Ern Malley: Escape Clause

26 November 2005

I have presumed to mark the moment of conception:
I shall now commemorate
the hour of my final deliverance. Boing! Kenneth Koch's
giant soup ladle sweeps me into the sky.
“Gentlemen,”–tips hat, waves cane to faces below–
“I am delighted at the development
of the refluxomatic engine. The earth's burping,
if you will, affords opportunity & mechanism–
& a new dance craze–as well as the pattern
from which a novel midget racer
can be built, 'ready to assemble'!
This one I have painted a French blue
& drive like a Gordini–the Gordini of the mind
–or the Bugatti of the mind–
keeping all the while my eye on the actual road
& hand steady on the actual wheel, a dream
of toast provided by a good woman, part Aunt Bea
part Salomé, toast & marmalade, &
a view of the garden (for am I not Bonnard,
or Vuillard–at some level, really? Aren't you? Isn't
everybody–aren't we all, at some level, to a degree,
hungry? Here, have some!), on my right
the morning paper: & I read
bauxite has fallen!
Bauxite! Get up you big galoot–I'll tell you
                                               when you've fallen!
But that's my mind, cajoling. Ka-chink–ah,
change! (My mind again.) Reaches in till
takes out medium denomination, airs it, puts it
(airily) in pocket, breast pocket, a decorative edge poking up,
leans out once more, clears throat, the
thrusting chin of Lenin–“Gentlemen!” (Crowd
cheers) “Gentlemen!– (Mind you, …)” —

A gay, light-hearted bastard, ERN MALLEY cuts a moodily romantic figure within the dun Australian literary scene, his name inevitably conjuring perhaps that best known image of him, bow-tie askew, grinning cheerfully, at the wheel of his 1958 Jaguar sports car, El Cid. It is this image that also carries in its train the stories of later suffering-the affairs, the women, the bad teeth-and, speaking of teeth, the beautiful poems wrenched from the teeth of despair & written on the wrist of happiness “where happiness happens to like its poems written best” (in his inordinate phrase).

As reported on Cordite News Explosion: “… despite our initial glee at receiving ten new poems by Ern Malley himself, we are humbled and disappointed to announce that three of these poems – namely Escape Clause, A Fool To Care and Prospect of KB as a Young Critic – were in fact written by Ken Bolton.”

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About Ken Bolton

A loony tune, something of a zany, a yo-yo with money, Ken Bolton has been variously described. In truth, he is a curious figure— irascible, intemperate, vituperative, yet devoted, apparently, to an idea of 'the Beautiful', as somehow defined. Lord David Cecil held him to be 'the Hulk Hogan des nos jours' — and found in him 'a Pol Pot, perhaps the very Pol Pot, of the aesthetic.' Bolton has published many books, the most recent being Lonnie's Lament (Wakefield Press). Forthcoming in 2018 are Starting At Basheer's (from Vagabond Press) and Species of Spaces (Shearsman Books).

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