LAUNCHING AIDAN COLEMAN—AIDAN COLEMAN, HIS LAUNCH – Ken Bolton

Mount Sumptuous by Aidan Coleman, Wakefield Press 2020 was launched by Ken Bolton at the Wheatsheaf Hotel, Adelaide on 12 February 2020

Aidan Coleman. Photograph by Maria Armstrong

How to launch Aidan Coleman

be honoured
be terrified too

I am honoured to be launching the new book by Aidan Coleman—
a poet coming into his own, surely the next
important poet of Adelaide—

honoured, as I limp towards my final innings,
more decrepit than noble, even ‘nobly-wearied’

won’t cover it

just another old stooge standing in the way of progress
which I pretend to aid & abet

the sands of time run out on me.

For how much longer
can the up & coming
be kept down
or ignored?

About ten
more minutes

—and how to acknowledge the new
while not at the same time revealing

the distance between their work
& one’s own?

“But seriously,”
as they say—

this is Aidan’s first book for some time, following two books that gained him a degree of recognition nationally & which were good.

Written over 2014 to 2017, MOUNT SUMPTUOUS
sees Coleman moved quite some distance from those earlier books.

The general public might like poems
……………………that unpack their imagery & their argument
……………………nicely in tandem—or in a call & response arrangement.

(Image ‘A’ vouches for this insight, this resolution, Image B for this,
& now the poem will announce this, as if you mightn’t have noticed.)

The General Public
……………………  —probably an unnecessary ‘necessary fiction’—
might expect this,
…………….without, as we know, really liking poetry much in any case

But POETS
……………….—which covers most of those here tonight—
…………………………………………………………..prefer a book containing poems
that appeal to them like cat-nip:

……………………………….poems whose workings are mysterious—tho
typically simple—& which drag you back to them ..again & again.

Why, we ask, does this poem work so well?
I like it, but why do I like it
……………………………………..SO MUCH?

The first poem hardly holds together
& yet it does

& the mystery of how it does so

is what keeps us coming back to it

We sense it is Meaning that looms behind the poem
& which we seem to have understood before our front brain

……………………………………………………….has managed to sign off on it

This is typical of many poems in MOUNT SUMPTUOUS

In addition, we sense the meaning is true because
the poem will hardly appear to have said it:
it ‘arrives’

as if naturally, …..out of the relationship of the parts
……………………………………(that is, not as a matter of argument)

The poem pulls into the terminus of its last line
The reader thinks, Oh, do we get off here?
Gee, I’d catch that train again.

 Throughout,
…………………..the syntax—which is thoroughly contemporary and
alive—has cumbersome connective identifiers suppressed. …..(Not too
many whiches or thats firm up the subject of a verb—

……………………………‘is’ & other forms of the verb to be
are suppressed—& the now days standard slipping
………………from from first person to second person, features regularly.)

The movement thru the poem, the phrasing, is wonderfully idiomatic.
It has the poem’s utterance seem magically quick
and its thinking seem quick too. Anything but effortful.

Most of the poems work by juxtaposition
…………………………………………………………………….& inference is our guide :
where we check that the poem really did mean what we thought it
said—

…………….& it will have

(with the proviso that some connections look more doubtful when
reconsidered: there are options we could choose among, usually
witty, ‘political’ and teasing. ….The contemporary world as conundrum).

A number of the easier poems look like they could be re-written
……………………………………………………………………….as conventional works:
if normalised, tranquilised—

…………………………but the reader will be pleased this hasn’t happened.

Immediacy, the seeming vanishing of supports & framing …
immediacy is the gain from this.

#

‘Cartoon Snow’, an uncharacteristically stately poem, is slightly
reminiscent of Rilke

snow, marmalade, a ‘True North’, an Ultima Thule
of ideas & of ideality.

………………………………………..a tour thru idealism or
………………………………………..purities
………………………………………..
all miniature

When your freezer is cluttered
as a library returns chut
you realise the benefits of

cartoon snow. The sugar
cubes of igloo bricks,
well-storied in their

crisp divisions.

Go when a blue night
is snowing to itself, shushing
the owl-wide forest.

How gently it erases
fox-prints and sleigh-tracks,
the stamp of hoof

and hunter’s boot,
the vexatious sharp edges
of our pasts.

………………………………………….& then to the dogs with which the poem ends

Retire once more
to the puffing cottage,
its windows a blazing marmalade.

Inside, the huskies
have quit their howling
to settle for the uncluttered life:

the idea of North.

Like the poem ‘Nth Degree’

much of the book
………………………is about coming into possession of the problems
………………………………………………………………………………………& realizations
of one’s middle years—
……………………………………….while still possessing the dreams of youth—

possessing them anyway as having been recent memories

only a little less vivid now
……………………………………………….for being remembered,

……………………..no longer available for nostalgia
as they come to seem mistakes

‘Nth degree’ goes:—

You crowd
………………..into a taxi and the plates
…………fall off. Tight blue
.…………..parents in the suburbs
…………………….of their constancy.
….Pass yourself —

………….racing through
….catalogues
……………of aftershave —
a grappling hook
…………………wedged in the thigh
……………………………………of Mt Sumptuous.

A sudden pincer movement
……………………….on remembered images from the past
This is a frequent form the poems take.

And there is also, often, the hint of a brief (briefly sensed) Elizabethan
or Jacobean perspective—it is the Shakespearean legacy, that
stands broodingly or mordantly behind much of Aidan’s thinking

The evocation or intimation
…………………….of such a distant and unsentimental perspective

and such a culturally powerful one

gives an instant, steely irony or sarcasm

……………………………………………………….( ‘visited’ on our present

diminishing it )

It is a shock to have one’s life foretold
in this way, by the past

Or judged by it

It is the one aspect in the poems
that gives them something classical

This happens to the subject within the poems
it also happens to us as readers—well,
……………………….to the extent that we share Aidan Coleman’s world

……………………….(which we do: it is the contemporary).

#

The other source of steel, and speed & irony,
………………………………………………is probably John Forbes.

There are a couple of poems in the book that seem like tributes to
Forbes’ style & manner, in one case to his typical subject matter and
kinds of reference.

These seem almost like jokes shared with Forbes.

Coleman is maybe the first of the younger poets to take on John
Forbes’s influence without succumbing to it.

…………………………….With many of these poets the result has been
mere imitation.

Not so in Aidan Coleman’s case. Here the influence seems to have
……………………………………………………………….allowed him
…………………………………………..to become quite a different poet.

 #

COLEMAN’S Earlier Books

were more conventional
tho impressively accomplished—

……………………….Clearly, someone had ‘arrived’.

The conventional, though, can seem Ornamental
…………………………………………………..decorative
…………………………………………………..harmlessly rococo
…………………………………………………..
or Edwardian

These new poems are often slighter
in the sense that they tend to sketch
…………………….the briefest of moments,

……………have less beginning middle & end
……………………………………..to them—

……………but they are infinitely more serious
…………………..more actual

……………………………They are thought processes
……………………………rather than reports on them

………………………………………..—so their grammar
………………………………………………………….or syntax
……………………is under much more pressure

(The pressure can act like a Judo throw on the reader:
tho landing on the mat is pleasurable)

Often that sort of reader-surprise
echoes the content of the poem

One poem has the poet finding himself
……………..“an aggro dad”, another has him see himself
as his younger self might have:

……………………………..not quite impressive,
…………………………………………..exiting a bus
………………………………………………with a “Thanks” called out to the driver.
………………………………………………Suddenly ordinary.

#

This book will be a ‘LIVE’ part of your library
………………you will return to it
……………………………..for its light, hard-to-name
……………………………………………………………….specific taste

…………………………………………….for the mental states it
……………………………………………………will provide access to.

 

 – Ken Bolton


Ken Bolton lives in Adelaide where for a long time he ran the Experimental Art Foundation’s Dark Horsey bookshop and the Lee Marvin reading series. Recent collections are Starting at Basheer’s (Vagabond) and, in 2020, Salute (from Puncher & Wattmann). Shearsman (UK) issued his Selected Poems in 2013. Wakefield Press recently published Elsewhere Variations, by Peter Bakowski and Ken Bolton, and will this year publish Nearly Lunch which is a sequel.

Mount Sumptuous is available from https://www.wakefieldpress.com.au/product.php?productid=1535&cat=0&page=&featured=Y

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