Monuments [a landscape]

35°06’44.1”S  138°53’17.9”E

35°08’43.6”S  138°53’27.3”E

35°08’16.4”S  138°56’12.4”E

35°09’40.4”S  138°58’29.0”E

35°10’26.3”S  138°59’23.0”E

35°11’01.3”S  139°00’11.7”E

35°09’29.8”S  139°01’10.5”E

35°09’15.5”S  139°01’32.7”E

35°08’23.1”S  139°01’42.4”E

35°06’42.1”S  139°02’14.8”E

35°07’08.0”S  138°59’21.9”E

35°05’55.2”S  139°00’08.8”E

35°05’50.4”S  139°00’09.2”E

35°03’51.5”S  138°55’15.0”E

35°04’51.9”S  138°55’05.6”E

35°06’04.8”S  138°54’03.7”E

35°06’05.5”S  138°53’58.4”E

35°06’48.1”S  138°54’25.0”E

35°07’x0.1”S  138°54’x5.4”E

 

After Richard Long’s ‘A Ten Mile Walk England’ (1968)

Available now: CARTE BLANCHE

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CARTE BLANCHE, my debut collection of poems, is available now from Vagabond Press, as a softcover and a limited edition hardcover.

Along with CARTE BLANCHE, Vagabond Press has released its full suite of 2019 Australian poetry titles, including new books of poetry by Peter Boyle, a.j. carruthers, Toby Fitch, L.K. Holt, Jessica L. Wilkinson, and fellow South Australian poet Natalie Harkin. Readers of Australian poetry are well served by our best publishers and the quality of books they produce. Even in that esteemed company, Michael Brennan of Vagabond Press has achieved something special with the presentation of these books.

Vagabond Press has a great history of publishing Australian poetry, dating back to 1999, but uniquely among Australia’s poetry presses, it’s also known for its books of poetry in translation – including the work of poets from Europe, the Asia Pacific and the Americas.

Mixtape, June 2019

When Rilke penned the lines: ‘Music. The breathing of statues. Perhaps: / The quiet of images. You, language where / languages end’ (from ‘To Music’) he was certainly thinking more of Mozart or Monteverdi than of Mumford & Sons. Notwithstanding, this is my ‘mixtape’ for the first half of 2019 – things old, new, borrowed, etcetera – arranged roughly in the order in which I became enamoured or re-enamoured of them. Nothing too uppity or grandiose, except maybe the first one.

  1. Nils Frahm’s Toilet Brushes (live) (2013)
  2. Ben Howard’s Small Things (2014)
  3. Ben Howard’s End of the Affair (live) (2014) 
  4. Big Red Machine’s Lyla (2018) 
  5. Kaleo’s Save Yourself (2016)
  6. Chet Faker’s Talk is Cheap (2014)
  7. Gregory Alan Isakov’s San Luis (2018)
  8. Gregory Alan Isakov’s cover of Iron & Wine’s The Trapeze Swinger (2015)
  9. Thom Yorke’s Bloom (live) (2019)
  10. Thom Yorke’s Unmade (live) (2019)
  11. Boy & Bear’s cover of Empire of the Sun’s Walking on a Dream (live) (2011)
  12. The Reindeer Section’s Cartwheels (2002)
  13. Elbow’s Mirrorball (2008)
  14. WATT!’s Santa Monica (2018)
  15. WATT!’s Deutscher Herbst (2018)
  16. Tales’ So Blue (2018)
  17. Bon Iver’s Calgary (live) (2016) 
  18. Mogli’s cover of Bon Iver’s Holocene (live) (2018)
  19. Radiohead’s The Numbers (live) (2016)
  20. The National’s Light Years (2019)
  21. Calexico and Iron & Wine’s Midnight Sun (2019)
  22. Lambchop’s Everything for You (2019)
  23. The Cinematic Orchestra’s Lessons (2019)
  24. Black English’s Leave the Door Wide Open (2014)
  25. Fontaines DC’s Hurricane Laughter (2019)

A poet’s work is never done

A bit random, or a bit of serendipity? This is an outtake from a long webcam video that dates to the afternoon of Saturday, 21 July 2012, which I filmed inadvertently while doing some reading and writing. I discovered the footage a few days ago on a long discarded laptop. (Spoiler: the footage is a minute or so of nothing happening.)

It’s a strange piece of footage to watch, though it’s a sort of video portrait of the poet or writer at work. Other videos in the sequence are of me reading poems I was working on at the time, presumably so I could play the audio back to listen to their rhythms. One of the books I was reading, Franz Wright’s 2009 Wheeling Motel, is identifiable by its cover which appears earlier in the footage.

All in all, it’s not quite Spenser’s Bower of Bliss, or the full range of the poet’s work as described by Luke Wright (‘drinking in the daytime, crying at night / going to parties and saying oh I write / to you a ‘war of letters’ to me it’s a fight’, from his poem ‘A Poet’s Work is Never Done’). Instead, it’s a long moment of lying around on a pleasant winter afternoon (t-shirt weather), reading from a few books, and typing away to an airy ambience of suburban street noise, wattlebirds, and passing cars.

A diary note for that day says I spent the afternoon at home writing and listening to music. There’s no music playing in the footage, so it must have come later. And while the diary note doesn’t mention the band or artist, the note for the next day mentions Wilco – which means either Summerteeth or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, as I didn’t catch up with their albums again till 2015’s Star Wars.

My ‘Notebook 2012’ (a Word document) has two pieces I edited and two short new poems (or parts of) I worked on that day – drafted, as usual, in blocked paragraphs with colons separating the units or phrases. All four pieces are unpublished. I’ve included them below. The two edited pieces are labelled ‘For ‘Vox’’, which is a poem that will appear in my forthcoming book as a poem in seven parts. The two parts below were either culled entirely years ago, or were simply never worked into the larger poem. There are clear echoes of Franz Wright’s poem ‘Intake Interview’ (via YouTube) in ‘IV’.

The two new poems (or pieces of) were also left on the cutting room floor, and maybe haven’t had a moment’s attention since they were set down on the page. ‘Notebook 2012’ is about 65,000 words worth of drafts and re-drafts and re-re-drafts and off-cuts and writing exercises and notes and diary entries.

Anyway, the footage is a curio. A sort of portrait of the poet at work, and of the work in progress, and of the word and the (moving) image coupled together. An interesting co-incidence, or an artefact, or a bit of serendipity.

FOR ‘VOX’

IV.
we are here now : at the edge of a world that promises no future : asking for words : what happens now : tell me about the soft music i cannot hear : what if i could give you this moment : what’s to be made of it : what should i do if i find you breathless : troubled for words : if you fall asleep now who will watch over you : what are you prepared to sacrifice : why are we here :

VI.
what love means : look at us : the words i return to cannot touch it : things grasped : like a hand no longer offered : here we are : strange company to each other : something less than a life : something sudden like laughter that is gone : the waters you searched for dispersed in an instant : a world that never had a need for us : that never asked a thing of us : not love : what it means to see the world in all its terror : a note never struck : a phrase never uttered : there has to be something more :

THIS IS ALL (21.07.12)

this is all we have : fast forward : i choose : right now : thorns : of sunlight : necessity : this is all : dissolving : & she is : home : again : shining :

BONSAI POEM (21.07.12)

to find in beauty : an uprightness : something like : a bonsai’s bent loveliness :

Reading: February-March 2019

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A few of the books I’ve enjoyed reading, or returning to, in February and March 2019:

  • Karl Ove Knausgaard’s A Death in the Family: Book I of the six My Struggle (Min Kamp) novels (autobiographical novel: Vintage, 2009).
  • Ada Limón’s The Carrying: A follow-up to 2015’s acclaimed Bright Dead Things (poetry: Corsair, 2018).
  • JL Carr’s A Month in the Country: Published by Penguin as a ‘Classic’, and the source of a 1987 film starring Colin Firth and Kenneth Branagh, in their third and second film roles respectively (short novel: Penguin, 1980).
  • WS Merwin’s Garden Time (poetry: Copper Canyon, 2016).
  • Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency (poetry: Grove, 1957).
  • Alejandra Pizarnik’s The Galloping Hour: French Poems: Patricio Ferrari and Forrest Gander’s translations of the French poems of Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik, who died in 1972 (poetry: New Directions, 2018).
  • Forrest Gander’s Be With (poetry: New Directions, 2018).
  • WS Merwin’s The Shadow of Sirius (poetry: Bloodaxe, 2009).
  • Ron Rash’s Poems: New and Selected (poetry: Ecco, 2016).
  • David Marno’s Death Be Not Proud: The Art of Holy Attention: An extended study of John Donne’s poem ‘Death, Be Not Proud’, which argues for the possibility of poetry as a kind of ‘inception’ (criticism: University of Chicago, 2016).

We’re wired to read meaning…

Thom Sullivan Poet Poetry NaPoWriMo 27

As human beings, we’re wired to read meaning into words, no matter how apparently random they are. Because we know, intuitively, that we’ve never encountered words that haven’t been produced by some sort of intelligence. Words compel us to assume an originating intelligence: a speaker, a voice or a perspective from which they’re written or spoken.

Our willingness, at times, to dismiss a poem or poetry as meaningless or nonsense therefore cuts against the grain of one of our deepest intuitions. Some poems are hard work for readers, though they’re rarely – and perhaps never – meaningless. And some poems are written deliberately for us to piece together or supply a meaning ourselves. A poem that’s hard work for us can be satisfying, provided it rewards us at some level for our effort and attention.

As TS Eliot wrote: ‘Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood’, and as Simone Weil wrote: ‘Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity’, even for us as readers.