reading revival: a poetry book blog

reading revival is devoted to promoting australian poetry books and related discussion through reading one book - firstly, duty by geraldine mckenzie. i will choose a new book roughly every 3 months

Saturday, May 27, 2006

a letter from kris hemensley, of collected works bookshop

Dear Michael, This is from a draft of a letter I wrote to Geraldine McKenzie dated 23/9/98. I've searched in my journals & notebooks for commentary on her book launching (DUTY) in 2001 at the Shop but can't find very much at all. The book was launched by Gig Ryan and there was some discussion later commented upon by people including John Leonard. Small gathering but in this case quality compensating for quantity was correct verdict! Retta H. recalls universal surprise and wonder at Geraldine's ability to recite her poems from memory. A contemporary oral poetry : I believe she forms the poems in her mind before writing them. Anyway, for its worth and as a contribution to the blog discussion :

"Dear Geraldine, On storm-threatening Melbourne spring day, riding the trams from one end of town to the other, I reread your sonnets and say again what a pleasure it is to hear you. Please excuse me for not answering sooner. The usual schedule of days at work, more or less with it, then evenings in which I gradually yield to fatigue. Some poems along the way (....)
Monday, I should tell you, young woman came to the Shop asking if I had your address since you'd been recommended by Mike Shuttleworth, of the Victorian Writers Centre, as a poet to be invited to read at every opportunity. The young woman was arranging a poetry reading in support of literacy project --something like that. I confirmed Mike's opinion of you but said it might be difficult to get you down from NSW for a gig. She hadnt realized you werent local --
local to me though --maybe it is the Shakespeare then? --tho' I can tell you're steeped in it whereas I've merely been a kind of sneak in & around the edges-- But you remind me so much of English poets I associated with in the 70s --tho' the sex is something they rarely treated but which you do sort of mockingly or in a self-implicating mockery which yet works sexually --
The layering or fretwork --neo-classical, arts/muses/fates --is dense & suggestive as Peter Greenaway's bucolic deconstruction (Drowning by Numbers I'm thinking of)--
And then the spanner-in-the-works of III & IV --well, certainly III -- If III bore a reference to Wilfred Owen at your reading then I'm allowed to think of WW1 --if not, then I confess WW1 is a lot on my mind these days, mixed in with Georgians and despite DH Lawrence & Pound, the Bloomsburys (as pre-Raphaelitism's other side?)-- But maybe it's WW2, --"reading the S.S. paper" throws me -- But, whatever the case may be, your music plays on --and has me all ears, sighs, some tears.
Thank you for sending to me,
How can I reciprocate, --apart from telling you how relieved I was to have done a good job launching (phantom) BOXKITE [at the Melbourne Writers Festival] and to have as chorus Hibberd, Hart, Ryan, Elizov, and you, minstrel? too!
Actually I could send you a copy of one of my "mirror sonnet" narratives, -- a book about love & friendship --autobiographical by way of history, art & literature -- the first sequence written a few years ago (& the book's got a couple more narratives to write)--. Awkward, I think, compared to yours, but how I'd hope it stood "as those who are themselves, a kind of light." [McKenzie]
With all best wishes,
Kris Hemensley


At 6:07 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

thanks for this kris. mckenzie is a strong synthesiser (making synthesis that is not synthetics). she brings in what is her culture, brings it out in poems. 'bucolic deconstruction,' war & sex. there is a strong sense of integration - not here are my war poems, heres somthing erotic .. 'another nature poem' p36 moves from its ostensible subject (tho again not - the 2nd last line has 'the guns a natural mutter') with the words 'army blanket' in stanza 4; tho earlier in that same stanza we have 'nurse a nibbled hand'. going back theres perhaps a clue in the word 'flaring' in stanza 1. themes move like rhizomes through the poems ..

At 3:33 AM, Blogger liam79 said...

michael - think i get what you mean by synthesiser, but i was wondering if you, or somebody else, could elucidate further...

At 7:32 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

liam, i know my style can tend to the cryptic .. by synthesiser i meant someone who is combining/integrated their material/influences/different aspects of their culture.. continually i mean, not just once & then having a marketable product..

At 7:38 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

er - that shd be integrating .. & to elaborate - i meant to go on to say - creating poems from this synthesis - or more accurately each poem is the result of ongoing synthesis - im thinking of synthesis not as something thats resolved .. cod gives derivations of syn+thesis as 'with' & 'putting' or 'placing' - this doesnt suggest something thats resolved - like a pudding - more like muesli or a sandwich.

At 10:15 PM, Blogger liam79 said...

i wouldn't worry about being "cryptic", the idea of a poet as synthesiser struck me as a pretty apt way of seeing not only my own poetry but also the poetry of many people I admire... yourself, pound, silliman etc.

I just wanted to make sure i understood what you said. i think you were clear enough in the initial comment i can just be a little slow on the uptake thats all.

i also quite like the notion that synthesis is not something that is resolved. that a poem can be a, heaven forbid - text, that meaning can be written across.

At 6:09 AM, Blogger michaelf said...

liam yr comment made me think of how we read poems in uniform fonts, & how we (might) read manuscript material (which may or may not exist for many poem/ts), or poems that combined different ways of presenting text. the page is a framing device the font is a taming device. yet - taming - what does this mean - is taming resolved - or is the wild always lurking?


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