Monday, December 14, 2009

Wanton destruction of native forests

Said by John, typed up by Tracy

The whole Avon Valley is blanketed in smoke at the moment as a result of bushfires in the south.

The most disgraceful aspect of the 10,000 ha of old-growth & other native forest that are being destroyed around the Walpole area is that they are the result of "controlled burns" that have got out of hand.

Government authorities are often responsible for these devastating fires, it seems -- in so many cases, the so-called "prescribed burns" are destructive and senseless, and this is another example of the broader consequences that can come of such actions. Even though it was obviously not part of the intention, surely those carrying out the burns are aware of the possibility that the fire may "escape" their control. Some kind of accountability must be had here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Remembering Merton

By Tracy

Today is the anniversary of Thomas Merton's death (coincidentally too, the anniversary of the day he entered the Trappist order many years earlier).

Merton's writing has been immensely important to both of us at different stages in our lives.

Here's an extract from one of his poems, "The Fall":

They fall, they fall into apartments and are securely established!

They find themselves in streets. They are licensed
To proceed from place to place
They now know their own names
They can name several friends and know
Their own telephones must some time ring.

If all telephones ring at once, if all names are shouted at once and all cars crash at one crossing:
If all cities explode and fly away in dust
Yet identities refuse to be lost. There is a name and a number for everyone.

There is a definite place for bodies, there are pigeon holes for ashes:
Such security can business buy!

Who would dare to go nameless in so secure a universe?
Yet, to tell the truth, only the nameless are at home in it.

They bear with them in the center of nowhere the unborn flower of nothing:
This is the paradise tree. It must remain unseen until words end and arguments are silent.

[From The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton, New Directions, 1977)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reading Reading

By Tracy

John tells me he's just re-read Peter Reading's Work in Regress, which he reckons is one of the best books of poetry to have been published in Britain in the last 20 years (it was published in Britain in 1997, by Bloodaxe).

He says: it's a very slim book with a kind of rhetorical, fragmentary lyricism, with all ebullience sucked out of it -- it's possibly one of the darkest & grimmest books he has ever read. The use of Latin, Greek and medieval & Renaissance references and stylistic subtexts inflects a rotting modernity that makes for an implosion of imperialist aesthetics ("Ovidian"; "Theocritan"; "Propertian...", etc).

And he adds: But Reading is never this unnecessarily wordy! -- spitting out words and phrases so sharp and so honed that they are frightening.

The individual title is out of print, according to the Bloodaxe Books website, but can be found in the third volume of Reading's collected poems.

You can listen to recordings of Reading reading his work at Lannan Foundation's website.

The Latest Westerly

By Tracy

The newest issue of Westerly, guest-edited by Sally Morgan and Blaze Kwaymullina, is entirely focussed on "Indigenous writing and art", with a great variety of articles, stories, poems and images from Aboriginal contributors.

It has a striking cover ("Paradox of Inequality 2007") by Bronwyn Bancroft, who also writes in this issue of her background and context as an artist, accompanied by further colour reproductions of some of her works. (Tim, aged 6, has long been a fan of her children's-book illustrations, and though this Westerly material is not in that mode, when it arrived, he said immediately, "Is that art by Bronwyn Bancroft?", before I'd even told him anything about the journal...!)

Another great highlight for me is the piece that opens the issue: Nyungar yarns about specific birds, contributed by Leonard M. Collard ("Djidi djidi, Wardong, Kulbardi, Walitj and Weitj: Nyungar Dream Time Messengers").

I also learned a lot from the inspiring family history-writing by Pat Dudgeon and Sabrina Dudgeon, about their mother and grandmother's life.

But there's much more in this current journal issue than I can cover in a blog entry. You can check out the details here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Stendhal online

By Tracy

The Guardian reports that Grenoble's Stendhal University and public library have created a website that carries Stendhal's original manuscripts (500 pages up so far!), which you can inspect alongside transcripts (also annotated for clarity and background).

It's an amazing experience, and it's at