Distant Voices E: Thesis, 5 of 6 : 8 Appendices

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[Links: click on the bracketed guillemets below]
[«»] Thesis, Part 1 of 6 : Poems
[«»] Thesis, Part 2 of 6 : Exegesis 1 of 3: About the Poems
[«»] Thesis, Part 3 of 6 : Exegesis 2 of 3: Prior Projects
[«»] Thesis, Part 4 of 6 : Exegesis 3 of 3: Dream-Work
[«»] Thesis, Part 5 of 6 : 8 Appendices ← You are here.
[«»] Thesis, Part 6 of 6 : Bibliography
[«»] Thesis, Readers’ Reports

  Distant Voices: Tranter’s 2009 DCA Thesis:
  Part 5 of 6: 8 Appendices

8   A P P E N D I C E S

Appendix 1: A D Hope: ‘Australia’:
Appendix 2: ‘Australia Revisited’
Appendix 3: John Forbes: ‘Serenade’
Appendix 4: Some of the Sources for ‘Rereading Rimbaud’
Appendix 5: The Trenter
Appendix 6: An Absolutely Extraordinary Recital
Appendix 7: Contour map: Kiora district
Appendix 8: By Blue Ontario’s Shore

  Australia
A Nation of trees, drab green and desolate grey
In the field uniform of modern wars,
Darkens her hills, those endless, outstretched paws
Of Sphinx demolished or stone lion worn away.

They call her a young country, but they lie:
She is the last of lands, the emptiest,
A woman beyond her change of life, a breast
Still tender but within the womb is dry.

Without songs, architecture, history:
The emotions and superstitions of younger lands,
Her rivers of water drown among inland sands,
The river of her immense stupidity

Floods her monotonous tribes from Cairns to Perth.
In them at last the ultimate men arrive
Whose boast is not: ‘we live’ but ‘we survive’,
A type who will inhabit the dying earth.

And her five cities, like five teeming sores,
Each drains her: a vast parasite robber-state
Where second-hand Europeans pullulate
Timidly on the edge of alien shores.

Yet there are some like me turn gladly home
From the lush jungle of modem thought, to find
The Arabian desert of the human mind,
Hoping, if still from the deserts the prophets come,

Such savage and scarlet as no green hills dare
Springs in that waste, some spirit which escapes
The learned doubt, the chatter of cultured apes
Which is called civilization over there.

  Australia Revisited
(with apologies to Professor A.D. Hope)

 

A nation of poets, sick green and academic black,
Concerned only with inter-faculty wars,
Darkens her Sphinx-like hills, which oft a hack
Contrives to use in worn-out metaphors.

They call her an old country, but they talk
Through their academic rectums — she is but
A woman having her periods, her walk
Bandy legg’d, a kangaroo in rut.

With top-forty songs and second-hand
Pseudo-Gothic buildings, and the coy cupidity
Of amateur poets burbling of sunburnt sand,
The swamps of her immense stupidity

Flood her monotonous poets from head to feet.
In them at last the dreary men arrive
Whose cry is not ‘create!’ but ‘we repeat!’,
Whose verse is often less than half-alive.

And her universities, like steaming sores,
Where ageing poetasters tread the boards,
Where a second-hand professor bores
His audience, which dutifully applauds.

Yes, some like you turn timidly back to find
In the rotting jungle of traditional thought
Your little patch of desert for your mind
To safely dream away, and come to naught.

No learned doubt, your fixed preoccupation
With the Great Australian Cliché, with the Capes
And Deserts of the New Vogue affectation
Of cultured and reactionary apes.

  Appendix 3: John Forbes: ‘Serenade’
Walking home down King St past
the Sunshine discount house
the sky to the west was glowing
like the windows full of Italian furniture
                    & thanks to its low rent coloratura
or a style suggesting its own collapse
for a moment I felt le sang des poètes
                            — Tonight Show version —
coursing through me, natively brilliant
& removed completely from that inertia
you cancel your career with
& make this gaudy stuff
revert to just the junk it is
as the negro beauty holding the globe
                          gets switched off
by Dis reclaiming her / & this evening
                    like the rest, becomes a blank myth
you ask a question of
& then stay up all night avoiding the answer
with your deft imitation of electricity
& speed, convincing you like a parade.

 

__________
From John Forbes: Collected Poems 1970–1998. Rose Bay (Sydney): Brandl and Schlesinger, no date. Page 136.
  Appendix 4: Some of the Sources
  for ‘Rereading Rimbaud’

‘Hôtel de Ville’: Derived from Rimbaud’s ‘Ville’ (Oliver Bernard, Arthur Rimbaud: Collected Poems. London: Penguin Books, 1997. 256). The phrase ‘I have wasted my life’ is Rimbaud’s, from his poem ‘Chanson de la plus haute tour’ (Bernard, page 215), which begins: ‘Oisive jeunesse / A tout asservie, / Par délicatesse / J’ai perdu ma vie.’ (Idle youth,/ enslaved to everything,/ by being too sensitive/ I have wasted my life.)

‘Anguish’: Derivation unknown.

‘Antics’: Derivation unknown.

‘Barbarians’: Derivation unknown.

‘Bottom of the Harbour’: Derivation unknown.

‘Childhood’: Derived from Rimbaud’s ‘Enfance’ (Bernard, 235).

‘Dawn’: Derived from Rimbaud’s ‘Aube’ (Bernard, 268).

‘Deluge’: Derived from Rimbaud’s ‘Après le Déluge’ (Bernard, 233). Published in Urban Myths (Tranter, John E. Urban Myths: 210 Poems: New and Selected. St Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 2006.)

‘Democracy’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Démocratie’, (Bernard, 287).

‘Departure’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s poem ‘Départ’ (Bernard, 247). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Eighteen Fairies’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Fairy’ (Bernard, 288).

‘Flowers’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Fleurs’ (Bernard, 269).

‘Genius’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Génie’ (Bernard, 289).

‘Horticulture’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘H’ (Bernard, 284). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Lives’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Vies’ (Bernard, 245). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Marinara’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Marine’ (Bernard, 271). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Martian Movie’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Chanson de la plus haute tour’ (Bernard, 215).

‘Metro’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Métropolitain’ (Bernard, 274). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Movements’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Mouvement’ (Bernard, 281). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘New Beauty’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Being Beautous’ (Bernard, 244).

‘Ornery’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Ornières’ (Bernard, 258).

‘Parade’: Derivation unknown, possibly ‘Parade’ (Bernard, 242). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Phrases’: Derivation unknown.

‘Pronto’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Promontoire’ (Bernard, 277). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Royalties’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Royauté’ (Bernard, 248). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Scenes’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Scènes’ (Bernard, 278). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Shames’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Honte’ (Bernard, 229). Note: ‘Honte’ (‘shame’) is the last poem of the series ‘Fêtes de la Patience’ (‘Festivals of Endurance’) and does not belong to the ‘Illuminations’. Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Sorehead’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Matinée d’ivresse’ (Bernard, 249). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Story’: Derivation unknown, possibly ‘Conte’ (Bernard, 240). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Subcontinent Nocturne’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Nocturne vulgaire’ (Bernard, 270). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Tenure Track’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Guerre’ (Bernard, 289).

‘Villas’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Villes’ (Bernard, 259). Published in Urban Myths, 2006.

‘Winter Maps’: Derived from Arthur Rimbaud’s ‘Fête d’Hiver’ (Bernard, 272).

  Appendix 5: The Trenter
Trenter — The form was first given formal recognition by the critic Ernst Dreizig, in the early thirties. In his article ‘Thirty Years of German Expressionism: Poetics and Perversion’ he traced the use of this form to the French poet Jean-Claude Trentignant, who in 1830 published (only thirty copies of) a small volume of 30-line poems, in Alexandrines, with the rhyme scheme:

a b a c b d c e d f e g f h g i h j i k j l k m l n m o n o

the interlinked rhymes of which (except for the first aba and the last ono) look alternately forward and backward three lines at a time. Trentignant regarded this pattern as psychologically superior to the couplet, which he claimed was ‘monotonous and contaminated by English pragmatism’, and to the standard abab quatrain. It could be claimed to extend the range of discourse available to the sonnet without falling into garrulity. It is now rarely met with. Its name comes of course from the French trente, for ‘thirty’.

  Appendix 6: An Absolutely Extraordinary Recital

Les Murray’s poem ‘An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow’ has two secrets. First, it is not really about a man crying in Martin Place. Second, it is not quite as original as it looks. To take the first point first, this is what the poem is really about. [See Note 1 below] Here’s John Tranter poem ‘An Absolutely Extraordinary Recital’.

The word goes round Repins,
the murmur goes round Lorenzini’s,
at Tattersal’s, men look up from their sheet of numbers,
the Stock Exchange scribblers forget the chalk in their hands
and men with bread in their pockets leave the Greek Club:
There’s a fellow reciting Les Murray’s poems
in Martin Plaza. They can’t stop him.

The traffic in George Street is banked up for half a mile
and drained of motion. The crowds are edgy with talk
and more crowds come hurrying. Many run in the back streets
which minutes ago were busy main streets, pointing:
There’s a fellow reciting Les Murray’s poems
down there. No one can stop him.

The man we surround, the man no one approaches
simply recites, and does not cover it, reads aloud
not like a child, not like the wind, like a man
and does not declaim it, nor beat his breast, nor even
rhyme very emphatically — yet the dignity of his reading

holds us back from his space, the hollow he makes about him
in the midday light, in his pentagram of poetry,
and uniforms back in the crowd who tried to stop him reciting
stare out at him, and feel, with amazement, their minds
longing for the effects of Les Murray’s poetry
as children for a rainbow.

Some will say, in the years to come, a halo
of force stood around him. There is no such thing.
Some will say they were shocked and would have stopped him
but they will not have been there. The fiercest manhood,
the toughest reserve, the slickest intellectual amongst us

trembles with silence, and burns with unexpected
positive judgements. Some in the concourse scream
who thought themselves satisfied with Mark O’Connor.
Only the smallest children
and such as look out of Paradise come near him
and sit at his feet, with dogs and dusty pigeons.

Ridiculous, says a man near me, and stops
his mouth with his hands, as if it uttered vomit —
and I see a woman, shining, stretch her hand
and shake as she receives the gift of Les’s verse;
and many as follow her also receive it

and many weep for sheer acceptance, and more
refuse to weep for fear of all acceptance,
but the man performing Les Murray’s poetry,
like the earth, requires nothing,
the man who recites ignores us, and cries out
of his writhen face and ordinary body

not words, but verse; not messages, but poetry
hard as the earth, sheer, voluminous as the sea —
and when he stops, he simply walks between us
mopping his face with the dignity of one
man who has read aloud Les Murray’s wonderful poetry,
and now has finished his recital.

Evading autograph hounds, he hurries off down Pitt Street.

‘An Absolutely Extraordinary Recital’ is of course an interpretation of ‘An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow’, a poem by Les Murray, the ostensible subject of which — a man who weeps without apparent reason, causing onlookers to wonder why — is unique in Australian poetry. It is not unique in modern poetry, however. More than a decade before Les Murray published this poem, the Greek poet George Seferis (Giorgos Seferiadis) published a poem with an oddly similar unusual central event. His poem is titled ‘Narration’:

That man walks along weeping
no one knows why
sometimes they think he’s weeping for lost loves
like those that torture us so much
on summer beaches with the gramophones.

Other people go about their business
endless paper, children growing up, women
ageing awkwardly.
He has two eyes like poppies
like cut spring poppies
and two trickles in the corners of his eyes.

He walks along the streets, never lies down
striding small squares on the earth’s back
instrument of a boundless pain
that’s finally lost all significance.

Some have heard him speak
to himself as he passed by
about mirrors broken years ago
about broken forms in the mirrors
that no one can ever put together again.
Others have heard him talk about sleep
images of horror on the threshold of sleep
faces unbearable in their tenderness.

We’ve grown used to him; he’s presentable and quiet
only that he walks along weeping continually
like willows on a riverbank you see from the train
as you wake uncomfortably some clouded dawn.

We’ve grown used to him; like everything else you’re used to
he doesn’t stand for anything
and I talk to you about him because I can’t find
anything that you’re not used to;
I pay my respects.

Unlike the Seferis poem [Note 2], Les Murray’s poem about a weeping man presents an optimistic quasi-religious epiphany, and is couched in quasi-religious language. It appeared in his volume The Weatherboard Cathedral in 1969. When it was reprinted in Alexander Craig’s 1970 anthology it had the words ‘Penarth, 1967’ appended, which implies that the poem was written in Wales during a trip to Europe that Les Murray made in 1967. While in Britain he may have seen the newly-released 1967 American edition of Seferis’s Collected Poems 1924–1955. The details, the verbal texture and the conclusion of Seferis’s poem ‘Narration’ are all quite unlike those of Les Murray’s poem, though the unusual central drama is interestingly similar. [Note 3]  

  Notes

[1]  The poem is previously unpublished.

[2]   The theme that lies behind the Seferis poem may derive from the wars and occupations that have disfigured Europe, or the destruction of the city of Smyrna in 1922, or perhaps from the inevitability of loss and illness and death, and from the further fact that complaining about those such things becomes tedious to those who have perhaps endured enough, and don’t want to know about another’s suffering. In his novel Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky has his protagonist Raskolnikov complain that ‘Man can get used to anything — the beast!’ At the end of Seferis’s poem the narrator, speaking perhaps to the reader of the poem, employs a similar concept: ‘I talk to you about him because I can’t find anything that you’re not used to.’ There is a pervasive and very European disillusionment behind the poem.

[3]   Thanks are due to Edmund Keeley for noting the Seferis poem, and for pointing out this similarity.

  Appendix 7: Countour map, Kiora district

The Tranter home farm, Kiora District, NSW, army map
The Tranter home farm, Kiora District, NSW, army map

The Tranter home farm (‘Glendeua’, in the Kiora district, near Moruya, on the south coast of New South Wales) is shown just below and to the right of the centre of the map. The dark horizontal line is a crease in the paper. The map from which this image was copied was prepared by the Australian Section, Imperial General Staff, and printed in 1943, the year of John Tranter’s birth.

  Appendix 8: By Blue Ontario’s Shore
I listened to the Phantom by Ontario’s shore,
I heard the voice arising demanding bards […]
Rhymes and rhymers pass away, poems distill’d from poems pass away,
The swarms of reflectors and the polite pass, and leave ashes […]
The proof of a poet shall be sternly deferr’d …
— Walt Whitman, ‘By Blue Ontario’s Shore’
(from Leaves of Grass)
Marion owned a van from which
the Sunset View was portable and thus
perennial; his pal Homer had a mobile home
in whose polished sides a swarming universe
wavered and slipped from future to past tense
along a wobbling strip of two-lane blacktop.
Could they, twain, yet be one, in the hamlet
of Sodus? Homer and his buddy Marion
came to a Huddle by the Owls’ Nest;
the Mud Mills turned Yellow in the sunset
and a noble thought struck them both
near the Noble Corner, though their motives
were muddled. Marion was a Morrison
and had a twin brother, name of Clyde,
who had brought down a fog of shame
on the elder branch of the clan. When
the torpid fifties leered over the horizon,
Clyde, like many an anxious Communist
before him, had fled to torrid Mexico
and wallowed there in a mess of memories,
then hove north to the city of the Angels
in search of Joy and a Fair Haven. There he rose
like a Phoenix from Furnaceville, ashes
in the fume and updraft of the sixties, lost
like the snapshot of a girl he had been dating,
name of Little Egypt, Gypsy Queen, and
in a name-change (to Wayne) found
his soul’s Center and his future waiting.

—-
Note: Names in italics are the names of towns in upstate New York by the shore of Lake Ontario. John Ashbery grew up there, near the hamlet of Sodus. [When he was a young man, his nickname was ‘Ashes’.] John Wayne claimed that his real name was Marion Morrison. This poem suggests that his identity was ambiguous. First published in Jacket 27, April 2005.

Characters from the Dan Dactyl cartoon strip comment on this poem. Art by John Tranter and Frank Robbins.