Saturday, and I’ve spent today hanging Serengeti blinds on the back windows of the house. I think they must be ‘Serengeti-style’ blinds as they were purchased for a modest price at Spotlight in Penrith and don’t actually come from Serengeti, Tanzania. They’re more likely to have been ‘Made In China’. My hanging is possibly minutely crooked but passing strangers, blind people in a hurry and those with the naked eyes will probably not notice.
While I was going up and down the aluminium ladder I was thinking about the books I’ve been reading recently. I finished Joe Amato’s book Industrial Poetics : Demo Tracks for a Mobile Culture early last week. At first I found that I was resistant to the book. Its notes and bullet-style presentation seemed a bit scrappy to start with but then, as I kept reading, I began to follow Joe Amato's thinking on ‘how to tell the difference between life and art’ more receptively and I started to enjoy and empathise with segments recounting board meetings and job interviews from a poet’s viewpoint. I was always almost instantaneously sceptical of the first whiff of managerial language in my old job in a university library and in my previous careers. Joe Amato analyses the places ‘art’ is given by the ‘real world’ very convincingly and he firmly upholds a belief in whatever it is that makes poetry a ‘mysterious’ artform. This book crept up on me - my persistence was rewarded.
From the end of Industrial Poetics - “I have nothing at all to say. But I wanted to say it anyway.” Fellini’s sublimely absurd gesture in 8½ reminds us that most art haunts the peripheries of the orthodox, the administrative, the organizationally competent. If this has nothing to do with an aversion to thought or theory or intellectual work or even technique, neither does it suggest a reluctance to say what needs saying that “nothing” need be said. Industrial mojo bids us stay tuned and attuned to the present moment…Communities of poets and artists do what they can with the storehouse, the library, the archive, the authorized versions - this much they must do - but their overriding aim is to contribute…'
I’ve also been reading innovative women poets : an anthology of contemporary poetry and interviews. It’s edited by Elisabeth A. Frost and Cynthia Hogue. It is a collection of fourteen in-depth interviews with experimental women poets of the last forty years and includes lengthy selections of their poems and good brief introductions to each poet. It’s a fascinating and enriching book. The poets are the late Gloria Evangelina Anzaldua, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge, Jayne Cortez, Rachel Blau du Plessis, Alice Fulton, Susan Howe, Harryette Mullen, Alice Notley, Alicia Ostriker, Sonia Sanchez, Leslie Scalapino, C.D. Wright and (the late) Barbara Guest and Kathleen Fraser.
For Australians reading The Deletions, I bought my copy of both Industrial Poetics and innovative women poets via mail order from Dark Horsey Bookshop
The Eighteen Nineties is a Pelican book first published in 1913 and reprinted eight times until the edition I’ve been reading was published in 1939. I found it in a second-hand bookshop in Blackheath. When I expressed an interest in the book the co-proprietor of the shop, a lover of art, architecture and culture in general, Dorothy Quin, gave it to me. It’s a collection of essays about the fin de siècle but no, it’s not about or by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, it’s by Holbrook Jackson.
It is series of essays that review the art and ideas at the close of the Nineteenth Century and covers figures of the times like Oscar Wilde, Aubrey Beardsley, the poet John Davidson, the playwright making an entrance - George Bernard Shaw, Rudyard Kipling, and topics like 'Decadence', 'The Minor Poet', 'The New Dandyism', 'The New Fiction', 'The Revival of Printing', 'Black and White' and 'British Impressionism' among others. I've been interested to read the take on Francis Thompson who was, infamously, a god-possessed and fraught young druggie (opium) - a poet whose visions remind me of Cocteau, Blake, Ginsberg, and Michael Dransfield all together. One of the fascinating facts about Francis Thompson is that like the earlier poet, John Clare, he walked to find his fate. As a teenager (from the age of seventeen) Francis Thompson studied medicine in Manchester but abandoned repeated attempts to take a degree and decided he wanted to live by writing. He tried earning a living in various jobs but eventually, in 1885, hurt by his father's disapproval, he left Preston and walked to London. Actually walking into years of poverty, laudanum addiction and destitution.
I found a copy of a pocket-sized pamphlet of Francis Thompson's The Hound of Heaven at another very good (meaning 'kind-of-irresistible') second-hand bookshop,Lamdha, in Wentworth Falls last summer.
As every Australian resident knows, there is currently, and suddenly, a national political emphasis posed on past and ongoing crises concerning the Indigenous peoples of this country.
I’ve been a member of ANTaR, Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation, for some years and I will leave it to that organisation to speak, but I do want to draw attention to the extraordinary political stress that has been imposed upon Australian Indigenous people in the last week.
Check Living Black and Message Stick for commentary, information and for events for the upcoming NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Week from July 8th until July 15th.
What to do on a rainy Saturday night in Blackheath? Stroll across to one of the pubs on the highway and meet up with friends. Some fresh from a rivetting, brain-stretching couple of hours at the Blackheath Philosophy Forum and a poet, Tim Thorne, visiting from Launceston, Tasmania. All anyway ready for a glass of wine, a quick dinner and all flush with tickets to a concert in the Blackheath Community Centre, the veritable hub of the town.
The Spooky Men’s Chorale is an amazingly ‘different’ kind of acappella singing group. No dinner suits here, no kitschy chintz and no spiritual agenda. It is a group of sixteen very talented modern Mountain Men who perform with wit, aplomb and in great voice. From their own blurb they are a ruthless bunch of larrikins based in the Blue Mountains. The Spooky Men strike while the irony is hot.
The Spooky Men's Chorale, Blackheath, 16th June 07 (fotos: Trish Davies)
Spooky Men in Canberra (foto: Andy Cranston)
The Kazakhstan Kowgerls from Tasmania, were in Blackheath as part of their Hit the Rode Yak tour of the Blue Mountains. Their music is a mixture of open-throat singing, country and western (but no yodelling) and as someone remarked, they’re kind of like The-Kransky-Sisters-Meet-The-Leningrad-Cowboys. Very satirical.
Kazakhstan Kowgerls, Blackheath, 16th June 07 (fotos: Trish Davies)
Together in Tassie 2006 (foto: Sarah Delaney)
And on Sunday morning call in at the recently opened (only three months ago) Hat Hill Gallery to see the current show of paintings by Christine Townend and a wonderful collection of photos of 1920s Australian theatre, recently acquired by gallery co-director, Viken Minassian.
From 1992 to 2000 in the U.S., Los Angeles writer and film maker Christopher Reiner edited WITZ: A Journal of Contemporary Poetics. He says “ It's no longer as contemporary as it was back then, but I'm putting PDF files of the original issues up on my web site, for anyone who's interested.”
So far, there are seven issues available for download, with more on the way. Visit the WITZ Archives
Stephen Ratcliffe :Interoptions, Nick Piombino on Writing and Persevering,Edward Foster on Alice Notley and Douglas Oliver, Michelle Murphy on John High, Stephen-Paul Martin on Jacques Servin, Keith Waldrop on Cole Swensen, Susan Smith Nash on Dorothy Trujillo Lusk, Bruce Campbell on Walter Abish, and ‘Witz End’ by David Bromige.
John High’s ‘Working Notes from Moscow’, Clint Burnham interviews Steve McCaffery, Raffael de Gruttola on Steve McCaffery,Karl Young on Anne Tardos, Susan Smith Nash on Barry Silesky, John Tritica on Stephen-Paul Martin, Thomas Taylor on Rochelle Owens, Alan Davis on Harryette Mullen. Susan Smith Nash on John Perlman, Serge Gavronsky interviews Raquel Levy, Johanna Drucker on Chris Tish, Clint Burnham on Karen MacCormak, John Tritica on Sheila E. Murphy, Charles Plymell on Jim McCrary.
David Bromige / Robert Grenier : A Conversation, Susan Smith Nash on Kathleen Fraser and Janet Grey.
Charles Bernstein on ‘Community and the Individual Talent’, Daniel Barbiero on subjectivity, Dan Featherston on political poetry, Chris Stroffolino on Cole Swensen, Clint Burnham on Pam Rehm.
Mark Wallace On the Lyric As Experimental Possibility,94 Karl Young on ‘Roman Reading’, Robert Grenier and Chris Stroffolino on Don Byrd, Daniel Barbiero on The Art of Practice, and Harry Polkinhorn on Left Hand Books.
Susan Smith Nash on Leslie Scalapino, Mark DuCharme on ‘Poem’s Tensity’, Stephen Ellis on Edward Foster and Susan Smith Nash, David Giannini on John Perlman.
For those who might have been turned away due to the venue having reached its capacity, Johanna Featherstone’s Red Room Company blog carries a description of the Occasional Poetry event at the Sydney Writers Festival last Sunday evening. I’ll link the final documentation, including the poems and the ‘mineslec’ (miniature essay/lecture) once Johanna has put it up on the web