26/12/07: Got a note from Peter Macrow in Tasmania about a week ago. He says (in part)
" 4 people have written to me saying yours was one of the poems they liked best in BG6. Encouraging – for us both! The launch on 2 Dec sold 44 copies and altogether 125 of 156 have gone now…"
The poem he refers to is shall I compare thee.. and BG6 is blue giraffe, sixth edition. To authors of best-sellers, 4 readers would be infinitesimal, but to a poet who sells his books in tens, not thousands, it’s especially gratifying that these four individuals would take the time and effort to let an editor & poet know that they appreciate my work. Peter has done a brilliant job of establishing Blue Giraffe as one of Australia’s best little poetry anthologies. Number 6 includes work by Lyn Reeves, Christiane Conesa-Bostock, Shen, Richard Hillman, Erica Jolly, Benny Walter, Anne Morgan, Jenny Barnard< Danny Fahey, Megan Schaffner, Mark Miller, Anne Kellas, Sally Clarke, Karen Knight, Liz Winfield,Jennifer Furst, Emerald Roe, Bonnie Donehue, Marion Stoneman, Elaine Barker, Owen Bullock, Cameron Hindrum, Benny Walter and rob walker.
Peter also kindly sent me a copy of Gina Mercer’s Handfeeding the Crocodile (which I love) and some copies of Poets’ Republic #24 which I’ll pass on to local poets.
In searching for a bio-link for Peter for this entry, I’ve just come across more comments on my tiny poem:
"All good poetry celebrates language. rob walker’s poem: ‘shall I compare thee’ is a clever and amusing examination of contemporary vernacular at its most abstract. I read this poem out loud a few times with great enjoyment and wondered what a person learning English for the first time might make of it. It would be a great performance piece." (Anne Collins speaking at the launch and quoted in the poetry blog North of the latte line.)
25/12/07: Merry Christmas, Eid Adha Mubarak, Happy Hannukah and Seasons Greetings to all of you regardless of your faith or lack of faith.
24/12/07: Friendly Street Poets website is currently undergoing a re-design, courtesy of Raphael Sabu & friends. Raph has a high standard meet- the original site was created and maintained brilliantly for years by Graham Catt, whose chapbook The Hieronymus Bosch Shopping Mall is published by Rob Riel’s Picaro Press. I’ve always enjoyed Graham’s surreal images and this little book adds to his already sound reputation as a unique poet. Here’s a taste:
the wounded city
the clouds are broken, the clouds are bleeding
the city skyline is missing some teeth
the sidewalks are stained with neon and shadow
I tread carefully
stepping between puddles of light
I avoid smouldering cars, a shop graffitied with blood, a row of tanks
I pass the ruins of a supermarket
its bones licked clean by tongues of fire
I pass a derelict hospital, a boarded-up cinema
I see a crowd gathered in the ribs of the cathedral
the sound of the choir is an anaesthetic
I hear the rattle of gunfire, a jet-fighter puncturing the sky
I see soldiers on street corners
a dead dog hanging from a lamppost
I see shoppers and office workers rushing home in the dark
the moon is fractured, the moon is made of glass
pale lightd drip from the eye-sockets of skyscrapers
there is a man-shaped hole in the night
I am walking through it
23/12/07: One of the many things that has taken a back seat in our organisation to leave Australia has been this website. My apologies. I hope to have a revamped blog soon (and more time to maintain it in Japan.) First things first. David Barnes. I’ve mentioned on this site many times that David was a great encouragement to me over a decade ago when many of my early works were published on PoetryDownUnder. David’s health has been failing for years – yet just when he looks finished, he fights back. In November he told me (by email) I almost died three weeks ago, with this poem:
minutes in a Life
cream-colored walls close in
on sterile emptiness; stainless-steel-sink
and wool, forgotten,
the dishwashers’ mouth yawns open:
wordlessness reaches out,
out to a watery sound- & swirling;
the stepladder cries in the rain, forgotten’
trees-leaves-shed, stand naked;
acceptance of winter’s burden
while the ceiling fan rotates,
the scallop-boats in Mornington:
silently- the picture speaks
crystal glasses wait, for the sweet taste
of medium-dry sherry; the decanter
sits quite, aloof, above it all:
it is unavoidable
that they be drawn together,
all is required, is acceptance
tick-tock, tick-tock, the mantle clock;
minutes in a life; I grumble In the driving wet,
as I do my chores; put dishes away,
while inside, the armchair awaits
my comfort, the taste of medium-dry-sherry:
Inevitably, the armchair sighs in comfort.
© revised: copyrighted
debarnes June 17th 2007
Two weeks later in a ‘slow, painful recovery‘ he said he was still editing for the 2008 edition of PDU/Numbat and working on a collection of 60-80 of his own poems.
Shadows & Mist at South Perth
Mist shrouds the paperbark-walkway ahead.
And the Swan River behind; at the same time, the high
Crest of Kings Park is vivid as a spring sky. Overhead fish
Slayers dart, hang-dry wet wings; ghost ferries loom.
Behind, hunters hide among tree shadows.
What use is distant clarity?
© debarnes September 2003 -03 – ® copyrighted: November 2007 -29th
The tide turns (Kalbarri)
Seaweed half-exposed – washes across sharp serrated rocks —
Sways and swirls, sways effortlessly, slips’ against, over them indifferent:
like tawny coiled sea snakes, it twists in rapid frenzied motion with the sea –
Shadows that fade at dusk – submerge unharmed with the incoming tide.
® – © debarnes October 2007 -19th
Aroma of grass
(Drunkenly, I climbed the hilltop
Until I reclined
in summer’s warmth,
aroused by the fragrance
of fresh cut grass,
blades piercing into my flesh;
I didn’t believe I was home
I started to rise
but the weight of the sun
flaunted my weakness,
drunkenly, I climbed the hilltop
like a child,
wrapped in the fragrance of grass.
© deBarnes October. 2001 –20 ® revised November 2007 – 30th
In the same email he said:
‘After 9+ spinal operations, living 40 years in pain 7/24/365 days a year, then them nearly killing me
in hospital with drugs, causing a stroke, what more can a man ask for ‘… "grin" ‘
David is an inspiration.
Finally I’d like to pass on David’s Christmas card to everyone:
Cherish each hour
Death comes to us all
quietly, suddenly; he was there at our birth.
Cherish each hour – each minute of life
for tomorrow, who knows?
When the bell – will toll.
© 3rd July 1998 deBarnes
My love & thoughts go with you all for 2008 may they be blessed. David – db
the skinny ole-aussie.. "grin".
08/12/07: This afternoon we thoroughly enjoyed the launch of Zephyr’s new CD esque . The girls also gave me a copy of the recording of our Oct 26 concert Resonance, including dunes, which Belinda Gehlert wrote in response to my dunes, perlubie beach. They topped it off by performing the piece live at The Wheatsheaf – a beautiful Japan send-off for us!.
"The new media prize went to a father and son, Rob and Matt Walker, who produced Moon Anti-Poem as an interactive audio-visual work with "spinning disco balls, sighing nipples and disappearing watermelon slices". What would John Keats think?"
I can’t begin to imagine…
At my final Friendly Street gig before leaving Australia I performed Retired banker in a nursing home, cello and Danny in detention.
30/11/07: I’m very proud to announce that, with great assistance from my talented son Matt, we’ve won the New Media section of the 2007 Newcastle Poetry Prize, with a work entitled "moon : antipoem." This is a fitting way to end 2007 and my writing in Australia before leaving for Japan on New Year’s Day. Thanks Matt and Newcastle judges.
26/11/07: There’s been a lot happening at Friendly Street lately.
Congratulations to Aidan Coleman and Juliet Paine (who’ve recently been selected as co-editors for the 33rd Friendly Street anthology) and Courtney Black, Janine Baker and Roger Higgens (whose work will feature in New Poets 13.) All the best to David Adés, whose collection Mapping the World will be launched at Adelaide Writers’ Week in 2008.
Thanks largely to the efforts of Raphael Sabu, Friendly Street now has a regular online newsletter. Browse HERE.
25/11/07: Congratulations Kevin07! Best news for years. Kevin’s Beginning. Howard’s End. Sweet.
24/11/07: Lyn & i working all day on Election 07.
23/11/07: Tomorrow Australian voters decide whether to change the direction of our nation for the next three years. We can only hope…
Today Peter Macrow sent me the latest issue of Blue Giraffe (#6). I’d actually forgotten that I’d had a poem selected for it (Shall I compare thee?) because acceptance was so long ago, so it was a pleasant surprise. I still maintain that Blue Giraffe is one of the best little Australian poetry journals at the moment, and I look forward to absorbing its contents when time permits. A quick glance at the contents tells me I’m honoured to share publication with friends and acquaintances Shen, Richard Hillman, Karen Knight, Elaine Barker and Erica Jolly, plus a number of other poets whose work I’m familiar with and some fresh meat (as Avalanche would say!)
[2006 archives, today]: "Had an email from Karunesh Kumar Agrawal in Allahabad, India, to say that my poem slater will be published in the tenth edition of the Taj Mahal Review. This is the first time that my work’s been published on the sub-continent. It’s a great honour for me. My wife & i visited the Taj and Fatehpur Sikri in January, 2005, and loved the rich culture and friendliness of the Indian people."
20/11/07: [2005 archives, two years today]: rob’s poem Redback Spider (Male) appears in the latest anthology from the Wagga Wagga Writers Writers, fourW sixteen, which was launched by editor David Gilbey yesterday. rob: "Two thousand clicks is too long a trip in one day, so my lovely daughter Amy attended on my behalf. The collection will be relaunched in Sydney next weekend by Oz-icon Les Wicks."
16/11/07: [One year ago, today] "Amanda Smith & Mike Ladd discuss the poetic form of the villanelle and replay my reading of ‘A Villanelle on Certain Provisions in Relation to a Bill concerning Anti-Terrorism by the Hon. Phillip Ruddock’ on ABC Radio National’s The Deep End today."
(Bear in mind this was written well before the Haneef case. With luck I’ll be able to say in 2008 "One year ago today, Phillip Rudduck was thrown out of office by the Australian electorate…"
A Villanelle on Certain Provisions in Relation
to a Bill concerning Anti-Terrorism
by the Hon. Phillip Ruddock
This legislation I most heartily endorse
Certain Persons are a risk to our Community.
These matters would be considered in due course..
Asylum seekers must be stemmed at Source
While other options there may well be
This legislation I most heartily endorse
The only point I’d make is.. Force
Is always justified for Border Security.
These matters would be considered in due course…
We are obliged to examine each legal resource
In regard to this, it seems to me
This legislation I most heartily endorse
I’ve repeated this on occasion till I’m hoarse
It’s not a matter I can discuss publicly.
These matters would be considered in due course…
This is not a matter for feelings of remorse
The appropriate committee will put its position undoubtedly.
This legislation I most heartily endorse.
These matters would be considered in due course…
© 2006 rob walker in micromacro
14/11/07: [2005 archives] 14/11/05: rob: "After glancing through Les Murray’s selection for The Best Australian Poems 2005, I was also struck by the large number of poets who had their beginnings with Friendly Street…
Mary Bradley, Aidan Coleman, Tess Driver, Peter Goldsworthy, Jeff Guess, Linda Jordan ( aka Uphill), Mike Ladd, Helen Lindstrom, Kate Llewellyn, David Mortimer, Louise NIcholas, Jan Owen, Graham Rowlands (not to mention rob walker) have all been nurtured in the street that is Friendly. And Sarah Day, Suzanne Edgar and Chris Mansell have read there as Guests in the past year. Friendly Street must be doing something right!"
Friendly Street’s current Featured Poem is art form, by Kerryn Tredrea.
13/11/07: [from the 2006 archives, on this day] " Not all the letters i get are rejection slips… had an email to say that editor alicia sometimes (not to be confused with Adelaide’s famous Indigo AllTheTime) has selected my brief poem ‘The truth about everything‘ for cordite’s upcoming edition Generation of Zeroes."
This must be the time of year for rejection.. Over the past few weeks I’ve had rejection slips from Blast, Barn Owl Review and Blue Dog. I’m still holding out for the Newcastle Poetry Prize (in which I entered ‘moon: anti-poem’, a new-media collaboration with my son Matt.)
12/11/04: [from the 2004 archives, on this day]: "The poem wow! is published on the Oracular Tree"
(Sadly, the bulk of Oracular Tree is no longer archived.)
The poem was written after I was grumbling to myself at having to do Traffic Supervision after school on a wet day. My eleven-year-old charge with the lollipop sign was much more optimistic…
a rainbow! she exudes pointing at a spreading oilspot
on drizzled roadgrimed asphalt
already knowing at eleven that you have to take beauty
where you find it
07/11/07: Australasian mascara poetry #2 is online. Three of my poems (cello, Danny in detention and the koan before the satori) have been accepted for #3 which should be out next Feb after I’ve left Australia.
06/11/07: rob performs his new song about Reconciliation & John Howard ("Brand New Skin. Same Old Snake") at Friendly Street Poets live.
05/11/07: This website has been uncharacteristically silent for almost a month. It’s not that nothing has happened – the opposite in fact. At the end of the year I’ll be leaving Australia and moving to Himeji, Japan.
This is taking a huge amount of planning and preparation. More on this later.
The highlight of the past month (as far as my writing career is concerned) has been the Resonance concert we performed with the Zephyr Quartet and special guests Zoë Barry (cello) and Tim Irrgang (percussion) at Nexus Cabaret, Lion Arts Centre on Friday 26 October. The exceptional concert celebrated folk music from Syria, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Mexico, India, Azerbaijan, Finland and Sweden and featured premiere performances of original works by Hilary Kleinig and Belinda Gehlert, inspired by Yahia Al-Samawy’s Four Loaves from the Heart’s Oven and An Epitaph from Words’ Tears and my own dunes, Perlubie Beach.
It is a unique honour to hear an original piece of music which is a response to your own ideas. I’m especially grateful to Belinda for the beautiful interpretation of my poem – almost as if she has completed my own thought. I’m hopeful that the one-off performance will find its way onto CD or radio so it finds its way to ears well beyond the lucky audience who were there on that special night.
10/10/07: Very auspicious day… ?
(2004): rob : "I feel very fortunate to have attended two dynamic poetry workshops run by Ron Pretty and Mike Ladd at the SA Writers’ Centre, Adelaide. I met some talented writers and gained inspiration to attempt new forms and ideas in my work.."
(2006): Lyn & I were staying with Fe & Stan Gilbey in Okayama, Japan and visited Himeji for the day.
(2008): Lyn & I are living in Himeji, Japan.
5/10/07: More archival material… (Sorry, I’m probably the only person in the world interested in this, but if I don’t record it for the future, who will?)  "05/10/04: rob reads old ma formby and jaimi runs to first, at Friendly Street Poets (live! ), Adelaide."
old ma formby was later published on Tryst. Jaimi was a little girl in my short-lived softball team. I was struck by her innocent joy of hitting a homer in a week of world problems. (Which week isn’t?) The poem’s never been published anywhere. What the hell… It’s published now:
jaimi runs to first
aluminium rings a jubilant cathedral peal
Jaimi runs to first, a look back to check dad’s watching.
dow and texas crude respond to death and hatred in Israel
in a wider world Jaimi’s run unnoticed
but here team mates cheer
as the smallest’s legs pump
autumn rains are late
kikuyu stitches Bay of Biscay together
badly sewing gaping seams
a bomb rends the air in Fallujah
Jaimi makes it home a year five hero.
her eyes sparkle blue as a Hackham March sky
joy writes on
cheeks a dimpled clay.
teeth, a first-base white.
the world’s a precarious place.
but Jaimi’s world is fine.
Sadly the pornography debate continues at Friendly Street with much gnashing of teeth and many loud voices full of sound and fury, signifying nothing…
24/09/07: [2005 archives, on this day] "it’s with great sadness that we mourn the death of fellow local poet Ray Stuart. Ray was a quiet man of character and sensitivity who led a rich life which included elements as diverse as soldiering, landscape design and writing. I’ve known his wife Heather since high-school, but only had the pleasure of knowing Ray for the last three years of his life. His second collection of poetry was to have been launched in Hobart this coming Thursday.
‘High Mountainous Country – No Reliable Information’ grew from Ray’s adventures and travels across Papua New Guinea as a young lieutenant with the Pacific Islands Regiment between 1961 and 1964. The title of Ray’s collection came from the annotation on blank areas of maps of the period which Ray said "in reflection was a good metaphor for PNG at that time, and for that matter for life in general."
I found myself sitting in the garden yesterday thinking of Ray while admiring the infinite range of shades of green- something with which I’ll always associate Ray’s sense of humour – and beauty.
My condolences to Heather and Ray’s family."
23/09/07: [2004 archives, 3 years ago, today]
"Dead baby seal, Murray Mouth published on NZ website evasion."
Sadly, this site too has been vaporised in cyberspace. But the poem persists:
Dead baby seal, Murray Mouth.
flippers like kelp or weathered tyres or innertubes
fur and long lashes caked and matted with wet sand
your whiskers are heavy gauge fishing line
and the sand’s been blown and built up on one side.
you seem to signify the whole river and its mouth
vulnerable fragile to be snatched away
snuffed out in a moment.
on top two curls of dogshit.
a final humiliation.
the cream on the cake.
22/09/07: Michelle and Kim Cheng, editors of the new online journal Mascara, sent me an email today to let me know that three of my poems Danny in detention, cello and The koan before the satori have been accepted for Mascara #3 to be published early in twenty 08.
17/09/07: …and here’s another blast from the PDU past… US writer and academic Ed Allen and I used to comment on each other’s poems through Poetry Down Under. Once Ed wrote a poem about an escalator, so I responded with one about an elevator. I hadn’t filed either of them, so it was a pleasant surprise to be re-acquainted with both "masterpieces" through the PDU archives seven years on…
ODE TO AN OTIS ESCALATOR
Oh you band of steel and rubber
Carrying countless tons of blubber
Everyday you move your load
Along the same old weary road
The sign reads up and up you go
Sometimes I bet you’re wishing though
That through some strange mysterious force
You could change your passive course
Perhaps go down or maybe sideways
And leave behind your hampering guideways
To you my sympathy I extend
And hope you find a means to end
This tyranny that stifles breath
I too could profit from its death
Copyright © Ed Allen 1996
and my reply:
(for Ed Allen)
Ode to an Elevator
Oh steely cage, Oh stainless vault
I understand it’s not your fault
That you reflect vicissitudes,
(It’s really quite a pisser, dudes.)
While escalators climb obliquely
You move erratically and meekly
In fits and starts on cable sinuous
While Ed perambulates continuous
Your cargo views the Shopping Mall
While mine stares blankly at the wall.
While shoppers set their own sweet pace,
Office workers keep their place.
The escalated reach new heights
The lift ones stare at numbered lights.
A Power failure prompts ‘Farewell’
– My Heart prefers the old stairwell
Copyright © Rob Walker 2000
16/09/08: Good on ya, David Barnes! The internet is such a transitory, ephemeral beast. So much of the work I posted on the web in my early days has become but interstellar dust in cyberspace.. Where are Pogonip, nasty, Indie Poets and The Oracular Tree now? It’s for this very reason that the National Library of Australia now caches and archives our literary culture so that researchers in a hundred years won’t look back to a black hole in popular culture. Yesterday I stumbled upon a poem I originally wrote in 1996 - Dead cars and more Peters. Yes, thanks to David Barnes who’s been persistently archiving the old Poetry Down Under and Numbat sites since 1998, it’s all still there! Like all writers, I look back and cringe a little at the work I thought so clever a decade ago, but it was all part of my development as a poet, so I don’t disown any of it… Here are a few more I’d almost forgotten:
We owe a lot to small presses and volunteer websites. They take risks and nurture new talent where mainstream publishers fear to tread. Thanks again David Barnes, Dennis Greene & PDU/Numbat.
14/09/07: Earl Livings emailed to say my poem queer eye for the straight phasmid has been accepted for the Divan poetry website. I first wrote this with a group of other poems about insects (many of which ended up in micromacro.) This one’s been re-worked many times over a couple of years and will finally see the light of day on this fine Australian website early in twenty 08.
09/09/07: One year since the Radio Adelaide Arts Breakfast/ Writers’ Radio micromacro interview. Last year I noted: "The radio interview went well… yesterday. Apart from not having the correct security swipe-card when i went to have a nervous pee and finding myself locked in a stairwell for ten minutes and Cath Kenneally having to come and search for me. But the reading and interview were good. Apart from the dead airtime on live radio caused by dropping the manuscript and scrabbling around looking for page nineteen. But generally it went well. Honestly.
When I get some spare time i might upload the interview onto the site here somewhere. Maybe i’ll edit out the silences…"
(Cath Kenneally did edit the interview very professionally and replayed it on Writers’ Radio.)
06/09/07: Congratulations to Friendly Street poets David Adés (who’s been selected by Friendly Street for the 2008 Single Poet Collection published by Wakefield Press) and Juan Garrido-Salgado and Graham Catt who both have upcoming chapbooks from Picaro Press
Sorry to say that Staples zine has published its last issue…
05/09/07: Last night at Friendly Street I had the honour of reading the English translation of Yahia Al-Samawy’s An Epitaph from Words’ Tears which Yahia wrote recently after the death of his mother in Iraq.
I also read my latest poem The Little Boy and the Pornographer.
The Porno ‘Poet’:
I hadn’t intended inadvertently promoting this guy in this poetry blog, but there’s been a controversy brewing at Friendly Street Poets and since there’s now been a related story in the independent Adelaide Review magazine, I probably can’t avoid mentioning the issue. Robert Cettl began reading his porn (his description) at Friendly Street several months ago. He admits he’s out to shock and offend and he does, frequently. We’re not talking about well-written erotica here, but very amateur hardcore porn. My problem with it is that pornography always tends to exploit people – children, women, immigrants and the poor – and this makes it distasteful. Cettl, a competent film reviewer/commentator, isn’t much of a poet in my subjective opinion, but that’s neither here nor there.
There’s been a move by some at Friendly Street to have him banned. I don’t agree with this. Censorship shouldn’t be approached lightly. Nor would I ever heckle him – I wouldn’t appreciate this from others so I won’t do it. Banning him would only add to his groundless notoriety and I’m happy to exercise my right to walk out when his ‘work’ becomes offensive.
The saddest thing about all of this is that poetry gets little enough coverage in the mainstream media, and when it does, it’s just a ‘Poetry Wars’ type story about a little self-promotional stoush engineered by Cettl and his detractors. There are so many talented poets who regularly attend Friendly Street who deserve this promotion – particularly our gifted but as-yet-unpublished writers. But of course the media thrive on conflict and controversy. Celebrity trumps talent every time. It doesn’t hurt Cettl’s career as a film writer and he revels in using Friendly Street members as guinea pigs in his social experiments. I hope the issue dies quickly and Cettl’s work gains the ignominy it so richly deserves…
03/09/07: I’ve just got the new Double-CD Going Down Swinging #25 and it’s fantastic – great design and crystal-clear audio. I’ll be reviewing it fully in a week or two when I’ve had time to hear the whole work and pen a few words…
02/09/07: (from 2005 archives): rob: "Les Murray has ‘made my day’ again by accepting Mitchell Park 2000 for Australia’s prestigious Quadrant Magazine. I was concerned (and told Les so in a letter) that he may have an "issue" with it as it has previously been published online on Warrick Wynne’s website Suburban Margins & Sandra Lynn Evans’ Positive Words. Les sent a postcard which said (in part) "Thank you for your extreme honesty"…"The only issue with Mitchell Park will be the one (of Quadrant) which it appears in!"
29/08/07: (from the 2006 archives, one year ago today) "I’ve been honoured with admission to Poetas del Mundo (Poets of the World.) This website, dedicated to the ideals of peace and tolerance, has published my poems Flood and Desert (for Yahia al-Samawy), Jesus, the Sequel, Choice Theory, The bird leaves its cage and enters another (for Juan Garrido-Salgado), advice to a politician, colin powell addresses the UN and Jordy’s balloons .
Thanks, Yahia, for telling me about this excellent site and nominating me."
Yahia and I have continued to work together in 2007. Last night we met with Belinda Gehlert & Hilary Kleinig of Zephyr Quartet to plan our combined poetry reading, folk & original contemporary music event resonance, which will première on October 26 at Nexus Cabaret, Adelaide. More details HERE.
26/08/07: What variety! What talent! Last night’s Friendly Street Inaugural Music & Poetry Night had it all.. original songs from singer/songwriter/guitarists Fern Black, Clayton Werner, Russell Byers, Jim Lesses & Geoff Hastwell, poetry from Alice Sladdin, Nigel Dey doing a love poem based on music lyrics and the longest version ever of Noël Coward’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen (with tangential references to, inter alia, The Beatles, The Small Faces, Claude Debussy, Tony Blair, Prince Charles and Count Basie) and Erica Jolly as we’ve never seen her before – doing Lorenz Hart’s classic My Funny Valentine. My own modest contribution was I’d rather be on da Torrens than in denial (thankyou George Handel for the beautiful accompaniment), a pre-recorded poem entitled Peter Harvey and a live version of Leaving school @ lunchtime. Thanks to all who contributed and turned up! May it be the first of many…
24/08/07: Going Down Swinging #25 will be launched mid-September with "all-star spoken word and music gigs in Melbourne and Sydney; and will be in stores around the country from 25th September, 2007". More HERE…
19/08/07: I must thank Georgina Laidlaw (editor, Australian Reader Online) for her most generous review of micromacro:
OFF THE SHELF: MICROMACRO
"The thing that comes across loud and clear through rob walker‘s recent poetry collection, micromacro, is his sense of humour. It’s not that he’s aiming to make you laugh — there’s no obvious punning or predictable wit– but works like how do I shop at ikea?, featured on AustralianReader.com … and ‘After The Big Day Out’ are quietly, knowingly amusing. It’s not often you can say about a book of poetry that it made you chuckle, but this one did.
micromacro is a generous collection in that it gives us an insight into the author’s life. So many writers work hard to disguise whatever there is of themselves in their writing, so it’s refreshing to get a good feel for the poet as you read this collection. rob strikes us as someone who appreciates quiet moments, as galahs, the opening work, reveals. He communicates a sense of awe for the natural world in poems like’ jelly’, ‘slater’, and ‘Redback spider (Male)’. And he expresses an appreciation for human limitations in a number of poems, my personal favourite being ‘love at the physio’.
Indeed, though it’s not delineated by sections or other breaks, the works in this compact collection do seem grouped on the basis of their content, but in a way that avoids making reading the book predictable. Poems like ‘Catsyntax’, written from the point of view of a cat (which comes with a note that "It is not widely known that cats have their own verb-based language"), ensure that reading this book is exciting and rewarding.
micromacro is accessible and enjoyable, and manages to engage and relax the reader. For your copy, visit www.seaviewpress.com.au — micromacro is just $22, and though we’d recommend it as a gift, I doubt you’ll be able to part with this one once you get your hands on it!"
The Australian Reader #39 Copyright © 19 August 2007
An email newsletter for AustralianReader.com subscribers
written by Georgina Laidlaw firstname.lastname@example.org
[Subscibe to the Australian Reader Newsletter HERE]
12/08/07: The Great Big Show by Justin Lowe…
Born in 1964 in Sydney and now living in the Blue Mountains, multi-talented Justin Lowe has lived and worked all over the world, published collections of poetry, novels, and had songs recorded by artists as diverse as The Whitlams (he co-wrote ‘God drinks at the Sando’ with Tim Freedman), The Impossibles, and jazz singer Lily Dior. He writes reviews and screenplays and maintains the excellent po-blog bluepepper.
His latest verse-novel The Great Big Show is an epic poetic narrative set against the backdrop of East Africa in The Great War. It’s available through the US publishers Lulu or personally-signed signed copies direct from Justin himself through his website.
Support Australian contemporary poetry!
10/08/07: My new chapbook phobiaphobia by Picaro Press is released.
What the critics are saying about phobiaphobia:
‘… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself –
nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses…’
( Franklin D. Roosevelt, former US president.)
‘I would like to see an Australian nation that feels comfortable and relaxed...’
(soon to be former Australian Prime Minister, John Howard).
Click on the image above to find out how to order your personally-signed copy.
Thankyou Rob Riel for being an outstanding publisher and poetry-promoter. Thanks too to my poet-artist friend Will Blake, who generously consented to let me use a detail of his artwork ‘Nebuchadnezzar‘ on the cover.
07/08/07: (another elegant date… as long as I don’t write it the American Way.) My poems jazz channel and a beginner’s guide to postmodernism have both been first-published on Justin Lowe‘s excellent po-blog bluepepper. If you’re a writer of good contemporary poetry, prose or reviews (however you define that), consider submitting to bluepepper .
05/08/07: It was a pleasure to finally meet Ralph Wessman at the Adelaide launch of Famous Reporter on Friday night. Ralph does an amazing job with FR, not to mention Currajah and Walleah Press.
It was also a great opportunity to meet up again with Stan Sim (Shen), Louise Nicholas, Jude Aquilina, Juliet Paine, Rory Harris, Geoff Goodfellow, Graham Rowlands & Jan Owen and to be introduced to Carolyn Stirling Croshaw and Colin Varney. I managed to croak my way through Camellia in the Bush.
04/08/07: Despite having a particularly pernicious lurgy I was still determined to see the Zephyr Quartet’s latest concert together alone, alone together on Thursday August 3. It was decidedly cold in the largest space of the Greenaway Gallery, but after the group began to play I forgot about Adelaide’s mid-winter chill and became lost in the music.
Zephyr seems to specialise in crossing boundaries. As Stephen Whittington has said “In the course of 2006, the Quartet has shown itself to be as inventive with its venues as it has with its programs, appearing at a commercial art gallery, an inner-suburban pub, a city club, a bar in Adelaide’s sin strip and the rehearsal studio of a contemporary dance company.”
“string quartet: evolution and mutation” in Real Time Arts #77.
This constant search for unusual venues also extends to repertoire. Two of the original works performed were responses to works of art by Angela and Hossein Valamanesh which we were able to contemplate as the musicians performed.
On Thursday night we were “warmed up” with three Baroque dances (Telemann – Gigue, Corelli – Corrente and Handel – Gigue), which could well have been three movements by the same composer. Then we went straight to the new millennium with AH by contemporary composer David Kotlowy. The amazing use of harmonics and overtones in this piece had me closing my eyes and imagining the shakuhachi, such was the breathiness of the timbre, like a note played by the tenor saxophonist Ben Webster when it just gradually fades away to a column of pulsating air… very Zen.
Next came another new piece, Three sketches after Valmanesh, also featuring contemporary techniques such as bowing the wood and long pauses, which made the later lyrical work on the cello even more piquant. Music is a combination of notes and silence, and I think often we appreciate the beauty and emotion of the sound when it’s bracketed by silence.
Then followed String Quartet No. 7 by Shostakovich. This was beautifully performed, but typically dark and depressing, representing as it does a tribute to the composer’s late wife and his anger and grief over subsequent years.
“Company” (String Quartet No.2) by Philip Glass was superb. It may have helped that I was already very familiar with this work in orchestral form via CD (Adele Anthony, originally of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, with the Ulster Orchestra conducted by Takuo Yuasa, NAXOS 8.554568.) But, for me, I enjoyed this even more in the alternative string quartet interpretation. I hope it becomes available on CD.
The subtleties of the pulsing cross-rhythms against the minor arpeggios are even more enjoyable when you’re a spectator in a four-way intimate conversation. I don’t know why some people refer to Glass’s music as minimalist or repetitive – it’s neither. Repeated figures are constantly changing and there’s always something new to discover.
Finally, for dessert we enjoyed J. S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, Largo ma non tanto. (They didn’t give very inspirational names to their works in those days.) This was the sweets you have when you’re already full, but you enjoy it anyway. Or, to mix metaphors, a beautiful conversation between equals, Belinda and Emily.
Zephyr is Belinda Gehlert (alternating 1st & 2nd violin) &
Emily Tulloch (alternating 1st & 2nd violin)
Anna Webb (viola)
Hilary Kleinig (cello)
I’m really looking forward to collaborating with Zephyr & Yahia Al-Samawy over the next few months.
02/08/07: Poetry Intenational is a vast and comprehensive website that deserves your perusal… I’ve just been reading the very full and detailed accounts of the lives and work of Australian poets Peter Boyle and the late Bruce Beaver.
The Adelaide Launch of Famous Reporter #35 will be this Friday (3rd August 2007), compered by Jude Aquilina. [6pm for 6.30pm start @ Jah'z Lounge, 7 Cinema Place, East End just behind the Exeter]. Hope to see a few friends there!
23/07/07: Ralph Wessman‘s done it again with Famous Reporter #35. Once again, a thick (232 page) journal chockers with excellent poetry (including haiku), essays, interviews, reviews, fiction and selected blogs. Mine came late last week (& I haven’t had time to read it all yet), but the overall standard remains high. There were so many South Australian contributors this time (I recognised the names Jan Owen, Louise Nicholas, Jules Leigh Koch, Jude Aquilina, Juliet Paine, Shen, Rory Harris, Adrian Flavell, Geoff Goodfellow, Jeff Guess and Graham Rowlands!) that Ralph’s coming over to Adelaide to do a SA Launch at Jah’z Lounge on Fri August 3, 6pm. Free. All-comers welcome.
You can take a peek online, but you should pay your few dollars and get the whole collection as hardcopy and support the small presses that support Australian poetry!
20/07/07: Today, 2006. "I’ve never met Karen Knight , although i’ve admired her work for some time & we’ve shared a few publications – Famous Reporter, Blue Giraffe, & Best Australian poems 2005 come to mind..
Last week Peter Macrow sent me her latest sequence Doctor Says and this little Picaro chapbook stopped me in my tracks…"
More, 2006 Archives, 20/07/07.
17/07/07: The National Library of Australia has asked my permission to archive this website " to retain and provide public online access to it in perpetuity." Naturally, flattered, I agreed.
"The National Library of Australia aims to build a comprehensive collection of Australian publications to ensure that Australians have access to their documentary heritage now and in the future. The Library has traditionally collected items in print, but it is also committed to preserving electronic publications of lasting cultural value."
PANDORA, Australia’s Web Archive, was set up by the Library in 1996 to enable the archiving and provision of long-term access to online Australian publications. Since then NLA staff have been identifying online publications and archiving those that they consider have national significance.
I’ll be watching my language in future…
[from the 2004 archives, today] : "17/07/04: rob attends the celebrations for the centenary of Pablo Neruda, (Chilean poet, Nobel Literature Prize, 1972) at the South Australian Folk Centre where he reads Neruda’s ode to a pair of socks and his own shorefishing at dusk."
16/07/07: Hend Fayez sent me her beautiful and potent poem The Bride Named Petra celebrating the Jordanian city of Petra becoming one of the Wonders of the World. Thankyou Hend.
Another meeting with Yahia al-Samawy this evening to plan our collaboration with The Zephyr Quartet ("Resonance") in October.
15/07/07: from the 2006 archives, one year ago] "I was honoured to participate in last night’s Launch of Juan Garrido-Salgado’s new bilingual sequence Unmoving Navigator who fell in love with the ocean’s darkness / Navegante inmóvil que amó en la obscuridad del océano (translated by Peter Boyle), published by Picaro Press. With a life-time interest in Pablo Neruda and his work, Juan used the occasion to both celebrate the birthday and poetry of Neruda and release his own collection of poems based on beautiful sailing-ship figureheads housed in the Maritime Museum at Port Adelaide. The evening was compered by Jude Aquilina and officially launched by Graham Rowlands, with readings by Juan in Spanish and Bel Schenk, Steve Brock, Erica Jolly and me in english. There were also readings and a biography of Neruda by Silvia Standfield and Maria Barrientos and a very interesting talk by retired wharfie Rex Munn from the MUA on the history of figureheads and sailing ships in South Australia. The launch was well-attended by Adelaide’s poetry and Romero communities, activists – in short, Juan’s diverse group of friends and admirers. Unmoving Navigator is published by Picaro Press and available through Rob Riel for only $5. "
07/07/07: I have nothing of any value to pass on to you… except that today’s date is rather elegant…
04/07/07: My spoken word/ music track Leaving school @ lunchtime will soon be included in the latest DoubleCD issue #25 of Going Down Swinging.
03/07/07: Mr walker performs Making a preposition (on watching Big Brother) and debuts automatonophobia (fear of ventriloquists’ dummies) and Ode to the Penis at Friendly Street (live!)
02/07/07: On this day in 05 my poem Rock Paper Scissors was published on the Australian Reader website. Incidentally, when Scott Newstok sent me the original email, he was Scott Newstrom. Look HERE to see why and how he "half-changed" his surname.
01/07/07: Got an email from US Essayist Scott Newstok (Yale University) pointing out an interesting website which discusses drafting Shakespeare’s Works for Military use. It followed a panel discussion Scott organised last year for the Shakespeare Association of America. Scott first wrote to me in 2005 after he stumbled on poem of mine titled George Bush delivers Henry V’s Agincourt speech to a packed house in Baghdad which was posted on the old Oracular Tree (sadly, no longer archived.) I thought I’d been very original in casting George Dubya as Henry V, but many others had had similar (and frequently better!) ideas. It seems Good, Evil and Spin have been with us a long time…
Here’s the poem written soon after Mission Accomplished and the Commander-in-Chief’s Surprise Thanksgiving:
George Bush delivers Henry V’s Agincourt speech to a packed house in Baghdad
ACT IV Scene 1
Bedford. The king himself is rode to view their battle.
(Enter King George II holding rubber turkey.)
General Westmoreland: O that we now had here
But one hundred thousand of those unemployed men in the States
That do no work this Thanksgiving day!
King George II: to camera 1. Are we rolling?
Which guy said that?
My pa used to say
When your time is up, you cash in your chips
In this Crusade we do it fer the Honor
And Justice and Freedom, now, since we found no WMDs
By gosh, I don’t covet Oil
Or care who shares in our GDP
But if it’s a sin to envy Honor
Well I’m as guilty as the next guy.
You’re either with us or agin us
If you’re not with us 110%
If you folks don’t have the intestinal fortitude
For the War on this er.. Terror
you can mosey on outta here.
Course, some of you folks might die-
That’s a sacrifice I’m prepared to make.
America, love it or leave it.
Eye Rack, love it or leave it.
This is Thanksgivin’ Day.
This is the Coalition of the Willin’; the Unwillin’ can leave
In years to come Veterans on Medicare will say
“Mom is broilin’ the turkey.
The apple pie is in the microwave.
Tomorrow is Thanksgivin’.
I fought there with George, Colin, Tony.
Shared the rubber turkey with all the plastic fixin’s
At the Photo-opportunity”
And all them lily-livered UN yellerbellies will cuss the day
they didn’t join the Crusade
condemned themselves to Eternal Perdition
and turned their backs on the Willing Coalition
26/06/07: On this day i was born in 1953. Try as i might, i cannot remember a single detail of that auspicious day (which i share with Pearl S Buck, Peter Lorre, Georgie Fame and Chris Isaak.) It was also on this particular date in history that saw Jack Kennedy say "Ich bin ein Berliner" (the berliner being a lunchtime favourite of mine at the old Plympton High), the issuing of the arrest warrant for Daniel Ellsberg for carelessly giving away the Pentagon Papers, the announcement of the Working Draft of the Human Genome, the premiere of Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, Richard III usurping the Throne, the release of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, Elvis’s final concert, the publication of Beaudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal (obscene & blasphemous as it was) and the signing by 50 nations of the planet of the Charter establishing the UN "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war."
If there is a thread running through these apparently disparate events, i have yet to discover it.
22/06/07:[archives, two years ago:]: rob: "Ever seen those word fridge magnets that you can make poetry with? Now you can compose in a virtual world if you find yourself fridgeless or magnetless. The Melbourne Poets union has a great site where you can experiment yourself with a given random vocab (& upload your masterpiece if you think it’s worthy.) The challenge is to use as many of the provided words as possible- an interesting exercise in poetics- and surprisingly creative! Warning: this is even more addictive than pokies.. Here are a few of mine:"
to not wheeze gentle
Plagues Doth Predict Astronomy
21/06/07: Animate Quarterly 3 was FANTASTIC. You should have been there. Now you'll have to wait until November...
13/06/07: Had a very rewarding evening reading with Petra White, Rachel Hennessy, Cath Kenneally and Ken Bolton himself at Lee Marvin last night. I read a selection of work from the upcoming phobiaphobia (Picaro Press) and chatted afterwards with Juan Garrido-Salgado, Carol leFevre, Sarah Day and Jan Owen. Great to see Lee Marvin doing well – and long may it continue… Next week features Anna Barrie, Jeri Kroll, Patrick Niehus, Simon Robb & Jordan D’Arsie.
12/06/07: I’ve been invited to read a suite of my phobia poems at Animate Quartely (a live literary journal) at La Boheme, 36 Grote Street, Adelaide, Thursday June 21 @ 8pm!
[from the archives, 2 years ago]: "an eco-poem balansa clover has been accepted for the July issue of Stylus Poetry Journal"
09/06/07: O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! My poem Making a preposition (on watching Big Brother) has been published in The Adelaide Review.
[three years ago: cut-up/rearrange- an anagrammatic poem on the dissection of people and verse @ Plum Ruby Review. Canada's "Premier Independent Book Site" Good Reports also listed it in their Best of 2004 anthology, but attributed it to 'Ron Walker'. (sigh.. you can't win 'em all...) It also appears in micromacro.
08/06/07: rob: "Perhaps it's for my own sanity that I tend to compartmentalize my life. I'm a teacher of music and drama to 5-13 year-olds by day and write by night. It's not ideal, but it works for me. It's a rare moment when these worlds cross over. Last week was one of those moments. As part of the excellent MusicaViva programme for Australian schools, I organized a visit by the wonderfully original Zephyr String Quartet. I'd spent the whole term introducing my 800+ students to violins, violas, cellos and the fertile diversity of styles that Zephyr wallows in. The culminating concerts allowed kids from my school to engage with the quartet through dance, improvisation on instruments and the rare opportunity for a gutsy little boy from Iran to play his violin with professionals. I was also able to invite Iraqi poet and friend Yahia Al-Samawy to hear Zephyr Quartet perform the haunting traditional Sufi melody Mevlana. Yahia was moved to tears. He told me later that the tune brought back many happy memories from the Middle East, but also reminded him that laughter and music are rare now in Iraq.. another reminder of what I'd realised long ago - that music is a universal language that can by-pass the intellect and travel directly from soul to soul." [from the archives, 08/06/06]
By further synchronicity, Zephyr Quartet, Yahia & I will be performing original poetry and music in one performance at Resonance @ Nexus Cabaret, Lions Art Centre, Adelaide on October 26. 2007. See Bass website for details.
06/06/07: Congratulations to David Barnes and Dennis Greene on the occasion of the resurrection of Poetry DownUnder/ Numbat, featuring work by Dennis Greene, Earl Livings, Doug Poole, jayne fenton keane, Larry Jaffe, les wicks, Allen Boyd, Mary Barnet, Elisha Porat, Morrie Greene, Dr. Coral Hull, Val Magnuson, Janet Buck, Stazja McFaden, Dr John Horvath Jr., Frank Prem and me. My works are dunes, perlubie beach, catsyntax and scrotal ultrasound.
06/06/07: rob performs trad. Australian shearer songs Bluey Brink and The Station Cook at Friendly Street live! (Alice Sladdin says I accompanied myself on guitar for the first song, but sang alpaca on the latter!) We were also treated to a great selection of the work of Guest Poet Betty Collins.
05/06/07: (hmm.. nice sequence, that date..) Had the great pleasure of reading new work last night at winter wordfire with Kristel Thornell, Chelsea Avard, Emma Carmody, Hazel Rowley, Rebekah Clarkson, Kami and Jan Harrow. I read The Beefmaster – a new prose direction for me…
ex archives]: "05/06/06: Friendly Street Poets Thirty (co-edited by Louise Nicholas & rob walker) was given a very positive review by Katharine England in last Saturday’s Adelaide Advertiser. Rating the selection at five stars, Katherine England says "Housed in a satisfyingly clean and handsome volume are the works of first-time tyros and those who have been featured regularly since the first Friendly Street annual reader or who have found over the years a national, even an international voice. Dip into this fecund variety, from haiku to concrete verse, wit to wisdom, or read from cover to cover and marvel at the sway that poetry supposedly unpopular and unpublishable, still holds over our hearts and our imaginations." (Can’t link to the entire review, since Murdoch makes you pay for News archives now..)
04/06/07: Friendly Street’s Featured Poem for June is The Gaggle by Jude Aquilina
03/06/07: (from North of the latte line]: "The Australian Poetry Centre (APC) will be launched at 5.30pm on June 7 at “Glenfern”, an historic Mansion in East St Kilda, once home to the artistic Boyd Family. “Glenfern” is now the home of writers’ studios, musicians and the APC, which will also include a comprehensive national poetry library." More…
Albert’s Armistice and poemectomy were two of my earlier poems, both written in 2000. Albert’s Armistice is based on a childhood memory of my grandpa who fought in WWI. Poemectomy was the dissection of a poem and why I wrote poetry at a time when I was churning out new work and posting it on poetry sites all over the world through the wondrous new Net. Albert was first ‘published’ on David Barnes’ Poetry DownUnder site in WA (soon to be resurrected). It also appeared on Larry Jaffe’s monumental Poets4Peace site (US) (in the ‘Mother Teresa Wing’!), Indie Journal (US) – unfortunately, now defunct – and Oracular Tree (US), also no longer online. It was also included in my first collection sparrow in an airport.
poemectomy also made its début on PoetryDownUnder and later appeared on Verian Thomas’s Comrades Press (UK) – now also in cyberspace heaven – & Doug & Anja Poole’s Blackmail Press (NZ Poets online – still going strong!) I sincerely thank all these people who helped to promote my early work, not because they were out to make money, but simply because they loved the poetic word.
Most significantly for me though, it was on this day exactly four years ago that I first read at Friendly Street. It was, I think, the second-to-last time that Friendly Street Poets met in the old Box Factory, and these were the two poems that I chose on that first night…
[from the archives]: 02/06/06: " The torture of Yahia now also appears on the iraqi/ arabic sites Friends of Democracy and Civilized Dialogue, by courtesy of the translator Sabah M. Jasim. Thank you Sabah."
01/06/06: Colin Powell addresses the UN and speech of parts were read publicly for the first time on this day at Friendly Street Poets, Adelaide, 2004. Colin Powell later appeared in sparrow in an airport (New Poets Ten) and speech of parts appeared in Friendly Street Reader #29 blur and Best Australian Poems, 2005.
Juan has also translated The bird leaves its cage.. into Spanish, so we hope to see a Spanish-speaking publication of the poem some day. The Australian Reader is soon to attempt to wander through the innerworkings of my brain (good luck, Georgina!) and look at the embryonic forms of this poem as part of its feature The Writers’ Notes Project for its upcoming Second Birthday celebrations."
Both poems ended up in micromacro.
30/05/07: David Barnes emailed to tell me about his interview on Coral Hull’s Thylazine website. David published my first work on the internet – on Poetry DownUnder and later Numbat, which he is soon to resurrect. David has had incredible hardship in his life, but with admirable resilience he has not only survived, but remained creative, positive and encouraging of others. Read the interview HERE.
29/05/07: "Forget squeezing millions from a few megahits at the top of the charts. The future of entertainment is in the millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream." - Chris Anderson in The Long Tail.
There’s hope for me yet…. OK, so it’s old news – it’s new to me.
28/05/07: William Blake has generously agreed to provide the artwork for the cover of phobiaphobia. Thank you, Will.
27/05/07: New Collection! Rob Riel of Picaro Press has sent me the first draft of my next collection phobiaphobia, which will be a 24-page chapbook on the theme of fear, anxiety and phobias. You might say it’s an alternative worldview to Howard’s 1996 ‘relaxed and comfortable’ scenario. Or you might not… Like previous Picaro books, phobiaphobia will include a selection of poems from my earlier books, plus a range of new work. I think this a fantastic way for book-buyers to get an inexpensive taste of contemporary poets (including the Wagtail series.) I’m building a fair collection of these little gems, including Gina Mercer, Peter Bakowski, Yahia Al Samawy, Magdalena Ball, David Rowbotham, Mike Ladd, Juan Garrido-Salgado and Karen Knight – so you can see why I’m very proud to be joining Rob’s Picaro Press stable…
25/05/07: Ken Bolton’s Lee Marvin readings for June are HERE.
17/05/07: Karen Knight (one of Tasmania’s – and Australia’s – great poets) has just returned from Scotland. Hear her perform her own work on the (new to me) very comprehensive online literary magazine textualities. More…
15/05/07: The Nights in the asylum review now appears on the Compulsive Reader website. HERE.
If you want to know more about the SIEVX and the Australian Government’s subsequent shameful cover-up, check out the excellent website sievx.com
14/05/07: A REVIEW OF ‘NIGHTS IN THE ASYLUM’ BY CAROL LEFEVRE:
Vintage Books Australia/Random House (Aust) 2007,
Picador (UK) 2007
ISBN 978 1 74166 533 8
I don’t generally review novels, but this novel is exceptional, so I’m making an exception.
“Catastrophe can turn a comfortable life inside out and leave any one of us stranded, dependent on the kindness of strangers, or vulnerable to their cruelty – as the characters in this sensuous and moving novel discover.” (Random House blurb.)
Carol Levre has had a long-term interest in photography as well as writing. It shows. Nights in the Asylum is atmospheric and filmic, from soft-focus pans and establishing shots, to tight editing in cutting from scene to scene. She uses the cinematic (and literary) technique of developing a number of distinct characters and plots which intersect at the narrative’s climax when the scenes become shorter and more frantic.
The sections of the novel – Camera Obscura, Diorama, Scattered Light, Diffraction and Undated Photographs also follow this approach, with the climactic dénouement occurring in Diffraction. ‘Undated Photographs’ brought to mind the stills that often accompany a movie’s endcrawl:
“The settlement awarded to the plaintiffs in Hinkley v. PG&E was the largest in a direct-action lawsuit in United States history.” (Erin Brockovich, 2000.)
Or the stills-montage that shows the protagonists one year later.
But Carol Lefevre’s snapshots are far more subtle and open to interpretation.
I believe this is an important Australian novel which addresses the contemporary dilemma of the asylum seeker. The novel comes at a time when the refugee issue is transforming from one of a (frustrating, on my part) general apathy towards ‘queue-jumpers’ around the time of the SIEVX to a burgeoning collective empathy (perhaps guilt) towards refugees genuinely seeking asylum in this country.
Aziz loses everything – home, family, perhaps even his sanity for a time, and makes his way in a fog of grief to a leaky boat traveling from Indonesia to Australia . The boat sinks. Aziz is rounded up and herded into one of the concentration camps that we euphemistically call Detention Centres. He escapes and we first meet him wandering in the outback.
Miriam is in a psychiatric hospital. Her reality has disintegrated after the sudden and violent death of her daughter.
I’ve reconstructed these two characters’ stories in a linear way which is not reflected in the book. The novel begins with Miri / Miriam on the day of her daughter’s funeral. Later she is returning to the unnamed city of Broken Hill and stops to give water to a dazed Aziz…
I won’t give away any more of the story, which is tight and utterly believable.
Apart from conventional flashbacks, the narrative is generally linear, apart from some time ‘leapfrogging’ as the plot advances through chapters which are events seen through the eyes of the main protagonists. I say “eyes”, but Carol’s writing is very poetic and sensuous – I liked the emphasis on odours – so each chapter reflects one person’s perspective through their own vocabulary and Weltanschauung. This can be chilling when it’s done well (I recalled the matter-of-fact account of the kidnapper in John Fowles’ The Collector.) Lefevre does it well.
As a poet, this imagist approach really appeals to me. The descriptions of characters are poems in themselves – finely-crafted word pictures which go far beyond the physical. It’s as if she is attempting to render an image of the inner-workings of each character’s mind…
So often sex in novels descends to trite soft (or hard) porn. Carol Lefevre expresses erotica that is potent and sensual because it accompanies overwhelming love.
You have to remind yourself that this is a work of fiction. You’ve met these people before – and they’re not stereotypes; they’re real human beings with the strengths and flaws present in us all. The bullying Mervyn, Aziz the Afghani asylum-seeker, Miri, the successful actor/model whose marriage disintegrates, closely followed by her life when her daughter is killed, Zett, the abused young wife who still sees herself to blame when her bent-cop husband Jude loses his temper and delivers the bruises she ‘probably deserves.’ Chandelle, the waitress at the truckstop who continually touches up her make-up just in case Mr Right walks in to take her away from all this…
The lives of these characters intersect at a run-down old mansion called Havana Gardens. Each person is running away from someone or something and all are in desperate need of their own form of asylum.
Précised like this, the story may sound bleak and depressing. It isn’t. If anything, it offers hope. Hope that overcomes ignorance and evil. Optimism that even the most desperate can persist and prevail.
Lefevre suggests that we are all potential refugees. There is evil afoot – but there are also unexpected saviours amongst the most mundane.
It is the ‘real-ness’ of the characters and narrative that appeals. The climax is what we might hope, without the over-stated hyperbole of the Hollywood blockbuster.
This is a very mature and competent work. Even more astounding that this is Carol Lefevre’s first novel.
It will be a hard act to follow…
[This review is also soon to appear on The Compulsive Reader website.]
12/05/07: After we visited India and Bhutan, I wrote an article (with Lyn’s help) on the Bhutan leg of our journey. The account was published in the South Australian Geographer in 2005. It’s now been reprinted for a wider readership on the Australian Reader website as Land of the Thunder Dragon.
06/05/07: Steve Brock is guest editor of Ouyang Yu‘s Otherland Online, Wanted from Wuhan, featuring work by Ouyang’s postgrad creative writing students from Wuhan University, China. Very ‘otherwordly’ and powerful use of English by talented non-native speaker / writers.
05/05/07: Friendly Street’s Featured poem for May is loneliness by Veronica Shanks.
04/05/07: last night I was one of a fortunate group at Imprints to attend the launch of Carol Lefevre‘s first novel Nights in the Asylum. Launched by Nicholas Jose and Carol herself, the novel has been several years in the making and I can’t wait to read it…
01/05/07: rob performs Isaac the unchosen one and George the Younger at Friendly Street Poets (live!) Radio Adelaide recorded the show tonight… interesting to see what makes it to air…
27/04/07: poems for kids. Two of my earlier works lean poem and Sumatran tiger (both from New Poets Ten) have been accepted for The School Magazine (NSW). However it may be be 6 months before I see them in print… I hope to publish more verse for children & adolescents over the next few years.
25/04/07: UniSA’s Poetry and Poetics Centre will be hosting a free Symposium to celebrate poetry’s important part in South Australia’s vibrant literary culture this Friday & Saturday. Featuring the work of established and emerging SA poets Gaetano Aiello, Jude Aquilina, Robert Bloomfield, Cameron Fuller, Patricia Irvine, Erica Jolly, Mike Ladd, Stephen Lawrence, Ioana Petrescu, Bridget Ransome, Graham Rowlands and a workshop by Peter Goldsworthy. More…
14/04/07: I’ll be reading new work at Ken Bolton’s LEE MARVIN on June 12.
In the interim (as they say in the classics) support local (Adelaide) writers by dropping in to ALL LEE MARVIN READINGS :
3rd Reading April 17
LEE MARVIN DOES THE BOOGALOO
Nicholas Jose, Gillian Britton, Caroline Horn, Cathoel Jorss, Steve Evans
4th Reading April 24
LEE MARVIN DOES THE CAMEL WALK
Alexandra Weaver, Francesca da Rimini, Shannon Burns, Pru La Motte, Barney Medlin, Cath Kenneally
Tuesdays at Gallery de la Catessen
9 Anster St., Adelaide
(off Waymouth at the King William end, near FAD nightclub)
7.30 for 8 PM start * Price $5
12/04/07: Yahia al-Samawy and I met with Hilary Kleinig of the Zephyr String Quartet tonight for a preliminary discussion about an exciting collaboration planned for later this year. The concert, entitled Resonance – the third in Zephyr’s 2007 perspectives series – will feature "folk music from around the world and new compositions inspired by the poetry of Yahia al-Samawy and rob walker." Meanwhile Yahia and i have a good deal of work ahead of us before the performance on October 26 at the Lion Arts Centre, Adelaide. We’re both inspired by music and really excited by the prospect of this unique collaboration with such innovative and passionate performers.
11/04/07: What a pleasure and an honour it was to perform with Louise Nicholas, Judy Dally, Jude Aquilina and Bob Magor for Poets and Platters at Langmeil Winery tonight. 209 people paid $30 and enjoyed magnificent poetry (introduced by author & former Test-cricketer Ashley Mallett), award-winning premium Langmeil wines and a supper of locally-produced breads, grapes olives, ham and wurst, pâté and slices. Truly a celebration for the senses, the heart and the soul!
04/04/07: Graham Rowlands launched Friendly Street’s latest reader "Unruly sun" last night at the South Australian Writers’ Centre. Poet/editors Erica Jolly and Avalanche (Ivan Rehorek) have selected one of the best collections yet. MORE.
rob débuted I’d rather be in da Torrens than in denial to the accompaniment of Handel’s Water Music.
29/03/07: Went along to the Launch of Staples 7 & 8 tonight at Jah’z off Rundle Street & read Roly poly pudding, (a fairly bleak poem!) and heard some really good work by mostly Adelaide Uni students about 30 years younger than me! Then went on to the Fringe poetry gig at the Hard Rubbish Café (The Garden of Unearthly Delights) organised by Jules Leigh Koch, also read there & heard some great work by Jules, Heather Taylor-Johnson & Alice Sladdin.
28/03/07: This day last year: "Got an email from alicia sometimes to congratulate me on acceptance of my work poem on the underground for Going Down Swinging # 23 which will be launched at the Sydney Writers’ Festival in May." [More background to the poem in Georgina Laidlaw's AustralianReader.com interview HERE.]
22/03/07: Got a welcome email from Brad Cagney to say that my work Roly poly Pudding has been accepted for staples zine #8 & I’ll be performing it live at Jah’z Café, Rundle Street, Adelaide on Thu 29 March from 6:30 pm.
20/03/07: rob walker is a new member of the World Poets Society.
Last month our local newspaper the Adelaide Advertiser had a feature by Samela Harris on the renaissance of poetry in South Australia. It’s by no means a comprehensive study (there are a number of talented and prolific local poets who were not mentioned) and others – like me – fairly minor players who were inexplicably lumped in with literary giants. (Being included in the ‘history of poets’ between Peter Goldsworthy and Geoff Goodfellow is good for the ego, but I’m not convinced that I’m actually that important!) I include the link HERE for interstate and overseas students of poetry who might like some introduction to the unique South Australian poetry scene… For further insight, visit The Poetry and Poetics Centre.
19/03/07: My 4-part poem Camellia in the Bush is published on the Famous Reporter website & will appear in the print-version of FR #35 to be launched in Hobart in June & re-launched in Adelaide in August!
18/03/07: [more from the archives, 2 years ago:] : "rob performs poem on the underground in the style of Mike Skinner ("The Streets") at the Singing Gallery, McLaren Vale as part of Onkaparinga City’s Poetry Unhinged Festival." This one was produced later on the CD Going Down Swinging # 23.
17/03/07: [archives, 2 years today...] "Poet Stephen Lawrence OPENED FRIENDLY STREET NEW POETS TEN (featuring the first collections of Libby Angel, Robert Bloomfield and rob walker) and PoeticA‘s Mike Ladd LAUNCHED Blur: Friendly Street Poetry Reader 29 at the SA Writers’ Centre, Adelaide.
16/03/07: Friendly Street‘s latest annual poetry Reader – our THIRTY FIRST – entitled "Unruly Sun" will be launched at the SA Writers’ Centre on Tue April 3 at 7 pm. All welcome.
15/03/07: archives, 3 years ago..] " Even as I speak, (rob’s ‘homage’ to Clive James at Writers’ Week, 2004) is published as Featured Poem on the Friendly Street Poets website. It later appeared in his first collection sparrow in an airport in Friendly Street’s New Poets TEN
13/03/07: Wordfire is as cool as ever… Caught the Fringe Edition at the Crown & Sceptre last night. All were good, but i have a particular penchant for the work of Indigo, whose performance poetry was enhanced by two empathic percussionists.
11/03/07: [archives, 05] "The Mouth (a poem rob wrote about the desecration of the Murray River) has been published in Australia’s New England Review Issue #21."
A later version appears in micromacro.
10/03/07: [from 2006 archives, one year ago, today] : "The final day of Writers’ Week and in a wonderful moment of synchronicity I was able to introduce Juan Garrido-Salgado to Yahia al-Samawy- both poets who had been imprisoned and tortured for their political beliefs and writings. Juan introduced me to Tom Shapcott (who’s retired from teaching and now lives in Melbourne) and Geoff Goodfellow was wandering past so I introduced him to all! Later, under the shade of plane and palm trees on a beautiful hot Adelaide afternoon, Juan and Yahia told me the details of their torture in prison.. and I’ve never been so grateful to have led a mundane life.."
09/03/07: Tonight i just managed to catch the end of the launch of Friendly Street’s New Poets 12 featuring the work of Murray Alfredson, Magaret Fensom and Steve Brock. There’s some excellent poetry in this volume. More later…
07/03/07: [archives, 07/03/06]: "It was great to see founding Friendly Street poets Richard Tipping and Kate Llewellyn performing again. Richard’s face was illuminated by the blue glow… " MORE
06/03/07: rob reads roly poly pudding and genuphobia at Friendly Street (live!)
[archives, one year ago: ] "Thanks to all concerned who made the Launch of our 3 Friendly Street publications a great success at Adelaide Writers’ Week yesterday. Special thanks to Sandy McCutcheon for taking the time not just to launch THIRTY, but to have read the entire collection prior to the day & pass on his positive comments to the poets. Thanks too to Jaya Savige for selecting the winner of the NOVA prize for best unpublished poet. The winner was a very excited Helen Lindstrom. Congratulations, Helen"
04/03/07: Blast, that quality bi-annual literary magazine from Canberra, now has its own website. My poem breaking mother’s back appeared in #3 in March 06.
03/03/07: [from the archives, 03/03/03] rob’s poem collateral language published on Australian Poetic Society website. It is the history of the last four years written before it happened…
02/03/07: [archives, 2/03/05:] rob: " I’d like to thank the kids and teachers at Mt Compass High and Tatachilla College for the two highly productive poetry workshops I conducted today. I appreciated the students’ openness and honesty in creating their own work."
Ken Bolton has invited me to read new work at a future Lee Marvin reading – probably in June. I’ll also be performing Poets and Platters at Langmeil Winery (Tanunda, Barossa Valley) for their end-of-harvest celebrations on Wed 11th April. Please come up & say hello if you’re there. (See SAWriters EVENTS DIARY page for details & bookings.)
25/02/07: "Britney Spears, it appears, is back in rehab, shortcircuiting a child custody ploy by estranged husband Kevin Federline." – AAP, 25/02/07
Britney Spears- truth in anagram
Be any tress rip.
Pastry be risen.
Press any tribe,
ripen by assert.
I repent brassy –
earn by persist.
Ripe, brassy ten.
Yes sir, pert ban.
Bare spiny rest
rips bras-y teen
Bare piss entry-
press it nearby.
Barren spy site,
breasts in pyre.
Err by inept ass…
© rob walker, 2007.
14/02/07: New addition to site: publications. (Click on the publications tab above.)
07/02/07: I couldn’t be happier that the 2007 Friendly Street Single Poet’s Collection goes to my good friend (& co-editor of Friendly Street Thirty) Louise Nicholas. Lou writes a whole range of work – humorous, philosophical and always thoughtful and beautifully crafted. Can’t wait to see the entire collection The List of Last Remaining… The title poem appeared in Antipodes in 2005.
06/02/07: rob performs leaving school behind and Ruddock at Friendly Street (live!)
Talented poet and composer Max Merckenschlager and his partner Jacqui have written and performed a powerful song about South Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks. Whatever you believe about Hicks’ guilt or innocence, the fact remains that he has been in solitary confinement (and possibly tortured, depending on how you define the niceties of torture) for 5 years WITHOUT BEING CHARGED. Listen to Max & Jacqui’s song HERE.
30/01/07: Maggie Ball’s review (on Compulsive Reader) of micromacro is very gratifying:
"micromacro is an easy to read collection which presents a light, gently spaced series of poems that appear simple as they cover the Australian terrain and glide over current affairs. Look closely however and the poetry is sharper, more intense and deeper – using cutting humour and painful structures to illuminate, radiate and open the mind to other people’s pain, to the pain we cause ourselves, or to the “rosetta stone” beneath our feet." . More…
25/01/07: Have you read Amy’s Hate Blog yet? [ If she's a stickler now, imagine what she'll be like in 20 years...
20/01/07: My poem January drought posted on the Australian Reader website. Strangely, the drought has broken temporarily and we're having floods locally at the moment...
19/01/07: Readers distant from South Australia may have missed this tell-all exposé of the seamy underbelly of Adelaide's bizarre poetry scene... More
18/01/07: My daughter. So much HATE in one so young...
My autobiographical childhood poem Buffalo Grass first appeared on David Barnes' Poetry Downunder website, then Fred Wheeler's Indie Journal (US.) It was published in The Australian Reader 2 years ago today.
14/01/07: from deep in the dusty digital archives, 14/01/05]
"Apricots and Bushfires published in The Australian Reader online"
Australian Reader is doing a feature on Drought in January Seven Years Without Rain: Reflections on Dust including a poem of mine (called, unsurprisingly "January Drought".) Maggie Ball already has a piece up there (called – amazingly- Drought.) My January Drought originally appeared on David Barnes’ old Poetry Down Under/ Numbat website, which he’s threatening to resurrect in the near future!
13/01/07: 8 audio poems added to the poems page. All are from micromacro. Hear rob’s uneducated aussie accent. There’s also a new words & music section. The first sample is me trying to sound like Mike "The Streets" Skinner in poem on the underground. This was included on the CD Going Down Swinging #23 last year.
The bushfire is contained, but not out. See fire ground HERE. (Thanks to Hillsrain.com for the pix.)
11/01/07: Bushfires around Mt Bold have been a bit too close for comfort over the last 24 hours.. We’re stuck at home ready to protect the property if we have to…
Congratulations to Steve Brock, Donald Fairchild & Margart Fenson, who’ll be published in New Poets 12 in March. More here…
10/01/07: How did the US interview go? Judge for yourself HERE.
(2006 archives) " rob: " My poem mitchell park 2000 has been selected by Les Murray to be published in the latest issue of Quadrant." (mitchell park previously appeared in Positive Words and Warrick Wynne’s Suburban Margins/ Disappearing Landscapes website. It was also included in micromacro.
09/01/07: The internetvoicesradio interview with Maggie Ball happens tomorrow (enshallah & IT – willing.) The theory is that Maggie & i will chat on Skype for 30 minutes, it will go live to air via audio stream from Michigan radio & be recorded for podcast… I’m just hoping it will go more smoothly than the Radio Adelaide gig when I went for a nervous pee & locked myself in the stairwell and dropped my 60 pages of poetry on the floor during the interview..
07/01/07: On this day, 2004:The Boomers, Blackwood RSL posted on Coral Hull’s Thylazine Australian Artists and Writers for Peace (AUS) website
03/01/07: T8-à-T8. i just read a great little interview with my old (young, really…) poetry M8 Amelia Walker (she’s young enough to be my daughter, but she isn’t.) The interview (by Megan Boyd) is on UniSA students’ new Poetry and Poetics website. There are also poems by Rob Bloomfield and Cameron Fuller.
01/01/07: Happy New Year!
While this poem didn’t make the final cut, in retrospect, i think this started the train of thought that resulted in the micromacro collection.