Monday, October 27, 2008

The Standard

In the early 1970's, following the lead of that moral avatar Richard Nixon, most of the developed economies of the "free" world decided to quit pegging their issued notes to the gold standard. The Communist bloc regarded all this with wry apprehension. This decision happened to coincide with the blushing vaseline-lensed dawn of easy credit. All of a sudden the bills you held in your hand were not actually worth what was printed on them (ie what your government held in its reserves) but what complete and mostly unnacountable strangers haggled between themselves in the smoky confines of the bourse. I am old enough to remember the OPEC crisis of 1973 when the Arab nations took the only other way out after the humiliations of the Yom Kippur war, but even their Soviet-inspired perfidy pales in comparison with the utter stupidity and greed of western markets who have held governments to account for their spending on the one hand (at the expense, of course, of the most vulnerable), while leveraging themselves into a very tight seat indeed in what may become the greatest roller coaster ride since that honey of 1914-45.

The venality and greed of the post-war generation is, of course, pretty much a given on this site. That is not my point. My point goes back to the gold standard, to what beet-faced poets like myself skirt around like sharks around a rusty anchor. That guarantee there was a mother ship in these waters and there will be again. That underwriter of all parliaments and all royal houses, the guarantee that we will rise tomorrow and not all be speaking different tongues. Guarantor of Shelley's great fear when he woke up that fateful post-war morning all carpet-mouthed in the dungeon of his liberty.

Next came Fraud, and he had on,
Like Eldon, an ermined gown;
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to millstones as they fell.

And the little children, who
Round his feet played to and fro,
Thinking every tear a gem,
Had their brains knocked out by them. 1

You see, without more than paper promises that those in a position to make a difference will do so in the common interest, we will remain a market place and not a culture. A civilisation requires some sort of underpinning. Debts are all very well as long as they don't outlive their usefulness.

Which brings me back to the gold standard.

In the mid-1960's, when the world's economies were still dubiously pinned to gold, the English marched with their feet away from cricket and toward football as the national sporting obsession. Within a year or two, Britain had decimalised its currency, joined the European common market, dropped the gold standard, and introduced a truncated version of first-class cricket that could produce a result within a day. The doomsayers doomsayed and the kiddies...well, some grew up and some grew into those bull-necked wizards in the corporate boxes holding up every passage of play in every Test cricket arena in the country.

And some, of course, have always loved football the way I love cricket, can eulogise for hours on the deft touch, the lyrical dance of someone long dead just like I can. But then football was bought like everything else, once the "gold standard" of local representation was steadily vetted.

I am not English, but I lived there through the end of the Thatcher years when Millwall supporters could have governed the country (if they had not been so indebted to their bookies and the crown), and when test cricket stadiums stood empty as though the very word cricket meant "bomb".

I despaired of the future of the game then, because I had left behind an equally desultory island with a barely beating cricketing heart.

But within a matter of three or four years something miraculous happened in world sport - cricket began to pack stadiums like it hadn't since carpet became vogue. In Australia, England, Jamaica, Johannesburg, people were queueing up again to see this strange game, and nor were they disappointed. Since 1993/4 crowds all over the planet have been graced by some of the most exhilarating, tightly-contested international sport ever played.

I am here talking of Test cricket, that eternal drone some overseas visitors have commented on when gracing our summer shores. Because there are now in fact three formats of the game played at international level - the five day Test format played between 2 squads of 11 players selected by their respective country's board of control, a one day game consisting of 50 6-ball overs per side in which the highest scorer of runs always wins, and the newest version of 20-20 cricket where the uninitiated can more than half the previous formula.

As I am spelling all this out, I feel like Frasier Crane explaining Radiohead to a young girl in a lift. Cricket is not that foreign anymore. Just ask Allen Stanford, the Texas millionaire behind the 20-20 Stanford Cup in the Carribean. The game was a religion down there until about 10 years ago. Suddenly the lure of Basketball and more nefarious activities robbed cricket of one of the world's most enduring and successful sporting federations. Allen Stanford saw something worth reviving and has gone about it with all the verve and aplomb of a man who has discovered the old world at his doorstep. In other words, like a wealthy, warm-hearted American of the old school. The type who picked up Bradman's tab in the midst of the last Depression.

I am getting somewhere, my American cousins.....

In a small administrative Punjabi capital last week, by the name of Mohali, the Australian test cricket team suffered one of its greatest defeats since the 1920's. There were celebrations all over India, the financial home of cricket these days, as Australia and India have been standing toe-to-toe for the best part of a decade now. And yet for all five days of this beguiling Test match the stadium was at most half-full. The previous Test match in Bangalore was better attended, but not much better. Which isn't to downplay the quality of those attending, another matter entirely, especially at an event as strangely intimate as Test cricket. But perhaps it is no coincidence Fleet street lies under the shadow of the bells, because journalists are always listening out for some bell tolling for someone. This month it happens to be the global monetary system and Test cricket. Both have been assailed by greed, self-interest, naked ambition, and nationalism, all the usual symptoms of decline (or revival), it all depends on the editor.

In Test cricket, like in no other international sporting event I can think of, you have the lone figure (the batsman) pitted against eleven of his opposing country's most talented representatives. He has a batting partner at the other end of the pitch, but that pitch is 22 English yards long, and that's a long long way when you have just walked in with, say four chatty Indian fielders crouched in a ring just far enough away they don't cast a shadow across the pitch.

If you are interested and uninitiated, I refer you to the YouTube footage of the famous Kolkata 2001 test match to the immediate right of you right about now.

It can quickly become an incendiary clatter of tumbling Australian/Indian wickets (the nearest thing our two nations have ever come to war), or a strangely intimate affair, almost as though millions of people were peering in to a slowly unraveling family reunion. That is the beauty of test cricket, and the germ of its own demise. It really needs no apologists (and I hope I have not come across as that), and I doubt it will ever see any serious attempt at a re-packaging of its "product". Because there is often none (other than the copious tv revenue and the sheer exhilaration of the best pitted against the best), even after five days of grueling competition. That is test cricket's enduring, lyrical statement in the face of the sneers of radical-chic, punk, yobbo, yuppie. Sometimes you must search for a result, yes, even in a sporting fixture.

Five days is a long time, granted. But there are few things that can equal the rush of following the first two days of a test match as you deliver pizzas, paint a house, hold the hand of your dying mother, then stroll bug-eyed into the stadium twenty minutes after the start of play on day three, the long, silent march of that lonely figure toward his destiny before you can stop someone cheering long enough to tell you who just passed by.

1. IV and V from "The Mask of Anarchy" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Monday, October 20, 2008

New Poetry and Pastel by Wayne H. W Wolfson

Summer’s Funeral (for Lady Ahna)

We were in October but now is the time. Keep glasses in the ice box as the rain maker won’t come.

All day the sun had been out, so much so that I felt it licking my scalp as I took my walk. I could keep the windows in my studio open allowing bugs to get in so that the cat could hunt.

At night the heat refused to flee with the light. The black dress with its pattern of red flowers laying across the back of the one chair without a trick leg, I wash my hands, still wet, I flick them at the sink three times.

The air is still warm, as if she has just left, her breath on my neck late at night after every vow has been met and broken.

I shut all the lights, let the stars spell out her name.

I want music, something blue. There should be music for summer’s funeral.

- Wayne H. W Wolfson 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

New Poetry by Phillip A. Ellis

For Derrick Hussey

In memoriam: H. P. Lovecraft

Though time, like ice, is slow,
the moments pass, accumulate
with the weightiness of glaciers
between now and the now that saw
Howard, plunging into deadly
breathlessness, pouring the will
to fight to fightlessness, and the final
rattle of lungs, and thence silence.

And, as (I imagine) his hand
faltered, dropped the pen a span
of space, onto the bedspread,
his beloved aunt surviving
him a second's worth then more,
tears falling along her cheeks
in mournfulness, I expect there may
have been a tuneful bird that day.

I can imagine the single, solitary song
honing in through a semi-open
window, with the white, washed curtains
breathing inwards. And the song
itself is catching in the throat
of Howard's closed ears, and some spark
of life is thinking, even as it fades,
"How beautiful is life!"

How truly beautiful is life,
when there could have been a man
as moving to us as him preceding,
and living still in our memories
and our actions even now? I don't
know if there was that bird,
but I can imagine it this easily,
and it is with this that I am comforted.

- Phillip A. Ellis 2008

Tori Amos in the Morning

Listening, Tori Amos in the morning and YouTube
underneath the palimpsest of a poem,
and, like a shadow of cigarette smoke, the globe
made of tin, of the moon, lost now to time,

a free verse poem, but with slant rhyme, a growling
stomach that complains almost, all against the song
the way that a cat rubs up against the shins
and ankles, or the winter sunset wanly shines.

- Phillip A. Ellis 2009

Phillip A. Ellis is an external student studying English Honours at the University of New England. One collection of his poetry has been published by Gothic Press, and another will be published by Hippocampus Press; his concordance to the poetry of Donald Wandrei has also been published by Hippocampus Press. He is the editor of (, and Similax ( Click on the post heading for Phillip's web page.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

New Poetry by David Lumsden

Hercules Goes Bananas

On rugs by the temple
vendors offer bright
prayer flags, short
in-curved knives,
pirate DVDs, despite
half here subsist without
electricity or water.

The heir to absolute power
liked Schwarzenegger movies,
and in a shooting frenzy
slaughtered his family.

Internet caf├ęs are empty.
Large ads for mobile phones
overlook now touristless streets.

Over murky tea in glasses sticky to the touch,
we gaze out at The White Mountains
as though this high valley were a prison.

Beyond the city
gunfire descants
the sacred river,
chirping birds,
and people still
singing in the fields.

- David Lumsden 2008

David makes a living with software. His poems have appeared in lots of magazines in Australia, U.K. and U.S.A. but there's no book yet. Ages ago he edited a litmag called Nocturnal Submissions. His blog of poetry commentary is called Sparks From Stones. Click on the post heading to take you there.

New Poetry by Ashley Capes

no tyrant could match

the sixth letter was ‘e’

and it was wrong
and I wanted to correct her

but between husband and wife
history rattles

a faint breeze carries the scent of frangipanis
over three carpeted steps to the bookcase,
where novels are little train-wreck victims,
lumped together in a mountain of bodies
no tyrant could match, their spines twisted
and pages torn like bloodless arteries

- Ashley Capes 2008

Ashley co-founded Egg(Poetry) in 2002, which sadly ceased publication in 2006. He is currently studying Arts and Education at Monash University, Australia, while editing (issue one up now!) and His first collection of poetry pollen and the storm was published with the assistance of Small Change Press in 2008.


I am fresh out of rants. The times are too tight, too close. Everyone knows who the bogeymen are, and nothing has come across my desk of late that inspires me enough one way or the other to review. So, once again I am CALLING ALL POETS.

Just click on the "Bluepepper" tag in the top right hand corner and submit anything up to five poems, a 1000 word comment or review in the body of the email. NO ATTACHMENTS PLEASE. I have a very good turnover time, and that applies to most things I do. Just as my bevy of exes.... The worse you will get is silence, as I won't comment on subs unless I can see some way of working with the author to make them more suitable for posting under the Bluepepper. There are no payments and thus no guidelines.