Sunday, November 14, 2010

Drifters Cafe & Caritas Poetry Event

Sharp windy, slow setting night walking.

Saturday last, I went out into the city, to the Drifters Internet
. Nestled off the side street down stairs the market dock
Salamanca shade of Wellington side of town. A relaxed venue for
listening to a poet. Poetry for Pakistan, a fund raiser for the
Caritas Pakistan Flood Appeal. A series of readings had been organised
for the appeal, but this was the only one I could attend. I was lucky
to be able to make it to this reading. More formless than planned out
this document is my attempt to understand what I learnt about the

Ghosts of the Galapagos; the poetry of flight. A series of new lyrics
by Paul Healy. Fog lifting revealing panta, revealing all things, the
picton bridge, the blue heron. I arrived late, mid poem, and began to
quiet sit and poured myself a glass of water. And set myself to
listen. And ordered a cup of chai, frothy in the modern style with a
shake of cinnamon on top. High vaulted and perfumed poetry.

A simple quiet venue, with a small attentive crowd. I was at once
swept up with the flow of the poets words, his skill at 'making', his
simple and confident reading style. As advertised the poetry was a
series of lyrics around the theme of flight, about bird flight. This
ordinary, everyday idea separated itself and allowed multicoloured
ideas to flourish.

I was, with the poem about the lame gull who was able to gain the
choicest food, struck with the scientific cold harded factual manner,
in that compassion may not be the best reaction in many a natural
relationship. The human desire to place our values, and with good
intentions to intervene is not always the best course of action.

Songs of loss and desolation, of joy and astonishment. A dialogue of
nature and a lesson in what is being done in our state. A tale of
chemical warfare in the forests and Tasmanian devil facial tumours in a
poem called simply '1080'.

Everywhere images of the wonder and of the erotic generative spirit of
nature. Will to Power, nature struggling to create and manifest across
many forms. From the rushing diving collared sparrow hawk making a
kill, to the blue heron still on blue rock shading the water to tempt
the little fish, to the unlikely pigeon in some plot of dead land
neither bush nor city highlighted in a ray of setting sunlight, to
clinking currawongs in the Styx Valley sounding like far off church
bells, the images of flight blended with a scientific understanding of
the environment, and created a strong series of lyrics.

The poet confessed his surprise at some poems which seemed to come all
at once, as if formed from the ether. This is of course the result of
study, and practising technique. Leave the reader hanging, the poet
offered as advice, using his own work for examples. Add a strong grasp
of the English tradition, and a love of the classic forms of
poetry. The comparison thoughts that sprang to my mind while words
described the spine tailed swift flying 5000 feet in the sky and
'rides the summer thunder wall', of course was Hopkins, followed by
the ol' Will-of-Wisp Yeats. Scrambled into the forgotten linkages of
the Heraclitian Gyre.

A poem about the Pied Butcher Bird described the harmony of white and
black and gray camouflage colouring, there is a unity in
diversity. Pied Beauty and a similar eye for natural detail as
Hopkins, and while I can not agree with the poet's program of reviving
the classical forms of English poetry, I will agree that the study of
poetry is worthwhile as an end in itself. A rigorous understanding
and appreciation of the various forms of poetry, allow vast fields of
poetic imagination and inspiration to spring to life. Ripe fruit for
the poet to feast upon. Even for the experimental poets it must be
accepted that 'no verse is free', and for all poets that creation is
social creation.

So while there was a strong spiritual element that I could not agree
with, I am only too happy to quote Lenin, “Intelligent idealism is
nearer to intelligent materialism than is stupid materialism." and
leave the subject closed.

Listening to the ABC local radio in the morning, I was at once struck
with the passion and pleased to hear the poet speak of the importance
of supporting young poets, and the need to create a space for young
poets. This is to me very important and if I can add a slogan to the
argument, it would be 'More mentors, Fewer English Teachers.' While I
readily accept that poetry comes in many shapes and sizes, and is
indeed a raw creative purgation involving language, practised by a
wide and diverse section of society, I do find it amusing to hear
academics discuss other academics as having a 'demotic voice.' Allow
me to step off my soap hobby horse box, and commend Paul Healy as a
poet, and even more importantly as a mentor.

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