Poetry Season #1 – “Shine”

35687633296_916faf8248_z

The Wavy Path

I’ve just started a course with talented poet and all-round great guy Andy Jackson. Andy is based in Castlemaine, New South Wales, so the course is run via email. I, and nineteen other lucky students, split into two groups of ten, receive a detailed prompt and poems to read on a Monday morning, and respond with our own poems by the Friday.  Then we give feedback on the other poets’ work in our group, and finally Andy gives us his detailed feedback. The course runs for six weeks. This is the end of week 1 and so far it looks like it’s going to be really useful and instructive. Best of all, it forces me to write, and I usually need to be forced.

So I thought I’d post my weekly poem here. They will all be first draft, though not quite as first draft and instantaneous as the poem a day napowrimo poems. And I’ll likely be concentrating on prose poems, which I want to write more of this year.

The prompt for the first poem, greatly summarised, is “summer”. This is my response:

capture
Image:COP Biodiversity and Landscape https://www.flickr.com/photos/copbiodiversityandlandscape/35687633296

TV Review: “A Very English Scandal”

If you lived in the U.K. in the ’70s, you would have been enthralled by the “Jeremy Thorpe Affair”. Thorpe was leader of the Liberal Party, a party which was truly liberal and not hard right-wing like the Australian party of the same name. Thorpe was, I think, generally regarded as a good guy by progressive people. If there was preferential voting in the U.K. I might have voted Labour 1, Liberals 2. He was anti-hanging, pro-immigrant, pro-Europe and critical of oppressive regimes such as South Africa and Rhodesia.

This three-part series starts at the time when Thorpe was doing well, and close to gaining significant power. The scandal that brought him down was his affair with Norman Scott, which developed into a serious relationship, but later turned ugly.

Thorpe is played by Hugh Grant and Scott by Ben Whishaw. It is based on a “true-life novel” by John Preston. I’m no fan of Hugh Grant but he makes a great Thorpe. Grant has an uncanny facial likeness to Thorpe (see below), although at times his English upper-class mannerisms kept reminding me of Hugh Laurie’s Prince George in “Blackadder”.

jeremy-thorpe-and-hugh-grant-d122798

Whishaw also does well as Scott. It’s impossible to know if Scott really was as effeminate as portrayed, and again, at times, the mannerisms were very “Ooh Betty” / “Some Mothers do ‘Ave ‘Em”. Nevertheless, it is a performance of great sensitivity, and I emerged having a great deal of sympathy for both Scott and Thorpe.

This is a gripping series, worth watching as a thriller even if you don’t know the background to the events.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2019

Image: https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2019-01-15/the-real-history-behind-a-very-english-scandal-and-the-jeremy-thorpe-affair/

Book Review: “Milkman” by Anna Burns

MilkmanMilkman by Anna Burns

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Milkman” was a Christmas present from my sister, who lives in Northern Ireland. It’s a perhaps contentious winner of the 2018 Booker Prize. It’s drawn a mixed critical reception and at least one friend has told me it’s “terrible”. Well, in one sense it is “terrible” in that it ingeniously gets inside the head of a young woman living through terrible times: The Troubles. I think I’m right in saying that no place names, and only one character name (Peggy) are used in the whole the book. We never learn the name of the main character. She is referred to as “third sister”. Other family members are Ma, Da, Wee Sisters, Eldest sister, third brother-in-law, Somebody McSomebody, maybe-boyfriend etc. Her persecutor, “Milkman” is not a real milkman, but there is another character called “real milkman”, also referred to under other names such as “the man who didn’t love anybody”. Belfast is not mentioned, but I’m assuming the action takes place in that city, where Anna Burns’ grew up. Places are referred to obtusely: top-end reservoir, the ten-minute area, most-popular-drinking club, the hutment.

What Burns does brilliantly is to capture the insularity, the suspicion, the distrust, the incestuousness of that city at that time. She shows how people shut down, conform, deny and are prepared to believe the worst of other people. In particular she shows how a woman can be intimidated by a stalker with little effort by the stalker himself. The menacing figure of the Milkman appears only a handful of times in the book, and yet looms over her as an ever-present threat, reinforced by the gossip and mean-spiritedness of the community. A woman who reads a book in public, a man who is interested in cooking, another man who collects pieces of British cars are all regarded with suspicion, as “beyond the pale”. Intimidation by armed men, whether Army or paramilitaries also pervades the community. Violent deaths and suicides are everyday events. Men believe they can bully women into submission. Women are drawn to violent men.

This is not necessarily an easy read, although there is a great deal of humour throughout. Perhaps it requires some knowledge of The Troubles to appreciate the achievement of portraying those times. But I think she has done it brilliantly.

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2019




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Caution – Rabbits hitch-hiking

Near Ridge Park, Adelaide is a traffic sign, which used to warn of elderly people crossing. For some weeks now, the sign has been upside down (see above). It’s on Glen Osmond Road, near the bottom of the south-east freeway. It would be one of the first things people driving from Victoria see on arriving in Adelaide. (For non-Australian readers, there is a fair bit of animosity between Victorians and Adelaideans). I often wonder what they might think of the sign, especially if they’ve looked at optical illusion pictures. On the other hand, they probably just see an upside down warning of elderly people ahead.

 

Caution – One-Eyed Rabbits Hitch-Hiking

Caution – One-eyed rabbits smoking cigars

Caution – One-eyed rabbits line-dancing

Caution – Abusive two-finger gestures ahead

Caution – Abusive two-finger gestures combined with A-OK gestures ahead

Caution – Abusive one-balled rabbits ahead

Caution – Elderly people helping each other across the road whilst doing head-stands

Caution – Elderly Inverted Line Dancers Ahead

Caution – Fancy cocktails with two straws ahead

Caution – One eyed rabbits drinking fancy cocktails ahead

Caution – One eyed rabbits spitting out fur-balls ahead

Caution – Double Fuck off back to Victoria

Caution – Bad shadow puppetry ahead

Caution – Rabbits cleaning their ears with Q-Tips

Hey Victorians:  Fuck off back to Melbourne and take your bloody one-eyed, one-balled, cigar-smoking, fur-ball-spitting, cocktail-drinking, line-dancing, hitch-hiking fucking rabbits with you.

 

Glen Osmond Road, Myrtle Bank


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Reading with Louise Nicholas at the Halifax Cafe, Wednesday 26th September 2018

 

Wednesday, 26th September, 2018, 6 p.m to 7:30 p.m
Halifax Cafe,
187 Halifax Street, Adelaide

I’ll be reading with the wonderful Louise Nicholas as part of the Friendly Street Poets Featured Poets series (unless we’ve been deported before then)

(photo by Alex Ellinghausen)

More Details on the FSP site:
http://friendlystreetpoets.org.au/2018/09/16/fsp-featured-poets-at-halifax-cafe-mike-hopkins-and-louse-nicholas/

 

For non-Australians, the nasty looking character in the pic above is Peter Dutton., He very, very nearly became our Prime Minister a few weeks ago. Instead we ended up with an almost equally nasty piece of work called Scott Morrison, who came flying through a field of incompetents in a sort of Steven Bradbury finish. Dutton has been under investigation for fast-tracking tourist visas for European au pairs, some of whom allegedly work for alleged friends and party donors. At the same time, he prosecutes a vicious campaign against refugees, keeping them locked up for years in awful conditions offshore. He came into Parliament recently with two files marked with the names of political opponents – a not-so-veiled threat that he would dish out dirt on anyone who attacked him.

The Bands You Have and Haven’t Heard of

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin Wallpaper (27517850) - Fanpop

My old school pal, Paul Flatt, has undertaken the gargantuan task of writing a blog post every day through 2018, and a great job he is making of it. Granted, I may be biased, as his musings cover a life which overlapped with mine for several years when we were both students at the hell-hole known as Gunnersbury Grammar School for Boys in West London. But Paul writes well and ranges over topics as diverse as rock music, politics, rubbish removal (or non-removal) in Northampton, rugby, home renovations, television and radio and family life. His excellent blog can be found here.

In yesterday’s (7th September) post, Paul recounted getting his hands on an import version of Led Zeppelin 1. This would have been, I think, 1969, when he was 16 and I was 15 (I was the youngest in our year). I can also remember laying my hands on it, some months later than Paul did – the album was released in the USA before the UK. I too remember thrilling to the way Jimmy Page’s guitar soared between one stereo speaker and the other. (As an aside, it was my brother’s stereo system, which my mother bought “on the H.P.” from Simm’s Electrical in Sudbury Hill, and I can remember the repo men knocking on the door to take it away when she couldn’t keep up the payments).

And to attest to the timelessness of the music (to me at least), I have it in the CD player in my car. It was one of the few CDs which I left in the car before I went to Vietnam last year, so I was clearly listening to it last year as well.

Led Zeppelin II was an album I liked as well, but then, as often happens with me, I started to lose interest when the band became “big”. I always tended to prefer, for some reason, niche bands or bands that were made up of eccentrics or had a guitarist kicked out of another band that went on to become huge without him.

Which reminded me of a poem I wrote a few years ago:

 

The Bands You’ve Never Heard of

I always loved the bands that never quite made it,

 

that had a critically acclaimed first album

which they couldn’t follow up,

 

released a single which briefly

reached twenty-nine in the top thirty,

 

had an incredible multi-instrumentalist

who could play two saxophones at the same time

and was revered as a god in Nigeria,

 

that were nothing without the drop dead lead guitarist

who dropped dead too young to join the twenty-seven club,

 

that were formed by a bloke

who left a super group just before it became super

and now lives in a council house in the English Midlands

a few miles from the sprawling Gothic estates of his erstwhile band members,

 

that made an ill-advised appearance on Top of the Pops

stoned out of their minds miming

in front of the gob-smacked bubblegummers,

 

released L.P.s. with multi-coloured swirls on the vinyl,

causing a ripple of excitement at the time

and now eagerly sought by collectors of oddities,

 

had intriguing names taken from a Kipling poem, or a classic film

or an obscure 18th century inventor of agricultural implements,

 

produced albums with two stupendous tracks,

the rest filled with white boy versions of Elmore James standards,

 

that were talented jazz musicians trying their luck

at being a rock band before realising it needed a different key;

 

that you can find in grainy recordings on YouTube

with a hundred and twenty views and two ‘likes’, one of which is mine;

 

that wrote a great song which most people think

was written by the well-known band who took it to number one in the charts,

 

that referenced snatches of Bach or Coltrane

in the middle of 30 minute organ solos,

 

devised a killer riff that was stolen

and used in someone else’s million seller,

 

toured the States as support acts for Led Zep or Purple,

third on the bill, live at the Fillmore,

paid a pittance to open the show

and would have had the crowd screaming “more, more, more”

but the crowd was still queuing to get in,

 

that were just as good as the great bands

but not as good-looking.

 

You’ve got no idea who I’m talking about, have you?

 

______________

Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018
except image

Parliament House – Cleaning Contractor Report

Parliament House – Cleaning Contractor Report

August 24th 2018

Claim for Additional Payment

 

Our monthly charge for cleaning Parliament House covers the items, areas and services recorded in our contract (CC2018PD345/13). This additional claim is submitted for the extraordinary work of cleaning and refurbishment on the evening of August 24th 2018, identified herewith:

  • Large bloodstained areas around, under and immediately behind the front bench.
  • Deep incisions in the furniture inflicted by several sharp instruments.
  • Blood spatter on walls. More than usual.
  • Several areas of severe soakage, some still warm (urine?), others cold (tears?)
  • Around the opposition benches, also areas of severe soakage (tears of laughter?).
  • Deep indentations on walls and the backs of seats, as if inflicted by members’ foreheads.
  • Extensive deep drag marks in the carpets leading to the exits, as if a body, maybe several bodies had been pulled, heels down, out of the building, to be disposed of.
  • Unusual amounts of rotten tomatoes, banana skins and crumpled ransom notes.
  • Several piles of vomit in the public gallery.
  • Most difficult to deal with are the heaps of excrement. They resemble those found at another of our clients, an abattoir, at the point where animals realise their fate.

We attach our bill for additional payment, in the amount of $22,000, due to the need to call in specialist staff and equipment to deal with the above, and to provide trauma counselling to those staff.

Yours Faithfully,

 

 

 

__________________________

F. Carpenter
Manager, Canberra Corporate Cleaning Pty. Ltd

 

 

 

 


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018

Note to Australian Federal Police - this is a work of fiction
Special thanks to Rachael Mead for the workshop in which this was drafted.

Book Review: “The Rules of Backyard Cricket” by Jock Serong

The Rules of Backyard CricketThe Rules of Backyard Cricket by Jock Serong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a terrific read, gripping from start to finish. It describes the rise and fall of brothers who become two of the leading Australian cricketers. Serong says that the characters are not based on real cricketers, but he writes with an insider’s authority. The events are almost completely believable apart from some unlikely twists that stretch credulity.

The main characters, Darren and Walley Keefe, could almost parallel the Waugh twins – one dour and professional, the other a maverick. Serong extends the differences in personalities for the Keefe brothers, one becoming more of a Shane Warne character and the other a seemingly dour Bradman.

The book takes us inside the cosseted world of the elite sportsmen – the hangers-on, the corruption, the drugs, the media circus, the betting – as well as the excitement of the brothers progress from child prodigies to national figures.

The writing is of a high standard. Each chapter commences with a short update of Darren’s current predicament and then goes chronologically through the series of events which led the brothers to their current impasse. There are well delineated supporting characters, which add colour and credibility to the story.

Recommended, especially if you are or were into cricket and like a rollicking thriller.

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Book Review: “Meet My Mother” by Louise Nicholas

Meet My MotherMeet My Mother by Louise Nicholas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Louise Nicholas is a much-loved and admired Adelaide based poet. This book, about her mother Dorothy, builds on the writing of her mother, and supplements it with Louise’s recollections of her relationship with her mother. There are poems by Louise about her mother, poetic letters which her mother wrote to her in Louise’s adult travelling years, and sections of prose providing a timeline through her mother’s life.

Louise describes her mother’s life, in a non-pejorative way, as ‘a little life’. Most of us indeed lead little lives, without achieving or experiencing anything world shattering, getting through life as best we can. This book shows that a little life can still be an incredibly rich life, where the day-to-day challenges of childhood, family and ageing are wrestled with. It is written with the gentle humour and accessibility which characterises Louise’s poetry. And in Dorothy’s poetic letters to Louise, one can detect the seeds of Louise’s poetic style – just one of the many gifts that her mother left her.

A lovely book.

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Book Review: “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien

The Things They CarriedThe Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tim O’Brien was conscripted into the U.S. Army and sent to Vietnam. This book is a series of vignettes, not claiming to be fact, which detail the life, the events, the state of mind of a soldier and his colleagues before, during and after the Vietnam war. It is completely engrossing, partly because it is incredibly well-written and partly because it gives such insight into the minds of the men he describes. The events cover the full gamut of what we now know happens in war – the brutality, the incredible endurance, the tenderness, the cruelty, the dehumanisation. Some of the most touching stories take place in the U.S.A. when the main character is only a child and falls in love, and later when he is grappling with the possibility of escaping to Canada and dodging the draft.

The stories stand alone, but together form a rich picture of one man’s incredible experiences, his fight with his conscience and his battle to retain his sanity. This is not a standard war memoir; this is a complex insight into the effect of war on ordinary men.

Highly, highly recommended.

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