Celebratory and re-affirming: Peter Jefferies co-launches ‘Nocturnal House’ by Mike Greenacre

The multiplicity of life: Shane McCauley co-launches Nocturnal House by Mike Greenacre

Nocturnal House by Mike Greenacre, Ginninderra Press 2020 was co-launched by Peter Jefferies at the Fremantle Park Sport and Community Centre on 5 December 2020

Mike Greenacre reading at the launch of Nocturnal House

In some ways the literary puffs on the back cover of Mike’s book Nocturnal House say it all and I could take the lazy way and merely re-read them, but I welcome the chance to talk of why it was no surprise to me that he won this year’s Tom Collins Prize with his father-loving ‘Missing Pieces’.

Firstly, then he is a remarkably accessible poet because of his directness of plain speaking with, as Jan Napier notes, the “elegance of simplicity” and his principally Anglo-Saxon as opposed to Latinate phrasing. His first section in the book namely ‘Nocturnal House’ shows that he has given much thought to this. It is a compendium of the many local theories about poetry, assembled with great respect for his colleagues, but nonetheless affirms that that is the way he wants to write, much like the Russian proverb, Break bread, eat salt and speak the truth.

Secondly he advances a template of our culture that has a great familiarity in regard to a normal ascent from childhood into adolescence and a final adulthood that in turn takes on the responsibility and duties of parenthood. For most young males of my generation and perhaps that of my father, Sport is the one great common enthusiasms, and Mike covers that beautifully with his poem ‘Water Polo Boy’ and his succinct end piece ‘Stumps’ that reflects on a life played to the full but enigmatic at the same time. From the thrill of a first score in the junior leagues to the weekly Saturday sporting attendance and the Sunday review of competition in the papers away from the chores of household maintenance, Mike’s other poem ‘AFL Dogs Grand Final’ says it all.

Thirdly is his great sense of family lost to most of us, but in his verse always celebratory and re-affirming. Here I personally confess that this generous sharing makes me feel brotherly to him and our mutual world of poets and poetry. His ‘Sixtyish’ elder brother Chris, a distinctive poet himself, was similarly a role setting hero to Mike, the youngest child in a family of four.

Serendipiditiously, the three of us, Chris, Mike and myself all have connections with Murdoch and drama and creative projects, so I find many subconscious and direct parallels with Mike’s celebration of his love and admiration for his brother, in the two poems which I would like now to read in conclusion ‘Collecting Days’ and ‘Necklace of Words’.

Collecting Days
for Chris

Tonight I see your image
as a ghost on skype,
two brothers separated
by circumstance
and chance’s frown. 

As you open that wide smile
you swallow the years
and we are suddenly
that ‘inseparable pair’

charging at life’s fun
and adventure with the
fire of childhood burning
through time’s tableaux
of innocence and dare.

‘Do you remember our
collecting days?’ you
ask….as if time
could erase those

early Sunday mornings

and long hot afternoons
that stretched the limits
of our neighbourhood
and the twilight
of childhood range.

Matchbox tops, cigarette
packet covers, bottle tops
and beer and wine labels
to stash in tins as heirlooms
or glue in brown paper
files as emblems of our time.

‘I wish I still had them’
you concede to the
past’s heartstrings loosely|
tying our words and lives,
pulled tightly back again.

 

Necklace of Words
for Chris, on his return

He wasn’t going to come
and I knew it,
would say at the last minute
that it wasn’t for him

though he asked me to take him
to my favourite coffee shops
and hang-outs, as if
he didn’t want to trespass
but sort of ‘know’ where I live

and although he nodded
to my suggestion with agreeing
hands to come along to the
writing group, knew he’d withdraw
the verbal handshake
and retreat somewhere within.

But this time I decided to
outsmart the fox at his 
own game, sending him a text
not too long before the 
arranged pick-up time:

‘I’ve got you a notebook
and a pen’ to which he
lowered his head just like
a fox and gave in.

The room was full with poets
and words that only friendship
could know as we entered
and although he fitted the bill,
suddenly vanished

into himself and I thought my
big ideas had done him in,
until he read his sonnet
which shone like a jewel
in a necklace of words.

Elsewhere I have said that Mike is a ‘man for all seasons’ intensely involved with poetry and family and a peace lover and ecological enthusiast who reaches out for a sense of communal bonding in a world of peace and calm. All of this is revealed again and again in this book so saying, ‘You’ll do me for a mate, young feller!’ I hereby declare Nocturnal House, alongside Shane, duly launched.

 – Peter Jeffery

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Peter Jeffery since 1947 has lived in the worlds of poetry, film, radio, television and education garnering two life memberships of WA Poets Inc and Film and the Television Institute of WA. A constant activist in the fields of multiculturalism and indigenous art and affairs he was a foundation member of Aboriginal Writing, Oral Literature and Drama with Jack Davis and Murdoroo Narogin, and the Chair of the Multicultural Arts Centre.  Along with Brian Mackay and Ted Snell he was a foundation member of PRAXIS that eventually became PICA. Peter has been Highly Commended and won First Prize in the Tom Collins Poetry Prize in 1987 with his poem ‘At The Fairlawn Hotel, Calcutta’. A sometime chair of many arts and community organisations, he was eventually awarded the OAM. His greatest pleasure has been to co-ordinate Creatrix, which is WAPI’s online quarterly magazine of poetry which is now in its 51st Issue. Currently he also contributes to Noonday Carousel on KCR 102.5 FM radio and co-ordinates the Vincent Writing Centre.

Nocturnal House by Mike Greenacre is available from:  https://www.ginninderrapress.com.au/ store.php?product/page/2200/Mike+Greenacre+ %2F+Nocturnal+House

The multiplicity of life: Shane McCauley co-launches Nocturnal House by Mike Greenacre

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