Tag Archives: Michael Dransfield

Rambling with Max Ryan (part II)

ALS: That last line really sends me Max… captures so beautifully the notion of ‘a birth and a death’ that you mention. By experiencing the show, the teens lives have altered, been forever changed… and with all change, something of our former selves is lost. Loss is another recurring image in many of your poems. Before we lose each other again contains some of my favourite lines in the collection: ‘I’d hear your name on a stranger’s tongue’ and ‘all our blood beats to the drum/ of a hunter who can never rest’, make the hair on my neck prickle. Loss is something we all experience, so I am interested in how it influences your writing.

MR: Thanks for pointing that out. It makes me realise another element of that last line… the man remembering is forever captured by the spell of another time and place, even imagination or the world it conjures implies some kind of loss…

Loss is at the heart of all poetry, methinks. Something Michael Dransfield says:

to be a poet what it means to lose the self to lose the self

I guess I don’t see this loss as necessarily a calamitous thing. Keats seemed to be pointing to something like that in his notion of Negative Capability: because the poet (not the person) has no fixed identity, is in a sense lost to the sureties of worldly existence, he/she is made open to the experience of ever-changing life. Also, the art of haiku in a sense necessitates this loss of self which is why it’s truly a humbling art.

But yeah, there’s a fairly strong theme of loss and an attendant sorrowful tone in Before the Sky. I remember being struck with that when I first saw the proofs and Judy Johnson, who edited the book, had placed two elegies at the start. Maybe I’m particularly drawn to the subject… I couldn’t say I’m an especially moribund person, there’d be few people alive who hadn’t been made aware of how precarious this existence is. There’s a beautiful section in the film What Happened to Kerouac? where Allen Ginsberg speaks about Kerouac’s death and (I can’t remember his exact words) explains how we mourn for existence because we know that this very place is it, it won’t come again.

Before we lose each other again is my first attempt at a villanelle. The title implies that the woman is one I’ve known before and am destined to meet (and lose) again and again. The form of the poem with its recurring lines and cyclical, incantatory cadences is ideal for such a theme. Without going into a discussion of transmigration of souls or somesuch, I think there’s often this recognition when we encounter certain special people that we somehow know them in an entirely uncanny way.

Kieran Ryan (on the Kid Sam album) says it nicely in the song Mirror Drawings:

I’ve been around once or twice now
Come around a few times more
but I can’t always recognise you
in all your different forms

streets of jogjakarta touches on something similar:

the rooftop thrums with rain
as she comes back to say goodbye
calling you to go or stay
like she once did in another time

Going back to the villanelle, the image of the hunter is of course a symbol for death or mortal fate, the thing we can never escape. So the very thing that pursues the lovers, the knowing that ‘one night the hunt will end’ instills a kind of desperate passion in their lovemaking. The ‘faceless hunter’ beats the drum and we can only dance to it:

and all our blood beats to the drum
of a hunter who can never rest

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Desert(ed) Island Poems #6 – Alan Jefferies

Sunday morning is a time of strangeness… remnants of the week prior still swimming somewhere inside us and the prospects of the week ahead beginning to materialise. It is somehow quieter than all other mornings. The perfect space for us to travel in and out of the poems that inhabit the Desert(ed) Island of Alan Jefferies.

 

alan-jefferies

 

Each of the ten Desert(ed) Island poems illustrates for me one of the desirable qualities of poetry. Of course these qualities overlap and many of the poems contain more than one.  These traits are what I look for in poetry, my own and other peoples.

that which we call a rose – Michael Dransfield

Dransfield was probably the first Australian poet that I had a real encounter with. A lot of Australian poetry that I’d read up to the age of 17 had no effect on me whatsoever. Dransfield stopped me. He was a hard one to get past. He remains for me one of only a handful of Australian poets, living or dead, who deserves that title. I’ll always remember reading the poem “Fix” to the prefects in year 12 at Cleveland State High. “Once you’ve become a drug addict, you never want to become anything else”. They were horrified. I learnt then that great poetry can make comfortable people uncomfortable, and in the Land of Snug, that’s not such a bad thing. The quality that this Dransfield poem illustrates for me is directness. Saying how it is without artifice or ploy.

Read the poem here: http://www.sweatywheels.com/Dransfield/rose.html

 

my groupie – Charles Bukowski

Humour is hard to do in poetry.  And I don’t necessarily mean the belly laughs of a stand-up comedian. Irony, understatement, hyperbole,  anything that can lighten the dead weight of seriousness in poetry is, in my view, a good thing. Bukowski did humour well. A little coarse most of the time and incorrect as hell but if you’re looking for someone to lower the tone – Hank’s your man. Levity is the quality this poem exemplifies.

Read the poem here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/my-groupie/

 

Daddy – Sylvia Plath

I’ve always loved this poem. My affection only deepened when I came across a recording of Plath reading it aloud. Direct, passionate, unbalanced but perfectly poised at the same time. I love the incantation of the nursery rhyme juxtaposed with the dark, somewhat unsettling subject matter. Rhythm is the quality this poem highlights.

Read the poem here: http://www.internal.org/view_poem.phtml?poemID=356
Listen to it here: http://au.youtube.com/watch?v=6hHjctqSBwM

 

The Red Wheelbarrow – William Carlos Williams

This poem illustrates the quality of brevity, which I think is so important in poetry. Not a single word gone to waste, nothing explained, nothing left unsaid.

Read the poem here: http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/wcw-red-wheel.html

 

In my craft or sullen art – Dylan Thomas

This poem says a lot about the craft of writing poetry and it also reminds us why not to write poetry:

Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages

The poem reads like free verse but is actually very structured. Each line has a regular number of syllables and stresses and the final two lines fall into a conventional iambic pattern. Form is an important quality of good poetry and this poem reminds me of that.

Read the poem here: http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/476.html

 

Some people – Rita Ann Higgins

What I like about this poem is that it’s engaged. Engaged with the real world struggles that real people are engaged with.  In my view there are too many poems that are lost in the miasma of all things me. On my desert(ed) island those poems would be banned, along with all other assortments of self-indulgence.

Read the poem here: http://dontstrayfromthepath.tumblr.com/post/63895893

 

Candles – Constantine P Cavafy

Luminosity is for me an important quality of good poetry. Cavafy remains one of my all time favourites. His poems illuminate the subject matter using everyday words and a directness that I very much admire.

Read the poem here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/candles/

 

Flame Point – Jules Supervielle

Whenever I start a new notebook I handwrite this poem onto the first page. I love it but I struggle to explain why. Read it for yourself.

Flame Point
by Jules Supervielle translated by Allen Mandel Bawm

All his life
he loved to read
by candlelight
and often passed
his hand across
the flame
in order to
persuade
himself that he
was alive
was alive

And since the day
he died
he keeps
a burning candle
at his side
and yet
his hands
he hides

 

Sometime during eternity… – Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Ferlingetti often manages to infuse his poems with lightness and humour and in my opinion these qualities go a long way in poetry. See, I’m already starting to repeat myself.

Read the poem here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/sometime-during-eternity/

 

Looking for a monk and not finding him – Li Po

Li Po brings all the qualities I like in poetry together in his work. Clear, lyrical, luminous, and engaged – all the qualities that modern Australian poetry for the most part eschews.

Read the poem here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/looking-for-a-monk-and-not-finding-him/

 

Alan Jefferies reads at Riverbend Books alongside Jessika Tong, Anna Krien & Felicity Plunkett on Tuesday February 24. Details below:

Date: Tuesday 24 February
Location: Riverbend Books, 193 Oxford St. Bulimba
Time: Doors open for the event at 6pm for a 6:30pm start
Tickets: $10 available through Riverbend Books and include sushi and complimentary wine. To purchase tickets, call Riverbend Books on (07) 3899 8555 or book online at www.riverbendbooks.com.au

Spaces are limited so book early to avoid disappointment!

About Alan:

Alan Jefferies was born in Brisbane and grew up in Cleveland. He lived in Sydney and Coalcliff for much of the 80’s and 90’s and obtained degrees in Communication and Writing from the University of Technology, Sydney. In 1998 he moved to Hong Kong where he lived until 2007. With Kit Kelen and Mani Rao he started the spoken word reading OutLoud. In 2002 an anthology of work from these readings was published (Outloud: an anthology of poetry from Outloud readings, Hong Kong). He has published 5 collections of poetry, his most recent being Homage and other poems (Chameleon, 2007). He was recently an invited participant at the ‘Cairo International Forum of Arabic poetry’ and the ‘Tenth International Literature Festival’ in Romania. He now lives in Redland Bay. He keeps a musical alter ego at www.myspace.com/psychicstreetsweepers

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Desert(ed) Island Poems #1 – Ashley Capes

The concept of a Desert Island Disc is something that I have always loved. Which 10 songs would you take to a deserted island? Is it possible to take only 10!?

To take the concept into the world of poetry, this lost shark has asked some of his favourite poets to compile a list of of Desert(ed) Island Poems as a way of having each poet explore what makes a poem sing to them and to share with us the poems that are embedded in their mind, body and spirit.

First up in the series is Melbourne based poet Ashley Capes. So… which 10 poems will be sailing with Ashley to his deserted island?

Marriage – Gregory Corso

On the island, if I needed cheering up I would read Marriage. I first read this some years after getting married and found it highly amusing (though not because my experiences were similar, quite the opposite) but it has a very 1950s America vibe, the fear and the ‘goodness’ Corso is discussing does what good poetry often does – it examines and challenges social norms. And with great wit too.

Read it here: http://www.litkicks.com/Texts/Marriage.html

Hadda Be Playing on a Jukebox – Allen Ginsberg

I seem to enjoy repetition and variation within political or socially aware poetry and Ginsberg was one of the first poets to show me that these two could be combined. While Howl would last me longer on the desert island, Hadda Be Playing on a Jukebox is a little more direct and sets the bitterness and outrage in very familial settings (the kitchen, the basement, the streets, the factories, (workplace) the Mafia etc) and is all the more terrifying for it.

Read it here: http://www.musicfanclubs.org/rage/hadda.html

China – Bob Perelman

There’s so much room for the reader in this one. Every time I read it I can bring something else to the piece. Words, lines and images bounce off each other, bounce off my understandings (or lack thereof). When I looked at China in uni, there wasn’t a single student in the class that gave the same interpretation when asked to discuss it. 

Read it here: http://www.murgatroid.com/china.html

Pas de deux for Lovers – Michael Dransfield

This poem is so delicate, so complete. The language seems to have an echo of the Romantics but lacks pretension. It opens and closes strong. I’d take this to a desert island and feel both homesick and awed.  

Read it here: http://www.angelfire.com/me3/jackispage/lit/dransfield.html

I’d Shoot the Man – Gig Ryan

The words in this poem smoulder on the page. I first read it in a high school literature class and asked the teacher if we could study it. I was fascinated by the use of repetition and the honesty, the ‘lived’ nature of the narrative, and by the way gender was challenged in it. This really showed me that poetry could accomplish much.

Read it here: http://www.austlit.com/a/ryan-gig/doa.html

Clear – Viggo Mortensen

Someone at uni showed me Clear. I read it alone, and when I finished I actually said ‘wow.’ Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when I thought about this I went back over a lot of work I’d read, and tried to recall what my initial reactions had been. There are very few poems that made me express my appreciation verbally, especially when there was no-one around to discuss it with.

Tyrannus Nix? – Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Although I don’t have what it takes to write good social commentaries, I would keep this on the desert island so I had something to aspire to. If I could be as insightful, cutting and energised as this, I would be pretty pleased. Tyrannus Nix? is impressive too, in the way it reclaims the oral nature of poetry – the poem is written like a letter (or a speech) directly to Nixon, but it’s an open letter for anyone reading it (not just America) and does something to thrust poetry into a public sphere. The poem operates in a political fashion and it’s so effective for it.

This is Just to Say – William Carlos Williams

Simplicity often strikes me – that and openness or accessibility. The purpose of language is to communicate, so I don’t always enjoy a writer attempting to communicate, then clouding meaning by making language opaque. (It could be argued that China is too opaque) I would take This is Just to Say as a reminder for myself, to remain open when I write.

Read it here: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15535

Edge – Sylvia Plath

Revisiting some of the poems I first read in high school to see which ones I still re-read, I remembered Edge. It seems to be one of her most restrained/resigned (language wise) yet evocative poems, especially in regards to the images and the way they’re linked to thoughts and biography.

Read it here: http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/edge/

Watermelons – Charles Simic

In this poem the everyday becomes poetic – as is often the case in the hands of great writers. A clear and resonant image, the poem always makes me smile. And because it bears some similarities to haiku, I thought I would take this to a desert island in one folder, in case I wasn’t allowed to take a separate folder of 10 desert island haiku.

Read it here: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/15260

Ashley Capes co-edits www.holland1945.net.au and recently completed studies in Arts and Education at Monash. His work has appeared in a range of Australian print and online publications and his first collection of poetry pollen and the storm was published with the assistance of Small Change Press in 2008.  

Find out more about Ashley and his work at:
 
http://www.mascarapoetry.com
http://www.styluspoetryjournal.com/main/master.asp?id=830
http://bluepepper.blogspot.com/2008/12/new-poetry-by-ashley-capes.html

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