Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Arrival

Special Edition

Sydney airport and Central Station have seen the arrival of hundreds of poets, both old and new. On Thursday, W.B. Yeats was seen leaving a shop at International arrivals with an Australian rugby guernsey and a Qantas shoulder bag. At Central station, Ezra Pound and Charles Olson were entertaining patrons at the bar, reciting poems and telling jokes. When asked what they were doing in Australia, Pound snarled “we are petals on a wet, red bough.” Overhearing this comment, E.D. Blodgett (big Ed) replied: "Exactly, the key to Pound’s great line is the word ‘red’. It blossoms and then it turns inward and there unfolds, in that mysterious space Pascal notes in his investigation into the red abyss."
The list of poets is a Who’s Who of fame and notoriety: Charles Bukowski, James Dickey, Mallarme, Rimbaud, Keats, Shelley and Raymond Carver were in close, animated conversation with Rodney Hall, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Elizabeth Campbell, Fay Zwicky, Neal Paech and Geoffrey Lehman. Security was keeping a close watch on proceedings, especially when James Dickey removed a hunting bow from its case and began instructing Keats on its finer points and uses. Dickey’s long been impressed with Keats, especially his ability in the ring, and he’s looking forward to seeing what Keats can do when the gloves come off.  
The exact reason for the poets’ arrival, en masse, is not clear as no-one will speak of it to reporters. However, it is suspected that the poetry wars of a few years ago may well be behind this strange invasion. Autograph hunters were sadly disappointed, as every poet ignored the proffered notebooks and copies of their work.
“We are here to do business, not seek adulation,” Seamus Heaney said as he stepped into a black Mercedes. Other poets were less inclined towards explanation. “Fuck off,” was all Bukowski had to say as he hailed a cab. Lucinda Williams and Townes van Zandt were met at the airport by David Gilbey and Rod Milikan. The two country singers were drunk when they walked through customs, both of them humming ‘Red River Valley’. Milikan said: “These people are like Gods to me, but they’re acting like animals, strange animals but with beastly manners none-the-less. I feel gutted, it’s a tragic thing to experience.”  Gilbey was more upbeat. “Look, it’s no big deal, they just need a few sessions at the Wagga Wagga Writers Centre. A few workshops and they’ll be clean.”  
The San Francisco poet Jack Spicer was met by John Tranter in his vintage MGA. John said “Jump in Jack and I’ll take you to The London, (a Balmain watering hole.)  Spicer was not convinced, he shouted “Duncan’s slipped me a mickey-finn, I’m at the Gate reading my Grail poems and next thing I wake and there’s an Opera House with wings! The Land of the local poets is identical to the poets of Mars: red planet, red poets, what the fuck! I don’t give a hoot, just take me to the ball-game.”
The great surrealist painter and practical joker, Picabia, was met by Ken Bolton as soon as he walked through the arrival doors. Picabia wanted to know if Vicki Viidikas would be singing torch songs in the cafes at night when the battle weary waggaists returned from the front. He kept asking Bolton “Is a Magic Sam a weapon or some smart new move?”
Ed Dorn paced up and down the taxi rank looking for an excuse to throttle Emily Dickinson. He wanted to demonstrate that he was politically incorrect right from the start. Then he ran into Picabia who was in the bar drinking with the billionaire Freddy Seidel (who is funding the arms supply to the Island.) According to Blodgett, Freddy’s family make some of the best weapons on the planet. Seidel’s new secretary, Kate Jennings, was handing out free copies of Seidel’s book Ooga-Booga. Ed took this in with one penetrating glance and said “Oh shit, this is my worst nightmare. Seidel and Picabia, who put those two in touch?” Then they were off on classic Indian motorbikes Seidel had shipped in. Dorn watched them roar off into the night. “This is all beside the point,” he said. “We shouldn’t be worrying about the Waggaists. It’s the godamn Waggafish I’m concerned about. When we circled Sydney I could see a red tide flowing out from Broken Bay, a red plume of warning. What the hell do you think that was? It’s certainly not a drunken cowboy pissing into the stream.”
Not long after this as I interviewed Sam Coleridge in the transit lounge, he started telling me he would not be able to stop talking until I heard the whole tale. It was all about Messmer, le Fascinateur, then Sam cast some kind of spell on me. I couldn’t feel any apparent ill effect but the words he used made me feel very creepy. The floating hair, the flashing eyes and all that stuff was not mesmerizing, but slimy things were beginning to crawl across the ocean of my left eye. 
Latest news is that many of the poets have hired ocean-going craft and are heading out to sea. Those who try to follow them are being pelted with sinkers, balloons filled with fish blood, and vitriolic curses.

According to Seamus Heaney, the interior of this plane turned red as it approached Sydney. The word "Red" can be seen on the video monitor, left.

The Citadel

David W. Foster just sent this image in. He has now been hang-gliding over The Island using a heat-sensor camera. Here we see clear proof of frenetic Waggaist activity inside the citadel. Note the Temperature bar (K). David reports that on his final pass over the building, Waggaists fired on him with hand-held catapults. Their projectiles were large exploding ampules filled with wheatgrass juice and zest. 

The Island

The Island before The Waggaists turned tourists away. Red flag and surf sign. And high over the beach the citadel, whose inner courtyard contains the chicken wire enclosure where Wilding is being held captive. Note the dark red bunker between two trees, far right. This nondescript structure has a door that leads deep inside the hill, where the Red K's scientists have been breeding Waggas with stonefish. 

The poetry wars are fast approaching. The passenger and vehicle ferry has been torched, its cable severed. The northern, ocean-facing beach (main photo) has been mined. Stonefish have been placed in the shallows all around The Island. Electric eels on long leads have been tethered to the river's marker bouys. Red streamers fly from the mangroves. Signs with UNLESS YOU'RE RED YOU'RE ROOTED and ORGANIC MISERY have been hammered to every tree. All access points to The Island are being patrolled by the Red K's pacifist vegan acolytes: many burned his books on the beach then fled, seeing his refusal to travel as a sign of betrayal. Many more remain, their glazed, red eyes fixed on the horizon. 

David W. Foster, glassing the coast in his Piper Aerostar, has reported seeing many vessels approaching from all directions. "An Armada of bleak intent" is how he described seeing ketches, tall-ships, bark canoes, jet-skis and game-fishing boats in tight formation.

A Waggaist on Night Watch

Friday, February 19, 2010

Letter From Charles Simic

The missing ones are coming home. They arrive without luggage. Some are wearing robes made from the feathers of rare birds, the veined shells of insects. Some come by hearse, clutching the chrome coffin rails, some by carriages with drivers waving whips lovingly crafted from human skin. The Red K watches them via video link in a forest marked for old growth logging. How quietly they come. Their families wait with wreaths and childhood artifacts. The soundtrack to their return is Bulgarian mouth music and sobbing. Some are crawling, their knees worn down like those of pilgrims on Croagh Patrick. Some appear more youthful now than when they went out of the world. The Red K stares at the screen, his hands like mating spiders. The missing ones know every name in the cemetery of their absence. They file through cobbled lanes, down major highways, through fields where the polished blood plums of the eyes of cattle grow wide and ripe with welcome. The Red K can’t stand it. He climbs down into saffron thistles, the shirt he fashioned from Peter Redgrove's hair prickling his skin. The missing are home. Cold Case files open like moonflowers, releasing the Pollen of Remembrance. A strummed autoharp in Dublin is heard as a bouzouki on a beach in Crete. The Red K scribbles into a water bowl. Dust in the Great Sandy Desert rises as signals from the boned maplines of creek beds. The missing stumble, fall and rise. They sing and pray. The Red K thumbs the uncut pages of their stories, his white hair on fire at the edges, his rope sandals taking root in hostile earth.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Letter From Raymond Carver

Tess received a curious phone call last week. When she answered, a man's voice came through the static, asking if we'd ever been to Australia. Then he asked if she was alone. Tess is a confident, assertive woman, yet she was afraid. This was the middle of the day, Spring, the street alive with colour. She put the phone down and it rang again. When she came to the door of my study her distress was clear. We went inside. I picked up the receiver and asked who was speaking. Raymond, are you alone?  I could feel the pulse in my neck. I said, Yes, we're alone. Are you sure? the man asked. I swore at him. We need you down here, he said, and hung up.
That night was terrible. We held each other and listened. I went through into daylight watching the door.
When I went to the mailbox later that morning there was a small padded bag with Australian stamps on it - different species of birds and fish. I tore it open and found a cassette tape, no card or letter. I went to my study and put the tape into the player.
"The weather and tide were turning. In the gathering dark the jetty looked as though it were about to fold itself away. He could see them arriving through the fog. A watercolour bleed. An ominous, red wash.
She joined him on the stone wall. They’re here, she said.
They did not speak as their old wooden boat knocked into the jetty wood. One remained at the prow, a figurehead peering from under its oilskin hood. The others were standing, hands at their sides, as if awaiting directions. They are here, yes, he said. Then he went to them.
Inside he tended the fire. She made coffee. The others sat around on the floor, legs crossed. He put Miles Davis on. She replaced him with Chet Baker. He looked at her. It doesn’t have to be this way, he said.
The others retired early. They slept on single mattresses he’d dragged in from the shed. When it got too late for talk and music, when all they had to say had been said, he made up the couch. He could hear her in the bathroom. Running water will always remind me of you, he thought. Then he slept.
They had been offered the use of a friend's house on an island. They saw it as a chance to make a last stand against atrophy and pain. They had come to be quiet and still. He hoped to find time for fishing. She’d brought her easel and paints. And then others announced they were coming. They were poets. He knew some of them, others he knew by reputation only. He resented their flamboyant, self-indulgent conversation. Their endless drinking. She hated him for not changing their plans. You could have stopped this, she said. You could have been big enough to say something, or we could have gone somewhere else. He wanted to say that sometimes you just have to let things take their course, but he didn’t. He swallowed his words. And then the others came.
In the morning he found her on the shore, kicking lightly through the tideline - a dark red stain with small bones and broken shells, items of clothing, smooth glass. He walked beside her. Are your friends happy? she asked. He stopped and looked back towards the house. They are out in the yard, making cages from chicken wire, he said. She picked up a cuttlefish husk and snapped it in half. I always thought I’d be there for you, she said. Now I feel so distant. I hate the way I feel. Yes, he said.
By late afternoon, in driving rain, many more arrived. They set up tents in the yard. They made shelters from brushwood and animal skins behind the house. He sat at the kitchen window, staring out at the river. The shallow-water marker bouy bobbed and dragged its chain, its red light pulsing in the gloom. A tap came on and water flowed in the bathroom. Outside someone shouted his name."

Wow, Those Symbolists!

Dear Jack Spicer,
Got to love Mallarme's tash and that a mise en abîme thingy he's got going there with the Manet portrait next to him (two things I remember from David Brooks’ courses 'teleology' and 'mise en abîme' oo la la). I'm going to print it and head down to The Bells and see what I can get for it without having my head caved in with a bar stool. Imagine that, a Sydney where you could still trade correspondence from a French Symbolist at your local for a bag of longnecks.
What was it Tranter wrote to you from Singapore, ha, here it is, from the files, addressed and dated ‘70 Greenwood Avenue/Singapore 11/18 May more or less,’ 1971:

Beware of Mallarme: he will send you mad. Heavy doses of Canabis Indica was the only thing that saved me from complete slavery to his pernicious doctrine in ’65, though traces of degeneracy linger on. Follow him far enough, and you’ll never write an intelligible word again. A quickly-chewed wad of Arthur is as good an antidote as any, though this remedy has its own contra-indications … ah, the danger of the blank page.
La vraie vie est ailleurs, sure, but Tranter was already elsewhere, wasn't he, he wasn't saved from the deaths Mallarme found digging so far into verse, not by Rimbaud, not by Turbo Pascal. None of us can be once it sets in. I'm trying to ward it off by doing charitable works, building with bricks and mortar, staying out of the head. But they've cancelled the build here in Chiang Mai and I'm left here alone with nothing but a copy of Wallace Stevens and time.
Elsewhere for now
Michael Brennan

Steve Starling on Symbolism

Dear Mallarme,
Rodney Hall water-skiing atop a human pyramid that includes Gig Ryan, Barry Hill, Brendan Ryan, Jas H. Duke, Peter Porter and Alicia Sometimes: conjure this image a while, and Symbolism will float away like a hot air balloon trailing a live yellowtail above the jaws of snapping wahoo.
Steve Starling

Letter From Jack Spicer

Dear Mallarme,
You tiny man, how long, how many centuries will it take you to understand? There is a drink that Ed Dorn used to have in Tasmania, a red devil, part rhubarb part beetroot with a huge splash of vodka, I suggest you down a few and get a grip, Symbolism has failed. It was a ruse, a stumble on the way to the gibberish of Language Poetry. Duncan knew this even before you wrote that sonnet about the missing pansy. He was still living on Venus but he was looking down, thinking you were a twit. He looked ahead to the day Creeley and Dorn would arrive on The Island. He knew this was coming. He spoke with Yeats about it in 1910 - they were cruising in Spain, looking for the world beyond Symbolism. David Brooks is still there too. Debra Adamson called him Bookhead in the days of New Poetry, when he shipped in the first drafts of the Canadian sonnets of Fred Wa. He was on a binge of Symbolism and drunk on the idea of the Azure. It was Redness all along. There never was an Azure sky. And remember on the morning of The Island revolt: Red in the Morning, Sailor’s Warning. I remember the horror of the Symbolist’s Jim Bean, the bloody mess after the garfish were gutted and the guts strewn in the bathtub in Mosman Bay, there were Signs, there was summons, police, Wilding and Lyndy in tears as our Volvo was towed away by Patrick White. Symbolism! You fuckwit. These are the days of ceaseless wonder, the days of the radio going digital. The days of Symbolism killed Chris Brennan. Symbolism walked the streets of Loredo. Symbolism whistled Dixie. Devin Johnston saw Symbolism in the reflections of a teardrop from a mocking bird and started laughing. He is still smiling a century of southern comfort later. Symbolism is what Freddy Mercury was thinking about when he gave Les Murray the idea for that novel in verse, Freddy Neptune. It’s Mercury’s hidden life story.
Jack Spicer

Letter From Bukowski

You punks have my attention. Like in that hot broad Lavinia Greenlaw’s A World Where News Travelled Slowly, details of this island war didn’t reach me until yesterday. Some things are worth waiting for. I’m on my way. Who the hell does this Red K think he is? I’m bringing Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway. I need some action. L.A. is killing me. We are going to bring these Waggaists to their knees. 

Mallarme to Brennan

Dear Michael Brennan,
I have a letter from Robert Adamson, who tells me if I come to The Island he will introduce me to Dorothy Hewett, the great red symbolist of the South. I thumbed through my library and found this last night a minute before midnight:  

Back in The Days Before The Red K, written in the margins of a copy of Dorothy Hewett’s ‘Windmill Country’:
A landscape that eats into my belief in sand. Above my desk, just reading these lines of Hewett, I see an oblong of Azure, in the side a little door where Vincent Buckley goes for prayer. The trees are stumps full of 29 parrots, the exposed nerves of James McAuley under the painted flesh of the atmosphere thrumming like a violin’s mournful sound at the extremities of Belief, vibrating into the silos. Bouquets of flowers drift through the lines of Hewett along with the wing feathers of several black swans. The sun, one ray at a time, hits the corner of my desk, bursts into flame, and becomes an incomprehensible beauty. Is it the makeup of stagecraft? Blood? Strange morning sun? Or is this the waterfall of tears lit up by the firecrackers of that great artificer, Satan. He moves behind the scenes. This coming nightmare on The Island will reveal all the tiny fragments, the black vibrations of a Southern Star, the freshness of fowls on a beach at twilight until the very air hurts. The whole ancient mystery of Absolute Power will be contained in this coming drama. The beautiful architecture of Hell will tremble. Attended by the wondrous, devout doves in their cremonas, the dwarf poets and the great tall men from Canada and the North Pole. The practice of magic, the poetry of ‘68: whose origin cannot be elsewhere but here on a southern isle which hasn’t become toxic as yet. And finally the fight, the dizziness bought on by the ‘oriental exaggeration of numbers and the remorse that sets over vague and unknown crimes, the virginal languors of innocence and prayer, blasphemy, meanness and the poetry crowd.’
You cannot abolish Redness,

The Red K Considers

The critic H. P. Bloomingdale praised my work and listed me among the finest poets writing in English. Why is it that now I walk through swamp gums, wringing my hands, breaking into a red sweat, thinking about Barry Manilow who is still haunted by the memory of the night Bob Dylan came to him at a party, put an arm over his shoulder, and whispered “Love your work, man. You inspire me.”

Skrzynecki Responds

Dear Blodgett
thankyou for your letter. I’m delighted to hear from you. I know your poetry. Last year I was in White Horse, in the Yukon, at the invitation of the Extreme Readers Association. I was conducting a series of workshops with young poets, and your name was mentioned frequently. Someone gave me a copy of your book Elegy, and I was transformed. It is a wistful, beautiful testament to grief and longing, and it sustained me through those long, snow-bound nights. The accompanying photographs are perfectly counterpoised to create unusual, haunting music. 
I would love to meet you. Currently I am visiting various high schools throughout New South Wales, discussing Immigrant Chronicles with senior students and staff. I will be back in Sydney on Tuesday, and then I am free. 
The Red K has been a nuisance. For years he has been trying to convince me to send him a manuscript, but his publishing house, Peppercorn, is going under. Everyone saw it coming. The wise ones jumped ship before the engine room flooded, and those that had submitted work were left wringing their hands on the shore.
I fear that hard times are upon us. Robert Adamson and Anthony Lawrence are at the front lines, holding things together, but cracks are appearing. I remember sitting with Anthony at the bar of a hotel in Berlin a few years ago. I asked him where he thought Australian poetry was heading. He lifted his glass of beer to the light, studied it carefully, and said “Up red creek without a ladle.” 
See you at the airport.
Peter Skrzynecki
p.s. Can you bring me some mukluks?

The Red K

I wasn’t going to respond, no, I cannot respond, though I shall respond, yet there can be no response. I was not prepared to dignify these letters, my time could be spent doing something worthy, something for the betterment of the entire planet. And yet, here I am compelled to address what I assume is your joint politically incorrect ‘humour’ at my expense. I have given up computers and the internet to shorten my footprint. And this email is being keyed in by my brother, a highly-literate wool-classer. Because I cannot travel, my brother is willing to travel on my behalf to The Island to defend my name and reputation. Don’t take him lightly, he is willing to go to any length to stop this assassination of my character.

When my brother read The Rowley Shoals letter my entire body shook to its core. This bizarre portrayal is demeaning in the extreme. I can’t understand for the life of me why you have decided to target me in this way. After all the work I have done for your poetry, the overseas lectures, the nights writing emails to highly regarded scholars of Post Modern Poetry, the endless publication opportunities offered to you. Don’t think you can bring the dead back to life, even if they are the immortal poets, the Common Ones by loose associations. No it can’t be done, you can’t do this, it’s quite insane. Suspension of disbelief is one thing but this effort is a cheap trip, you have simply keel-hauled the imagination. Hung it out to dry. You are bringing Australian poetry into disrepute. I have spent my entire career in the pursuit of lyricism, strived to maintain quality with each line I write, unlike those who publish every word without a stroke of editing.

I have sixty different publishers. My poems have been translated into ninety seven languages. I am a professor at thirty five universities and have friends in every country in the world. My reputation has been built on original, hard-won thinking and writing. And now this. If you don’t stop writing these letters I will use my vast influence to bring things to a head. This is a warning,  

Take your cutting-room floor detritus and throw a match on it. Or I’ll arrange to have it done for you.

Letter From Blodgett

Dear Skrzynecki,
I know about you and your book Immigrant Chronicles. Last winter I met a man out on the ice, he said his name didn't matter because his nickname was The Red Pest. He was a miserable fellow and asked endless miserable questions. He said he was from Woy Woy in NSW, and that all he knew about ice fishing he'd learned from a book of poetry: Ice Fishing by Andrew Taylor. He was after a halibut, and I told him their absence was because of an infestation of Waggas in Lake Marie. Then he said he knew a poet personally, and this poet is you, Skrzynecki.
I want to take this chance to ask if we can meet up? Next week I will be flying into Sydney. I know I would be welcome at  Peter Minter and Kate Fagan's house, but I fear their ceiling would be too low for me. When Olson arrived last week he stayed there and knocked himself out when he went for a piss. Skrzynecki, can you meet me at the airport and we will book into a city hotel with a high ceiling?
Don't be fooled by those demons at Waggafish, they are not handy with a gun and a knife, and they certainly don't mean well! Trust no one.

Letter From Peter Skrzynecki

I’ve just heard that my book Immigrant Chronicles is being used to feed poets in wire cages. This is wonderful news. I have never received a better review.
Peter Skrzynecki

New Arrivals

Dear Bob
it has been a strange time. It got so that I had to go for a long ride on my Triumph. I left early this morning, and went out into the Hunter Valley. I wore the open-face helmet because I needed to let the scenery in. I was listening to Lucinda Williams on my iPod as I went past the vineyards - Car Wheels on a Gravel Road and Sweet Old World. I stopped at Bimbagden Estate for coffee. I tried to feel the spirit of the Cohen concert, but the place had no vibe. Wine-tasters and tourists. Nothing real.
Wilding is causing me real concern. I sense he may sabotage the meeting on the island and throw our plans into disarray. I’m thinking we should invite some of the young women poets. They are fierce and courageous and wouldn’t shy away from the kind of Red Drama that is sure to unfold. I’m thinking Petra White, Elizabeth Campbell and Lucy Holt. That trinity could make a sonnet out of chicken wire and driftwood, and they have x-ray vision. They’d sought Wilding and Nigel Roberts out with a glance, and bring a vital energy to the place. We should also invite Sarah Holland-Batt. She can be incantatory. I once saw her spell a stone curlew into walking backwards by the lake at the University of Queensland just by quoting one line from Bishop! Judith Beveridge phoned a couple of days ago. I asked her if she’d like to join us, and she said she’d love to come. She has questions for Hugo and wants to pin Heaney down on a few things he wrote in Door Into the Dark. Others will surely come. It will be like a ragged literary festival, where the ferryman never gets paid and the punters row themselves into a red, smoking dark.
Onward indeed

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When the Best Have Fallen

Dear Anthony and Robert
Seamus Heaney is driving to the airport at Dublin right now, he's on the next flight. He has much advice on how to proceed. Watch his left hook. I wont come until the best have fallen, but come I certainly will, when the Waggas begin their migrations.
W. B. Yeats


Dear Anthony,
Well it’s been a rough week, the twists and turns, the red surprises, the poets swapping sides. Who said the Poetry Wars are over? There’s one thing that steadies the mind, as Yeats says, ‘Fishing is something that can keep a poet’s feet on the ground’. Where’s the ‘goodwill’, where’s the ‘truth’ the poets used to speak about? Where are the young women of the New Lyric now that we could do with some optimistic lines of encouragement? Some are turning away from what they read in these letters as ‘blood and guts’ others think we are taking some kind of drug, or maybe drinking the Black Drops that Sam left in the boat. My arm’s in sling from a fit Wilding threw. When I said he was my only friend, he replied: “Friends, what are they? There are fellow workers, family, teachers and writers. Friends?” He's a ghost of a man now, and sits listening to Waylon Jennings in a darkened room, working out why Frank Moorhouse told him he should listen to Waylon, Willie and the Boys, Nashville Outlaw music, but it’s all beyond Michael, he's looking for irony! 
When I arrived home from my night on the Island with Wilding, our house was littered with crushed VB cans and ashtrays full of butts ground into little piles of zest, a dreadful smell and the howling of two siamese killers. Vicki was standing on the veranda with the proofs of her new book, saying “Who thinks they are publishing this? Who gave them the manuscript? It was Wilding, I know it, the low-slung rat. You once told me that life is not tragic and I believed it for a few months, but you're as bad as Wilding. Both of you haven’t lived. You’ve sold out so many times you don't know what's real anymore.” There were three fishermen there too, drinking and feeling miserable because a school of Waggas had torn their nets to ribbons. Vicki was geeing them up, saying there was going to be a fight on the Island, and they had to help the poets in their bid to rid the river of Waggafish. Grace Perry was there as well, sitting at the kitchen table writing scripts for my Serapax, shaking her head saying “This stuff will kill you Robert, your liver wont take much more of this self-abuse. And don’t ask me about James Dickey, he’s from Buckhead, Georgia. They hold the best bass fishing workshops in the world there, that’s why I’m getting him over to council Les Murray and teach him to throw a spinnerbait. I’m sick of hearing about people who enjoy being in pain, just do it.”

The Red Deceiver

The Red Deceiver is the only saltwater fly to use when fishing for Waggas. Dean Butler, one of Australia’s finest swoffers, says the RD has accounted for massive Dogtooth Tuna, giant Barracouta and Waggafish.
“The Red Deceiver is not for sale. It is made by Dr Greene for a few select friends. Many have tried to copy it, but nothing else works. Its success lies mainly in the fact that it closely resembles the entrails of water hens and the gills of European carp.”
Mr Butler is currently away fishing at Rowley Shoals.

Wilding is Wild

Dear Richard Hugo,

This is insane, who are you? I realise what’s going on, and want to say that I’ve had enough. Adamson came around here late last night, out of his mind on some mind-altering substance and started reading poems outside my window. Just ignore it, I thought, and he will tire from the sound of his own voice. However he continued reading or reciting for over two hours. I opened the window and told him to leave. He refused to go, then stuck his arm in through the window and tried to grab my shirt but tore it apart and I jumped back. “If you don’t leave I will pull the window down and break your arm”. Okay, he said, great, do it! So I reached up and pulled down the window with force.  I heard the bone crack. He still keep reciting poetry, but this time it was The Revenge by Tennyson. It was unbearably disturbing. Then he stopped reciting and said, “Let me in your are my friend!” I opened the window. I wanted to see how bad the arm was injured. As soon as I opened up, a huge plastic sack full of bright red fish came through the window. Vicki Viidikas was behind Adamson and she had flung the wretched fish across the sill. They crashed to the floor, the sack split open and the red bodies of the fish scattered across my bedroom floor.  What the hell is one to make of this order of Insanity? Come. Come to Australia. The last ten American poets who visited Sydney were subjected to embarrassments along these lines or worse. Come at peril to your body and soul.
Michael Wilding

Language Poetry

Dear Michael
I've just heard that this Silliman fellow will be joining us on the island. James Wright once told me he'd rather be stung to death by wasps than have to hear five seconds of Language Poetry. Can you assure me that this man won't be reading his poems? And is he any good in a brawl?
warmest wishes

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Letter From Richard Hugo

Dear Michael Wilding
I am in my 1960 Cadillac convertible, making the long drive back from my cabin in the Montana wilderness to Seattle. The Pacific North West blows open before me, wide-angled and ghosted with renewal and decay. I am talking into a portable tape recorder, and will type this up when I get home. 
Shortly before I left White Centre I received a letter from my friend James Dickey, who is in hospital recovering from a an arrow-wound to the thigh. Best not to ask too many questions where Jim is concerned. Anyway, he told me that one night he received a phone call from a man called Anthony Lawrence. Jim was delighted of course, and talked with Anthony who was feeding dollar coins into a phone box somewhere in the wilds of Western Australia. He was quoting Jim’s poetry to him and asking questions. Now, the story gets a little more twisted here, because two years ago I learned from the editor of the  North Dakota Quarterly that Anthony is doing a PhD on my poetry. He’d been writing requesting back issues with interviews and reviews of my work. And now I learn from Jim that there is trouble brewing on an island north of Sydney. Anthony called Jim again shortly before his accident. He was in quite a state apparently, telling Jim stories of betrayal and anti-fishing activity. Stories of a fellow they call the Red K, and how he is working for the Other Side. Well I won’t have it, dammit. Jim was about to jump on a plane with his hunting bow and arrows and head down there to “carve the redness from the trouble-makers” but was wounded before he could organise the trip. He’s asked if I would take his place. Of course I’d be delighted. I will be leaving this Friday and should be in Sydney late Sunday night. Jim has assured me someone will be at the airport to meet me. I travel light, but I’m heavy. I crowd out in a stand. 
I’m looking forward to meeting you all.
Your friend in poetry
Richard Hugo

The Flashing Eyes, the Floating Hair

Dear Robert Penn Warren
I am feeding on the electronic signals coming through the Cosmos, picking up on these people from the Wagga Fish Letters - (they can’t write, spell or inscribe a copper plate) - and I have to warn you my old friend, don’t heed them. They once invited me on a voyage under the guise of saving Wallace Crabbe from a cell of demons who had kidnapped him in Tasmania. I went along with Wordsworth and old Sam Taylor Coleridge. There was also Emily Dickinson, (a fierce and loyal friend of mine). It was an Absolute Horror. There was nastiness and cruelty and many birds were needlessly slaughtered, many cats fed live Waggafish. Then the fish turned upon the felines and ate them in turn. There were Australian poets at each other’s throats, and many examples of needless Cursing. I tell you, we had a feeling like lead coming down on us in clouds of red mist. Don’t ever Go with them, they are Fiends. The red Devil himself is upon their Tongues and in what’s left otheir Minds. The Intellect was a wild beast that stalked the Red Crew. By day there was the worship of lost members of the Academy of The Future lamenting and mouthing the red letter K K K. Aside from all this, they had no intent of saving the Poor Man Wallace Crabbe.  They wanted to moor their Ship at a place called Castlemaine. This township was miles inland, and they made their students pull the Ship across the land by way of pulleys and winches and sheer Manpower: many fell and they stumble all night over the bones of the Dead, blithely Oblivious of the Spiritual Consequences. And Beware a man named Tranter. He called me a madman as he himself threaded cotton through the eye of an old French hook and fished in the sky from kookaburras!  O Pity this Wretched Red Crew, and as Sam says: Beware, beware, the flashing eyes, the floating hair’
When they offer you The Black Drops you know you have already Fallen.
Your Golden Codger
William Blake

Vicki Viidikas

Dear Silliman,
I want you to drop everything and fly to Sydney. I am living on an Island north of the city with a group of Waggaists. We have joined up with James K. Baxter, Louis Johnson and Nigel Roberts, all great New Zealand poets who have joined the cause. The Cause?  Well, this is the issue: we have  set up a new experiment in communal living here, with poetry and sex as our creed and Wagga-blood as our ritual drink. We had to deal with Michael Wilding first though. Being the owner of the land and its dwellings, he became cynical and put aside his study of Paradise Regained last week and has returned his attentions to Paradise Lost. We had to put him into a chicken wire cage for a while, and we are feeding him poems by Peter Skrzynecki - we tear these into pieces and boil them for an hour along with the head of a mulloway, this makes a broth that induces ‘sincerity’ and ‘honest responses’ to the questions that trouble the once brilliant Wilding. Dr Greene wanted to apply the wire mouth guard but Olson arrived just before the operation and tore the contraption from Dr Greene’s hands and threw it into the river. What we need from you Silliman is to council Greene - he needs a grounding in Language Poetry so that when he speaks to Wilding the words wont disturb the troubled man.  By the way, we have a huge supply of wagga-steak - Nigel Roberts fries this up for breakfast and serves it with lots of Zest shipped down from California. I can  hear Wilding pecking the pages of the ‘Immigrant Chronicle’ now out the back, we are running out of copies, please come and bring the equipment for print-on-demand books you stole from Salt Publications.
Your Muse in the wild,
Vicki Viidikas
Dear Vicki Viidikas
this is an interesting invitation, and I accept. However, if I do travel to this island, there are certain essential items that must be provided before I can make the long journey. These are, in order of importance:
  • Bubble-Tree Convergence For Harmonic Maps - a book that is only available in Australia. It is very expensive and can be purchased from Nicholas Pounder in Sydney. 

  • King-size blue pinstriped flannelette sheets.

  • Mineral water in glass bottles. I don’t particularly mind which brand, but the sodium content must be below 0.5%.

  • Canopy-style mosquito net.

It sounds likely that violence will erupt on the island. If that is the case, fine, although you must be prepared for me to record it on my blog in sentences that are flat, overlong, and empty as a red oblong.
Because I expect an extended stay, I am sending the print-on-demand equipment ahead of me, via international express courier. Wilding needs to foot the bill for everything.
The Red K will never make it onto my blog or into any of my books. I taught him everything he knows and all he does is recycle the tainted spittle of Charles Bernstein.
Ron Silliman

Robert Penn Warren

Dear Silliman,
I am attending the Sydney Writers Festival this year, and have arrived in Australia early. It’s a new frontier, a land of milk and wagga-blood.  The enemy have built many camps here in the universities. I am living with an Australian artist, Garry Shead, he lives on Scotland Island, an hour outside of Sydney. It’s a strange place with many chicken wire cages (empty ones) around the outskirts of the property.  Last night I was taken upriver by a alcoholic fisherman called Bill, a memorable evening to put in mildly.  I must tell you that the seeds of your blog have grown here, taken root in the hearts of many young poets, they have grouped together under the banner of The Waggaists.  Deluded and with red chips on their shoulders, writing echoes of your earlier work, searching constantly for quietude so they may disrupt and smash it until it yodels like a strangled chicken. There is much to answer for,  they are awaiting your presence, like a Second Coming. The Red K cannot understand why you have not featured any of his numerous publications on your blog, he is swinging wildly from one camp to another, the Poetry Wars of the Great Southern Land are about to explode and there will be fearful consequences.
Robert Penn Warren

Keri in India

Dear Bob
Keri Glastonbury has just returned from India. She tells me that while swimming in the Kaveri River where it enters the Bay of Bengal, a huge disturbance had people yelling and swimming for the water’s edge. She looked out and saw a series of violent swirls about twenty metres out. A man who had been fishing downstream grabbed his rod and cast into the swirls. The rod was ripped from his hands so violently he sustained friction burns on his palms and fingers. Keri saw what looked like a red panel of light between the ragged walls of breaking water. It seems the Redness has taken hold. Distance is no barrier. Horror scoffs at passport control.
Being from Wagga, Keri remembers the talk surrounding the CSIRO’s dark dealings. She says that no-one went near the Murrumbidgee for about 2 years after the Waggas turned into killers. Even the old hardcore cod fishermen hung up their rods and shredded their hand lines.

Bill's Poem

Dear Anthony,
Oboe hid himself in the boot of my car and when we got home I heard a banging and opened it up. He jumped out and put his hat back on his head and then without speaking strode off in the direction of Brooklyn.  He must have been listening to us talking about what Bill's poetry would be like,  because he broke into Bill's place and found some poems Bill had written about 20 years ago hidden away in a box with some old 1970s French hooks.
Here's one of the Bill’s poems. He is a true talent, just as you thought!
I gamble with compass-points and change.
A pelican feather blows in from the sliprail
and clings to a poster of Deliverance.
I am breaking bread with all the men I have been.
Some of them curse the names I have given them.
Dusk here is like a sideshow alley gallery:
the heads of the old outboards turn
on their rusted braces; the bags of spun light
in the kitchen fall down when I look at them.
Here is where the hurt is, and it's home.
Dear Bob
I emailed Bill's Poem to Sam Hunt who emailed it to his sister who works at a law office in Boston with Mark Strand’s daughter, who is friends with Muldoon. She emailed it straight to him at the NewYorker. His reply came back within 10 minutes.
Dear Bill Wisley
it is a rare thing for me to respond to anyone, but your poem stood out like a cross in fog at Skibereen. I’d like more. Send them immediately. In fact, if the others are as good, I’m sure Faber would publish your first book. Your work reminds me of a young John Montague, when he lived in Cork, and was drinking. Have you a title? I’m thinking Flagged or Flageolet.  Now we’ve both got work to do.
                                                         ~ Paul Muldoon ~