Friday, May 6, 2016


[27-3-16](At Weymouth Library, 29th March, transcribing from flight notebook)

In which Billy Boo attempts to read the map as described in ornate Thai characters, ditto the travel times & distances, in the second or two before the screen switches to English. "Local Time at Melbourne 3-27 -- Local Time at Bangkok 11-27". Fair enough. He's already in credit : invited to move out of tight fit threesome to the aisle of a comfortable two. Boo thinks it's because he returned clasped hands greeting with hostesses on the ramp and they misheard his Lao 'sabaidee' for Thai 'sawasdee'. He's belted in, tentatively stretches leg beneath forward seat, glances through the porthole at the cloud plain topped by blue, --imagines lick of first G&T assuredly on its way! As the share passenger's snoring establishes its rhythm, Billy remembers his friends, living & dead, either way not here. The cloud clears, beautiful tracts of land thousands of feet below where Christy is, actually happy down there, stone cottage like Ulli & Celia's place in North Wales, '72, similar embellishments, the attic skylight for example, --Nick Johnson's place in Wiltshire, 90s pied a terre, --& the Abbot in attic heaven, nearer to yoga god than any other, no face, no name, though so many statues in his hermitage one suspects he's not yet run through the argument about idolatry! One of the old crew not yet invoked is Ed. Happens each time Billy flies. Ghost is same kind of disembodiment as flying. Forget about angels, Ed wasnt one. I'll give them turbulence, he swears behind conspiratorial hand as though the weather wore jackboots.....


Ed has the flight crew from captain to waiters in mind, not really the elements. All the way to deity via earlier English & later Russian divines, manifestations of magnitude. Ed spittin about pretenders, pretence of authority, supercilious from tie to socks, --purple uniform ultimate slight. Ah, Ed! Ed, mate! how goes it in ghost's Yorkshire heaven? Not there yet, he says, I'm in Purgatory writing poems, sans guide, following my own beaky nose. Hah! Ed, Ed, Ed. Tutoring me yet from beyond the grave, thinks Billy Boo.


At Bangkok airport Boo realized that following a straight line got you absolutely nowhere, may as well have been walking in circles. So then he walked around in circles, gauging the world, the non-stop airport world, more 'international' than when first coined (--Inge's daughters crooning 'international' over "Miami Vice", late 80s, --B B 's return to Europe after 12 years exile). Seems to him the Chinese had become the new Americans and everyone else from everywhere else in no way lesser. Each elsewhere a somewhere, similarly worldly-wise, ticket to prove it, legitimate travellers, commuters, no longer exotics of any empire.
But what about Christy, and how come he's let off so easily? Mebbe Billy thinks the boyo might bat him one! (What did Peter Finch say of him once, slightly misapprehending the relation of source to poem?-- "if these are Christy's dreams he must have a head like granite!")

Re- Ulli & Celia's place, in N Wales, '72 ; from Poem of the Clear Eye

there is a strangeness surrounds

which our thickest wall cannot evict

(for talisman take anything you find

a coloured slate a star from the constellation

which fills the skylight the vault of Caernarvon)

the foul smell from the town still gets to my nostrils --

Panzer fetch paper! go to

Gethsemane i rise up &

fall down i run till my side aches

i will return to the smoke only to bang the

beafeaters dead in their beds! in my boots

will make mincemeat of

rumours & subterfuge.(...)

(pp34/35; 1972/3; UK & Oz)
[‪In my poem, Ulli has two dogs, Panzer & Perfidy... The scenario is remembered/invented from the visit to Ulli & Celia for the Bangor Poetry Fest or the poetry event Ulli arranged at the Bangor Arts Fest back in '71 or '72... I believe that Jeremy Hilton drove me from Southampton... ah, Snowdonia…]


Daily round : walk from Goldy, down road, left at Pottery Lane (note to self : research derivation), through the small housing estate, cross highway at safety island to Radipole Lake foot & cycle path, past the blackberries ringing the lake six months ahead of bloom & harvest, up onto the bridge & into town... Library, Black Dog, pint!

Ed would approve : get a table, snap notebook or loose page onto it, “let’s get it over then!” through gritted teeth, lank hair & lengthening beard the frame for most ambivalent of propositions, --the argument concerning literature, thus “the literary bit”, not so much the sharing of poems but potential for such inflation as snatches poet from universe to be dropped into egotistical slurry (Ed’s favourite quote, Akhmatova’s rooster crowing upon shit-heap) --the “literary”, --snort into handkerchief, begin reading poem, over soon as began, --charmed by his accent & intonations, Bunting-ish but faster, Les Murray-ish too in that dont-take-it-too-seriously / throw-off style --not a style, an attitude --no audience but comrade t’other side of the low table, slosh of pints around & about, raucous fandango, infinitely preferable to bourgeois shush (--when you think of it, the poem cuts through the noise of the world, like sudden silence, the awareness of silence as the world’s hurtle’s suddenly brought to sudden screeching stop)...

Ask: Has my brother been in today? We were in the other day, he had a tomato juice... No, she says, dont think so... The Abbot & bro --two Abbots! --like Jack & Warnie, the Louises, or James & Stanislaus with whom BB once caned his younger for perceived deficit in fraternal support, but what would a teenager know... and too much water under bridge now...


All change. Traditional bar's gone. The regulars also unless sculking in the WASHROOM (white lettering on pale green board). The lacquered black of counter, tables, chairs has been replaced by grey & green throughout! What is this snack-bar, b& b, holiday-camp, light & bright in aid of? 
We've only been gone a year --perhaps longer because didnt we go to the Swan (the Abbot & bro) around the corner from St Nicholas's Church last time? I'll lay bets no change there.
 Ringwood Breweries' Boon Doggle's the strongest, 4.2... Innocents must understand we're on about the taste, which means a quality that tests the palate, resists it --on a continuum, then, with Frank Prince's teaching about same, --Robert Bridges, he said, ho-hum poetry aside, well worth my while to consider his thoughts on poetics... The point about form, Frank says, is that it stops one going on & on aimlessly... it resists that natural laziness, licentiousness etc...
[Ilchester Arms, Abbotsbury, 7th April, '16]


[April 22, '16]

It was great meeting up with John Phillips in St Ives a few days ago... went around to his place with Kelvin Bowers my old amigo from the £10 assisted passage on the Fairsky to Melbourne, FIFTY YEARS AGO on the 26 April, '66 !!! It's due to chance meeting on the coastal path between John & Kel that I've once more caught up with Kelvin, outa sight since '03. In the conversation with John, several mutual friends featured including Clive Faust & David Miller... Nice listening to John & Kel discussing the St Ives painters up on the wall including Mathew Lanyon --the fathers & sons conversation, apropos of which the catalogue of the Karl Weschke show, on in London presently, which Lucas Weschke had given me in Weymouth, also spiced the chat. If only I was in St Ives on May 16th as well for the poetry festival when John gives a reading!

[April 25, '16] ·

(Re- Jenni Kerr's Facebook post of actors celebrating Shakespeare anniversary, particularly HRH who finished it beautifully!) Great meeting again y'day with David Caddy at The Dolphin, Blandford Forum, our very own local... ordered our pint and our shiraz, and got the ball rolling saying : "Apart from what's in the latest issue of Tears In The Fence, if I asked you "what's the news?" what would you answer?" David hardly considered the question --well, he said, SHAKESPEARE, the 400th anniversary of course! And so we drank to him, Shakespeare all the way...


 Karl Weschke’s View of Kenydjack (1962; reproduced in the Tate book of the St Ives scene, 1939-64) utterly different to the Sunday painting seen at the Penwith gallery of which the probably accurate sketching is vacant compared with KW’s monolithised brown tiered landscape, so deep & occupied. Could say ‘preoccupied’ but substantial or dense oughtnt imply brooding, since for all the ‘psychological’, ‘expressionist’, ‘existential’ persona there is always painting’s natural presence and nature always present as matter & sentiment...
[St Ives, Kel & Dooze’s house, 18 April, 16]


Every time (how many times?) the bus swings around Portesham through to Abbotsbury & beyond (today Bridport again), see St Catherine’s Chapel on the hill. And in Abbotsbury, out the bus window, there it is leftwards over & between the houses, farms. And leaving Abbotsbury, the chapel behind one on its mount, sheep in the green fields like a canopy beneath. And startlingly distinct, on top, along slow hill climb, Chessil & the Channel over the leftside rolls of green (their rolls eventually into the sea).

What is ‘familiarity’? --the first blessing of repetition one presumes, no story but imperceptibly the rise of feeling, full swell of which is Poem, Song, this Painting...

[21 April, ‘16; Weymouth to Bridport, Dorset]

English Journey, ‘16 [from the diary]

Friday 22/4/16
9-05 am. (late) Weymouth --> Yeovil -->Glastonbury

Hurrying up Goldcroft aggravated the leg/thigh strain. Hopefully walk it out. Shld have applied some Deep Heat beforehand.
Rain, not heavy but from drizzle to light. If raining i wont attempt to climb the Tor.

The Classes : Passenger / “My daughter’s studying in Glasgow; when she comes down to Durdle Door it soothes her spirit...”
Driver / “Oh yeah; well anywhere’s better than Blackpool heh heh heh...”
Passenger / “You drive so well; I admire your instincts!”
Driver / “I drove lorries before, buses are much smaller. Driving 800 miles up & back soon teaches you how to drive... A spot of rain, though, and the whole road comes to a stop...”

Thinking of Paul Blackburn -- mentioned him to B. last night, how I’ve picked up his poems each visit to Goldcroft over the years. There’s a Blackburn poem for Pete Spence in the Buckmaster section of my  forthcoming book. P B’s the kind of American I have in mind re- intractably American & not easily ‘Anglo-American’ or ‘British/American’ as I wrote to Colin Still last night. Were we American poets after all? i asked B some months ago, phone from Melbourne, repeated in email to Colin. He tells me about all the docos he’s made on the American  poets (wch he’s offered to send me). I say that my forthcoming book of poems is partly ‘Neo-Georgian’, partly ‘New American Poetry’!

--> Yeovil... Heavier rain. Great countryside. Stone houses stretches of wall fields & meadows...



Rich country -- fallow, ploughed, strips of woods, dividing stands, --the rain enhances the lushness -- Wonderful expanse of undulating ploughed fields -- Motorway runs between these huge sails, wings, of land -- Somerset’s version of Big Country --

Beautiful dip in the landscape, --trees, fields, cows --

After earlier wet am dry again in the coach -- thank goodness for modern technology! --

Woods then village, car-sales...

Lakegate lane

Yeovil -->

Thursday, May 5, 2016

THE BLACK DOG REPORT : English Journey, '16

The Black Dog Report, # 1

There arent many pubs anywhere in the country, he says, where you can get a pint straight out of the barrel. Of course I'm agreeing. Yes, I saw that yesterday (--with the Abbot, and noticed the enclave around & below the taps, and the bar-woman leant down to fish dregs out of bucket Billy thought! --surely not? --clot, Ed mutters, --unacceptable probably would be "twat" pronounced "twot", which is the natural rhyme, expletive or not), poured an Old Speckled Hen, the taste deserving better body but worth it for the palate. But today there isnt any! I dont have it today my love, she tells me, cheerfully. Oh no, says I... You drank it all yesterday, she laughs. The chap who extolled the barrels now recommends I.P.A., --the best drop in my opinion, he says. There's no choice. I go with a half. Let me know what you think, he says. But he's off soon after leaving me to bathe in the brown public bar, variously lighter & darker complexion of tables, chairs, floor boards, counter-top --English history's deep stained & lacquered culture. And that's most of the point of it --the pub thing --through a glass oakly, wallnutly, Andy Capp-ly, Sheila Chandra-ly, David Caddy-ly, Kris Hemensley, & Uncle Tom Cobbly & all & all...

[31st March, '16]


The Black Dog Report, # 2

Bustling beetling little old lady, "See you later or on a Christmas Tree…" Walk around the different leveled public bar --it's all public bar including snugs, billiard table near the Gents, room with open fire. Looking for a table away from the pop muzak. The only spot is on the walk-through, sufficiently close to the bar to catch eye, exchange word with barman. In the process ("See you at the Dog"), Ive lost the Abbot & the Wheel. Small town, bank on it we'll rendezvous soon.

After rain there's sun --taxi-driver suggested snow! 'Poor old England' the Alexandrian family would admonish seriously, looking down collective aristocratic nose on their in-laws.

Second pint with the crew about me again. They're the photographers, me the pen & notebook man. Drop into a place often enough… no, it's surely more than that --because the environment's familiar from the first, offers itself up, every black beam, each square of purple leaf & olive carpet, accommodating. 'Oldest Pub in Weymouth' the hook of course --snob in a snood, hah!

Next day, late afternoon, drop in for a pint & use of facilities, grateful after long ride from Salisbury. The alternating bar staff together on this occasion wearing blue shirt uniforms, both less voluble than when working alone. Today's piped music is eclectic, sounds authentic, --who'd knowingly pass on Harry Belafonte's There's A Hole in My Bucket duet with Odetta?

[4/5 April, '16]


The Black Dog Report, # 3

Amble along the sea-front in full sunshine --B B meditative --sea-shell beach sapped his energy, not proud of it. Plonks himself upon bench this morning in sunshine everyone's calling "gorgeous". Penny for 'em, says the Girl (--how long's he known her? --Christy's squeeze once upon a time --more than one Christy, more than one anyone --mebbe more than one life… Sudden voice in ear --Ed's --"only one? be careful what you wish for!")-- Not thinking of anything, he says, --which she wont have a bar of! But B B cant be drawn, old hand. Doesn't mention the Fielding Dawson style of narrative he's been thinking his own might resemble --cogitative, soliloquy, occasionally but unpredictably intersected by expressionistic flurry. This text is ahead of itself. B B simply thought of Fielding Dawson, the Black Mountain artist & writer he once corresponded with, whose stories & novels he devoured. No one talks about any of them, that entire '60s, '70s constellation --"no one"  as fraction of erstwhile 'everyone', from way back everyone did read them. Ed's mate Long Tim Ville-john --or Long Johns what the Cornish friends called him after they'd wintered there --so excited when the new Dawson was published, The Black Mountain Book for example, compared it to the earlier work, Franz Kline, An Emotional Memoir, and as far as commentary's concerned, he said, the way to go (--sorry guys, just gotta butt in here : back in the day, attempting to get Fielding out to Oz, enlisted the support of worthies like Michael Wilding, Jim Hamilton, Elwyn Lynn, and sought out, importantly, Patrick McCaughey, but against the flow he declined --the writings by Dawson I'd cited as sparkling recommendations were, he said, the very things which brought art criticism into disrepute! --whaaaat? --1975! --where was he coming from?) --you've probably guessed this reminiscence occurs beneath the antique beams of the Black Dog to the "here you are my love"s &"thank you my darling"s of the mother of the usual barwoman who banters the very same affections in the identical manner, being the ultimate Dorset locals, inside of the piped Ray Orbison & the soul & reggae, in the all-around brown & black lacquered English cave, sunniest Spring day at bay…



The Black Dog Report, # 4

"Are there new faces around here or have I just been coming on the wrong days?" "I'm the new landlady… bought the business 7 weeks ago…"
Thinking how I love this pub --I'm sitting at table adjacent to the bar, back to the fruit-machine, facing down one step to the main bar & door, porch, & street.
Ah, the posts & beams. 'Please Mind Your Head'  (--how did kids devise Fleas Love Your Head out of that on the school bus? Fleas out of Please, but Love out of Mind? I think it must have been Please Lower Your head. Of course)…
And here he is : black leather jacket & blue denims, the Bogart face but this time's shorn hair, earring. The Sailor. Steps outside for a fag, parks his pint of Thatcher's cider on the bar. Five minutes, puff & flick away, return, puff restored. Billy Boo takes it all in. "Who shot the deputy?" Sailor humms to the muzak. His foot-tapping's natural, the music's fake. Everything else is real.
Given icy breeze no choice between seafront & Black Dog, but choice made without weather in mind. Honour thy local, if not it'll go the way of all locals. Honour thy local bitter, thy Old Speckled Hen, thy Original Mini Cheddars (biscuits).
Sailor complains about the music, doesn't distinguish between the piped crap & the cartoon of rock'n'roll he mimics to the hilarity of bar-staff. "Doesn't like it but knows all about it!" one says behind his back. He's outside again, second cigarette of the day.


Friday, March 25, 2016




Friday, 24th March, en route Grant Caldwell's book launch, find me at Y & J's mid-afternoon, heart-of-the-city pub, side bar. Pint of Guinness, Smith's cheese & onion chips ("top quality Aussie potatoes"), rugby on high screen lower bar. Imagine this as letter to Guinness & craik chum Libby Hart, or the brother in his Weymouth hermitage, I mean sib Bernardo not Ken up there in W Tree though he's here now too, soon as mentioned, or new found old mate off the migrant ship, fifty effing years ago he's reminded me, Kal Fenton… And the letter starts, "I've arrived already, the English journey has begun… tearing around town, last minute calls on bank, doctor, chemist… three days until the flight but one foot already on the ground in Blighty… Y & J's is an old city pub, a touch of London, teeming foot & motor traffic seen & heard through door & window, throngs constantly in & out the pub, --school of downed tools workers in orange & blue overalls commandeers public bar's best tables, --five matrons lead their fellers in to the higher section, which I call the side bar because best entered from the Cathedral side on Swanston, long Edward Hopper view from bright street to darker hotel interior, haloes of cigarette smoke in the good old days, talking culture not health m'dear, --young men with huge backpacks like Chris Tong & me on the road to Aachen in 1963, --dear God not another step, I'd happily expire in ditch beneath woody overhang, --black cap & tee lads find their pozzy at table angled to me whose occupants, he, Irish, drinking Guinness, she, Australian, on cider, tell them how they walked all through Europe with equally heavy packs once-upon-a-time…" Leave off then, sip my drink, watch the sports screen, calculate the time, make mental note to have cheese & onion again, in England, probably in Weymouth Harbour pub, look out on little boats, little boats...

Thursday, January 7, 2016

THE BEACH REPORT : Facts of Life

I'm crouching in the sea, ready to catch, more a slipper than a wicky though it changes from ball to ball, but I'm waiting for it, left or right, head-high or wide --m'girl says you're like a dog, ready for a game, make something out of nothing. That's life, I say, sage in the waves, less of a chop than last swim (--as I write this down the old Greek gent, elegant in shades, black cap, white T, black shorts, all-over tan, flicks at the flies with lavender, rosemary?! --maybe twig-stem of gum-leaves? --his swatch -- m'girl says frankincense so immediately imagine black robed priest, the blessing-swish of his censer --golden church of sand & sea), but 'before' or 'last' wonderfully lost in the continuum, banished --continuum imposed by the elements --petty time crushed (--it's saltbush! --someone else strolls past with same soft grey article --all along the coast, every coast in the sunbathed world) --deep hush of the universe around & about the mush of the world notwithstanding distinguishing graces & blasphemies, thought of which makes one blush! --did i say that? do that? think that?

Prelude to leaving kiosque-table, the old guy says in English to his woman friend, it's impossible to read the newspaper in this wind! She's managed the gusts  throughout with her magazine. Suddenly realise he isn't Greek! --urgent need to correct first impression. I think he's speaking Hebrew interspersed with English. 'Talking' not accurate either --now & then he addresses his partner with slow, sure phrases. Audible but mostly indecipherable. A deep, low voice. Russian? Israeli? He's in his own space, not talking, sipping his coffee, occasionally flicking salt-bush fan at the summer flies. Then I see, nose in my notebook, the pair have gone. Others spot the empty table, take it over. Like anyone, anything, only temporarily there but the impression of this old guy pervades. (Description of the actual is demeaned in the Avant-garde as the so-what of commonplace. Contextualised by big blues of sea & sky, we enquire relation of cliche to archetype.) 

Old guy, younger wife or older daughter. All the news he needs is knowledge now. Visceral, corpuscular. The rest is around him, the basking seal, absorbing what observer calls the facts of life.

[Elwood, 3/6-1-16]

Wednesday, January 6, 2016


‪The dramatic 'weather events' in Australia, on the Victorian south-west coast, and in the North of England, have shadowed everything we've thought & done since Christmas. I thought it valuable to retrieve a conversation with Glenda George on Facebook and a letter from Peter Riley forwarded by Paul Buck to preserve on the blog. Additionally, correspondence from Libby Hart.


Kris Hemensley :

Happy New Year, Glenda x (please say youre high & dry?
[January 2, 16 at 10:29pm]

Glenda George :‬

 ‪Kris‬, thanks for your concern but - and fingers crossed against omens for bragging - we must be one of the few parts of Scotland that have had reasonably acceptable weather when all about us are suffering floods and hurricane winds. We have even missed for the most part. And I was thinking about you down in Melbourne when the bush fires seemed pretty close....Guess extremes of weather are going to be something we will have to adjust to in 2016 and beyond....I think the El Nino effect wears off for us around February but then there's always the possibility of El Nina bringing the opposite! Don't you just love Nature? Showing us upstarts who really rules the world!
[January 2 at 10:39pm]

‪Kris Hemensley
‬ :

Hi Glenda... good to hear your report... just now looked at pics of Hebden Bridge & Mytholmroyd on Anthony Costello's Facebook page... had no idea... had heard but not seen... And, as you say, the Victorian coastal forest & towns had the fires at Christmas... quietened down but not yet all clear...

Glenda George‬ :

Lots of serious flooding about....the Calder Valley pretty badly hit (though most folk that we know not subject to the worst) and there is much water about up here in NE Scotland. There is wisdom in living on a hill! We are 750 feet above sea level, though not totally immune to spates in the mountain burns which can gouge out huge chunks of land from their banks and cause landslips. So far in our 25 years here (that long huh?) we've only once been in a slightly dodgy situation but with two major burns running either side of our land, I have had occasion to shore up the banks with posts and netting and we have planted lots of trees on the gully edges to both support the banks with their roots and absorb more of the water. Seems to be working thus far.

Kris Hemensley‬ :

25 years, a life... Awe-inspiring to city slicker like me what you describe of your Scotland... and yr special lingo : 'spates' 'mountain burns' 'shore up the banks' ... Good luck, Glenda...

Glenda George‬ :

"and your special lingo"...oh ‪Kris‬, you have no idea how that feeds into my eternal shame that I have lived here so long and not once utilised the many wonderful words that describe natural features in a piece of writing....even though I love using those words everyday....(and we haven't even gotten into the local dialect of the Scots language that I have taken many years to understand properly - spikkin the Doric is a hale spleet kettle i fish) ...I really cannot understand why my joy at living in the landscape has not translated across into my work at all (yeah, I know I would more largely be defined as a language poet of sorts but all the same.....)


Paul Buck‬ :

Picking up on earlier, Peter Riley now lives in Hebden Bridge, and not on the sides or 'heights' as we did. No, he lives right in the valley, beside the water. He was flooded -- three inches deep. Not too much damage as they moved things upstairs. I will send you a letter he sent round.

From: Peter Riley
31 December 2015 14:12:45 GMT 
To: David Ainley  
Subject: From the flood zone

Forgive me for sending a group e-mail to those who have asked how we've fared during the floods. We've been without electricity, therefore e-mail not to mention heat and light, for four days and sleeping at Kathy & Richard's house which is up a hill and safe and dry. So yes, we did get flooded. But compared with a lot of people in this town we have nothing much to complain about. We've still got a house to live in, we haven't lost our livelihoods, we haven't had to throw out all the furniture... In fact we had about three inches of water on the ground floor and by the time it got here most of the things that mattered had been moved upstairs. I must say it was worrying watching the water approaching in the form of a swift river running through the garden, which it wrecked, mainly be bringing with it a lot of floating woodwork of various kinds, and two poppy wreaths from the Memorial Gardens a quarter of a mile away. It reached a total rise of over three metres, exceeding all previous records. It was also worrying when the canal at the back of the house started overflowing, which we thought it couldn't do, and started climbing up our back windows, but they held. So now we're comfortably encamped upstairs and getting on with drying and cleaning, with a lot of help from the family and neighbours. In fact the local co-operative spirit in Hebden Bridge has been amazing. Here the neighbours turned out and worked on all the gardens one by one, then got to work on the stone-yard next door. There's now an enormous heap of wood across the road. The town centre is more-or-less wrecked and it looked like the end of most of the independent businesses including our one bookshop and the cinema, mainly because they were uninsured due to the recalcitrance of the insurance industry following the 2012 floods. But volunteers came pouring in with mops brushes and spades and worked day-long day after day. The town hall's been open 24 hours distributing free advice, co-ordinating workers and technicians, linking needs and offers and running a free cafe. The three or four restaurants capable of functioning have been giving out free meals and drinks, one of the two surviving pubs handing out free pints of beer. A restaurant in Bradford sent the town hall a hundred chicken curries... We've had army helping, and a troupe of Asian men from Halifax mosques, bikers patrolling the streets at night to prevent looting, and a lot of people wandering all over the place knocking on doors and asking if any help is needed. We felt we'd come to live in a real town. I'll get round to answering particular questions in some e-mails before very long. Everyone's solicitude has been heartening.




Dear Kris,

Further to the comments between yourself and Glenda George...

I love the word 'burn' in the Scottish sense. I saw quite a few of them during my travels into the Highlands. Here is a small 'postcard' poem from the middle of nowhere (in the Highlands) that uses the term ...

A postcard from Kinbrace

Burn and bend. Cloud and cloud-mountain.
A snow-scatter of sheep as a train encroaches.
Bird-scramble above the scribble of tree.

Then I turned to the wet-lipped God, as if to greet you.


Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Silver-gulls & terns, some standing, some pecking, in & amongst the mat of seaweed strung along shoreline ebb & flow. I'm old man today, sat on bench absorbing late morning sun & warmth, collar up against breeze, picking in & amongst the map that living's made, this life's final lap. Almost fifty years ago I'm hereabouts too, writing in exercise book my Song of the Sea. For all they called me prolific I confess not much of it published. No regrets, certainly since publishing's yen dissolved. Compelled, though, to write, en plain air. Dinghies out to sea. Three kids in black swim-suits splashing in the warmest part, incubator pool of seaweed & old jetty, like the Russians I think whose great-grandchildren these could be, the old St Kilda Russians of fifty years ago, and all through the recent decades, bending the compass to accommodate the Caspian in this Port Phillip Bay. Room too for Hemingway, that is me as Hemingway, looking out at the sea from the beach, bathed in sun & warmth, dreaming up his old man story. I'd like him to have been in Miami but fact is he's on that beach in the Bahamas : Miami'd have been David's sling-shot to the Cuba of his good times and where his last great tale is set.   

After swimming, one stands on the sand, age dripping off like the water. Conventionally, youthfulness the only reference, present moment's bare skin defeating history. The weight of years evaporates in the sun. But today, I havent swum. I'm snug on the bench, and age is the sea-shell I'm curled inside. Sea-shell my house, without even the weight a tortoise naturally bears. The tortoise metaphor's been mine for yonks : history inextricably ours, carried wherever we go.  Perhaps the tortoise's shell was a deflection of the definitive burden accompanying my saint's name awarded by Aunt Lydia, dislodged when I exchanged nomme de plume for given name, age 16.

"Ageing gracefully" manifestly not the point : age is the grace. Instead of frustration, anxiety, unrequited ambition there's --almost embarrassed to say it, as though pompous & vain --contentment.

Like Hemingway's old fisherman, who knew how not to be angry… He no longer let anger get to him, get the better of him. He was over it, had out-gunned it, oh a long time before. Gift, like peaceful sea is, watcher's sea... dreaming the fishing only ever once experienced (this is me now, Kris Hemensley!)  three days on the water around Port Arlington, 1966, two nights dropping the dredge, sorting the coagulated catchThe overcoming deep in him & upon him, on the bench, in the sun, facing the sea…


Sunday, November 22, 2015



Wake to 'friend request' from Giona Beltrametti! (Wake to the light of day, of course. Raise bamboo blind for Ushas… Flick desk-computer on…) Giona is Franco's spitting image. Notice the birthdate in the Facebook sidebar. 1966, five years older than Tim Hemensley. Son loses father, father loses son. Good morning Giona, good mourning… Twentieth anniversary of Franco Beltrametti's death --Franco, like so many other British, American & European poets, ushered my way by Tim Longville at Grosseteste Review, editor & proselytiser supreme...

"I am not immune", said in softest caveat upon involuntary vanity that perceiving flux spares one from its fateful vicissitudes --insight more fragile than Lao monk-blessed baci such as Catherine ties around my wrist, protection ensured by animist conflation of material & metaphor (--we've been here before : the feminine's place in all of this --60s & '70s paeans to the immortal dyad; fusion then return to sovereign parts, over & again, women & men in ecstasy's every combination --and recall '80s reading of the slanders upon Lou Andreas Salome for a sister's collegiality with Nietzsche, Rilke, Freud, Buber, analogy of the further trivialisation by contemporary sexual politics of muse, soul-mate, lover, protege --and I admit my head full of fathers, sons, brothers here but sisters, mothers, neither lesser nor ever  forgotten) --yet while the moment flares with knowledge, the infinite delight of illumination subtracts from commensurate world. In no way a handicap when one belatedly realises Franco Beltrametti isn't narrator of the peripatetic (except of the means it is to experience geography as itinerary, simultaneous & indivisible), but meditator he is upon transience & impermanence, the willingly conscious & joyous recorder of world-as-time : "imagine : incurable! a precise / sensation (not unpleasant -- not pleasing) / that everything is happening somewhere else / at the speed of light SVAAAM while here / 24 hours in a bolt of lightning of 6months as it was / the twisting road / up and down across the valley [3/31/70]"

Apropos 'joyous' : I wonder what my own brother Bernard wrote to him in 1992 for Franco to hope I'd be "more joyous soon"? Twenty-three years since their correspondence & five years after Bernard published it in facsimile (Stingy Artist Editions, UK, folded card; Franco Beltrametti, Two letters to Nado / Bernard Hemensley, 2 poems i.m. Franco Beltrametti) I ask myself again : weren't those good years for me? The return to England beginning 1987, visits every or every other year. Discovering the S W Victorian coast, reflection it would be, John Anderson promised, of my new found Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, --Port Campbell to Warnambool, little towns nestled within limestone cliff & agricultural green, pummeled by Bass Straight & Southern Ocean. This time of new reading & thinking in philosophy & religion. New writing albeit substantially relinquishing publishing. Perhaps post partum anguish each time leaving England, dramatising life-long identity questions, -- but what misery implied?

After Bill Brown & Maggie Brown, most named is Franco Beltrametti in James Koller's Snows Gone By : New & Uncollected Poems, 1964-2002. For example in the poem of 30 Nov 1995 :
 "Rising before me now
these mountains are the Sierra,
where you built your house.
Remember the sign : three peaks.
You & I found them,
Truth or Consequences.
I take out the red
harp, Raffaella's, play it --
hear your shadow
caught in the wind."

Helped select it, probably build it. Friendship was never more brotherly… To see a shadow 'caught in the wind'  startling enough, but to 'hear a shadow' plays with kinaesthesia whilst eliciting 'shade' from 'shadow'.

In Jim Koller's Coyote's Journal, #10, 1974, are Franco's Five Poems : linked (and linked by Franco or Koller)? They don't follow chronologically --February '72, November '71, January '72 --but unsequenced in Face to Face (Grosseteste Review Books, UK, '73) which suggests they're random. Yet, thematically, if the (SHORT REPORT) : (TOWARDS NOVEMBER) is a five-part poem's foundation, then a psychedelic sense could be made of "a series of irresistible waves / from all directions", or "1, 2, 3 rainbows", given the explicit reference "A. Rouhier, le Peyotl, 1927 Paris"… Hadn't checked before --imagined a Paris street upon which may as well be unknown rake illicitly tripped out! But belatedly discover the pharmacist & Left Bank book publisher Alexandre Rouhier is the man, one of Andre Breton's hundred guiding heads, mescaline experimenter in the wake of Havelock Ellis & others, --the occultist Monsieur Rouhier, member of one of several underground cells, student of Fulcanelli & spoken of in same excited breath as Alistair Crowley, his "astonished eyes" as per "La Plante Qui Fait les Yeux Emeveilles : Le Peyotl", a good look for Franco & the '70s desert mountain back-country crazy gang whose total countercultural beckoning ironically induced in me the opposite reaction, freezing one in English forbidding, making perfect halfway house of Australia, as though it were the Gauguinian, Whitmanic come-all-ye Down Under, --until now that is, NOW! that these alchemical documents thaw the erstwhile timid set, flow & fly one into Illumination (poetry & world thereof)…


Nothing met, named, without contiguities which aggregate Real World. Same apparent obliquity first appreciated in Jung's reading of family tree. Nothing more certain than psyche nor misleading as genome, --synchronicity, sirrah, not logical progression...

Two peas in a pod, Aunty Lod of my brother Bernard & I. I didn't plan the radical separations 1966-69 or, as potentially corrosive for all its benefice, the exile I came to call it, 1975-87. Air-letter correspondence there was, the correspondence which carried the entire poetry scene, both local & international.  But from children to old men are the essential divergent journeys, mutually exclusive experiences & investments, partial to the Way's myriad matings. And brief or extended circumstance parents all manner of relation, chips off old block, motes in ur-family's eternal light.

For some years I've misremembered Charles Olson telling Lew Welch at the 1965 Berkeley reading (transcribed by Zoe Brown, published by Jim Koller's Coyote Books, '66), "I'm not your father, you had a father!" Now, as I read it again I find it's otherwise. Olson's talking about Worcester ("Wow, I never wrote about Gloucester like this."), reading from An Ode on Nativity, --banter with Lew Welch follows but at this stage of the night Olson confesses : "I am a perfect father, until I am not. And that's another thing I hope is happening tonight, Robert [Duncan]. And I know that beautiful story which you've told to me, that you said a thing which cleared me when you told Richard Duerden, 'He's, Olson's not your father. You had a father.' Am I right?" (The exchange with Welch always struck me as paternal, even paternalistic yet imbued with the kind of love that leadership, as epitome or at least ramification of responsibility, implies. The relationship's ambiguous for although Welch is his own man & no kid at 39, he & Olson are colleagues within a family & community of which poetry is the life-blood. --parents, aunts & uncles, siblings born & adopted… ) In the transcript, Olson is speaking about writing & publishing & the status of talking (addressing the world as if arbitrary room has become the ideal) -- : "I am now publishing. Tonight. Because I'm talking writing." Whatever he was thinking, Lew responds with the literal, "I read forty-seven times last year? Forty-seven!" Olson corrects him as he must : "Baby. Oh, I'm not-- Reading? This is a-- Are you kidding? You think this is anything but a-- […] I mean I think this is a political occasion…"

Ken Taylor wasn't my father yet his welcoming me in Melbourne,'67/'68, felt like it. I should have been prodigal son for my own father, but wouldn't have a chance to perform that role until late '69 when I returned to Southampton from Australia, by then fully fledged Melbourne poet & playwright, new husband & new Australian! But it didn't transpire; there was no reconciliation. Even the appearance of his first grandchild, Tim, didn't displace primary rancour. Not until 1987 when I was 41 and Dad 67, did he acknowledge me as an independent adult! With Ken, sixteen years my senior, amity was expressed in the combined relief & delight of mutual recognition, a relationship  which inaugurated the New Melbourne Poetry centred on the La Mama cafe theatre, late '67, early '68 and on, ultimately appreciated as a domain of the New Australian Poetry, the Australian wing of the international "new"… Back in the day, Geoff Eggleston nominated Ken & I as the La Mama poets' "elder brothers", while Ken referred to La Mama's inner circle as "brothers & sisters". Far away from Australia's sun & sea, I thrilled to reports of the brothers & sisters piling into Ken's kombi van, driving to Merricks on the Mornington Peninsula, seventy odd k from Melbourne, to commune & cavort, and why not a version of Kesey & Cassady's magic bus, Taylor's Pranksters… Thrilled & envied --my gift it seems for always missing one or the other country's great cultural events : working in London in '65 at the time of the Albert Hall Reading, I was both timid & unbelieving that the Evening Standard's headline (BEATS COME TO TOWN or BEATS TAKE OVER THE ALBERT HALL) could possibly be true; --in Melbourne in '67 missing, therefore, England's Summer of Love; --in Southampton '70-'72, missing the momentous Moratorium marches in Melbourne, and Ginsberg & Ferlinghetti's visits to Australia for good measure! Et cetera. Of course much to be counted on the other hand…

In 1970, Frank Prince was certainly old enough to have been my father, 58 to my 24. From the start he welcomed me as a new friend into his just then rejuvenating literary life --Stuart & Deirdre Montgomery at Fulcrum Press, via Lee Harwood, were bringing out his Memoirs at Oxford, his first book of poetry since The Doors of Stone, in 1963. He imagined my coming from Australia to England, albeit a return, as similar to his migration to England from South Africa in the '30s, when also in his twenties. Of course, the English wouldn't do this, he told me referring to my zeal for correspondence & communication, soliciting poems for my magazine, describing it as the "colonial energy" exemplified by Pound! Eliot wrote the better poems, he said, but Pound was the poet, the figure who attracted one to poetry as a life. Son or young friend? He complained to me once or twice of difficulties with his own children, whom I figured were older than I, as though we were contemporaries, fathers & men of the world, (--Henry Bolingbroke sotto voce in his cousin Westmoreland's ear of the disappointment young Hal was, especially compared to Hotspur)… Ken Taylor, similarly I recall, granting that parity, sounding me out, '68 or '69, on the New Age protocols concerning wives & their occasional suitors, accepting my advice that punching out the Natural History chap from BBC Bristol was ridiculous & patronising, as plainly antiquated & bad as forbidding one's spouse, he said,  to smoke cigarettes in public!

One time Frank asked me to accompany him to a  reading by poets from Southampton University, down town somewhere --the Bargate or St Michael's House?-- but at the last minute couldn't bring himself to attend. He hoped I'd still go, essentially to be his spy. I imagine he'd rather renounce his faith so adamant was he not to be there! In a sense his absence was a continuing renunciation of the literary life he'd surely conceived back in the '30s, perhaps defending himself from a repeat of the rejection which followed Eliot, his hero's, initial lionisation. Generally speaking he was a loner and until the Fulcrum Press volume not expecting a renewal of the celebrity he'd enjoyed before & after his war-time poem, Soldiers Bathing. Speculate that the Southampton University prof was at odds with the poet and only after moving on (via a series of overseas appointments) did the poet rejoin the wider world. Not quite true though --he was as happy to meet "the younger poets" as Andrew Crozier, upon hearing of our friendship, was keen for such engagement to occur. I felt then that Andrew, like me, subscribed to lineage & amelioration. It was ripe time, long overdue, for Frank Prince to meet with us, Andrew said. What did or didnt transpire at our Portswood tete-a-tete is another matter but I brought the poets (the Johns, Hall & Riley), he got the beer & Elizabeth the supper! He'd begun to subscribe to the Grosseteste Review journal & books in response to my enthusiastic prompting. He was on the board of the Poetry Review during Eric Mottram's editorship and whatever his opinion of the poetry said he believed in the younger generation, characterised by 'feeling' in terms of love & protest. It was the same feeling he was moved I'd found in his otherwise stumpy rhymed Oxford poem, as I described it in a review I blush to recall, --the feeling animating form he'd explain, --from which I extrapolate the vital part of romanticism's issue modernism, --I hear him saying that, except that he didnt, though modernism out of romanticism is his --not yet stifled by the Auden ascendancy --"a bit of a fat head" he'd quipped, rival we suppose, --over whom he briefly enjoyed Eliot's favour --but of all such brevity, jewel flash moment, is this life made...

[1-11-15 / 22-11-15]


Of Franco Beltrametti, to Judith Danciger

"whisky wont lack"? Dear Judith what
ever i'm missing of your translation
this Englishing'll do for me :

whisky no end of (wouldn't say no
black ones [bears] no end of (no shortage (overrun


curiosity no end of (vivacity (naturally turned on
Franco no end of

no end of simpatico lifting into
whole heart sky
blooming from vulnerable chest
no end of exultation
heroic for its heedlessness
of ever more tedious


exclamations !!!!!

!!!!! flowers