Sunday, December 26, 2010

Some Graphology poems from the journey

Poems and text by John, posted by Tracy

From John's journal: I've written a number of 'graphology poems' relating to our journey to Adelaide and back. I have written four or five sequences (including Poet in A Train, which Vallum editions brought out in Canada) relating to this west-east journey, but all have been from the perspective of a train passenger. Because I no longer fly, I have gone across the Nullarbor a number of times on the train over the last few years. (Obviously the train is better than the car, but there were three of us on this occasion.)

Driving across with Tracy and Tim was a very different experience. Whole different insights and interactions with place. The collective experience of engagement en famille was special and enlightening. Some of the poems I wrote during the journey were actively part of the manuscript I have been working on recently, Book 6, which comes out of an engagement with Virgil's Aeneid, Book 6, as a precursor to Dante's Divine Comedy, and my own 'distraction' on Dante's great work. But I've also written a dozen 'graphology poems' - smaller, momentary 'glimpse' pieces that fit within the fabric of the 'graphology' sequence I have been working on for the last fifteen or so years. The numbering is sequential but also arbitrary in so far as I have not written 3000 (or 4000 or 7000!) of them, as numbering at times might suggest; rather, it is to create a location canvas on which the interludes might appear. Numbers and texts seem so closely related to me, and to be bound to one kind of sequencing is to miss the point of the vitality of number 'screens'.

I also scratched or created poems in dirt and sand on the way, 'poems of dissolution' that would have vanished once the wind lifted or animals scratched at their surface. I recall one night going out into the saltbush and bluebush and ubiquitous wild oats you find fringing those small points of habitation along the highway, and listening to and watching in the moonlight hundreds of rabbits moving about. Parts of the limestone plain have become 'their' plain in so many ways. And the wedgetails which scan the ground during the day. I wrote a poem there - scratched with the point of my boot in the limestone dust, and then on the page. Might get to typing that one up.

One of the experiences that will really stick with me was driving through the length of the South Australian wheatbelt - knowing the West's wheatbelt so well, it was equally engaging and distressing to see the vast monoculture of beige and bisque and off-gold in another space, on the edge of the vast dry, though in fact it rained as we passed through. And the great yields they are getting this year as opposed to the drought-ridden minimalism of the west. The ironies are the same. My being enraptured with those ironies slightly out of kilter, a little uncanny, but feeding on the same impulses. The Goyder Line is much further north - it's the line beyond which the pastoral fails in many ways due to dryness. I was thinking of another imaginary southern line where wheat-growing fails. In the west, they keep clearing further and further out beyond wheat-growing reality, wasting scrubland for a yield every few years. Insanity. And as they clear the scrub, the rain lessens and the land erodes, and is peeled away by the winds.

Graphology 3732

Prior to departure east
an all-black black-headed monitor
swaggered — I say this in the way
young Tim imitates my walk
from behind as male habit,
when in fact my swagger comes
from watching monitors
and is, I’d like to think,
largely unconscious — swaggered
the range of the window, hunting
sand between ridge and house.
Magnificent! Then, days later
on the Bight, at 'observation
point two' we passed the first time
round, crossing over (now,
we’re talking back, and west),
a skink and a gecko on stone,
in bluebush and saltbush;
I didn’t identify them
precisely though if I think about
their gait, twist, slither,
I will come up with something.
Names, imitations. Imprints
of character.

Graphology 3735: dingo

‘Best friend’ dash,
road parsed,
ditch diver
salmon gum
goldfields blackbutt
drain where litter
might well shelter,
daylight bright
on mother’s yellow coat.
involvement: wild dog! wild dog!
feed your fear,
this side of the endless
endless fence.

Graphology 3737

true grit
historic centre
but NO
& effect.

Graphology 3738: South Australian wheatbelt bandwidth

What is wheat’s Goyder line?

Counties and hundreds,
mono beneath the hammock,

filled to the gills of the boot,
granary of foreign exchange,

returned servicemen
answering calls of nature

we see those homesteads
enveloped in opening,

at most, windbreaks
of pines, imported.

Drive from mallee
dust as dry as fallow,

lessen rust. And, sad
to say, I got excited.

John Kinsella

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