Thursday, June 30, 2011

Poetry and the Contemporary Symposium

7-9 July 2011
Victorian Trades Hall

(symposium URL front page artwork: She Prefers Fires, 2008, ink and cotton on fine art paper, Tamryn Bennett)

'Poetry and the Contemporary' is a symposium designed to foster critical and creative conversations between poets and scholars, primarily from the Pacific region. It also showcases the exciting work of a range of new and established writers. It follows on from the two "Home and Away: A Trans-Tasman Symposium" that were held at the University of Auckland and the University of Sydney respectively in 2010.

Full program, abstracts, etc. can be found here.

Monday, June 27, 2011


In Conspiracy City

I barely blink when the
fighter-jets come
screaming down
the valley

or when I see
a line of
Black Hawk helicopters
precisely perforating
the sky

but the midnight
entrances & exits
of transport planes

the small
on the

telegraph posts
the brown convoy
in this direction
the blue
in that

me wonder
when the pre-
emptive strike
is coming.

& this
is only a
of what it’s
like to live
in fear.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Out from Otoliths—Kevin Opstedal's Drainpipe Sessions

Drainpipe Sessions
Kevin Opstedal
44 pages
Otoliths, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9808785-4-7
$10.00 + p&h

Beneath the relentless surf ghetto aura that pervades these Drainpipe Sessions there is a place where nothing is revealed, acknowledged by the grace of having been there at all. It’s the catch & release method of poetic composition, the B-side of a once and future flashback, stubbornly adhering to a lyric drive where the measure is meant to be taken in a single breath. “If poetry is the Atlantis of the arts,” writes Noel Black, “then Kevin Opstedal can breathe under water, and each poem is a pair of shades for a beach blanket apocalypse.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A compendium for & of Dave Mitchell

who passed away last night.

Every couple of years

the photo below seems to make its way onto somebody's blog or site.

So I've added a poster below for the 1969 reading for which the mugshots were taken

& pulled out from the dreaming pelican some poems posted when noting the last time the photo surfaced.

High Country Weather

Alone we are born
And die alone
Yet see the red-gold cirrus
Over snow-mountain shine.

Upon the upland road
Ride easy, stranger
Surrender to the sky
Your heart of anger.

James K. Baxter (1945)

from: Night Through the Orange Window

I remember her as a fifth season
who came unheralded
into those lean months
shaming the precise blue evenings
with the proud eternity of her flesh

David Mitchell (1963)

For Dave Mitchell
"th prfct wrdslngr"

Seeing your poems, your picture on the
blue middle pages of the NEW ARGOT
I wish I could be with you once more in
"th cafe lebanon". It is summer, & the
spare tables will have been unstacked
& set outside; & we could sit there
in our perfect white tropical suits,
sipping pernod, smoking panatellas
waiting for something GREAT to happen.

Mark Young (1973)



Why / I am / thinking about ambivalence

I have just been invited to contribute to the obituary of someone who isn't dead yet.



He pauses, remembering having read somewhere that using "actually" as a prefix to a declaration often indicates a lie will follow.

He pauses, wondering if what he is about to say is truth or fiction. Not so much one or the other, perhaps a mix, perhaps a selective reading of the past.

He restarts. Actually, ambivalence is not what is disturbing him; it is just a cloak, thrown rapidly over the budding, the bubbling up of something that he would prefer to remain hidden, not to be thought about. Saying he is ambivalent gives him time to take the deep breaths necessary before starting the sifting process, the archaeological dig.

The obituary part of it does not disturb him, for the significant reality is that this writer has been dead to him for a long time, killed by separation, the act of not-seeing. What contact there has been in nearly forty years has been the gathering of memento mori—that first book of poems, signed, numbered, bought four or so years ago in a secondhand store in Auckland, thirty years after its publication—or the literary equivalent of laying flowers on a grave, writing a poem dedicated to & named for the writer.

& not just dead to him, but to many others. A decades-long wake, not talking of the dead but asking after him. "Have you heard anything of.....?" Now, it appears, it is time to exhume the corpse, even though it is not yet a corpse, since by the time the autopsy is performed & the obituary is written it may well be so.

He recalls that at times in the past, if a high-born lady fell ill, diagnosis would be carried out on a handmaiden or a servant for it was considered improper for the lady to be inspected deshabillé. Here, too, the first stroke of the knife will fall elsewhere; before writing the obituary of the other, he has to begin by writing his own.



Sidebar #1

The poet, in his early twenties, in the mid-sixties, makes the pilgrimage to Europe, travelling by sea. In England, he meets a folksinger of a similar age from Minnesota called Bob Dylan. He goes to Spain, & the scent of the orange groves permeates his notebooks for years to come. He meets & marries a beautiful blonde Swedish model who returns to New Zealand with him.

They live with the poet's mother & brother in Aro St., Wellington. They have a daughter. (This the narrator knows not through memory but because he met her forty years later.) The beautiful blonde Swede does not like New Zealand. The country is beautiful but the people are nekulturny, barbaric. (This the narrator does not know for certain; it is an assumption he makes based on the fact that the poet starts drinking again. Though maybe it's the whole gestalt, living with mother, having a child, having a wife who doesn't like the place & who reminds the poet that he, too, doesn't really like living there.)

Five characters then. More precisely, four characters & a narrator. (Though not this narrator; he is merely the recipient of an oral history which he has chosen to pass on.) Even more precisely, four characters & a raconteur who will tell the story later, who is the one from whom the narrator heard it.

It is too distant to be precise in the living arrangements. Logic—no, not logic, rather the kernel of the story—dictates that there are three bedrooms in the house. The brother has one, the poet & his wife another, & the poet's mother shares the other with her granddaughter. It may be that the poet's mother is visiting; & the baby normally has a room to herself.

Except on this night the baby gets sick & the poet's wife moves into the baby's room to be with her, & the poet's mother moves into the master bedroom. The poet knows nothing of this; he is out drinking, has to be a party since at the time this took place, bars in New Zealand closed their doors at 6 p.m.

The poet returns home round midnight, drunk. Staggers into the bedroom, takes his clothes off in the dark & jumps onto the shape in the bed shouting "I'm going to fuck you." His mother screams, jumps out of the bed & runs from the room.

(The narrator is aware that it is probably in poor taste to retell this story; but he excuses himself on the grounds that if he is to partake in the obituary writing, to perform part of the autopsy, then it makes sense to begin the cutting at a soft point in what will inevitably be a painful history.)



The Gallery Readings

The evening takes place in a gallery where the best contemporary New Zealand painting is on show. It's a dealer gallery; the exhibitions change every fortnight. Perhaps it's Ralph Hotere whose paintings are on the walls, or Colin McCahon, or Milan Mrkusich. In those days worth thousands of dollars; these days probably millions.

The narrator is comfortable in these surroundings. He writes about art—reviews, essays, even a book—so to him the paintings are the perfect backdrop, the perfect stage design. He likes the space; hessian walls, good acoustics. Intimate. Add to that an audience that enjoys—perhaps even delights in—being there.

It's near the end of the evening. Now the narrator is where he has always wanted to be, out in front of a rock band.

The poet & the narrator have taken it in turns to read. Then a break so the audience can buy a coffee next door, or some wine further down the road. The poet reads first when they start up again, followed by the narrator whose set this time is four blues written especially for this performance & backed by the band. They're simple lyrics; rhymed, one piece in ¾ time, another working over & around the famous Booker T. Green Onions riff. "Yr poems & yr songs will never right the wrongs that you have done to me/ & yet yr wrongs will never cloud the songs that you have sung to me....."

Then the narrator segues into Route 66. Driving rock, the Stones in everybody's mind, getting into everybody's blood. People get up & start to dance. The gallery owner is in the middle of them, then he suddenly rushes across to the switchbox shouting "the paintings, the paintings" & turns the power off. The room is plunged into silent darkness. A minute later the power is back on & everybody is dancing again. The narrator leaves the band to carry on on its own & joins the throng. The poet prowls the room looking for someone to take home & bed. Eventually everybody goes home happy.

The joint gallery readings are why the narrator & the poet are forever paired in the collective memory:
"...In the Barry Lett Art Gallery
I heard Mark Young and David Mitchell lay down their lines."
Bob Orr: Jerusalem

"My memories of Mark in Auckland are of poetry readings at Barry Lett Galleries and at the Wynyard Tavern. Dave Mitchell was part of a double act that combined the rhapsodic, the laconic and the hip. Wreathed in clouds of cigarette smoke, through which I still see art works by Ralph Hotere and Colin McCahon, as though smoky nicotine were one of the cultural pigmentations of the ’60s; with lots of flagon red wine from the Henderson valley, drugs that were subculture rather than mainstream entertainment, and the jazz of Thelonious Monk (‘Round Midnight’), these occasions set my youthful benchmarks and probably gave me much of the life I’ve had. For which I am most grateful. "
Ian Wedde: Antipodean Hipster (A review of The right foot of the giant)
but they were never friends though something / more than acquaintances. They had gone to the same secondary school; for four years they shared the same turf; but the poet was a year ahead of the narrator, & in the hierarchy of schools, that meant their paths never crossed. The narrator was something of a jock—rugby, cricket, basketball—who later played in the school orchestra, had one of the leads in a rare school play, a Shakespeare suite directed by Richard Campion, the father of filmmaker Jane, who was teaching there at the time. He never came across the poet in any of these activities.

They probably met sometime after the poet went to university, in that overlap between uni & the teachers' training college of shared parties, shared pubs, shared acquaintances. The narrator has no idea of when. But Wellington in those days was, though small, a very active city; & because it was small, anybody who was into anything soon got to know everybody else who was also into something. The musicians knew the painters knew the poets knew the actors knew the gays knew the dopesmokers knew the dancers.

The first firm date that can be put on anything was 1963, when the narrator, having taken over as editor of a little magazine, included some of the poet's pieces in it. This does not mean that the narrator discovered the poet; far from it. But he did discover a kindred spirit in that both of them were influenced by the new American poets. It might be said that they walked the same street, though on different sides of it, but it was a far distant street from the main road of New Zealand poetry.

The narrator moved to Auckland, the poet went overseas, came back, also moved to Auckland. The narrator had the knack of turning out quasi-SoQ poems which he placed in the leading N.Z. literary magazines, & some of which were subsequently included in a number of overseas anthologies. He began to develop a reputation which he used to parlay publication of the poems that meant much more to him, but generally two or so years after he'd written them. The poet remained much more true to his craft, which meant he didn't publish much. The problem for both of them was that there were only a very small number of literary magazines in N.Z., & they were all running behind the times.

The next bit is guesswork, an interpretation of a number of invitations that are posted in a gallery on the narrator's page at the new zealand electronic poetry centre. The first is a mainstream reading, the narrator appearing as one of ten readers. The poet does not appear, though there is a note in Big Smoke that credits him with arranging it though the narrator believes (a) that if he'd organized it he'd be reading & (b) that the poet would never have allowed the wanky name that appears on the poster as presenting the evening. What is important is that it was the first reading in a newly opened gallery. The second invitation is the shape of things to come, a combined reading by the poet & the narrator, with a rock band in the mix.

There were at least another four readings over the next three years. The poet believes that there was another one at the usual gallery, & knows of one more held in a different gallery in town. Some of the readings had music, a couple had another poet included, Hone Tuwhare in one, James K. Baxter in another. But however many there were & what format they took, they had one thing in common—the poet & the narrator working as a tag team. Different styles, different approaches, but each was the perfect foil for the other.

These days, with so many places to publish & such ease to do so, one sometimes forgets just how hard it could be to disseminate one's work, especially for those working outside the traditional & isolate mainstream of a nation's poetry & who did not see any importance or necessity in being "nationalistic" in their subject matter when the world was becoming more & more international. Add to that a felt need to show that there were other, equally valid—in the eyes of the poet & the narrator, even more valid—traditions that one could draw from, other paths to follow. The gallery readings did all that.



day To

It is after midnight.

My toes are bloodied from broken blisters.

I take my shoes off.

I arrive home.

Korean dinner with friends.

Five books in my bag, gifts, swaps. Jill Jones’ Dark Bright Doors, Michael Farrell’s a raiders guide, their exceptional combined anthology Out of the Box: Contemporary Australian Gay & Lesbian Poets. Both of them are over here. Read with both of them tonight, a great pleasure. Jill’s book was also launched tonight. The other two books I’m also delighted to have: Wystan Curnow’s modern colours, & the book nobody thought would ever see the light of day, Steal Away Boy, the selected poems of Dave Mitchell, now desperately ill in Sydney, but my partner in a series of poetry readings in the late 1960s in Auckland. “Mark played intellectual Baudelaire to Dave’s anarchic Rimbaud”, an Ian Wedde quote in the introduction by the editors, Nigel Roberts & Martin Edmond.



Otoliths issue #21 is now live

Once again it's a wide-ranging compendium, containing text & visual work from . . . David Mitchell . . .



Steal Away, Boy.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

He / sure was / a big man

if the initial report of Clarence Clemons' death in the Sydney Morning Herald is to be believed.....
Known as the Big Man for his imposing 196-metre frame, Clemons and his ever-present saxophone spent much of his life with The Boss.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Out from Otoliths — notational by Jane Joritz-Nakagawa

Jane Joritz-Nakagawa
68 pages
Cover painting by Joanne G. Yoshida
Otoliths, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9808785-2-3
$12.45 + p&h
Jane Joritz-Nakagawa’s notational furthers an Identity Positioning System that resembles in elegance and efficacy the memory theaters of the ancients. Each page finds the margin where transition is meaning and each sensational flutter awaits its name. Intensity is all: “Power lines on the range.” She never lets the words down, nor fails to put them accurately where most needed. — Bill Berkson

In her sixth book of poems, Jane Joritz-Nakagawa breaks fresh ground, finding new ways to see and restructure her world. In fragments of observations teetering precariously and falling into the unexpected, Jane sees into the backside of social and cultural relations, while at the same time undermining them. This is the “border between identity and non-identity”. Here, we wake up “in an unfamiliar language”, and find that it is our own. — Eric Selland

Jane Joritz-Nakagawa’s notational puts consciousness through an egg slicer and allows the slices to slip away and initiate poetic investigations within the environments that have come to define the fractured backdrop of the everyday: empty buses, the repletions of consumer overload, bamboo groves, eyes that gaze at each other (untranslatable), the horrible vivisection of animals, selves that melt and bend through a social stage in which the locus of identity is always the center of multiple controls. This poetry is timely, intelligent and beautiful — and though the investigations involved often move through deeply unsettling territory, the ingenuity of the poetry itself displays the imaginative promesse de bonheur that keeps the loophole opened: “grim tasks of survival do not bring happiness / yet the wind”. — Trane DeVore

Thursday, June 16, 2011

& since it's Bloomsday

and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

Up early

watching the total lunar eclipse. So slow.....

Last several times there have been even partial eclipses, it's been cloudy overhead & they haven't been visible. This morning, however, not a cloud in the sky. Perfect weather.

Google have got it live on YouTube, but they're showing it with the shadow coming in from the side.

Where we are, the shadow is coming down from the top.

Don't know if I'll stay up & watch it all. The moon is only halfway covered, & it's taken an hour plus to get this far. Which means it'll have sunk beneath the horizon before it's all over.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Synchronicity? or Synchrotron City?

Today's entry at my Won Des Laits pwoermd blog (posted late last night) — rbbait.

Today's news item on my server's home page — "Mutant rabbit found near Fukushima."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Kangaroo? What kangaroo? Today's marsupial story.

Volvo is evolving its pedestrian detection & avoidance system — which uses radar & an infra-red camera to determine if the car is likely to hit a pedestrian — to recognize wild animals. It will be available in Australia within three years.

Trouble is, it's designed to recognize moose & suchlike, not the large fauna that you find on Australian roads, which, because of its unusual shape, is almost impossible to program for. Sure, occasionally cows & horses are hit or missed, but many large animal accidents here involve indigenous species such as kangaroos & emus. Plus, the system is designed for static or slow-moving animals, & kangaroos emulate smart bombs; large bounds, fast trajectory.

Maybe Volvo could market the system here without modification but with a different slant, possibly describing it as an early apocalypse warning system. If the car tells you there's a moose looming up on the road ahead, then get the hell out of there. An Ice Age is coming! The apocalypse is not far behind!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

One of the

drums of
life is

that certain
resonate in-

side you
which maybe


Pity about the misspelt name on the front screen.....

Friday, June 10, 2011

surfing the breakfast shows

There's nothing funny about fuckwits
wouldn't fuckwitless be a better descriptor?

Looking through

the notes & phrases & jottings that I accumulate, I found the line "their new status as North America's largest indie shop" &, for some reason or other, thought I might be able to use it in a possible "A line from Paul Revere" poem. So went looking for a Paul Revere quote, & discovered that Sarah Palin had just got herself embroiled in a contreveresy by stating that one of Revere's goals was to warn the British that what became the Revolutionary Army was waiting.

I also discovered more cause to be cautious in treating Wikipedia as an authoratitive source though often—as I demonstrate further on in this post—its presence near the top of any search means it's sometimes convenient to use instead of, in this case, plowing through a plethora of political party websites. (I apologize for my hypocrisy & the fact that I'm a lazy asshole.)
"Witness the push-back by defenders of Sarah Palin, a could-be presidential candidate who wrongly characterized Paul Revere’s Revolutionary War-era ride. Palin, on a family vacation-cum-"SarahPac" promotional tour, told reporters Revere was warning the British that the colonists would not give up their guns. She said Revere rang bells and shot his gun as a warning. Historians disagree (Revere was actually warning his comrades, not the enemy British soldiers), but Palin fans rushed to edit the online encyclopedia Wikipedia to rewrite history, seeking to turn Palin’s misstatement into historical fact. (Wikipedia has since locked the page on Revere while things calm down.)" Susan Milligan
Then I discovered a photo of the bus Sarah Palin was using for her current tour, with One Nation emblazoned on its side.....

One Nation is a still extant minor political party in Australia, that was briefly popular around the turn of the century, especially in Queensland where it garnered 22% of the vote in the 1998 state election. & here, shamefacedly, I quote Wikipedia.
"Believing the other parties to be out of touch with mainstream Australia, One Nation ran on a broadly populist and protectionist platform. It promised to drastically reduce immigration and to abolish 'divisive and discriminatory policies ... attached to Aboriginal and multicultural affairs.' Condemning multiculturalism as a 'threat to the very basis of the Australian culture, identity and shared values,' One Nation rallied against government immigration and multicultural policies which, it argued, were leading to 'the Asianisation of Australia.'"
Its public face was Pauline Hanson, & its appeal was based on the racist, redneck, rightwing extremism that exists in parts of this country, though usually a bit more beneath the surface. & part of the reason for the party's decrease in popularity is because the conservative parties have moved even further to the right, in order to absorb most of the constituency that was once One Nation. Another reason is that it appears a major driving force in starting up the party was to take personal advantage of public funding.

Wikipedia again:
"Since the 1998 peak, One Nation has been plagued by internal divisions and has split several times. Lawsuits from ex-members forced Hanson to repay approximately A$500,000 of public funding won at the 1998 Queensland election amid claims that the party was fraudulently registered. The suits alleged that the party was undemocratically constituted in order to concentrate all power in the hands of three rulers—Pauline Hanson, David Ettridge and David Oldfield (in particular Oldfield)—and that it technically had only two members: Ettridge and Hanson."
Pauline Hanson stood as an independent in the recent New South Wales election, failed to gain a seat, & is now claiming fraud by the Electoral Office. It might be different State to & a decade on from her political debut, but her opinions don't seem to have changed.
"If Muslim people are not willing to assimilate into a democratic Australian society, 'don't come here at all,' says former One Nation politician Pauline Hanson."
(p.s. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that Palin's people were aware of & impressed by Australia's One Nation Party before setting out on their obscenic tour.)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Bout de souffle

After the First World War began, Cravan left Paris to avoid being drafted into military service. On a stopover in the Canary Islands a boxing match was arranged between Cravan and the reigning world champion Jack Johnson to raise money for Cravan’s passage to the United States. Posters for the match touted Cravan as “European champion.” Johnson, who didn’t know who the man was, knocked Cravan out solidly out and in his autobiography noted that Cravan must have been out of training.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Today the
postman brought
me the letters
W & S. We
watched Sesame

Sunday, June 05, 2011

geographies: Joué-lès-Tours

                                     The colossal institution 
that is the tellurian eco-
nomy comes across as
a disfunctional asset with
minimal cognitive
ability, but is still able to
deliver the latest DVDs.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Knives Forks and Spoons Press

have just released a book from SJ Fowler, a regular contributor to Otoliths, & editor of the Maintenant interview series for 3am magazine.

It's available from Amazon UK.