Thursday, January 7, 2016

THE BEACH REPORT : Facts of Life

I'm crouching in the sea, ready to catch, more a slipper than a wicky though it changes from ball to ball, but I'm waiting for it, left or right, head-high or wide --m'girl says you're like a dog, ready for a game, make something out of nothing. That's life, I say, sage in the waves, less of a chop than last swim (--as I write this down the old Greek gent, elegant in shades, black cap, white T, black shorts, all-over tan, flicks at the flies with lavender, rosemary?! --maybe twig-stem of gum-leaves? --his swatch -- m'girl says frankincense so immediately imagine black robed priest, the blessing-swish of his censer --golden church of sand & sea), but 'before' or 'last' wonderfully lost in the continuum, banished --continuum imposed by the elements --petty time crushed (--it's saltbush! --someone else strolls past with same soft grey article --all along the coast, every coast in the sunbathed world) --deep hush of the universe around & about the mush of the world notwithstanding distinguishing graces & blasphemies, thought of which makes one blush! --did i say that? do that? think that?

Prelude to leaving kiosque-table, the old guy says in English to his woman friend, it's impossible to read the newspaper in this wind! She's managed the gusts  throughout with her magazine. Suddenly realise he isn't Greek! --urgent need to correct first impression. I think he's speaking Hebrew interspersed with English. 'Talking' not accurate either --now & then he addresses his partner with slow, sure phrases. Audible but mostly indecipherable. A deep, low voice. Russian? Israeli? He's in his own space, not talking, sipping his coffee, occasionally flicking salt-bush fan at the summer flies. Then I see, nose in my notebook, the pair have gone. Others spot the empty table, take it over. Like anyone, anything, only temporarily there but the impression of this old guy pervades. (Description of the actual is demeaned in the Avant-garde as the so-what of commonplace. Contextualised by big blues of sea & sky, we enquire relation of cliche to archetype.) 

Old guy, younger wife or older daughter. All the news he needs is knowledge now. Visceral, corpuscular. The rest is around him, the basking seal, absorbing what observer calls the facts of life.

[Elwood, 3/6-1-16]

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


‪The dramatic 'weather events' in Australia, on the Victorian south-west coast, and in the North of England, have shadowed everything we've thought & done since Christmas. I thought it valuable to retrieve a conversation with Glenda George on Facebook and a letter from Peter Riley forwarded by Paul Buck to preserve on the blog. Additionally, correspondence from Libby Hart.


Kris Hemensley :

Happy New Year, Glenda x (please say youre high & dry?
[January 2, 16 at 10:29pm]

Glenda George :‬

 ‪Kris‬, thanks for your concern but - and fingers crossed against omens for bragging - we must be one of the few parts of Scotland that have had reasonably acceptable weather when all about us are suffering floods and hurricane winds. We have even missed for the most part. And I was thinking about you down in Melbourne when the bush fires seemed pretty close....Guess extremes of weather are going to be something we will have to adjust to in 2016 and beyond....I think the El Nino effect wears off for us around February but then there's always the possibility of El Nina bringing the opposite! Don't you just love Nature? Showing us upstarts who really rules the world!
[January 2 at 10:39pm]

‪Kris Hemensley
‬ :

Hi Glenda... good to hear your report... just now looked at pics of Hebden Bridge & Mytholmroyd on Anthony Costello's Facebook page... had no idea... had heard but not seen... And, as you say, the Victorian coastal forest & towns had the fires at Christmas... quietened down but not yet all clear...

Glenda George‬ :

Lots of serious flooding about....the Calder Valley pretty badly hit (though most folk that we know not subject to the worst) and there is much water about up here in NE Scotland. There is wisdom in living on a hill! We are 750 feet above sea level, though not totally immune to spates in the mountain burns which can gouge out huge chunks of land from their banks and cause landslips. So far in our 25 years here (that long huh?) we've only once been in a slightly dodgy situation but with two major burns running either side of our land, I have had occasion to shore up the banks with posts and netting and we have planted lots of trees on the gully edges to both support the banks with their roots and absorb more of the water. Seems to be working thus far.

Kris Hemensley‬ :

25 years, a life... Awe-inspiring to city slicker like me what you describe of your Scotland... and yr special lingo : 'spates' 'mountain burns' 'shore up the banks' ... Good luck, Glenda...

Glenda George‬ :

"and your special lingo"...oh ‪Kris‬, you have no idea how that feeds into my eternal shame that I have lived here so long and not once utilised the many wonderful words that describe natural features in a piece of writing....even though I love using those words everyday....(and we haven't even gotten into the local dialect of the Scots language that I have taken many years to understand properly - spikkin the Doric is a hale spleet kettle i fish) ...I really cannot understand why my joy at living in the landscape has not translated across into my work at all (yeah, I know I would more largely be defined as a language poet of sorts but all the same.....)


Paul Buck‬ :

Picking up on earlier, Peter Riley now lives in Hebden Bridge, and not on the sides or 'heights' as we did. No, he lives right in the valley, beside the water. He was flooded -- three inches deep. Not too much damage as they moved things upstairs. I will send you a letter he sent round.

From: Peter Riley
31 December 2015 14:12:45 GMT 
To: David Ainley  
Subject: From the flood zone

Forgive me for sending a group e-mail to those who have asked how we've fared during the floods. We've been without electricity, therefore e-mail not to mention heat and light, for four days and sleeping at Kathy & Richard's house which is up a hill and safe and dry. So yes, we did get flooded. But compared with a lot of people in this town we have nothing much to complain about. We've still got a house to live in, we haven't lost our livelihoods, we haven't had to throw out all the furniture... In fact we had about three inches of water on the ground floor and by the time it got here most of the things that mattered had been moved upstairs. I must say it was worrying watching the water approaching in the form of a swift river running through the garden, which it wrecked, mainly be bringing with it a lot of floating woodwork of various kinds, and two poppy wreaths from the Memorial Gardens a quarter of a mile away. It reached a total rise of over three metres, exceeding all previous records. It was also worrying when the canal at the back of the house started overflowing, which we thought it couldn't do, and started climbing up our back windows, but they held. So now we're comfortably encamped upstairs and getting on with drying and cleaning, with a lot of help from the family and neighbours. In fact the local co-operative spirit in Hebden Bridge has been amazing. Here the neighbours turned out and worked on all the gardens one by one, then got to work on the stone-yard next door. There's now an enormous heap of wood across the road. The town centre is more-or-less wrecked and it looked like the end of most of the independent businesses including our one bookshop and the cinema, mainly because they were uninsured due to the recalcitrance of the insurance industry following the 2012 floods. But volunteers came pouring in with mops brushes and spades and worked day-long day after day. The town hall's been open 24 hours distributing free advice, co-ordinating workers and technicians, linking needs and offers and running a free cafe. The three or four restaurants capable of functioning have been giving out free meals and drinks, one of the two surviving pubs handing out free pints of beer. A restaurant in Bradford sent the town hall a hundred chicken curries... We've had army helping, and a troupe of Asian men from Halifax mosques, bikers patrolling the streets at night to prevent looting, and a lot of people wandering all over the place knocking on doors and asking if any help is needed. We felt we'd come to live in a real town. I'll get round to answering particular questions in some e-mails before very long. Everyone's solicitude has been heartening.




Dear Kris,

Further to the comments between yourself and Glenda George...

I love the word 'burn' in the Scottish sense. I saw quite a few of them during my travels into the Highlands. Here is a small 'postcard' poem from the middle of nowhere (in the Highlands) that uses the term ...

A postcard from Kinbrace

Burn and bend. Cloud and cloud-mountain.
A snow-scatter of sheep as a train encroaches.
Bird-scramble above the scribble of tree.

Then I turned to the wet-lipped God, as if to greet you.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Silver-gulls & terns, some standing, some pecking, in & amongst the mat of seaweed strung along shoreline ebb & flow. I'm old man today, sat on bench absorbing late morning sun & warmth, collar up against breeze, picking in & amongst the map that living's made, this life's final lap. Almost fifty years ago I'm hereabouts too, writing in exercise book my Song of the Sea. For all they called me prolific I confess not much of it published. No regrets, certainly since publishing's yen dissolved. Compelled, though, to write, en plain air. Dinghies out to sea. Three kids in black swim-suits splashing in the warmest part, incubator pool of seaweed & old jetty, like the Russians I think whose great-grandchildren these could be, the old St Kilda Russians of fifty years ago, and all through the recent decades, bending the compass to accommodate the Caspian in this Port Phillip Bay. Room too for Hemingway, that is me as Hemingway, looking out at the sea from the beach, bathed in sun & warmth, dreaming up his old man story. I'd like him to have been in Miami but fact is he's on that beach in the Bahamas : Miami'd have been David's sling-shot to the Cuba of his good times and where his last great tale is set.   

After swimming, one stands on the sand, age dripping off like the water. Conventionally, youthfulness the only reference, present moment's bare skin defeating history. The weight of years evaporates in the sun. But today, I havent swum. I'm snug on the bench, and age is the sea-shell I'm curled inside. Sea-shell my house, without even the weight a tortoise naturally bears. The tortoise metaphor's been mine for yonks : history inextricably ours, carried wherever we go.  Perhaps the tortoise's shell was a deflection of the definitive burden accompanying my saint's name awarded by Aunt Lydia, dislodged when I exchanged nomme de plume for given name, age 16.

"Ageing gracefully" manifestly not the point : age is the grace. Instead of frustration, anxiety, unrequited ambition there's --almost embarrassed to say it, as though pompous & vain --contentment.

Like Hemingway's old fisherman, who knew how not to be angry… He no longer let anger get to him, get the better of him. He was over it, had out-gunned it, oh a long time before. Gift, like peaceful sea is, watcher's sea... dreaming the fishing only ever once experienced (this is me now, Kris Hemensley!)  three days on the water around Port Arlington, 1966, two nights dropping the dredge, sorting the coagulated catchThe overcoming deep in him & upon him, on the bench, in the sun, facing the sea…


Sunday, November 22, 2015



Wake to 'friend request' from Giona Beltrametti! (Wake to the light of day, of course. Raise bamboo blind for Ushas… Flick desk-computer on…) Giona is Franco's spitting image. Notice the birthdate in the Facebook sidebar. 1966, five years older than Tim Hemensley. Son loses father, father loses son. Good morning Giona, good mourning… Twentieth anniversary of Franco Beltrametti's death --Franco, like so many other British, American & European poets, ushered my way by Tim Longville at Grosseteste Review, editor & proselytiser supreme...

"I am not immune", said in softest caveat upon involuntary vanity that perceiving flux spares one from its fateful vicissitudes --insight more fragile than Lao monk-blessed baci such as Catherine ties around my wrist, protection ensured by animist conflation of material & metaphor (--we've been here before : the feminine's place in all of this --60s & '70s paeans to the immortal dyad; fusion then return to sovereign parts, over & again, women & men in ecstasy's every combination --and recall '80s reading of the slanders upon Lou Andreas Salome for a sister's collegiality with Nietzsche, Rilke, Freud, Buber, analogy of the further trivialisation by contemporary sexual politics of muse, soul-mate, lover, protege --and I admit my head full of fathers, sons, brothers here but sisters, mothers, neither lesser nor ever  forgotten) --yet while the moment flares with knowledge, the infinite delight of illumination subtracts from commensurate world. In no way a handicap when one belatedly realises Franco Beltrametti isn't narrator of the peripatetic (except of the means it is to experience geography as itinerary, simultaneous & indivisible), but meditator he is upon transience & impermanence, the willingly conscious & joyous recorder of world-as-time : "imagine : incurable! a precise / sensation (not unpleasant -- not pleasing) / that everything is happening somewhere else / at the speed of light SVAAAM while here / 24 hours in a bolt of lightning of 6months as it was / the twisting road / up and down across the valley [3/31/70]"

Apropos 'joyous' : I wonder what my own brother Bernard wrote to him in 1992 for Franco to hope I'd be "more joyous soon"? Twenty-three years since their correspondence & five years after Bernard published it in facsimile (Stingy Artist Editions, UK, folded card; Franco Beltrametti, Two letters to Nado / Bernard Hemensley, 2 poems i.m. Franco Beltrametti) I ask myself again : weren't those good years for me? The return to England beginning 1987, visits every or every other year. Discovering the S W Victorian coast, reflection it would be, John Anderson promised, of my new found Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, --Port Campbell to Warnambool, little towns nestled within limestone cliff & agricultural green, pummeled by Bass Straight & Southern Ocean. This time of new reading & thinking in philosophy & religion. New writing albeit substantially relinquishing publishing. Perhaps post partum anguish each time leaving England, dramatising life-long identity questions, -- but what misery implied?

After Bill Brown & Maggie Brown, most named is Franco Beltrametti in James Koller's Snows Gone By : New & Uncollected Poems, 1964-2002. For example in the poem of 30 Nov 1995 :
 "Rising before me now
these mountains are the Sierra,
where you built your house.
Remember the sign : three peaks.
You & I found them,
Truth or Consequences.
I take out the red
harp, Raffaella's, play it --
hear your shadow
caught in the wind."

Helped select it, probably build it. Friendship was never more brotherly… To see a shadow 'caught in the wind'  startling enough, but to 'hear a shadow' plays with kinaesthesia whilst eliciting 'shade' from 'shadow'.

In Jim Koller's Coyote's Journal, #10, 1974, are Franco's Five Poems : linked (and linked by Franco or Koller)? They don't follow chronologically --February '72, November '71, January '72 --but unsequenced in Face to Face (Grosseteste Review Books, UK, '73) which suggests they're random. Yet, thematically, if the (SHORT REPORT) : (TOWARDS NOVEMBER) is a five-part poem's foundation, then a psychedelic sense could be made of "a series of irresistible waves / from all directions", or "1, 2, 3 rainbows", given the explicit reference "A. Rouhier, le Peyotl, 1927 Paris"… Hadn't checked before --imagined a Paris street upon which may as well be unknown rake illicitly tripped out! But belatedly discover the pharmacist & Left Bank book publisher Alexandre Rouhier is the man, one of Andre Breton's hundred guiding heads, mescaline experimenter in the wake of Havelock Ellis & others, --the occultist Monsieur Rouhier, member of one of several underground cells, student of Fulcanelli & spoken of in same excited breath as Alistair Crowley, his "astonished eyes" as per "La Plante Qui Fait les Yeux Emeveilles : Le Peyotl", a good look for Franco & the '70s desert mountain back-country crazy gang whose total countercultural beckoning ironically induced in me the opposite reaction, freezing one in English forbidding, making perfect halfway house of Australia, as though it were the Gauguinian, Whitmanic come-all-ye Down Under, --until now that is, NOW! that these alchemical documents thaw the erstwhile timid set, flow & fly one into Illumination (poetry & world thereof)…


Nothing met, named, without contiguities which aggregate Real World. Same apparent obliquity first appreciated in Jung's reading of family tree. Nothing more certain than psyche nor misleading as genome, --synchronicity, sirrah, not logical progression...

Two peas in a pod, Aunty Lod of my brother Bernard & I. I didn't plan the radical separations 1966-69 or, as potentially corrosive for all its benefice, the exile I came to call it, 1975-87. Air-letter correspondence there was, the correspondence which carried the entire poetry scene, both local & international.  But from children to old men are the essential divergent journeys, mutually exclusive experiences & investments, partial to the Way's myriad matings. And brief or extended circumstance parents all manner of relation, chips off old block, motes in ur-family's eternal light.

For some years I've misremembered Charles Olson telling Lew Welch at the 1965 Berkeley reading (transcribed by Zoe Brown, published by Jim Koller's Coyote Books, '66), "I'm not your father, you had a father!" Now, as I read it again I find it's otherwise. Olson's talking about Worcester ("Wow, I never wrote about Gloucester like this."), reading from An Ode on Nativity, --banter with Lew Welch follows but at this stage of the night Olson confesses : "I am a perfect father, until I am not. And that's another thing I hope is happening tonight, Robert [Duncan]. And I know that beautiful story which you've told to me, that you said a thing which cleared me when you told Richard Duerden, 'He's, Olson's not your father. You had a father.' Am I right?" (The exchange with Welch always struck me as paternal, even paternalistic yet imbued with the kind of love that leadership, as epitome or at least ramification of responsibility, implies. The relationship's ambiguous for although Welch is his own man & no kid at 39, he & Olson are colleagues within a family & community of which poetry is the life-blood. --parents, aunts & uncles, siblings born & adopted… ) In the transcript, Olson is speaking about writing & publishing & the status of talking (addressing the world as if arbitrary room has become the ideal) -- : "I am now publishing. Tonight. Because I'm talking writing." Whatever he was thinking, Lew responds with the literal, "I read forty-seven times last year? Forty-seven!" Olson corrects him as he must : "Baby. Oh, I'm not-- Reading? This is a-- Are you kidding? You think this is anything but a-- […] I mean I think this is a political occasion…"

Ken Taylor wasn't my father yet his welcoming me in Melbourne,'67/'68, felt like it. I should have been prodigal son for my own father, but wouldn't have a chance to perform that role until late '69 when I returned to Southampton from Australia, by then fully fledged Melbourne poet & playwright, new husband & new Australian! But it didn't transpire; there was no reconciliation. Even the appearance of his first grandchild, Tim, didn't displace primary rancour. Not until 1987 when I was 41 and Dad 67, did he acknowledge me as an independent adult! With Ken, sixteen years my senior, amity was expressed in the combined relief & delight of mutual recognition, a relationship  which inaugurated the New Melbourne Poetry centred on the La Mama cafe theatre, late '67, early '68 and on, ultimately appreciated as a domain of the New Australian Poetry, the Australian wing of the international "new"… Back in the day, Geoff Eggleston nominated Ken & I as the La Mama poets' "elder brothers", while Ken referred to La Mama's inner circle as "brothers & sisters". Far away from Australia's sun & sea, I thrilled to reports of the brothers & sisters piling into Ken's kombi van, driving to Merricks on the Mornington Peninsula, seventy odd k from Melbourne, to commune & cavort, and why not a version of Kesey & Cassady's magic bus, Taylor's Pranksters… Thrilled & envied --my gift it seems for always missing one or the other country's great cultural events : working in London in '65 at the time of the Albert Hall Reading, I was both timid & unbelieving that the Evening Standard's headline (BEATS COME TO TOWN or BEATS TAKE OVER THE ALBERT HALL) could possibly be true; --in Melbourne in '67 missing, therefore, England's Summer of Love; --in Southampton '70-'72, missing the momentous Moratorium marches in Melbourne, and Ginsberg & Ferlinghetti's visits to Australia for good measure! Et cetera. Of course much to be counted on the other hand…

In 1970, Frank Prince was certainly old enough to have been my father, 58 to my 24. From the start he welcomed me as a new friend into his just then rejuvenating literary life --Stuart & Deirdre Montgomery at Fulcrum Press, via Lee Harwood, were bringing out his Memoirs at Oxford, his first book of poetry since The Doors of Stone, in 1963. He imagined my coming from Australia to England, albeit a return, as similar to his migration to England from South Africa in the '30s, when also in his twenties. Of course, the English wouldn't do this, he told me referring to my zeal for correspondence & communication, soliciting poems for my magazine, describing it as the "colonial energy" exemplified by Pound! Eliot wrote the better poems, he said, but Pound was the poet, the figure who attracted one to poetry as a life. Son or young friend? He complained to me once or twice of difficulties with his own children, whom I figured were older than I, as though we were contemporaries, fathers & men of the world, (--Henry Bolingbroke sotto voce in his cousin Westmoreland's ear of the disappointment young Hal was, especially compared to Hotspur)… Ken Taylor, similarly I recall, granting that parity, sounding me out, '68 or '69, on the New Age protocols concerning wives & their occasional suitors, accepting my advice that punching out the Natural History chap from BBC Bristol was ridiculous & patronising, as plainly antiquated & bad as forbidding one's spouse, he said,  to smoke cigarettes in public!

One time Frank asked me to accompany him to a  reading by poets from Southampton University, down town somewhere --the Bargate or St Michael's House?-- but at the last minute couldn't bring himself to attend. He hoped I'd still go, essentially to be his spy. I imagine he'd rather renounce his faith so adamant was he not to be there! In a sense his absence was a continuing renunciation of the literary life he'd surely conceived back in the '30s, perhaps defending himself from a repeat of the rejection which followed Eliot, his hero's, initial lionisation. Generally speaking he was a loner and until the Fulcrum Press volume not expecting a renewal of the celebrity he'd enjoyed before & after his war-time poem, Soldiers Bathing. Speculate that the Southampton University prof was at odds with the poet and only after moving on (via a series of overseas appointments) did the poet rejoin the wider world. Not quite true though --he was as happy to meet "the younger poets" as Andrew Crozier, upon hearing of our friendship, was keen for such engagement to occur. I felt then that Andrew, like me, subscribed to lineage & amelioration. It was ripe time, long overdue, for Frank Prince to meet with us, Andrew said. What did or didnt transpire at our Portswood tete-a-tete is another matter but I brought the poets (the Johns, Hall & Riley), he got the beer & Elizabeth the supper! He'd begun to subscribe to the Grosseteste Review journal & books in response to my enthusiastic prompting. He was on the board of the Poetry Review during Eric Mottram's editorship and whatever his opinion of the poetry said he believed in the younger generation, characterised by 'feeling' in terms of love & protest. It was the same feeling he was moved I'd found in his otherwise stumpy rhymed Oxford poem, as I described it in a review I blush to recall, --the feeling animating form he'd explain, --from which I extrapolate the vital part of romanticism's issue modernism, --I hear him saying that, except that he didnt, though modernism out of romanticism is his --not yet stifled by the Auden ascendancy --"a bit of a fat head" he'd quipped, rival we suppose, --over whom he briefly enjoyed Eliot's favour --but of all such brevity, jewel flash moment, is this life made...

[1-11-15 / 22-11-15]


Of Franco Beltrametti, to Judith Danciger

"whisky wont lack"? Dear Judith what
ever i'm missing of your translation
this Englishing'll do for me :

whisky no end of (wouldn't say no
black ones [bears] no end of (no shortage (overrun


curiosity no end of (vivacity (naturally turned on
Franco no end of

no end of simpatico lifting into
whole heart sky
blooming from vulnerable chest
no end of exultation
heroic for its heedlessness
of ever more tedious


exclamations !!!!!

!!!!! flowers


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

i.m. John Riley, 1937- d. October 27/8, 1978 and John Anderson, 1948-d. October 28,1997


Midnight Interrogation
(A review of John Riley's
Ways of Approaching)

the feet of the old begetters make your dozen
jump : the new images observe each other
a tickle it is the freer the line the
more wilful the stirrings : no 
one halts the caravan with such
avarice as you

you would tell the first inhabitants get
out & walk if their promenade across
the mind's peace the ash-woods the
cleared fields made parade of
Oh tis Autumn or
this view Lady & you
& by the same token would
deliver you to the dreadings of your
perennial night-walk on a platter the
lines of doomed auxiliaries felling the 
after-dinner song & 
the scents of mint & nasturtiums at the
poem's centre nothing to

the nothing at your centre the
flight of love's victims the
collision of affectations & easy
procedures with love's caravan : the nothing
of which you write it's
nothing you say secured on the
base-line of an empathy with the beautiful gardens & a
native lad running his kite 




The Last Sulk

(acausal parallelism : ) train stopped. the (unmistakable)
river bird preens its leg of our conjunction. never 
ending city reducing vitality trailing out
along the line. mile upon mile. so what "a tennis court"
but suddenly a silver generator's just fine. John Anderson'
s the poet who explodes our "white ibis". relegated*
to a footnote is simply not what we will be. what will
he be? what will we be? Last Quill & Restaurant. 
i'm looking forward to the great blank news.
the next decade is requisitioned. whether singing 
or tilling it's our first chosen beginning.
her hair or land-mist & rivulet
red lines in my fingers. he said/she said
kiss me. almost did. provided for in day-dream.
their fare's a kind of Zion. two birds on that pond.
more mist in the eucalypts of the valley.
sunshine on rising mist & smoke-stack's
grey climb. HITLER'S WAR i'm languorous
demurring "mine". its hill profusion &
dimpled plain. & trapped fog again.
i cant help thinking Our Power Was Thrown Away.
green so swiftly purple (verdigris). i'd settled
for nothing tending the abscess my fingers
trailing through air instead of their red hair.
A NIGHTMARE. tunnel through granite. then
smooth curve of river & never-a-care.
hard to proceed from there. i hanker after
rank lines. that buggerizing jalopy the
rhyme & style. resting motors on the highway
not one car to pace the train. 
think no more.
deny upbringing's cadence.
LOST!  but in which vernacular forest forest
host of heaven. i go home
i see brown rushes
i see broken branches sawn trunks
a by-road's damp patch
pulling red lines from their hair
my fingers curl flail no more the empty air
my fingers couched in the ardent there

* there now gasp!
rapture aside
aspiring on my time
red lines at my throat

[June, '79]

Sunday, October 25, 2015


On the 21st October, anniversary of Kerouac's birthday (--birthday? --his death day dammit! though any of us who've known deep loss begin at some time to confuse the birth & death dates-- a memorial conflation, both happy & sad, forever fused),  I'm reading Lee Kofman's article Muses on Fire, excerpted from Kill Your Darlings magazine, reprinted in The Victorian Writer, April '15 issue, which I'd missed having been back home in England when it arrived and not seen till now. The iconic photograph of Cassady & Kerouac on full facing page catches my eye, apt even synchronous that it should crop up at this moment what with our HOWL 60th event of the 10th October still buzzing! Nothing like an anniversary to twig period, person, place. At every switched-on turn right now there's Ginsberg, Kerouac, Ferlinghetti et al. On Dave Moore's Jack Kerouac group's Facebook page I see Duane Potosky's drawing of Neal, no hands cigarette between his lips. There's Kerouac too, and on the artist's page sketches of his own stars of film, music, literature. Reading Lee Kofman and  thinking of Karl Gallagher, who's been in my mind since Dave Ellison rang to tell me that our friend, painter, poet, on-line publisher of Fitzroy Dreaming, is in hospital, bearing up, in a good frame of mind he says, being well looked after. I mean to say, Karl Gallagher! --first candidate for what we've named the D M, that zone of heaven & earth where the desperate mystics disport, --desperate only as Lee Kofman has quoted Kerouac, "the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn like fabulous yellow candles…" --this "now legendary sentence" she calls it…

Digress here (--as though all or any of this isn't! --this hold-all prose --parenthetical --dervish-turning to reach the essence of the impulse to begin --and begin one must-- starting out with a few accessories, literary equivalents of apple, chocolate, pen-knife --thanks Boy's Own Dad for that! --thus Kerouac, Kofman, Gallagher shoring up the expedition) : found an email from Paul & Ann Smith recording same news of Karl plus a phone-number to call, which I do today, 24th October, reporting to H.Q., touching base. Kerouac's birthday I say, not yet aware of my mistake. Is it? he says. Fancy that. And how was the Howl reading? Kerouac running around with the jugs of wine, did you do that? Hah! Helped ourselves! And who read Howl? Several poets, I say, male & female voices reprising & renovating the original. Organised by George Mouratides, who's one of the four younger scholars who edited the Scroll version of On the Road --I suggested or recruited a few readers, David Pepperell, Ken Trimble, Larry Schwartz. I was Mr Rexroth as MC, joking & kindly growling --and Ken Trimble… Ah, he's the real thing isn't he, Karl says… he read the McClure poems, I said --he's off on his world tour next year with new book of poems --Melbourne, Kyneton, & New Mexico with… Begin to pronounce "Joe Bottone" but swallow what could have spun into another Beat/God saga, though every reason to extol Joe's new poems, billowing sumptuous as the refrain of the Nick Cave song Into My Arms, which Ken's current poems coincidentally chime, and judging from his Facebook, Merton & Bede fulsomely in the wings… Image in mind now of Joe's monastery, Camaldoli, often quoted by Ken following his visit to Big Sur, and of Father Bede's Shantivanam, similarly experienced --also, sudden glinting, Bede Griffiths' Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire preceding Dom Sylvester Houedard --hah! hardly believe it! --comes to me out of the blue --sad to say out of the nowhere the British counter-culture's largely consigned to --Dom Sylvester as various as Merton, monk & poet of that era, Sixties & Seventies increasingly incredible as one's own momentum turns full circle effecting belated consideration & remembering… And then of image of Meherabad as shown me over the years by Dave Elison, but most recently illustrating one of Paul Smith's verse memoirs from his own New Humanity Books,  inscribed in my mind from Karl's postings of his pilgrimages, with Phil Motherwell too, among fellow Baba lovers, amidst less Indian cliche dust & petals than fertile Maharashtra lawn & grove…

Returning to Lee Kofman --she's keenly aware of brilliance's terrible other half, I say to Karl --exemplary of Neal Cassady & June Miller in the article : "while 'burning people' have the gift for making those around them feel fully alive by rendering the everyday into a glittering fairytale, in the process they often burn themselves out".  I'm wary of imposing too long with this hospital phone-call. Though he's been up for it he eventually says he'll probably hang up, but not before hailing Cassady & Kerouac. You know, he says, spiritual guys would go to San Quentin to talk to the prisoners, and they'd sometimes see Cassady, at the back, and he'd be glowing…Yes, and Kerouac, --the hopeless alcoholic, Karl says matter-of-fact.You were onto him quite young too? Yes, heard of him before I first read him… Dropped out of College, '64, desperate for deliverance from the cultureless town, poet & artist I assumed I was, --looking for any way out of it --escape to Paris? --quashed --Wales then, great in some respects but fell out with the mate I'd gone with-- hung out at the wonderful Southampton Art Gallery and the amazing upstairs Reference section of the Central Library --my 'further education'! --found Ihab Hassan writing on the post WW2 Americans, describing Charles Olson, for example, as the 'Dean of the Beats', --the Beats! Read about them, took notes in little fold-over letter-pad --but the first Kerouac I actually read was Big Sur, which was one of the numerous paperbacks I was selling in tiny kiosque aboard Sitmar Line'sFairstar late '65, the job I'd been demoted to after failing to cut it in the big shop according to my managers, --obliged to wear northern waters' blues and tropical whites past the Equator but evidently not really presentable to the passengers, aside from my atrocious attempts tying products in the hold for hoisting up to the main deck! --they were glad to hide me behind that little hatch, selling cigarettes, confectionary, & paperbacks! --and one day I picked it out, BIG SUR : "The story of the crack up of the King of the Beats" --and disbelievingly opened it --but the impact of that first line : "The church is blowing a sad windblown "Kathleen" on the bells in the skid row slums as I wake up all woebegone and goopy, groaning from another drinking bout and groaning most of all because I'd ruined my 'secret return' to San Francisco by getting silly drunk" & et cetera has remained with me these fifty years --I was his boy, once & for all!  Quick thoughts in my head about autobiography as history, and the chronicle poems of my friend Philip Kanlides, and, quite a propos, the celebrated Pi O whose epic, Fitzroy, was launched a week ago. Karl says, Kerouac kills a mouse and he's guilty & sad forever. Reading Kerouac, Karl says, I was knocked out by his honesty… I never heard someone talk about God so openly, he says. We share taking-it-all-in chuckles. Boys or old men, no where else to go.

[--fin, 25th October, '15
Westgarth, Oz--]

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The HOWL Report


[Posts shared/retrieved from Facebook]

(October 4, '15)

DAVID PEPPERELL : Dear George. Thanks for the ad [HOWL reading at Collected Works Bookshop : Saturday, 10th October, '15] and thank you for including me in your Six Gallery Commemoration. I'm looking very forward to being a part of a celebration of the very beginning of the Beat Generation. Just a pedantic point - I'm sure you know that Phil Lamantia did not read his own poetry at the Six Gallery but those of his recently deceased friend John Hoffman. Those poems are in the back of Lamantia's City Lights book "Tau". Wouldn't it be good to read at least one of those as a tribute to a poet lost at 21 to a peyote overdose in Mexico?

GEORGE MOURATIDES : Thanks so much for being part of this, David. Yes, I absolutely agree with you re. Lamantia and Hoffman. I have a copy of that book and have asked Larry Schwartz to do some Hoffman and maybe one or two Lamantia... Really looking forward to meeting you... Peace and blue notes

DAVID PEPPERELL : That's great George and thank you for including me. I am delighted that casual remark of mine to Kris Hemensley a few years ago has borne fruit. Thank you so much for organising it.


(October 6, '15)
The HOWL Report!!!

Great to hear from Jude Telford : "wowee zowee HOWL it was my fave .... I used to work in a book and record shop in Toronto back in the 70`s and I placed HOWL by the cash register ." Now that's an unintentionally funny juxtaposition! Discuss $$$$$ later... !

The event on Saturday a/noon at Collected Works coordinated by George Mouratides (who as people may or may not know, is one of the 4 younger scholars who worked on Penguin's "SCROLL" edition of On The Road) is unique as far as i can see looking around the Web...
Our celebration/commemoration is anchored, as it ought to be, by Ginsberg's Howl, and includes poems by the other readers at the Six Gallery (7 Oct 1955), namely Lamantia (who read J Hoffman), McClure, Whalen, Rexroth, Snyder, --read on Saturday a/noon by, as George says, LOCAL poets! 
My own sense of the occasion is held in Doctor Pepper's ascription "the very beginning of the Beat Generation" , thus Rexroth & Lamantia as slightly older current still flowing of course and the Beats as catching the splash. 
Expand this thought to say that from the 40s Apocalypse poets onwards, late translation in part of the cross Channel surrealist excitements, something else was in the air, abounding naturally in contradictions but fomenting the condition for Beats & everything else that follows.


(October 7 '15)
The HOWL Report, 2nd

Thinking yday about the 'new poetry''s relationship to Ancient Chinese & Japanese poetry --and yes of course, Pound & Fenollosa... But along this line : when the East & Ancient became adjacent, available, it was at the expense of the exotic... or at least, since i happen to like Mr Binyon, the East & Ancient as exotic wasnt any longer the only sound or optic in town... Life as well as letters, so an equivalence, a contemporaneity to the Chinese Mountain poets, or the Japanese haiku masters... thus the mid 20C translators including Rexroth, Snyder, and so the Beats...

Another thing : listened yday to Larry Schwartz's CD gift of the Rexroth & Ferlinghetti reading at the Cellar, 1957... Rexroth's long poem Thou Shalt Not Kill (i.m. Dylan Thomas) so reminiscent of Ginsberg's Howl... and Ferlinghetti, reading from Coney Island of the Mind, --europeanly funny & ironic hitched to the same american drive out of Whitman as all the others...


(October 8, '15)
The HOWL Report, 3rd

Stephen Hamilton came by yday in acknowledgement of the magic moment : 7th October, actual 60th anniversary of the Six gallery [HOWL] reading. James had copied for him the original announcement : "6 POETS AT 6 GALLERY". The text, by Kenneth Rexroth i assume : "Philip Lamantia reading mss. of late John Hoffman-- Mike McClure, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder & Phil Whalen--all sharp new straightforward writing-- remarkable collection of angels on one stage reading their poetry. No charge, small collection for wine and postcards. Charming event.
Kenneth Rexroth. M.C.
8 PM Friday Night October 7, 1955
6 Gallery 3119 Fillmore St. San Fran"

Or maybe it's Ginsberg's text re- "remarkable collection of angels"! Yet "charming event" has arch edge to it wch is why i thought Rexroth!


(October 8, '15)
The HOWL Report, the 4th

(Actually the third & a half-th!) Further to my mention of the tete a tete yesterday with Stephen Hamilton at the Bookshop (who was on his way to rendezvous with similarly maniacal Beat enthusiast James Hamilton to raise a glass to the 6 Gallery originals) : Stephen, looking along the American shelf, mentioned his interest in Jackson MacLow & the relevance of MacLow to the Beats & co --the segue i guess would be neo-dada/surrealist, Steinian, Cagean experimentalism --Ah yes, i said, JACKSON MACLOW, met him at a party once! Oh, really? says Stephen, --wch is fatal temptation for me to spin one of my stories! Yes, it was at the party in his honour thrown by Robert Vas Dias in Hampstead in 1975, June or July? --the year of the inaugural Cambridge Poetry Festival which i turned into a wonderful three month trip around the England of the British poets of my acquaint-- Robert Vas Dias the American poet, little mag publisher, residing in London --I'd set out from long way across town with John Robinson, editor of Joe di Maggio mag & little books, with whom i was staying a couple of nights --it was late afternoon, the party wasn't due to start till six or seven --We came to a pub, and it was OPEN (the maddening English after-lunch licensing restrictions of that time)! I persuaded John we should get a drink because it was HOURS until we were expected. John wasn't so sure but i persuaded him! One pint became another & another. I told him no one turned up to a party on the dot, well not in Melbourne anyway! We walked around the treed & curving streets (is that right? slight ascents too?) & eventually found Robert Vas Dias's house. And the party was in full flight! Greeted the host, (we'd met up at the Cambridge Fest, as everyone else had)and joined in! Packed. We were the last there. Jackson MacLow was seated at a long table eating dinner --salads, cold serves-- surrounded by friends, colleagues, fans, all filling their faces. We must have missed dinner or werent expected! Jackson MacLow, big grey-white beard, long wiry hair, man of the moment. And i noticed a bit of chicken caught in the fronds of his whiskers! It must have been there for a while, no one seemed to notice, respectful conversation was being had, he was talking seriously, and the chicken (was it a wish bone? or just a bit of skin?) bobbing as his head did, as he ate & talked... Many people to talk to --Bob Cobbing? Allen Fisher, Pierre Joris & Paige Mitchell, David Miller (to play music?), Derek Bailey (ditto), Anthony Barnett? The Chaloners? Lee Harwood? I cant remember. If i cld find the note-book of the time it might be there. At some point i'd moved out of the main room, was by myself having a drink, when an American woman said hello (now, her name WILL be in that notebook). We clicked. Her opener : what are you doing at this chicken-shit party?! I pointed out the uninvited guest in Jackson's fuzz. Extended laughter, joking about English high society, where we could go for a real party. Exchanged phone numbers. Her boyfriend and then John joined us. And things began breaking up. I phoned her up from Southampton but never heard back. That's life in 1975!


(9th October, '15)
The HOWL Report, the fifth

Brian Hassett is "in Lowell for the JackFest", and sends this message : "So cool and am so happy about your Six Down Under. I was just with Michael M yesterday at his rare East Coast (or anywhere) appearance and I mentioned the Sixtieth of the Six to him and ... he had no idea !! 
He said, "Oh, I must drop Gary a line."
But like — the guy's not booked anywhere. (!) (And of course, nor's Gary.)"

I guess that old joke, de Kooning's? about birds not into ornithology (he was talking about art criticism), could apply here! 
But this is surely something else. Once again intersections & connections : enthusiasts become historians eliciting palpable, tangible meaning from out of pop celebrity on one hand and the valueless abyss informed by carelessness & forgetfulness on the other.
I coined the term "active archive" thirty-odd years ago to account for the type of magazine i was publishing : a simultaneity of remembering & reflecting and the imperative to (and this'll sound like Ram Dass) be here now!
George Mouratidis programme for tomorrow, the 10th October at Collected Works Bookshop, is prime example : the local poets, never less than individuals of current vigour & personality, channeling, if you like, the Six Gallery originals!