of writing, that it should combine pleasure and profit to both parties, and be at once agreeable, like fiddling, and useful, like good preaching. (END QUOTE)

More at

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dorothy Porter dies at 54. How sad.

Dorothy Porter died in Melbourne this morning from complications due to cancer. She was 54.

A writer at the height of her powers, Dorothy's most recent publication was EL DORADO, her fifth verse novel. It was shortlisted for the Dinny O'Hearn Poetry Prize (Age Book of the Year Award), the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, the Prime Minister's Literary Award for fiction, and Best Fiction in the Ned Kelly Awards and the Australian Book Review described it thus: …this mature and accomplished work…puts her at the top of the distinguished class of contemporary Australian poets when it comes to livres compos├ęs.

Four months ago Dot was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer. She has been in treatment since. She was very positive - and wanted to keep this to herself as she was sure she would defeat it. Unfortunately there have been complications and she was admitted to hospital 2 weeks ago and ICU 10 days ago.

Dorothy was the most passionate of people who gave her all to everything she engaged with. We cannot imagine the world without her.

The funeral will be at the Boyd Chapel, 3rd Avenue, Springvale Botanical Cemetery at 1.15pm this coming Sunday. No flowers Please.

Poetry for Dummies (Paperback)

by The Poetry Center (Author), John Timpane (Author) "The word poetry sends chills down the spines of many otherwise strong and balanced people..."

Well, the sales pitch on Amazon makes this book sound at least helpful to those people who haven't a poetic bone in their body - but they wouldn't be looking for it, would they?

From the publisher's intro: "Sometimes it seems like there are as many definitions of poetry as there are poems. Coleridge defined poetry as “the best words in the best order.” St. Augustine called it “the Devil’s wine.” For Shelley, poetry was “the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.” But no matter how you define it, poetry has exercised a hold upon the hearts and minds of people for more than five millennia. That’s because for the attentive reader, poetry has the power to send chills shooting down the spine and lightning bolts flashing in the brain — to throw open the doors of perception and hone our sensibilities to a scalpel’s edge."

At $US13.59, I'm tempted ... The Amazon page is at

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Did Britain Produce ANY Great 20th Century Poets?

I quote from :

Written by Rob Mackenzie at 5:57 pm

Laurie Smith's article in Magma 42, 'The New Imagination', explores whether truly great poetry might soon emerge in the UK for the first time in many years. It's an excellent article – well researched, controversial, and passionate.

At one point in the article, Smith asks why all the "indisputably" great 20th century poets are either American or Irish. He cites:

T.S. Eliot
Ezra Pound
Wallace Stevens
Robert Lowell
Sylvia Plath
W.B. Yeats
Seamus Heaney

He suggests various British possibilities. On most lists would be:

Edward Thomas
Wilfred Owen
W.H. Auden
Dylan Thomas
Ted Hughes

and some would make a case for:

Basil Bunting
William Empson
Philip Larkin
W.S. Graham
R.S. Thomas

However, Smith feels their influence has been more limited than their American and Irish counterparts (he details why in the article).

Do you agree with Laurie Smith's lists? For instance, does Ezra Pound, undeniably a great editor, also qualify as a great poet? Is Sylvia Plath's Ariel collection sufficient to justify her inclusion (her other work may be accomplished, but is it 'great?')? Are Edward Thomas and Wilfred Owen among the very best Britain has to offer?

And if you were asked to pick the seven most influential poets of the 20th century, who would you choose? How many UK poets make the grade?

The article goes on to examine the possibility of great UK poetry emerging in the years to come, but that's for another post…

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Trinity College Library, Dublin

If you're into libraries, take a look at
Amazing photos of libraries I'll never get to see! and some of you may have already walked through.

A couple of Broome images

Pat Lowe, Paul Adair,, Narelle and others at Writing Workshop, Notre Dame Library, November.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Tom Collins Poetry Prize

The annual poetry prize of the Fellowship of Australian Writers (WA) is now on. Closing date is 15 December, so get to it! Entry form and details at