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Alan Wearne
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Bad Habits I take the hap of all my deeds. George Meredith Modern Love XX 2.50 what? The night's at kickback stage. And if I'm the man heading to LAX you must be Madison, monument to your sex, sweet, groomed, worldly and my daughter's age, with cute, white slivers of k'thwack k'thwack for hours of bug-eyed frenzy. Till the chop. And 'Ken,' I'm hearing, 'reckon we oughta stop, or name us a worse place for your heart attack.' But bad and badder habits hunt in packs: if y'urge says Go! so y'splurge y'dough oh ain't that par for one horny CEO who craves you as his item-to-the-max (unless, well hardly, you've turned out a narc). I queue at 6 with Trans Pacific rabble. Till then Mmmadison: you straddle, I babble: bloodshot, out-staring Fox Sports in the dark. Alan Wearne Alan Wearne (1948-) writes ‘For over a decade I have written 35 poems (mainly sonnets) inspired by popular Australian songs. The jaunty retro-sounding early 80s hit Bad Habits is the jumping off point for this monologue fuelled by (let’s call it) innocent sleaze: before flying to the US a businessman has an escort visit his hotel room…oh dear she’s bringing drugs…’ Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Delivering Tact At your front gate an oily truck murmurs away patiently enough, it could be said, while two young blokes in tattoos and muddy denims tug the small heavy sacks up to your house. They are delivering tact and it’s expensive but worth every penny of the cost, given it makes the whole shebang tick along smooth and quiet like the innards of a bedside clock. That’s right: it lubricates existence. You take delivery sign a docket and the truck puffs up white dust. Locked in a jail of ribs, the passionate heart judders the way a cranked car used to do, the whole system suddenly coughing. Chris Wallace-Crabbe Chris Wallace-Crabbe (1934-) taught for many decades at the University of Melbourne where he gained a formidable reputation as a teacher and critic. He is one of the major voices in Australian poetry known beyond our shores. Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Mark Mark finished it himself, choosing midnight and a garbage littered swamp. He scrawled a note and stuffed it in a pocket: ‘Like shooting a dog. The Vibrations. Someone please try to bring me back.’ They pulled him from the mud and dressed him up and put him underground again. A week before that he’d grabbed me in the street, shaking, speaking in a foreign tongue. Lost for seven years. ‘It’s all right, I’ll move along,’ he said. Cosmic radiation fried his brain. He had tapped a private source of horror clichés; nightmare rushed out, and the gestures that he used in self-defence were worn threadbare with too much fingering. He wove a plot to save the masses; loners, misbegotten, drifting on the edges of Night City. All he needed was ‘charisma’. One day he left a note: ‘The Princess: She must be saved, even at the cost of death, her own death, if need be. I’m sorry that I cut the Cross against the grain, damaging the door. Yours. Mark.’ Vibrations called him from a network on the other side of town. He had scuttled off by the time the medics came to strap him down. Once, years ago, when he was ‘elegant’, he bought us wine; we ate well, and drank by candlelight. It seemed that sanity was easily bought; one needed only to be young. Methedrine, in moderation, kept him on the track. ‘I’m not interested,’ the doctor said, ‘in arty reminiscences. Find the stupid prick and bring him back.’ John Tranter This early poem by John Tranter (1943-) has always grabbed the editor of this series. He envies its restless and relentless nature, the way it tries seducing the sympathies of the reader only to have these undermined by a wonderful boomboomboom! final two lines. Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
from Crying In Early Infancy 16 Sex chemistry is elegant and subversive, like how it comes crawling out of a hole where the idea of ‘Christine’ swallows itself and suddenly begins to bother everyone – she’s heavy, hot off the Paris plane with her handbag full of perfumed machinery, with her waterfall of blonde hair blowing with her embrace for Tony and Louise especially Louise with whom she has been intensely in love for centuries and just like a snap election the two of them – silly buggers, they should know better – Chrissie, her machine, Louise and the hostess kiss and fall in love. John Tranter For many John Tranter (1943-) is the most professional of Australian poets, his long career being very productive and very consistent. The two early poems chosen, this week and next, are written with his hallmark confidence, zest and bite. (Friends have been known to term him most affectionately as the Honorary Consul for the New York School.) Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
An Autumnal When I come back to this garden after my death will the black walnut tree have been cut down, the brick-and-galvo studio made over into flats reflecting what will have happened all over town? I wonder just what my airy after-self will find that the present me could even recognize roughly, as being something we lived amid; what will confront my hypothetical eyes and spiritual vision? Will the bluestone paving be there, tangled vines and archaic gingko tree? I wonder how my grandkids’ generation will be getting along: at all familiarly? If a posthumous person can view things with horror will my airy unself shrink back from the tacky way fashion can rot the linework of certitude, making more of a mess from townscape every day? Will the blackbird’s descendent still be pecking, though, at our patchy lawn? Parrots will squeal overhead, I’m sure. The hedge may still murmur hints of us or the corrugated tanks. But I’ll be dead. Chris Wallace-Crabbe In Chris Wallace-Crabbe (1934-) the urbane can still reside in the vernacular, the vernacular can still possess urbanity. Had his career been North American he would have joined such craftsmen of the academy as Hollander, Howard, Hecht and Hine, and not a bad thing too. Continue reading
Posted Nov 24, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
The Constant Measure The oven’s tipped open as a bar heater its red art deco zags another age’s faith in a designed century as a Chevrolet unscrolls up the hill and the painted-from-life steeple’s pleated shadows carve out long wedges specifying a theorem you once knew, like your life, sparkling over the top of a drink “Spirit of the Plains”, etc, while every unwinding gesture salutes some mirage or schtick tilting on its axis. The landscape doesn’t change. The tree collects its rings Hope’s waterlilies bubble on the pond’s face accompanying imagination that conjures his blank escarpment but softness fields, by leaf and fork, its pained accoutrements offer a silenced fee, betrayed either way. It’s full-time being pluralist Days tolerably mashed at each step in glorious streets At home wind foots the skating glass, crooked lintel, soundless pages. Water botched upon the fern. Anyone can paint it. Gig Ryan The ‘right’ word is surely not the word you were expecting in a Gig Ryan (1956-) poem.Infuriating? For the unimaginative maybe, but isn’t that one of the great plusses that marks off poetry from prose? Besides she, Australia’s most singular poet, is a great craftsperson and never some kind of verbal control freak. Her seventh book, New and Selected Poems (Giramondo, 2011) was published as Selected Poems in Britain (Bloodaxe Books, 2012). Continue reading
Posted Nov 17, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
In Memorium Clara Elizabeth Lampe was not married to my grandfather, I found this from her death certificate 30 years after she fell backwards Into my mother’s arms while putting a jar of Vegemite into an ice safe. She slept in my room for 6 months each year, a snoring Farting belching hump in the centre of an old iron bed: At night the ghosts in the corner whispered her name, & I hid beneath the sheets & folded myself into the dark silence. When I hit the spoiled son of the local stock & station agent with a stone His parents came in their suits, confident & sure of their punitive power. God was with me, or rather Clara Lampe, whose name meant lamb But she was a lion with a broom so they retreated & never returned. On Sundays she never went to church but took me walking So I followed her expansive buttocks out past the iron mosque. As we climbed the hills she swiped the air to break the spider webs. We sat on the white rocks chewing cold dumplings & staring down the sneering crows. When she was around, my mother had a migraine & my father stayed out, While my sister remained in her room or sought escape at the movies. When her body lurched onto the train to travel to my aunt in Sydney, They suppressed a cheer because I was there & she would be back. When she died I was the last person left on earth who loved her But I was not allowed to grieve the cold weight of her remains. At school I watched the light glide around the empty sky. Today the light danced again & I write now for her nameless grave. Rae Desmond Jones Steel worker, jackhammer labourer, crane dogman, student, employment bureaucrat, high school teacher, community activist, local government councillor and ultimately Mayor, Rae Desmond Jones (1941-) has had a life parallel to poetry like very few in Australia. A major player in the 70s, after publishing two novels he returned to poetry this century with his New and Selected volume It Comes from All Directions published this year. He may write in a realist tradition but one very much on his terms. Continue reading
Posted Nov 10, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
sesame the flowers on the cactus came and went like a speed boat across the plate glass you wake up and then you fall asleep wink quick or is it the reverse; everything so fast you can’t remember when you last saw the wallet for the war ration coupons it smelt a little mouldy the last time you found it unsure of how to access its navy blue emptiness a thought vanishes into the air’s crevices you have to rely on your fingers for good tips a beachcomber’s manual will not help, you knew how to reach for the wall when the salt water stung your eyes [maybe] the best thing to do between the tick and the tock is to hold your breath: the air’s veins open like a patient map you won’t need a good vocabulary joanne burns Ever inventive, bemused and laconic, since talking with joanne burns (1945-) sounds just like reading joanne burns, where then does the conversationalist stop and the poet start? Neither probably does. Since 1972 she has had around 15 poetry collections (including prose poems/micro-fictions) published. Recent books include an illustrated history of dairies Giramondo Publishing 2007, 'amphora' Giramondo Publishing 2011. Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Hit Parade Fairy lights on the cover of my latest, what could I have been thinking of? – that forty-seven poems about a wrestling match in foul weather would bring about a fundamental change in my star status – from number forty-seven on the East Anglican hit parade to number one in one lifetime; how absurd, this poem a perfect example of my perennial inability to articulate some universal truth, a sad fact that’s guaranteed to keep me in the ranks of the also-ran until the day I die or decide to find some sensible occupation that might take me to the top; wrestling, with one throw, why not? Philip Hammial Detroit born Phillip Hammial (1937-)is one of a number of North Americans who has made a career in Australian poetry. With Hammial creating order out of anarchy and anarchy out of order, a reader might well arrive at the end of a poem acknowledging ‘So, that’s where you’ve taken us!’ With 24 published titles so far a New and Selected Poems is in line for 2014. Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Pet The new teacher takes me out: orchestra, revolving restaurant, lesbian bar. I burn my leg on the exhaust of her bike. Next she comes around with a bottle of gin and her admiration for Olivia Newton John. Mortified, I let her do as she pleases. When she moves in with me and my boyfriend, an alcoholic poet, I develop a fever like Villette (which I haven’t read yet). On the bus to school she cries about other girls, jobs she has had to leave in a hurry. She shows me their bewildered letters, I disassociate. When I stop having sex with her she calls me a bourgeois bitch and joins a gun club. Kate Lilley In 2009 I wrote of Pet by Kate Lilley (1960-) ‘…we have something nostalgic yet immediate, loving yet bitter. In a resurrection of ‘confessional verse’ this should be an example to follow: publicly heartfelt yet private without hysteria.’ This of course still holds. Ladylike (2012) is Kate’s second volume of poetry, following on from Versary (2002). She is an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of Sydney. Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
It’s Time, It’s Time New Year clocks on over fog valley, temperate Tibetans account for contributions. Suburbs struggle and sweat through a summer scented with mumbles and deceptions. Fat detractors and software spruikers expire, the paddockbashers steam from the load. The thin mechanic massages a cigarette: “Could ship ʾer off, up the road – get the Billinudgel Boys to take a look, but a cracked head is a cracked head.” The skyline oils in the mercury ascent, from mosquitoes and humidity exiles fled. The boss does the Copacabana in Caloundra, Jim Wage sneaks off for a lunchtime splash loosens his tie, stuck jaw wide, at his wife and her lover coitus interruptus confabulation. The advice at the lectures is dorothy dixed, VB-addle cognition until everything is fixed. LIAM FERNEY Scourge of Brisbane’s poetasters (indeed of all that breed) Liam Ferney (1979-) is an irascible risk-taking entertainer who earns his living as a PR flak. Encountering, together with his colleague Jaya Savige, Forbes’ Ode to Karl Marx was one of the major events in his early career. Earlier still, from the age of 14 he was involved in poetry readings and festivals. His latest volume Boom has just been launched. Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Ode to Karl Marx Old father of the horrible bride whose wedding cake has finally collapsed, you spoke the truth that doesn’t set us free- it’s like a lever made of words no one’s learnt to operate. So the machine it once connected to just accelerates & each new rap dance video’s a perfect image of this, bodies going faster and faster, still dancing on the spot. At the moment tho’ this set up works for me, being paid to sit and write & smoke, thumbing through Adorno like New Idea on a cold working day in Ballarat, where adult unemployment is 22% & all your grand schemata of intricate cause and effect work out like this: take a muscle car & wire its accelerator to the floor, take out the brakes. the gears the steering wheel & let it rip. The dumbest tattooed hoon -mortal diamond hanging round the Mall- knows what happens next. It’s fun unless you’re strapped inside the car. I’m not, but the dummies they use for testing are. JOHN FORBES John Forbes (1950-1998) was both the best Australian poet born post-war and its most influential. His utter devotion to poetry was such as to have friends and colleagues both marvelling and despairing. Younger poets who never met him refer to him quite easily as John. Note: New Idea is an Australian women’s magazine once given to new ideas such as recipes and dress patterns, now the domain of pregnant ‘celebrities’ in full body profile. Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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Oct 3, 2013