Friday, August 29, 2008

New Poetry by Ashley Capes

august rain

plucking courage
from somewhere
she’s months into
this newest illness
still working still
somehow smiling,
everything passes
in grey sheets then
crumbles like yoyo
or a long landslide,
i’m awed holding a
tub of vicks at the
beside just giving
my brave face and
though it’s wearing
out, there isn’t any
thing else i have so
we make do with
that and settle into
sheets that smell so
much of eucalypt.

- Ashley Capes 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

and yadayadaya

Which leads me to poetry as dirge, as plaint of a swinging gate, a whining dog, a town google finally takes off its maps.

Shakespeare. War. Religion. Radiohead. Love. THE TRAPPED. All that is dangerous and tender about our days.

We are, and will always be, dear readers, alive in dangerous times. We are no different to any other excepting the angle of the wind, the calibre of exception. The comfortable have for all eternity and will (at least for now) continue to spare a moment for the trapped.

Poets are the first to respond and the last to pronounce about this on-going crisis that is us. But that is just their method. They are, like journalists and infantrymen, prone to a breath-taking mortality. They stop to think, pronounce, die in the dreadful percentages of those who count.

We have those playing a two-handed game, however

turn to window turn
from tv & c
d player to col
our lifes short & on
lookers fickle read
what you fear true hear
an unknown sound one
holds the benchmark an
other chins with succ
ess theyve a whole oth
er raison detre
flatters something rac
ist precious unreal

- Michael Farrell "curtain as persons" from a raiders guide

It sounds like it means something because I built it up to dodge a bullet, which is what Michael Farrell's poetry does very successfully. I call it poetry only because that's how it came packaged via the name of a man I do not know but trust like the weatherman. Whether it is his judgment or mine that is finally askew is one of those best left to the weathermen of this great new medium. The blurb (and I am a magpie of poet's back yards) informs us that Farrell's new collection is a "raid on the inarticulate", but not as TS Eliot intended...The poems are composed through the application of principles familiar from contemporary music - sampling and remixing, repetition and substitution. Which, I gather, is supposed to legitimise this intellectual condescension passed off as a book. It is enough that we have digitalised that last bastion of spontaneity - rock and roll soul rap hip hop - but now we have to swallow these desperate grabs at street cred by a desperately over-rated writer. "Farrell's ear is as warm as an analog synthesiser" blurbs Aaron McCollough a little underwhelmingly, but at least his forms a sentence. Christ knows what the ubiquitous blurber Chris Wallace Crabbe was getting to or working away from when he was finally grabbed mumbling "...a tough little cookie".

Raise your standards, Giramondo.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Garret

There was, back in December of last year, about the time I was lauding its crisp pages like an orphan at his first Christmas dinner, a debate opening up in POETRY regarding the merits of Ezra Pound's Cantos. A tired argument, you might say, and a tired old place to have it, but, well....I am blogging for much the same reason you are surfing.

In recent times I have gone back to Pound's Canto's to find out if I was correct in so thoroughly getting over my initial enthusiasm for them, or it.

So begins Clive James in his graffito of one of the great poetic exiles.

Fifty years ago, when the mad old amateur fascist was still alive and fulminating, I fell for the idea of his panscopic grab bag the way that I was then apt to fall for the idea of love.

Ah, dear old Clive, our very own Don Bradman of the reverse average, holding out until the maiden comes. Not so strange to your dear blogger, I suppose, as a man who so aspires, except that Clive seems to have fallen out of love with the mad visionary and in love with the ordinary when there has in fact been no surer, more steady time to do exactly the opposite.

Come let us pity those who are better off than we are.
Come, my friend, and remember
that the rich have butlers and no friends,
And we have friends and no butlers.

One of those closed conceits so loved of drawing rooms before the big guns made litter of the drawing rooms and many of the people in them. I will let go that clunky first line, the hokey indicative. I assume Clive James emulated the same clunky grammar in his passionate commentary on the flawed but passionate man for much the same reason.

I have been disappointed by most of my heroes one way or another, but that is the point of heroes, or at least the way we have been re-inventing them since the Wars.

There is in Pound's Cantos as much to confound and disappoint as there is in any chat between the triumphant and their tired and beleaguered ancestors.

Who, who will be the next man to entrust his girl to a friend?
Love interferes with fidelities;
The gods have brought shame on their relatives;
Each man wants the pomegranate for himself...

I am not of Clive Jame's generation, so I can only blog at one remove about the desolation they soaked in around the dinner table (yes, there used to be such things, dear reader, even in my over-extended blog-time), but there seems to have been an air of acquisition in the generation following the last war that is almost Hellenic in its breadth and scope

...just as we can scrutinize the aging remains of our bodies in the mirror and decide that these loose remnants would not even be here to be looked at if we had not been strong and healthy when we were young, so we can look back to when we were wrong, and decide whether we were wrong as all that.


Youth and health have their virtues, as Clive James so readily doffs to the Hellenic in his Antipodean heart, but play can take your eye out...


Mascara is an online journal seeking to promote poetry of excellence and originality. We are especially interested in the work of contemporary Australasian and Indigenous poets. Our criteria for selection are quality of image, language and innovation. The word ‘mascara’ entered the English language in 1890. It derives from Spanish, Arabic and French origins, its meaning evolving from the word mask, masquerade, to darken, to blacken. The Arabic word ‘maskhara’ means buffoon.

And there you have it, short but sweet. Another Australian poetry hopeful is launched on the web. It is over a year old now, and judging by the two issues so far, it has a long life ahead of it. Diane Fahey, Phil Hammial and my long-suffering neighbour Mark O'Flynn are just some of the talents so far published. The mag has a strong editorial team with a subtle focus on Australia's troubled relationship with Asia, that amorphous mass where most people live. The editors are open for submissions all year round of poetry, reviews and short essays. They even PAY! Yes, that's right people, this is a grown up editorial team with access to funding and a willingness to share it. Do yourselves and Australian writing a favour and check it out. Just click on the post heading. And no, I don't know who the pretty girl in the picture is.

Vale Mahmoud

Mahmoud Darwish, a poet of great tenderness and lyrical intensity, has died in the US at the age of 67. His work became a rallying cry for the Palestinian struggle, and although the poet scorned the tag "poet laureate", he was closely allied with the Communist party and later the PLO, one of many Arab liberation movements which it spawned. Darwish spent 26 of his 67 years in exile, first in Moscow, then Paris, then Cairo until finally settling back in Ramallah in 1996. This later period in his life proved to be perhaps his most productive, spawning six books including Unfortunately it was Paradise: Selected Poems in 2003.

About Darwish's work, the poet Naomi Shihab Nye has said, "Darwish is the Essential Breath of the Palestinian people, the eloquent witness of exile and belonging...."

I Come From There

I come from there and I have memories
Born as mortals are, I have a mother
And a house with many windows,
I have brothers, friends,
And a prison cell with a cold window.
Mine is the wave, snatched by sea-gulls,
I have my own view,
And an extra blade of grass.
Mine is the moon at the far edge of the words,
And the bounty of birds,
And the immortal olive tree.
I walked this land before the swords
Turned its living body into a laden table.

I come from there. I render the sky unto her mother
When the sky weeps for her mother.
And I weep to make myself known
To a returning cloud.
I learnt all the words worthy of the court of blood
So that I could break the rule.
I learnt all the words and broke them up
To make a single word: Homeland.....

- Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008)