Thursday, September 3, 2015
Regarding Ian Brinton's post of the news of Charles Tomlinson's death : First read Tomlinson around '67, at the State Library of Victoria actually, the Dome reading room. Introduced by criticism I came across as the foremost British connection to / interpretation of William Carlos Williams... not insignificant in an age when there was no free flow, so to speak, across the Atlantic or between Australia & the US for that matter... I vividly recall Q & A with Al Alvarez , an extension lecture at the Univ of Melbourne, would have been in 1968 sometime, --Bill Beard heard Alvarez was in town so we attended-- Alvarez fielded a question/comment about WCW with a terse "William Carlos Williams has always been a blind spot for me!" Now that's OK as a personal response, but Alvarez was talking in Melbourne with the authority still vested in British opinion... There was laughter & applause from a section of the lecture theatre wch Bill identified as the English department claqueurs! Now that's half a century ago, and tangential to response to Tomlinson... Hearing this news I initially searched the Web for Tacita Dean's film of The Orchard, then realized I'd muddled Tomlinson with Michael Hamburger! --yet when I reread C T I'll be interested to see how the Englishness plays off with the poet's pro Americanism & internationalism...
Sad news as e/one says... but hopefully a good innings... RIPSo here we are, renewing acquaintance with Charles Tomlinson, in particular & what's often my own concern : the status of the English home or base, the English locality, from perspective of cosmopolitan.
Notes as I read Tomlinson's Oxfords & Carcanets at the Shop, pen in hand.
Tomlinson vs John Berger in The Garden? : "this crass reading forgets that imagination / Outgrows itself, outgrows aim / And origin; forgets that art / Does not offer the sweat of parturition / As proof of its sincerity."
The almighty 'what if' : "Had you stayed on / Twenty years ago, had I gone" , apparently resolved in "we / Were right to choose the differing parsimonies / Of the places we belonged to." Echo of Celan, via Billeter advocacy & translation, Melbourne '70s, "our own particular narrowness".
Tomlinson's take on Hopkins, Hardy --which I found myself reading as if about GMH! but is suitably Hardyesque, "You were a poet who put on the manners of ghosts." ('he was a man who remembered such things…')Memorable passage : "Even in paradise, what you would wish for, / Would be to lie out in the changing weathers here, / And feel them flush through the earth and through you, / Side by side with those you had known, who never quite knew you, / Dreaming a limbo away of loam, of bone, / One Stygian current buoying up gravestone on gravestone."
I rise to the figure of Ivor Gurney invoked in the poem for Donald Davie's 70th birthday, To a Yorkshireman in Devon, --Gurney one of my own, enigmatic & unfinished despite Carcanet's great project to retrieve everything from the notebooks & manuscripts… "And yet, is it, Donald, utterly absurd / Like Edward Thomas to accept a war / Convinced it was Eden you were fighting for? -- / That Eden Gurney found on midnight walks / Glimmering along boughs, up nettle stalks, / Through constellations that the Romans knew / Standing on that same damp of Cotswold dew / On sentry go." etc The literary task of the poem is to marry the American & British poetry of mid-century Modernist acclaim, including "Gurney himself whom we rejoice to see / With Bunting at our island's apogee."
Good memory of visiting the exhibition of Charles Tomlinson's prints at Cambridge during the inaugural poetry festival of 1975. Reminded now by Timothy Clark's The Poet as Painter chapter in his monograph on Tomlinson, published in '99 in Writers & Their Work. Cezanne's 'objectivity' via Rilke adds another dimension to the discussion of Objectivist poetry with which Tomlinson early interacted (Oppen, Zukofsky, Niedecker et al).
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Well, why shouldn't Brian Hassett's The Hitchhiker's Guide to Jack Kerouac [The Adventure of the Boulder '82 On The Road Conference --Finding Kerouac, Kesey and The Grateful Dead Alive & Rockin' in the Rockies; introduction by John Allen Cassady; published by Get Things Done Publishing, USA, 2015] read like a breathless telephone call or letter, a cassette-tape transcription, an inventory, itinerary, annotated bibliography, since it's all of these, --a fifty-four year old catching up on his own twenty-one year old's [on-the-] road trip, a teen&twenty out of rock 'n roll, and his reader, such as I am here on the cusp of seventy, happily hooked on the spirals of my own life story and always knew it as story, even my first pages from 1963 of manuscript so grateful I haven't lost entitled JOURNEY with in-between parts called PETER WHICH WAY, SONG OF THE SEA, THE CHANGES, flirting with overall title BOOK around '73 as 'writing' seemed to transcend 'autobiography' --thus my fellow-feeling for the young guy, Brian Hassett, forever younger, unembarrassed by the notion of heroes & hero worship, the Beats his hearth gods & goddesses, his pantheon, thus another way into history, what I call intersections --utterly at home with his thinking aloud, reportage, fast & free, as I cant or wont let myself completely be, devoted to British English's musicality, both street talk & literature, its textured ear, the more so as it collides with one's parallel love, the American colloquial, particularly the post-literary, the journalistic, the epistolary & journal-ism, --except that I conjure a 'literary' which swallows it all, spitting it out, compelled to truth, thus clarity however close to blurting's effluvium, adjacent to effulgence, humorous, true however knowingly comic, without spoiling or obscuring the candid, naked, generous moment!
B H of Vancouver, teenage veteran of touring with Yes, The Rolling Stones, Cheap Trick, Dr John etc, gets himself a gig back in '82 with the staging of the first Jack Kerouac Conference --could say, gets the gig for the rest of his life. Of course he's already a reader --Ken Kesey one of his stars, & Kerouac... Hilarious story of the frustrations of trying to find a copy of On The Road to inspire his girl-friend's sister, finally locating it at a store which has "this giant [Kerouac conference] poster on the wall and there in large print --"KEN KESEY" And in tiny print at the bottom--"partially funded by The Grateful Dead." !!! Right away I got on the phone before I got On The Road. The conference cost about $200 or something, which is like two million today, so I told them I was a show person and could help them stage it from a production standpoint, and the coordinator said, "Yeah, we could use you. Come on down."
Having hitchhiked from Canada to Boulder --and how familiar his description to anyone who's stuck out a thumb, hoping, praying, cursing --though he's the lucky one, scoring rides with like-minded drivers --he falls among friends, Kit & Arthur Knight for example, lends his ear to J C Holmes, Michael McClure, Herbert Huncke et al, clicks with one & all, and immediately starts scribbling in his own, let's say it, holy notebooks, which were lost or hidden or unattended for all the years until the day in 2013 when he sat down to write a resume of the conference, which grew like Topsy, listed in the book as Some of the ingredients in the kitchen, to wit, "Two different road notebooks from the trip; three hitchhiking logs; typed post-trip Log Notes; multiple cassette recordings made at the conference and on the road/; an inch-thick folder of papers from the conference including schedules and newspaper clippings and to-do lists; other Beat folders full of gems; my 1982 datebook; my Grateful Dead set lists and show notes; photo albums; Cliff Miller's photos and memories; letters and postcards home; letters to friends during and after it; recent conversations and emails with fellow attendees."
Literature, as I always say, voracious of appetite, its capacity determined by overview not insight, the absolute hold-all unlike its alienating attribute the literary which insists itself between subject & evocation or is of such an imposition that subject's mistaken, misperceived, which it never can be in genre writing --sports, crime, music --and no distinguishing here between succinct & rhapsodic since the particular may be caught in either.
Welcome to the Fan-ily! A comment from Neal & Carolyn's son John Cassady says it all : "For some reason, Brian ended up in the middle of our family, and we were never sure why, but maybe he reminded us of someone who was always part of it." And the fan from NYU & rock & roll promotion, who aggregates the intel, surrogate chronicler, quasi historian, --fan as devotee, implicitly democratic therefore as to how & where his interest falls, affectionate to main & bit players equally --undergrowth as fascinating & instructive as the grand stand, the nub of local history, indeed the invigorating factor of history per se, the proximity that makes it bearable, demystified because tangible, present.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
Irish Murphy's, Ballarat on the site of Camp Hotel, 38 Sturt Street, erected 1907, original 1861 on the site of the Little Engine Mine. Haha! Best Guinness on tap I've swallowed since ever! Trailed around the town for ye olde but although the streetscape promised plenty there was nuthin! No pubs at all, sir! Continued through the drizzle & wind in wrong-weather sandals, admiring the solid city architecture. Top of town spotted pub-like appearance across the road from the Cathedral but disappointingly it was an immense cafe, generic post-pub, bah! Almost gave up then & there, prepared to investigate the Cathedral but breakfast was long overdue (surprisingly no buffet car on the train). Asked Chimney & Friend at pavement table if there were any old style pubs or any pubs at all in Ballarat? And, joy of joys, they offered simple directions to Irish Murphy's at the bottom of Sturt Street, further down from where we'd already fruitlessly & soggily tramped.
Installed now beneath pressed ceiling, charmed by the woodwork & various signage, Test cricket on wall television, small stage in the corner by the street windows for the music Ms Chimney said she'd be attending "tonight", and judging by the traffic off street through the rooms seems we're only at the beginning of the infinite pub. Likewise, only the beginning of the infinite Guinness, the tallest, creamiest pint. Thus begins a round of salutes to the living & to the passed, recalled in absentia in the infinity of recollection, --recollection of infinite regard, so much so I repeat the thought came by years ago, at Wollongong university, guest of Ron Pretty & John Scott, in the course of writing, making a poem, --natural enough to our own though generally bizarre : is life lived, I thought, only in order to be remembered? The extraordinary length & breadth of it, Twentieth Century's literary practice of elongation, mind loosed to infinite expansion of what daily life loses as the assimilable thus forgettable minutes, days, --longeueres…
Sunday, June 28, 2015
6th April, '15
On the Downs, beyond Bowleaze, ascend first 'height', sit on bench (inscription : IN MEMORY OF BILL FROST WHO LOVED THE SEA). Man comes up from the beach/holiday-camp path. I comment that the path is further inland every year-- "maybe not every year but since I first came here" -- "yes" he says, "& that's what it'll keep doing, it's the way it was made!" -- Indeed --the geological truth spares vain handwringing -- first cause of erosion is God!
"MAN WHO LOVED THE SEA" --looking at it, --like me sat here? --sailing on it? --fishing? Everything connected with it --the sea, the sea --local to his boots or in retirement in Dorset, up onto the Downs, this place, for sweet reverie, all weathers, can suppose jumpers, coats, or like today kissed by sun, combed by breeze. "WHO LOVED THE SEA" --at the end what else to say? (Poet take note, all verbiage lost, poem like carved last words, resonant, constant.)
Other day as we approached The Old Rooms on the harbour, B. nudged me to look at a man hunched over a courtyard table --It's --Yes, Sir G! --no longer resplendently His Honour's familiar self --I mean, jacket & shirt to hang a crevat on, an aura around the courtly, portly, golightly authority, permanent lunch-time feature at the Dorset Brewers, oh the golden age one begins to reclaim with fat jar of the Reverend James this Easter Monday mid-afternoon when 'heatwave' came to town! No, he was sunken, another kind of erosion, with awful short-in-the-leg troos & white socks filling the gap, Falstaff's demise, o the pity of it.
Tall-masts glide through the Harbour --from my chair-less stand only have partial view of the Harbour, but evidently the Bridge is up, open, like eyes & mouths of Easter visitors, cameras primed for several-times daily Weymouth event...
THE PROPERTY REPORT
Easton Square, Portland. Walking around with B's prospect[u]s in mind and think this section of the island has a distinctive (that is non-suburban) feel & look... And a short bus-ride down the hill & you have the Cove & yours truly sitting at bench at wall overlooking Chesil in full earshot of that incredible advance & retreat of the sea, --thrust & crash, rush & smashing suck as the long wave breaks along the beach-mile of pebbles, --that phrase about shells singing the ocean pops into my head --echo deep-&-wide shattering boom as though, like the Southern Ocean at Port Campbell in South-west Victoria, undermining the cliff itself, --like ocean tunneling beneath the limestone --echo upon echo, echo within echo within echo--
Fishermen lying on the stones, rod & line upended, looking after the business I'm listening to--
Middle-distance, horizon half a thumb further, three black dots. Not flat-bottomed, chap corrected me another day, double-ended--
Complaining about the service he received, the Portland surfer says he was doin nuthin more than payin their wages, --I'm good for five pints but at three pounds eighty a pint you deserve better...
(Mate passing by asked by girlfriend of the posse if he's working? Who works more than 2 or 3 hours a day? he says, especially on a day like this...)
Ah --the Cove's Adnams goes down very smoothly --cool temp, refreshing, Old Thumper-ish, that is the darkest an ale will be before shape-changing into stout...
Oh my --on such a day --But is Portland all of that? --on its day closest thing between Lands End & Dover to St Ives magic --but starved of sun perhaps its society's brought down to grey stone, grey outlook, grey bottom-line? Add winter, bleak house minus shelf of anything resembling O'Brien sisters' Belleek booty (but they were the beauties sir, even if I say so myself, oh doze photies from their ancestral journey way way back in me funny famleys' album, treasured yet in both hemispheres)...
'On its day' is docile, fait accompli --Thing is, to make of it what you will --thus vision --your creation, the inner compulsion...
[April 15, 2015]
In the quintessential English churchyard at St Nicholas's, Abbotsbury, with St Catherine's Chapel on the Mount in direct view's first quadrant from where I'm sitting, relaxing on solid bench. An afternoon with the Lord, tasting country village Anglicanism again, and the Summer's day that Spring's extraordinarily produced --bumble & honey bees around shrubs & flowers, and the shiveringly sweet scents of Easter Lillies in large vase in the porch, filling nostril. What to say? North-country tourists : "What a beautiful little village" "Doing a nice sketch are you?" "No!"
(April 15/17, 2015)
Off to meet David Miller for 2pm at The Bull in Bridport. Excitement of reconnecting after decades and only because the more recent Australian ex-pat Laurie Duggan let me know of D M's imminent move to Dorset. Given continuing self-doubt regarding my own patrimony, I set out as The Chronicler or, short of that exalted role, The Journalist (that is, regional roundsman aka rat-bag & rouse-about). (Looking out of the X53's top deck across at The Fleet on Chesil Beach as we pass Australia Road! Mightnt that say it all?)
Winding road to Portesham & Abbotsbury is one of Dorset's joys. (Victoria Inn's free house, a minor spell.) Even the coast-side field of rape-seed flashes as the light pierces the fine mist. Have to be a curmudgeon not to smile in return. How decline that bright yellow summoning? (Possum House? Come on!) Since 1987, Portesham, St Catherine's Mount, Abbotsbury village --can now say mine (like the gout claims an unfortunate's big toe, like the sea-mist drifting over claims the ridge before the descent to Swyre)? Mine, oh mine...
The Three Horseshoes, Burton Bradstock, --blackthorn snowing in littlest breeze, brother Bernard's proud reckoning of the village in his inventory, his own really-me awakened every time the X53 barrels through the narrow road, bargaining with the twist & turn like deeply felt memory.
Ahead of the meeting, mist & rain heavy about the bus, fog beyond the steamed-up windows.
[April 24th' 15]
[previously published as "Notes" on Facebook]
Crossing from the Northcote Shopping Plaza to the older market section revamped by the Aldi store, I don't immediately recognise the tall man in shades as Andrew Sant but it's him alright, obviously so when he removes the sunglasses. What are you doing here? he says --it's Thursday : shouldn't you be sitting in a cafe near here writing? I'm going there now, I say, --done my shopping… Just doing mine, he says… Ive been in England for a month, I say… I'm going later, he says --how was it? I'm pulling a face, composing a proper reply… You didn't want to come back! he says --adds : I know how you feel, haven't got it as bad as you but I know exactly… I begin explaining & describing : Got further into the West Country I'm forever dreaming… discovered more people & places & art & beer… you know! He smiles & nods, shakes my hand again, --got to go, he says… One day when we're both in England, he says… Yes! that'll be great!
On the spur of which I speed through the run-down arcade, blocking nostrils to the combined fug of Vietnamese nail repair salon and Greek fast food, onto High Street , cross on the lights & whaddayaknow see Pi O at the tram stop, saluting me I think, so I respond, "hello again" forming on my lips but perhaps it was someone else entirely he'd acknowledged, -- he's turned to the kerb as I pass full-tilt for the Delphi… Two whom I could imagine bumping into are Lloyd & Trimble, locals after all, around & about my own cafe & the Northcote Social Club & the old Town Hall et al --the Village in other words --the Greek village --but oh no, suddenly overcome by the image of the Widow's beating & stoning in Zorba the Greek --Irene Papas --what horror! --and then killed! --first time the other night seeing it again for many years --superstitious, bloody-minded, pre-modern, peasants-- islanders, just like Anne Axenskold was saying, treating me to afternoon tea, the day before I left Weymouth for Australia couple of weeks ago, talking about Portlanders in same tone of voice as we've reconnoitered Thomas Hardy's & JC Powys's weird & wondrous characters, --that other tribe across the Causeway, mysterious & hostile not the half of it…
[7-May, 2015/ 27-28 June, 15 tweeked]
YEATS ALL THE WAY
Damen O'Brien (to whom congratulations for taking out the WB Yeats Poetry Prize, announced yesterday at Village Roadshow Theaterette/ SLV) asked fellow contributors to the YEATS DAY '15, if anyone has heard the Waterboys' album of Yeats settings and what did they think of it (and of contemporary musicians' versions in general)? And Ronan McDonald, who organises a Bloomsday in Sydney I believe, whose morning paper, 'Common Things that crave : animal cries in Yeats's Poetry', I'd missed, piped up that he'd heard the album and in a word it was magnificent (whether or not with Bono's imprimatur), part of a long tradition of such collaboration… And I thought to myself this banter would be perfect for a note I could write about our long Irish weekend (Yeats x 2 and Joyce (Bloomsday) on Tuesday) --the bridge between Declan Foley's Yeats 150 seminar on Saturday and Yeats' second coming this afternoon & evening at the Evelyn in Brunswick street… Having managed to get away from Collected Works Bookshop around 1-30, made it to the State Library in time to greet Declan, Caz Masel, Bob Di Napoli and grab a pew in the auditorium for the afternoon session, my own head still reverberating from the conversation with Carrie Tiffany & Lloyd Jones at the Shop about aspects of my recent English trip, the contradictions between South & West England and Melbourne Oz assuaged only by an investment in a parallel life, that ever deeper or entangled concordance of trajectories, the writing out of which might make boon out of bane… (--almost Yeatsean that, even if I say so myself! --catch a falling gyre & etc!) Apparently I'd just missed Chris Wallace-Crabbe, but did see Earl Livings at the stage, & heard him introduce the Yeats Poetry Prize judge & winners… Pleased to hear Damen O'Brien & Alana Kelsall read their poems, and Carolyn Masel deliver the extensive judges' report on behalf of herself & Penny Buckley. Frank McGuire, MP, made the presentation, eloquently describing the Parliament of Victoria's embrace of Joyce last year & Yeats this, advancing poetry at the expense of the conventional paddywhackery so to speak! The afternoon's piece de resistance was the presentation of Yeats' s noh play, The Dreaming of the Bones, directed by Jessica Bellamy & performed by Tony Yap & Brendan O'Connor as a largely silent dance work. I cant say anything about the discussion, The place of the Arts and Humanities in the 21st century, because I had to be elsewhere… So it is, ditto, in two or three hours time I'll be out of here too! At the Evelyn for Michael Plater's Before the World Was Made : A Musical Tribute to W.B.Yeats...
[June 14, '15, at 1-36pm]
Saturday, June 6, 2015
[16-20, January, '15]
Last Friday night at Kerford Road Pier (how long refurbished?) admired first large swell of the season --the facts probably contradict me but 'season' is the present's accumulation of summer sights & sensations comprising anybody's personal calendar --the first swell, of course tidal but suggests the oceanic, that potentially unbounded heave… Fishermen camped there, solo, pairs, families, like they're parts of the pier or shadows of parts, leaning over the railing, winding up long throw of line, or wandering a few steps to the left then back, in a little circle, leaving the rods to their own devices, bait in buckets, hands in pockets, some Greek, some Vietnamese, some Lebanese, one old Australian family, catching supper, grown old in their routine, three generations, old ways the best but approving of the new planks replacing the worst of the pier, that is I am, remembering it was broken, possibly bound for dismantling…
Mid-afternoon the next day at Elwood there's a surf, line upon line of frothing & crashing white water presaged in last night's churning dark green. On the Sunday I'm the only one in the sea --larger swell but warmer than before. Impossible not to go in. It's in my blood now, in my head. Two beached jellyfish hardly portend harm. But there are rocks now, uncovered or shoved there by the violent water. The force of the waves prevents swimming, but crouching then standing up as the large waves hit, or falling down before them, or floating in the furrows interspersing successive onslaught is exhilarating. A quiet bay-beach's version of staring down the sea…
[21-25, January, '15]
It was never a 'milk pond' was it? --notwithstanding the Queen of Sheba in an encyclopaedia at nine or ten, or Krishna bathing in the pool with the Gopis, story discovered during Indian reread in the '80s, voyage through seas of etymology en route intimations of the larger meaning. Yet the water's flat-white of cloud & lambent light rehabilitates misnomer invested in the remembered lines of dairy cows moving indomitably across farm yard, leaving behind the inviting, therefore warm, surface of shit & piss & mud & milk. And before it's lost or I squeamishly censor, include in this sensation of gentle ooze or curdle, imagery of the lactations & ministrations of the multitude of breast-feeding mothers one's naturally known as oldest son to young mum, or lover & chum of the women of my own generations… '50s Nursing Home --floral, sunlit, balmy --or parental bedroom's built-up pillows, starched sheets, redecorated by dad for the event… For sure, another temperament in the New Age & Feminist '70s, but same mother & child contiguity of major & minor face, throat, arms, breast, mouth-- and amidst the sometime struggle, remember long moments of their imperturbability, as the sea is, which is what this is all about, forever & ever-ness…
But mill-pond it is, in particular Elwood's on the 20th January, a ten out of ten --warm water, sweetly welling waves, regatta flotilla out to sea whose racing dinghies equip first glance's dhows from out of Egyptian infancy, divine shape I constantly reproduced back home in first English school '52, '53, --Australian high summer's cliche sumptuously achieved. Another day I rate it the impossible Eleven because the sunbathing crowd's suddenly here as well. Beach comes into its own. Pods of swimmers but mostly well-oiled, sitting or lying on the sand, with or without umbrellas, young families, children & teens, young male & female singles, tats (sleeves, calligraphies, figures) abundant as the traditionally, now Brazilianly, bare.
But the suburb's elders, especially the matted & thatched, the double & treble tyred, where are they? Probably back in St Kilda, blackening all day, up against walls or rocks, pier rampart, dug-in --dug into Odessa's lingering dream, the older scales of St Kilda's dream, Post-War, pre-development, the old St Kilda which is my own St Kilda even from the '60s, enough of all-that's-left to attach historically --amalgamation of histories intersecting one's own to which one adds the emigrant's. Native's the one whose particulars are inherently the time & place, sung as sprung, conversely subject of emigrant's eternal wondering…
[early a.m., 7th February, '15]
Yesterday's long dash (yes, that's a contradiction but good intentions (leaving Shop at 5 for immediate train from City to the 'Garth, then change into trunks & up the road with Loretta for the 6-15 or so 246 to Elwood, but crikey! gone 7 by the time we crossed the main road & onto the beach
Long time between dips (o summer where art thou? (("Hey-la-day-la my summer's back" (a kind of Death in Venice white light of sand & smooth sea suspension, whole beach of all-day-&-night bathers ahead of us
And into the water (colder than the air temp suggested or account of L. & cousin's morning stroll there anticipated (and everything's returned, everything the ten day hiatus rescinded (other world, summer world, water world
Can't help thinking every time I'm sitting at the kiosque (this time beneath umbrella (cuppa & etc, notebook, luxuriating in the balmy air (how Dad would have relished this and did in fact when he sat back after exertion of swimming & beach games (ah, Isle of Wight memories, Whitecliff Bay etc (suddenly & poignantly in sync with the world
Young proprietor (shorter hair than last year, black crew-cut rising out of sheer scalp style (serves beverages (Ah, I say, the real English Breakfast Tea, and he says And the real French doughnut made by a real Frenchman, no kidding (ring doughnut, sugared (hugely satisfied with his lot Dad would breathe in & out audibly, comment This is the life
And it is (transformative (weight of working day lifted, dissolved (I'm still finding the words for the equation recalled from Spengler of forest & cathedral, a little piece I'm scribbling about train-carriage view of the country from Bendigo to the City but harnessed to description of the great Sacred Heart church, the art within it, the art of itself, stone & wood (in my battered green-covered notebook
Morning to afternoon the weather turns around. Nothing else for it to do or for its word to exist, otherwise non-differentiation's literatureless world. Try saying that with the sun in your eyes or a gobfull of wave. Said by whom, to whom? Rummage old shelves for the answer. Brighton Rock for sandy, salty, mouldering hotel airs; Malcolm Lowry for solitary, strung-out soliloquy. Racier, Wide Sargasso Sea? Rowdier, La Bateau Ivre?
I take the chance, depart autumnal, overcast; arrive summer once more. Most people seem to have been discouraged. Not for the first time I'm by myself in the sea, which is tantamount to owning it. Disowning it is the fully dressed man face down in the sand five metres from similarly hung woman whose afternoon began & ended when her Weekend Magazine threatened to fly away in the breeze.
I glance at them from the good sea. The size & force of the waves increases. I'm unconcerned. Footing's secure, drowning's someone else's fear : aged three, clinging to mother's neck, screaming blue murder.
[12th February, '15]
One-fifteen I'm the only swimmer but five minutes more and there's another, in his own space to the left of me. Entered the sea Point Ormond side of the kiosque & delightedly found it rock free. This day the water is clear again & the extreme saltiness gone. Whitecapped waves enlarge through the afternoon. It's become a day for sailboarders. How would youngest brother Robin have coped with Australia (imagine him twenty years ago in wet suit on Weymouth Bay, ahead of England's fashion have to say)? An afternoon but never a life. Go for the afternoon & stay for life? Life as though an afternoon? Does or doesn't bear thinking about? Old guys' contemplations --old emigres --old old --osteo-, arthurio-, rheumatico-, heaven help us! But sea & salt & sun surely soaking one with the necessaries. Ah, Lorenzo, escaping English constraint, embracing Idea entwined with whichever of the Elements inspired it…
Walking back from the Beach down Byrne Avenue to the bus-stop in Elwood's bright little bustle, the skipper of old terrace house, sitting on sun-caught pavement wall, legs extended across the tarmac like a shadow, greets us Good evening, adds Sorry for my smoke! But we love it, I say --which I wouldn't offer any regular chimney. Perverse if you like but daily defining individuality, autonomy… It wasn't a Sobrani (Black Russian) or Gauloise or even Camel, perhaps an aromatic roll-your-own, but rare enough this H&S era to momentarily restore an ancien regime of the senses' maximum value --smelling, seeing, tasting, --apertures of life's far-outest education… Joined the old guy's laughter as though schoolboy found-out revolved through wheel of bravado --but quite properly his right, our right --that crucial bug in our humanity increasingly stomped on by the H&S. They want H&S clones, automatons, --docility reformulated as the social norm, sterility as health --all that & more. Excuse my smoke? Excuse us for living!
[February 19th, '15]
Alternatively driftwood, sea-snake, dog, but suddenly identify the shape as large ocean gull beside me, bottom up, fishing. Two flew over the waves the length of the beach last time I was here --index of nothing of Nature, only would-be beach bum's peregrinations. (Peregrine? Nah, language isn't that helpful! --more helpless in language than the sea, tossed or becalmed, at elements' mercy.) Long skein of seaweed looks like a strayed squid. Severally folded width of white cloth-like jelly-fish. My own left-hand unintentionally brushing hip jumping me out of my skin.
At the bus-stop made to pay for Famous Five unheroics when bird on wing shits on me, wishfully misapprehended at first as leaking air-con from adjacent cafe or even broken pipe from same building's bathroom above the pavement. Bird's shit wakes me up to real world. Evidence of what food that grey brown muck smear on my house-brick coloured cotton shirt? Thank God no flying quadrupeds!
[28th February/1st March,
Summer into Autumn, 2015]
Sea's stillness last calendar day of Summer instills the timelessness often adduced. 'Time out of time' I say, as though the Beach is a self-contained cylinder, propelled from suburb to sea & back again, or even a tunnel --Wellesian, Vernean? (--image born of industrial age's sky's-the-limit inventiveness, centre of the earth & outer-space alternate playgrounds of scientific dreams --& any such dreamer an engineer on frontier of mind & matter, pith helmet optional, blessed by commerce & empire--
remember saying to my brother & father "Everything conceived eventually materialises", watching telly, 1970 or so, visiting home in what had been the village of young family's growing up, --in bed-sit now, in the Docks district across town, --prodigal's return from Oz. As a kid would have it, our eternal & infinite address : "Mon Reve", Shelley Road, Thornhill, Southampton, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Europe, The World, The Earth, The Milky Way, The Solar System, The Universe. No where else it could be! Thought but not spoken before : "anything imagined will come about!" Really? Actually? brother exclaims with troubled look. Yes, the mind's like a computer; we put in the questions & out come the answers : whatever can be imagined will eventuate… Dad straightens tighter to himself, maximising attention to the story on TV, leaves speculation to his sons. What was that film? From an elapse of 45 years, brother suggests Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner… I'm thinking of a sci-fi thriller --maybe a better episode of Dr Who, in which a diabolical telepathic & shape-changing battle or duel with cosmic consequences ensues in rural southern England where sharp moustached army officer with detachment of men run around like headless chooks, plainly out of their depth & probably in the wrong film let alone dimension? Or could it have been Doomwatch, or even UFO?)
Such stillness, transfixion, I saw in Seurat's painting, Bathers at Asnieres, hanging at the National Gallery in London. In the piece I wrote in 1975 for my ABC BOOK, jumped from French riverscape to Melbourne's seaside, explicating the figures' "pink rotundity" & "torpor : "Even on a bay beach, where only a minor bend of the imagination recalls the Ocean & states of being not contained within a pretty border, the men & women occupy the sands & changing currents as solidly as they did the green bank. It is most of all a domestic scene, the installation of soft cubes. The seven-eighths naked men & women blob the sand. The gulls blob the first height of air. It is on the cards the tableau melts at nightfall. Each succeeding day has the sand a trifle whiter, requires a fuller foot to tread it, a wider posterior to settle upon it. Summer's seven years pass slowly."
Different friends ask if I'd ever consider moving to Elwood, but perhaps as L says our cottage at the other end of the bus line already is that house by the sea. But, seed sown, where in Elwood would it be? Byrne Avenue, old & new dwellings, renovated homes & apartments, old fences, new walls, old & young happy families, hippies, professionals, laid-back first timers, old timers, dogs, cats… Normandy Street, larger detached houses, mansions, grand in the white-glossed way, nobody & nothing along the street except luxury cars…
Big seas, surf, winds, inaugurate first day of Autumn. Couldn't be larger contrast with yesterday. The contradiction includes another : grey brown green water beneath black hills of cloud on the Point Ormond / Port Melbourne side, and clear blue sky scudded with cirrus on the Elwood Lifesaving Club side. Remarkably warm water following previous night's wind & thunderstorm, though dirty with storm detritus. As life is…
[28th February/1st March, 2015]