Monday, December 01, 2008
Recently, at the gentle behest of my most staunch and dew-eyed drinking partner, Jeff "Geordie" Graham, I began work on a collection of poems whose titles would all bear the august names of bands or singers who (and by extension...)I figured had cast some sort of spell over times and places since the turntables started turning.
It seemed a noble idea between beers and the froth that follows.
We both misted up and scrawled a whole lot of crap in the most frightening Gen-X ransom-writing that I gazed at next morning in mute horror. And yet I went ahead, pasting snippets of my life to the names of great people with heartfelt and brainless abandon until one day I fell back a little dizzy with the effort and realised all I had was a fistfull of poetry-lite and heavy lawsuits.
The poetry-lite was the problem, not the names I had attached to the waffle, as dawn bled over me. Because the names became an anchor. No-one, other than Gore Vidal, would divorce their name from even a middling work of art; assuming, of course, they were merely the subject and not the hapless author.
Speech writers have their own private hell.
Names are the very stuff of us. It will be the prevailing matter, trust me, when Jeff and I meet for lunch next Thursday. That and the bill.
The names I keep calling these things, mate. "Morrissey", "The Pixies", do you really think they'll mind?
Jeff works high up-middling in one of the big corporations, dances at Christmas parties with a witch-hat on his head. Sings through a "no" as though he had a deeper sense of its polarity but didn't want to break the party up to warn us. A man I have always considered born out of his time, such as Bowie or Frank Black or that lazy-eyed genius Thom Yorke. Loves his ex-wife as the mother of his daughter. Has never once pitied we "childless", knows he is simply along for the ride, witch-hat or no. He is a story on his own, Jeff, which is probably why I decided to dedicate the book to him.
The one with all the names inside of it.
Proper names, like proper nouns. Those ones we all own and have a right to scratch our heads at when we meet them in out-of-the-way places.
Which brings me to AUSTRALIA.
I have learnt a thing or two about naming things with this book.
One: that if there is any borrowed splendour from your creation it will not come from the name.
Two: names are important, not imported, mate. You cannot assume with names. Especially names as redolent and (apparently) unsung.
You had a good thought, you should have stopped at the second line.
As a pimply boy from Castlecrag with a hump on his back and just as much love for this strange and wonderful place (although with a little less money to spend), I set my sights on writing the Aussie version of Dostoevsky's "Brothers Karamazov". My twenties were wild and wired and roaming, but never ever in all my time before or since would I have ever assumed such an audience existed for a poem named after a country.
Posted by Justin Lowe at 8:16 pm