Justin Clemens Reviews Pam Brown and Ken Bolton

21 April 2013

Still, for the record, there’s always the record, or at least the recording of the disappearing vortex of the record or maybe the recording of the hesitation as to whether to ‘click on the link/or leave until morning?’ (Brown 38). Both Bolton and Brown like transportation devices – citroens (don’t forget to forget the capitals and diacritics!), donkeys, trains, public buses, galleries, vodka-slushies and radios – to get them from here and there to here-there or to t-here, to the interstices (whether they’re your sister’s or not) where there’s no there or where there at all. Is that what Brown means by ‘The southern of someplace’? I suppose that’s a ‘space’ [scare-quotes!] of ‘writing’ where [‘where’?!] you can find:

Colin in a citroen, Kerry Leves in a citroen. John Jenkins /in a citroen; Michael Wilding in a citroen. Carol, & Vicki,/ in a citroen, & in a gunmetal grey citroen some- one unknown (John Ashbery?). in a citroen. ... (Bolton 15-16).

It’s an old boring thing to say about metaphor, but isn’t this metametaphor, given it’s like that old French hack Michel de Certeau liked to remind his auditors: metaphorein is a literally a form of public transport, a tram you catch in Athens. Or perhaps there’s no meta– in this –phore, just fauna (i.e., the cows beloved of Canberra poets, an ivory egret’s egg, wasps, bees, a penguin on Antarctic ice or cochineal beetles), and *phora, the in-sufficient suffixes that ‘bear’ or ‘carry’ their prefixes from one page to another. These books are not gramophones, but grammaphores. The commingling and separation of Brownian and Boltonian motions – of (contagion) or (skyrocketing) or (pieces of crap) – shifts between anaphora, euphoria and phosphor (and perhaps also Polydore, the unlikely-but-striking second name of Count Maurice Maeterlinck, Brown 27)? In fact, stars repeat everywhere, I mean asterisks, I mean * & *, little spangled dark lights that constellate the small square pages as if they were:

 * frankly stellar * (Bolton 43)

This isn’t just a pictorial joke about non-representational flatness and Cold War American Painting, but an Astrophil and Stella kinda moment. At once mourning the losses they’re memorialising, mourning what’s lost by their memorialising, these love-letters, these more-than-letters, scatter across the impenetrable unblueness of the page, ever-moving inter-organic and inter-chronic characters. For G*d’s sake, I was meant to review Bolton’s latest, but all that turned up in the letterbox was this reprint of one of his golden-oldies together with Brown’s newest, and that’s when I realised love-was-not-only-in-the-air but also-in-the-intercalated-pages that had somehow shuffled into each other in the post. But like I began by saying:

can’t call the sentimental ‘sentimental’ when it’s very moving (Brown 31)

Everything starts to reel back, back to Hopkins, then back even further, back even to early 1960s Australia, when even a Prime Minister could invoke that anonymous C16 (or early C17) love lyric (often attributed to Tom Ford, but I’m not sure whether I’m sure about this assignation though I’m not sure why), I did but see her passing by. It’s still quite a poem, and a bit bizarrely a bit like Bolton and Brown in its mutable motions:

Cupid is wingèd, and doth range Her country so my love doth change But change she earth or change she sky Yet will I love her till I die.

As Brown herself signs off: ‘heard that/somewhere.’ More, damn youse, more more!

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About Justin Clemens

Justin Clemens's books include Villain and The Mundiad. He is currently working on an expanded version of me 'n' me trumpet. He teaches at Melbourne University.

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