Monthly Archives: June 2012

A Little Bit More Light…

With the set of photos Cindy sent through to me this week, I couldn’t just select one… they are so frisky & innovative. So here’s a handful more for you to roll your eyes over. The lights were most definitely bright this Friday!

*****

all photographs by Cindy Keong

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Perfect Saturday Morning Music: The Cherry Thing

Neneh Cherry, who rose to stardom in freewheelin’ punk-jazz troupe Rip Rig & Panic (for those of you old enough to remember they performed on The Young Ones), has returned with her first album since 1996’s Man, an album of covers titled, The Cherry Thing. But this is no ordinary album of covers… teaming up with Scandinavian free-jazz legends, The Thing, they meld their worlds of avant-pop and improvisational muscle to push the boundaries of each song, until they collapse and reform into something truly exciting. I know the year is only at the half-way point, but this is going to be a major contender for album of the year! Here they are transforming MF Doom & Madvillain’s, Accordian. This is bound to get your Saturday morning jumping!

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The Zen Parables of Steven Carter

The art of haiku is never far from my mind, so it is always a joy to discover a new collection that has been released. Steven Carter’s latest book After Blossom Viewing: Zen parables with Haiku was released by Alba publishing in May this year, so when Patricia Prime offered me the chance to publish her review of the collection, I of course said yes.

After Blossom Viewing: Zen Parables with Haiku by Steven Carter. Uxbridge, Alba Publishing. (2012) p.b. 36 pp. RRP: US$10. UK£7.00 / €8.00. ISBN 978-0-9551254-7-8. Reviewed by Patricia Prime

Steven Carter is a linguistic virtuoso; his work encompassing haiku, tanka, haibun and now his latest offering – Zen parables. Carter’s work is often self-referential, based on his experiences, travel and nature, but the viewpoint in this new book is different, distinctive, disarming in some way.

The set-up is straightforward enough, featuring in twenty-six parables either a Zen Master and his novice or a group of novices, or a monk narrating a fable. What’s notable about them is that they’re almost all narrated in a one-on-one conversation. It’s a remarkable feat: dramatic, sometimes humourous, often very wise. There are moments of comedy, sombre moments of fasting and hunger, revelatory moments, as when a jolly monk tells the story of a cruel emperor in “The Unhappy Emperor”, which ends on a suitably merry note:

“Tell me the secret of happiness,” he thundered, “or I shall have you beheaded.”
“There are two secrets to happiness,” the man said, “The first is being     summoned to such a grand palace as this, to see the towers, the coats of arms, the torches  – “
“What is the second secret?” the emperor cut him off gruffly.
“The second secret is not being beheaded by the emperor,” replied the man.

Cloud Mountain –
the world
seen through a ruby

All the personae are vulnerable to shock and change: the circle of novices in “The Meadow”, one of whom announces that he has no illusions, only to be advised that everything is an illusion. There’s the Zen Master in “The Message” who tells a story from the outside world about a man who receives a letter from his lover only to discover there is no letter inside the envelope, but “the man keeps the envelope very carefully.” A once worldly monk in “Of Love” shares a parable concerning a man sitting beside the sea when a single drop of water lands on his hand and he believes “that the entire sea was contained in that drop. . .

The plain, effective language of “The Monks”, a humourous parable of two monks, allusion and image deal with the theme of comfort in the likeness of their shiny bald heads:

Two bald monks sit down at a table. Pointing to his shiny pate, one says, “On me it looks good.” The other agrees, “On you it looks good.” Both are comforted.

knitted brow of clouds –
seeking a horizon
the summer moon.

In contrast, in “Three Birds” he describes a lay monk remembering a fable about a yellow bird and two sparrows:

A yellow bird flew onto a branch next to two sparrows.
“A canary!” the first sparrow said.
“All canaries aren’t yellow, my friend,” the yellow bird said.
“An all yellow birds aren’t canaries, my friend,” the second sparrow said.
“So I am content to be a yellow bird.”

harmony –
mountain winds
mountain shadows

There’s enjoyment in nature and the countryside is evoked in many of the parables, as we see in “Last Day of the Sixth Month”:

Sitting in a bamboo garden outside the Fukushima Temple, two Zen monks wax philosophical.
“We don’t agree on much, my friend,” observes one, “but you will agree that there are things in life that do not change, that they are, I mean to say, immortal?”
“Yes.”
“And will you agree that the immortal things of this world cannot bestow immortality?”
“Yes, my friend. That’s why they are immortal!”

once again
yesterday’s birdsong –
a different branch

The landscape is beautifully evoked in both the prose and the haiku: “a tree bowing over the steam”, “a grove of poplars”, “mountain shadows”, “the summer moon and “a spreading bayan”. But Carter’s focus is on personal landscapes, the parables he is recounting and their effect both on the novices and the readers of the parables.

Towards the end the book, and perhaps where we see the duality of prose and poem at its best, is the long parable “Near Kyoto” in which Carter uses his poetic skill to ensure that this story crucial to an understanding of parables is neither forgotten nor mythologised by telling it in controlled language. The voices speak plain English: “You know, my friend, doing things right makes one happy. You ought to try it.” Yet the man who did get things wrong prefers to ignore his talkative friend and replies: “But I am happy, my friend; happy as the proverbial mollusk!”

Funny and poignant, tender and wise, the author’s virtuosity impresses. The book contains much fine writing and some positive endings to his tales.

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Introducing 2012 Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence a.rawlings

The arrival of the Arts QLD Poet-in-Residence is always an exciting time, so it is with great pleasure that I welcome Canadian interdisciplinary artist a.rawlings to our shores for the next few months.

After chatting with her over lunch the other day, it looks like she has a full-on schedule that will see her traveling north to the tropics and west out to big sky country to harvest sounds and visuals for her legacy piece that will be launched as part of A Million Bright Things on Saturday August 25  at the QLD Poetry Festival (the full program is online here).

But before she heads off on her explorations, she is running the first of many workshops at QLD Writers Centre this coming Sunday, July 1. There is still room for anyone interested in enrolling in her Ecopoetics workshop where she promises new work will be devised through an exploration of contemporary poetic forms such as erasure and collaborative cut-up. The workshop is just $15 and runs from 6pm – 8pm. To book a spot email Talina McKenzie: qldpoetry@gmail.com

Here’s a.rawlings in full performance mode, collaborating with maja jantar from their Centre for Sleep and Dream Studies project:

Can’t wait to see her back on stage! To keep up with her residency, I recommend checking out her site: http://qldpir.tumblr.com/

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swinging the axe
sunlight splits
the firewood

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winter rain
reciting you
a love poem

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Another Lost Shark 2012 Tour: Let the Words Take Flight

After sitting in on drums with The Lucky Ones last night at The Back Room, I am eager to hit the mic for the first home leg of the 2012 touring season this coming Friday.

David Stavanger (aka Ghostboy) has put together an all-star jam featuring some of the hottest poets and performers this city has to offer to launch the 2012 Australian Poetry Slam.

Aptly titled, Let the Words Take Flight showcases the word in all its glory with short sets from curator of the highly successful ‘Spoken’ shows  Mandy Beaumont; Slammer extraordinaire Robin ‘Archie’ Archbold; fresh from Canberra, co-creator of Bad!Slam!No!Biscuit!, Adam Hadley; the swoon-inducing duo of Betsy Turcot & Eleanor Jackson; folk-punkers, Mr & Mrs Woolf; bush poet and entertainer, Noel Stallard; host of the JamJar Slam, the irrepressible, Darkwing Dubs; the always outlandish, Pascalle Burton; founding vocalist of The Winnie Coopers, The Educator; and the oceanic swell of Sheish Money & this Lost Shark.

All this plus performances by hosts Tessa Leon and Ghostboy w/ Sir Richard Grantham.

Fireworks will have nothing on this gig!

Here’s the details:

When: Friday June 29, 7:00pm-9:30pm.
Doors @ 6:30pm
Where: The State Library of QLD, QLD Terrace
Cost: Free but reservations preferred (for numbers)
More info/reservations: http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/calevents/general/awards/APS12/flight

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