Thursday, July 12, 2012

Poems of eco-exile

By John, posted by Tracy

JTG Poems of eco-exile:
a response for those who grovel to the brutalists at TargaWest


Properties of home, of sparse trees,
rare blooms, friable air –
evocation, vocation, scarred senses;
recall being there –

but not for pleasure,
not for dog days

or social
with loving neighbours.

Community: idée fixe
the way we all hope,

so set in our ways.


Skin-sloughing heat
and racing heart; night-sweats;
roos on frost mornings
lifting eyes to examine
the house windows –

unlike any other –

repartee in co-existence.

From one extreme to another,
even in red fear, even in thirst,
it is the space occupied
as we walk anywhere, anytime.


No point dredging
up detail, though detail
delineates: every strand
of wire in tension & lapse,
every dead tree of the great
drying, every dead tree
we hear revived.


Wrote a book
every moment there –

here, every moment
not there is written.

Walden was always
assignation, a sign.

For demolition,
a clearance sale.

Profiteers are better
read than you think.

It’s all good advertising
for them. That’s Real Estate,

despite flora and fauna,
in spite of locals.

Some are more equal than others.
Almost read that at school.


Indelible: school bus terror:
Boy experiencing parents speaking through children
snarling at him: ‘Your father must be a drunk
opposing the car rally! Is he mad?’
That and the gunfire, the noose of the loop
closing around us. Carrion. Rifles. Fireworks.


Another on the loop
opposes the waste,
the sport of cars.

The Shire calls hills ‘Highlands’
and makes its own rules. The Sell.

The mining magnate ate asbestos on his cereal
to prove how efficacious it was.

Leaf out of the book. Time trial.

John Kinsella

Friday, July 6, 2012

Radio National Airplay -- Kinsella feature

By Tracy

This Sunday 8 July, Australia's ABC Radio National (Airplay programme) will be broadcasting three works by John Kinsella: see here for details.

The featured works are Signature at Ludlow, Kangaroo Virus, and The Well.

The Airplay programme is on at 3pm Sunday and will be repeated at 9pm Thursday.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Infinite Abyss... and Science

By John (posted by Tracy)

The Higgs boson won't fill that God-shaped hole.

(that is, Pascal's "infinite abyss".)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Correcting the record: a statement from inside Parnassus

Posted by Tracy, for John

I want to make clear that the idea of a "bombardment" of poems is offensive to my mind, and unsustainable as an anti-war gesture. The use of helicopters, and even the notion of a bombardment, relies on the very language and materials of wars themselves.

Second, having been misedited on the ABC's PM programme to sound as if I am in favour of Twitter: I was being ironic when I said it was a revolution in poetry -- it's only a revolution in electromagnetic invasiveness and damage. It was a long interview reduced to a decontextualised sound-bite.

Monday, June 25, 2012

No flags

Posted by Tracy for John

I am no nationalist.
I fly no flags.

John Kinsella

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The National(ist) and Regional Routes to Nuclear Catastrophe and Annihilation

Written by John, posted by Tracy

As India boasts of its joining the ICBM club, we read of half the world being in range and even the cry of Gandhi reconstituted. See this article...

This is aggressive posturing. A deterrent? Of what? Of doubts about the sustainability of a nationalising narcissism? If certain other countries gloated in such a way, they’d be annihilated by the ‘established’ imperial powers. But India has become a capitalist powerhouse, feeding the West what the West likes best (to rephrase poet John Forbes), and its new means of exploitation and aggression are buzzing at its fingertips.

As one who has spent time in India (or ‘Indias’ – despite the militaristic posturing of the central government, their actions do not represent the many spaces that make up ‘India’) on various occasions, who feels a strong empathy and respect for the many Indian cultures with which he has come into contact, and whose veganism twenty-seven years ago was triggered by a (non-religious) exposure to Jainism, I am appalled at the materialism and militarism that has been identified as ‘progress’. The ‘Brand India’ compliance with aggressive militaristic market capitalism reinforces the bigotries of caste and class, and does not alleviate them. The notion of joining an ‘elite club’ by having the ability to destroy (entirely) a vast distance from launch-site is truly a separation of cause and effect, an ability not to be held accountable for one’s actions. There is no post-colonialism, only co-opted and reinvested colonialisms. At the basis of all such endeavours is genocide. And those in India who have the lust for atomic weapons and ways of delivering them have joined the ranks of those wishing to inflict genociding colonialism. The word ‘deterrent’ is lost in the manufacture, launch, delivery and detonation of these weapons. It’s called ‘mass destruction’, a term we associate with Western propaganda but with a root cause that escapes the semantics, and it is cultural as much as anything else. Face up to it, people of the world. Face up to it, ‘India’. You are better than your military-capitalist State allows.

And once again I reiterate that Australia’s repulsive feeding of nuclear powers (military and non-military – not that there are ever many degrees of separation between these), is as culpable as the users of uranium (and one should note Australia’s own Lucas Heights research reactor here). It’s part of the cycle, and part of the planet’s doom. Nuclear is a one-way journey to catastrophe. The Barnett government in Western Australia has ‘given the green light’ (what an expression!) to uranium mining in that state, and the first mine is not far off starting. This should be resisted in every peaceful way possible. Add to the lead contamination and general destruction of ecologies that have ruined the lives of children and adults in Western Australia (while being sold as their salvation), and we have another nail in our coffin. A very big nail, very hard to pull back out once it is driven in. But never give in, never accept. Refuse!

John Kinsella

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Note on Dust and Stow

Written by John, posted by Tracy

The edition of Stow’s poems I have edited -- The Land’s Meaning -- is due from Fremantle Press in a few weeks. I briefly discuss Stow’s poem 'Dust' in the intro, and am writing an essay on that poem in particular at the moment. The key really is found in Arthur Waley's note to his translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, in which he says: 'Dust is the Taoist symbol for noise and fuss of everyday life.’ This is one starting point, as is the dust that lifts of the paddocks around Geraldton with the relentless driving winds so characteristic of that place.

John Kinsella


By John, posted by Tracy

I, like many other Australian schoolchildren of my era, had the song “Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum Tree” rammed down my throat at school, camps, cub scouts and wherever else nationalism raised its ugly head. We had no choice in listening, and were usually forced to participate. Children were rarely offered the right of refusal, and were certainly paid no damages by the copyright holders when it was broadcast over the school loudspeakers during music period.

That a contemporary musician should have unconsciously played on that tune, then, would be little surprise (even if it were actually the case, which I don’t believe it was – it’s not a complex “riff”/motif and it could be individually generated many times in many places without degrees of separation... ‘ownership’ is always dubious). That tune was burned into the psyche, inflicting its damage, and maybe playing it out and reinventing it was a survival option. A kind of regeneration and reclaiming of the right to creativity and not imprisonment.

I don’t like the Men at Work song it attaches to, but I recognise the influence and effect it has had on many who associate it with something reassuring. I am not reassured by those things, but acknowledge that others are.

Copyright is frequently a brutal tool of the uncreative to profit from others. Too often dollar signs and not creativity are behind its application. Bringing trauma upon those who create music in the spirit of energy and enthusiasm for creativity (whether one likes the music or not), when confronted with the tools of capitalist greed (even though so many musicians pursue and embrace that very machinery themselves), is reprehensible.

Probably the most absurd application of copyright is that pertaining to the song “Happy Birthday to You”. You have to pay a royalty every time you perform/sing it in a public place? Piss off. No way. Not a song I like either, but having been saturated in it as a child, I feel I have the right to do as I will with it. I wish to reclaim the space it has claimed in my head. It has no rights over me; neither do corporate monsters who feed off our souls. And no one’s legacy should be ruined by the spectre of copyright and accusations of plagiarism driven by downright greed.

John Kinsella

Monday, June 4, 2012

Wide Range Chapbooks

Posted by Tracy, for John

Wide Range Chapbooks
Faculty of English, University of Cambridge
Supported and funded by the Judith E. Wilson Fund

Series Editor: John Kinsella

Sophie Seita -- 12 Steps
Rod Mengham -- Bell Book
S. Davin -- Levelling
Kate Crowcroft -- Southern Lights
Felix Bazalgette -- Are you a sea, or a whale?
Charlie Cassarino -- Field Theory
Georgia Raphael Wagstaff -- Sycamore
Lou Fioravanti -- Happy
Luke McMullan -- N
Jack Belloli -- not being angelic
parin shah -- Landscape
redell olsen -- SPRIGS & spots
drew milne -- the view from Royston cave
Siobhan Hodge -- Picking up the Pieces
Patrick Sykes -- Even in the Still
rowan evans -- returnsongs

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Easy vegan vanilla slice

By Tracy

This one is simple: a no-bake (stove-top & fridge), veganised vanilla slice.


Packet of plain square vegan crackers
(e.g. Jacob's cream crackers)

Vegan custard made up as follows:
4 tbsp custard powder (Bird's and Orgran are vegan and have no artificial colourings)
2 tbsp sugar
1 pint (about 568 ml) plant milk (I used soy).
(Basically it's an ordinary vegan custard but made with double measure of powder, so that it's thicker)

A cup or so of icing sugar. You can either mix it with passionfruit pulp & juice to the right, spreadable consistency, or use a little plant milk plus a drop of lemon extract -- something slightly tangy or acidic to offset the thickness of the filling.


Place one layer of crackers in the base of a deep-sided rectangular tray. You may have to bevel the corners to make them fit; you can see I also used some thinner strips at the edges. On a pyrex dish, I didn't need to grease the base.

Make up your vegan custard to the thick consistency you see in the picture:
Spoon the custard as evenly as you can over the base. You have to act quickly or it will get too firm:
Place the next layer of crackers over the top of the custard and press down to get it as even as you can. It doesn't matter if your "paving" is slightly bumpy because these are the lines you will cut along to serve, anyway:
Quickly mix up your icing and spread it over the top layer of crackers. It doesn't matter if the icing is quite wet, as the crackers will soften by absorbing some of the moisture from below and above.

Place in fridge to set and chill. The longer you can leave it, the better the crackers will soften. Using the crackers is a lower-fat approach than using pastry (and no baking involved), and you virtually can't taste the difference.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Written by John, posted by Tracy

The Emperor of Ice-cream and his Cronies: the New Transportation

‘The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream.’
Wallace Stevens


You WILL be relocated to the mines of Western Australia.
You will ‘join’ the ‘boom’ (as John Forbes wrote: ‘even if we don’t choose to join you, we do’).
You will admit Perth to be the centre of the known Universe.
You will all bow down to the Emperor and his cronies.
You will eat the planet alive and shit it out on the cosmos.
You will consume consume consume.
You will buy off or crush those who oppose.
You will ‘negotiate’ with only one outcome possible: boom boom boom.
You will feed the Fukushimas and nuclear weapons industries.
You will allow him to enslave the unemployed and destroy families.
You will then allow him impose a ‘better’ version of (‘Christian’) family.
You will hear him on the airwaves praising ice-cream. It’s climatic.
You will ‘hear’ what you think you want to ‘hear’.
You will say okay, okay... boom boom boom.
You will attend theatre and opera weighed down with the cast-offs
from over-fed miners’ wardrobes – you, and the companies.
You will gloat and never get the irony of Lucky Country recidivus.
You will enjoy the lifestyle.
You will worship the Queen who is the Emperor’s rep in the Old World.
You will make haste to the mines.

John Kinsella

Written in response to this article, and many others, pertaining to the right-wing corporate rule of Western Australia.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Support for Nyungars on Heirisson Island

By John & Tracy, posted by Tracy

We add our support to the Heirisson Island Nyungar occupation (or reoccupation - it's their land!). The tents are more than symbols, they are a truth.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Movies from a library

By John, posted by Tracy

Watching movies involves so many compromises. Apart from power usage and how the energy for that is created, there’s the manufacturing of the hardware, and the general ecological and human cost of producing films. It’s a long list, taking us through multinational miners, industrial exploitation, pollution and destruction of habitats, to exploitation of underpaid factory workers at various degrees of separation from the product itself. And it is product. The moment film-makers begin to negotiate with the process itself, distribution, and the realities of ‘audience’, even the most independent-minded movie enters the chain. And if one thinks there is a way out of this, maybe it’s worth bearing in mind some of the funding compromises or interference with filming associated with some of the most challenging and created-under-duress films.

Nonetheless, I have always enjoyed cinema, and have watched a large number of movies over my life. When engaging with a library, I first engage with the book and journal collection, then the video/DVD collection. And I tend to work my way steadily through a collection, rewatching and picking up items I’ve missed.

Having mentioned the funding for movies issue, one might highlight the selection of Cassavetes films on the shelves. John Cassavetes (1929-1989) is almost the ur-indie filmmaker of ‘modern’ American cinema, who not only wrote and directed many of his films, but also funded and even distributed them. Often working with the same actors, especially his wife Gena Rowlands and the underrated Ben Gazzara, Cassavetes created one of the most impelling, original, socially conscious and multi-genred bodies of work out there. Often funding his films through himself acting in major studio films (Rosemary’s Baby being my favourite, though The Dirty Dozen may have paid better), Cassavetes pieced together movies how, when and wherever he could. His films are elusive revolutions, at least in part because of the drive for independence. And one has the sense that, though he covers so much of the production ground, of getting the film done, he is in collaboration with his actors, especially the brilliant Rowlands whose performances in Faces, A Woman Under the Influence, and Opening Night are disturbing, destabilising and epiphanic. And watch The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) to see how genre can be twisted and reconstituted by labouring a point rather than editing it into oblivion. My favourite Cassavetes will always be his first independent film, Shadows, which was a shock-wave of understatement with something immense, political and confrontational that was a tribute to a film’s sum of its parts.

Other films we’ve enjoyed or admired or even endured with enthusiasm, all from one library collection, and I say ‘we’ because I watch films together with Tracy (the discussion that comes out of experiencing a film at a given time and place is part of the whole for us), include a selection of noir classics. Among them are Otto Preminger’s Fallen Angel (1945) and the (literally) hypnotic melodrama, Whirlpool (1949) – even at his most laboured and illogical, Preminger has a chart of social concern and niceties he wishes to undo.

But for pure noir impact, it will always be the actor John Garfield for me (he was indelible in 1946’s The Postman Always Rings Twice), whom you can check out in Abraham Polonsky’s Force of Evil (1948). I have always admired Garfield, who was born in poverty and was part of the Group Theatre Collective in New York in the 1930s, because he never named names at the House Committee on Un-American Activities, though he retracted his ‘beliefs’ shortly before his (early) death.

For me, in noir, it isn’t what the directors do with the male protagonists that matters, it’s what the women do to foil them, compromise, or undo them. Sherry is the femme fatale to watch in Stanley Kubrick’s genre ‘classic’, The Killing (which was a critical and commercial failure on its release in 1956 – often a good sign!).

Most recently, we rewatched Donald Cammel’s and Nicolas Roeg’s masterpiece, Performance. Cammel made few films but was a poetic director (and son of a poet) who obsessed over his vision and ultimately died of it. Performance was completed in 1968 but not released by Warner Brothers until 1970. And Roeg is at his best here – his cinematography is festering and disorientating (and said to be the forerunner of the MTV music clip, but I’ve always found that claim ludicrous in so many ways, not that Roeg probably minded). The studio (I detest studios) were disgusted with the film they ended up getting and had no idea how to read its mix of gangster film, darkest satire, parody-lite, psychedelic implosion, Borgesian labyrinths and mirrors, identity play, doubling, exploration of the many faces of the ‘performative’, porn (offcuts of the film were apparently shown as a ‘blue movie’) and sexual and gender ambiguity. And that short list doesn’t even begin to do justice to this intertextual tour de force. Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg (as respectively the jaded, ontologically compromised rock star and one of his girlfriends in a ménage that folds and folds into itself) are precisely what they had to be, and James Fox is overwhelming in the role that is said to have largely led to his leaving movies for a decade and embracing Christian causes. I’ll say no more other than that, much like Antonioni’s Blow-up, this film is a nexus for the construct of an ‘era’ and interpretations of such a construct.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Sell-out to Uranium Miners in Western Australia

By John, posted by Tracy

In case any of you think the Western Australia (or Australian) Labor Party stand for anything more than greed, rapacity and a thirst for power at all costs; in case any of you differentiate them from the corporate fascists (they are fascists in so many ways) who are in power now, then think again. SELL-OUT is barely worth saying - that's the 'price' of so-called party politics, of a dictatorship of corporate 'democracy'. No consensus, only greed. The mining companies run Australia.

Read about it here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Highsmith day...

By Tracy

Patricia Highsmith was born on this day in 1921.

Problematic, contradictory, by all biographical accounts bigoted and not a pleasant person to be around -- yet strangely gifted, at times, in her fictional writing.

On the one hand, a critic (Noel Mawer*) can write: "Highsmith was radically concerned with morality, justice, guilt, and good and evil, and with the conditions in our society that define these concepts."

Another can state that she "loathed Patricia Highsmith's work for its inhumanity to man", that "her work was immoral" (Margharita Laski, cited in Mawer).

I am both repelled and compelled by it, and interested in the variety of conflicting (confused and confusing) critical responses to her oeuvre.

(*See Noel Mawer, A Critical Study of the Fiction of Patricia Highsmith -- From the Psychological to the Political, The Edwin Mellen Press, pp.5 & 10)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

'Property is Theft' doesn't belong to Proudhon

By John, posted by Tracy

Equipage (via Rod Mengham at Jesus College, Cambridge) have recently brought out my anti-greed and pro-ecological long poem based on Beddoes’s Death’s Jest Book, Rapacity. The cover is below.

I want to take this opportunity to qualify my thoughts regarding the notion of ‘property is theft’, which I have cited many times over the years.

First, this from an unpublished article on (anti-) capitalism and poetry:

‘I object to the rapacity and selfishness, and have always believed that ‘property is theft’ (in the literal sense, not in the hypocritical and contradictory sense embodied by Proudhon who, as Murray Bookchin points out, was not in essence against certain forms of private property under certain conditions).’

and this from a published chunk of (new) autobiographical writing that’s come out of living at Jam Tree Gully:

‘…onto our place. Our property. I reject the notion of property. Custodianship sounds too appropriative, and for a non-indigenous resident, all too convenient. Really, that’s the issue that burns below the surface of all I write about this place. Proudhon is only halfway there with ‘Property is theft’. Some theft is more theft than others. He fails to investigate the nature of such theft: that’s more the key to understanding the implications of surveying, gifting, selling, claiming.’

and from a piece collected in the book Activist Poetics:

‘So much poetry does this and convinces us it’s best for our health. It’s not so much that I can’t celebrate, it’s just that I want to know what the implications of such a celebration are. Yes, Tim, as Proudhon noted, “Property is theft!” And so much poetry, art, and music are theft as well. The most “original” work is often the most property-like. We can only be custodians, and it is incumbent on all to recognise larger, more concentrated, and more defined custodianships. Wheatbelt Gothic is a style that allows for an observation of these considerations — it has no materiality, no claim.’
[note: ‘Tim’ here is not Tim our son, but a radical artist acquaintance]

I cite each of these to show that whenever quoting what for me is a truism in so many ways, I’ve always felt the need to qualify its usage. Murray Bookchin writes, in The Third Revolution:

‘Despite his famous cry, ‘Property is theft!’ however, Proudhon was no socialist: he definitely favoured private property, advancing an economy structured around small privately owned enterprises that would be linked together by contracts untainted by either profit considerations or by exploitation.

By making a distinction between ‘property’ acquired by ‘exploitation’ and ‘possession’ acquired by labor, Proudhon essentially smuggled into his vision a belief in private property, albeit with a moral aura. His statement ‘property is theft’ did not refer strictly to tangible economic property; nor was it intended to lead to the abolition of private property…’ (39)

When a statement becomes an aphorism or a saying, you’ve got to be wary. Anything that easy is bound to be glib and separated from its cause and effect. For me, property is theft because it denies mutual access. But property can have very different meanings in different cultures, so one must be wary of using ‘property’ as a blanket all-encompassing term. Furthermore, I suspect that Proudhon’s use of ‘property’ and concerns over control were deeply affected by his anti-semitism, which anarchists should not try to brush aside or minimise. Proudhon was a pathological bigot, and none of his words can be separated from this evil. As a statement in itself, ‘property is theft’ lives without ownership, copyright, or subscription. It is its own fact, but it needs to be given context to give it life and meaning, and needs to be wrested from the foulness of Proudhon. And if you wonder about Proudhon’s racism, look no further than his diary entry of December of 1847 with its calls for extermination and destruction. A proto-typical Nazi in more ways than one.