Lives of the Poets

By | 1 August 2014

[An edit from Journals, 1972-1983]


A sudden & brief thunderstorm over the house, the harbour.

A day in a car wash near Taylor Square.

Note on Brett Whiteley’s Zen:
all the detail is peripheral:
it was an easy step to bore a hole in the central panel & install a light behind it.

I walk up the road to visit Terry Smith who is talking to a friend whose husband has left
suddenly so I accompany him to the nearby milk bar near the Rowntree and Darling
Street intersection followed by Colin Talbot we run into Mia Pithie who takes us to Robyn
Ravlich’s place and when she proves absent to “The Anchorage” which has been sold.


an indescribable
(cerulean might be the word)

a rush at the kiosk for the Daily Telegraph

Cathy (Scorpio) & Pauline (Sagittarius?)
in the back, cases & cushions, Guide to your Horoscope & Dreams
(Library copy)

wrong turn thru Campbelltown
then back on 31 at Picton

Outskirts of Goulburn / Service station
“might be better to abandon it lady”
(a cracked bearing)

– guy in white ute
“used to work 7 days a week
have 4-5 months holiday
blow it all”

occasional WHIRR of car
almost silent

Two trainee army officers
back from Rugby League to Wagga
“not much fuckin doin this
fuckin weekend”
(Psychology, German/& French: Sydney University)

car horn like a calf’’s cry
lures cows from fields
(son of a farmer)

lift in a small yellow sports (drafty)
Monash Anthropology student w. long beard

golden sunset before Holbrook
half an apple.

Fire glow on a log
smoky car light over the rise

tantalised by Melbourne lights.
Flinders Street 10.15.
Suburbs (the “Malvern house”)

Clayton :
Allan Petersen & dog met in
the dark, Gentle Street.


it has an air of deja-vu,
an ease of execution:
it seems like a drawn out product of what precedes it

(thirteen loose pages of jottings)

“a great mulch, a great compost”


“I thought of the possibility of the last letter going astray. Let me know if it has &
I’ll give you a breakdown of the New Year trip.”
“I still haven’t written anything and also am on the brink of total bankruptcy which
severely restricts my mobility. In order to overcome this I’ve done & am doing a couple of
odd jobs to supplement the dole which is often late in arriving & somewhat spasmodic. One
job was a class at East Sydney Tech. I raved on poetry for the duration culling examples from
O’Hara, Lew Welch, Jonathan Williams, Tranter, Allen Ginsberg & me (a found poem). I got
the job almost accidentally when I was very stoned at a party the night before.”
“A house in the country may spell death, but at the moment I contemplate
semi-permanent removal from the city with some degree of seriousness.”


rocks under the surface
the attempt to distance the actual from the fantasised,
a transmutation

an alchemy renders rocks & stones
into words
(a piece of music entitled
“Quite early one morning”)

(how does an “object”
become notable – why separate a tree
from the air around it)

Sugarloaf Creek poems
like Cold Mountain – a way of giving form
– but how true to its subject?

Han Shan writing on anything
paper, wood, water – only the moment of interest


yesterday’s ride through heavy rain
clearing at Armidale
hanging round waiting for a wheel balance
espresso in the Nectar milk bar

a long cloud bank stretched up & down the coast

the Putty road enveloped in deadness,
then Colo, Windsor, Ryde,
the scene at Stuart’s house
some dope in the car,
a French restaurant

& this morning a letter from John Forbes in London


on an edge of basalt:
the main street widens at this point

bend straws in the Chinese Cafe
eat in a cold wind
on the divide

Alan Wearne phones with polemical scherzo from Meredithian sequence:
“fuck Diamond
fuck McKuen”

rain heavy, lightning more distant – in the single bed at 28 Eva Street, the window part open.


walk with Ken Bolton down Glebe Point Road,
a piece of paper blows towards us
– it’s part of the Surfers’ Paradise reading poster
– the lower part with feet of the surfer
Ken asks: “Will our shit return to us in paperback?”

Fisher Library, 6th floor. stack.
Julie Rose working on her French MA thesis
me reading Unspeakable Visions of The Individual
on review for Magic Sam #3.

it’s dull & cold
out over Victoria Park mowing lines,
swimming pool half full of dirty water
heavy traffic, City Road & Cleveland Street,
sky a medium grey, clear strip to the northwest.

finish reading M. Conrad Hyers
Zen & the Comic Spirit

Denise Hare & Angela Korvisianos in the courtyard cafeteria
someone passes a hash joint
& then I’m reading the last third of
Whitman’s 1855 preface

finish a loaf of bread
glance through Rolling Stone
drink four cups of English Breakfast Tea
wash the dishes
everyone’s in the kitchen
– I gotta get outa here –
(a place where conversation is like a novel of manners)

From unknown sources: “Symbols, images, rhythmical perfection . . . has never been
considered as of primary importance by the great poets, since refinement of form has
often ended in triviality.”


“Kids get your Davy Crockett bed with scenes of Davy Crockett in action on the mattress”


I live a primitive life in the city; know people who can wheel & deal, do amazing things
with tax forms. I simply barter my body for money in terms of labour; make forays into the
jungle to buy trinkets & food.

“What strikes me about many of the modern works in the Art Gallery of New South
Wales is that they have never belonged anywhere though the category “art’ relates them
somehow to the Aboriginal and New Guinean artefacts downstairs in some kind of cultural
continuum. Martin Sharp’s collection of fragments from Luna Park has closer & deeper
connections with its surrounding culture than the works of the self-conscious artists.
“The Gallery is a kind of nowhere living-room where grey metal ashtrays sit half lost
in white shaggy carpet around a chromium glass-topped table which never has anything on it.
I look over a balustrade to see five men; one (the impatient one) not in a grey uniform, pacing
back and forward while the others with the aid of a small fork-lift elevate a large Hans Heysen
a certain number of centimetres from the floor.”

A big colour poster of Johnny Rotten under Steve Kelen’s script: “Annette Funicello’s curse
still grips Sydney”.

My poetry – a life watching curtains flutter.


Train down early Sunday morning to Coalcliff & a walk down to the beach while Ken & Sal
Brereton put together posters & magazines for the evening. By 2 pm. a lot of people have
arrived – Philip Hammial, Denis Gallagher, ΠO, Nigel Roberts, Phil Roberts & others. We go
to Wollongong and the Al Monte. Phil Roberts delivers a paper called “Death of the poet” then
there’s a break & the Wollongong writers read, Ken & Sal first, then another break followed by
the Sydney contingent. Phil Roberts is interrupted by a Pyrmont anarchist whose child is playing
with a soccer ball. Others read – Denis, ΠO (Mayakovsky & Nelson Algren & “the fuck poems”
shouted from a tabletop), John Tranter performs his “Foucault at the Forest Lodge” pieces. A
band play lounge music while everyone drinks & eats lukewarm lasagne.

I sleep in the pantry & wake early, the sun up over the ocean. A long breakfast turns into a picnic
lunch in the back yard, then in the afternoon we go back into Wollongong to the Art Gallery (two
coloured photos of Micky Allen’s on display) & walk down to the beach – barbed wire &
factories – tankers out on the Pacific.


Very quiet, an occasional car sound.
I’ve crossed some kind of meridian:
that bit in Williams’ Descent of Winter where his pants feel “strange upon a strange thigh”.

It’s grey out over the park,

these things come at once:
winter, bad colds, the end of love.

Read Ted Berrigan’s “Sonnet LXXVI” (“It’s my birthday”).

Dinner at Fort Street,

walk home in a break in the weather thinking grandiose thoughts about my poems.


Arrive late at Coalcliff, nobody about. Enter through a window and find The Diamond Noodle
with a great picture of Philip Whalen on the back. Ken & Sal arrive half an hour before the train.

Coalcliff again, in time to help Ken re-affix the posts of the front verandah. Ken says he & Sal
have split up. We walk halfway up the mountain round the old track & then cut across a dip
before the final ascending stretch. At dusk we walk back past the cows to the house imagining
bad poems about this.

Strong winds sound like they’ll blow the roof off.

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