Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Anna of all the Russias

I've just finished reading Elaine Feinstein's biography of the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, lent to me by a good friend. It was superb. I love Anna's poetry, having devoted over two years researching her and a 1970s Australian poetry translation project involving poets Rosemary Dobson, David Campbell, translators Natalie Staples, Robert Dessaix and others. My visual arts honours work was an artist's book based on this research.

Feinstein's book takes you deeply into the soul of Russia. Akhmatova was a famous poet in pre-revolutionary times, and was witness to the Revolution, suffering through and surviving Stalin's atrocities. Born in 1889, she died in 1966, having lived through an amazing piece of history, and proudly bearing witness to it with open eyes and a genius for expressing how it felt.

This is a famous Akhmatova quote, something she wrote as a kind of preface to her poem, Requiem:

In the terrible years of the Yezhov terror I spent seventeen months waiting in line outside the prison in Leningrad [trying to help her imprisoned son]. One day somebody in the crowd identified me. Standing behind was a young woman, with lips blue from the cold, who had of course never heard me called by name before. Now she started out of the torpor common to us all and asked me in a whisper (everyone whispered there), 'Can you describe this?' And I said, 'I can.' Then something like a smile passed fleetingly over what had once been her face.

A lot has been written about Akhmatova, and there are many translations of her poetry, readily available on the net.

Feinstein has the advantage of newly-accessible documents found since the collapse of the Soviet Union. So she has diaries, letters, confiscated manuscripts. She is also a wonderful writer, evoking the feel of the times extremely well. I'm constantly amazed at how resilient yet fragile humans are. Anna was one of the only writers of her generation to survive Stalin, but she did it with a lot of help.

Now that the ride is over I feel like I want to stay in that period and mood, and so have started reading Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward, which has been glaring at me from a shelf for years waiting for the right moment.

If you really want a buzz, go here and click on the MP3 that lets you listen to Akhmatova's voice reciting in Russian. It's like having a time machine. I finished the book and within an hour was listening to her voice. God I love the internet.

Anna of All the Russias: The Life of Anna Akhmatova, by Elaine Feinstein (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005). Only in hardback at present. I'll be buying my own copy!


Bored at work. Bored bored bored bored BORED! [hits head with fake cricket bat]

So in-between gluing bits of paper together to make a colophon for art that I don't like commissioned by a person that quite often drives me up the wall, I have been blog-hopping.

And I found, without doing a search on the word 'Ampersand' a very good cartoon of the same name. There's more of him here.

I'm sure I'll find more fun stuff by the time I can't stand this place anymore and ride my bike home.

Oh, bought a new bike helmet today. Vale the esky.

Monday, September 26, 2005

f(AFI)ng about

Turns out BB wasn't the only person who was majorly offended by Wolf Creek. The AFI audience yesterday morning was buzzing, and all around me I could hear things like 'I couldn't bear anymore', 'we had to go for a bit of a debrief afterwards with a stiff drink', and 'I had so much trouble sleeping'. BB had trouble sleeping too, and I'm profoundly grateful I chose not to go. The consensus seemed to be that it was pornographic snuff.

Yesterday we saw Oyster Farmer, which had, for me, a similar feel to Peaches. All very beautiful, great actors, bit of humour etc etc. Enjoyed it a lot, just not as much as I enjoyed Look Both Ways. But that's just me, with my weakness for animation.

That was followed by The Illustrated Family Doctor, which is quite dark and kooky, but lacked the charisma that could transform it into a cult classic. It does put the boot well into Reader's Digest, something I enjoyed as that company seems to be fleecing my grandmother of every penny she has... and it brought back memories of looking through our RD Medical Encyclopaedia when we were kids, scaring ourselves with the endless and revolting photos of suppurating wounds and aggressive rashes, feeling a thrill of horror equal to an olden-day freak show.

Finally for that day's AFI viewings we saw The Widower, described as a 'poetic tale exploring ageing, isolation and love in an Australian rural setting, based on the poems of Les Murray, with a live soundtrack featuring guitarist Slava Grigoryan.' Again, very beautiful, and mercifully short (60 mins). Half the words are sung and half are spoken, but I would have preferred all the words to be spoken. It felt like something made for tv, but it looked good on the big screen.

We came out of that session wanting a bit of pace, because all the movies had been soooo sloooooowwwww. So what did we do? Go to the movies! Gawd, we're getting widescreen eyes. But it was Murderball, and it was great. Pace, pace and more pace. I loved the way the newby quadraplegic's eyes lit up when he realised that being in a wheelchair didn't mean he had to be wrapped in cotton wool, and I was shocked at the sight of crippled Gulf War veterans who looked no more than 15 if they were a day. Blood-boiling stuff. Buck Fush, says a t-shirt I saw the other day cruising the internet. Indeed.

Tonight I'm staying home. I don't think even the tv screen is going to come on. I need some visual space!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

AFI-ing (1)

We're spending a sizeable chunk of the next few weeks watching Australian films to vote for the AFI Awards. There were four screenings today, and we've got three tomorrow... They're screening in Canberra at the War Memorial Telstra Theatre, which is very intimate and comfy.

First up today was Look Both Ways, which I just loved. I stillhave my copy of Sarah Watt's short animation Small Treasures on video, which is a superb piece about loss and grief. I loved her transition to live action, while keeping enough animation to make the film hum along on a number of levels. It's in cinemas now, if you've been under a rock.

Next we saw Dreams for Life. BB commented before we went in that it was only 75 minutes long, and we thought that was probably a good thing, considering the amount of celluloid we'd be sitting through this weekend. Honestly, if it had been even a minute longer I would have screamed out of sheer frustration. I felt every second of those 75 minutes. This is the most annoying 'artistic' film I have ever seen. I've got one word for you, readers, and that word is WALLOW. Avoid this film like the plague. It really showcased how excellent Look Both Ways is.

Last night we saw a pre-release screening of The Magician, a mockumentary about a Melbourne hitman. It was pitched to us last night as "the first film to be funded by Centrelink". Apparently Scott Ryan saved up $3000 of his Centrelink payments to make the film, then was turned down for funding, so made a short film out of it which then attracted funding from the Victorian Film Commission to re-edit and make a feature film. This film is terrific. It's confronting, but very funny. It comes across very plausibly, but I thought the outtakes during the final credits spoiled the integrity of the documentary feel. Imagine Spinal Tap with outtakes. There are so many peple who think that band is real because it looks real. I think Scott Ryan should have done the same. I also can't believe the Australian Film Commission can fund guff like Dreams for Life and pass over a script like this. Go and see this when it releases. It's worth it.

There were two more screenings this afternoon which BB went to but I missed because I don't like putting myself through gratuitous terror, no matter what the occasion. So BB saw Lost Things, which he thought was pretty ordinary, and Wolf Creek, another pre-release screening which he and others walked out on because (in his words) it was too much like a snuff movie.

Tomorrow we're watching Oyster Farmer, The Illustrated Family Doctor and The Widower.

Lifeline Book Fair goodies

Best Beloved and I went to the Lifeline Book Fair yesterday. I'm giving you a photo, but it's an 'after' shot, on Saturday, after the Friday hordes have descended.

BB always takes the day off work on the Friday and queues up to get in early. He usually rides down on his bike at about 8.30am and finds a queue of about thirty people ahead of him. Many get there at Dawn's crack, and set themselves up with chairs and hot coffee. I take the boy to school, and drive the car, arriving at about 9.45 (opens at ten) with my wheelie trolley and some green Woolies bags. Not very cool, I know, but I am gazed upon with envy by all and sundry later on as they stagger around with armfuls of heavy books.

So, why get there early? It's not so much for the early start on the books as to watch the book loonies go mad. The doors open at 10 sharp, and I really enjoy watching these people run towards the trestle tables and wrest armfuls of books from each other. It reminds me of my teenage Xmas job at the Sydney Elizabeth St David Jones, in the women's shoe department. There would be a distant rumble, then a pack of desperate women would charge up the wooden escalators towards the shoes, grabbing whole armfuls and sitting in corners to try them on. In this case they charge for the Military History table, and wage war on each other.

I have a game I play as I look at the books. I walk up to a category, put my hand down on the books, look all around the area, and then lift my hand to look underneath. I'm always hoping something really cool will be under my hand. So far, nothing. Most of the time the things I'm interested in are over the way a bit, but one day I'll lift my hand and feel a thrill. So far I've only laid my hands on Rod McKuen poetry and frigging Nanushka. Erk!

There's always one outstanding buy, and this time for me it was Oliver Simon's Introduction to Typography (1947). Only $2.50! Ha, a collectable design classic, and they shoved it in with the dictionaries. I'm so happy.

Here's some of the other things I picked up:

-- 293 Renaissance Woodcuts for Artists and Illustrators, Jost Amman
-- The Collected Drawings of Aubrey Beardsley, Arthur Symons
-- Modern Boy, Modern Girl: Modernity in Japanese Art 1910-1935, AGNSW catalogue (this is an absolute ripper of a catalogue)
-- Michael and Me and the Sun, Barbara Hanrahan (already have a copy, but this is to lend to friends -- should be mandatory reading for all printmakers)
-- Francesco Conz and the Intermedia Avante-Garde, Qld AG catalogue

-- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: the Dust Waltz
-- Tank Girl 4: the Apocalypse

-- John Betjeman's Collected Poems (1958), hardback
-- Penguin Modern Poets 9: Denise Levertov, Kenneth Rexroth, William Carlos Williams
-- Philip Larkin, The Whitsun Weddings
-- Sylvia Plath, Crossing the Water (1979)
-- Joseph Brodsky, Selected Poems
-- Australian Poetry 1973
-- Instructions for Honey Ants & Other Poems, ed by Paul Kavanagh (1983)

-- Libby Hathorn, Heard Singing, 1998 (this was bought more for the production, beautifully presented and bound, with papercut artwork by Brigette Stoddard. I'm hoping the poems match the beauty of the illustrations.)

-- No Go the Bogeyman, Marina Warner, 1998. (been wanting this since I read bits in the Uni library once)

I didn't buy much fiction this year, only

-- This is the Grass, Alan Marshall (hardback, first edition)
-- The Tortilla Curtain, T. Coraghessan Boyle
-- The Tasmania Babe Fiasco, John Birmingham

Add into that some Star Wars and Superman comics for Bumblebee, and I'm pretty happy with that lot! BB bought his own stash, but it was mostly books on breadmaking and travel in India. He did find a couple of Ardizzone books he didn't already have, so I guess he's happy too.

Only six months until the next one!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Reading into things

Two delightful typo moments today:

1. BB and I met up at a cheap little chinese restaurant in Civic for lunch. As we were leaving I popped off to the loo, and when I returned he said 'Do you think they smell?'
Pardon? I said, startled. He pointed to the back of the door, which read 'SORRY, WE ARE CLOSE'.

2. Waiting for Bumblebee outside his classroom, I noticed a number of posters designed by the kids about recycling and disposal of waste. One was a picture of a dog and a kennel, and they'd obviously written the word 'bog' and then corrected it to 'dog'.
The combined b/d made it read: 'IF YOU HAVE FOOD SCRAPS, FEED THEM TO YOUR BLOG'.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Mr Padge discovers body modifications have a down side

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The sound of ...

I'm sure many people think about what they could be doing if they had a chance to try something else.

I was riding along today on the bicycle in the sun along Canberra's fabulous bike paths (except for that little bit near the Street Theatre where ANU has bastardly removed the whole bike path and any sign of a footpath and mounted a fence across to the street with a sign that says 'pedestrians' with an arrow pointing to the middle of the road. grrrr....) and thinking about the fact that I seem to be moving along a very artsy-fartsy career path, and that if I wanted to change track quite radically, I'd probably be too old to be taken seriously in my new vocation. I mean, anyone can become an artist or writer at any age. Look at Rosalie Gascoigne or Elizabeth Jolley, or even frigging Matthew Riley! But it's a different thing doing the entire reskilling in something industry-related. It seems you need to be between 25 and 35 to get anywhere these days.

If I could go right back and start again, career-wise, I'd like to be a Foley artist. I flirt with this idea every few years, just because I like listening to odd sounds with my eyes shut and imagining other uses for the sounds. It's a great thing to do when you're bored, because you can change even boring old house creaks into a sci fi movie. Just don't let your imagination run away with you, or you might start visualising really scarey things from very innocent sounds!

I didn't know you could get paid for such thoughts (or just didn't think seriously about it) until I saw a documentary on the making of Star Wars where the foley guy was talking about walking near a high-tension cable bridge and hearing the cables hum in the wind. He got his tape-recorder thingy (I'm sure it's more complex than just a tape-recorder, but hey, it was 1976 when he did it, so maybe not) and recorded the sounds, then used them for one of the spaceships moving through space. My wee brain just flipped. Imagine being paid to walk around and record fun sounds for future use in movies?

Along this thought train (sorry about the near derailment up there), did anyone see those marvellous people who used to come to groovy cinemas like Valhalla and Electric Shadows and show old movies with alternate sound effects? There was, of course, the inimitable and tragically undone Blue Grassy Knoll, who would play their own bluegrass compositions to Buster Keaton movies, but there was another mob in the early 1990s who would show old cowboy movies and black&white space hero movies like Buck Rogers and stand up the front under the screen and play their own live sound effects. They really were impressive.

But, I shall stay on track with a life of books and just think about what can be done with odd noises, thus avoiding all of that film industry pressure and kerfuffle.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Not just one of the crowd

Wooo hooo!

I just got my offical letter saying that I've been accepted to teach art workshops at the Woodford Folk Festival this year!


Pass the Cheese, Gromit!

Since we were at home with Bumblebee for the first weekend in ages, we decided to do a few kid movies with him.

Thumbs up to Tim Burton for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He got the book down to a T. Thumbs down, however, for feeling it was necessary to provide a motivation for Willy Wonka's oddness. Who cares about his unresolved issues? The book was a perfect plum, no need to make jam out of it. And whoever says Willy isn't modelled on MJ is just avoiding lawsuits.

The other fab movie out at the moment is Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Jolly japes for all, with (as usual with Aardman films) most of the fun happening in the background. If only all dogs could be Gromit!

Best Beloved and I, unable to slake our lust for all things Indian, visited our local Indian supply shop yesterday afternoon and stocked up on not only garlic pickle and parathas but a number of Bollywood DVDs, including Paheli! We only saw that recently, and of course it's already offered as a double DVD with some other fab movie for less than $10. Not sure of the legal status of these purchases, but you can't buy Bollywood anywhere else so what to do? Ahh, sat and stitched books last night to the expressive eyes of Shahruhk Khan... luvly.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

National Poetry Week: 7

I don't know why critics say that we've all lost touch with poetry, because isn't good songwriting poetry? Anyone who pays attention to good lyrics is interacting with poetry. There's no real difference.

I mean, it's all a matter of our changing lifestyles and technology, don't you think? Over a century ago, Anna Akhmatova (Russian pre- and post-revolutionary poet) published her first volume of poetry, on an unrequited-love theme. It became so famous that people had a game they played at dinner parties, where one person would quote the first line of one of the poems, then the next person would provide the next, and so forth. But back then, there were no ipods, no home stereo systems, and sheet music would have been quite expensive. People read poetry volumes, or read out loud to each other.

These days, if you wanted to, you could play the same game with Beatles lyrics. And why not? The one who forgets the next line has to drink -- but I bet we'd get a fair way through the song. Poetry isn't really popular anymore. But music is, and it fills all the same spaces. And we remember the lyrics just like our grandparents remembered poetry. They had to learn it by rote at school. We didn't. We listened to the radio, watched Countdown and Rage et al until the lyrics were just as deeply embedded.

Everyone has their favorite singer/songwriter who provides poetry to their life. I've got my own list that changes every week. Of the top of my head today it includes Leonard Cohen, Ben Fold, Kristen Hersh, Suzanne Vega, Kristina Olsen and Baterz. One of my favorite 'poetic' albums is Elvis Costello's King of America, when he was moving from his British phase through to country music en route to jazz (and, thank goodness, back again). He's got lots of albums with lots of good lyrics, but this is one of those 'complete' albums, where every song works individually and together. I keep putting it away, then dragging it back out for another listen, like re-reading my favorite book.

Here's one:

Brilliant Mistake

He thought he was the king of America,
Where they pour Coca Cola just like vintage wine.
Now I try hard not to become hysterical,
But I'm not sure if I am laughing or crying...
I wish that I could push a button
And talk in the past and not the present tense,
And watch this hurtin' feeling disappear
Like it was common sense.
It was a fine idea at the time,
Now it's a brilliant mistake.

She said that she was working for the ABC news--
It was as much of the alphabet as she knew how to use.
Her perfume was unspeakable,
It lingered in the air
Like her artificial laughter,
Her mementos of affairs.
Oh, I said, I see you know him--
Isn't that very fortunate for you.
And she showed me his calling card,
He came third or fourth and there were more than one or two.
He was a fine idea at the time,
Now he's a brilliant mistake.

He thought he was the king of America,
But it was just a boulevard of broken dreams;
A trick they do with mirrors and with chemicals,
The words of love in whispers
And the axe of love in screams.
I wish that I could push a button
And talk in the past and not the present tense,
And watch this lovin' feeling disappear
Like it was common sense.
I was a fine idea at the time,
Now I'm a brilliant mistake.

Here's another:

Little Palaces

In chocolate town, all the trains are painted brown,
On the silver paper of the wrapper.
There's a dapper little man
And he wears a wax moustache
That he twists with nicotine fingers
As he drops his cigarette ash.
And someone comes and sweeps it up
And then he doffs his cap,
And there's a rat in someone's bedroom,
And they're shutting someone's trap,
And they'll soon be pulling down the little palaces.

And the doors swing back and forward, from the past into the present,
And the bedside crucifixion turns from wood to phosphorescent.
And they're moving problem families from the south up to the north,
Mother's crying over some soft soap opera divorce,
And you say you didn't do it, but you know you did of course,
And they'll soon be pulling down the little palaces.

It's like shouting in a matchbox, filled with plasterboard and hope,
Like a picture of Prince William in the arms of John the Pope.
There's a world of good intentions, and pity in their eyes,
The sedated homes of England, are theirs to vandalize.

So you knock the kids about a bit, because they've got your name,
And you knock the kids about a bit, until they feel the same.
And they feel like knocking down the little palaces.

You're the twinkle in your daddy's eye, a name you spray and scribble,
You made the girls all turn their heads, and in turn they made you miserable.
To be the heir apparent, to the kingdom of the invisible.

So you knock the kids about a bit, because they've got your name,
And you knock the kids about a bit, until they feel the same.
And they feel like knocking down the little palaces.

Elvis Costello

Oh, I know it's different without the music. But there no doubt it's poetry. I think you should celebrate the end of National Poetry Week by playing your favorite lyrics... and singing along.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

National Poetry Week: 6 [Language alert!]

And let's not forget the light-hearted verse! I could spend pages on this, from Lear to Belloc to Suess, and everyone inbetween and thereafter. but I shall restrain myself to some small examples of the innocent, and a fine representative of the bawdy.

This one's for Harry:

Down the stream the swans all glide;
It's quite the cheapest way to ride.
Their legs get wet,
Their tummies wetter:
I think after all
The bus is better.

Spike Milligan

Here's another one:

The halibut is the nicest fish;
He lets me do just what I wish.
Whenever I'm stuck in a rut,
I do things for the halibut.

Caren Florance

And this is a filthy little number attributed to John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, from the 1600s.


I rise at Eleven, I Dine about Two,
I get drunk before Seven, and the next thing I do;
I send for my Whore, when for fear of a Clap,
I Spend in her hand, and I Spew in her Lap:
There we quarrel, and scold, till I fall asleep,
When the Bitch, growing bold, to my Pocket does creep;
Then slyly she leaves me, and to revenge th'affront,
At once she bereaves me of Money, and Cunt.
If by chance then I wake, hot-headed and drunk,
What a coyle do I make for the loss of my Punck?
I storm, and I roar, and I fall in a rage,
And missing my Whore, I bugger my Page:
Then crop-sick, all Morning, I rail at my Men,
And in Bed I lye Yawning, till Eleven again.

from The Works of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, ed. by Harold Love (London: OUP: 1999)

Charming, ne pensez-vous pas?? This is a man who allegedly wrote a play called Sodom and Gomorrah, populated by such characters as Buggeranthes, Bolloxinian, and Fuckadilla, which has (surprise, surprise) never been staged. Phew! I was the typesetter for this scholarly edition of his works, and it was the most entertaining 8 months of my life. Imagine the above printed with lots of ligatures, and long 'f's and those lovely 'st' characters with the stroke inbetween. Mmmm....

Friday, September 16, 2005

National Poetry Week: 5

I read this at a friend's wedding a few years ago. It's perfect for such an occasion, being more about the journey than the arrival...

There are a number of translations of this famous Greek poem, but this is my favorite so far.


When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians* and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon -- do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon -- you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.

Ask that your way be long.
At many a summer dawn to enter
-- with what gratitude, what joy --
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learn-ed.**
Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
but do not in the least hurry the journey.
Better that it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you the splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn't anything else to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka has not deceived you.
So wise have you become, of such experience,
that already you will have understood what these Ithakas mean.

C.P. Cavafy
from Six Poets of Modern Greece
translated by Edmund Keely & Philip Sherrard.

I shouldn't presume that everyone knows the story of the Odyssey, and if you do, just skip over this bit. In brief, it's Homer's epic ode of the journey of Odysseus, King of Ithaka, returning from the Trojan War. All the other Greek kings met with their own adventures after the great sacking (like Agamemnon, who had killed his daughter on the way out and was killed by his wife on his return), but they were brief journeys. It took Odysseus ten years to get back to Ithaka, and to his faithful wife, Penelope. During his journey he met up with many odd people: Sirens, Nymphs, the Cyclops, Gods, and Goddesses. It's a great read. Penelope, in the meantime, had a lot of pressure to remarry since it was obvious to all and sundry that her husband had perished. She was, however, of the Jedi mindset, having faith that if O had perished, she would have sensed it. She spent her time fighting off and tricking all the young studs who have come wooing, until O does indeed return and slaughters the randy lot of them.

Cavafy has taken this classic tale and used it, in the same way Homer has, as a wonderful tribute to looking at the bright side of life. It could be viewed as a battle to get home, or it could be viewed as a learning experience, which will enrich the times to come. Perfect for weddings, don't you think?

* I spent a lot of time getting my pronounciation of 'Laistrygonians' if not right, then at least smooth so that I didn't stumble over it. I pronounce it thus:
Please correct me if I'm wrong!

** I can't put a acute accent on the e to break up the syllables here because it'll turn into gobbledy-gook on your computer, so I've done it phonetically. It's the poetic device of making one syllable into two for the sake of metre. You know what I mean. But if you write it, just pop the acute back in.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

National Poetry Week: 4

Some poems just stay with you, no matter what.

Sea Canes

Half my friends are dead.
I will make you new ones, said earth.
No, give them back, as they were, instead,
with faults and all, I cried.

Tonight I can snatch their talk
from the faint surf's drone
through the canes, but I cannot walk

on the moonlit leaves of ocean
down that white road alone,
or float with the draining motion

of owls leaving earth's load.
O earth, the number of friends you keep
exceeds those left to be loved.

The seacanes by the cliff flash green and silver;
they were the seraph lances of my faith,
but out of what is lost grows something stronger

that has the rational radiance of stone,
enduring moonlight, further than despair,
strong as wind, that through dividing canes

brings those we love before us, as they were,
with faults and all, not nobler, just there.

Derek Walcoff
(Collected Poems, 1948-1984)


If you like the game 'Scissor, Paper, Rock', check this out for a mind-blowing experience!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

National Poetry Week: Poesies 3

I don't think I'm going to get time to post a poem tomorrow, so I'll put it up now before I go to bed.

I would love to put the whole of Jordie Albison's book The Fall (Melbourne: White Crane Press, 2003) up here. I would love to give a copy to every woman I know, and quite a few of the men. She is wonderful, and reads her work beautifully, which is something quite rare. Many are the times I've overlooked a damn good poem because I heard it read by the author who quite obviously hears it sonorously in their head but mumbles or drones it out loud. Jordie's poetry looks simple but it is very controlled, and she is well-versed (sorry) in traditional poetic convention. She likes using internal rhyme, and you only find them when you pay attention or read the poems carefully out loud.

Please buy the book if you like what I'm placing below. I can't decide between two, so I'll put them both up. Maybe this should be a poet for every day, not just a poem.

10-Point Plan (for Mothers)

Never be the first to let go of a hug.
Always be last to fall asleep.
Breathe into child when child is choking.
Open your eyes so that child may see.

Supply constant questions to challenge child.
Provide nightly bergamot bath.
Prepare yourself for the life of a locum.
Check daily stock-levels of love.

Beware of the child who hums televisions ads
while dismembering teddy-bears.
And take care of the child who sits in darkness
contemplating truth, despair.

Things to Do (Heart)

a. Find heart, and place hand upon it. b. Time
to metronome beat. c. Empty above of all
things earthly. d. Fill with compassion. e. Sleep.
f. Remove heart while comatose, and g. wrap
in secondary skin. h. Attend to uncontrolled

weeping. i. Inject with childhood whims. j.
Apply usual pressures. k. Induce another few
beats. l. Install restraints against sudden death
flights of fancy and similar feats. m. Dream
the dream of green things rising through cracks

in the heart's veneer. n. Stir slightly. o. Open
one valve. p. Put back to sleep again. q. Attach
block and tackle for (possible) messy escape.
r. Invite intelligence in. s. Stitch up anything
that gapes. t. Arrange worldly affairs in good

order, alphabetically and from one to ten. u.
Inform media of intentions. v. Alert next-of-kin.
w. Insert telegraph pole for long-distance out-
of-town friends. x. Put heart back in. y. Press
All Systems Go. z. Let your black ravens sing.

Art Diary

Canberra people, pencil this one in:

Performance Art @ ANU School of Art Gallery

Mike Parr video (1975: 'Leg Spiral') + live stuff from Tom Hall, Avatron, Janet Meaney, TQ, Quercy Golsse, Brian Hinksman and more.

Friday 23 September, 6pm.

Poem of the Day: 2

The News and Weather

I smoothed the pelt of the hills with my long looking
And the hills rose up and stretched in the early light.
In the home paddocks, along the river-flats
Black cattle doubled their height with morning shadow.

I heard the currawongs' cry as they swooped above me
The news they told was You can't change the weather
And who would want to, walking out very early
With pink and grey galahs tumbling for grass-seeds.

I picked a fig from the laden tree in the garden
And heard a voice that spoke in a tongue of flame
From the fiery sun behind the trembling tree-top:
You are lucky to be alive in these terrible times.

I peeled back the green of the fig breaking into its centre
Galah-coloured, pink and grey its thousand flowerlets,
And ate of the fruit of the garden and understood
The voice that seemed to flash in the air above.

The message must be received, taken into one's being
As knowledge is taken, biting on apple or fig –
Terrible times in the world that will not be changed –
And I walking out on such a morning early.

Rosemary Dobson

[from Untold Lives and Later Poems (Sydney: Brandl & Schlesinger, 2000)]

Monday, September 12, 2005

Poem of the day

Of course, National Poetry Week started on Sept 9, so I'm a bit late getting on to this, but I've still got until the 18th (officially) to play with this idea.

I thought I'd post a favorite poem every day. Here's the first:


The cliff is edged with dark-green
Pale-flowered sea rosemary
And the warm scent of lantana
And the cold breath of the sea
Blend in the strange enchantment
Of my earliest memory.

My eyes through sleep and sunlight
Swerve with the gulls that go
Harsh-voiced in shining beauty,
Bright on the airs that blow
Between the bare green hill above
And the crashing blue below.

In the short grass the magpies
With sidelong glance step by,
Converse with gurgling laughter
And wild and lovely cry
And their friends from the red ploughland
Lilting and far reply.

My body is a dull thing
And a weariness to me
And here perhaps I could leave it
By the sweet sea rosemary,
Long and still in the sunny grass
While my soul as a bird went free.

Never to see a town again,
Work or wear clothes or vote,
But have instead a magpie's
Bold eye and glossy coat
And waterfalls and morning sun
And the full moon in my throat.

But ah, the long slide down the wind
When the blue nor'-easter blows,
The quick turn in the bursting spray
Only the white gull knows!
And who will say a golden voice
Is a better thing than those.

To choose between two heavens
Would take a stronger head
Than mine, which solves no problems
But bids me, when all's said
Lift up the same old weight of flesh
And take it to be fed.

Nan McDonald

I am posting this from work, and any notes that follow are from memory, so apologies for any vagueness. I am slowly working on a handset volume of Nan's poetry so have the poems but not the background notes with me.

Nan McDonald was an Australian poet born in the 1920s who died in the 1970s. She lived in the Wollongong area and commuted to central Sydney for her job as a editor for Angus & Robertson. She was very shy, very thoughtful, and her poems deal with themes of nature, birds, faith, bushwalking, death and the simple pleasures of just being. She lost a brother in WWII in Crete. She was good friends with the poet Francis Webb.

She's largely been forgotten in the annals of Australian poetry, but I like to think of her as an Eva Cassidy figure, and hopefully with a bit of love and care I can produce a book that does justice to the simple beauty of her outlook on life.

Poem taken from Nan McDonald: Pacific Sea (Sydney: Angus & Robertson: 1947).


The other movie I saw on the weekend was Tarnation. Brilliant film. The blurb says
Filmmaker Jonathan Caouette's documentary on growing up with his schizophrenic mother -- a mixture of snapshots, Super-8, answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films, and more -- culled from 19 years of his life.

It's a classic gay identity film; the difference for me was that unlike many others of its kind, where the hero manages to escape his awful family and make his way to the big city and endure hardships and then find his own (usually successful) way in the world without looking back, this movie had an incredible amount of compassion for his family. The empathy and love this man has for his mother carries through to the end of the film, and you know that it will actively endure until the day she dies. He's not just caring for her, he's CARING for her in a very physical and concrete way that affects the path that his career will take.

And the visual qualities of the film (made for under US$300 , if my memory serves me correctly) are wonderful. I especially liked the way he used his computer to produce intense colours within the old films. He also referenced Liquid Sky, which is a film I haven't thought about in a long time.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

I heart Bollywood

My fondness for Colin Firth as the ultimate man is being severely challenged every time I clap eyes on any of Shahrukh Khan's movies. I have become a Bollywood groupie, and if I can't find a t-shirt with his face on the front then I'll damn well make my own.

Current favorites are:
-- Paheli, about a ghost who falls in love with a bride and impersonates her new husband to win her love;

--Main Hoon Na, a fabulous mix of Die Hard and Grease, Indian/Pakistan terrorist plot crossed with High School romantic musical, very funny;

-- Devdas, visually stunning and heartbreaking drama about a lost love.

But I'm not really writing this about him, just thought I'd introduce you to the Bollywood concept of gorgeous guys and gals, wild costumes and often really odd storylines. I saw a doozie last night, called Salaam Namaste (which apparently translates as "Hello hello")...

Salaam Namaste is totally set and filmed in Melbourne! It's a hoot, with all the usual Bollywood devices, albeit in bikinis and miniskirts rather than traditional costume -- not a sari in sight! The hunk is not Shahrukh Khan, but he's just as gorgeous: Saif Ali Khan, all abs and pecs and a good square jaw. Preity Zinta is the feisty heroine, and I finally got to witness Tanya Zaetta in action, after hearing that she's broken out of Aussie tv into Bollywood. She's pretty lame, but probably the best actress of all the wooden Australian chickie babes they dragged out of modelling agencies for the bikini and pub-crawl eye candy.

What interested me about this movie is that most Bollywood films are made to be very sexy but without sex, or even mouth-to-mouth kissing. Salaam Namaste not only has proper kissing, but inferred sex, co-habiting without marriage and a heated debate about abortion. It also talks of women rebelling against their parents' wishes, and while it goes a bit far in attempting to show that women can have intelligent careers (she is a doctor studying to be a surgeon while DJing in her spare time) rather than just marrying, it at least tries. The fact that the girl ends up marrying the boy and having the bab(ies) is only disappointing if you watch the film from a western perspective.

The Melbourne settings are great, although I thought the director took a fair bit of artistic licence on the logistics! I don't know Melbourne well, but I think that having a beachside house (I don't think it was portside) and being able to ride your bike to your job in the CBD is not very viable.

Some of the 'minor' characters are terrific, especially the radio station owner. The 'Crocodile Dundee' landlord was funny for a while, then wore a bit thin, but the audience around me loved him, quoting him constantly through the intermission (the other great thing about Bollywood -- they don't stint on time nor loo breaks).

If Salaam Namaste comes to you, go to it. It's a lot of fun. and try to see Shahrukh in any of the other movies mentioned above. He's just got that certain something, and I know a lot of people agree with me... his fan site even has a gallery of his best and worst hairstyles!

Lemon aid

We have just spent the bext part of the day gardening -- cropping old plants, killing privet, planting nice things like herbs and strawberries, and we made our third attempt to plant a happy lemon tree. The first was planted straight over a freshly-dead cat, which I don't think it liked very much; the second was dug up by the dog to get to the cat, and the poor tree never recovered.

This third one is in a different spot, more convenient for a wee stop for the boys of the family. After the heavy rain of the past day or so the soil was beautiful. We (well, BB) dug the hole, we mixed lots of nice things in the soil, and then planted the tree. BB didn't think we'd get another frost, but I thought it was best to make it a little shadecloth tent just in case. We've had frosts as late as October before. Then the sky clouded over, and we did a little joyous rain dance! Hooray! The new things get some water!

Then it hailed.

My father will laugh his guts up. He is incredulous at my bad luck with lemon trees. I have never been able to make a lemon tree grow. My last marriage killed a couple too. I'm hoping the hail just gave the tree a little shock, not a big shock, and the little tent certainly helped. But of all the days to frigging hail! Faaarrrrrrrkkkk! Now that the hail has stopped I'm going out to sing to it and make it feel welcome. Poor little thing.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

HIts and Memories Meme

Yet another meme, this one about your formative taste in music. Dobbed in for this one by one of the formidable For Battle team members, it goes like this:

The idea is to go boingand type the year you left school in the search box. [I have linked to a different site than the original for reasons I will outline below].
Click on the link "Top 100 hits of... " and cut and paste the results into your blog.
Bold the songs you like, strike through the ones you hate and underline your favourite. Do nothing to the ones you don't remember (or don't care about).

Firstly: I haven't done 100. I've spared you that. I've done the Australian top hits for my particular year, and then the top 30 number 1s of that year for Aus, UK and USA combined.
I've concentrated on Aussie hits because I went to a country boarding hellschool to do my HSC (leaving certificate) and we didn't get anything on the radio station except what was in the Aussie charts. Countdown was a godsend, SBS something I only saw on holiday when I went home to Sydney. Any alternate music was unknown until I got to university, where the uni bar jukebox blew my mind. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not a country girl, spent some damn good years in England where I discovered the dichotomy of punk and disco, but that country exile set me back a fair bit in the musical knowledge stakes.

We had a game we played in the dorms at lights-out (9.00). The radio would be on, and you had to be the first to identify the song they were playing. Thus I have a major disability in that anytime a mainstream song of the vintage 1975-1984 comes on anywhere -- supermarket, doctor's surgery, car, middle of sex, I have to say its title very fast. It can be very annoying for all parties concerned.

Anyhoo, I digress. The following list has the criteria listed above, with one exception. It's a damn good list. I like a lot of the songs on it. It was a very good year for pop music. So not only are the ones I like bolded, but the ones I LOVED are in caps.

NUMBER 1 hits for 1984
All Night Long (All Night): Lionel Richie
Original Sin: INXS
Girls Just Want To Have Fun: Cyndi Lauper
Eat It: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Footloose: Kenny Loggins
Hello: Lionel Richie
It's Just Not Cricket: The Twelfth Man
Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go: Wham!
When Doves Cry: Prince
What's Love Got To Do With It?: Tina Turner
Careless Whisper: George Michael
I Just Called To Say I Love You: Stevie Wonder
Like A Virgin: Madonna

Top 30 No 1s for 1984 (Aus, UK, US)

1 I Just Called To Say I Love You: Stevie Wonder
2 Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go: Wham!
3 Hello: Lionel Richie
5 Careless Whisper: George Michael
6 TWO TRIBES: Frankie Goes To Hollywood
7 The Reflex: Duran Duran
8 Like a Virgin: Madonna
9 When Doves Cry: Prince
10 Footloose: Kenny Loggins
11 Jump: Van Halen
12 Relax: Frankie Goes To Hollywood
14 What's Love Got To Do With It?: Tina Turner
15 Karma Chameleon: Culture Club
16 All Night Long (All Night): Lionel Richie
17 Ghostbusters: Ray Parker Jnr
18 Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now): Phil Collins
19 Freedom: Wham!
20 I Feel For You: Chaka Khan
21 Do They Know It's Christmas?: Band Aid
22 Let's Hear it for the Boy: Deniece Williams
23 Girls Just Want To Have Fun: Cyndi Lauper
24 Say Say Say: Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson
25 Time After Time: Cyndi Lauper
26 Caribbean Queen (No More Love On The Run): Billy Ocean
27 Let's Go Crazy: Prince
28 Owner Of A Lonely Heart: Yes
29 Missing You: John Waite
30 Out Of Touch: Daryl Hall and John Oates

Good year, no? Of course there's some shite, but a lot of those songs ARE the eighties.

And I'd also like to point out that I was the youngest person in year 12 that year.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Haiku (bless you)

Kate tagged me for a loverly meme which asks you to look up the meaning of your name and then write a haiku around it. I thought about this for a while. Do I haiku my username or my real name?

I keep myself hidden only in an Ursula Le Guin sense of keeping something sacred for my own sake, not out of shame for the things I get up to in my spare time. In fact, soon I plan to unveil the uber-duckie site, which will include not only trivial blog musings but more serious bookmaking topics, and a CV etc, so I will also unveil my secret identity (oh, the suspense is killing you, I know.)...

So here's my surface haiku:

We talk hand in hand;
ducks land on the wind-blown lake,
paper-coloured sky.

And here's the teaser:

Under the pure pink
Apricot blossom in bloom
I comb my long hair.

I tag: Zoe, Stevie, and Meg

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Threadbare and booked

Has anyone seen this? (I know you have, Laura, thanks for the link!) Faaarrrkkking hilarious, and we all need a good laugh. Up there with the Fugly Girls.

Oh, for Canberra people: the Lifeline Book Fair is on 23, 24, 25 September. Mark it in your diaries. Save your pennies. Hooray!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Speaking of Yummy

Adam Hill singing 99 Luft Balloons in German on Spicks and Specks tonight.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

You asked for it

We love beetroot in this house. I make beetroot chocolate cake and beetroot dip, but the all-time favorite is beetroot risotto. My son calls it Red Rice, and has eaten it happily since he was old enough to chew. I've been promising to share this recipe for years, so I might as well do it now.

[Apologies for the photo -- this is of the leftovers, straight out of the fridge. It should be taken when served, when the red is really red and the green of the peas is irridescent in direct opposition, and the yellow melting cheese adds a psychedelic touch. It's a dramatic dish for a dinner party. Mind you, it's all wasted on Best Beloved, who is red-green colour blind. He just likes the taste.]


This can be a vegetarian dish, made with vegetable stock, or a meaty dish using chicken stock. Other meaty options are [1] using chicken breast chunks, added with the onion, [2] using chopped-up bacon (again adding with the onion), or [3] grilling crisp wafers of prosciutto to serve on top when you add the extra cheese.

1 bunch of beetroot, preferably not too big, peeled & diced into 1cm blocks
5-6 cups of stock
2 tbspns olive oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 1/3 cups Arborio rice
1 cup green peas, either fresh or frozen (defrost entirely)
Boiling water in the kettle, on hand
30g butter
125g grated parmesan cheese

optional extras as listed above.

1. Cook diced beetroot in stock until just tender (about 20 mins). Strain stock (I just use a slotted spoon to fish out the beetroot) and bring back to a simmer.

2. Lightly caramelise the onion in the oil in a med/large heavy-based pan over med/low heat for 12 or so minutes, stirring from time to time to prevent burning.

3. Add rice and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes (this 'opens' the grains to absorb more stock). Turn the heat down a touch. Ladle the hot stock into the rice a little at a time, stirring until absorbed.

4. Continue adding the stock and stirring. Only add stock when all the liquid is absorbed. From the moment the first stock is added until 'al dente' is around 20 mins. 3/4 of the way through, add the beetroot and peas. If you run out of stock, add little amounts of boiling water.

5. When the rice is 'al dente', remove from heat. Add butter, 4 tbspns of parmesan and cover with a tight lid for 5 mins.

6. Serve with the rest of the cheese sprinkled on top, salt & pepper to taste, with a salad and crusty bread.


Monday, September 05, 2005

Spending 90 minutes sounding like a crow

I had a wonderful weekend, but I can't tell you about that just yet because my blood is boiling from watching three consecutive doses of news whilst cooking dinner (beetroot risotto, I'll blog the recipe sometime if anyone wants it).

I JUST CAN'T [caps lock off, but it suits anyway] believe how inept the American authorities have been with Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans. Fark! Even a poodle, let alone the daughter of an ex-army logistics expert (me), could tell you that if you're going to shelter a lot of people in a public space, you should make sure that some food and water is left there with them, especially if you have over 24 hours notice of the impending event. Faarrrk! And to leave vistims stranded for a week when you have the money and resources to put people in space! Faaarrrrrrkkkkkkkkk....

I have to go away and take deep breaths. I'll post something a bit jollier tomorrow, maybe with pictures of cats frolicking in rural spaces.


Friday, September 02, 2005

Guest Art Rant

As I'm having a minibreak down the coast for a few days I thought I'd leave something to read with teeth, and maybe provoke a little bit of discussion.

I received this rant as part of my regular Gallery 451 Digest. I love getting these emails because it's an avenue for very outspoken political lefty artists (and others) from Australia and the USA to send each other stuff that normally doesn't get distributed. I'm not a very political animal, can't argue for quids, but I do enjoy reading reading/ listening to others out of the mainstream, which is why I hang at LP a lot. A lot of the stuff that comes through in the Digest is very provocative, others are very funny. If you would like a taste of Lawrence & friends at Gallery 451, just press here and follow the instructions.

This message was entitled "Imagine being trapped in hell, with morons and bad art thrusting at you". I like it because it can apply to many of the art fairs that gather in large public venues, like the recent Sydney Works on Paper fair. See what you think. Leave me an opinion, if you have one, on the state of Australian Art, and give me something to read when I return.

Here's some of the things I think: everyone should be buying good emerging art rather than those horrible framed 'classic' posters that you buy in framing shops. You should buy art because you actually like the image, rather than because of its potential investment value. Dealers should take more risks with young artists. I found at the Works on Paper fair that all the big dealers were selling the same old tired names, often all of them selling the same artists, just different works. I think original prints should be taken more seriously than they are, and that basic printmaking techniques should still be taught rather than getting print students to play with digital images (which is something they can do in their bedrooms with a computer). I think more galleries should show artist's books.

But that's just me. What do you think? Anyway, here's what Lawrence thinks:


On a totally different note from the usual political banter and getting to the actual topic that the list was created for, which is Art. I went to the Sydney Affordable Art Show last night and think that its worth noting that the $80,000.00 James Gleeson painting is probably not so affordable (the show price cap is supposed to be $5,000.00 which isn't really that affordable for me either).

This year they have divided the show into 2 halls which I will call the ARTS & CRAPS hall, and the Wanker Gallery Hall (which I must admit had at least some interesting work and in reality has the pompous title of 'the collectors hall' -- sort of an off hand admission that the arts and craps hall
really is a bit shit and that those who buy work there are retarded). My impression aside, it all seems a bit pretentous...

So starting on the Arts & Craps hall, which mostly consisted of commercial art that was technically and aesthetically unpleasant (lots of gold paint, spangles, textured sand painting and abstraction to disguise the inability of the artist to draw figuratively).

The work in that hall was an absolute shocker, consisting of photorealism, cars and pictures of GURLS in a state of undress. Many Suits were seen to be carrying away their booty so I guess that work was selling. I've never believed that because something sells it is necessarily good or because it
doesn't sell that it is not good. There was a lot of third-rate national geographic styled pictures of whales mating and all that sort of thing.

Without sounding too much like a snob, it was interesting to note the quality of work (or the lack thereof) and those who were buying it (who were mostly Suits who, judging by their purchases must have failed art appreciation at school). I can hear the chorus of "I like it and think that the
artist is very talented". Sad pricks.

If that was the whole show and I was to judge it on that then it would be fair to say that Art in Australia is on Death Row and that I for one would like to pull the switch and pass the final volts through its mangled, retarded and disfigured body...

But then I found the second hall, called the collectors room (formerly the
wankers room) where "Top galleries such as Rex Irwin, Tim Olsen and Connie Dietzschold can market works that can range in value beyond the $5,000.00 price ceiling that exists for exhibitors in a majority of the show." Obviously they didn't have to twist the show's organisers arms too hard
to get that price waiver... This is a commercial production and it is about money, not
art, not culture and mostly not about quality.

The collectors room was filled with a lot of pompous looking twats who had a similar hunted, angsty, sell-their-mothers-for-a-dollar, swap-their-sisters-for-a-camel look in their eyes. This was the night that all the comp tickets given out by the galleries to their best clients got along for free to the show (my ticket came that way too!). So you would expect a bunch of stuck up Sydney
wannabes high on art and pretension. I wasn't disappointed there.

The quality of work in the "collectors room" however was clearly more developed and more interesting than the Arts and Craps room. Obviously it is hard to attack the work of Lucian Freud, Matisse, Escher (not sure which room his work was in, or Rembrandt). Aside from the 'masters', there was work from lesser known souls which even if it doesn't fulfil the needs of personal taste, you could discern that the artist had a developed aesthetic, and technique and were obviously on their own sincere and somewhat talented trip. There wasn't a lot of it though.

For the admission price, given the sparcity of respectable works, MY ADVICE IS TO SAVE YOUR TICKET PRICE FOR A COFFEE and go for a jaunt around the galleries in Paddington, Redfern, Surry Hills and Newtown on a sunny Saturday or a series of Saturdays... Both are to some degree pot luck but I think that hunting the galleries is a far more worth-while endeavour than the 'Affordable' Art Show...

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Crap du Jour

The extremely superficial side of me (that would be all the bits you can see, of course) loves to check in on Go Fug Yourself once a week. It's less embarrassing than looking over people's shoulders at their magazines in the supermarket queue and less frustrating than waiting for my three-monthly stack of Nana's old New Ideas. The bonus is the commentary, far better than any crap magazine read.

Speaking of superficial bits, today I'm aghast at this, and this. Erk! I'm waiting for someone to walk down a red carpet absolutely naked, with diamond nipple studs or something. Now that would be tasteful.