Adriaen_Brouwer_004

Arriving back in Adelaide Saturday before last, having flown for nearly 24 hours, what I should have done is have a quiet week: give myself time to get over the jet lag and the exertions of a month of socialising with friends and family in Ireland and England.

Instead, I went out on the Sunday night to hear three of my favourite Adelaide poets, Rachael Mead, Alison Flett and Heather Taylor-Johnson, collectively known as “Edit when Sober”. They were guest poets at Spoke n Slurred at the excellent James Place pub in Adelaide.

I should have known that it wouldn’t be a quiet night. I think my worst hangovers in recent times have been incurred whilst socialising with the EwS women; plus Spoke n Slurred is nearly always a raucous night. Needless to say, my recovery from jet lag was seriously delayed by a Monday hangover.

However, on Wednesday, I had the pleasure of meeting up with the same three EwS women to see “Reaching for the Moon”, a film about the great American poet Elizabeth Bishop. One of the first poems to really ‘grab’ me, when I got back into poetry in recent years, was Bishop’s “One Art” (“the art of losing isn’t hard to master”). Bishop was, for a significant part of her life, alcoholic. According to William Boyd, she was a binge drinker, even resorting to eau de cologne when the booze ran out.

So having immersed myself in Bishop and alcohol, it seemed appropriate to write “The Art of Boozing”. I hope Elizabeth would approve. Maybe not. As often happens with a good (or bad) idea, someone else has already had it, and I found an existing interpretation at Pamela’s Musings. But undeterred, I persisted with my own take on it, which I think is sufficiently different:

Elizabeth Bishop

The Art of Boozing

(With apologies to Elizabeth Bishop)

Being drunk, it seems life has more lustre;

the sober self is duller, too content.

The art of boozing isn’t hard to master.

 

So practice drinking farther, drinking faster:

spirits, beers in pubs you’ve always meant

to visit. Hear the clink of glass, the laughter.

 

I sank a priceless wine. And look! My last, or

next-to-last, of three aged whiskies went.

The art of boozing isn’t hard to master.

 

I drank at work, I called the boss a bastard.

Jobless now, I’ll drink the next week’s rent.

Destitute, but it is no disaster.

 

- Drinking with you (you tolerate my bluster,

my follies) I cannot lie. It’s patent:

the art of boozing’s not too hard to master.

So drink a toast (your round): “To getting plastered”.

-

 Copyright Mike Hopkins 2014

rippswirl

 

I am guest poet spot at the SPIN gig next Wednesday, 4th June 2014.

SPIN is a monthly poetry and music open mic night at the Ripple & Swirl Cafe, 14 The Esplanade, Christies Beach, on the first Wednesday of the month from 6.30pm – 9.00pm.

Admission is $5.00 / $4.00 concession

There is also an open mic. for poets and musicians.

Food is available by pre-order if required and the venue is licensed.

Further details are available at the  SPIN Facebook page  or contact the SPIN organisers by email: spinopenmic@gmail.com

 

Christies Beach

 

 

On Sunday I took part in the “March in May” demonstration in Adelaide, from Victoria Square to State Parliament. There were marches all over the country, protesting against the Abbott governments budget cuts to health, education, pensions, the ABC, and any other sector you care to name which Abbott does not like. The Murdoch media, predictably, was dismissive. The Sunday Telegraph headline was “The Ferals are Revolting”. Clearly the reporter had not noted the broad cross-section of Australian society represented by the demonstrators: school children, teenagers, parents, grand parents – every age group and every walk of life. Abbott has succeeded where Labor had failed – he has re-mobilised those who believe in a progressive Australia.

In the evening, coincidentally, I watched a gripping documentary called “The Square”, which happened to be about political demonstrators gathering in another square:  Cairo’s Tahrir Square in 2011. The documentary tracks four or five participant in the demonstrations: a Muslim, a couple of young activists, a singer and an actor Khalid Abdalla, who starred in “The Kite Runner”. The demonstrations led to the overthrow of the oppressive Mubarak regime, only to see it replaced by brutal military rule. They then forced the end of military rule to see it replaced by the rule of Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. Again they forced the end of Morsi’s regime in 2013.

It is an incredible insight into a complex situation, which I had barely understood before. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Rotten Tomatoes gives it 100% and describes it as “… an immersive experience, transporting the viewer deeply into the intense emotional drama and personal stories behind the news”. You can watch the whole film on the net here and here.

I took some quotes from the film and, with some minor alterations, have combined them into a sort of collage:

 

The Square

They will take you away

for dreaming the wrong dream

 

The rich don’t demand freedom

Because they already have it

 

They made two ballot boxes

One for the killers

One for the traitors

 

We are not looking for a leader

We are looking for a conscience

 

Religion is not in a book or on paper

Religion is in your head and your heart

 

They are gassing the hospitals

Even the doctors are dying

 

The good and free are called traitors

The traitors are called heroes

 

The Square united us all

 

© Mike Hopkins 2014, except for quotes from "The Square"

snoopy

“This is something I have never talked about publicly. Five years ago, shortly after my beautiful daughter’s third birthday, I was diagnosed with advanced SWS — Shit Writing Syndrome.

I’ll assume you’ve never heard of it. I hadn’t. Webster’s Dictionary defines Shit Writing Syndrome as “a disorder that turns one’s writing to shit, for example, by causing one to quote this dictionary when describing the disorder.

The mechanics of the disease are still not well understood. Some experts believe that fecal matter leaks out of your colon and travels through your lymphatic system into your writing. Others think it’s figurative. But those distinctions matter little when you are looking at a page of your own writing and seeing shit.

They found it by accident. I had gone to the doctor for a routine penile enlargement procedure. I had filled out the standard Writers Guild insurance forms, and that’s where it turned up. When my doctor walked into the room, she had a hard time making eye contact.”

Andy Bobrow

Find out how he cured himself:

https://medium.com/@abobrow/d703b80ff3e5

And there is a Fulham connection above. Those famously bad opening lines “It was a dark and stormy night” were penned by Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Lytton  once resided in the original Craven Cottage, now the site of Fulham’s beautiful old ground, which still has a Craven Cottage in the corner (below).

Fulham have, of course, been suffering for some time, not from SWS, but SFS (Shit Football Syndrome).
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Heaney-BBC-soccer-600x337

I doubt if Seamus had much interest in Premier League football. He was, it seems, more into Gaelic Football – there is an early photograph (above) of him in his primary school football team – he’s in the back row, third boy from the left and the only one wearing a tie!

The team I’ve followed since I was about ten years old, Fulham, were relegated from the Premier League last week. If I was to write a poem about their season, it might be a limerick, the events are so comical: two managers sacked, a multi-million dollar signing who was too unfit to play more than a few minutes etc.

The gloom was lightened considerably by hearing that I had been offered a place on the Seamus Heaney Summer School at Queens University, Belfast, at the end of June. I was planning on going to Ireland anyway this northern summer, so all I have to do is change the dates a bit, and I’m there.

Seamus was a graduate of Queens, with first class honours of course. The university has a school of poetry named after him. They only take twelve people on the summer school, and you have to submit a selection of your work for them to peruse, before they decide if you are up to it. So I was surprised to get a place. A quiet year perhaps.

Anyway, I am looking forward to it immensely, and I will also be able to catch up with my sister Lynda who lives in Omagh, maybe some friends in Dublin and Wexford, and then pop over to England to see my other sister, Valerie and my mother Bridget.

And as winter has now set in in Adelaide, hopefully some warm Irish weather.

shss

cohenincuba

Final poem for April 2014. Today, for I think the first time, I’ve used the prompt from the NaPoWriMo web page. Actually, it’s yesterday’s prompt as they are a day behind Australia.  It gives a complex 20 step recipe for a poem e.g.:

1. Begin the poem with a metaphor.
2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.
3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.

etc.

I followed the instructions closely, and then massaged the results. For instance I relocated the poem to Cuba, which I visited about 8 years ago. The result does not necessarily make sense, but, as an experimental poem written within specified constraints, I think it’s sort of interesting. Only after finishing this draft did I find that Cohen actually went to Cuba during the Bay of Pigs invasion (read about it here) – don’t know whether that came from my subconscious or is pure coincidence.

Leonard Cohen in Cuba

Over Havana

the sun is eclipsed.

 

In the false dusk

the cab-drivers

are like porn stars

 

The street beggars yearn

for the touch of skin.

Their beds are of cardboard

scented with cheap rum

 

In the bars,

there is salt

on the rims

of the glasses

 

but the punters

can only taste collapse

and endure the complaints

of disappointed women

 

Leonard comes to town.

He corrects me:

“It wasn’t cardboard,

it was newspaper.

They stank of urine not rum.

and these cigars are utter tosh”

“Llame a la policía!” he shrieks

 

The bars are flooded

in a freak storm.

The cab-drivers go home

for dinner with their families.

 

On Sunday,

the ceiling collapses

from the weight of expectations.

 

The embassy recommends

we move to a monastery

safe from the police

and the constant

attentions of the jineteros

 

Leonard sneers

at his entourage.

The boss is unimpressed.

“It will end in tears” he warns

 

The belligerent nuns

whisper that the drunken priests

are the only ones

to be trusted

 

 © Mike Hopkins 2014

homeless

Two days left. Funny that I feel more creative on a Tuesday than a Monday. This idea has been brewing for a while, but not put into words until today. I’m sure the line between success and failure, between normality and madness, between comfort and destitution, is  a very narrow one.

I could yet turn into …

one of those seedy blokes
scurrying from bin to bin
with red blue tartan bag
and barbeque tongs
fishing out return deposit cans

one of those skinny blokes
on an ex postie bike
a stolen red milk crate
tied on the back
with occie straps

one of those menacing blokes
camped in the corner of a pub
nursing a cheap beer
rounding on his fellow drinkers
with spittle and blasphemy

one of those doleful blokes
in stained track suit pants
held up with string
imploring with cardboard
“no job, please help”

one of those unnerving blokes
cycling around town
old helmet askew
straps undone
squawking ”Beep! Beep!”

one of those medieval blokes
bare, mud caked feet
army surplus great-coat
and matted mane
camping on parkland benches

one of those try-hard old blokes
pony tailed, leather waistcoated
Woody Guthrie sloganned guitar
croaking to the shoppers
“This is your land”

Just
a misjudged step
a misplaced hope
a market failure
a malignant presence

but then again

I could carry on
going through the motions
holding the line
dressing the window
with collar, cuffs and poetry

 

© Mike Hopkins 2014

Not much gas left in the tank of ideas, so today I’m doing an ‘erasure’ poem. This involves taking a random slab of text and erasing words to produce a ‘poem’ from the remaining words.

I’ve used a great web site called “Erasures” to automate the process. The source text is History of the Gatling Gun Detachment by John Henry Parker, and I’ve called the poem “Erasing the Box”

Erasing the Box

 

erasure

 

 

 

 

© Mike Hopkins 2014

saint_tony

I’m not in a good mood today, having stayed up to the early hours to watch my Premier League team Fulham, desperately needing a win, throw away a two goal lead. Not sure why this still upsets me but it does. So there’s a bit of venom in the brain today, and it’s come out in the form of satire. I acknowledge a debt to the great, veteran, British performance poet Attila the Stockbroker for this one. He did a wonderful piece called “The Bible according to Rupert Murdoch“. I’ve pinched the idea and turned it into this:

 

The Gospel According to St. Tony

after Attila the Stockbroker

 

In the beginning was the word

and the word was Stop!

 

And the Lord said:

Let there be a plague of slogans and let there be a slogan for every prejudice,

Yea, even until the prejudiced themselves will say “Stop the Slogans”

 

And let St. Tony be the prophet whose mouth will constantly chant these slogans

And let St. Rupert be the holy messenger of these slogans

for he has minions in every corner of the land waiting to write the word.

And let this plague of slogans spread across the land so that the people hear and see nothing except “Stop”.

 

And St. Tony, in his raiment of red speedo and chest of camel hair, hearing the words of the Lord, smirked in an unholy way.

And St. Rupert said:

Now, let us also send forth the shock jocks of the east for verily, they will gladly mouth these slogan ad nauseam.

And let the old growth forests be felled to feed the paper mills so that my media empire can engrave the word “Stop!” in 4 inch headlines on newsprint every day unto eternity.

And let not the people be allowed to think of anything but “Stop!

For thinking leads to fornication, sodomy and bestiality and if any reporter dares to start an article, not with the holy word “Stop!” let he or she be cast forever from the media empire and spend eternity volunteering for Radio Adelaide.

And the Lord looked down on St. Rupert’s work and on St. Tony’s slogans and saw that they were indeed execrable.

But this was capitalism, and it made rich the robber barons of the land and so it was good.

 

But lo, it came to pass that the people went mad from the constant slogans. They took to drink and drugs, fornication, footy, home renovations and cooking to deaden their pain.

And St. Rupert sent forth his Fox Channel familiars to film the people and all the goings-on thereof, and made it into a top rating reality show.

And so the beginning of the end began.

And from there, things got even worse.

 

© Mike Hopkins 2014

const

 

This morning I cycled 22 kms and ran a 5km race before breakfast. Then I did a load of washing, spent the afternoon sanding and painting. Then went to the library, did my week’s shopping and picked my son up. And you still expect me to write a poem today? Well don’t expect it to be a complete one.

 

This Poem Is Under Construction

it needs a better title

and a first line that says

something the reader

doesnt already know

 

the middle is coming together

but the format

is

still

a bit

all over the place

 

it then meandars

without adding anything meeningful.

before coming to a faltering end.

 

That ending definitely needs a rethink.

And it needs a spellcheck too.

 

© Mike Hopkins 2014