Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Bogged down in the blog down with Brogden

You'd think I'd be happy to see another Liberal leader bite the dust but I feel a bit sorry to see John Brogden fall on his sword. He was an able Opposition Leader, knowing where to place the focus of criticism on the NSW government's performance.

I'm not sure what caused his unseemly rampage (apart from liberal application of alcohol, that is) but he's not the first Lib to spew forth sexist and racist comments at a function with the Press looking on agog. It's bewildering whenever a public figure disgraces themselves this way. The egregious Noel Crichton-Browne did a very similar thing when he told one female journalist he would like to "screw her tits off" (the offer wasn't taken up)but, while the Senator was a good number cruncher/powerbroker, he arguably had less to lose than a would-be Premier.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Write then you lot!

I'll cut through a couple of myths for you if you're having trouble with writer's block, or you just want to know where to get started:

1. Not all the great songs have been written. There's so much in songwriting that is standard, if not substandard, leaving opportunity to pen something with more lasting resonance or at least a cleverer line in repartee.

2. It is easy enough, at a certain level, to write something worthwhile using the most everyday material or stock images but for an easy way to get started and feel like you are producing something original while you're still learning, try combining two words or images and writing about the contrived concatenation thus;
'neck' and 'middle' Not too promising? Then think of your own clash of imagery, as I did in 'A Table For Two in the Fallout Shelter'. The fact that I did write it in the eighties is symptomatic of the kind of general dread that precided at the last gasp of the Cold War era but the 'table for two' forces the piece to be less didactic (though only by a sliver), whatever the narrator's fears.

3. Every new title produces a wealth of possibilities for bouncing ideas and concepts off and, from there, piecing together the poem or song. Again, there is probably not much use in going too far out; if your title is 'Example: Derbyshire' then you're hamstrung before you begin but pick idioms such as 'Enough To Last a Lifetime' [yes I have already used it] or common clauses like 'However Long It Takes' and you've got a lot of room to play and eventually get something into shape.
This comes naturally after you've been doing it for a while and you start to notice intriguing themes even when you're not writing verse. (By then it is far too late :-).)

4. Resolve to use the devices at intervals. The extra effort to achieve alliteration or assonance is rewarded by a combination that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. If you do practice then it stands to reason that, as a mature poet, you will be able to use or not use the tools in your armoury as it suits you. And the work will be the better for it.

5. Trust in the Muse. Some of my best work I haven't understood at once. I've either had to check my facts to see that I'm not spouting gibberish or I get the meaning at some different stage in my life; there really is something magic in creation if you can just get the right mixture of inspiration and interpretation. That's easier said than done but existing artists will know what I mean. There's an element of discovery in the art of creation and that may even be the most satisfying element when all is said and done.

6. Don't be afraid to re-write. It took me many years to realise this simple truth for myself. I thought a poem had to either be good or not-too-good. I was reverencing the Muse while being irreverant to just about everything else. There's further fun to be had teasing out a more apt metaphor; a simile with greater similitude.

7. Intersperse your writing with snippets woven round a certain theme. That way you have the raw material for an anthology, a musical, a concept album; the possibilities are many. As Philip Salom pointed out to me, collections of verse by one poet are often built around a theme for the book in much the same way as other kinds of books are produced and marketed. The Guinness Book of Odd Assortments That May Not Have Much Bearing On Our Lives is beyond the pale; the Encyclopedia of Wart Remedies Since Debunked is not worth the bother; a 'novel' that meanders, leaving you with the impression that the writer just put down the first thing that came into her or his head does no one any favours. And so it is with smaller pieces: articles are artfully assembled, blank verse is corralled. No preponderance of pomo intellectualising will replace the desire for words that resonate and resolve.

8. Keep a notebook or journal. You need a place to write where you won't hesitate to jot down a scrap of information or an idea in the midst of other workings. It's not practical to carry an exercise book for songs and poems, a jotter for dialogue, a scrapbook for facts to use in writing essays.
I ignore my own advice but that's because, this far along, I'm writing songs and poems. That's what I'm best at and I no longer see a need to write inferior work just because that shows I'm willing to experiment. I'm happy to experiment but I'll do it at my leisure, not in a vain desire to achieve cred. I do have books covering all sorts of other things (even bites of wisdom I have on hand whether I end up using it or not)

9. Join a community. You'll be disabused of puny delimiting notions while engaging in that first give and take before you put your work out to the paying public.

10. Don't limit yourself. If you find yourself fascinated by minutae that escapes other writers' notice then at least you have the material for a book that you're not competing with a crowd to get published. Sure, there's an interest in hostage-taking but the journalists have that patch covered. Romances are many a writer's bread and butter but are you skilled enough to jump into such familiar waters? There are artists aplenty who received early notice through being bizarre or by ferreting out some undercovered niche.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Folk dancing, let's art

I don't know if this is still the case (I could quiz the kids I guess) but when I went to school, learning to dance was considered a legitimate part of the curriculum. Being an outback school, with Mrs Dease* on hand to play piano, we naturally learned traditional dancing.
I didn't enjoy it much; spent so much time concentrating on my moves and worried I'd fuck up that I didn't really get into it.
From memory (uh oh!) we learnt the barn dance, the Pride of Erin, the Durham Reel. And, no, I can't remember any of them. Since then I've become a wild out-of-control stomper. But I've had to reconsider that too as my most recent foray into dancefoolery to the strident beats of Red Bee left me a bit sore.

*actually she was probably more there to play those bush ballads we used to sing and, yes, I can still remember the words to Click Go The Shears!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Challenging the Orthodoxy

Religiosity is religiously pursued, dogma dogs our trail, we eventually evaluate evangelism and proselytise our way to priesthood; have our way as hooded priests.

That's what you'd get if I HAD made this a poetic blog. I don't know whether I can date my interest in verse both light and dark to a show called 'Rambling With Renny' which would come on the car radio as Dad was driving me home for school holidays. John Renny had this clever and surprisingly rare (although not everyone has our gift)segment which comprised his telling of the day's events in rhyming couplets and ending with the inevitable droll punchline.

I wasn't writing anything worth a tinker's cuss in them days so listening to someone else doing it was the next best thing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

@ a Gallop

I was born in Western Australia but every time I return for a visit I feel less and less like a sandgroper. The place is growing so fast and I basically feel like a cold climate person born in the WA heat.

I thus do not have any more knowledge of the leadership style of Dr Geoff Gallop than I do for any of the other state premiers. I left when we still had our Dick Court. Legend has it that the Opposition could have won power at the last election but for the naivete of their leader, Colin Barnett, who mystifying chose to run a campaign based not on the shortcomings of the incumbents but on some farfetched scheme that he had not costed properly.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Naming the parts

Burkina Faso, a country with a name larger than the country itself.


There's a new free newspaper in Sydney; they hand it out as you're walking to the train in the evening. It's put out by the Daily Telegraph, which surprises me as they're basically undercutting themselves. It's even a better paper than the Telegraph with some innovative sections like 'Doom and Gloom', about all the horrible things people do to one another and others on Wacky and Unusual and Boring But Worthy (don't have a copy on me so I'm paraphrasing). The letters reflect the nature of the publication; most complaining about CityRail and various permutations: tried to do the right thing but still got fined for not having a ticket, passengers don't wear deoderant. I have mentioned before how I appreciate people leaving their paper on the train but yesterday's issue of Mx had some dil again berating 'lazy passengers' and saying that their excuse of leaving reading material there for others to read is as bad as those who don't clear their tables of food because 'it does someone out of a job'
Listen mate, leaving rubbish is an entirely different thing to leaving a newspaper (or other publication). The new free paper could be a different story since any passenger wanting one has probably already accepted their own copy (unless of coursse they get on at a station where they are not being handed out), but I have scored well from this "laziness" in a way I never could from an empty chip packet. The only thing lazy is this guy's thinking processes. I actually go "Oh shit someone's chucked the Metro in the bin!" Probably idiot features.


Just because I always feel compelled to mention these things, we have a new premier in Morris Iemma. He appears to have hit the ground running, announcing new initiatives that get to the collective heart of our concerns.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

In practice for the big one

I'm not a fun runner's shoelace but my son's been keen all along so it's just a great thing to be able to do and look back on (no I won't be running backward brandishing a camera phone)

I intend to do it at a more leisurely pace this time and just check out everything as we go along. It'll be fun to stroll to the drink stations and gulp slowly.

You'd think that a former runner, who counts sprinting among the few sports he likes to watch on TV, would relish the opportunity to run like a madman. But you see I did that last time and, while my name was listed along with all the other many many runners, you'd damage your eyes scanning the list. For my troubles, the left big toenail took a year to grow back. And a fun runner I had my blinkers on was nowhere near the same part of the pack when I crossed the finishing point (though I did look around)