Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Clip from the 1958 teen B movie High School Confidential.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sydney... One last look

I stayed with family friends in Oak Flats, just outside of Wollongong from Friday to Sunday while I attended art exhibitions, poetry readings, caught some live music and did some sight seeing. Mr S is a visual artist, play write and retired English/ History teacher. His passions include poetry and literature, films, trains, sculpture and painting, travel and live music - to name but a few. His wife, Mrs S, is a retired Latin/ French/ English teacher who shares most of Mr S' interests and is also passionate about theater, ballet and travel. What a couple. 

My little adventure to Sydney and Wollongong had many highlights, but staying with Mr and Mrs S was definitely one of them. Above you can see some of the sculptures around their garden, made by Mr S and fellow local artists, as well as two of his paintings, and the sculpture he gifted me made out of piano pieces (which I photographed in my backyard as it is overcast and rainy today). The sculpture survived the flight and now has pride of place in my study. So thank you Mr and Mrs S for being so welcoming and accommodating, there is a spare bed for you whenever you are in Brisbane again! 

Sydney part three... An overview

Laurie Dyggan
Allan Jefferies
Ken Bolton

My Sydney adventure began at Roma Street train station, where I caught a train to the airport and flew down to Sydney. I was whisked away from the airport by a shuttle bus and dropped out the front of my hotel on George Street. The hotel is flanked on one side by a bottle shop and on the other a Catholic church. The Pensione Hotel is in an old building that has been renovated to create a centrally located hotel with "boutique interiors" (ie. small). But it was a great place to stay and while I was in Sydney I interviewed two more poets for my PhD. 

The first poet I interviewed was Robert Adamson at his beautiful home beside Mooney Creek in the Hawksbury. He was charamatic, alive with energy and very generous with his time. We spoke about everything from his love of Bob Dylan and his friendship with Brett Whiteley, to how to organise bookshelves and the generation of 68 that he was a part of. It was a great experience and I left with a neat pile of signed books and poetry magazines; he even signed one for a friend of mine who loves his poetry. So generous.

The next day I was off on a bus to Balmain to meet with John Tranter. Tranter complied the anthology on the generation of 68, The New Australian Poetry (1979), and is seen as the spokesperson for the generation. Aside from being a major Australian poet, reviewer, editor etc. he also started Jacket, an online magazine which recently found a new home and has become Jacket2. It was great meeting with him and between my interviews with Tranter and Adamson I was able to debunk a few myths about the generation of 68 for my thesis.

On my fourth day in Sydney I caught a train to Wollongong for what was ostensibly a poetry exhibition. "The Coalcliff Days" exhibition is a collection of photographs, films and books by artists, writers and poets who lived, stayed or visited Ken Bolton's and Sal Brereton's miner's cottage from around 1979-1981. There were two poetry readings, one on the opening night and one the following day with readings from Laurie Duggan, Allan Jefferies and Ken Bolton (see photographs above), as well as Pam Brown and others.

A wonderful week away. Now I have hours of transcribing to do, some great new books to read and lots of catching up to do!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sydney part two...

Queen Victoria Building, Train ride to Hawksbury, Centerpoint Tower, China Town.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sydney Part One... Photo essay

Sydney part one. On way to Sydney from Brisbane. Train, airport, plane and hotel.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Literary forebears, paint and sound...

Hemingway Image Credit
Anyone who has been reading this blog for at least a little while will know that I am an unashamed Hemingway fan. I was delighted when I found this wonderful quote over at Bibliokept's blog. A great literary blog that features death masks regularly - they are fascinating - so maybe if you go check out the Bibliokept  blog, they won't mind so much that I pinched their quote to share with you.
Ernest Hemingway describes his influences in his 1958 interview with George Plimpton at The Paris Review
Who would you say are your literary forebears—those you have learned the most from?
Mark Twain, Flaubert, Stendhal, Bach, Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, Andrew Marvell, John Donne, Maupassant, the good Kipling, Thoreau, Captain Marryat, Shakespeare, Mozart, Quevedo, Dante, Virgil, Tintoretto, Hieronymus Bosch, Brueghel, Patinir, Goya, Giotto, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, San Juan de la Cruz, Góngora—it would take a day to remember everyone. Then it would sound as though I were claiming an erudition I did not possess instead of trying to remember all the people who have been an influence on my life and work. This isn’t an old dull question. It is a very good but a solemn question and requires an examination of conscience. I put in painters, or started to, because I learn as much from painters about how to write as from writers. You ask how this is done? It would take another day of explaining. I should think what one learns from composers and from the study of harmony and counterpoint would be obvious.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Today PM...

Okay, so the vino at lunch was wishful thinking, but the PhD Prospectus presentation today went well, I think. I started with a poem, had a PowerPoint slide show and a short video clip to help maintain interest, as well as a hand out. I know I spoke a little too fast at times, but I resisted the temptation of running from the room. So overall, I count it as a minor victory.

Time now to pack for Sydney and get that vino...

PS. Excitement and terror has given way to relief, such an underrated feeling.


Today is the day I present my Prospectus presentation for my PhD that I have been working on for the last few months, and then hopefully grab a vino with lunch before heading off to a "Advanced Studies Class" on Pascale Casanova. Then I will be coming home to pack my bag for a week in Sydney interviewing poets for the thesis! It is amazing how you can experience terror and excitement at the same time about the same things...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Free philosophy...

I have previously posted about the Free University of San Fransisco. They have exciting new classes just announced, including an "Outside writers from Dostoevsky to Bukowski" course to be held at the Beat Museum. I am a big fan of the Beat Museum, I bought some great books there and it is located just across from City Lights Bookstore. What I didn't realise was that there is a free university here in Australia. The Melbourne Free University began last year and has more classes starting this month. Now, if only Brisbane had one!

Oh and have you heard of The School of Life in London? The founder and chairman is none other than the writer/ philosopher Alain de Botton. The School of Life offers philosophical classes, dealing with a really wide range of issues such as: love, death, family, relationships, money, parenting and Utopia. They have a really cool looking "Dinner with Jean Paul Sartre" coming up, where you attend a three-course French meal while learning about existentialism. There is also a "Fry-up with Jack Kerouac" planned. Food, philosophy and literature. Sounds great.

Even though I am not in San Fransisco, Melbourne or London to participate in this exciting seminars, courses and meals, it makes me happy (and little jealous) just knowing that they are occurring.

PS. There is also a free online university, The University of the People,  that offers business and computer science courses to a world wide audience.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Archibald finalists...

 Barton, Del Kathryn Mother (a portrait of Cate)

 Lowry, Fiona Portrait of Tim Silver

Quilty, Ben Margaret Olley

The Archibald Prize finalists have been posted. I wonder who will win the judge's prize and which painting will get the people's prize. I also wonder if Del Kathryn Barton could win it a second time? Her portrait of Cate and her children sure is stunning. I've picked out three of my favorites (above), there are many more on the website. Which one would you vote for?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tan in Overland...

Today the current issue of Overland came in the mail (Issue 202), it features Shaun Tan's work on the cover, selections of an interview with the artist and eight pages of his artworks, including the "Day in the Life" comic strip (part of which I have included above). Shaun Tan is an Australian illustrator renowned for his wordless "children's" books such as The Arrival, The Red Tree and most recently an anthology of short illustrated stories called Tales from Outer Suburbia. I have previously bought his books for children and adult friends, they are so beautiful and have a wonderful strangeness and mythical, surreal quality; their appeal certainly isn't restricted to children.

Image from The Arrival, also available as a limited edition print.
Christmas present anyone?

But seriously, I love the mood and atmosphere created in his work. If you can't get your hands on a copy of Overland, do check out Tan's website which has a large overview of his work and a great FAQ page that speaks about his inspiration, ways of working and philosophy regarding children's books.   

Thursday, April 7, 2011



Moleskine have released a new range of embossed journals, including this travel journal with flight details embossed into the cover, stickers, tabbed sections and travel planning calendar. Part of me wonders what Chatwin would think... the other part of me would love one on these to play with during flights and stop overs. A place to plan and record, create wish lists, map journeys, consult time zones and write about adventures. I could see it with bus, train and airplane tickets glued in, foreign stamps, receipts, postcards and drawings that would chart the journey and the destination. Then I think that Kerouac wrote some of his best travel writing in cheap exercise books and I feel ashamed... but I still want one.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Beats in Australia...

"Inquiry into the Beats": Sydney Beatniks, 1959. Keep your eye out for a very young (and opinionated) Robert Hughes and Clive James. I love the "super-fluidity of adjectives".

This video was shot in the same year that the wonderful Life magazine article below was published. The Beat cornerstones, "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg and On the Road by Jack Kerouac, were published in 1956 and 1957 respectively. And with the lunch of Sputnik in 1957, "Beat" became "Beatnik" in the popular media and by 1959 Beat and Beatniks were already established as a fashion.
A new Beat industry emerged in the 1990s through the re-marketing of Kerouac, Burroughs and Ginsberg as American cultural icons: an industry which cemented the notion of the Beat Generation as authentically American and coherent. Ginsberg and Kerouac were featured in quintessentially American advertising campaigns – for GAP clothing – and Burroughs appeared in Nike shoe commercials. In a ‘high-cultural’ context, the legitimisation of the generation was re-enforced by the Whitney Museum of American Art’s exhibition in 1996, Beat Culture and the New America: 1950–1965, where the Beat Generation was presented as a broad and influential cultural movement. However, according to some critics the Beat Generation that gave birth to Beat literature did not really exist. Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee argued in the prologue to their biography of Kerouac that he ‘is remembered as the exemplar of “The Beat Generation.” But the generation was no generation at all. The label was invented as an essay in self-explanation when journalists asked questions, but it was accepted at face value’ (Preface np).

Kerouac seemed to endorse this view in an interview with Mike Wallace in 1958. Asked about the Beat Generation Kerouac said ‘Well, actually it’s just an old phrase. I knocked it off one day and they made a big fuss about it. It’s not really a generation at all’. Kerouac had defined the term Beat and explained the phenomenon of the Beat Generation to the media, who ‘made a big fuss about it’ interminably, and by the time of the Wallace interview – a mere year after the publication of On the Road – he was exhausted and disenchanted by the incessant demands on his time. Kerouac’s disavowal of the ‘generation’ idea may well have been prompted equally by his exasperation with ‘square’ commentators and younger fashionable fans who were drawn to the ‘on the road’ mystique by media exposure. At the same time, Kerouac could anomalously assert that jazz was important because it was ‘the music of the Beat Generation’ (qtd. in Hayes 4).

Perhaps Kerouac was right: it was not a generation at all. The Beat Generation was a handful of writers and like-minded individuals who came together first in New York and then in San Francisco, influencing each other and writing texts that embodied their shared experiences and attitudes to the Cold-War world. But as Ann Charters argued in The Penguin Book of the Beats, citing F. Scott Fitzgerald, an American literary generation is characterised by a ‘reaction against the fathers which seems to occur about three times in a century. It is distinguished by a set of ideas inherited in modified form from the madmen and outlaws of the generation before; if it is a real generation it has its own leaders and spokesmen, and it draws into its orbit those born just before it and just after, whose ideas are less clear-cut and defiant’ (xvi).
- page 3 my Masters thesis.  

Monday, April 4, 2011


It is your 30th Birthday today. We miss you and love you still.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

How (not) to be a Beatnik...

"The Well-Equipped Pad" according to Time magazine 30 November, 1959. Staged photograph to go with an ungenerous assault on the Beats called "The Only Rebellion Around: But the Shabby Beats Bungle the Job in Arguing, Sulking and Bad Poetry" -- so says Paul O'Neil Life staff writer.

The photograph numbers the objects in the "pad" and provides descriptions for "squares". Can you dig it?

"The Beat's entire 'pad' or household, as re-created in studio shot using paid models, contains all of the essentials of uncomfortable living and consists of the following: 1. Beat chick dressed in black, 2. coal stove for heating baby's milk, drying chick's leotards and displaying crucifix-shaped Mexican cow bells, 3. naked light bulb, 4. hot plate for warming espresso coffee pot and bean cans, 5. marijuana for smoking, 6. posters from old poetry readings and jazz concerts, 7. paperback library of Beat classics, 8. crates which serve as tables and closets, 9. hi-fi loudspeaker, 10. typewriter with half-finished poem, 11. bearded Beat wearing sandals, chinos and turtle-necked sweater and studying record by the late saxophonist Charlie Parker, 12. ill-tended plant, 15. current jazz favorite of Beats, Miles Davis's Kind of Blues, 16. guitar, 17. record player, 18. Beat poetry leaflet (Abomunist Manifesto), 19. bare mattress, 20. bongo drums for accompanying poetry reading (guitar is also used), 21. cat, 22. Beat baby, who has gone to sleep on the floor after playing with beer cans".

I have finished and emailed off my Prospectus today (!) and I am now working on the oral and PowerPoint presentation. I thought I would take some time out to share this hyperbole with you. Farewell weekend.

Friday, April 1, 2011

More Books...

I am sick with a cold at the moment and progressing slowly (with a handful of tissues) on my Prospectus. So just a quick post to share the books that have arrived this week for the PhD: Under The Weather (1978) by Laurie Duggan, The Poems of the Clear Eye (1994/5) by Kris Hemensley,  Crying in Early Infancy: One Hundred Sonnets (1977) by John Tranter and Sulking in the Seventies (1975) by Kris Hemensley. 

Looking forward to doing some more reading now that the Prospectus is almost finished, and hoping that this damn cold will be gone really soon. Have a great weekend.