Poets, Pizza, Crowd-Sourced Poetry and Requests

Last night (Friday 17th Jan 2020), I performed in the beautiful new pavilion at Coriole Winery, overlooking the majestic McLaren Vale vineyards. A large and raucous crowd, fuelled by the excellent Coriole wines and fed by pizza from the newly constructed pizza oven, gave a warm reception to me, Sarah-Jane Justice, Emilia Haskey and Alison Bennett. The evening was MCd by the lovely Jude Aquilina who interspersed the performances with poems of her own and of others, including a new and very moving one to her partner Brenton, who had been fighting the bushfires on Kangaroo Island.

I tried something completely different as part of my set last night. I distributed clip boards amongst the crowd and asked them to write one liners about behaviours that make them want to shout “Selfish Bastards” at other people. I thought I might get one or two suggestions or none at all, but was inundated with contributions. Clearly there are a lot of selfish bastards out there. At the end of my set I incorporated most of these lines into my “Selfish Bastards” poem. It was a lot of fun. There were lewd, rude, funny and insightful lines from the audience. Just a  few of my favourites:

“People who holiday in Hawaii”

“People who dump me Xmas Eve (fuck you Dan)”

“People who don’t believe in climate change”

“People who think sex ends when they’ve orgasmed”

“Carnivores who eat all the vegetarian pizzas”

“People who’s mobile phones ring during poetry readings”

“People who know they’ve had more pizza than the rest of us but keep on eating it” (with accompanying diagram!)

Anyway, the poem itself went down well, and the whole evening was great fun. Many thanks to Jude Aquilina for the invite and to the wonderful management and staff at Coriole Winery for hosting the event. If you’re ever in McLaren Vale, pay them a visit, not just because they support the arts, but also because they are lovely people, their wine is world-class and the winery is such a beautiful spot.

Two people asked me for copies of poems I read which are not yet published, so I thought the easiest thing to do would be to put them here on the blog where they can access them and pass them onto friends. One is my sensitive little love poem to Donald Trump (for Tom from Norfolk – have fun in India). The other is my take on Philip Larkin’s “This be the Verse”, mine being titled “This be the ReVerse”, for Margret without an “a” – hope your children are the ones you deserve.

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Donald Trump, I Love You Man

Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

Your orange skin face and your bright golden hair

Your peppermint breath and your predators glare

Your hair surfs your head from one side to the other

like a baby hamster in search of its mother

I love how you hold up your neat thumb and finger

like you’re summoning thoughts through the hole in your sphincter



Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

I love the way you don’t read no books

You got all your wisdom from working with crooks

No need for long words, no speech hi falutin

Your message is simple, just trust Mr. Putin

We trust you’re the man to clean up this mess

We don’t trust you more but we distrust you less



 

Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

You’ll keep those illegals from crossing our borders

with their nachos and tacos and cheap Margaritas

You’ll build a huge wall and you’ll send them the bill

and if they don’t pay you’ll nuke them to hell.

Real ‘mericans will get the great jobs that they do

Like mowing the lawn and cleaning your loo



 

Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

I’ve heard the fake news of your sexual disgrace

with cute Russian hookers who piss on your face

And the stuff about groping and grabbing of pussy

Your businesses bankrupt, your real estate dodgy

But you wouldn’t waggle your horny old trumpet

In Russian hotels, with weak bladdered strumpets



 

Oh Donald Trump, I love you man

You say you can see that the future is dark

some say that’s because your head’s up your arse

You did it the hard way, you started with nowt

Apart from your billionaire Daddy’s hand out

You’re not polite and you’re not genteel

And you pulled off the greatest old snake oil deal

that’s why, Donny baby, our love is for real.

That’s why Donald Trump, I truly, madly, deeply love you man


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This Be The ReVerse

after Philip Larkin’s “This Be The Verse”

 

They fuck you up your sons and daughters

They mean to, yes of course they do.

They blame you when they shouldn’t ought to

Denying all that you hold true.



 

And we fucked up our Mums and Dads,

Complained of absence and neglect.

Our rebel instincts drove them mad,

We thought them gormless, dull, inept.



 

We place the blame on those before.

We pass the parcel in reverse.

But here’s a truth you can’t ignore:

You get the children you deserve.





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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2020

To everyone who has given to us in anyway since our place burned

Words of gratitude from bushfire victims Belinda and Ervin

Belinda Broughton

How can we thank you enough? 

If ever I had doubts about the hearts of others, about generosity of spirit, or pure love, I have no doubts now. It is incredibly humbling to be on the receiving end of such openness of spirit, and we can’t thank you all enough.  

Beautiful Hearts, thank you for helping us, for digging into your pockets, your wardrobes, your art supplies (among other things) to help us. On Friday the first payment from GoFundMe came through. It is a relief. And while the insurance has not given us the final go ahead, it looks like it will go ahead, though typically, it is far too small. 

And talking of insurance, I urge you to look carefully at your policies. Those of you who are in fire zones, remember that if you have to rebuild, the cost of building a house, wherein the largest diameter…

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Poets and Pizza – Coriole Winery – Friday 17th January 2020

 

I’m delighted to be appearing at Coriole’s Poets and Pizza event on Friday 17th January 2020 at 6:30 pm. It’s a stunning location in McLaren Vale. Coriole make some of the best wine on the planet and the crowd are always boisterous and out for a fun night.

Tickets are $35 a head, which includes pizza. Booking in advance recommended because the event has regularly sold out in the past.

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Poets and Pizza

Coriole has been celebrating and supporting South Australian poets since 2005 with the Poets and Pizza event.
Come indulge in a raucous evening of poetry, great company, wood fired pizza and wines by Coriole.
For this event we welcome Jude Aquilina, Emelia Haskey, Sarah Jane Justice, Alison Paradoxx and Mike Hopkins.
On Friday 17 January 2020 at 6:30pm

LOCATION

Coriole Vineyards
Chaffeys Road, McLaren Vale, SA 5171

Book here

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various angles

The personal aftermath of fire

Belinda Broughton

People who have lost people
People who have lost their possessions
People who have lost their homes
Their buildings 
Their livelihoods
Their sheds of hay
Their orchards and vineyards
People who have buried animals
Nurses of both people and animals
Fire fighters and the families of fire fighters
Those who are ok but are shit scared
People who have lost the places where they go for solace
their sacred spaces
The community of individuals who witnessed it
The list goes on

Healing trauma takes a long time
People don’t want platitudes 
They don’t want encouraging stories of other people’s survival
They don’t want stories of how hard your or other people’s lives have been
They want practical action, a sense of hope
They need to be witnessed 
They need to be heard
in their own time 
and in their own way
They want to hold their hurt in their hearts…

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Three Lists written at 2:00 AM the night after we found out we’d lost Nearly Everything

Two lists after the fire.

Belinda Broughton

List of Lost Objects that matter now.
None of them. 

List of things lost that I’m sad about:
Bob the bird. (Shrike Thrush) whom Ervin fed, and whom we loved. 
All of the other birds, especially the small ones. Wrens, thornbills, pardalotes, finches. Maybe the bigger ones got out? 
Native animals, our resident echidna. 
Ervin’s sculptures and woodblock prints. 
All of my on-paper haiga.
My hand made paintbrushes and a couple of comercial brushes that still sang at forty years old. 
The singing bowls. My shaman’s drum. 
All of Ervin’s framed works and prints in boxes. A lot of his negatives. The ones I didn’t scan. 
Our new pigment printer. 
My hut. His studio. Our little house in the woods. 
The woods. 
The records of our toys ( that we made for a living for thirty years).
My jewellery, mostly worthless, but especially the ones made by friends. Ida for…

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chronology of a displacement

My friends Belinda and Ervin lost their home in the fires this week. Here are Belinda’s thoughts

Belinda Broughton

View from Lobethal Bakery. Later it burnt to the very edge of the town and was only held back by the vigilance of firefighters. Our place is just a ridge from the flames to the right.

On the morning of Friday 20th the electricity went off. Two fire engines went past. Looked on internet, saw fire very close. Packed the computers, a few coats, his camera kit, some important files, and random sundry items. Drove out with car and van, went back for his walking sticks. We did a sort of stop start journey, realising each time that we were still too close, eventually ending up at my daughter’s place (much to her relief). Watched the CFS maps with our hearts in our mouths.

Drove up home on Saturday 21th, with son and daughter. Were let through the closed roads by police. Hope in the main Street because it looked…

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Book Review: “Fallen: The inside story of the secret trial and conviction of Cardinal George Pell” by Lucie Morris-Marr

I read this book in three days, which, by my standards is very, very fast. That’s because it is a gripping story, even though, like just about everybody in Australia, I knew the outcome.

This is a scorching condemnation of the Catholic Church hierarchy but also of contemporary Australia where vested interests seek to determine who and what is given publicity, which convicted criminals deserve empathy, and when the law should be respected or undermined.

The most striking aspects of the whole saga, captured well by Lucie Morris-Marr, are:

  1. The way that powerful interests worked to initially suppress the news of the accusations against Pell, and then to discredit those involved, and finally and bizarrely to still sing the praises of the convicted paedophile. Pell was known for his right-wing social attitudes on a range of issues. I doubt the likes of Howard and Abbott would have been supportive of a priest such as Father Rod Bower (Gosford Anglican) if he had been convicted of the same offences.
  2. That News Corporation is a vindictive, biased organisation only interested in stories that support its worldview (but you knew that already, didn’t you).
  3. That the Catholic Church has a long, dark history of sexual abuse and of doing everything in its power to hide the abuse, putting its own reputation above the welfare of children.

Morris-Marr starts at almost the end – the day when the jury’s verdicts on the four charges against Cardinal George Pell, are to be announced.

She then goes back three years to the start of her involvement in the story, when she was working as a freelance reporter for News Corporation. She finds out that there is police task force investigating accusations of sexual assault of minors by Pell, and then that Pell is to be charged with the offences. Initially News Corp are delighted to have such a scoop, and splash it on the front page of the Courier-Mail. However, things quickly turn sour when Pell’s powerful connections, including Andrew Bolt, move to have the story squashed. Morris-Marr finds herself without a job and, by the sound of it, having a nervous breakdown.

However, she finds support from CNN and The New Daily, and is back on the trail of Pell. Despite a suppression order preventing publicity of the trials, she doggedly attends every day of the initial trial, which ended without a verdict, and the retrial. She takes us through Pell’s life from young sporting hero, to seminarian, to his meteoric rise to become the third most powerful person in the Catholic Church. At one stage he was even spoken of as a possible Pope.

Her account of his time in Ballarat, where he shared a residence with notorious paedophile Gerard Ridsdale is most revealing. It seems inconceivable that Pell was unaware of the horrendous activities going on in the same building where he lived. One victim says that while she was being raped by Ridsdale, a man, most likely Pell, walked past the open doorway and did nothing to intervene. There are also accounts of Pell fondling boys at the swimming pool, and of being warned off by a man who witnessed him standing naked in front of small boys.

She also recounts his handling of historical clerical sexual abuse for the Church, establishing the so-called Melbourne Response. Many victims of abuse were deeply dissatisfied with, even traumatised, by the way in which they were treated by the Church under Pell’s management.

But Pell was not on trial for turning a blind eye to abuse, nor for his alleged involvement with boys at a swimming pool. He was on trial for assaulting two choir boys in the priests’ sacristy at Melbourne Cathedral. One of the boys committed suicide as an adult, before the assault came to trial. It is the evidence of the second boy, whose name has been closely guarded, which formed the main case against Pell. This evidence was presented only to the jury and no transcripts were released. There is thus an unavoidable gap in the story.

The picture of Pell presented here is of an ambitious, determined, conservative man with very powerful friends. The book also presents a picture of a legal system within which the wheels of justice grind slowly but relentlessly towards a resolution.

Pedant alert. The book was rushed out in the wake of the guilty verdict. Inevitably there are typos and other grammatical errors (in my ebook edition at least) which hopefully will be fixed in later editions . e.g. “Tony Abbot”, “in other incidences”, “juggling an eggshell”, “the cardinal just put his dead down”, the quotation from Howard’s letter not put in quotation marks.


Copyright Mike Hopkins 2019

Book Review: “No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison” by Behrouz Boochani

No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus PrisonNo Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison by Behrouz Boochani

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amongst the many shocking and astonishing things about this book, is that Boochani wrote it secretly in Farsi on a mobile phone which he had to keep hidden from the prison guards. He sent thousands of PDF files using Whatsapp to his translator Dr Omid Tofighian.

Perhaps even Scott Morrison and Peter Dutton would have to agree that it is miraculous that the end-result is such a cohesive, detailed, persuasive, poetic narrative. But then again, if Morrison and Dutton ever read books, this one would be bottom of their list, because it is a damning indictment of their immigration policies and their inhumanity.

Boochani is a Kurd. He was a member of the Kurdish Democratic party which is outlawed in Iran, and of the National Union of Kurdish Students. As a result he was watched closely by the Iranian authorities. The first part of the book describes Boochani’s time in Indonesia and then two attempts to come to Australia by boat, almost dying in the process. Boochani then gives a detailed, sickening description of what he calls the Kyriarchal system imposed on the asylum seekers in Manus – a system built around domination, oppression, and submission. Everything that might give the asylum seekers any sense of humanity, dignity or self-respect is denied them. The system requires detainees to queue for hours or days for everything – food, cigarettes, telephones, medical attention, anti-malarials. The queues pit man against man. Generators are turned off in the intense heat to keep the men exhausted. The toilets and showers are like open sewers. Self-harm is prevalent. Fights break out regularly over minor issues. Huge mosquitoes feast on their exposed flesh. Any attempt to buck the system is met with brutality from the Australian security guards and even the locals, the ‘Papus’. In short, Manus is a living-hell.

There can be no justification for the way Australia treats asylum-seekers. To drive men mad in these conditions, with the supposed justification that it will prevent others from risking their lives at sea is a thin cover. In reality, ever since John Howard, the Australian Government has exploited racism in Australia for electoral advantage. Asylum seekers are a convenient distraction from the corruption and nepotism that the Government gets away with on a daily basis. The Australian media, even the ABC, is mostly a cheerleader for these policies.

The words “important book” have been bandied around a lot recently, but this really does deserve that nomenclature. Surely nobody who reads it can ever again support Australia’s asylum seeker policies.

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Copyright Mike Hopkins 2019

Gig: Wednesday 2nd October 2019 at The Wheatsheaf Hotel.

NW OCT

The monthly No Wave readings are a sort of heir to the long-running Lee Marvin readings which stopped a few years ago. Curated by Dom Symes, Banjo James and Olivia De Zilva, they usually feature four invited poets. Each poet reads for ten minutes with a break between the second and third readers. The Wheatsheaf is a great pub, serving a wide selection of their own and other micro-brewery beers, wines and spirits. Always a nice buzz at these readings. Get along if you can. $5 entry.

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Book Review: “How Late it Was, How Late” by James Kelman

How Late it Was, How LateHow Late it Was, How Late by James Kelman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sammy’s wisdom: “Folk take a battering but, they do; they get born and they get brought up and they get fuckt. That’s the story; the cot to the fucking funeral pyre.”

James Kelman won the Booker Prize for this novel, in 1994. It was, apparently, a controversial winner, mainly because of objections to the profane language. The book is in Scots dialect, from the point of view of Sammy. We first meet Sammy waking from a monster hangover, the cause of which he cannot remember. He soon picks a fight with some “sodjas” (policemen), and ends up in a police cell, waking again to find that he has lost his sight as a result of the beating he received. The rest of the book is his stream of consciousness as he comes to terms with this disaster, which it seems is just one of many, many disasters which have befallen him. He is estranged from his wife and son, his current girlfriend has disappeared, he has had spells in prison, there are suggestions of politically motivated violence, he has no money and, it seems, no friends he can rely on.

“Ye wake in a corner and stay there hoping yer body will disappear, the thoughts smothering ye; these thoughts; but ye want to remember and face up to things, just something keeps ye from doing it, why can ye no do it; the words filling yer head: then the other words; there’s something wrong; there’s something far far wrong; ye’re no a good man, ye’re just no a good man.”

I found Sammy a surprisingly sympathetic character. His outlook on life is philosophical, almost Buddhist at times. He holds no animosity towards the police who beat him. Towards the end, when his estranged son appears, their relationship is quite touching. Also evident is the kindness towards him of neighbours and Glasgow locals.

This is not an easy read. I’m not familiar with Scots, but perhaps my Irish / English origins made it fairly easy for me to understand. Others might find it hard going. But it is a tremendous achievement to hold the reader’s attention, as it did mine, by describing the inner thoughts of a newly blind man who exists on the margins of society, who utterly distrusts authority and has little hope of redemption.

“Waiting rooms. Ye go into this room where ye wait. Hoping’s the same. One of these days the cunts’ll build entire fucking buildings just for that. Official hoping rooms, where ye just go in and hope for whatever the fuck ye feel like hoping for.”

© Mike Hopkins 2019 (other than quotes from book)


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