May 31, 2011
There’s currently a great poetry competition on called the Cricket Poetry Award . For members of full member registered ICC countries only, of course, and if you don’t know what that means, you’re probably not going to be that interested in cricket. There’s a list of the countries on the site. For my American friends, cricket is a kind of baseball with rules. Lots of them.
I was short-listed for the prize a couple of years back with my poem ‘DIY’, about the way we act as famous sports-people when we play cricket, (or basket-ball, or football; Lionel Messi is a fallen angel, isn’t he? One who looks like an accountant after the Christmas party). The entry fee is $20, which may be a little steep for some cricket fanatics in developing countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka. But the first (and only monetary) prize is $2000. That’s Australian dollars, which are currently worth more than the greenback. And short-listed poems are usually published in some form, although this is not in the rules (that word again).
The poetry can be about social cricket, and there is some information at the site about types of poetry. I enjoyed the opportunity to write about a sport that dominates Australia’s summers, particularly when we are playing England (who seem to have a team made up mostly of South Africans).
Here’s my poem from 2009.
In the backyard I was always David Gower.
I opted for an easy nonchalance,
the sweep you could weep for, the air cut
with a wooden knife of sudden elegance,
(when it could be bothered to dance the dance).
Truth is, I couldn’t bat at all, but that
is merely a fact. In the suburb of dreams,
I was graceful and quick and David Gower.
Why would anyone opt to be Dennis Lillee?
Grunt-powered, facial hair fallen to chest
where it grew into rain-forest, sweat-sprinkled.
There was nothing of the lily about him;
nothing quiet or lovely or sweet-scented
(although he always bowled as if he meant it).
Yet everyone else chose this dubious flower,
right-handed terror to my imaginary Gower.
May 19, 2011
Death and the missus
Death is a doughnut; we lick his sprinkles every day.
We feel their shadows on our lips after they have buried
into our own grave of stomach. Burps are their ghosts,
rattling sonic chains. Perhaps we are the doughnuts,
dunked in Death’s ever morning coffee, as he chats
with Mrs Death. Mrs Death is a knitter, has been working
on the same cardigan these twice two million years,
needles clicking like clocks before there ever were clocks.
It’s a domestic thing, after all. One minute you’re watching
The Bill (you poor sad sod) and the next, you’re gardening
from below, totally rooted, rooted as. And Death sighs,
and has a little break at Donuts R Us, hands trembling
as he cups that endless drink. He gloves himself in sugar.
And then he gets back to it; the icing and the holes.
First published in The Mozzie, Queensland.
May 13, 2011
Here’s my suggestion for a new power source. I’ll be registering a patent soon.
Harnessing the energy of horror fans at cinemas
as dread zombies excavate warm bodies for dinners,
or vampires provide certain proof
that red and black fit neck in tooth;
this was my brilliant idea for a new power source.
Tingling fear explodes as the thick crimson sauce
splatters, or green mutant rats emerge from sewers.
Darker than oil, those cries of shivering viewers,
tinged with the delicious free energy of fear.
The true beauty was that they had no idea
that they generated watts with loud gusts of ‘No!’
and their howling winds of scream. I watched them grow,
my bank accounts, fed on those quivering masses
whose renewable angst was cheaper than gases.
Alas! Times changed, and romantic comedy smirks
where once deep slash movies bled. It certainly irks
to see the dark side fade out and my cash-flow cease,
and our total reliance on imported dear grease.
May 6, 2011
I am about to embark on a fortnight’s total immersion in music. Sounds like acoustic water-boarding, but it’s a matter of choice. The Canberra International Music Festival runs between May 11th and 22nd, and I’ve splurged on a gold pass, which means I can attend all 34 concerts, should I so choose.
I find that the ‘jet-lag’ caused by embarking on the long-distance haul triggers connections in my brain that otherwise lie dormant. That’s once I get past the lurking feelings of inadequacy that great music always creates. Sometimes I feel that poetry is music’s poor relation, being tied too much to meaning. But then another vodka kicks me past this, and the synapses stimulated (or created) by the baptism in sound can be put to good use, emphasising the noise that words make, and twisting meanings into improvised forms.
Here’s a little poem about the feeling that others (or Others Unseen) are somehow more perfectly creative. (Interestingly, I searched Bigstock for an illustration combining music and snails to go with the poem, and found the image above. It’s comforting, in a way, to know that someone else’s mind has been where mine has!):
Peg loves looseness, envies river of sheet,
flowing down from plastic clench of beak.
Milk would carve itself into solidity, escape
sloppy white seascape into certainties of cheese.
Poet would be musician, shed sad bad husks of words,
sprout into airier art, so eary and so letterless.
Sliming through house-heavy dirt,
even snails may dream of wings.
Update 11th May
Just returned from sitting in an exposed position on concrete on a wet piece of rubber listening to William Barton and an organist play some interesting music. (Barton’s own composition and some Philip Glass.) But I really couldn’t concentrate or enjoy the experience, as it was just too cold. There’s no way that concerts should be staged in Canberra at 7am at the end of Autumn. There’s a real martyrdom for music attitude amongst some of the attendees at the Canberra International Music Festival. I simply had to leave early as I felt I might get hypothermia. I obviously don’t have the right attitude. And the event was very difficult to locate for those of us who got there early, which added to my general festive spirit.
Unbelievable comment from one fellow attendee when I commented that I hoped the performance was not cancelled due to possible rain damage to the instruments: ‘Oh no, it’s only a didjeridu’. 40,000 years of culture belittled. Hats off to you, Sir. (Although there’s no way I would have removed my hat due to possible frost-bite.)
Previously I saw William Barton as one of the musicians in a concert at the Fitters’ Workshop featuring Sculthorpe’s Requiem, another requiem by Tomas Luis de Victoria and a setting of ee cumming’s ‘I thank you God for most this amazing day’ by Eric Whitacre. I wasn’t too keen on the last one, perhaps because that poem is so near perfect that the music seemed, for once, to detract from its beauty.
The event was co-sponsored by the Spanish Embassy. A Spaniard (I think she was, anyway) pointed out that there were several red-backs nestling at the edge of the concrete of this old industrial building, including one enormous one. I agreed that it was better to leave them alone, rather than stir them up into possible vengeance (a pun about red-backs and bulls was stifled on my tongue). I found myself explaining how the really big ones are female. I hadn’t expected to become a junior David Attenborough at the concert, I must admit. No doubt she’ll have a story to tell back in Spain: (‘..and they have horrible spiders, even at musical venues…’)
There was a lot of talk at the concert about how this venue is the best acoustically in Canberra, if not Australia, and how it should be preserved for music. The ACT Government has decided to move the Megalo print-works there instead. This is, according to one speaker, a tragedy or a disaster (I know he said one of these, but I can’t recall which one. It may even have been catastrophe.)* No, what has happened in Japan or NZ or Queensland is a tragedy or a disaster. A print-works getting the building is not a tragedy. It just means that another art-form has won out in this case. I hate the misuse of words in this way; it really cheapens the points being made. We all do it in casual conversation, but this was a prepared statement. I am not, admittedly, qualified to speak about the acoustics, but I was alienated by the tone of the comments. There’s a bit of a campaign on, I see, to keep the venue for music, and some of the letters in The Canberra Times are rather snide (although I haven’t noticed the word ‘tragedy’ or ‘disaster’ yet).
I wonder how the spiders processed the music, or if they even register it at all? Probably it vibrates through their bodies, particularly the drums, organ and the didjeridu. I wonder if they’ll miss the noise, when the venue becomes a printery? Just tragic, really.
*Update 13th May
The word used by the speaker, Don Aitkin, was disaster. I checked in a written copy of the speech which was made available at a concert last night. The story has migrated to the front of The Canberra Times, although the article also deals fairly with the needs of the Megalo print-works. A point I have not seen made by anyone is how the building is flooded by light through enormous glass windows: as important an element to the visual arts, I would think, as acoustical quality is to music.
Update 2nd June
Looking back on the festival, I would not buy another ‘gold pass’ for nearly $500, despite some of the music being memorable. There was just too much talk before the concerts, much of it repetitive. And, after investing what was, for me, a considerable sum, I didn’t appreciate the frequent appeals for generosity in the form of sponsoring a performance.
Next year I’ll just attend one or two concerts that seem particularly interesting, and hope that that number of speeches proves (almost) tolerable.