My poem ‘Buonanotte’ has been published in Australian Poetry Anthology, the annual anthology produced by Australian Poetry, our peak body for poets. The 2020 anthology (volume 8) was edited by Melinda Smith and Sara Saleh. It includes poems by Stuart Barnes, Anne Casey, Tricia Dearborn, Shastra Deo, Toby Fitch, Jane Gibian, Dominique Hecq, Paul Hetherington, Geoff Page, and fellow South Australian poets Jill Jones, Bronwyn Lovell, Rachael Mead, David Mortimer, Heather Taylor-Johnson, and Manal Younus.
I flew to Sydney for the launch of CARTE BLANCHE on Saturday, 20 July. After the launch at Mothership Studios, Marrickville, I had the chance to drive back from Sydney to Adelaide: a two-day, 1,375 kilometre (855 mile) journey by car, through the Great Dividing Range, and across the plains of New South Wales’ Riverina region and the Mallee districts of Victoria and South Australia.
Much of the journey I knew only from imprecise childhood memories (the Dog on the Tuckerbox, 5 or 9 miles from Gundagai – depending on whether you reference the poem ‘Bullocky Bill’, the later Jack Moses poem, or the Jack O’Hagan song), or through particular contemporary poems. I think of Geoff Page’s poem ‘Hay to Balranald’: ‘Heading west all afternoon the curvatures can still surprise you. / You might as well be out at sea; the skyline is a perfect circle. […] All afternoon forgetting physics / you drive into the sky.’
Or there’s Mike Ladd’s poem ‘Out of Balranald, just on dusk’: ‘Now the last light catches old fridges on their plain of resurrection – / a voice says ‘I AM’ from a burning roly-poly bush […] Kenworths and Macks in their prides / roaring down the gears through the drowse of distant towns.’ It’s an experience of a distinctively Australian Sublime – horizontal and understated, rather than vertical and imposing – as alluded to in On the Hay Plain, a radio episode about the ‘big sky country’ surrounding Hay, written and produced by Ladd.
I took photos regularly during the portions of the trip when I wasn’t driving. None has any artistic intent: they were captured only as aide-mémoires. They document something of the journey and the incremental changes in the landscape: green hills, grasslands, riverine plains, dry creeks, brown rivers, river red gums, woodlands of black box and grey box, dry lake beds, sheep, cattle, roadkill kangaroos, saltbush, grain crops, a crop fire, silos, siding towns, salt flats, mallee roadsides, and semi-trailers – and kilometre after kilometre of white-lined bitumen, varying in colour from dark grey to soft grey to ochre.
Of course, ‘experiencing’ a landscape while driving through it at 110 kilometres per hour is little better than watching it on TV. In both cases we sit in a comfortable chair, watching images flash past on a (wind)screen. Nonetheless.
Mascot, Sydney, NSW.
Hume Highway, Oakdale, NSW.
Federal Highway, Lake George, NSW.
The Nation’s Capital, ACT.
Barton Highway, Jeir, NSW.
Hume Highway, Coolac, NSW.
Hume Highway, Tumblong, NSW.
Hume Highway, Mount Adrah, NSW.
Morning fog, Murrumbidgee River, Wagga Wagga, NSW.
Sturt Highway, Sandigo, NSW.
Sturt Highway, Sandigo, NSW.
Crop fire, Sturt Highway, Maude, NSW.
Sturt Highway, Keri Keri, NSW.
Sturt Highway, Yanga, NSW.
Sturt Highway, Yanga, NSW.
Balranald Tooleybuc Road, Balranald, NSW.
Bridge over the Murray River, Tooleybuc, NSW/VIC.
Mallee Highway, Manangatang, VIC.
Mallee Highway, Ouyen, VIC.
Mallee Highway, Parrakie, SA.
Coming soon to The Wheatsheaf Hotel in Thebarton, Adelaide: a poetry reading by Louise Nicholas, JV Birch, Paul Turley and Dylan Rowen.
This Thursday, 25 July 2019, I’ll be featuring at a poetry reading at Halifax Café, 187 Halifax Street, Adelaide, from 6:00pm, with renowned Adelaide performance poet Kami. The event is hosted by Friendly Street Poets. Entry is $5. The readings at Halifax Café are always a great event. Further details on Facebook.
This Saturday, 20 July 2019, my debut book of poems will be launched at Mothership Studios, at 18-22 Sydney Street, Marrickville, Sydney, from 2:30-4:30pm, along with new books of poems by Peter Boyle, Natalie Harkin, and L.K. Holt. Sydneysiders are welcome to attend. Copies of CARTE BLANCHE will be available at the launch, and are available already from vagabondpress.net, along with all of Vagabond Press’s 2019 releases – books by Peter Boyle, a.j. carruthers, Toby Fitch, Natalie Harkin, L.K. Holt, and Jessica L. Wilkinson. A launch in my home city, Adelaide, will follow. Further details soon.
After Richard Long’s ‘A Ten Mile Walk England’ (1968)
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.
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. 01. Nils Frahm: Toilet Brushes (live). 02. Ben Howard: Small Things. 03. Ben Howard: End of the Affair (live). 04. Big Red Machine: Lyla. 05. Kaleo: Save Yourself. 06. Chet Faker: Talk is Cheap. 07. Gregory Alan Isakov: San Luis. 08. Gregory Alan Isakov: The Trapeze Swinger (Iron & Wine cover). 09. Thom Yorke: Bloom (live). 10. Thom Yorke: Unmade (live). 11. Boy & Bear: Walking on a Dream (Empire of the Sun cover) (live). 12. The Reindeer Section: Cartwheels. 13. Elbow: Mirrorball. 14. WATT!: Santa Monica. 15. WATT!: Deutscher Herbst. 16. Tales: So Blue. 17. Bon Iver: Calgary (live). 18. Mogli: Holocene (Bon Iver cover) (live). 19. Radiohead: The Numbers (live). 20. The National: Light Years. 21. Iron & Wine/Calexico: Midnight Sun. 22. Lambchop: Everything for You. 23. The Cinematic Orchestra: Lessons. 24. Black English: Leave the Door Wide Open. 25. Fontaines DC: Hurricane Laughter.
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.
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 :
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 :