Thursday, December 17, 2020

Friday, December 4, 2020

Remembering Jo

By Tracy


Jo with some of her children in the late 1960s...

My mother passed away last night at age 84, so we are all feeling very sad just now, & John has written the poem below in memory of her, because she loved birds (something we all share!) and early this morning a huge flock of galahs and a flock of '28s' (ring-necked parrots) came into Jam Tree Gully -- in fact, the largest flocks we have seen here. The poem below draws on that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Please Stand Up and Protect Julimar Forest Against the Rapacious Designs of Chalice Gold Mining Company

To understand what is going on in the name of 'clean energy' (a dubious expression that so often distracts from massive environmental damage and exploitation), see this piece of propaganda in the district newspaper.

And here is my poem of protest — feel free to use as suits in resisting this grab for forest and bush in the name of 'protecting climate' (while actually contributing to the damage of climate). This pegging and aim to establish this mine in the region is an appalling ecological travesty and a crime against the biosphere. Write, speak, peacefully resist in all possible ways. This mining project is a great wrong in the making.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Another Villanelle

The form continues to fascinate me (I have done a book of villanelles, Brimstone, that stretch back to the early 1990s though they are mainly of the last decade), as it has since first reading William Empson’s ‘Missing Dates’ in my late teens and memorising it. I have my problems with Empson these days for a variety of political reasons (mainly to do with his ‘monarchist’ tendencies, which seem so at odds with his anti-imperialist socialist attitudes), but as with Dylan Thomas’s ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’, the rhythms of his ‘Missing Dates’ (much more than ‘Villanelle’) are residual for me. But even when a faint echo of Empson's ‘remains’ occurs in one of my villanelles (as in ‘space remains’ in the villanelle entry a couple of postings below), it can only exist as a critique of the/his figurative, of the abstraction, because of the real-time necessities of poetic protest and activism. Poetry always needs to ‘do work’ for me, even at its most subtextual and ‘implying’. The new villanelle included here is of an interstice of physical harm — to forest, and literally to myself. The pastoral as literary stylism devolves into acts of presence and responsibility, with rhythm always slightly disrupted (or ‘ruptured’) and repetitions making a declarative as well as ‘haunting’ iteration.

Villanelle of Pastoral Vertigo: growing block universe?

after seeing yet more forest turned to individual house plots down in The Hills

I am recovering from injuries

accrued while working now on the block (replant/de-‘block’) —

next year, for me, its labouring and saving trees.

But tree-deaths have outrun theories,

tree-deaths have outrun plantings and root-stock,

and I am recovering from injuries.

In a half-baked etiological spotlight that frees

developers to carve up and insert domestic

roots — contrarily, next year its labouring and saving trees.

It’s as if a house was and will be always,

but only last week it was forest full of its offspring — last week —

and here I indulge myself recovering from injuries.

This vertigo that comes on fast lays

a course through mixed-use zones that leak

into next year as we labour to save trees.

The urban pastoral visionaries reach deep into varieties

of rural demesnery — see bush and grow dizzy! — tall tree = haystack —

I am recovering from injuries,

next year its labouring to save trees.

    John Kinsella

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Celebrating the Publication of Dislocations: The Selected Innovative Poems of Paul Muldoon

Just to celebrate the release of Dislocations: The Selected Innovative Poems of Paul Muldoon, so many years in the making:


As I have said to friends, I feel that the Muldoon poems selected herein have their own 'mud room' of a book to be put in before they go into the broader house of his life's work. Those shoes and coats in the mud room are the travelled world's news and experiences. We'll talk about them inside, even if the materials of the world are left in the atrium! And only in Muldoon's poetry (I argue), can 'spots of time' exist outside memory! He can make motif of them! And always with that wordplay par excellence.

    John Kinsella

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Imminent Risk of Further Destruction of New South Wales Bushland and Forests

 Forests as Space — Villanelle

‘The New South Wales government will allow rural landholders to clear up to 25m of land from their property’s fence line without an environmental approval, a move it says will “empower” property owners to reduce bushfire risk.’

        The Guardian newspaper

These are dilations that happen before eyes are upon a scene,

the edge of forest as obscene to certain land owners as fire

because fire takes space and yet space remains.

But such space is seen as emptiness to fill with production—

in the name of safety a boundary stretches out further and further —

these are dilations that happen before viewing the scene.

And safety is not the space inside a fence line?

And there’s no difference between forests and pasture?

because fire takes space and yet space remains.

The anger over having to conserve koala habitat brings a reaction —

the sop to Cerberus, the land deed rewritings of traditional borders —

because fire takes space and yet space remains.

So many types of burning, so many fuels to the fire, so many reasons

to play Squatter and thrive on ‘tucker bags’, ‘sheep tokens’ and ‘improved pasture’ —

these are dilations that happen before eyes are upon a scene.

Each shifting of fence beyond fence line is a shift of reason —

safety should be inside an existing fence line if safety is a force majeure

but these are dilations that happen as eyes consume a scene,

because fire takes space and yet space remains.

John Kinsella

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Terms: a return-to-school poem

By Tracy

Below is a short poem from a collection written with the support of Australia Council funding earlier this year. 

The Perth Poetry Festival is on this week, and as part of their Poetry on the Big Screen venture in Northbridge, this is one of the two of my poems that will be projected, among other poems.

My new set of poems enabled by the Australia Council funding ranges across many aspects of homeschooling, both before the current pandemic (for those of us who had homeschooled already in the past) and in the particular lockdown circumstances that were new to many people.

Part of that experience in some places has been the necessity of transitioning back into the school system, whether or not people felt ready. 

Here in Western Australia the risk has been very low, but in various regions of the world, schools have had to reopen and teachers and students to absorb a great deal of anxiety, whether it was safe or not.

There's the added tension that for some, the return to external schooling is a necessary, even vital support, and the lockdown homeschooling a really difficult period.

In fact there is no one-size-fits-all experience of this phenomenon, and the poems have attempted many different angles, not limited to one's own personal trajectory (so that the "he", "she" or "they" in the poems are generic, and not necessarily people from my own life).

This particular poem is a short one related to the return to school after lockdown...

Tracy Ryan


                                        This project has been assisted by the Australia Council arts funding and advisory body

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Problem of the ‘Future Library’

Tracy and I condemn this project that we see as an outrageous exploitation of nature for human art. It seems to us vain, self-serving, and gratuitous. Yes, books are printed on paper that mostly comes from trees, and that’s already an issue all writers, including us, need to deal with, especially where and how the materials to make that paper are sourced.


But to actually plant trees, let them live a hundred years – by which stage their lives and deaths will have become an integral part of an ecosystem under great pressure – is to laugh in the face of extinction.


Yes, the sin is much the same as things most of us are perpetrating daily directly or indirectly, but to place ‘art’ over ‘nature’ in such an ‘art for art’s sake’ way is to overtly place an artist’s work as being worth more than biosphere, tree, nature, planet itself.


This is a ritual of capital and an extension of an ideology in which art is actually separated away from cultural necessity into one of personal ideation and declaration of self being bigger than the tree that will outlive one, to be rendered into the materials of ongoing presence.


The eternal youth machine has to be fed by something. Surely this is just another form of environmental exploitation purporting to be worth more than itself. Writing in the now, which these authors do with obvious pertinent and skilful contributions in general to literary and social discourse, is a relevant act. Yet although they are ‘using’ as many of us also ‘use’, at least we don’t have to suggest the tree exists as idea and entity for the art.


There’s a slippage here I would ask the artist and authors involved to reconsider: what this actually stands for. If we want works preserved, by all means, and I am sure if there is a human future to be had after we’ve ravaged the planet, what is said now will be relevant in some way then.


But let’s preserve and conserve, not raise a tree and then destroy it to be a specific form of glory, a monument to posterity, a validation of having been, having written.


            John Kinsella

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Photos of Urs Jaeggi and the Kinsella/Ryan Family Zurich Late January, 2020

    Posted by John Kinsella

Sometime before the lockdown period (late January, 2020), on a special day when Tracy and Tim met up with Urs Jaeggi in Zurich and he and I spent the afternoon working in the James Joyce Foundation. We later all caught up at the Orell Füssli bookshop where these photos were taken:

John and Urs

Tim, John, Urs

Tracy and Urs

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Help Protect Helms Forest

Assuming the respect of social distancing (in the forest!), just bringing to people's attention what is still going on unabated in the forests of the southwest of Western Australia. See here regarding those who are still trying to save what's left of the native forests. And for an 'industry' view look at this incredibly propagandistic piece of pseudo-journalism in a trade publication. I will let readers unravel its contradictions and misleadings: it speaks for itself. I might point to the irony of dieback spread when the 'industry'/government nexus was responsible for a road being put through the forest to a new coupe which would have been horrific in terms of pathogen dispersal, let alone other devastations.

Below is a poem that speaks, I hope, for the forests, the wildlife, their peoples, and those who act as protectors and guardians against this unnecessary destruction of habitat which is not replaceable, for all the claims of 'sustainability'. Species extinctions are accelerated in such 'industry' situations, whether they are regrowth old forests or 'intact' old growth forests. All native forest that remains needs protecting and plantation should be the way, if there is to be a way, and should only be on already cleared land, not on land deliberately cleared for 'timber products'! Jobs? Protection rather than exploitation; planting and genuine renewables rather than devastation. So little of the pre-colonial forest cover remains: this form of forestry is ongoing colonialism through and through. 

Villanelle to Help Protect Helms Forest (near Nannup, Western Australia),

            August 2020: an address from the biotic to the abiotic


 Remember that road the industry pushed through a dieback area to open the ‘coupe’

and now have the gall to claim ‘strict hygiene management practices’ and resilience,

as they log the diminishing forest and claim sustainability regen recoup.


And the dystopic irony of calling protesters ‘vandals’ in the face of swoops

and lock-ons to stop deletions of tree-stands to arrest the erasure of species —

remember the road the industry pushed through a dieback area to open the ‘coupe’.


On land managed by a government acronym and surveyed by officers who stoop

to a worn-out low of ‘conservation’, a ‘family-owned business’ suffers an inconvenience,

lost days as they log the diminishing forest and claim sustainability regen recoup.


This entangling of biospheric fate with an industry that predates on biota-scapes

of forests and whose workers could be supported via plantings on damaged places,

remember the road the industry pushed through a dieback area to open the ‘coupe’.


Little thought is given to the country-knowing families who lived in or near the loops

of these forests for millennia, beyond ‘products’ — rather ‘family’ is equated with business

as they log the diminishing ‘merchantable’ forest and claim sustainability regen recoup.


Not far away the Jamarri Black Cockatoo Rehabilitation Centre near Nannup

is closing down and endangered birds will flock into an agitprop stress of ‘forest industries’,

calling, Remember the road the industry pushed through a dieback area to open a ‘coupe’?

Well, now the industry logs a diminishing forest and claims sustainability regen recoup.



            John Kinsella



Thursday, July 23, 2020

Signings, Inscriptions, Augmented Texts

            by John Kinsella

In this time of pandemic, with much anguish in many places, and every signing-off a false signing-off because of ‘second waves’ and uncertainty about recurrence and persistence, the location of the book is a strange and disturbed one. Where does it sit as a tool of address, redress, scrutiny, respect, dialogue, certainty as record?

As I notice remaining ‘intact’ or persisting environment not only still being devastated, but often increasingly devastated or marked/’pegged’ for future exploitation under a blanket of lockdown and human-planetary crisis — via obfuscation through distraction, and the new economics of ‘recovery’— I think more and more about the site of the book: its conceptual liberations, its pragmatic costs of making (in so many ways), and its sanctuaries, too.

Going through many ‘physical object’ copies of books in recent times, I have been reading and thinking about ‘signed’ and ‘inscribed’ copies, and the notions of gifting and possessing, and the politics and ethics of personal and public ‘libraries’: of restraints of access, of ‘borrowing’, of ‘open access’, of versions created specifically for digital access.

And I’ve also been considering the issue of ‘older books’ scanned to recreate the (vicarious) experience of encounter with books made closer to their time of writing (books written with very different and differing views of how they were to be encountered over the centuries and locales of making), and maybe edging towards some notion of where the augmented text meets the earliest published version. And by ‘augmented text’ I mean: interventions by people reading, dialoguing, recording, highlighting as engagement or prompt to memory, or gifting the books — inscriptions, annotations, marks etc; and the authors themselves dedicating, signing, gifting, correcting annoying missed typos, arguing with their own printed or published texts... revising for reissue or resaving...

In processing all of this, I came across a few signings by Jacques Derrida, whom I liked and greatly admired, but find myself often (and in some ways increasingly) arguing with, which I am sure he would have expected. These books were gifts, and though the signings don’t ‘show’ that, the fact they were alters the nature of reading for me/us — the personal in the private realm of the page, the public in the act of doing something (signing) he had done many times before over his life.

Derrida was a poet’s philosopher and a philosopher of poetics in whom all textuality encountered a politicising matrix, all words and marks were signs that had and have consequence. He told me once that he had dreamt of John Donne not long before I spoke to him on the phone, and he could see handwritten poems, if I recall correctly. Were they in English or French?!

Below are scans from three books he gave me, or me and Tracy — of their covers and their signings. Signings that are small poems as significant to the recipients, maybe, as a Mallarmé’s fan stanzas. Names and dates, and maybe a place — yes, shaped, placed, the circumstances of writing (and reading)... that’s what makes poems. And consider their contexts... ‘What is Poetry’... and so on and on. From other Derrida signings I have seen, I note the familiar positioning and slant on the page, the dating, the sharpness of the moment of delivery. Quick as a flash. Done. But part of something flowing and continuous as well. Episodic, and yet points of repair [repère]. How many did he remember doing?

And vitally, which page to sign was chosen to sign? — a blank page, a half-title... the written text speaking with open field of the ‘blank’ or in dialogue with printed text, the nature of lettering, of calligraphy. The pen and the printing block. But each is a case itself, as well.

So, Genette’s paratext and something extra? Maybe, but each enactment in the book carries its own traces, and its own echoes, even consolations and maybe consequences. So let’s acknowledge:

'... the dedication, understood as trace, is necessarily linked to individual memory. The dedication has that demiurgic capacity that allows a memory to be reactivated upon each reading.'

(translated by Tracy Ryan — see here for the original French) 

The book is a concept that doesn’t need old-growth trees to die, to be turned into pulp — in fact, over thirty years ago a friend and I were trying to make paper in a large vat from straw-stubble and other materials, spread and rolled and so on in the sun, for a book of my poems... and I did a few things on wheatpaper in those days.

The burnt offerings of stubble that add absolutely unnecessarily to global warming have a future as poems and fans and books and places for both inscriptions and signings... for imprint pages, for front matter, for afterthoughts, for affections and questionings, for recording a moment, its temporality and spatiality.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Second poem from long ago, in memoriam Mhairi

By Tracy

Outside the glasshouse

I lose you for a moment and then catch sight:
crouched under twin camellias you approach
with the lens as one might
a timid animal,
allowing them soul.

I hold back: double pink, double red,
such richness best at a distance
or I am swamped
unless it’s instinct
tells me not to intrude

between you and the beauty
of your own response.
Starvation for months
and now this glut of colour
almost insulting in its abundance.

Not all at once
but bud by snub bud they unloose
their vivacity, raised cups
we’d slake our hurts at
if we could only trust

they’d last – longevity
and faithfulness, the books says
so you store an image
to paint them from
like tracing and retracing
a lover’s name.

                     — Tracy Ryan

All these photos were taken by Mhairi in the Cambridge Botanical Gardens, which gave me the central idea for the book Hothouse, from which the poems are themselves taken.

First poem from long ago, in memoriam Mhairi

By Tracy

These poems were not written "in memoriam" but during the course of the friendship, and were published in Hothouse (2002/2006). I never thought to be posting them so long after, and in such circumstances. I just learnt that Mhairi passed away in the UK last month. She was a gifted poet as well as pianist, a film buff, and a savvy winner at all board games.

She was also a fluent speaker and avid reader of French, and a half-dozen of the best French novels I have on my shelf here at Jam Tree Gully were gifts from her, because she loved to give presents.

The first poem takes a line from a beautiful DH Lawrence poem, which ends "in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past".


Small walls and the furniture
too large, as in a dolls’ house,
or a Dutch interior
the swollen disproportions
of a dream;

a baby grand and you playing
Bach and Satie
as my grandmother played the Polonaises
and my mother the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata

suddenly the hunger
to pick it up again, dropped stitch,
to let fingers go as they know because
it was trained into me
every morning

or because I was born to it
and let it go, wasted and taken for granted
like water; this our idiom
I’ve abstained from
out of some foolish notion

of imperfection, forgetting the pure pleasure
the insidious mastery of song
that makes the child’s heart beat faster
as I stand there
wordless but listening
with my arms around her
in the chill spring.

                                                   —Tracy Ryan

Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Failure of Pastoral and Australian Mining Companies' Ongoing Rapacity

Eclogue of the Pastoral Where There Should be No Pastoral (Per Se)

‘Pastoral muse, offer help!’

            Miklós Radnóti, ‘Third Eclogue’ (trans. Emery George)

As the paternalistic miner tries to nip
‘native title’ in the bud — to reset to non-

exclusive, to make the buds recent if the iron
is ancient; while Rio Tinto blast and destroy

Juukan Gorge shelters as sacred a place on earth
as time has allowed as has been invested

with spirit — and the company has done so
with the Crown’s law on their side...  it’s

impossible to justify pastorals
in any form, even as countermands

to the ideas they carry to infiltrate
and contaminate. It’s impossible

to configure in any way that best
serves its plea, and makes context

of reading, of land scaped into contra-
productivity, cultivated against its spirit.

All such comparisons fail, some are odious,
but death is death and tyranny tyranny

and we who reach for the literary
language of far-away localities

bound into sheaves for emperors
and land owners, for ‘readers of taste’,

for things growing in the best possible
order even when crops fail and fauns

and satyrs OD on toxins and drop dead,
this is why in the end ‘pastoral’

can only be an idea of the market —
isn’t that so, isn’t that the scenario:

the spending splurge, the largesse,
ahead of a bountiful harvest, profits,
            giving with one hand?

            John Kinsella