Saturday, June 25, 2011


by John Kinsella (posted by Tracy)

I think some clarification regarding my views on a few matters might be useful for those who read this blog. A list might be the way to go — I apologise if it seems officious, as it’s not intended to be.

1. I still maintain that technology fetishism is destructive to the planet. These occasional forays into the electronic world, (kindly posted by Tracy), are not intended as some kind of personal approval of the medium. The internet and computers are, to my mind, part of the disturbing portrait of ecological destruction that is being painted across this planet. However, I do think that on occasion one must speak out through all means available, and that includes the internet. For the last two-and-a-half years I have lived in virtual isolation on a bush block, and I am proud of this, and believe that one should constantly aim to minimise impact on the ecologies of the planet. But one must also be wary of a quietism by default. Having said this, I maintain my (non-violent, pacifist) neo-luddite position that gratuitous technology is destructive in so many ways.

2. What has convinced me to go ‘out into the world’ in as low-impact a way as can be managed is the distress imposed on the place where we live by Targa West Rallying’s insistence on conducting one of their dangerous and environmentally insensitive events where we live. This is not just a case of one’s own backyard, but a microcosm of a much wider problem. I have always believed in acting locally. Use of the net to bring attention to this problem (as well as writing to local papers etc), is a judgement call: a case of two evils.

3. In going forth into the world again, I do so in the belief that one can minimise impact in so many ways. Still needing to make a living and demonstrate alternative ways of approaching one’s art and practice, I might contribute to a broader awareness. The experiences of the last few years are worth publicly articulating.

4. I recently dedicated a poem about human-induced climate change (which I believe is a fact) to Cate Blanchett. I did so because I am very sick of seeing contempt and ridicule of women who are willing to challenge the industrial and mining power complex. As someone who believes that centralised power of any sort is a denial of liberty, the controls and impositions of government in any context are anathema. However, I am also pragmatic in that I am interested in seeing ecologies protected and respected, and if taxing these industries, which I don’t think should exist at all, will in any way reduce their abusive hold on the lives of all living things, then that’s a step on the way. I place this under the rubric ‘umbrella anarchism’. In terms of the abuse I have copped for dedicating a poem to Cate Blanchett, well, so be it. I make no apologies; I stand by the poem and the dedication. At least she had the guts to stick her neck out. I have no interest in her status or her iconicity, only in her humanity and willingness to take a risk on a vital subject. The bullies have been merciless.

I have dedicated many poems in my life, to people including Yehudi Menuhin, Noam Chomsky, my partner and my own children. Every dedication has a political and ethical purpose that is also about respect of the ‘person’. Persons should be respected. The dedication is never arbitrary. The people to whom I dedicate poems don’t have to have my views; neither is my dedication necessarily a confirmation of their views. Dedications are subtle as well as loud. They do many things, and I think readers would benefit from considering the nature of their own varied interactions with others. It’s a strange imposition on what a poem is, to read a dedication as a rigid and ‘loud’ fact.

5. I have spent many years writing and campaigning around refugee rights. I believe emphatically that all people have a right to sanctuary, no matter where they come from or how they get anywhere. Australia is a racist country, and racism should be resisted in all pacifist ways possible. There should be no mandatory detention, and the so-called Malaysia solution (or that of any other place outside the ‘target’ place of the refugees) is outrageous.

6. The World Health Organisation have confirmed the high likelihood that mobile phones cause brain cancer. I don’t use a mobile phone, have never owned one, and am not about to start. They are the ‘asbestos’ of our time. It saddens me to see young people using them because of social expectation. So many people see themselves as liberated by technology when they are performing exactly as the industrial (and military) power complexes want them to.

7. Activism isn’t just fronting up at a demo. It especially isn’t damaging things or being violent. Activism is a record of how we live our lives. Twenty-five years of veganism have taught me that identifying cruelty in an abattoir (what do you expect, seriously?) is always going to be no more than ‘identification’ if one turns around and eats an animal. Don’t eat them and they won’t be slaughtered. Don’t eat them and the window for cruelty closes considerably.

8. I believe poetry can literally change things. Though it might trigger hatred, ridicule, abuse, it will inevitably create discussion. You can ask for no more, but that’s worth asking for. Often your poem won’t ‘be got’, but you have to accept that language has its own ways in different contexts. Once you take a poem outside the safety of the discourse (and that’s not really very safe), you have to expect to cop it. But it’s worth it. Allowing or offering a poem to be posted on the web, printed in a newspaper, read on the radio, etc, may contradict beliefs about the corruptions of media, etc, but pragmatically (‘umbrella anarchism’), maybe you help undo the structure itself by doing so. It’s that old pacifist Trojan Horse again. The net, for example, will consume itself in the end, if the power holds out that long.

9. I am about to write an essay on ‘greed’. I believe that greed’s many faces need identifying and I will attempt to do so. Anarchism for me is about sharing: not only of wealth, but of knowledge and experience. It’s also about being willing to receive where appropriate.

10. The small acts accumulate quickly. There is no radicalism in violence, just compliance. Violence is the illustration that future violence is based on. In perpetuity. Break the cycle. Each of us has it in us — the violence, and the ability to deny its pollution.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Farewell for Dan

           from John, your son-in-law

You were everywhere
as we crossed the Nullarbor
and everywhere as we
crossed back again: in you,
east met west, and the compass
beat like a heart. We recognised
you in outback towns, yarning
with workers in the main street,
telling the shire president
what’s what. Your name
resonated through decades:
everybody knew you,
and the stories
by and about you.
We spent nine hours
talking hind legs, and each
minute was a discovery;
places I knew well
you repainted in rich colours:
red dust, endless sunrises,
blokes who knew a bloke
who knew a bloke,
the station, the mine, the motel
you stayed in there and back,
there and back, a view
at the Bunda Cliffs you shared
with Tracy, who shared it with me
and Tim — the power of an
ocean that holds the continent
in place, accountable.
‘What’s news, Dan?
How have you been?’
Overdrive, gift of the gab,
full of spark, don’t judge
a book by its cover.
That’s poetry, Dan,
and your yarns
were the utterances
poems live through.