Sunday, July 26, 2009

In Vino Veritas

Went to a poetry reading, four local poets all prize winners, all published. A fine winter's day which began with poetry and ending with infection. Read on if you dare!

The imagination in search of a fabulous world is autonomous and unconfined!

We got a baby sitter and so we able to go out on a Sunday afternoon,
with no children, like a big person.

Bare autumnal invasive trees
Wide Gershwin afternoon wintery
Hillside of milk cows dry hillside
Rolling champagne bubbling wide
Irrawaddy ditches tufts
Of grass navy comms rebuffed.

How did we waste our time? Off to the Mount Majura Winery to see (hear
maybe) four poets, as part of the Majura Poetry Readings, 'Verse in
the Vines'.

There were, as I said four poets. John Leonard, Lesly Lebkowicz,
P.S. Cottier and Paul Magee.

First off the rank was John Leonard, who read from some of his books,
published and yet to be published. He read from some of his books
including 'Jesus in Kashmir' and 'Braided Lands'.

According to his website his works have "a definite political
philosophy, a green perspective on a wasteful, self-deluded
first-world populace, who, having trashed an entire planet in less
than six generations, now want ‘security’". He read a few poems, and
to be honest I did not notice his poetry being particularly political,
green or otherwise. But as all things are political, why even make the

With the thoughts of the 'stone perfect embodiment of stoniness' of
the 'spotless butterfly wings' rambling my noodle, I could only think
that his work was in that school of modern Australian poetry that
seemed to want simple words conveying simple to comprehend
ideas. There is, of course, nothing wrong with this paradigm, but it
is not mine. I stand with Joyce, who when confronted by Wyndham Lewis'
criticism of the fussy additions of a Gothic cathedral, replied
(something to the effect of), this is where my work begins. I want a
poetry that is exuberant (even rhetorical) and fun, that fears not
recursive convolutions or embellishments or fussy additions.

I much prefer the later convulsions of the Ezuveristy, than the stark
Amygist Bunting shaving of inversions and superfluity in sonnet 87 to
a simple direct.

"Farewell! Thou art too dear for my possessing;
And like enough thou know'st thy estimate."

Simple. Clear and not meant for publication.

Simple words simply used for honesty, to sway the reader.

For myself, I do delight in the dense Heralcitian obscurity of the
Fifth Decade of the Cantos, or Finnegans Wake. (And let the common
reader be damned).

A review of a review.

The next poet was P.S. Cottier, who writes slightly fabulous socially
aware poetry, involving the reality of suddenly being middle aged, (a
description I can heartily endorse!), and being 'too late for
Wimbledon, I made a poetic racket'.

Coincidentally the Canberra Times (July 25 2009) had a review of the
this poet. She has recently published a book entitled 'The Glass
Violin', and it was this work that was reviewed in the Times. Within
this review we see the idea of simple words used simply in the
review. The title poem of the book contains the lines.

"deep susurrus of Sibelius makes
aurorae in the dingy room".

The review uses this as a example of straining too hard. This
calibration confused and disappointed me. What is expected from poets
in Australia these days? Maybe a thin list of monosyllables that do not
in any way strain the reader or force them to the dictionary? I am
not sure. I prefer my motto to be along of the lines of 'that if
something is not hard it is not worth doing'. As well the image of the
aurorae in the dingy room, echos Kit Marlowe and infinite riches in a
little room. (Which happily contains the side effect of going up and
down at the same time.) The reviewer than went on to criticise Cottier
for being strident in her poems, 'The Catalogue of Australia's
Military Operations", and "Chatter overheard in cafes"

The catalogue was not much more than a list of the names of the
operations that the Australian Army has been involved in. From the
Sudan, the first of our overseas wars, to 'again azure guards Sudan.'
This really seemed to be no overt attack on the honour of our fighting
diggers, rather a simple list jumbled up slightly and forged into a
poem. Strident? This word can be taken as little more than a sexist
code word. A simple google search for strident women will reinforce
this, but let us leave our discussion with teh reminder that what is
forceful for men is strident for women. (Strident = Offensively loud
and insistent, harsh, jarring).

Following on was Lesley Lebkowicz, who read for us an amusing 'slice
of life' tall tale anecdote of Australians teasing upper class
Englishmen. She then read some poems of a collection she had on the
Petrov affair. As Russia awaits with a rapists assurance, this was a
puzzling piece to me. I was not what was meant and why would she even
bother to write this, but I shall withhold judgement as I am not
familiar with the entire piece.

The readings were rounded off by Paul Magee, and he read among other
things some poems that included his translations from the Aeneid, as
well as a mocking reference to Pound's 'The Metro'.

In general it was a pleasant, if none too inspiring afternoon's
diversion. I must agree with the half remembered quote that every poem
I hear (or read) teaches me something. The works all had strong
technique, and compared to the poetry slams, which are my preferred
medium, were of a more even quality. Unlike a slam there was little in
the work of a strong emotional power, and the standard of deliver was
weak. Both forms are correct and both have strengths and weaknesses. I
must confess to my enjoyment of the ephemeral hurly burly of the slam
over the calmness of in vino veritas, in aqua sanitas.

And then we went home, to find our little boy was vomiting. So was
unleashed 5 days of hell, as a 'tummy' bug tore through the household
like Glen McGrath through a trembling English XI.

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