Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom

Post number 100. I guess that says something about my stubborn perseverance in the face of constant ignoring :-)

Funny old day, funny old life. Started in the morning. Woke up got the kids breakfast, and sat down to check my emails. This was followed by a quick check of the news. An article jumped right out at me, a leading midwife in England said something to the effect that women need to toughen up and not have pain relief in childbirth.

A short goggle search and some surfing later, and it was found out
that the article was poorly written and out of context. Indeed the
midwife was questioning the hospital systems over reliance on
technical fixes, as the birth process is more and more taylorised and turned into a production line. This post seemed to be a much more sensible discussion to me.

Even Tracey Spicer felt the need to speak out trivializing the report with an inane anecdote about her childhood, and some vague narrow evidence based only on her personal experience.

Like Pavlovian dogs responding to high pitched whistle of our spectacle masters vast hordes of bloggers hit the netwaves and gave us hundreds of comments by the end of the day. Reminding me once again that there is no darkness but ignorance.

And near the end of the day I watched a documentary on children made
orphans by the cyclone in Burma. Choking back tears my wife said, 'It puts into perspective the petty bourgeois women who complain when the doctor will not give an epidural in the first instance.' Crying over the hopeless children on the television I had no alternative but to agree with her.

In between all that I went into work, and made some utilities to
support our monitoring application. Log rolling, password changer,
nothing too brain burning - but things that had to be done.

And then I found my notebook from a recent poetry reading I went to
at the National Library of Australia (NLA)

On July 4 I went to 'An Afternoon of Poetry' a launch of two new CDs
published by the River Road Poetry Series. Scissors, Fire, Paper, Water is the 12th volume. The first volume having been produced in December of 2007. In the words of Carol Jenkins the publisher, 'I set out, on a whim, to put together a collection of poems that played a game of Scissors, Fire, Paper,Water.' We were to hear some selections from this piece, as well as volume 14 'Coffee with Miles' by Geoff Page.

This is a very commendable project, it is great to see someone willing to do this sort of work, when it seems obvious that money can not be a main determinate in the series.

The latest volume was described, quite evocatively, as being a living thing that one puts on, much like a jacket lined with field mice.

The event was in a conference room on level four of the NLA. Max
looked angry penguin frail and old across the room. What would his judgement of the crowd of about 60 to 75 people (it was not more than 90) and the poems we heard?

The first reader was Stephen Edgar, a Sydney based poet. He started with a piece of 'languid ease' entitled "Red Sea", a poem of luck that seemed to lead us into a 'blind of ubiquity'. Nocturnal was next, a poem of 'midnight loss', after the death of a loved one. A tight and powerful piece, dealing with a subject we often do not want to have to face in our modern sanitised deathless world.

Inspired in part by the Ken Burns series on the American Civil War
was 'Sun Pictorial' this had an image of 'beauty of Baghdad' which
confused me, and made it seem as if the author was impressed by the
American shock and awe campaign.

And then he finished off with a childhood memory poem, 'In Summer
Wind' where radios murmured repetitively on a hot listless Sunday

Martin Langford came next and he spoke about how nature is made up of
not of words, but more than words, and some things I imagine which can not even be spoken.

Anecdotal, a slice of life passing away, a story of a WWII refugee come to live with the weird mob down under. Slowly, (what had he left?), but to murder himself with cigarettes.

Cezanne and Brahms and someone else I missed drinking in a beer garden overlooking the Hawkesbury River, yarning 'bout how this planet needs kindness. However after listening to his poems my mind sparked William Blake, the tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Maybe old Ezra was right (without the antisemitism and fascism), maybe history and economics and the role of banking et alli are important topics for the poet.

On the far wall Jean Campbell midwife to 'the babe is wise'. Her legs crossed, her hat red, her gloves lace. Detached she looked vaguely out the window, holding up half of heaven, yet only hold one third of the poets places this afternoon.

Judith Beveridge followed, described as 'never a word out of place'
fine praise indeed!

Saffron Pickers, inspired by the events in Iraq, stories in
newspapers. 150 000 stamen to get a kilo of spice. Again there seemed to be no explicit tying of the back breaking poverty and never ending labour of the poor to the creation of fabulous exotic luxury goods. I know it is often hard to judge a poem correctly in this sort of venue, so I could be mistaken or have misunderstood, that is possible.

Mother & Child contrasted the child 'cascades of laughter' with the
sadness felt by the mother. Hopelessness hidden within a nature poem
cataloging the birds of the Australian suburbs, Magpies, Indian
Mynahs, Cockatoos.

A poem called Rain, which was unsurprisingly about rain. 'Rustling
like silk', 'loquacious rain' like a 'leaf mist' of grain.

And rounding off her section with 'Appaloosa' in the mist and the rain
she has 'always loved the word appaloosa'.

As the event wore on, I could not fault any of the poets for their
grasp of various poetic forms and technical understanding of the craft of poetry. As each one of us can only, as Aristotle says, know our own experience; I seek something else. Having grown up around the various slams and such like readings I want a bit more excitement, a bit more word play and derring-do in my poetry. There is a desire to create accessible poetry, but I stand in opposition to such an idea. People have always loved poetry and are surrounded by poetry in much of their day to day life, even if they may not always feel this fact. It seems to me that many poets fight a fight for accessibility that does not in fact exist. If there is any less love of poetry, it is the academic poetry that is filled with nice words and thin subject matter that the working people do not relate to. Working class culture is closer to matter and closer to the transcendental animal nature of human existence. Indeed for many of us the daily trip to work could well be the last time we get to say good bye to our children. (2000 deaths a year in the workplace.)

Mark Tredinnick read some of his luxuriant post modern bucolics, harking back while looking forward. Again we had the idea of the mind beneath the mind, of nature that exists as a terrible serene destructive counterpoint to our technical culture of failed words, and failed processes and ruined lives. Rivers run from swerve of shore to bend of bay before language.

Cicadas surface after 14 years, what intelligence, what will to power drives them out of ground to climb and shriek far into the
nights. What intelligence is in the cherry pip? What admixture of
marijuana and over the counter pain killers lead to the palace of wisdom?

Some images of God and more rain, and glib geometric Canberra.

The publisher Carol Jenkins read a couple of poems, one about child
fighters in Columbia, 'Trading in Small Arms' which while admirably
drawing attention to the plight of the child soldier could have gone
further in making her critique. This was followed by 'PET Facts'. This was a self confessed nerd poem which sent a rolling chuckle through the audience.

The final poet for the afternoon Geoff Page read. He started by
setting up a false dichotomy between performance and literary poets,
which to my thinking was a bad omen. All poems are about death, and
sunflower hallucinations and illusion and photo fallin' setting up a breath and death dialectic of rhyme, scrapping the lizards offa the texas trees. Or maybe some jazz poems about having a cup of joe with maybe slow silent way too cool Miles Davis mystic cool with the mad ones crossing a rain soaked angry negro rosy colored dawn street in maybe Providence or angry fix hipster Hartford, hands deep thrust into rough strong fabric trousers. angelheaded hipsters burning panorama of East St. Louis Toodle-oo.

All within Canberra's glib geometry? Quite a few poems, and by now I
have all but lost my note taking skills, and let the words flow riverrun between the Epicurean swerve. What have we, Beyond Good and Evil is a world that is hurtling into no future of unimaginable violence, and these poets, some of the most published, most awarded in the country can not get much above the shouting level of the agnostic. Surely the kindness we are to show the planet has to be more desperate than this.

I fear God's entropy and our own time wasting.

What could I see from all this? A technical understanding, an
infatuation with nature poems, and with being accessible, coupled with an almost total disregard for the political events which overwhelm working people the world over. If these are some of the 'best and brightest' of the Australian poetry scene, then viva la revolucion.


Brad Green said...

You're not ignored. Here's a reader.

Anonymous said...

Congrats on the 100. I ditto Brad by name and observation. This post has given me plenty to chew on. I was particularly grabbed by your thoughts on the accessibility of poetry. Personally, I find the 'world' mostly inaccessible, but for the poetry. Cheers.

Tomás Ó Conghalaigh said...

thanks for the feedback it seems a bit lonely sometimes pinging into the ethernet

in aus there are big debates about accessibility in poetry. Most of it seems a bit silly to me, if a poet can't be obscure and pretentious than what is the point. (pretentious from the root word to pretend)

The world is inaccessible, i like it!!