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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

how does the moon see?

I should tell you about a new book, The Moon Sees the One, by Candice Ward. It's been produced and published by Randolph Healy's wonderful Wild Honey Press, based in Ireland. As with all Wild Honey books, it is made with care and love, hand stitched and beautiful to read.

The book holds the ghosts of nursery rhymes and old songs alongside the ghost of theory. There's also the ghosts of various poets and singers, many of which are quoted or gestured towards. There are ekphrastic gestures as well. The book is full of delight as well as shadows, and there are lines that will make you laugh with their punning fervour. Candice, of course, knows how to use the line which, in this chapbook, is deft and dancing. And overall I felt, as I read it, a form of ecopoetics, of speaking beyond the self, a restless entanglement with both the intimate and larger things, as well as a full immersion in the language material.

I'll quote this following poem, which I published in a much earlier version in a small chapbook I edited entitled Landscape Poems, part of a series of books that arose out of the Poetry Espresso list.

Alphabet Trees

thorn of the downs
I hear your breath
fast fold fast fold
isle, fold, clasp

ash of the hills
you have more names
than even ice's kinds-
the higher to prune
us, cows send
dung to laurel, cherry
down in the valley

oak of the clay
get the lead out
absent your ac
how can birch
make a start

- Candice Ward

Do yourself a favour and get a copy of The Moon Sees the One. You can order direct from Wild Honey.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

lilies and thunder

As anyone who knows me realises, I'm not a one for any common or garden poetry anthology, but I picked up one today which is quite intriguing. It's called The Thunder Mutters: 101 Poems for the Planet edited by British poet Alice Oswald. The fact that its selections are from poets such as Ashbery, Marinetti, Ponge, Popa, Beckett and Bunting as well as Auden, Hopkins, Clare, Heaney and Burns as well as the prolific Anon, is of interest.

I suppose you could call it an anthology of 'nature' poetry. I am always wary of the concept of 'nature' - I ask 'what is natural?' and then get into political debates, or wonder why people point at 'nature' away from human. Nonetheless, I was interested in the 'ecopoetics' of this selection. And the more obvious anthology pieces (say 'God's Grandeur' or excerpts from 'Leaves of Grass') work along with Aboriginal song cycle poems. Or John Barleycorn, as interesting as any a work of ecopoetics ('They've ploughed, they've sown, they've harrowed him in ...').

Oswald says that she's preferred 'restless poems ... At their best they work like little lists, little heaps of self-sufficient sentences that keep the poems open to the many-centred energies of the natural world’ and that there are 'no prospect, pastorals or nostalgic poems'. This listy, cumulative approach, as well as the many old songs, works as a kind of rough litany, if not elegy, for the planet.

It sends me back to a funny old volume someone picked up at a sale for me. It's called 'The Poetry of Earth: A Nature Anthology', published by George G. Harrap and Sons, with no editor named nor date given. It's a hard cover with foxed pages and a frontispiece portrait of Wordsworth. It contains a lot of mixed poetry and prose excerpts from the likes of Emerson, Wordsworth, Ruskin, Sir Walter Scott, Longfellow, George Eliot, 'Mrs' Browning (this shows its age) and Marlowe as well as a lot of names I am not familiar with. For all its worthy post-Victorian flavour, I quite like to browse there as well. And to be reminded of even this: 'Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.'

Belatedly, I should note:

Issue Number Five of Melancholia's Tremulous Dreadlocks wherein, amongst many others, are these poems, and

nthposition wherein these poems.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

I have
been busy - ok?

wonder I
don' have the

to be
writing a poem

a walk in the park

As I said, I couldn't make it to the Picture Show launch last Friday night, unfortunately, as I was being Annette's handbag at the launch of Art & About. Annette has a photograph in the Sydney Life part of this public art thingie. Sydney Life consists of 29 photographs blown up onto canvas and strung up in the trees in Sydney's Hyde Park. You can see Annette's pic, 'Annette Willis: Niki and José, 2006' and others here.

A good way to see Sydney Life, I believe, is to go to the night noodle markets,. Annette and I intend to do just that some time soon.

this is not chocolate?

Also a pleasure to catch up again with Ivy Alvarez. Last time (indeed, the first time) Ivy and I met was over a hot chocolate in Dublin. A mighty fine hot chocolate, I must say. Ivy currrently lives in Cardiff now but she's back in Australia for the Poetry Picture Show, another project from the indefatigable Johanna Featherstone and her Red Room Company.

Ivy gave me a copy of her chapbook, 'What's Wrong?', another mighty fine thing. We definitely agreed that sometimes you need to make your own stuff (a chapbook, a zine, or whatever) - just do it and get it out there. I have some ideas, but nothing to show for them quite yet.

this is not poetry?

I also caught up with Michael Farrell, who was up this way for the Critical Animals component of TINA (This Is Not Art) in Newcastle, and also was staying in Sydney. In fact, some of us toasted his birthday while he was here. Another Libran, like yours truly.

Michael has a new book out, BREAK ME OUCH, which is a poetry comic book (or 'poetry cartoons', Michael says) in a neat A4 black and white format, funny, zany, cool. He put it together himself with the help of 3 Deep, but I can't find a direct link to it on their site. I'm sure Michael would direct you to where you could get copies.

a bit of ub-ub

I had the pleasure of hearing, live and in person, the work of Christian Bök last week. He was in the country for work down in Wollongong but was able to visit Sydney for a gig at UTS, for Martin Harrison's poetry class and for a few interlopers such as myself and other Sydney poets. Christian is supposed to be able to do the fastest rendition of Schwitters' "Ursonate". I'm sure that's correct and we got a taste of that work, plus readings from parts of Eunoia, including Vowels, which was cool. One of my other favourites was 'Valuveula', which he called an 'alien hymn', originally written for one of those Gene Roddenberry's sci-fi television shows. The language has no nouns or verbs, so there's a lot of 'as iffing' needing to be 'translated'. I also admired a beatboxish poem (well, that's what it sounded like to me) which used no mikes, no tapes, no technology, just the body, the voice, and all its textures. And very funny was "Ubu Hubbub" which Christian says is one of his few 'political' works based on what he imagined Ubu Roi might sound like when he hit the hustings.

Phew, I was amazed, let me say. Talk about your materiality of language, talk about working, talk about high energy and enthusiasm, talk about the breath. And afterwards, chatting with another poet, I and she thought we had to go home and practice making all our own fabulous sounds. But I know my body's too far gone for that these days. My throat and sinuses just wouldn't perform and as for my lungs ... oh dear.

Christian is a great guy, too. A bunch of us got together with him a coupla times, for a bevvie and a meal, including dinner at the Emperor's Garden in Chinatown. (This venue must be heading into legendary territory. Many, many poets' dinners have been had here. We've all discussed a plaque at the EG. One day, maybe.)

Not sure what's with me but I'm dawdling. Spring shouldn't be tiring. Perhaps barometric pressure changes things, every whichway. I can barely scribble, let alone write.

I stare at my hands which seem dry in the southerly that's blown up our valley today. It knocks down our pot plants - big pots, I'm telling ya. Boof boof goes the wind and down they go.

I tried to tidy my desk which means sweeping away one layer but not the many.

I'm listening to jazz - Bernie McGann's fabulous alto.

I'll get some more things here soon, Dawdle, dawdle, dawdle.

Meanwhile I'm drinking a lot of water trying to replace those 'precious bodily fluids' the high wind dries out (besides I've been a little poorly for a day or two and need something clear and cold to wash through me).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Richard Lopez dropped by a few days ago and left interesting comments about translation and internationalism.

Like him, my translation projects aren't necessarily in languages I know well, or at all. I only really know English but rely on other versions, transliterations, dictionaries and other aids. Yet I also feel that much of the poetry that interest me is in languages other than English. One of the first books of poetry I ever ever bought was a selection of Montale's poems in English - one of those Penguin Modern European Poets series.

For instance, at the moment I am reading translations of the Cuban exile poet José Kozer, a volume entitled Stet: Selected Poems of José Kozer, translated by Mark Weiss and available through Mark's Junction Press. I had heard of Kozer, specifically but not only from from Mark, but had never read much in translation. Now I can and am loving what I am reading so far.

And, like Richard, I get something from the old Chinese poets, I have turned back to the Tang dynasty poets when I have had need of being refreshed. I don't think it is a kind of exoticism or appropriation but it is certainly another way of seeing/hearing/reading. Something necessary, to get out of your own mind set.

Richard also notes that to some extent we are all becoming internationalists due to the ubiquity of the internet and the contacts and networks it creates as well as greater access to all kinds of works. I think this could be especially the case for those of us who essentially come from migrant and/or invader cultures (ie my forebears came to Australia from England, Scotland and Ireland starting around 150 years ago as well as much less, depending of which side of the family you look at).

Sunday, September 17, 2006

ebb and flow

Reading Jen at blue acres and also thinking of the times when the words don't come and when they do.

I was doing one of the regular(ish) DiVerse readings today - we're the ekphrasis team, writing in reference to artworks, this time prints at the S.H. Ervin Gallery - and one of the other poets said an interesting thing - that she tried to write a poem in response to a print of a cat. She's a cat person, so it should have been a shoe-in, she and we all thought. But, nope, the poem wouldn't 'go'. Whereas another print 'insisted' she write about it.

Of course, this is all speaking in metaphors about process, which is fine. I'm not scared or worried by metaphors. Jen says: "when I'm stuck it seems poems are like equations with one or two possible but elusive solutions, both requiring a good ten or twenty more IQ points than I have spare to find." I understand that as well, though it's not how I would have put it. I think in terms of flows and resistances. It seems as if it's a bodily process. Well, gosh, hey, it is. And if I thought of poems as equations, I never woulda written one. I'm a maths phobic, sadly.

But Jen then says, about the times writing is working: "like dreams just come when you forget that you can't sleep and instead start noticing those weird little images and words that are flicking through your mind all the time regardless." And I can go with that.

I'm not normally good at sleep but I do get those times in early morning when my wakeful body finds sleep quickly, suddenly, and I have the more vivid (and weird - as in sci fi, fantastical) dreams. I'm sure some bloke or gal has run around with some kind of machine measuring brain states during (hate this word) 'creativity'.

So the idea of flow works there, not just the river idea, but of body systems. As we all know, you can't step into the same river twice, so you lose things as you go along (well, I do as my memory is a bit dicky) but in the body stuff goes around, and in my puir wee body there's a bit too much pooling and eddying (congenital lymphatic hiccup thingie). But when it's working, it's working. Which it was through these three days of non-office time. Now, is the hour of the potential impasse. Hoping to keep the systems from glueing up. I have somewhere I am heading on a deadline.


By the way the two ekphrastic poems I read at the exhibition today were ones I've published lately on da blog.

This one I retitled Side by side. It's after a print called Osmosis by Susan Rushforth. And this one as titled is after a series called Lightpool by Salvatore Gerardi, part of which is on the SH Ervin site, the red circle on blue.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I was re-reading some of Yves Bonnefoy's poems, for other reasons, and came upon this interesting essay by Hoyt Rogers on Bonnefoy and translation. The problem discussed begins with the translation of 'boat' as one of Bonnefoy's fundamental metaphors. For he uses barque not bateau, and that makes all the difference.

Bonnefoy says: "The more a translation interprets a poem by making it explicit, the more it reflects the translator, with all his or her differences from the author. But to be truly faithful, we have to be free. And do we have any freedom if we are not entitled, every now and then, to leap ahead of ourselves as we read? To translate does not mean to repeat: it means to be won over; and that only happens when we put our own thoughts to the test as we proceed."

I put all the above on my translation blog latitudes but thought it may be of interest here. I would like to know what it is to be free.

Friday, September 15, 2006

just chatting

I've got a day off work today. That's something hard to come by. All thanks to powers that be. I'm pretty pooped, I can tell you.

I saw the first blossom on our cherry tree this morning. It's coming out real slow. The Japanese maple is already spreading outside the front door but the cherry is always slow.

It's that spring weather that messes your head. There's still a chill in the breeze but the heat tricks you into thinking it's really warm. And it isn't, strictly.

I've neglected the Bobster in recent years but I got a copy of Modern Times. Happy with it on first play through - all sorts of high and low registers in the words and full of the Dylan trademark steals from folk and blues and old timey American music. But, please, everyone knows he didn't write Rollin' and Tumblin'. That's just silly and disrespectful. Sure, the original author may be lost to us, though McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters) often gets the cred. At least Bob lets the band stay in tune these days. I've got the 'special' edition with a DVD which I haven't played yet. I normally don't buy 'specials' because they're not so (there are exceptions) but this was 'on special' anyway. And then I noted that in the US it cost more dollars than their regular CD. Here, it's the normal (albeit always inflated) Australian price. So why wouldn't you? The packaging is cool - supposed to remind you of old 78s. Which I'm - just - old enough to remember. My father had a collection of them. Don't know where they got to.

A curious thing. A poem of mine just got accepted for an anthology. No complaints there. But, why that poem, I arks meself? Don't you sometimes wonder why one certain poem gets picked and not the one/s you think ought to be? I don't think my judgement is that 'off' but maybe it's so. I once co-edited an anthology and probably puzzled folks like that as well. Hmm. Just curious, not complaining.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Babylon Burning: 9/11 Five Years On

Nearly 90 poets from around the world have contributed to Babylon Burning: 9/11 five years on, an anthology of poems on the Twin Towers atrocity and its consequences. But they aim for more than pious hand-wringing: the anthology will be free, but readers are asked to donate to the Red Cross.

nthposition, the site behind the anthology, wants to maximise the money raised by listing it on iTunes as a PDF. (Only a handful of publishers are putting PDFs on iTunes, and they tend to be techie rather than literary.) Fourteen per cent of internet users visit iTunes. Though sales of poetry books are flat, online poetry is booming, poetry downloads rose by 40% last year and DEF Poetry Jam on HBO introduced a vast new – and young – audience to poetry, which nthposition wants to reach. Critic Marjorie Perloff recently remarked that the internet is "more fluid, flexible, and much more accommodating" than print for poetry.

Todd Swift, nthposition poetry editor, agrees: "Auden said that 'poetry makes nothing happen', but we think it can, and we'd like to prove it." Babylon Burning will rely on readers to spread the word – the site is completely unfunded. A print-on-demand paperback of the anthology will also be available from, with all profits going to the Red Cross.

Contributors to Babylon Burning are: Ros Barber, Jim Bennett, Rachel Bentham, Charles Bernstein, bill bissett, Yvonne Blomer, Stephanie Bolster, Jenna Butler, Jason Camlot, J R Carpenter, Jared Carter, Patrick Chapman, Sampurna Chattarji, Maxine Chernoff, Tom Chivers, Alfred Corn, Tim Cumming, Margot Douaihy, Ken Edwards, Adam Elgar, Elaine Feinstein, Peter Finch, Philip Fried, Leah Fritz, Richard Garcia, Sandra M Gilbert, Nathan Hamilton, Richard Harrison, Kevin Higgins, Will Holloway, Bob Holman, Paul Hoover, Ray Hsu, Halvard Johnson, Chris Jones, Jill Jones, Kavita Joshi, Jonathan Kaplansky, Wednesday Kennedy, Sonnet L’Abbé, Kasandra Larsen, Tony Lewis-Jones, Dave Lordan, Alexis Lykiard, Jeffrey Mackie, Mike Marqusee, Chris McCabe, Nigel McLoughlin, Pauline Michel, Peter Middleton, Adrian Mitchell, John Mole, David Morley, George Murray, Alistair Noon, D Nurkse, John Oughton, Ruth Padel, Richard Peabody, Tom Phillips, David Prater, Lisa Pasold, Victoria Ramsay, Harold Rhenisch, Noel Rooney, Joe Ross, Myra Schneider, Robert Sheppard, Zaid Shlah, Henry Shukman, Penelope Shuttle, John Siddique, Goran Simic, Hal Sirowitz, Heather Grace Stewart, Andrew Steinmetz, John Stiles, William E Stobb, jordan stone, Sean Street, Todd Swift, Joel Tan, Nathaniel Tarn, Mark Terrill, Helên Thomas, Vincent Tinguely, Rodrigo Toscano, John Tranter and John Welch.

All gave their work for free.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

end of August - conditions

So that's it for August and 'the project'. Thanks to those that stopped by and left a comment (and those who visited by leaving other traces, I could feel the pixels rustlin').

This weekend (family duties) and next week (grand happenings, including weekend after) are absolutely chockers, and near impossible for anything outside the squares, the envelopes, the grids, the whatevers. If I get to watch the last ep of Dr Who (on tape), that'll be something, I tell ya.

But I might still try to do my own rustling from time-to-time. Maybe.


I contemplate my modern soul not too much. There's something of steel in the sky and it bears down through clearances of blue. I’ve tried stepping into the same sea twice, or more, and nearly drowned in the shallows. The sand occupies me with its waywardness, its withholding of evidence, debrading millions of dead skeletons. The crust is temporary but the wind taps each wing of a high albatross. A headland is always that far, a lighthouse flashes with some ghost climbing. The rocky beach is littered with fur seals. Danger moves in their sleepy regard and their bloodied necks. I realise stepping here is wrong as well. But the wind is cold and sometimes that’s enough.


Each day is impossible as I fight with contours.

My horizon breathes its narrow fog, as militaries hedgehop by day.

Dusty trees tremble in darkness.

Silver-plated clouds and tiny craters slip stones into my mouth.

Here I wait for breaks at sea, cracks in holes made by language.

I am a stone at the bottom where each word will be stolen.

I could head for the pale yellow distance or die in repetition.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

how it might sing

I've just come across Jeff Davis's blog called Natures,. I'm glad I did.

I was actually tracking down some information on Thomas Meyer when it turned up. So, first of all, there's references to Meyer and to Creeley and others. There are some good considered things here including, for starters, an entry tackling poetry and music which, as a poet who makes much musical reference and with a concern for the sonics of poetry, I found useful - thinking in terms of sound forms and the lexical.

I liked that 'natures' is the plural, rather than the grandiose Nature.


fragile tears or strong enough falling
that’s left
the uncertain lengths

there are possibles, rain on earth
and lostness
but are everywhere

and to hear crackles of diodes
of a
few recovered scraps

ardent/ ears/ eyes the taste, skin
some future time
will think

acts in time along with leaves

- with a fragment from a fragment of Sappho

Monday, August 28, 2006

Yes, I know that was a bit of a flurry of words. But the idea of 'conditions' (aka The August Project) was to end up with 31 poems - not necessarily one written every day but one for every day.

So they were all written this month and, no, those last ones weren't just written tonight. I extracted them from notebooks and recent drafts. I didn't post much last week as I was unwell, bit of spring flu.

I saw the Al Gore movie tonight. That was a blow to the head. Not new, mind, but necessary.


The sting in light
brings its news and warnings

Faces circle
a shining of dust

Sleeping lightly
the empty room is a never empty space

The coin is tossed
and it sings through the air



What do we say to barriers
or wounds, that we descend along them?

What do we say to the other side
the sun and moon we do not see?

What of this tide, the thoughts in any tide
making minutes in the gauge, traces in the grain?

The passage of water in concentration
a meditation on the wave, without it no shore or skin.

It makes and moves the heart vessel
and every rocky boat.

Side by side we are rising –
chest, rib, ventricle, moon feather, branch, plinth

fall, returning stream, arrow, light, dark pulse
carbon, membrane, light in light, wave and wound.


What is this?

While we’re talking light passes, though it’s easy to ignore its radiant shift. We’re neither passengers nor eternal. Though we trip on each other’s recall there’s another history being rearranged in shades drawn on ground.

I say, it’s how you think in circles, wanting to merge rather than mark. The four corners of a centre tremble as they touch space.

Our argument may ignite in small layers or return to its great elasticity. It’s no more than extending a mirror into the existence of zero. But I can do nothing unless I lose my own track, in land that made the curve, neither fleeting nor continuing, but always drawn on ground.

Here are the difficulties - of clusters, pebbles, mind moon, that great vacant sign, an eternal jewel, the head’s empty bucket, containing all things yet without, rearranging itself within clarity’s blue shadow.

the light
of your fingers
skin under sky


I have been working up to this all day. The gas and incense and the lowly trash invite quick contemplation of older pasts. The sunset spreads its saffron quilt, then the bra-a-ck bra-a-ck of gates and ticketing, the sweet lyres of homecoming. And coming home can be hard, that place. To live there after other places, to move into it smelling of the tunnels, taking delivery in the peculiar accent of dusk, an old-fashioned and decadent indigo, slightly denatured. There’s been a canopy set here for years. It’s used to the complaint, to bearing the weight of schedules and mistakes. ‘Once there was …’ is the beginning of the kind of sentence that can ruin you. And this was? Not equality but your long fingers and your long mind. I still have the entries and they never grow cold.

The next issue of foam:e is now looking for submissions, by the way.