Can Poetry Be Happy?

By | 1 September 2023

The eight-year-old Corey smiles next to his little brother in a photo taken by his grandad. So, is it that he is smiling away the weight of history on the present and future (personified by the boy Corey) for an old man? Does the grandson reassure his grandfather that what he’s done, bringing new life into the world, is OK? Is this ‘the image of Australia’? This image in a poem of an image taken in one’s childhood, later printed on a mug and gifted back to the boy, now a man, in the photo. The ‘Afterword’ is not the world, it is something in opposition to it, a pretty picture that finally lets you in … by which I mean, lets you out of the anxious drudgery of the everyday, the worldly rest of The Alarming Conservatoryand the scene of reading it.

* * *

I’ve been reading Sally Rooney in bed, watching the Jaimie Oliver Talks Dirty video and sending that video to my friend. Earlier, I showed my dad the Corey Worthington interview with Leila McKinnon on A Current Affair. After reminding him of the story of Worthington’s party, which famously got out of hand, the public online invite (via MySpace) having gone out to ‘hundreds’ of punters, dad goes: ‘oh, he’s the GOAT COAT’, egging me on to ask what he means. ‘Greatest Of All Time Cunt Of A Thing’. The coat reverses the goat. The revealed phrase is difficult poetry and it makes me happy.

* * *

The best part about Corey Worthington’s party was the interview the morning after, which played that night on Channel 9’s A Current Affair. Corey stands outside his house, facing the camera through his huge yellow-rimmed bug-eyed glasses. He wears a camouflage parka unzipped, nothing underneath. His left nipple is pierced, and a white and rainbow-detailed snapback holds down his unruly blonde hair. He’s a little shit, and knows it, but so calm in this mode he doesn’t crack the slightest grin.

McKinnon attempts to control the narrative with questions aimed at shaming the 16-year old boy, but Corey doesn’t budge.

LM (smug): ‘The only question I can think to ask is, what were you thinking?’ 
CW: ‘Ummm, I wasn’t really.’

Anxious at his lack of solemnity, McKinnon pushes forward, asking Corey to ‘say sorry’, which he actually does, but not demonstratively enough for television.

LM: ‘Why don’t you take off your glasses …’ 
CW: ‘Mmmmmm mm nah, I’ll leave these on, I like ‘em.’

McKinnon pushes forward trying to produce the narrative she’d imagined, of whipping the naughty boy into line.

LM: ‘Why don’t you take off your glasses [...] Why not?’ 
CW: ‘Because they’re famous’.

And, so, the whole thing tips. McKinnon, wrapping up: ‘What would you say to other kids who are thinking of having a party when their parents are out of town?’ She hits the ‘t’ in ‘party’ so hard. It’s so embarrassing. Worthington responds with the money shot: ‘Get me to do it for you’.

* * *

Corey Worthington recorded a cover of the Beastie Boys’ ‘Fight For Your Right (To Party)’ in 2008. I’m listening to the [Radio Mix] on Apple Music. The young Australian raps the final verse:

Don't step out of this house if that's the clothes you're gonna wear
I'll kick you out of my home if you don't cut that hair
Your mum busted in and said, what's that noise?
Aw, mum you're just jealous it's the PARTY Boys

The [Club Mix] is thumping bass and snare hits, echoey vocals, a weak and uninspiring techno reincarnation of the guitar riff, and finally after a while a bleep bloop UFO sounding tinkle arrives over the top of all this. Whatever grit and humour and perversion exists in the original is replaced by a sickly aesthetics of cashing in. We can hardly resent Corey for cashing in – in this economy? By refusing to be shamed by the media on A Current Affair, Worthington gained power. What would shame have scored him? More peace and quiet? More massive claustrophobia? More Narre Warren South?

CW, that deranged kiddie, wanted out. But where did he get?

Around the time of Corey Worthington’s party, the 2008s, was the last hurrah of a specific aesthetic of excess in Australia via the US, which we might call the spirit of the party. The spirit of the party is amoral, deliberately, knowingly, unpretentiously stupid. But suffused on the deepest level with great feeling, as in the foreground chairs are tossed onto roofs of unsuspecting houses and the tops of cars are walked across by kids wielding bottles of vodka. The spirit of the party is about community, but it is about being random, it is about simply being there, breaking something but also ideally doing a random act of kindness as well? It is about awesomeness. It is about being a legend; it’s a legendary party.

In and around this year, 2008, year of the Global Financial Crisis, were films like Superbad (2007), The Hangover (2009), and later Project X (2012) which is based roughly on Corey Worthington’s party. The GFC was an awesome party plus the aftereffects. The party: making a mess for someone else to clean up. And so the nagging babyishness that lies at the heart of the legendary party, barely discernible but there. Its naughty core, not giving a fuck, just wanting and doing (all the while something else is going on, being expressed …). The 2008s were a time when the simplest, most selfish desire could justify the most random and excessive behaviours. Importantly, this evil spirit of the party was built in a repressed culture, and so to really get there – to the excessive, the random, the expression of … something, something inchoate … something like a poem?) – you got fucked up. And in the 2008s, like Bradley Cooper in The Hangover, you ‘do really dumb shit when you get fucked up’.

It is 2008. We are being dumb in the West. There is a war going on offshore. These two things are connected. The spirit of the party is ugly and abject (we don’t really party like this anymore, or try not to). The abjection of the party mirrors the war. Hal Foster, talking about the artist Thomas Hirschorn’s collages, which use gruesome imagery of Iraq War victims, wonders about abjection pushed to the point of nihility in the image of the corpse:

[I]s this point of nihility a critical epitome of impoverishment where power cannot penetrate, or is it a place from which power emanates in a strange new form? Is abjection a refusal of power or its reinvention in a new guise, or somehow both? […] is abjection a space-time beyond redemption, or is it the fastest route for contemporary rogue-saints to grace?

Grace? What we can say of the cultural meaning of CW’s legendary party plus his impenetrability, his not taking off the sunglasses to apologise, is that it gave him grace. The party’s nihilistic destruction of property and police cars is in the realm of the abject, a quality of CW’s persona that McKinnon draws attention to by commenting on his appearance (‘You’re pretty happy with the way you look?’ His reply: ‘My parents aren’t, but I am’). CW emanates a ‘strange’ power built on his hate-ability by neoconservatives, bourgeois liberals, his parents and the property-owning parents of The Lucky Country. CW has grace on A Current Affair, perfectly hungover, anxiety melted away.

* * *

Bill Hader Just Wants To Make Weird Things. And Now He’s Living The Dream.

When I turn on my phone I am saying hello to possibility plus headache, which does not equal happiness. I am sad on the lonely campus, not knowing what to do with my abundant time. It’s almost but not quite relaxing. The over-caffeinated server at Standing Room is totally indifferent to the awful ambience of this RMIT Building (10? 14?). Cold concrete, basically empty of students, the idea of a food court or dining hall that’s faded. I got a cookie. I’m watching the server absolutely off his face. The cookie is big.

This entry was posted in ESSAYS and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Related work:

Comments are closed.