The worst statue in Australia?

In Cairns, there’s a Captain Cook.
Of course, you say, he’s everywhere,
a kind of cane toad, or rabbit,
with a nicer, powdery wig.
But, and do my eyes deceive me?
in Cairns he’s saluting.
A Nazi salute. But, you say
(again), James lived long before
the Nazis. And you’d be right.
Yet someone built this… ‘art’
long after the Nazis.
Someone placed it in front of
the Endeavour Inn, now gone.
Now Nazi Cook stands there,
all forlorn, ugly as Ugly’s ugly uncle,
giving his tireless salute.
The mind boggles. And yet, I say,
given the way his arrival
heralded attempted genocide,
maybe his inadvertent Nazi salute
makes a kind of sense?
This statue, which would last
ten minutes in Canberra
(that’s as in the place people live,
not the places politicians gather)
is just as grim as facts.
So perhaps this is the best statue
of Cook in Australia?
Not aesthetically, for it’s foul,
foul as a nightmare’s farts,
but historically?
I’m not the first to comment
on Cairns’s Nazi Cook.
And yet still he stands, gesturing,
truly obscene, seen on the way
to the Reef (the Frankland Islands
named by yes, you know who)
or back. You can’t see it
without the words ‘topple’
or ‘Aussie-mandias’ coming to mind.
Cairns’s Cook kicks pale mythology
quite out of decent bounds.
Unspeakably ugly, laughably gross,
and, it must be said, somewhat true.

PS Cottier

Nazi Cook

The Cairns Cook is aesthetically disgusting. At least one Indigenous artist, Munganbana Norman Miller, has taken action to address it, politically. (Note that the headline suggests that putting a ‘Sorry’ sign on the statue was vandalising it; I think that anything would improve this statue, apart from the fact that putting a sign on it is hardly vandalism. The article itself has a different tone.)

Seeing this thing made me realise that Australia really is a big place, politically. (‘Canberra vegan poet investigates Far North Queensland in one week stay!’) I have been trying to find a way to talk about it for a couple of months now, putting it in the context of debates about what we do with statues that are problematic. (That’s a link to an article by Paul Daley.)

You can read a little more about the building of this Cook statue here. That article says the gesture is copied from a painting of Cook ‘protecting’ Aborigines, which adds to the mix. There’s a much better photo there; mine was taken in a mini-bus in a state of shocked amusement. (But note that there’s a sign saying you can win a trip to Las Vegas under him, in my photo, and something about the Cock and Bull. Cook and Bull?)

Cairns, statue aside, is beautiful.

blood elephant

Blood elephant
bathes in human river
tusk intact

PS Cottier

Now, next time someone is saying what a beautiful sport surfing is, bear this photo in mind. The person who injured his head (and inadvertently caused the painting of the blood elephant to drain itself onto his shirt) drove two hours home from the coast, with a head injury that required six stitches. Past at least two hospitals.

I think that goes beyond the merely gnarly.

***

In other, less gruesome news, my poem ‘The ineffable boredom of Polonius’ is one of many making up a performance anthology of Canberra poetry, being produced very soon.  The play is called Under Sedation: Canberra Verse Remixed, and it will be at the Street Theatre, from September 29 (preview) to October 14. The director (and the person who compiled the anthology) is Adele Chynoweth, and the actors are Ruth Pieloor and Ben Drysdale.

Here is a list of the poets whose work will appear (apologies for any typos):

A.D.Hope (whose work provided the title of the production), Andi and George Band, Greg Appel, Dorothy Auchterloine, Burrows, Michael Byrne, Adrian Caesar, David Campbell, Coda Conduct (Sally Coleman & Erica Mallet), Malcolm Coller, P.S.Cottier, Vesna Cvjeticanin, Michael Dransfield, Chris Endrey & Bec Taylor, Niloofar Fanaiyan, Bela Farkas, Fun Machine, Kevin Gilbert, Paul Hetherington, Suzie Higgie, J.C.Inman, Subhash Jaireth, Aaron Kirby, Victoria McGrath, Mark O’Connor, Lizz Murphy, Omar Musa, Geoff Page, Anita Patel, Sandra Renew, Sarah Rice, Fred Smith Melinda Smith, John Karl Stokes and Monique Suna.

I can’t wait to see the production.  Here is the director, Adele Chynoweth, who recently (last night, in fact) launched a book by Sandra Renew at Smiths Alternative.   I hope this is the image you remember from this post!

AC

 

 

Tuesday poem: On editing

September 11, 2017

awaw2017.jpg

Irma Gold has written a thoughtful piece about writing her story ‘The Line’ that appears in this year’s Award Winning Australian Writing.

My poem in this book, which covers both prose and poetry, is three lines in length, although I did not write it as a ‘real’ haiku. It won a contest for a poem in 50 characters or less, which means that the emphasis was on what was not spoken as much as the words that appeared. Editing and writing become virtually inseparable when the poem is so short.

I took the ‘How Tweet It Is’ title of the Fellowship of Australian Writers’ contest literally and wrote a poem called ‘The Cat’s New Beard’ which is not in the least bird-friendly. It’s about a cat eating a bird. I won’t post it here, as the book just came out, and I can’t really post an extract of a tiny poem. But here’s another short poem about the process of editing a wee poem about a bird.

Plucking words
too many feathers —
bantam or robin?

Now a bantam is bigger than a robin, just as Batman is bigger than the Boy Wonder, so robin is probably the better option.

I am enjoying reading the book, which contains everything from evocative stories (Irma) to dead canaries (me). Why not purchase one? The editor is Pia Gaardboe.

This little story was the winner of the RedBeard Bakery 50 Words Microfiction Competition, at the Words in Winter Festival, Trentham, Victoria. It is up by link on the Word in Winter site, but I thought I’d post in here now. Prize winning entries in the other categories can be read here. The story had to be exactly 50 words long; hence the rather clipped tone! The theme was ‘Origins’.

Fittest

It was hidden in the op shop, behind fifteen copies of Fifty Shades. First edition Darwin. Original Origin.

He grabbed it from me, paid $5, and ran. I followed, did only what was necessary, and reclaimed the book.

It sold for £100,000.

That’s only fitting, if you think about it.

PS Cottier

murder

I also have a micro-poem just published in Award Winning Australian Poetry (Melbourne Books) which is being launched in Melbourne on the 30th August, at the Athenaeum Library in Collins Street, at 6pm. I went last year and it was a great launch.

So, after two micro awards, I’m obviously getting big in a small way. I received $200 in vouchers from a great bakery in Trentham for the story, which probably works out at a large roll a word, and will have to drive down and stuff myself some glorious and calorific day.

***
And on another note, over at Overland there’s an extended debate about whether ‘bush poetry’ deserves to be included in ‘Best of’ collections. I find it fascinating how this sort of debate tends to attract so many more men more than women; what is it about definitions and certainties? But, anyway, here’s my less than serious contribution.

Mayweather v McGregor was more entertaining
than trying to know poetry by explaining.

It’s all so pugnacious.
(Is rhyming contagious?)

Next week: post-structuralism summarised in a limerick, and semiotics in a haiku.

***
And on yet another, far less frivolous note, send a thought to the home of real haiku, who just had a missile sent over their northern island.

I just had three poems published at Eureka Street called ‘Three aspects of Australian racism’, ‘Doing a Bradbury’, and ‘Release the dogs of scorn!’.

Why not have a read? I was quite angry when I wrote two of them, and I think it shows. Some think that poetry is the loser if there’s too much anger, but I don’t necessarily agree.

A very well-balanced type of poem, where everything is smooth and lovely, and where any aspect of the external world that manages to sneak in seemingly exists only for the benefit of the poet, begins to annoy me very quickly. There’s certainly a place for political poetry of the more obvious sort, so long as it avoids rant and cliché. You can comment at Eureka Street, should you feel so inclined.

And here’s a very cool picture of a giant. I’m not quite uncouth enough to make a political statement out of him. Not this week, anyway.

giant-drink-stream

(For overseas readers, the Bradbury mentioned in one poem is Steven Bradbury, who won Australia’s first Winter Olympics gold medal in a memorable way.)