05 Nigel Roberts

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[The New Australian Poetry, page 39]
New Zealand-Australian poet Nigel Roberts, left, at his engagement party to Yvonne, New Zealand, 1960. Photo courtesy Nigel Roberts.
New Zealand-Australian poet Nigel Roberts, left, at his engagement party to Yvonne, New Zealand, 1960. Photo courtesy Nigel Roberts.

Nigel Roberts



      NOTE / TO A FRIEND / ON A COMMUNE

well i guess / that
by now
you’re doing
yr own thing
brown rice dictatorship
advanced rationalising / & alternate
fascism.
did you receive / those
copies of
Cosmic Silk screening
Biscuit Weaving / & Computers
On the Dole
that you ordered / from
The Whole Earth Catalogue?
P.S.
This is the
Age of Aquariums
— you had
better
grow some gills.


[The New Australian Poetry, page 40]

Nigel Roberts


      AS BRUCE BEAVER DOES
jesus —
robert graves
is in town / & giving a reading / at
the town hall / Wednesday
night.

last week
terry & i / went
to speak with a friend
an established poet —
the conversation / was literary
our work
carlos williams
graves on yeats / etc
institutions / &
asylums.

HE / HAS IT / MADE
he is settled in this business / of
the particular & universal
reality of things —
the poet at his desk / sharpening
his pencils / & checking
that the bookcase is in order.
a poet is a man / who
camphors his chest / &
inhales / the mendicant air
of himself.


[The New Australian Poetry, page 41]

Nigel Roberts


      THE ANTHEM / SAM
            if / you would shoot
                              the piano player / because
                        he taught of liberating the librarian / &
dancing the washing lines of brooklyn —
                                              then
                                        my townspeople / declare
                                    the occasion / a festival
                             primp
                       the square
                  & parade with flags —
            the nostalgia choir will lead you / in
      your anthem —
albert schweitzer is an instant pudding.

      MAX FACTOR PINK

in yr absence / i
flip through
the spread shots
& the memories
other
Xeroxed images —
you
shaving yr legs
or
you
tinting yr nipples
max factor
pink


[The New Australian Poetry, page 42]
NewZealand-Australian poet Nigel Roberts, 1982. Photo by John Tranter.
NewZealand-Australian poet Nigel Roberts, 1982. Photo by John Tranter.

Nigel Roberts

      DIALOGUE WITH JOHN FORBES

Nige —
why / at your age
do you still
play football?
a test of self
physical fitness / &
a matter
of / duende
jesus —
then wait
until / you discover
the private
& existential / terror
of golf.

      THE MONA LISA TEA TOWEL

Not
in the Louvre behind
bullet proof glass
but liberated by
The Tiger Mountain
Tea Towel & Printing Collective
in homage                 
                    to Duchamp

& the dadaist spirit
                                        of the people’s republic
                                                            of China —

The Mona Lisa
on linen / printed
as linen / washed
as weathered flag
pegged to the Hills Hoist
upside down


[The New Australian Poetry, page 43]

Nigel Roberts

      THE GUARDIANS OF POETRY
      1
                  they came by night,
                                    the air
                               was chill
          the guardians
                               of poetry
      had tracked
                          me down —
                    the vigilantes of the muse
                        to press me
to their will
                              allen afterman
                      & richard packer
                              to name
                                    names —
these / had
specific purpose here / when
      ‘they dropped by’
            that night.

      2
                I could only greet
              with confusion / buts
                                ifs & ands
                their immediate accusation
that i had taken
                                bread
                            from poets’ mouths.
            I applied / thinking
the grants
                        lottery
            that $250 would start
a new magazine
                                & $300
          Me / on the road
to Bali —
                    but scored
      two & a half thou


[The New Australian Poetry, page 44]

Nigel Roberts

                                          for which
      i would work
                                 9 to 5
                  six months / fulltime
                        with poetry —
                                                which
                    in their words
would set
                    Aust Lit
                        back thirty years
                                  &
        in respect of such
              I should write
            dognote / confession —
Renounce
                    the grant
      & / at their dictation
                        expose
    The Literature Board
                        which they charged
was stacked / in
                      the name
      of Poetic Socialism.

      3
I took that money/to buy
                        time
    from the 40 hr week —
                                 to listen to
myself & monitor
                                 talkback radio —
      I agree
that poets
                                          can always
                        find
                                the time
i did work the night shift &
                    still do / then


[The New Australian Poetry, page 45]

Nigel Roberts

because of tomorrow / went to bed
                                    at two
                in argument
                                                  with desire & exile —
                              that wife & daughter
          would zoo
                            the weekends —
            against / this expense
                                        I took
                                    the time
      4
                          & before they left —
                                                            the final
                          putdown.
      that / i should take the money
                                        go / forget
                                              poetry
for they / being the guardians of poetry
                    the vigilantes of the muse —
                          the retainers of Rilke —
                    the copyrighters of Keats —
                    & the bunglers of Berryman
                                              had her
                                        interests
                                                    at heart —
                    but to me / would appear
                          to be more concerned
                    with the reputation
                                      of poetry
                        — than poetry.
      5

for what / there was left / of that night
he was its attendant
gathering / then forgetting
the makings
of last joint / listening
to radio breath                           
                                  & the static’s commentary

[The New Australian Poetry, page 46]

Nigel Roberts

on De Chirico’s metaphysic —
knowing
that somewhere in the higher
                              or lower
kilocycles                           
The Hour of Decision is broadcast —
in I Ching readout
& would’ve
left its cipher                                     
                  to the fade
& leech of months
but for poetry
which fed that line
                              the guardians of poetry
had tracked                           
                    me down.


      ABERRANT POETICS 3 —
      NOTE / TO THE TYPIST

it is custom here / that
prior / to rewinding
the remington / or
olivetti’s ribbon
that some
small offering or invocation
be made
to the
muse.
for such
could i recommend / that
you take the nearest poet / &
fuck
him / her
he / she
or it.

[The New Australian Poetry, page 47]

Nigel Roberts


      FOR THE LITTLE MAGAZINES

sometime / during 67
i read his poems / & he read
mine / & that we knew of someone
up the road / who wrote
that we should visit
& did / &
he read ours / & we read his / then
had a smoke —
talked of why
& where                 
                    to publish
& then
of OUR OWN MAGAZINE
that / we would publish
who / or whatever
we dug.
& / on the endpapers of
Donald Allen’s
New American Poetry / wrote
that we had not come / to
praise or putdown
Henry Lawson’s ghost / or
to dance on Ern Malley’s grave / but
TO BE / WITH POETRY / we
who saw / poetry
as a natural ancillary / to
those many other things…
a poet / today
a musician tomorrow
& a front row forward / saturday.
That we
had here / contracted

[The New Australian Poetry, page 48]

Nigel Roberts

editorship
That looking / for
that which points
TO WHAT IS…
Poetry is not an escape / but
an appreciation
of reality.


      THE QUOTE FROM AUDEN
      1

at the conclusion of breakfast
in that space / moment / question
of the first cigarette
or the washing up
                              She / relayed
The Quote                           
from Auden.
I faked
message received & understood
thinking it
offering / or her
inductive incidental to
the day & its work
I knew only that
it was / a quote from Auden.
later
I found the book / publicly open
annotated
                    & underlined in
too true —                  
in her signatory agreement
with / the quote from Auden.
& again / later
in a brief drink at the pub

[The New Australian Poetry, page 49]

‘R’ enthusiastically told
‘M’ & ‘C’
who looked sharply / in
my direction
the quote from Auden.
Some deal / there was hint
was going down                 
                    I knew its key
in the quote from auden.

      2

I talked of everything but
at the Bon Gout
to affirm fuck
& deny
after dinner screw —
                              unsuccessfully
how could i                             
in a doz words / a score
be briefed
to hold the floor with
the quote from auden.
as she showered
i fed the animal computors
the encoded dactyls
broadcast on her skin
& in their readout
the quote from auden
& the gnostic glossalalia
of suck / oh jesus
fuck me bite
you’re the best / on top
dont move —
She really meant
the quote from auden.

[The New Australian Poetry, page 50]

Nigel Roberts

      3

from then on     all speech
action     written word
in part or principle
deferred to
the quote from auden
on T shirts / the quote from auden
from umpire Brooks or the Hill to Michael Holding
after bowling
3 consecutive bumpers at Redpath
the quote from auden.
Joni Mitchell’s next album / the quote from auden
& then at 11 / the news & weather
followed by the quote from auden
graffiti on the Annandale underpass
the quote from auden
every future kiss tainted with / the quote from auden
a most quotable / quote / the quote from auden
get the boot in first / the same applies
with the quote from auden
so     i was introduced to
her intent —
– TO QUIT
Sock it to me —
The quote from auden
I cannot
                    be true
to love                    
or it
true to me
is one interpretation
                    of the quote
from auden                 
‘Come live with me & be my love
& we shall all the pleasures prove’
is not

[The New Australian Poetry, page 51]

Nigel Roberts

the quote from auden
Sock it to me —
one more time.
the quote from auden

      REWARD / FOR A MISSING DEITY

maybe / yr on sabbatical
maybe yr in the dunny / reading yr reviews
maybe yr in the Pacific / on a Women’s Weekly Cruise
& maybe
yr preparing a statement for the six o’clock news
that perhaps
you were trapped in a ski hut / by an avalanche
of Betty Hutton
maybe / yr a war criminal / farming in Chile
maybe yr tapping phones / of subscribers to Dial a Prayer
maybe yr breaking that record / buried alive
12 ft underground
maybe yr weeping / in Farmer’s Lost & Found
or perhaps
yr taking an angel out to lunch
maybe / yr in conference
or hitting off from the Club House tee
maybe yr demanding / a fat personal appearance fee
maybe yr on strike / & wont accept / arbitration
maybe yr being impeached / for yr crook administration
or perhaps
yr competing / in a Twist Marathon / on Taiwan
maybe / yr doing / In Service Training
maybe yr delivering newspapers

[The New Australian Poetry, page 52]

Nigel Roberts

to pay yr way through Uni
maybe yr doing / Pestilence & Famine / I
& Destruction II
maybe yr on safari / collecting / for a private zoo
or perhaps
you farted / & very quickly / left the room
maybe / yr a casualty / of future shock
maybe yr in the mountains / plotting revolution
& a second coming
maybe yr the phantom of the opera / alone in the box
maybe yr wanking over Japanese woodcuts
of geishas sucking cocks
or perhaps
yr being interviewed by Frost / Fantastic / or Hef.
maybe / yr establishing an alibi
maybe yr being / held / incommunicado
maybe yr holed up / in Chicago
with a contract on yr head
maybe yr loneing it in Denver
in boxcars / boxcars boxcars
maybe you’ve been transfered to another branch
maybe yr in Paekakariki
maybe yr in Nimbin
maybe yr walking / nicotine desperate / up the road
& perhaps
yr going to be back in five minutes
But
& most probably
i would think —
you were horribly scarred
in a laboratory accident / &
yr too sensitive / to
show yr face.

New Zealand-Australian poet Nigel Roberts, left, with poets Pam Brown (centre) and Dipti Saravanamuttu, at the 1981 Surfers Paradise magazine number 3 launch. Photo by John Tranter.
New Zealand-Australian poet Nigel Roberts, left, with poets Pam Brown (centre) and Dipti Saravanamuttu, at the 1981 Surfers Paradise magazine number 3 launch. Photo by John Tranter.

 

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