Monday, September 29, 2008


North or south of the line, beggar's east or golden west, mumma's boy or beer-tap dancer, third man or fly slip, I have always been true to my kind. Spoilt, white, male, bullet-dodger, all the echoes that would see me chased from any self-respecting chamber. Studio 54, Hacienda, the Macquarie Street public gallergy, open mic night at the old Sandringham Hotel...

But as summer comes, I am suddenly reminded of all the scratches I lay pellets for in the chill season. Small, hapless creatures disposing of my waste and keeping Buster (pictured)busy. Rats, as though the busy need names.

By the way, don't stare, he bites.

If there will ever be days of a truly republican, Cato-esque, Cicero-free, democratic Australia, they are probably brewing a little further west than the Mamre Road exit. No Jacobite massacres, just the usual grumbles in the usual 40-ton tread. Kiwis, probably, drawing our western riches from the ground. Scots and Maori A-sharp churl lending the customary Aussie D-minor drone that little bit of piquance. A bookish bunch, the Kiwis, and we have already taken over their air defence. Perhaps in time they will teach us how to take a position and hold it.Otherwise, just the usual rattle of chains.....

This nation (I mean the third assumption of those we know), was brought into being by a motion of hands some doubtless bristling day in the great breezy Georgian complex of Westminster just as the last great Queen's grieving head was finally coming to rest. And so white nations are settled.

That was one hundred seven scratchy years ago.

The usual strangers suckling our young, enticing their wolves to our throaty syllables.

...and still this profound place, this envy of the slack-jawed and the square-jawed and the millions in between....thriving despite a surfeit of roses and a talent for cricket.

But why did they pick could they ever mistake you?

(Bob Dylan, 1967)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Infrequent Poet

Recently, courtesy of Melbourne's one and only poet/rock star/editor Ashley Capes, I have come across two mature, insightful, even-tempered blogs - Kris (the saint) Hemmensely's Collected Works blog, and David Lumsden's beautifully named Sparks from Stones. The former is a surprisingly chatty site from an apparently rather taciturn, wise and gentle man, interspersed with brilliant poetry of every colour and hue. As I mentioned to Kris Hemmensley a few weeks back, it makes me want to drive down the deadly Hume and walk down this magical street populated by poets and painters.

David Lumsden's blog, on the other hand, has a far more solitary tone to it, although by that I do not mean navel-gazing, or any of that smug mingling of hauteur and tweed-radical so beloved of sites like Jacket. There is such a measured, urbane tone to Lumsden's blogging, and such a clean edge to his insights, that I reflected on my own jagged efforts with a twinge of remorse. His piece on the Sydney connection to Eliot's classic Prufrock is text book stuff for any literary blogger - measured, succint and with not a jot of barrow-pushing.

Click on the post heading to see what I mean. Kris Hemmensley's Collected Works is already on my links list.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Between the pertinent facts, to paraphrase Martin Heidegger, there can only be music.

He is perhaps the only other philosopher beside Wittgenstein to truly revel in the linguistic thorns of the German language since the trenches, but unlike his shell-shocked counterpart, he only really stumbled on and over a concept of silence. The Period, as it has to exist in both cognitive and dialectic theory. That instant between two changes. What poetry thrives on. What Wittgenstein must have glimpsed manning the spotlight on the frozen river, what in Beethovian scoring would look something like.@?@?//what the?...

Well, I can envisage it because I have seen some of the scratchy pages, and we all know what Beethoven looked like tearing his lead-based hair out. The lack written all over a child's face when they're left to guess the word. Pertinence of so much happening there can only be a single measured beat to account for it. That the only depth and calibration of the great eternal OTHER, of SILENCE, is in music.

Silence is not something bloggers are good at, but then ours is a different universe, blogosphere, floating around like Icarus with aluminium wings.

There is a journalist on this scorched island writing for one of its major dailies whose father taught her everything she knows. She best float up to the blogosphere, because she has inherited her father's eye for the pertinent and all his impatience for detail.

There is a federation on this island, one of the oldest surviving, which isn't saying much perhaps, because they are tenuous things. But there has been a concerted attack on this adolescent bonding, as on many of the other tried and trusted institutions of this oh so young oh so ancient place, snatching at the hook of all our daily troubles like one of those dark eels you hook off a pier that turns your hand black and crowds your faith in doctors.

James Joyce, I apologise for all that maybe.

Her name is not important. Those who have lived in Sydney or Melbourne for any length of time will (eventually) know who I am talking about. She does not brave photos that aren't a dozen years old. She talks of mothers like some talk of diggers, as though they were all blameless and not sometimes answerable for the wrong turnings of the world. She does a hatchet job of almost every subject she preys on, but she is impetuous and almost indelible now on my fair, forever spruiking harbour city's crystalline chatter. No-one trusts her but everyone likes her in that trussed up way of port cities. Fortunately we are not the capital of this country, only its first port of call for most new constituents and its administrative centre for its most teeming most consistently bankrupt state.

She has now settled into her role as some sort of gadfly for the new "socialist" Australia. She is kidding herself. She is nothing but a whiner and an apologist depending on the day and the turn of phrase that enters her diesel-powered head. She is, in other words, a blogger, not a journalist, at least none worthy of the name even on this truth-scorched island.

I will blog now, but hopefully you will get my point and search elsewhere for something to fill the THE PERIOD, that great Beethovian scratch.

She, like those shady and not-so-shady figures in the Sydney Institute (I will parcel up all "think-tanks" with short-selling as a doomed phenomenon - call me sunny) have taken to filling up valuable real estate in Sydney's only broadsheet with half-baked commentary for the triumphal post-1998 Howard decade. Bill Clinton still had two years to run then, don't forget, albeit against Gingrich and a hostile Senate. Australia had diggers storming beaches that weren't theirs, even in 1915, usurping questions of who stormed this island's beaches when and why and for what and for how long - all old barbecue questions with suddenly two sharp ends and no prong.

It was all finger-licking fun when my nephew was a boy, except for all those usurped by the mindless chatter post- Mabo, post-Wik, about what should and could be done about the cultural, spiritual and material health of all occupants of this island.

Now she of the Calender quote is trying to teach teachers how to teach. She is spirited in her defence of nothing, just a white room with a rat lurking somewhere inside. She quotes Orwell without blinking, she one of the proudest lieutenants of one of the greatest periods of obfuscation this Federation has ever seen. Something about the erosion of a language if it is not handed down properly...

Fittingly, I suppose she means.

And she will always have a point as long as there is an alternative point of view. Which, the last time I checked, was the birth of civilisation, not its end, Socrates.

Friday, September 05, 2008

2008 National Poetry Festival

This damp spring weekend in Sydney sees the 6th National Poetry Festival, due to be launched tonight over cocktails at the Sydney Mechanics's School of Arts in Pitt street. I include a list of highlights below. Bruce Dawe giving the Judith Wright lecture should be a must for anyone interested in the state of original thought and letters in this country. I would be there myself (I happen to be a member of the Mechanics' School of Arts), but my unscrupulous landlord insists that I work long weekend shifts to maintain a roof over my head. To those of you attending the soiree tonight, please feel free to have one for me.

* Cocktail Party Opening with performances by Sarah Day, Judith Beveridge and Peter Boyle.
* Readings by poets from Australia and overseas including Bruce Dawe, Michael Hofmann (UK), John Tranter, Bronwyn Lea, Jan Owen, Vivian Smith, Louise Oxley, Alan Wearne, and many more
* The Judith Wright Lecture delivered by Bruce Dawe
* Presentation of the Poets Union Poetry prize and the Scanlon Prize for Indigenous verse
* The State of Play panel
* Pre-festival events including the 'Creative Reading' seminar.

Cocktail Party Opening - 6th Australian Poetry Festival

Fri, 01/08/2008 - 16:29 — Poets Union
Start: 05/09/2008 - 18:00
End: 05/09/2008 - 20:00
6th Australian Poetry Festival
An Australian
Poetry Festival

The Festival will open with a cocktail party and you’re invited!

When: 6pm–8pm, Friday 5 September.

Where: Festival venue, Sydney Mechanics’ School of Arts, first floor, 280 Pitt Street, Sydney.

Cost: $20 at the door (includes drinks, finger food, music, a chance to mingle, and highlight poetry performances by Judy Beveridge, Peter Boyle and Sarah Day)

Bookings: Please call the Poets Union on 9357 6602

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Short prose by Jen Craig

Lola kills

This morning, as I was passing between two women who were chatting with smiling faces on a narrow footpath, I overheard the single statement: my friend died last night ­ a single statement which had the same intonation and tone, I was thinking, as if the woman had said instead: my friend came last night (a long awaited friend ­ a friend she had been talking about to this other woman for weeks and weeks now, each day bringing the event of her arrival only slightly closer).

If it had been possible to pause where I was passing, I might have done, if only to hear whether the apparently cheerful tone of the conversation was going to alter.

The fact that, by coincidence, a new piece of graffiti had appeared on a building nearby saying: Lola kills, only added to the gentle hysteria of the morning.

- Jen Craig 2008

Jen Craig’s short stories have appeared in various Australian literary magazines. In 2007 she finished a MA in Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney, with the completion of her first novel, Since the Accident. Her blog of micro prose can be found at

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

New Poetry by Mark O'Flynn

Francis Bacon's Studio

From the perspex doorway, thick as a bank
teller’s window, every dream is achievable.
Not a draught stirs. The rosy splatter of the rainbow
arcs across the ceiling like a blood spill.
Loose feathers of paint, the forests of brushes
held fast in this holy, primal mess.

Behind the ravaged door every mother’s nightmare.
Scraps of newspaper fossilized in place,
the round mirror a bloodshot eye.
The light preserved, exactly, like the light
of a grimy London hangover. The floor,
long forgotten under tins of rubbery paint,
slashed canvases turned towards the wall
await the verdict of the rats in the temple.

- Mark O'Flynn 2008


One thing you can say about the razor wire
when the overnight spiders cast their fishing nets
and the early morning light strikes
at just the right angle,
for a moment the fence is meshed
in shimmering colour like something woven
or stumbled upon, decrepit in a swamp,
and everything to be faced on the other side
for a moment disappears.

- Mark O'Flynn 2008

Mark O'Flynn's most recent collection, What Can Be Proven, came out in 2007 through Interactive Press. He still has the great bounty of a dear and loving family, a very cute dog, and the grave misfortune to remain my neighbour until the lease runs out. His poetry, of which I have only recently become acquainted, is a compelling mixture of the tender and the sonorous, the hug and the bristle. Click on the post heading to see what I mean.