Thursday, October 13, 2016

THIS WRITING LIFE : James Liddy & et cetera

From Journal,
[Saturday, 8 Oct. ‘16]

Ive been reading James Liddy’s It Swings from Side to Side (Arlen House, 2011), poems written in 2008 during his illness, a knowingly posthumous collection? Again I’m struck by the exultant writing which is the timbre of thinking aloud/talking/singing in the moment, receptive, responsible indeed, to the frame, the field delineated by the moment. Nothing to do with style, everything to do with being present. Paradoxically such a writer is historically fluent, for the history that flows in the poetry is ultimately opportunity for his own song, that is his own compounded phrasing, intent for his own sound, intensely himself.

[Tuesday, 11 Oct. ‘16]

This kind of historical man --history not incorporated as Whitman, Pound, but constituent of the flow, perhaps even constituting it --for which “song of myself” the intensity of presence is what one reads & hears.

P.S. (2)
[from Facebook post, 13 Oct. 16]

Suddenly realized that the author of the article "A note on the legacy of Patrick Kavanagh" in the splendid Honeysuckle, Honeyjuice : A Tribute to James Liddy (ed Michael Begnal, Arlen House, Galway, 2006), is the same Emily Cullen met here in Melbourne couple of years or so ago! Dropped her a line, described current reading around George Stanley, James Liddy & other Irish & American poets. She confirmed, mentioned the introduction to Libby Hart, a continuing connection she says. Likes my description of Liddy's poetry as 'powerful & poignant'...

Meanwhile Ive read Brendan Kennelly's essay on Patrick Kavanagh (in Journey into Joy, Bloodaxe, '94), excellent in itself, in which Liddy is described as a 'loner'. Kennelly, "I'm thinking of poets who, instead of becoming embroiled in Ireland's local squabbles, write and work in different parts of the world. Bernard O'Donoghue, Eamon Grennan, Peter McDonald, Greg Delanty, James Liddy, Matthew Sweeney are, literally, outsiders whose work reflects that fact. Ireland is an island washed, in the eyes of many exiles, by nostalgic seas. None of the poets I've mentioned has been a victim of this nostalgia." Whilst holding up as & within an Irish literary-political perspective, Liddy's hardly a loner in the psychological sense, and in America was a San Franciscan at an important time for the New Poetry, and later in Wisconsin, pivotal to Irish & American cross-currents.

Regarding the Kavanagh/Liddy correlation Emily writes, "In the same way that James Liddy is uniquely James Liddy, Patrick Kavanagh was Patrick Kavanagh alone --his own man, true to himself --ultimately inscrutable, but wonderfully original in every way. It is one of the tragedies of Irish literature that the gift of Patrick Kavanagh was not more widely appreciated during his lifetime. Without the recognition Kavanagh received from a core group of the upcoming generation of poets, including Liddy, Eavan Boland, Brendan Kennelly, Leland Bardwell, Paul Durcan, etc., there would be a palpable gap in the acknowledgement and passing on of the poet's work..."

Sunday, September 4, 2016


May 8th

Friday the 29th April '16 was the last possible day to receive mail in Weymouth, eve of the early drive up to Heathrow, with Robin H, and the long flight back to Melbourne. Great pleasure & surprise, then, when package from Kelvin Bowers & Dooze Storey in St Ives was delivered : their gift of David Whittaker's book, Give Me Your Painting Hand : W.S. Graham & Cornwall, published by his own Wavestone Press []. Everywhere I went this English Journey '16, conversation ensued in which Sydney Graham's name came up. Kel, Dooze & I talked about him when we looked at the Tate's St Ives book of 1985, in which Graham's poems for painter friends appear within the illustrated text about that golden period of Cornish abstraction (Graham's more or less the poet of that practice I'd like to say). And again, just around the corner from Kel's place, with poet John Phillips, which I worked into my (compulsory) Lighthouse poem soon after. And continued in Weymouth with Lucas Weschke, and then in the New Forest with Tony & Sonia Green (whose new book on Sven Berlin is also recently published), and in Blandford Forum with David Caddy. W.S.Graham was the common un-common element in all my meetings!

Curious to read the headline in the Cornish Review, "neglected giant of Cornish literature"... In our neck of the woods, Sidney Graham is celebrated not neglected. I guess that's the disparity between mainstream & whatever our community of reading & writing is called! Certainly since Faber's whopper of a collected, Graham's been front & centre... And didnt I meself attempt a critique of WSG at the Melbourne Poets Union event at the VWC when it was next door to ‪Collected Works Bookshop‬ in the Nicholas Building ten or so years ago? Rhetorical question! I did! With a little bottle of whiskey beside me --I was sitting on panel with Jordie Albiston & ‪Susan Kruss‬-- the whiskey was the ghost of St Ives you could say, and I was talking about Sven Berlin and other friends of our poet, imbibing as I delivered. It's on film, incidentally, but i think I'm too embarrassed to view it again! 'My Life in Theatre' indeed!


I should have shared David Caddy's review in the TEARS IN THE FENCE blog a month ago of Sonia Green's biography of Sven Berlin, but my trip to England & not always having access to a  computer got in the way... Better late than never... I've mentioned Sonia Green [Aarons] below in the note on David Whittaker's book on Sydney Graham... suffice to say I met her in 2015 through my woodworker youngest brother Robin, whose art-work relocation had led him to the Greens & their incredible archive of Sven's work... When he was introduced to the Greens he suddenly remembered my own story of meeting Sven in 1963 at Home Farm, Emery Down, in the New Forest, via college friend Billy (Will) Fisher. Robin told the Greens about the elder brother & arranged a meeting. A year on I've met them again, this time via my sister Monique who, remarkably, was able to tell Sonia her memory of Billy at our home in Thornhill, Southampton, on one or two occasions, recalling his vivid blue eyes, his beard, and long locks! Bethatasitmay, in the meantime Robin & his crew moved Sven's major sculpture, The Stag of the Forest, from the Fawley industrial complex (where our father worked for decades, at the Esso oil refinery) to the Greens' garden; and Robin built the protective shelter which has survived the long English winter Tony told & showed me. There's a photo of Robin & crew beside the shelter at the end of Sonia's book, Timeless Man (Millersford Press) and very proud of him we are too! Ah, such legacy mounted on serendipity : the figure Sven became for me, and Billy (Will) too; my life as a poet especially amidst painting & painters; the importance to me of the St Ives scene... such circles, spirals, of significance...I almost swoon!


May 11th

Re Sharon Thesen F/b post about the Hammer Museum's Black Mountain exhibit at UCLA….
To a certain inner circle of that Melbourne incarnation, 1967-70, namely the La Mama cafe-theatre, established by the late Betty Burstall, with poetry centre stage (--"Tuesday Nights Forever!" : recall when I returned from England, late '72, young poet Pi O visited me in Kerr Street, Fitzroy, quizzed me about that claim... "So what happened?" he demanded! That's history though isnt it! --what happened...? --well, I said, I went back to England for 3 years!), --myself coordinating from start of the year, '68, after Betty's & Glen Thomasetti's Sunday salons from Winter to Summer, '67 --and this Melbourne new poetry platform arguably an outpost of the Black Mountain College we conjured from various sources... The "we" was mainly Bill Beard, Ian Robertson, Paul Adler, Geoff Eggleston, Garrie Hutchinson, Charles Buckmaster, Allison Hill, John Jenkins, Mike Dugan, Mal Morgan, ambivalently Ken Taylor, detachedly Sid Clayton, James Crouch ... I was saying to Aidan Coleman just the other day, --interviewed for his Oz Po research, especially on John Forbes --that Melbourne was Black Mountain (include a couple of Sydney poets in that, Nigel Roberts, Terry Gillmore, the poets around Free Poetry magazine, Johnny Goodall another) whilst Sydney was New York (I'm thinking of John Tranter especially) --I characterised it at the time as Melbourne/Black Mountain 'Honest Joe' vs Sydney/New York 'City Slicker'... In '73 I met Robert Kenny & Walter Billeter and that Black Mountain discussion was on again! Colin & Frances Symes came out from England (Colin's Poetree wall map, an insert in Earth Ship #1 in Southampton, 1970, already a cult reference for our group regarding the Anglo-American, especially Pound/Olson, legacy). Clive Faust returned to Melbourne from Japan & met us via the Cid Corman connection. Bernie O'Regan & Judy Telford came to Melbourne from London and were part of the enthusiasm. Met Finola Moorhead at Adelaide Festival '74 and she joined the parlez (included in the Rushall Crescent Avant Garde meetings). We met the Cantrills who touched similar base via experimental filmmaking (Stan Brakhage to Charles Olson e.g.). Same early '70s add Laurie Duggan, John Anderson, Alexandra Seddon, Ian Reid (with his Levertov, Duncan, Blaser connections)... yes, quite a crew, and my mag of that time, The Ear in a Wheatfield, our international transport... There were of course Black Mountain enthusiasts in Sydney, for example Carl Harrison-Ford, & Bob Adamson, either holus-bolus or for particular poets, Robert Duncan for example... In the early '80s add Pete Spence, Des Cowley, Jurate Sasnaitis...This aint nothing more than thinking aloud folks! Not a thesis so plenty of holes I'm sure! Also to say from the late 60s I'd been aware of New Zealand/Black Mountain connections (Freed magazine), and was in touch with Alan Loney mid-70s... Yep, it's a LARGE subject!


May 13th

Regarding Hugh Tolhurst's memo about the POW! issue of Meanjin Quarterly... and cryptic comment, "happens to all no (A.D.) Hopers, eh Kris Hemensley"...
Not sure if we're on same page here, Hugh... Glancing at the Meanjin Quarterly preview/editorial it looked a bit 'same old' as they say, that is same-old newbies, new-old same-old & the other 57 varieties... I was there once myself, and folks like Ken Bolton quite rightly wondered how it had happened : editor of The Ear in a Wheatfield also poetry editor at Meanjin? People on t'other side asked same question, Dracula at the blood-bank... Hmmm... At that time, 1975, Jim Davidson wanted to make his own mark & to align with 'the new', so his opening salvo including me as poetry ed, Terry Smith sniffin out the art, who else? Finola Moorhead who'd been reading fiction with A A Phillips, and had pushed for me to come on board, was charged with wimmins business...
A D Hope, yes... I once declined a poem or two from him... a discussion around that could have been interesting re- old & new, laying out attitudes... it actually wasnt the poem per se but that it appeared to me to be his patter, --as I said, poetry couldnt be reproduction of one's patter... it had to be addressing the poem's possibility always anew... Ah well... a long way from POW!!!!


May 28th

Susan Fealy commented on Iggy McGovern, "He held the room with his poetry and his storytelling. A really lovely evening that opened up into great chats about poetry. Thanks Kris and Retta for such a warm, relaxed and stimulating evening. So good to be at a Collected Works event again." 'Great chats' indeed, Susan... George Genovese enquired as to the choice of sonnet for Iggy's William Hamilton book. Iggy discussed Petrarchan & Shakespearian --"And plenty more beside" he said, which gave me an opportunity to describe the 'mirror sonnet' I've been writing for 20/25 years! After the free verse adventure the 'return of/to form(s)' is similarly experimental, I said. And then Patricia Sykes opened up deliciously, instructively, on EE Cummings' sonnets.... Now that was but one portion of the session!

[Patricia Sykes‬ : I second that about the "lovely evening"; such a pleasure to have time to chat at some length about and with a visiting poet in such a welcoming and convivial setting: thanks indeed Kris and Retta. Keen to read one of your latest "mirror" sonnets Kris. Must correct one comment though: It wasn't sonnets I was discussing in relation to eec but the spin-off about form and song the sonnet discussion generated. Lovely way to spend a couple of hours on a damp and cold Melbourne night.]

As ‪Susan Fealy‬ says above, Iggy held the room or at least our circle in the middle, and his storytelling (explications of the poems & their form) took us right into mathematics, poetics, history... By the way, the book is A MYSTIC DREAM OF 4 : A sonnet sequence based on the life of William Rowan Hamilton (Quaternia Press, '14). The book's 64 sonnets are arranged in 4 parts entitled 1805-1820, Geometry; 1820-1835, Algebra; 1835-1850, Metaphysics; 1850-1865, Poetry... What with Jessica Wilkinson's non-fiction (& specifically biography) poetry project via her Rabbit magazine, Iggy's presentation was timely!


June 5th

Two wonderful meetings last summer in & around Melbourne, the first with Sharon Thesen, the second with Stephen Ellis; two North American poets & scholars, serendipitously in Oz, with Olson & co at centre of their conversation... A propos her article in Dispatches ["Charles, Frances, Ralph, and me"], our summertime tete a tete meant that I was already across the issues; laudable that Sharon's described here candidly, & so generously, what went down in making the important volumes of the Olson/Boldereff correspondence. She is beautifully found in this comment from the article : "[Which is why] we need artists, poets, and visionaries; philosophers, mystics, and geniuses; autodidacts, elders, and scholars: for the sake of joy. For the sake of the everything that is the world and the everything that is poetry.. "


June 12th

Have begun visiting artists who exhibited in the recent Dorset Art Weeks exhibition, that is via the fabulous catalogue!
As you know, Dorset is where I've been visiting family ever since life-changing 1987 trip. Weymouth in Dorset's become my English HQ & prism. Happy to be a poet amidst painting & painters, especially the West Country section.
 I'll not launch into vast essay here, about home making & self defining, --suffice to say this late March + April 2016 visit, which included St Ives for first time in years, fell just short of the annual Arts Weeks, but had I been there I would have tried to get around the galleries & studios. 
So far Ive loved the web sites &/or Facebook pages of Peter Ursem [], Colin Moore (& the Chaldon Studios)[], Caz Scott [] & Carolyn Lyness [].
Charmed, to say the least, by the stylization of their landscapes (oh yes, I should say that representing landscape, abstracting landscape, is my continuing & sustaining concern). 
Needless to say, this will become a larger reconnoitre and find it's way to ye olde blog. In the meantime, Good Morning Dorset from your Melbourne friend!


From the Journal,
DREAM, 13-07-16

Discussing Brexit with Cathy O'Brien & other friends in the conference room I recognize from other dreams, --sunlight through large glass windows, different shades of brown-stained wooden furniture, walls, floor. [Possibly regurgitation of  conversation about Brexit with Rob Kenny, his colleague Carol, Loretta, Richard Mudford, previous Sunday afternoon at the Kelvin Bar in Westgarth...] So what about Quebec? I say, and also enter Macdiarmid's defence ("you gotta have some nationalism to be 'inter' with")? Rising from low table I cross the room to where Sharon Thesen in rolled-up shirt-sleeves stands smiling, the sunlight catching her arms. I'm wondering how Durham got on in the Referendum. Basil Bunting's great isnt he? she says. Oh yes, I agree --how I wish I could have visited him in Durham… But you can now, she laughs, now you're free… But I'm 75, I say, how can I at 75? How old would you like to be? she jokes. Well, forty, forty-five… She brushes then holds my arm --let's ask this man, she says… Michael Farrell's been standing near us, listening in… I introduce them --Sharon Thesen, Michael Farrell… He's smiling. Dont ask him, I say, he's only 10!
I wake from warm, affectionate dream, telling myself to write to George Stanley to thank him for copy of his book, North of California St., received a couple of weeks ago --initially believing Sharon sent it but George's name is on sender (New Star Books, Vancouver)'s label. Also write to Sharon, so bonny in the dream.
Time flies. Eeek! Write tonight.

P.S. [7th August,'16]
Eeek indeed! Almost a month passed. Distractions, diversions. George Stanley's book is a selected poems, 1975-99, published by New Star in 2014. I think Sharon told me last Summer here that he has another in the making. Or maybe this is that volume. I've read Sharon's introduction a couple of times. So nice to know & here to say, we're on the same page. She refers to his "aboutism" wch has theoretical/political implication but also the straightforward concerns with "ideas, thoughts, locales, occasions, persons, and words…" She says that "aboutism and transportation are natural companions"; hear hear I say often enough myself in train-carriage or tram with notebook!
"Stanley's airplane poems are almost always about mortality and fatality. Flight is a subject that creates opportunities for fear of the loss of "plain reality", of losing touch with the earth, which Stanley likens to 'the truth'". Sharon Thesen continues, "The sense of loss, inspired by flight, of the world, the person, the real, and the familiar, is not a backward-glancing nostalgia for a 'golden' past, which we know, or are told we know, is a fiction; but rather derives from a sensed absence or emptiness in the present…"
Having just handed over my own mss to Kent MacCarter which means having been deeply immersed in it, in its 'vision & process' modus operandi as it may well be, I'm more than a little sensitive to the adjacency I pick up from my Vancouver correspondence…
Now it's 5-02pm!
Time still flying!
A wine date in the offing!


August 6th

Regarding the  event on the 21st July arranged by Lisa Gorton... good readings by Lisa (--quite a contrast to the park/topographical poems she read at the Devin Johnston event) & Chris Wallace-Crabbe ("the Puckish chap beside me" she introduced --and his John Keats meets Robert Burns poem, published in the latest ABR, lived up to that) in support of Paul Kane's Welcome Light poems... Ive been thinking about American & British English since the night, including Australian English's situation... Broad-brush as annunciated here of course, but... And though I offered Paul probability of such concern being passe from his point of view he felt it wasnt, still an interesting thought he said... I wondered if inflection within the plain speaking American line (the conversational syntax) might dummy for my sense of British 'music'? And et cetera...


Friday, May 6, 2016


[27-3-16](At Weymouth Library, 29th March, transcribing from flight notebook)

In which Billy Boo attempts to read the map as described in ornate Thai characters, ditto the travel times & distances, in the second or two before the screen switches to English. "Local Time at Melbourne 3-27 -- Local Time at Bangkok 11-27". Fair enough. He's already in credit : invited to move out of tight fit threesome to the aisle of a comfortable two. Boo thinks it's because he returned clasped hands greeting with hostesses on the ramp and they misheard his Lao 'sabaidee' for Thai 'sawasdee'. He's belted in, tentatively stretches leg beneath forward seat, glances through the porthole at the cloud plain topped by blue, --imagines lick of first G&T assuredly on its way! As the share passenger's snoring establishes its rhythm, Billy remembers his friends, living & dead, either way not here. The cloud clears, beautiful tracts of land thousands of feet below where Christy is, actually happy down there, stone cottage like Ulli & Celia's place in North Wales, '72, similar embellishments, the attic skylight for example, --Nick Johnson's place in Wiltshire, 90s pied a terre, --& the Abbot in attic heaven, nearer to yoga god than any other, no face, no name, though so many statues in his hermitage one suspects he's not yet run through the argument about idolatry! One of the old crew not yet invoked is Ed. Happens each time Billy flies. Ghost is same kind of disembodiment as flying. Forget about angels, Ed wasnt one. I'll give them turbulence, he swears behind conspiratorial hand as though the weather wore jackboots.....


Ed has the flight crew from captain to waiters in mind, not really the elements. All the way to deity via earlier English & later Russian divines, manifestations of magnitude. Ed spittin about pretenders, pretence of authority, supercilious from tie to socks, --purple uniform ultimate slight. Ah, Ed! Ed, mate! how goes it in ghost's Yorkshire heaven? Not there yet, he says, I'm in Purgatory writing poems, sans guide, following my own beaky nose. Hah! Ed, Ed, Ed. Tutoring me yet from beyond the grave, thinks Billy Boo.


At Bangkok airport Boo realized that following a straight line got you absolutely nowhere, may as well have been walking in circles. So then he walked around in circles, gauging the world, the non-stop airport world, more 'international' than when first coined (--Inge's daughters crooning 'international' over "Miami Vice", late 80s, --B B 's return to Europe after 12 years exile). Seems to him the Chinese had become the new Americans and everyone else from everywhere else in no way lesser. Each elsewhere a somewhere, similarly worldly-wise, ticket to prove it, legitimate travellers, commuters, no longer exotics of any empire.
But what about Christy, and how come he's let off so easily? Mebbe Billy thinks the boyo might bat him one! (What did Peter Finch say of him once, slightly misapprehending the relation of source to poem?-- "if these are Christy's dreams he must have a head like granite!")

Re- Ulli & Celia's place, in N Wales, '72 ; from Poem of the Clear Eye

there is a strangeness surrounds

which our thickest wall cannot evict

(for talisman take anything you find

a coloured slate a star from the constellation

which fills the skylight the vault of Caernarvon)

the foul smell from the town still gets to my nostrils --

Panzer fetch paper! go to

Gethsemane i rise up &

fall down i run till my side aches

i will return to the smoke only to bang the

beafeaters dead in their beds! in my boots

will make mincemeat of

rumours & subterfuge.(...)

(pp34/35; 1972/3; UK & Oz)
[‪In my poem, Ulli has two dogs, Panzer & Perfidy... The scenario is remembered/invented from the visit to Ulli & Celia for the Bangor Poetry Fest or the poetry event Ulli arranged at the Bangor Arts Fest back in '71 or '72... I believe that Jeremy Hilton drove me from Southampton... ah, Snowdonia…]


Daily round : walk from Goldy, down road, left at Pottery Lane (note to self : research derivation), through the small housing estate, cross highway at safety island to Radipole Lake foot & cycle path, past the blackberries ringing the lake six months ahead of bloom & harvest, up onto the bridge & into town... Library, Black Dog, pint!

Ed would approve : get a table, snap notebook or loose page onto it, “let’s get it over then!” through gritted teeth, lank hair & lengthening beard the frame for most ambivalent of propositions, --the argument concerning literature, thus “the literary bit”, not so much the sharing of poems but potential for such inflation as snatches poet from universe to be dropped into egotistical slurry (Ed’s favourite quote, Akhmatova’s rooster crowing upon shit-heap) --the “literary”, --snort into handkerchief, begin reading poem, over soon as began, --charmed by his accent & intonations, Bunting-ish but faster, Les Murray-ish too in that dont-take-it-too-seriously / throw-off style --not a style, an attitude --no audience but comrade t’other side of the low table, slosh of pints around & about, raucous fandango, infinitely preferable to bourgeois shush (--when you think of it, the poem cuts through the noise of the world, like sudden silence, the awareness of silence as the world’s hurtle’s suddenly brought to sudden screeching stop)...

Ask: Has my brother been in today? We were in the other day, he had a tomato juice... No, she says, dont think so... The Abbot & bro --two Abbots! --like Jack & Warnie, the Louises, or James & Stanislaus with whom BB once caned his younger for perceived deficit in fraternal support, but what would a teenager know... and too much water under bridge now...


All change. Traditional bar's gone. The regulars also unless sculking in the WASHROOM (white lettering on pale green board). The lacquered black of counter, tables, chairs has been replaced by grey & green throughout! What is this snack-bar, b& b, holiday-camp, light & bright in aid of? 
We've only been gone a year --perhaps longer because didnt we go to the Swan (the Abbot & bro) around the corner from St Nicholas's Church last time? I'll lay bets no change there.
 Ringwood Breweries' Boon Doggle's the strongest, 4.2... Innocents must understand we're on about the taste, which means a quality that tests the palate, resists it --on a continuum, then, with Frank Prince's teaching about same, --Robert Bridges, he said, ho-hum poetry aside, well worth my while to consider his thoughts on poetics... The point about form, Frank says, is that it stops one going on & on aimlessly... it resists that natural laziness, licentiousness etc...
[Ilchester Arms, Abbotsbury, 7th April, '16]


[April 22, '16]

It was great meeting up with John Phillips in St Ives a few days ago... went around to his place with Kelvin Bowers my old amigo from the £10 assisted passage on the Fairsky to Melbourne, FIFTY YEARS AGO on the 26 April, '66 !!! It's due to chance meeting on the coastal path between John & Kel that I've once more caught up with Kelvin, outa sight since '03. In the conversation with John, several mutual friends featured including Clive Faust & David Miller... Nice listening to John & Kel discussing the St Ives painters up on the wall including Mathew Lanyon --the fathers & sons conversation, apropos of which the catalogue of the Karl Weschke show, on in London presently, which Lucas Weschke had given me in Weymouth, also spiced the chat. If only I was in St Ives on May 16th as well for the poetry festival when John gives a reading!

[April 25, '16] ·

(Re- Jenni Kerr's Facebook post of actors celebrating Shakespeare anniversary, particularly HRH who finished it beautifully!) Great meeting again y'day with David Caddy at The Dolphin, Blandford Forum, our very own local... ordered our pint and our shiraz, and got the ball rolling saying : "Apart from what's in the latest issue of Tears In The Fence, if I asked you "what's the news?" what would you answer?" David hardly considered the question --well, he said, SHAKESPEARE, the 400th anniversary of course! And so we drank to him, Shakespeare all the way...


 Karl Weschke’s View of Kenydjack (1962; reproduced in the Tate book of the St Ives scene, 1939-64) utterly different to the Sunday painting seen at the Penwith gallery of which the probably accurate sketching is vacant compared with KW’s monolithised brown tiered landscape, so deep & occupied. Could say ‘preoccupied’ but substantial or dense oughtnt imply brooding, since for all the ‘psychological’, ‘expressionist’, ‘existential’ persona there is always painting’s natural presence and nature always present as matter & sentiment...
[St Ives, Kel & Dooze’s house, 18 April, 16]


Every time (how many times?) the bus swings around Portesham through to Abbotsbury & beyond (today Bridport again), see St Catherine’s Chapel on the hill. And in Abbotsbury, out the bus window, there it is leftwards over & between the houses, farms. And leaving Abbotsbury, the chapel behind one on its mount, sheep in the green fields like a canopy beneath. And startlingly distinct, on top, along slow hill climb, Chessil & the Channel over the leftside rolls of green (their rolls eventually into the sea).

What is ‘familiarity’? --the first blessing of repetition one presumes, no story but imperceptibly the rise of feeling, full swell of which is Poem, Song, this Painting...

[21 April, ‘16; Weymouth to Bridport, Dorset]

English Journey, ‘16 [from the diary]

Friday 22/4/16
9-05 am. (late) Weymouth --> Yeovil -->Glastonbury

Hurrying up Goldcroft aggravated the leg/thigh strain. Hopefully walk it out. Shld have applied some Deep Heat beforehand.
Rain, not heavy but from drizzle to light. If raining i wont attempt to climb the Tor.

The Classes : Passenger / “My daughter’s studying in Glasgow; when she comes down to Durdle Door it soothes her spirit...”
Driver / “Oh yeah; well anywhere’s better than Blackpool heh heh heh...”
Passenger / “You drive so well; I admire your instincts!”
Driver / “I drove lorries before, buses are much smaller. Driving 800 miles up & back soon teaches you how to drive... A spot of rain, though, and the whole road comes to a stop...”

Thinking of Paul Blackburn -- mentioned him to B. last night, how I’ve picked up his poems each visit to Goldcroft over the years. There’s a Blackburn poem for Pete Spence in the Buckmaster section of my  forthcoming book. P B’s the kind of American I have in mind re- intractably American & not easily ‘Anglo-American’ or ‘British/American’ as I wrote to Colin Still last night. Were we American poets after all? i asked B some months ago, phone from Melbourne, repeated in email to Colin. He tells me about all the docos he’s made on the American  poets (wch he’s offered to send me). I say that my forthcoming book of poems is partly ‘Neo-Georgian’, partly ‘New American Poetry’!

--> Yeovil... Heavier rain. Great countryside. Stone houses stretches of wall fields & meadows...



Rich country -- fallow, ploughed, strips of woods, dividing stands, --the rain enhances the lushness -- Wonderful expanse of undulating ploughed fields -- Motorway runs between these huge sails, wings, of land -- Somerset’s version of Big Country --

Beautiful dip in the landscape, --trees, fields, cows --

After earlier wet am dry again in the coach -- thank goodness for modern technology! --

Woods then village, car-sales...

Lakegate lane

Yeovil -->

Thursday, May 5, 2016

THE BLACK DOG REPORT : English Journey, '16

The Black Dog Report, # 1

There arent many pubs anywhere in the country, he says, where you can get a pint straight out of the barrel. Of course I'm agreeing. Yes, I saw that yesterday (--with the Abbot, and noticed the enclave around & below the taps, and the bar-woman leant down to fish dregs out of bucket Billy thought! --surely not? --clot, Ed mutters, --unacceptable probably would be "twat" pronounced "twot", which is the natural rhyme, expletive or not), poured an Old Speckled Hen, the taste deserving better body but worth it for the palate. But today there isnt any! I dont have it today my love, she tells me, cheerfully. Oh no, says I... You drank it all yesterday, she laughs. The chap who extolled the barrels now recommends I.P.A., --the best drop in my opinion, he says. There's no choice. I go with a half. Let me know what you think, he says. But he's off soon after leaving me to bathe in the brown public bar, variously lighter & darker complexion of tables, chairs, floor boards, counter-top --English history's deep stained & lacquered culture. And that's most of the point of it --the pub thing --through a glass oakly, wallnutly, Andy Capp-ly, Sheila Chandra-ly, David Caddy-ly, Kris Hemensley, & Uncle Tom Cobbly & all & all...

[31st March, '16]


The Black Dog Report, # 2

Bustling beetling little old lady, "See you later or on a Christmas Tree…" Walk around the different leveled public bar --it's all public bar including snugs, billiard table near the Gents, room with open fire. Looking for a table away from the pop muzak. The only spot is on the walk-through, sufficiently close to the bar to catch eye, exchange word with barman. In the process ("See you at the Dog"), Ive lost the Abbot & the Wheel. Small town, bank on it we'll rendezvous soon.

After rain there's sun --taxi-driver suggested snow! 'Poor old England' the Alexandrian family would admonish seriously, looking down collective aristocratic nose on their in-laws.

Second pint with the crew about me again. They're the photographers, me the pen & notebook man. Drop into a place often enough… no, it's surely more than that --because the environment's familiar from the first, offers itself up, every black beam, each square of purple leaf & olive carpet, accommodating. 'Oldest Pub in Weymouth' the hook of course --snob in a snood, hah!

Next day, late afternoon, drop in for a pint & use of facilities, grateful after long ride from Salisbury. The alternating bar staff together on this occasion wearing blue shirt uniforms, both less voluble than when working alone. Today's piped music is eclectic, sounds authentic, --who'd knowingly pass on Harry Belafonte's There's A Hole in My Bucket duet with Odetta?

[4/5 April, '16]


The Black Dog Report, # 3

Amble along the sea-front in full sunshine --B B meditative --sea-shell beach sapped his energy, not proud of it. Plonks himself upon bench this morning in sunshine everyone's calling "gorgeous". Penny for 'em, says the Girl (--how long's he known her? --Christy's squeeze once upon a time --more than one Christy, more than one anyone --mebbe more than one life… Sudden voice in ear --Ed's --"only one? be careful what you wish for!")-- Not thinking of anything, he says, --which she wont have a bar of! But B B cant be drawn, old hand. Doesn't mention the Fielding Dawson style of narrative he's been thinking his own might resemble --cogitative, soliloquy, occasionally but unpredictably intersected by expressionistic flurry. This text is ahead of itself. B B simply thought of Fielding Dawson, the Black Mountain artist & writer he once corresponded with, whose stories & novels he devoured. No one talks about any of them, that entire '60s, '70s constellation --"no one"  as fraction of erstwhile 'everyone', from way back everyone did read them. Ed's mate Long Tim Ville-john --or Long Johns what the Cornish friends called him after they'd wintered there --so excited when the new Dawson was published, The Black Mountain Book for example, compared it to the earlier work, Franz Kline, An Emotional Memoir, and as far as commentary's concerned, he said, the way to go (--sorry guys, just gotta butt in here : back in the day, attempting to get Fielding out to Oz, enlisted the support of worthies like Michael Wilding, Jim Hamilton, Elwyn Lynn, and sought out, importantly, Patrick McCaughey, but against the flow he declined --the writings by Dawson I'd cited as sparkling recommendations were, he said, the very things which brought art criticism into disrepute! --whaaaat? --1975! --where was he coming from?) --you've probably guessed this reminiscence occurs beneath the antique beams of the Black Dog to the "here you are my love"s &"thank you my darling"s of the mother of the usual barwoman who banters the very same affections in the identical manner, being the ultimate Dorset locals, inside of the piped Ray Orbison & the soul & reggae, in the all-around brown & black lacquered English cave, sunniest Spring day at bay…



The Black Dog Report, # 4

"Are there new faces around here or have I just been coming on the wrong days?" "I'm the new landlady… bought the business 7 weeks ago…"
Thinking how I love this pub --I'm sitting at table adjacent to the bar, back to the fruit-machine, facing down one step to the main bar & door, porch, & street.
Ah, the posts & beams. 'Please Mind Your Head'  (--how did kids devise Fleas Love Your Head out of that on the school bus? Fleas out of Please, but Love out of Mind? I think it must have been Please Lower Your head. Of course)…
And here he is : black leather jacket & blue denims, the Bogart face but this time's shorn hair, earring. The Sailor. Steps outside for a fag, parks his pint of Thatcher's cider on the bar. Five minutes, puff & flick away, return, puff restored. Billy Boo takes it all in. "Who shot the deputy?" Sailor humms to the muzak. His foot-tapping's natural, the music's fake. Everything else is real.
Given icy breeze no choice between seafront & Black Dog, but choice made without weather in mind. Honour thy local, if not it'll go the way of all locals. Honour thy local bitter, thy Old Speckled Hen, thy Original Mini Cheddars (biscuits).
Sailor complains about the music, doesn't distinguish between the piped crap & the cartoon of rock'n'roll he mimics to the hilarity of bar-staff. "Doesn't like it but knows all about it!" one says behind his back. He's outside again, second cigarette of the day.


Friday, March 25, 2016




Friday, 24th March, en route Grant Caldwell's book launch, find me at Y & J's mid-afternoon, heart-of-the-city pub, side bar. Pint of Guinness, Smith's cheese & onion chips ("top quality Aussie potatoes"), rugby on high screen lower bar. Imagine this as letter to Guinness & craik chum Libby Hart, or the brother in his Weymouth hermitage, I mean sib Bernardo not Ken up there in W Tree though he's here now too, soon as mentioned, or new found old mate off the migrant ship, fifty effing years ago he's reminded me, Kal Fenton… And the letter starts, "I've arrived already, the English journey has begun… tearing around town, last minute calls on bank, doctor, chemist… three days until the flight but one foot already on the ground in Blighty… Y & J's is an old city pub, a touch of London, teeming foot & motor traffic seen & heard through door & window, throngs constantly in & out the pub, --school of downed tools workers in orange & blue overalls commandeers public bar's best tables, --five matrons lead their fellers in to the higher section, which I call the side bar because best entered from the Cathedral side on Swanston, long Edward Hopper view from bright street to darker hotel interior, haloes of cigarette smoke in the good old days, talking culture not health m'dear, --young men with huge backpacks like Chris Tong & me on the road to Aachen in 1963, --dear God not another step, I'd happily expire in ditch beneath woody overhang, --black cap & tee lads find their pozzy at table angled to me whose occupants, he, Irish, drinking Guinness, she, Australian, on cider, tell them how they walked all through Europe with equally heavy packs once-upon-a-time…" Leave off then, sip my drink, watch the sports screen, calculate the time, make mental note to have cheese & onion again, in England, probably in Weymouth Harbour pub, look out on little boats, little boats...

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.