The FreeThe Free by Willy Vlautin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I heard Willy Vlautin speak at Adelaide Writers Week 2015. A likeable, engaging, laid back man he is, as you’d expect from an alt-country singer/songwriter. He spoke passionately about the fate of brain damaged ex-servicemen in the U.S.A., mostly struggling to survive under the huge burdens of medical expenses and depression.

“The Free” is about one such ex-serviceman, but also about other working poor and marginalised people struggling to keep their heads above water in neo-con America.

It does paint a gripping picture of their lives. But I struggled at times to follow the narrative, which switches between reality and anaesthetic induced dreams. It is in the dreams that the concept of “The Free” is introduced – apparently a band of tea-party type vigilantes (I think). It didn’t quite work for me and left me dissatisfied. But an author worth following.

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I popped over to Tram Stop 6 yesterday afternoon to have a look at the poetry signs and billboard. Looks good. Here’s a gallery of snaps of them. Click on the first thumbnail and it will bring up the slide show.

Tram Stop 6

Posted: May 6, 2015 in adelaide, experimental, travel
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Back in late 2013, I participated, along with several other writers / artists, in a project to write words for a public art project at tram stop 6, about halfway between Adelaide and Glenelg. This is the very grey concrete tram stop:

Tramstop 6 - South Rd

 

I wrote about it here. The project was organised by Mike Ladd and Cathy Brooks for Marion Council

The project is in the process of being implemented. Here are some pics provided by Mike Ladd. I haven’t dropped by to look at it yet. There will be an official opening sometime soon.

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I’ve won something. Something big. Two business class return tickets Adelaide – London and 3 nights in a London hotel. Just for updating my details on the University of South Australia alumni site. All I have to do is attend a function in London around April next year.

I did my M.B.A at the Uni of SA about 24 years ago. This is part of their 25th anniversary event next year. Previously, it was the South Australian Institute of Technology. I think the year I graduated was their first cohort of Masters graduates as a University.

I’ve won things before. I was trying to remember what:

  • a joint of beef at a butcher’s shop in Acton, London, which I used to pass on my way to school. About 1969 I think. It had a free special ‘opening up’ raffle. When I took the joint home my Mum suspected I’d pinched it.
  • 10 quid on a one-armed bandit in Cardiff in about 1975. For some reason it sticks in my mind. 10 quid was a lot of money in those days.
  • Various bottles of wine for running races (hard work).
  • Numerous medals for running races (hard work).
  • A few ‘on the page’ poetry competitions. (I think $150 was the biggest – hard work).
  • A few poetry slams ($50 a go I think- hard work).
  • The Rostrum South Australia Speaker of the Year competition, twice  ($500 a go, that’s significant – really, really hard work).
  • And going back to the Uni of SA, I won the Alex Ramsay medal for most outstanding student on the M.B.A. course, and that was the most work I’ve ever done to win anything, so maybe this is payback.

I think that’s about it. I don’t have a track record of winning random stuff like this, maybe because I don’t generally enter random competitions. This one didn’t even seem like a competition. No skill required, just update your details on the web. Apparently 15,000 other alumni did the same thing, but mine was the number that the computer selected.

So one of those wonderful surprises that reminds you of the role of chance in life.

 

Poem number 30 for April 2015. The final one. I’ll miss NaPoWriMo, because it makes me write every day.

Like many people, I’m very uncomfortable with the exploitation of patriotism by politicians, and the selective commemoration of some wars but not others. On Anzac day in Canberra, an aboriginal man was prevented from marching. He had a banner saying “Lest we Forget – The Frontier Wars” (referring to the people killed in undeclared wars between settlers and the aboriginal population). He is an ex-serviceman and wanted to march in commemoration of his dead colleagues, but also in commemoration of aboriginal people killed in the frontier wars. A policeman told him “this day is not for you”.

The Australian War Memorial website says that Anzac Day “.. is the day on which we remember Australians who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping operations.”

 

 

Not for You

this day is not for you

this march is not for you

this commemoration is not your commemoration

this flag is not your flag

this land is not your land

this war is not your war

 

(this day is our day

this march is for us

this commemoration is of our dead

this flag is draped on our coffins

this band is playing our music)

 

this day is not for you

these graves are not your graves

these memorials are not your memorials

these speeches are not your language

these legends are not your legends

these dreams are not your dreams

 

(This day is our day

This skin is our skin

this lore is our lore

this history is our history

these myths are our myths

this system is our system

this way is our way)

 

this rule is our rule: THIS DAY IS NOT FOR YOU

 

Read more at  New Matilda

 

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 29 for April 2015. I’ve been messing around with this for a while, and today came up with the card theme, hacked it to within an inch of its life and ended up with this. I think it will re-emerge in a totally different form some time.

Cards

the laughter
the lovemaking
the closeness
the rose-strewn days

the workplace bully
the unpaid overtime
the incompetence
the conveyor belt

diamonds

the joy of birth
a girl in a communion dress
the party games
the picnic rug

the egg-shell tension
the aloneness
the distance
the silences

 

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

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Poem number 38 for April 2015. There was a dead possum on the pavement in front of my house this morning (above). I was reminded of a Gary Young prose poem.

Farewell

after Gary Young

A possum did not survive the night. It is stretched on the pavement, wide-eyed. Whatever fatal injuries it sustained are not visible. No red stain, no ripple of intestines. The musk lorikeets in the high branches of the lemon scented gum are excited, chorusing with the eastern rosellas and mynas lower down.  The elderly man across the road does his morning Parkinsonian walk around the front garden, glances towards the corpse, trembles back indoors. The postman on his Honda rumbles along the pavement, dispenses bills, circulars, welcome and unwelcome news, zigs around the possum, wafts exhaust fumes over the body. It’s autumn. The weather is cool. It will be days before the body ripens, stiffens, bloats. Bin collection is 4 days away. The Anzac day commemorations are gone. The Prime Minister farewelled three hundred troops bound for Iraq. A Basra reed warbler was sighted by a serviceman in the Mesopotamian Marshes.

 

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 27 for April 2015. Over the weekend I watched a very strange and very (to me) amusing film called “Inherent Vice”. It’s based on a Thomas Pynchon novel and features Joaquin Phoenix (great actor) as a spaced out, hippy private detective operating (I think) out of a dentist’s surgery, or maybe it’s a gynaecologist’s, I’m not 100% sure. Anyway, I marvelled at some of the dialogue, which is presumably Pynchon’s. I’ve taken several quotes from the film, and messed around with them to come up with some loose sort of arrangement of words.

Inherent vice

He was insulated
by secret loyalties
and codes of silence
until she arrived
like a bad luck planet
in his horoscope

she lay on him
a heavy combination
of face ingredients
he couldn’t read

her appetites ranged
from epic to everyday
he became
a hippy-hating mad dog
of Flintstone proportions
a little shit-twinkle
in his eye

gazing on her like
a precious cargo
that couldn’t be insured
but she was working
with a dark crew

by winter
she had removed
every trace of soul
he once had

His last words:
“It’s groovy being insane man”

 

 

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

Poem number 26 for April 2015. Can’t remember who it was by, but a line from a poem I heard recently was something like “the point of the mask is not the mask”.

The Point of the mask …

… is the face behind it

the point of the wine is the sobriety deserted

 

the point of a kiss is the lover in mind

the point of a journey is the place left behind

 

the point of the speech is the word unsaid

the point of faith is the doubt acknowledged

 

the point of the dressing is the wound

the point of sleep is to awaken

 

the point of a meal is the hunger

the point of a dress is what is covered

 

the point of music is the silence

the point of a welcome is the person unwelcomed

 

the point of the crown is the heir

the point of a garden is the earth

 

the point of a poem is between the lines

 

 

 

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2015

26662666 by Roberto Bolaño
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve heard this book mentioned in hushed tones in recent years; the way the people refer to “Ulysses” (James Joyce’s that is) i.e. an epic, a revolutionary book.

I sort of agree, but have some nagging doubts. Bolano was Chilean, and wrote in Spanish. So bearing in mind that this is a translation, the first thing that strikes you is the extraordinary beauty and complexity of the language. There are passages that take your breath away. There are passages (like “Ulysses”) which extend a sentence over several pages with little or no punctuation.

It is a very long book (neary 900 pages), and you often wonder where it is going. On the other hand, it is somehow very readable. Split into 5 sections (which may have originally been intended as 5 separate books), it ranges back and forth between continents and periods, with a large cast of characters, making it, at times, difficult to follow.

It primarily traces the life of a fictional obscure novelist, Archimboldi, and the efforts of three academics experts to find him. A large part of the book is set in Mexico in a city with an epidemic of feminicide (based on the real Mexican city of Ciudad Juárez).

I’m glad I read it, and can honestly say I enjoyed it. But I have a nagging doubt that maybe, just maybe, it is highly pretentious.

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