A Luna Park of Treasures: Gig Ryan launches ‘Sputnik’s Cousin’ by Kent MacCarter

Sputnik’s Cousin by Kent MacCarter. Transit Lounge 2014 was launched by Gig Ryan at Collected Works Bookshop in Melbourne on 14 May 2014. Here is what she had to say….

Kent MacCarter reading at the launch of Sputnik's Cousin - Collected Works 14 May 2014 (Photograph - Angela Meyer)

Kent MacCarter reading at the launch of Sputnik’s Cousin – Collected Works 14 May 2014 (Photograph – Angela Meyer)

It seems clashingly right to launch Kent MacCarter’s Sputnik’s Cousin the day after the federal budget – while Joe and Mathias chomp cigars, we can chink glasses to celebrate an untaxable uncuttable un-levy-able complex work of art, knowing that it’s as far outside this Liberal Government’s comprehension as a person unemployed and under-30 would be, and if, in some alternative universe it was comprehended, it would be sent direct to Australia’s latest asylum seeker centre in Cambodia, or drowned at sea in the new Orwellian forms of compassion we have come to expect from those weeping over their speeches in Parliament. This book in part tracks the poet from youth to maturity to fatherhood, as he careens through a universe of Twentieth and Twenty-First century chaos from Mexico to Macedonia, market forces, memes and mantras of anxieties and amusements – enfolding a critique, and slanted analysis, of all things Now, as well as some rueful summings up of some things Then in jigsawed apologias of past experience. Migrations zero in on fraught states and wondrous sceneries, a guidebook to the world equals a guidebook to the poet’s feverish deracinated mind, all in some newly bursting MacCarterian Esperanto.

Kent’s language curls around all matter like Darwin entranced, or the glimmering blades of grass in a Terrence Malick film, as he plays and puns and rhymes through pantoums and longer poems, as well as some long prose accounts – a Luna Park of treasures, tricks, and terse bundles of matter: there’s a weird history, or portrait, of Melbourne’s inner North, a long riff on jazz musician and composer Bix Beiderbecke (‘fleeter than Art Deco or a cheetah hunt’ – Bix dropped dead at the age of 28 in 1931, from pneumonia, thought to have been exacerbated by alcoholism), Houdini in Australia, the 1980s computer game Pac-Man, some down-and-outer pranksters Eddie, Joey and Syd (maybe really Tony, Joe and Mathias), a look at attempting to learn German, all with an almost Shakespearean love of inversions and complexities that meanings slither, gasping, through, or else meticulously guided into states of disappearance like the MH370.

The allure of Kent’s work is in its tightly entangled linguistic play, where an observation is stretched out, twisted around, bent and peered at from every possible angle. We can’t always follow what he means, as like all poets he invents his own language: American slang, Hopkins-like nouns morphing into verbs, verbs cross-dressing as nouns as if on a Eurovision catwalk, smashed up compound words where we have to intuit meaning from context. In fact in some ways Kent’s poems re-enact the very basis of the invention of language where soundings sing and thump and collapse and collide and parade across the pages, and nothing means, except strait-jacketed into its context , but Kent removes the strait-jacket and ambiguity unconsolingly reigns.

He takes jargon from botany, from food writers, from science, from technology, from travel, enlarging the world, then chopping it up again into intricate pieces. The book’s appropriately urban cover – Carrum Station Vending Machine by James Bonnici – depicts in Edward Hopper-type views both the exterior and interior of a train station and its waiting room, the vending machine like a robot deity or dalek, the street lamp behind it glowering over the scene like a scaffold, and the telegraph pole further back resembling a crucifix: Christianity runs through this book like some alternative computer programme that Kent shuffles, uses as sufficiently absurdist theatre, and challenges and discards.

Knit us, wise Christ, the Christmas dinner bell
your pupils’ peel, a chime the core of alchemy
listen, stun, the sleet is angling in. I dispel
patina’s yell at rust misguided peasantry

And won’t you take a closer look at peanuts?
freeze them out to wander flocks with jiggling palm
remittance, hymns confess their treetops…

‘A Closer Look At Peanuts’

Other poems are travelogues buckling and chuckling with description:

…………………………….Unpacking

my scramble, chart points with gadgets shaving geological chin
us mountain sports
and fix my silty ascent
……………………………pruning moustache of pine
…………………………………..the far-above cornice
………………………………………….converting who into my prime
me where psalms of Russian-built Nivas
slalom between frescoes and goats. When down-
shifting from first to Cyrillic
………….orthodox monks
………….grind their 4×4 hearts out
atop our perilous sentence
…………………………..of road
…………………………..imprisonment in a windcheater of tourism
I first read about in guidebooks
Steep road read aloud
my feet…

Understand, then, how we marvelled apart olives. Our communion
of Boolean syntax. My GPS, their chalk lines…

‘The Precipice That Is’
(Treskavec Monastery, Macedonia)

That is, dilemmas of direction are analysed then solved through necessity and curiosity, into a communion over a meal, a communion of data, yet also a spiritual communion. He hovers over difference wherever he can find it, and in his spliced cubist descriptions of everything the picture is vivid – a washing machine at Christmas ‘whirs and brims hot infant light’ – that is, it’s both funny yet profound. God is – literally – in the machine.

Kent outlines a theme then personalises it, splitting into narrator and participant, observer and perpetrator, puppet and puppeteer on an eternally precipitous Big Dipper of engineered collisions that echo and pool outwards like the recently picked up pulsations from the original Big Bang – ‘civic brides prepare at the smooch of marriage / in a pre-arranged I do. You did’ – or like John Berryman’s wandering cranky bemused romantic Everyperson, Henry. As also for Berryman’s Henry, the tone is constantly shifting – from studious to hilarious to regretful to celebratory. Nothing settles.

Many poems are wily political critiques such as ‘Open Your Preferences’ which refers to Australia’s border policy (a bland euphemism, if ever there was one!) – but always written in Kent’s Carl Linnaeus-like fidgety original nomenclature:

…………………………….…………..A drop-down menu spooks
your cookies, allowance for our stateless in-flux

Guinea pig wheels of border patrol. Watch humbled
objects, small, which might or mightn’t float
convert, create, divide, divert, confide…repeat.

And that spilt casket of verbs is a good place to end – from yesterday’s budget cuts of Hockey’s poseur economics of Slash and Burn policies, to Kent’s alternative Utopia of corporeal ‘Pash and Churn’ through an unstoppable hyper-observant brain where every bit of matter observed, every plate of daily bread, is pulsating with clambering life, an unbudgetable splurge of tripping, and renewable, energies that is Sputnik’s Cousin.

Others mentioned: Joe Hockey, Federal Treasurer; Mathias Cormann, Minister for Finance; Tony Abbott;
Eddie Joey and Syd – Ed Kuepper, Joey Ramone, Syd Vicious.

– Gig Ryan

Sputnik's-Cousin-cover-for-publicty

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Gig Ryan is Poetry Editor at The Age newspaper (Melbourne) and a freelance reviewer. She has published numerous books including New and Selected Poems (Giramondo, Australia, 2011); Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, UK, 2012); songs with Disband, Six Goodbyes (1988), and Driving Past, Real Estate (1999), Travel (2006).

Sputnik’s Cousin is available from http://www.transitlounge.com.au/index.htm#SputniksCousin

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The return of the Gestetner Revolution……sort of…. The double launch of: THE SELECTED YOUR FRIENDLY FASCIST edited by Rae Desmond Jones & P76 Issue 6 (The Lost Issue)

The return of the Gestetner Revolution……sort of….Rochford Street Press is proud and slightly surprised to announce the double launch of: THE SELECTED YOUR FRIENDLY FASCIST edited by Rae Desmond Jones (to be launched by Alan Wearne) & P76 Issue 6 (The Lost Issue)

SUNDAY 21 OCTOBER 2.30PM FRIEND IN HAND HOTEL GLEBE

Your Friendly Fascist was a poetry magazine so deep underground that it caused tremors among persons of a pious literary persuasion on the dread occasions of its appearance. The magazine served as an outlet for views and feelings which are not expressed in polite company. Your Friendly Fascist was not the only outrageous small literary publication of its time, but it took pleasure in divergent views. Poetry can tend to sombre pomposity, or the self –consciously polite. If there is a secret to the Fascist’s modest success, it is in the energy with which it rode on the un-ironed coat tails of unruly expression. Rae Desmond Jones and John Edwards remained at the helm of the magazine despite frequent inebriation, from the magazine’s beginnings in 1971 to its final burial with absolutely no honours at all in 1986. Rae Desmond Jones has made a selection of material that appeared in YFF and pulled together an creation that sits well with the ratbaggery tradition that was Your Friendly Fascist.”

The Selected Your Friendly Fascist contains work by John Jenkins, Mike Lenihan, Rob Andrew, Denis Gallagher, Adrian Flavell, Peter Brown, Debbie Westbury, Carol White, Billy Ah Lun, Peter Brown, Lis Aroney, Patrick Alexander, Steve Sneyd, Ken Bolton, Nigel Saad, John Edwards, Robert C. Boyce, Rae Desmond Jones, Trevor Corliss, Kit Kelen, Rob Andrew, Jean Rhodes, Larry Buttrose, Joseph Chetcuti, Alamgir Hashmi, Anne Wilkinson, Jenny Boult (aka MML Bliss), George Cairncross (UK), John Peter Horsam, Steven K. Kelen, Irene Wettenhall, Chris Mansell, Robert Carter, Anne Davies, Nicholas Pounder, Cornelis Vleeskens, Andrew Rose, Joanne Burns, Les Wicks, Eric Beach, Ian, Gig Ryan, П. O., Barry Edgar Pilcher, Andrew Darlington, Dorothy Porter, Gary Oliver, Richard Tipping, Micah, Carol Novack, Peter Finch, Evan Rainer, Graham Rowlands, Christopher Pollnitz, Robert Carter, Philip Neilsen, Andrew  Chadwick, Stephan Williams, Rollin Schlicht, Philip Hammial, John Peter Horsam, Peter Murphy, Karen Ellis, Richard James Allen, Rudi Krausmann, Paul “Shakey” Brown, Michael Sharkey, Karen Hughes, Susan Hampton, Rory Harris, Pie Corbett and Billy Marshall Stoneking.

Your Friendly Fascist will be available for purchase from the Rochford Street Press On-Line Shop from 17 October: http://members.optusnet.com.au/rochfordstpress/.

Facebook invite for the launch http://www.facebook.com/events/419856534730684/

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Rochford Street Press in the publisher of Rochford Street review

Treading the lesser-known path: Gig Ryan Reviews ‘One Under Bacchus’ by Duncan Hose

 One Under Bacchus by Duncan Hose. Inken Publisch, 2011

This review is based on Gig Ryan’s launch speech, Saturday July 9, 2011, Melbourne Trades Hall.

When Duncan Hose won the Newcastle Poetry Prize in 2010 with his poem ‘The Allegory of Edward Trouble’ –  a colourful and brilliant re-imagining of Ned Kelly’s life and meaning where “blood stains the hydrangeas” (immediately we’re aware of a colonised country, not yet claiming Lawson’s wattle as its emblem), “My heart mulched and tartan like the / golden bogs of Tasmania”) – it signalled a huge change in the reception of Australian poetry.  When a prize renowned mainly for its well-rewarded conservatism and staidness goes to an adventurous, thoughtful, funny, searching work, we can breathe a sigh of relief that the best doesn’t have to “waste its sweetness on the desert air”, though sweet doesn’t much apply to that particular poem.

Ned Kelly poems both open and close  Hose’s striking second book, One Under Bacchus. Hose investigates how these national myths have influenced or even formed us, but further this book follows a particular trajectory: after the idealised bushranger, Hose then moves on to the tale of Alexander Pearce, an escaped convict who ate his dead mates to survive:

…………..these leg bracelets
keep us awake with their chewing, four days on the heath
…………..Hell hath little flowers, white honey bunches limned with red
The sky tho circumpolar hath no regular sun, only grays more illumined
Less cloaked, like a promise’s promise my running mate’s
…………..A convict’s convict whom I chose once I knowed
He spells his name ‘Charels’…
I will make myself live for a scoop of Hobart liquor
…………..Before taking the drop, since we did abscond & have already
Eaten Terence Diggory.

                            ‘On the Work of Pearce’s British Addictions’

That is, the mythologising of place includes both the idealised and the demonised. Then follows a series of poems on types of imperialism – the sort of anxieties of influence that some Australians feel, with actual ancestry often in another hemisphere, and intellectual ancestry often in U.K. or U.S., these poems feature America, the fur trade, Napoleon, Berrigan, followed by poems about Scotland and Ireland, that is, a short history of the colonised or slaughtered – the poet travels “hatless in the white and shining air” (to quote Berrigan’s ‘A New Old Song’), here the contrast is between an idealised past, an idealised quest and our seemingly less heroic present:

Auntie Elko’s brought photos of the ‘smog-o-the-wilderness‘   that’s
……………………………..the visible realm

‘One Under Bacchus’

and  in ‘Pasties of Iona’:

rather than ‘mekin pilgrimage’ we
drag the cursor over the sacred island &
pants off on the sixth floor
……………………..google the bejesus oot ay it.

The next section has a few ‘love’ poems, followed by a return to Hobart’s settlement, then a Blue Hills sequence (a kind of homage to Laurie Duggan’s neverending Blue Hills) with Aussie attitudes displayed “Europeans – stay in Europe!”: substitute nationality here and we have current government policy in fact – the timelessness of Poetry! – thus showing the nagging ambiguity of Australia’s relation to the rest of world. The book finishes with the longest poem  ‘Edward Trouble’. There’s a constant satirising of pretensions to nationalism, and awareness of the lie of a solely British ‘civilisation’ – “Saturday morning upholstered with the silks / and dressinggowns of chinese Australia”, that is, there are constant reminders of the various types of dispossession on which Australia is founded:

……………………..avenging crows
Suggest new hats for the colony.

‘A wedding party’

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The                                         Glamour
……………………………………………
Of a beggared Australian syntax
Souths                     plant in the ‘native’ section             instruments of death

…………As decoration                       those black-bunged marsupials by god

We’d pat them to death if we could

‘Anglo but Cosmic’

Hose uses a courtly excruciating language of archaic spellings, misspellings, neologisms – there’s both a seriousness of intent and a gracefully light-footed style, like a Watteau painting, half Moby Dick in his high-falutin’ language, half Horatio Hornblower in the noble heroics at work in much of his historic diggings. He mixes words of Scots, Irish, French, 19th Century English, that is, these poems enact through their language the history they are dissecting and critiquing.

These poems don’t strain for an affectlessly confident relaxation that Berrigan sometimes wants, but for a highly-strung language – that suddenly thuds down into a joke, jokes that lurch with meaning. – “he was a skald Father, he drank to think”.  There is appropriately ‘Sonnet to Ted’ here, followed by  the amusingly-titled ‘Typical American Poem’:

Zorro had the dream contented
By the view one would see
…………From the guillotine
Forest around full of crow [sounds]
……………………………..& grubs
Like a period piece on BBC TV
……………………………..Zorro drives
Through the giant Drive In.

Jim’s drapes sure are Dusty.

Zorro, like Kelly, is also a masked hero, creating his own icon.  Also look at the two pictures by Hose in this book – one a half-naked masked woman, the other a young hare – these again contrast the mask of Art, of Civilisation, with Nature.But this book finishes with  the “totemised and trophied”  Kelly:

I too was a bird lover tho’ mostly / I shot them…
I belong to the majority mob w.../…  the minority
………….philosophy ….  the forge
to cast a bigot

Duncan Hose treads the lesser-known path of maverick Australian poets such as Norman Talbot, John Watson and Javant Biarujia – that is, like all good must-read poets, he invents a new language, full of playful disguises and serious intent, reaffirming Baudelaire’s view that only the human-made is beautiful.

– Gig Ryan

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Gig Ryan is Poetry Editor at The Age newspaper (Melbourne) and a freelance reviewer. She has published numerous books including New and Selected Poems (Giramondo, Australia, 2011); Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, UK, 2012); songs with Disband, Six Goodbyes (1988), and Driving Past, Real Estate (1999), Travel (2006).

One Under Bacchus is available from inken publisch http://inkenpublisch.bigcartel.com/

An eclectic tour de force: Mark Roberts reviews Famous Reporter 43

Famous Reporter Issue 43 Published by Walleah Press, PO Box 368, North Hobart Tasmania 7002.

There is always (or at least almost always) a scene of sadness around an impending death. Friends and families wonder how they will cope, how things will change, how they will be able to fill the gap……it is much the same with literary magazines. Some go out in blaze of glory while others hang around for far too long, dying long slow lingering literary deaths. Of course there are also those magazines that you miss even before they are gone – and the famous reporter is firmly in that category.

Fr 43, which was launched in late May 2012, was the last issue with founder and long time editor Ralph Wessman at the helm. There will be one final issue but it will be edited by Dael Allison and Michael Sharkey. After that silence…….

Ralph Wessman, talking about his years editing famous reporter, recalled a conversation he had with Ken Bolton where Bolton claimed that “a magazine renews itself, its vitality, by finding a course and sticking with it through thick and thin on a particular aesthetic, political [whatever] direction” (https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2012/07/25/getting-excited-by-the-writing-wanting-more-of-it-ralph-wessman-recalls-25-years-as-editor-and-publisher-of-famous-reporter/). While Wessman admits that he found this notion persuasive, he points out that the famous reporter has moved in the opposite direction, towards the eclectic.

A measure of this eclecticism can be seen in FR 43. The issue opens with 11 pages of haiku edited by Lyn Reeves . FR is one of the few journals in Australia with a dedicated haiku section with a dedicated haiku editor. This concentration on haiku began in 1993 and ends with this issue as there wont be a haiku section in the final issue. The tradition and concentration on haiku has paid off for FR with some very fine pieces in this edition. Perhaps my favourite in this issue was from Leonie Bingham:

in the doorway
of the osteopath
spring leaves

The contrast between the distilled lyricism of the haikus and James Dryburgh’s essay, ‘Chico’s Story’ which immediately follows the hakiu section, is, at first glance, almost confronting. ‘Chico’s Story’ is an account of a refugee from El Salvador who fled form his country during the US backed military crackdown during the 1980’s, finding a new home in Melbourne. Years later he returns to El Salvador and finds a country still trying to come to terms with its past. This is a powerful essay on a number of levels – having spent the 1980’s following the struggles of the Latin American people in countries such as Nicaragua and El Salvador, there was something very familiar about ‘Chico’s Story’.  It is the account  of a conflict and of a refugee program that many of us have forgotten. At the same time it reminds us that the terror and repression which drives people to leave their home and seek refuge is still very much with us and that we should be learning from the past not pretending that suffering and repression is not part of the 21st century.

FR 43 also contains a wide range of poetry from both new and established poets (if not new, at least poets I was coming across for the first time). I was particularly pleased to find a wonderful poem by Judith Rodriguez, ‘Sayings of my Mother’, which explores notions of memory triggered by scanning old photos into a computer and blowing up the images:

Decades crumble to a night in the zippy thirties:
off the road and over the small-scrub plain
skitters his Willis, jibbing at burrows and tussocks,
headlights jumping, hoyed rocks, rabbits playing games.
All the lighting we can manage won’t hold the image
galvanic , the freckled print, a blur, Dad’s face.

It is a measure of the success of the eclectic nature of FR that the poetry in this issue can move easily from Judith Rodriguez to Les Wicks without blinking. Wick’s ‘Eight Words to a Life’ moves through a life in eight sections: ‘ Rot, Slink, Stroke, Strike, Stuck, Shiver, Squat and Give’. It is an ambitious poem, ranging over decades of English history, from post war docks to Thatcher’s Britain, ending with almost despairing acceptance of how a life half lived is not living up to expectations:

Nothing turns out like our clever plans
termites build & destroy
we too are argute toys in havoc.

There are some other very fine poems in this issue: Emma Rooksby’s ‘Red bloodwood’,  Margaret Cambell’s ‘Rained-in’, Michael Sharkey’s ‘Nothing for granted’, Pete Hay’s ‘The Duck’s Guts’, Bronwen Manger’s ‘ Few are Immune’ (is it just me or is there a hint of an early Gig Ryan about this poem?), Lucy William’s ‘paper aeroplanes’,  Cliff Forshaw’s ‘Lat. 43 degree’, Margaret Bradstock’s ‘Weedy Seadragon’s, Shane McCauley’s ‘Idyll’, Ben Walter’s ‘Dolerite’, Dael Allison’s ‘House’,  Cecila White’s ‘Breath’ and  Cameron Hindrum’s ‘Leaving an island’ were my personal highlights. But the best lines in FR 43 must go to Kimberley Mann:

My kiss is a noun
Yours is a verb
We need to talk

Grammar of Us

The diversity of the poetry in FR43 is matched by the four pieces of fiction. Mark O’Flynn’s ‘The Phone Rings’ is a disturbing account of an Asian man, accused of a crime he didn’t commit, or understand. Alone in prison he is listening to recordings of phone calls made to his house, searching for the piece of evidence that he was convicted on in order to mount a defence. The more he listens the more confused his past becomes. Solid relationships, marriages begin to blur- “the ominous years ahead are shedding their meaning like a snake’s skin”.

‘Leaving Kathmandu’ by David Francis is a short piece about departure and loss. A man is leaving Kathmandu, leaving his lover of five months behind. They both know that this departure is a leaving, an end, and there is, at least at one level, a sense of relief on both sides. But as soon as the plane takes off there is almost instant regret from the man “I saw the face of a drowning man who had missed the chance of a proffered life vest”. While not, perhaps completely successful, there is deep emotional undercurrent to ‘Leaving Kathmandu’, which is almost poetic and which makes the story stand out.

Jo Langdon’s ‘Paint’ is also, at one level, about the end of a relationship. This time the drama plays out inside the house as the narrator, the ‘I’ details how the other, the ‘you’ begins to change the rooms in the house by painting seas and landmasses,  then adding in clouds, before washing it clean and starting again. This time the other starts painting the interior of the body, the organs and bones on the walls of the room.

“…until suddenly I lost patience and objected……shouting fuck, this is like living inside a rotting corpse! You seem to consider this, picking at a scab of dried carmine on your wrist and nodding slowly….”

John Hale’s ‘Landscape of the Enemy’ is perhaps the most ambitious of the four pieces of fiction, it is certainly the longest. It is an interesting piece, well written and confronting. Set in the devastated German city of Hamburg immediately after the war, ‘Landscape of the Enemy’ is a shared memory of two people who meet briefly in the ruined city. The first section introduces the male character, whose name, we later learn, is Richard Dart. He is in a foreign town, browsing in a second hand bookshop when he opens a book on German Post War theatre and recognises a photograph of an actress. He knew her very briefly as a much younger woman.  The next section is his recollection of his his meeting with her in Hamburg just after the war when, as a very young merchant seaman his ships docks in the ruined city for 24 hours.  For the price of a block of chocolate he spends the night with her whensShe takes him back to the house she shares with her grandfather and mother. The final section recalls the same incident from the woman’s point of view. The title of the piece, ‘Landscape of the Enemy’, hints at the complicated power relationship which drives this encounter, the young male sailor, naïve, but on the side of the victor and the young street-wise woman, forced to be wise beyond her years in order to survive.

Beyond the creative writing we have to also acknowledge the non-fiction, both literary and non literary. I have already mentioned  ‘Chico’s Story’, but there are also a number of other pieces that fall under the ‘ Essay, memoir, miscellany’ category, one of the most interesting being Rick Haughton’s ‘Rebuilding Timor Leste Schools’.

There are also interviews with poets and activists – Peter Hay, Grant Caldwell and Melanie Barnes as well as number of launch speeches and reviews of poetry. All in all FR43 is a tribute to its long time editors, a kind of eclectic tour de force which highlights just how many bulls-eyes you can hit when you fire in multiple directions at once. But this is not quite the end we still have FR44 to look forward to before the FR printing presses fall silent.

– Mark Roberts

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Mark Roberts is a Sydney based writer and critic. He currently edits Rochford Street Review.

Famous Reporter can be found at http://walleahpress.com.au/past.html

Ralph Wessman remembers 44 Issues of FR https://rochfordstreetreview.com/2012/07/25/getting-excited-by-the-writing-wanting-more-of-it-ralph-wessman-recalls-25-years-as-editor-and-publisher-of-famous-reporter/

“Lots of energy here, not much control”: Your Friendly Fascist – 1970 – 1984. Rae Desmond Jones remembers…..

Cover of Your Friendly Fascist Issue 2.

On an evening in 1970 my friend John Edwards and I were lamenting our fate. The literary revolution of 1968/9 had happened, and we had been passed by and pissed on, left in the wash as the great ship of poetic modernism steamed further into the distance. We complained and felt sorry for ourselves. I wrote a really bad play full of pretentious bullshit: the only good thing about it was the acting, especially by John and Patrick Alexander. I learned from this invaluable experience that I had been writing crap.  All young writers would benefit from such an experience.  I learned what I had been doing wrong: I was just starting to do a few things right. I was 29. John was 25.  The first poem in which my voice came through was published that year by Nigel Roberts. From memory, it was all about Mother fucking and drugs and truck drivers who wanted to get fellated in return for a lift. The future was rolling out before me, but I didn’t know it.  We decided to publish a magazine. Neither of us had much money. Finding poets wasn’t hard. Finding good ones was difficult.

We trawled. What we got was, mostly, terrible. We looked at it, and thought deep about not doing anything. After smoking something illegal, we came up with some incoherent inspiration: take bad poetry and make it an assault on the bland and the comfortable. What could be more in your face in 1970 than Fascism?  The first issue was so badly printed on a gestetner that it is impossible to copy. It was cheap, and it was fun. John Tranter gazed thoughtfully at it and pronounced “mmm. Lots of energy here, not much control …” He was right. We were making a virtue out of energy taking us … well, where ever. It was about 5 years before punk.

Despite all of our worst efforts some interesting poetry came out of the bubbling sink of Your Friendly Fascist. Andy Rose, a young man of Jewish extraction, wrote for the magazine for several years before going around Australian with Allen Ginsberg: he died of dysentery in India a few years later. He became a friend, and his poetry has a lyric quality rare in the pages of YFF:

today

……….a young californian

alone

………climbed into a Cessna

took off

………aimed the plane pacificwards

& flew

……..till he ran out of

tears &

……..fuel

crashed into the sea /

It reflects something of the deliberate naivety of the time. Andy had the intensity of an early Bob Dylan. It would become cliché quickly, but he wrote well, with more control than most.

Some of those who appeared in the grimy early pages of Your Friendly Fascist went on to establish themselves as respectable poets: Joanne Burns,  who adapted her comic sensibility to the self- mockery of the magazine:

lonely galleries / i aspire

clay models of desire

i’ll huff and i’ll puff

…………kick their roofs in

(YFF 11th issue)

In the same issue, Graham Rowlands was a pupil who

.. later … knew why

he threw palm tree nuts at God …

Carol Novack, who published in the fascist, eventually went back to the USA to become a lawyer in New York. After several years, disillusioned with the Democratic Party she returned to poetry and began the Mad Hatter’s Review, and the Mad Hatter’s Press.  Her literary career was just beginning after the publication of Giraffes in Hiding (Spuyten Duyvil, published September 15, 2010), when she passed away in December 2011. In the Fascist she wrote as

the last of the sirens

she was born too evolved

the monster genes had receded

into memory with her mother’s death …

The young Debbie Westbury put her head above the sand dunes of the South Coast to confess all:

……….We were making love,  / or something, / when his name escaped / from my mouth / open against your throat //you chose to ignore it / my love faltered / but you never missed a beat / that’s the way we are / these days.

The Fascist had a serious side. Patrick Alexander (who passed away in 2005, and is much remembered) tended to write with a sonorous rhetoric distinct from the robust outpourings elsewhere:

And for the presentee this trivial

Screeding on the glass has a trite importance …

In YFF 6, Patrick did find himself in curious company:

Peter Brown was a dope smoking colleague of mine on the night shift at the then international telephone exchange. Brown’s creativity was stimulated by the shrieks of transvestite telephonists who congregated in the exchange after closing time. His cartoons found their natural place in Your Friendly Fascist.

Michael Sharkey put in an early appearance:

Jack be nimble

Jack be weird

Jack hides roaches in his beard

As did Gig Ryan:

See, in my head, the hole they’re shooting?

What happened to those buildings, that maze?

Does everything crumble, or hurt?

A youthful Richard Tipping wrote especially for the magazine, a poem titled FASCIST COOKING (a recipe for violence) :

SHARPEN YOUR BLADE, ADJUST THE GAS…..

GRIND THE PEPPER, SQUEEZE THAT LEMON DRY.

THE OVEN IS NOW BLOODY HOT AND YOUR SIMMERING.

ENJOY AS YOU DESTROY. OUT OF THE FRYING PAN SOMETHING

DELICIOUS

SLOUCHES TOWARD BETHLEHEM TO BE BORN. BON APETIT!

Joseph Chetcutti forcefully made the case for gay seduction:

Distraught, I told him / we had to stop seeing each other // he, in turn, / switched off the bedside lamp.

There are lots more, but I’d better stop before accumulating too much kharma from furious poets regretting  their youthful fascist follies.

When my first marriage failed, Your Friendly Fascist found itself in situ in a downstairs room at 9 Arcadia Rd, Glebe, where mushrooms grew through the wall in wet weather.  Ken Bolton was artist in residence, along with Denis Gallagher and sundry others. Ken’s career was in its infancy and he needed a publication to practice on. While Ken understood very well the proto- punk seditious humour of Friendly Fascism, he brought a different sensibility to the process. This is most easily seen in a comparison between the cover of Number 2 (the one at the beginning with the eggbeater … ) and Ken’s covers:

Cover of Your Friendly Fascist Issue 12

The brutalist Brown-inspired drawings are by me. The layout is Ken’s: despite my best efforts he achieved just a touch of … elegance. Ken continued to refine his own interpretation of Fascist left wing anarchy:

Cover of Your Friendly Fascist Issue 11

From there, ken practiced further, editing his own edition of Your Friendly Fascist:

Cover of Your Friendly Fascist Issue 23

Voila! The most beautiful Fascist of them all.

Your Friendly Fascist survived a long time for such a magazine. It’s heyday was the age of the gestetner, but it continued even when the short, glorious gestetner spring was over. Most of the time the gestetner was borrowed through obligingly tolerant literary circles or marginal Trotskyite left wing groups. When photocopiers became available, graphix and layout become – well almost – sort of, professional:

By Number 17 we were publishing respectable poets, who wanted to be published there, with certain humourless exceptions: there was enough fun to go around. Or was it time when the kissing had to stop? John was an active overseas editor vigorously spreading Fascist propaganda during the years he was in England, and we published a lot of capable poms.

Andrew Darlington was one who is still around on facebook, but this was in YFF:

“at last,” she said newbridely,

“Our very own television set.”

So they poured themselves into it

And lived happily ever after,

Until the epilogue.

George Cairncross was another (are you on Facebook, George?)

………Summer just fell through / the grate / into the ashes of winter … even the breakfast flakes are frosted…

Steve Sneyd interviewed Genghiz Khan “to give his ‘tartar land investment & / securities’ latest near monopoly / take over bid /able paid for write up …”

We even had our own Ern Malley affair, in the form of Billy Ah-Lun of Kuala Lumpur:

DAKOTA 1966

Written on a rock /

,,,,,,,,,,,,,,In the indian reservation /

Colonel Custer / was

…………..Here / & still

Could be.

Like Ern, there were many who felt that his productions were infinitely preferable to the more serious literary efforts of his creator.

It wasn’t such fun when nobody much got pissed off and disgusted with us. I wrote a novel, then got into strife with my local Council: John returned from England with a most charming partner and became an extremely capable Historian. I enjoy poetry still, but this little kid inside me wants to take the piss. Your Friendly Fascist was great, and it stimulated even as it irritated and outraged. There’s nothing much in poetry long term, except for the prospect of boring the crap out of kids in school two hundred years from now, so why not? Poetry should be mocking, chaotic, satirical. it should give the upright middle finger to convention. There’s no such thing as immortality. That’s the serious lesson of Your Friendly Fascist. Just do it, be crazy. Like a kid.

Your Friendly Fascist Issue 4. Front and back cover design by Peter Brown.

Your Friendly Fascist cover design by Rae Desmond Jones. ". I was fresh out of ideas, but I had a post office date stamp & a stack of airmail stickers. I put one of each on every copy, while my ex-spouse and the gay person from down the road put on lip stick & kissed each one. "

Your Friendly Fascist. Issue 21

Your Friendly Fascist. Issue 16.

Your Friendly Fascist. Issue 17 - with a Queensland feel......

Your Friendly fascist Issue 24. The last issue.

Rae Desmond Jones

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Rae Desmond Jones is a major Australian poet. His first book was Orpheus With A Tuba, Makar Press, 1973. His latest books are Thirteen Poems from the Dead, Polar Bear Press 2011 and Decline and Fall, Flying Island Books 2011.There has been lots of poetry in between.