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Showing posts from 2019

Clive James and Les Murray

Tribute by Philip Harvey Obituarists sharpened their quills in 2014 when word had it the death of Clive James was imminent. Since then we have witnessed a late flowering of poetry, reviews and articles tinged with mortality that revealed to the last his Twainian flair for journalistic self-promotion, albeit in the internet age. Now the quills are out in earnest. Les Murray’s death this year was also anticipated in advance, though Les showed himself much more accepting of his temporal departure.   The deaths of these two poets draw attention to their contrasts in style, outlook, and temperament. Clive James and Les Murray demonstrated two very different modes of existence that modern Australians readily recognise and appreciate. Both poets, ambitious for success, kept a close eye and ear on Australia and how it talks. We are the beneficiaries. Clive became the celebrated expatriate, Sydney a beacon in the mental map of a Londoner. He was an Antipodean Augustan, the Bosw

A Sonnet to Tobias Smollett

[Smollett] Contradict me and I’ll try to understand Sir, who depict us as contrariwise, Fixed with one view of those we apprise But to find that view we oft countermand. The lord is an oaf, the lady feigns sad, Nurse Jill can translate, the scholar’s a cad, The beggar’s a saint, the parson’s gone mad, The thief turns out good, Jack’s gone to the bad. How I wish to join your latest journey Sir, to share in company straight and gay Arguing types (and terms, alas!), making hay, Your servant, The Twenty-First Century. Postscript: Surely there’s something called the norm If imitation’s the sincerest form.

The Gang of One : Selected Poems, by Robert Harris

The Gang of One : Selected Poems, by Robert Harris (Grand Parade Poets, 2019) Reviewed by Philip Harvey and published in The Melbourne Anglican, November 2019 Those of us who attended the memorial for Robert Harris at Holy Trinity, Balaclava in 1993 recalled the life of a hard-working man, both in terms of manual jobs and his first vocation as poet. He was only in his early forties: “Go home and suffer employment, write. / There are so many greys you cannot fight.” Anglicanism in its many forms is an unintended running theme of this book, as we follow chronologically Harris’s evolution as a questioner after experience, through charismatic encounters, to gradual conversion steeped in Scripture and sacrament. He called his discovery of church a homecoming. Many readers of these pages will recognize well the places he’s gone. He takes to task the lazy and dismissive attitudes to religion he finds pervading our society. Harris engages in extended argument with Austra

Harold Bloom, 1930-2019

Bloom's logic inevitably led to Bardolatry. Shakespeare is mesmerising, gorgeous and terrifying, but he said it himself: The play's the thing. Influence is necessary and inevitable. It doesn't all have to be anxiety though. The implication of competitiveness in that expression misses the reason why so many people write at all: they have to say it, they just love saying it, they can say it. It's critics who more likely suffer from anxiety.

Some Thoughts on an Inscription INVICTIS PAX

Watercolour by Jayaram Parappil An article written for the parish paper of St Peter’s Church, Eastern Hill, Melbourne Words by Philip Harvey and Peter Bryce In the Victorian period every youth with a classical education knew that Invictus was a title given to Roman gods. Central amongst these was Invictus Sol, the unconquerable sun. The cult of sun worship was a contender for attention in the early Christian era of the Empire, imported to Rome from the East and a threat to the local deities. Moreover, Invictus was by extension a motto of the Roman legions, making it a military word of exalted expectations. There is the very faintest echo of this in the naming of the 1948 Australian cricket team, the Invincibles, led by the formidable Donald Bradman. The English were hit for six and no one got hurt. The triumphalism inherent in this word is displaced and problematized by another piece of Victoriana. Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole t

Reading the modern fable called ‘The Museum of Innocence’ by Orhan Pamuk

The reader’s home has rooms of objects from a life Tile from a basilica, ink-steam postcard from a bath-house Though rarely ever arranged to retell that life In careful chronological order. Rather they arrive Photographs of yalis, landscapes of Byzantium To be moved around, some prominent, some subtle Passenger liners like passing thoughts, terraced and framed On tables and ledges and cabinet shelves and desks Alive to the owner and in no-one’s mind, a museum. As if, never mind. Istanbul, the same last week And before the computer and the invention of the camera. Seven hundred and thirty-four pages of sexual desire Aroused, teased out, prolonged, refused, promised, fulfilled Compels the reader through pleasure and ecstasy and satisfaction And guilt, jealousy, longing, fear, secrecy, and loss Loss we do not expect even as loss takes over early As life goes on with all its daily advances and setbacks As if, never mind. Istanbul will still be the sa

Bloomsday in Melbourne performs 'Travesties' by Tom Stoppard

Bennett the Manservant (Tref Gare) and James Joyce the Writer (Johnathan Peck) Photograph by Christa Hill It might be nonsense, but at least it’s clever nonsense   A review from Philip Harvey of Bloomsday in Melbourne’s production of ‘Travesties’ by Tom Stoppard. Directed by Jennifer Sarah Dean at fortyfivedownstairs 12-23 June 2019. A novelist, a bolshevik, and a dadaist walked into a bar, is one way of getting the joke that is Travesties. Or it’s a demonstration of how The Importance of Being Earnest is a Marxist tract. Or it’s a slideshow of linguistic fireworks in which any amount of explosive art talk does not get in the way of a fizzing Wildean epigram. The inventor of this literary party game said last year in The New Yorker that “the play is a kind of luxury, in which you pretend that James Joyce was there in Zurich at the same time as Lenin and Tristan Tzara. It’s a kind of intellectual entertainment.” Bloomsday in Melbourne chose to make Tom Stoppard’s play th