Monday, 30 August 2010

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

further along

John Latta has now published Kent Johnson’s reply to Tony Towle’s letter on the attribution of Frank O’Hara’s poem ‘A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island’. I’m not sure that Johnson’s refutation of Towle’s argument is convincing, though he suggests himself that all he’s really arguing for is a position of reasonable doubt. What do I think about this? Other than coming up with a kind of Ockham’s Razor type argument (i.e. let’s go with the proposition that needs the least structuring) I can’t say that I have any strong feelings on the matter. Do I care whether or not Christopher Marlowe wrote ‘Shakespeare’? Not really, though in the current age of celebrity authorship seems to matter so much more. Johnson’s book might be his own route to celebrity in the ‘bad boy’ mode.

I have often played with the notion of authorship myself and as I’ve said elsewhere on this site one of my earliest influences was a poet who wasn’t a poet (or a person) at all: Ern Malley. My interaction with other poets has, to an extent (I hope), kept the faith. Back in the early 1980s John Scott asked me for lines and fragments from poems I hadn’t completed. From these, and with considerable additions of his own, he composed the poem ‘Breath’ which both of us then printed in our respective books. Just a few years ago I composed a poem merely by breaking into short lines a couple of sentences from a letter Pam Brown sent me. The lines had suggested the rhythm of a Noel Coward lyric so the piece became ‘Pam becomes Noel Coward’. It was included in a book co-authored by Pam, Ken Bolton and myself entitled Let’s Get Lost. Within this book individual poems were not attributed. Pam subsequently published the poem as ‘My Noel Coward’ in her own book Authentic Local. At these levels authorship is a less than obvious proposition. Best of all though was another case from the early 1980s. I had written a group of parodies of my contemporaries. In one of these (‘Analgesia’) the subject was John Forbes. John so much liked the lines with ‘a cowboy riding out of/the bookshelf on a bottle/of brightly coloured pills’ that he used them in his own poem ‘Monkey’s Pride’ as ‘a cowboy appears from a bookcase/riding on a bottle of pills’. It was a double-edged honour. The lines seem so much his that it now appears as though I simply lifted them (as I had done with lines from other poets) and placed them in my own poem.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Thursday, 19 August 2010

a true account

For a first class refutation of Kent Johnson’s thesis: that Kenneth Koch was the real author of Frank O’Hara’s poem ‘A True Account of Talking to the Sun at Fire Island’, I’d urge those interested to read Tony Towle’s letter, reproduced on John Latta’s blog. What interests me about this case is the readiness among many to believe in the possibility of forgery. Certainly in the age of the web we are only too aware of occasions for ‘appropriation’, but I think the desire to believe Johnson’s ‘true account’ of the ‘True Account’ has a lot more to do with those propensities the editors of tabloids have made steady use of for decades.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

@ the Lamb

It may be mid-August but there was still a decent turnout for last night's Blue Bus reading at The Lamb. It was worth the haul. Holding the stage were Adrian Clarke, Wayne Clements and Michael Zand. The very large problem table (see entry for previous reading) was the one notable absence.

Saturday, 7 August 2010


I left Australia in August 2006 and have only visited once since then though I’m in constant touch with a number of people. One thing I miss though is the appearance of books by those not in my immediate circle. So I notice with alarm that the publication date of Wren Lines, the first volume of Billy Jones’ Selected Poems and Drawings (kindly sent to me) was 2006. I have several earlier books by Jones, now in his mid-seventies, and have always liked his work. These early books often featured Jones’ reproduced block capital handwriting and this I’m sure together with associations with hippydom meant that for a while anyway not much critical attention was paid to his work. This handsome volume and the one succeeding it (both published by papertiger media) should rectify earlier perceptions. Yes, Jones is a ‘one-off’, but this isn’t at all a bad thing. His drawings too deserve attention. Far from being stoned exercises they have about them a Blakean meticulousness, an attention to fine detail that repays examination. The poems are utterly devoid of flab and evidence the same sharp attentions.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Monday, 2 August 2010

an essay in collective amnesia

The post-avant have introduced Fordism to poetry, but planned obsolescence is for the others, not for themselves.