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Showing posts from 2016

HELENA AND ELIZABETH The Diary of "Helena Morley", translated from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Bishop

The Church of the Rosary in Diamantina, Minas Gerais, Brazil   Re-reading Helena Morley thirty years later, the stories grow in beauty and truth. The Brazilian mining town of Diamantina, obscure and remote in itself, returns to rich social life, just as Candleford and Lark Rise do in Flora Thompson's books. There is even an element of Daisy Ashford about Helena, though Helena's spelling is better than Daisy's and she has no interest in fictionalising her own people. Adolescent perception of adults in their adult world is determined by the necessities of dependence and self-learning. The twelve-year-old who opens her Diary for the year 1893 is secure and free, free enough to say almost anything within the limits of her experience, secure enough to speak of her microcosmic world in knowing terms. Helena was fortunate in her English translator. Elizabeth Bishop, as her poetry shows over again, relishes the colour and detail of the physical world. This is enabled f

An Ode to speechless Bob Dylan

This article first appeared in Eureka Street in early November 2016 . Cartoon by Chris Johnston. What is the purpose of awarding a philanthropic literature prize to a millionaire rock star? If you wish to draw attention to an unsung national poet, why choose one of the world’s most famous Americans? If it has to be an American, why not one who writes books? Argument about Bob Dylan has peaked for the first time in forty years or so, leaving a lot of people wondering if they’re still “forever young”, and which side of the argument is right. Dylan’s relationship to literature is well known. He took his name from a Welsh poet. When he sang ‘Desolation Row’ Dylan was locking into the Beat world of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. He quotes from a range of writers without fear of accusations of plagiarism. Scripture is close to hand, but also the cornucopia that is the songbook of American popular music. He copies Woody Guthrie and parodies Elvis Presley. His debt to the b

Max Richards shares: 9, Denise Levertov

Cuttings, held together by a slightly rusted paper clip, fall from his copy of Penguin Modern Poets 9: Denise Levertov, Kenneth Rexroth, William Carlos Williams. (Penguin Books, 1967). They include a typed version of ' The Rainwalkers ' , and photocopies of ' February Evening in New York ' and ' The Cold Spring ' , the second with a note in Max’s hand " comp[are] with Dickinson ‘The Bustle’." Was he taking a class or writing a review? Then this one page hand-written set of notes about poetic construction. Are they Max Richards’ own responses or his summary of things by Levertov collated from her writings for reference? Or a bit of both? Whatever the case, the page has the feel of a trouvée poem:   24-7-81 Denise Levertov on non-traditional metrics free verse: impulse to flow, avoidance of the interruption of pattern But ‘wellwrought’…? ‘organic form’ 19 th c. a term taken over by shampoo manufacturers!

Faith and George Herbert

The George Herbert window in All Saints’, Bishop Burton, near Beverley in Yorkshire:  ‘L ord I have loved the habitation of thine house .’  An address given at Evensong on Sunday the 23 rd of October at St. Peter’s Church, Eastern Hill, Melbourne as part of a series on ‘Heroes of the Faith’. [Poem: Superliminare] Thou, whom the former precepts have Sprinkled and taught, how to behave Thyself in church; approach, and taste The church’s mystical repast. Avoid, profaneness; come not here: Nothing but holy, pure, and clear, Or that which groaneth to be so, May at his peril further go. The people who work on the other side of the hedge of the car park of this church come to learn there is life after politics. Or we hope they do. The poet George Herbert lived a life that could be described as before and after politics. “Power seldom grows old at court,” he says in one of his Outlandish Proverbs, and he experienced the truth of that saying in his

Crossing sixty: Louise Nicholas, Andrew Sant, Susan Varga

Review first published in the Australian Book Review October 2016 Louise Nicholas THE LIST OF LAST REMAINING Five Islands Press, rrp $25.95, 85 pp. 9780734051998 Andrew Sant HOW TO PROCEED : ESSAYS Puncher & Wattmann, price, 132 pp. 9781922186805 Susan Varga RUPTURE : POEMS 2012-2015 UWA Publishing, rrp $22,99, 95 pp. 9781742589091   Poetry as the solidifying of memory, poetry as a survivor’s sanguine amusement, takes a lifetime. Louise Nicholas relates autobiography through strongly considered moments in time. Her childhood is tracked by the small fears, confusions and elations that only later feel like turning points. Aged thirteen,           in the same year but not the day that President Kennedy was shot in Texas, I sit on the sidelines at my first high school social wondering what to make of a new betrayal: the flowered bodice of my favourite party frock straining to contain an embarrassment of breasts where once there wa