ISSUE 23. July 2017 – September 2017

Featured

Teasing Threads

 

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Published by Rochford Street Press
ISSN 2200-9922

 

Danny Gardner and Maureen Ten co-launch Belgrove Press’s first title for 2017: Willem Tibben’s ‘suburban veneer’, address by Maureen Ten

Danny Gardner and Maureen Ten launched Willem Tibben’s suburban veneer at the NSW Writers’ Centre on 22 April 2017

!Maureen Ten launching suburban veneer

Maureen Ten. photograph by Helen Lu

We are prompted to ask what lies beneath the veneer. In the first segment ‘the smell of cows’ it is habitations, movements, the states of being of myriad life-forms. Willem is engaged in attentive observation of each creature enacting its drama, its cabaret, its well-made play. He gives us unmistakable images of the situation, the gesture, the unfolding sequence of activity. His theme is the predicament; his task, reporting back accurately.

The galahs alighting from their blue-sky-cab, well-dressed for an evening’s entertainment, overtaken by another turn of events. The leech with its slow-urgent head, drinking slowly, deeply, drinking to excess, and then lolling off. The lobster bartered for beer money, sidling along the foot rail of the bar, lost and clueless, desperate to relocate, finding its way back to water (not the ocean but the cooking pot). The ibis of ancient sacred lineage, now regarded as dirty and noisy, confined to fossick in suburban parks. The platypus catching its breath. The microbats tiny flying mammal/ on fast forward/ chasing down their light

suburban veneer coverUnderneath Willem’s ‘suburban veneer’ is the boy who lived on a farm for many years and soon he ferries us out of the suburbs to the farmyards and pastures, into the world of cows. The cow loose in the pasture gorging on clover glowing fertilizer green, ballooning into a clover-gas blimp, saved from explosion by Willem’s dad driving a knife into her stomach to deflate her; the cow restless, in heat; the cow with a miscalculated due date; the drowned cow; the cow with an iron burned into her hide. In ‘she strolls to the stall’, he leans his ear against a cow’s side and hears her gurgling clonking milk-making depths as she chews under a yellowing fly-speckled bulb.

We journey further afield in the second segment ‘erode.’ Here there is curiosity and stamina to engage with national parks, land forms, Uluru, the geology and sociological gestalt of place, the accidents and incidents of history which form a town (such as Broome). With a poise of comment and irony relayed by the tension of juxtaposition, he points to the inadequacy of systems, and the failure of care beneath the veneer of society. The missing support and lack of social cohesion lead inevitably to the unravelling of vulnerable individuals.

In our recent city train travel back from rehearsal (for Auburn poetry group’s presentation of ‘Grandma’s Bed’ at Sydney Writers’ Festival), conversation with Willem covered how many cloves of garlic you need for a dish of silverside, two jazz saxophonists (octogenarian Wayne Shorter and Jan Garbarek) and Bashō. I mention this because perhaps it is not too far-fetched (or trivial) to suggest that spices, improvisation and haiku are helpful in a discussion of Willem’s modus operandi.

Apart from the prose poems, everything is in lower case. Type-spaces replace punctuation with the number of spaces (one, two or three) serving as a notation indicating the intended length of pauses. The spacing is not random but calculated. What appears improvised has a precise intention.

Willem’s love of haiku is evident in the use of an image which even when seemingly throwaway, lightly balances the experience like a spice activating (or settling) a series of flavours in the whole. In ‘yulara sunrise’ a groundman hoses and a sprinkler twinkles in a patch of tame desert. In ‘sick country’ a geiger counter chatters to itself. In ‘tawny frogmouths’ the poet is viewing the bird and the bird is in turn, he tells us, huge in my binoculars staring me down. In a knockout poem on artist Albert Namatjira:

.           there is a sign on the wall of the museum   warning
.           do not make pictures
.           of any kind

In the third segment ‘no direction home’ Willem writes about musicians (Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Fats Waller), men’s shed, his own stroke, a dream of his parents, his brothers, fibro and silvertails. In the poem ‘a hard day’s night’ he conveys the newness of intimacy and the excitement of a first date.

He captures a certain elusive quality about a person, a place or situation. How does he do this? Take, say, the second of two poems on Bob Dylan. He lists a number of things: what we see on the cover of the double DVD – feet, the car prop, a poster. This works as a sort of casual shorthand and you don’t notice that you’ve been shepherded in a certain direction. Then this is not the crossroads   nor yet bedevilment. He’s slipped in, among the apparently routine objects observed, a statement, an abstraction, perhaps even a judgement, and by the time he mentions the cast marks in the concrete apron and Dylan’s floating away, he’s nailed a sense of the enigma, of something astir within the publicity-contrived persona.

In the opening poem ‘lake cockrone’, he is remembering what happened twenty-eight years earlier at the beginning of a relationship with Pam to whom the poem is dedicated. It is going to be the most enduring relationship leading to a marriage of 33 years and counting. They are easy new and free   careful/ awake. It is past midnight and they are canoeing.

.           the boundary hills moved with us
.           black shapes on starry surfaces

The midnight memory is encapsulated in the stillness before sunrise of a day many years later. It is a quite remarkable synthesis of two stages (both harbouring a happiness or a measure of content while differing in maturity) of a relationship. If I may put it a tad grandly (using references from the poem): remembrance is anchored in the breathing of oceanic time present.

!CROPPED Willem Tibben reading at the launch of suburban veneer, NSW Writers' Centre, 22 April 2017 photograph by Helen Lu

Willem Tibben. photograph by Helen Lu

The fourth and last segment includes the poem which gives the book its title but it is the closing lines of ‘uluru’ in the second segment which indicate the nature of the engagement we find in suburban veneer.

.           begin again  each naming
.          
story  animal  plant  stone
.          
every-thing   in-place
.          
and underneath our feet
.          
a thousand ulurus

Not just at Uluru, but here too in our everyday, in the suburbs, a thousand reverberate.

-Maureen Ten

 ____________________________________________________________________________________________

Maureen Ten (Ten Ch’in Ü) directed plays and documentaries, and penned a newspaper column (‘Gandiiva’) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, before migrating to Australia in 1989. Maureen has convened poetry evenings, edited and independently published the anthology Mood Lightning and read at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. She has been published in SMH, Westerly, Imago and anthologies including Contemporary Asian Australian Poets. Maureen has a Master’s degree in English from the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK.

Danny Gardner and Maureen Ten co-launched Willem Tibben’s suburban veneer at the NSW Writers’ Centre on 22 April 2017:
Danny Gardner’s audience address

Poems from suburban veneer

Willem Tibben: Biographical note

suburban veneer is available from Belgrove Press. contact: saleswt@belgrovepress.com

 

Danny Gardner and Maureen Ten co-launch Belgrove Press’s first title for 2017: Willem Tibben’s ‘suburban veneer’, address by Danny Gardner

Danny Gardner and Maureen Ten launched Willem Tibben’s suburban veneer at the NSW Writers’ Centre on 22 April 2017

!Danny Gardner launching Will Tibben's suburban veneer

Danny Gardner launching suburban veneer, NSW Writers’ Centre, Sydney, 22 April 2017. photograph by Helen Lu

I first became aware of Bill Tibben as a man who seemed to have an inside track on Willy Shakespeare’s private life. This was after I read his poem ‘did Bill Shakespeare have to wash the dishes?’ in the first Live Poets’ Society anthology: ‘Litmus Suite’ in 1991. It’s rumoured that Bill and Will were born on the same day, that is, date- April 21st.

Then one night I found myself going with my former partner Sue Hicks to a poetry reading in Parramatta of all places – that Bill and his friend Daryl Wayne Hall ran, called PIE – Poetry, Imagery and Expression. Reading at that meeting necessitated sending a poem for inclusion in the current PIE poetry book.

Meantime Bill had stopped being a regular at Live Poets Society in Neutral Bay but I had a feeling he would be back. He contributed some poems to the 2001 Tenth Anniversary anthology of LPS called ‘Becoming a Nomad’. Then he came to do a guest reading in 2005.

Much later in 2009, Bill, Maureen and myself decided we would perform as a poetry trio and called ourselves ‘Running Order’. Meantime I’d got to hear much more of Bill’s poetry and ended up performing one with Bill called ‘Showering on the Nullarbor’. It would take too long here to put the proper context on that intimate association.

I was by now particularly struck with the book ‘Showering’ came out of: Bill’s the fascination of what’s simple. I actually composed a poem trying to explain the Australian way of doing things that that book reflected on. Here are a few lines from that poem called ‘bill’s poems’.

The smells, the damp flesh / the sun-bleached art, the bones / the sheer expanse of our country / leaves us speechless; / mouthing gibberish and old rhymes as consolation. / There are only bits and pieces to see / until you pull away / like in the best abstracts – / and then there’s a quiet music playing, / just enough to make a pattern / we squirrel away / to form, roughen out, a code we can pass / on, avenue to our fellows.

By this stage too, Bill, Maureen and I had joined Auburn Poets & Writers Group and Bill started to call himself Willem because Bill sounded too Anglo and he wanted to reflect on his Dutch heritage. Bill and I shared many other things we discovered. Like a love of Charlie Parker and Tom Waits and a nice ale, and outback road trips – and having fathers who tried to make a go of farming. A poem about that last point is in this book and I’d like to read it. It’s called ‘Big Hill’ (p 29, suburban veneer).

Willem had become an indispensable help running ‘Live Poets @ Don Bank’ (yes, the Society had ‘morphed’) and we got up to some rare skits together as you do. Like a re-enactment of the Apollo Moon landing and being in a play about the Lapin Agile café in Montmartre, Paris in the early 1900s – where Willem played 2 famous cats: Guillaume Apollinaire and Aristide Bruant. We decided to make a video on Live Poets’ 20th Anniversary. We also did a rendition of Melbourne rock/ blues group Chain’s epic song: ‘Black and Blue’.

This last trait seems to have migrated across to APWG too – just a couple of weeks ago at rehearsal for our 2017 Sydney Writers Festival show – Will playing bass and me playing saxophone in dumbshow as part of a band behind Maureen’s performance piece: ‘Grandaddy Jazz’.

I’d just like to add finally, in relation particularly to proofing Mr Tibben’s work: ‘he’s a guy who makes a space for poetry in his life.’

!ENHANCED Launch Will Tibben signing copies of suburn veneer at the launch 22 April 2017 NSW Writers' Centre

Willem Tibben signing a copy of suburban veneer with Neil Sheridan, and June Zhao at the launch, NSW Writers’ Centre, Sydney, 22 April 2017. photograph by Helen Lu

-Danny Gardner

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Danny Gardner is a poet, novelist and freelance journalist. He has published several books of poetry. His most recent, Before I Press the Trigger, was published by Ginninderra Press in 2009. He has also published a book of non-fiction, Brains in My Feet – Encounters While Travelling, which was launched in 2014. He has been convening Live Poets @ Don Bank (North Sydney) since 2003. He first appeared with Auburn Poets & Writers Group at the Sydney Writers Festival 2008. He has been the group’s coordinator since 2014.

Danny Gardner and Maureen Ten co-launched Willem Tibben’s suburban veneer at the NSW Writers’ Centre on 22 April 2017:
Maureen Ten’s audience address

Poems from suburban veneer

Willem Tibben: Biographical note

suburban veneer is available from Belgrove Press. contact: saleswt@belgrovepress.com

 

Featured Writer Willem Tibben: Biographical Note

! ENCHANCED Willem Tibben reading at launch

Willem Tibben reading at the launch of suburban veneer, NSW Writers’ Centre, Sydney, 22 April 2017. photograph by Helen Lu


Willem (Bill) Tibben
came from Holland to Camden in 1954 where he grew up on dairy farms. He worked in the NSW Public Service for 43 years and retired in 2007. His first published poems were in Neucleus (University of New England’s student newspaper – 1977) and since then he has published four books: near myths (1986), the conscious moment (1996), the fascination of what’s simple (2005), and suburban veneer (2017). Willem is President of Youngstreet Poets; member of Auburn Poets and Writers’ Group; and a regular attender at Live Poets at Don Bank.

Poems from suburban veneer

Danny Gardner and Maureen Ten co-launched Willem Tibben’s suburban veneer at the NSW Writers’ Centre on 22 April 2017:

Danny Gardner’s audience address
Maureen Ten’s audience address

suburban veneer is available from Belgrove Press. contact: saleswt@belgrovepress.com

 

Featured Writer Willem Tibben: poems from ‘suburban veneer’

lake cockrone

(for pam)

in the stillness before sunrise
kookaburras reclaim their selection
black swans show off   arching
moorhens   their tail-feather vulnerability
i am in this new day   beginning
remembering our first time   after midnight
two of us in the holiday house canoe
me doing the paddling you being pilot
talking coleridge  wordsworth  their lakes
the boundary hills moved with us
black shapes on starry surfaces
the waters only waist deep we knew
(but anyone can drown in an inch of it)
we were easy new and free   careful
awake   it’s twenty-eight years later
i’m listening to ocean   clear as shells
your breathing   slipping from our bed
and walking to the lake in that first light

 

microbats

quickened by the guide’s
demonstration of ‘cave-light’
(switching off everything)

as she clicks them back on
reinventing the cave’s tapestry
two microbats flit through

then almost before
their fly-past has registered
and the guide explibbeains

the marvel of their presence
they reprise the instant
flicker/gone again

our second chance
but we’re still too slow
to properly apprehend them

so   where were they
during those thirty seconds
of our experiment with

absolute darkness
as it permeated
how could we know

restive in contemplation
they were amongst us
accurately-speeding

tiny flying mammals
on fast fast forward
chasing down their light

 

namatjira’s ute door

pride of place by the museum entrance
the first photo is dated  1947
a utility   glossy black   a dodge
albert in the driver’s seat   faintest of smiles
window down   shirt open   pale sports coat
his arm on the sill above meticulous detailing
.                              albert namatjira
.                              artist
.                              alice springs
.                              tare  2.12.02
and on the side near the tray
.                             this vehicle
.                             presented
.                             by ampol
the photographer knelt to shoot up at albert
and because the ute is parked before a church
this has inadvertently placed the cross from its roof
onto the back of the ute’s cabin like some holy aerial
channelling albert’s trinity   arrernte world
white god   the colour of water

in the next room of the museum a second photo
shows a utility that’s light grey  or beige perhaps
certainly not the first one faded or compromised
the lettering on this driver’s door is identical
except it says hermannsburg   not alice springs
is this an older ute from before ampol’s magnanimity
or has there been some accident   some trading
down
albert’s face gives away nothing   only knowing
baptism   initiation   the finke in flood   seven lean
years
a dead child   unsayable   art deeper than irony

in a third room another photo shows this same utility
but now it is a wreck in a dry creek bed   no wheels
bonnet up   stripped-trashed   the door hanging open
says haast bluff    but that’s not where he’s been
albert’s been staying at the pleasure of her majesty
after being recently received by her   this photo’s
caption
.                        taken at gilbert’s crossing
.                        the day that namatjira died
.                        8 august 1959

finally   among the exhibits at the exit
stands the door itself   donated to this place   1974
sill rusted where the duco wore under albert’s arm
frame bent   hinges unhinged   detailing
indecipherable
because it is riddled with bullet holes   67 of them
there is a sign on the wall of the museum   warning
.                        do not make pictures
.                        of any kind

 

a hard day’s night [1]

screaming began pouring from the screen
a controlled chaos flooded the theatre
girls broke down sobbing as did usherettes
but we were not swept from our first-date seats

we sat immersed in that marvellous hysteria
and did not make a sound  (i remember that for sure)
as the plot raced ahead on goonish innocence
paul’s clean uncle   lonely ringo puddles

just as suddenly it was over   the lights came up
we filed out silently   and the earth had moved
biffo drove us home   in the backseat of his FJ
your body-heat surprising   our fingers curling

unhooking   your front door ajar (mum coughed)
1/9d each   i saved those ticket stubs for years

 

[1] Campbelltown Picture Show – August, 1964

 

the rumsfeld variations

there are those who are well
and know they are well

there are those who are well
and do not know they are well

there are those who are not well
who know they are not well

there are those who are not well
who do not know they are not well

there are those who are
neither well nor unwell

who know they are neither
well nor unwell

there are those who are neither
well nor unwell  who do not know

whether or not they are well or unwell
and then there’s us

 

-Willem Tibben


All poems were originally published in ‘suburban veneer’ (Belgrove Press, 2017) and have been republished with the author’s permission

____________________________________________________________________________________________

 

! ENCHANCED Willem Tibben reading at launch

Willem Tibben. photograph by Helen Lu

Willem (Bill) Tibben came from Holland to Camden in 1954 where he grew up on dairy farms. He worked in the NSW Public Service for 43 years and retired in 2007. His first published poems were in Neucleus (University of New England’s student newspaper – 1977) and since then he has published four books: near myths (1986), the conscious moment (1996), the fascination of what’s simple (2005), and suburban veneer (2017). Willem is President of Youngstreet Poets; member of Auburn Poets and Writers’ Group; and a regular attender at Live Poets at Don Bank.

 

 

Willem Tibben: Biographical note

Danny Gardner and Maureen Ten co-launched Willem Tibben’s suburban veneer at the NSW Writers’ Centre on 22 April 2017:

Danny Gardner’s audience address
Maureen Ten’s audience address

suburban veneer is available from Belgrove Press. contact: saleswt@belgrovepress.com