Election Day in Australia – The Political Environment

Tomorrow is Federal Election Day in Australia for both the House of Representatives and the Senate though many have already voted.

on the beach
the plastic choke of humanity
washes the skin

Voting for the environment is a world consideration, not just Australia. For the many who have never come to these shores the beach is typically synonymous when thinking of Australia. On the Beach is a well-known book by Nevil Shute in which Australia is the last place to suffer radiation after nuclear fallout has destroyed the rest of the world. It was made into a film in 1959 starring Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck.

Whatever Party wins, the environment must be of prime consideration. Australia like many parts of the world is experiencing extremes in weather involving drought, fires, and floods. And I would really like to see something done about the amount of plastic polluting the oceans and being washed up on our beaches. It is truly time to do something!

Australia is
adorned with adorable awesome amazing
Beaches
VOTE YES
and pick up a bit of litter!

… and here is a link to a new edition of Nevil Shute’s ‘On the Beach‘ – https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6582666/modern-messages-in-on-the-beach/

The Day Lady Died – Frank O’Hara – Comments

The Day Lady Died
It is 12:20 in New York a Friday  
three days after Bastille Day, yes 
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine 
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner 
and I don’t know the people who will feed me 
I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun  
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy 
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets 
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank 
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard) 
doesn’t even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or 
Brendan Behan’s new play or Le Balcon or Les Nègres 
of Genet, but I don’t, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness 
and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE  
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and 
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue 
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and 
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton 
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it 
and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of 
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT 
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing 
Frank O’Hara (1926 - 1966)

The actual day in 1959 is particularly important and this is defined in terms of Bastille Day (14 July), three days after making it 17 July. And it is very hot in the New York summer indicated by the sweating in the last stanza. But what is it that is so important about this day and who was ‘Lady’ (she was known as ‘Lady Day’).

This is a poem about place, the place being New York and if you don’t know New York it is difficult with all the references. Frank O’Hara is walking the streets and picks up a paper. It was Billie Holliday on the cover of the New York Post he bought. 

The sudden realisation that Lady, that great Jazz Queen, has died and he and like those who know her are momentarily stunned on hearing of her death.

If you appreciate Jazz and know New York this poem will have more depth of meaning as you walk the same path. For example, you would know that …

The Five Spot Café was a jazz club located at 5 Cooper Square (1956–1962) in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City, between the East and West Village. In 1962, it moved to 2 St. Marks Place until closing in 1967. Its friendly, non-commercial, and low-key atmosphere with affordable drinks and food and cutting edge bebop and progressive jazz attracted a host of avant-garde artists and writers. It was a venue of historic significance as well, a mecca for musicians, both local and out-of-state, who packed the small venue to listen to many of the most creative composers and performers of the era.

Courtesy of Wikipedia.

And Frank O’Hara certainly knew New York. He was part of the New York Poetry scene and he frequented Five Spot where he appreciated the voice of Billie Holliday firsthand.

And even if you know nothing of the City, I am sure you can appreciate the bohemian flavour of a poet on his regular walk not exactly knowing how Mike and Patsy will feed him in the evening. It looks as though he buys something to take, alcohol for Mike and something to read for Patsy. Verlaine was a French poet associated with the Symbolist movement and the Decadent movement. He details exactly what he did that day from the 12:20pm time he started walking to the name of the teller at the Bank. And he is obviously familiar with the theatre.

And it is a poem about the sudden notification of a death in the midst of on-going life that stuns a person ‘breathless’. There is a spiritual connection in the last stanza as Billie Holliday’s voice enters his mind, Mal Waldron was a jazz musician.

I can remember when Diana died, I was at an early morning church service that Sunday in the village of Hartley Wintney when the minister spoke about that tragic overnight car crash. Later that day we flew out from Heathrow with no delays despite possible pandemonium at the airport.

This is perhaps the most well-known poem by Frank O’Hara.

Frank O’Hara – Frank O’Hara – Wikipedia

Billie Holliday – Billie Holiday – Wikipedia

Nevertheless – An Easter Poem

Nevertheless
nevertheless, it is true 
nevertheless, whether you believe,
believe elsewhere
or just don’t believe
for nevertheless He is latent, 
the he that exists or doesn’t exist,
nevertheless, supporting you
recognised or not
nevertheless it is nice to know too, 
that he cares!
and nevertheless his light
shines through this Easter
nevertheless, yes, nevertheless 
you care to open the window
Richard Scutter Easter 2022

A follow up on my previous Easter Post where Michael Thwaites used that one word ‘Nevertheless’ in his poem ‘The Word’.

Easter greetings to all.

May you be brightened by the light that is the power of love.

‘The word’ Nevertheless – Michael Thwaites

The Word

The greatest word in the greatest book
is that conjunction, ‘Nevertheless’,
(‘Plen’ in the Greek: you could translate ‘However ’)

when the man of Galilee, very near his end
foreseen, self-chosen, with set face and foot,
came to the garden in agony of soul,
his sweat like drops of blood falling to the ground,
his friends sleeping (the heat was far beyond them),
the Son of Man, split by a human cry,
cried to his Father, ‘Father, some other way?
Something, not this! Father, I want, I fear:
Nevertheless, your will, not mine, be done.’

Michael Thwaites (1915 – 2005)

Conjunction – a word used to connect clauses or sentences

Plen – adverbially, at the beginning of a sentence, serving either to restrict, or to unfold and expand what has preceded: moreover, besides, so that, according to the requirements of the context, it may also be rendered but, nevertheless; (howbeit; cf. Buttmann, § 146, 2): Matthew 11:22, 24Matthew 18:7Matthew 26:39, 64Luke 6:24, 35Luke 10:11, 14, 20Luke 11:41Luke 12:31Luke 13:33Luke 17:1 L Tr text WH; ; 1 Corinthians 11:11Ephesians 5:33Philippians 1:18 (R G (see Ellicott)); ; Revelation 2:25; πλήν ὅτι, except that, save that (examples from classical Greek are given by Passow, under the word, II. 1 e.; (Liddell and Scott, under the word, B. II. 4)): Acts 20:23 ((Winer’s Grammar, 508 (473); Philippians 1:18 L T Tr WH (R. V. only that)).

Here is a clever Easter poem based on one word from the bible.

Easter is perhaps the time when we consider the incredible unprecedented self-sacrifice in the life of Jesus. What a situation if that nevertheless did not happen? And is the will of God active in humanity today?

Michael Thwaites on Wikipedia

Separation – Colin Campbell Analysis

Separation
a card arrives 
“happy birthday  fondest love”
i stand it on the fridge
whilst  half a world away
she has forgotten that she sent it
but recalls the usual things
peeling the vegetables  making the bed  sweeping  dusting
later  her head nods over a page  and
the once-friendly words turn away and hide
thin rain oozes from the mossy tiles 
and the bare brown trees stare through the afternoon 
and drip  she tries to remember what it is 
that she must thaw for tea 
and the kitchen  silent as lino  will not tell her
dealt from a well-worn pack of tidy habits 
(what ought to be done rather than the needful)
hours are laid out in patterns on the day’s thin fabric
(so much is to do with the turn
of one moment to cover the last)
whilst indifferent  greedy  thieving Time
gnaws the afternoon
rubbing a hole in the window’s condensation 
she watches the cold  flat Suffolk landscape
turn and shiver beneath the winter sky
and  looking up  she sees the cold rain in the trees …
… and i remember it
Colin Campbell (1941 -

Colin uses spaces in his text to denote a pause while reading. For example – and the kitchen  silent as lino there are two spaces between kitchen and silent. So the more spaces between words in the text the longer the pause.

Colin is a member of our U3A Poetry Appreciation Group and this is a poignant poem from his book ‘Poems’ published at the end of 2021. Looking at each stanza I can give some context to give more depth behind the words which might help the reader.

S1 … The poem addresses Colin’s mother in England while he himself is living in Australia. The first three lines refer to Colin placing a card from his mother on the fridge. This is then a trigger to a reflection on his mother who is living with dementia in Suffolk, England. Maybe he has mentioned the card in a telephone conversation and his mother has no recollection of sending it.

But with a failing mind his mother is confined to keeping track of everyday happenings.

And I like the way words are personified as they hide their meaning as she struggles in daily life.

S2 … It is a dreary winter day … the trees have lost their leaves … it is fitting in connection with the loss or separation taking place in the struggle with domestic life. And little things once easily performed are now hard to fathom out … again, the wonderful personification of the kitchen lino – silent – and unable to help.

S3 … Habits do die hard … worn down by the years … she would like to keep her house tidy but is this really needed … and the day’s thin fabric give that sense that the day itself is fading akin to perhaps the fading of clothes now worn by his mother. And the complexity of each moment as it turns on itself in the effort to combat the lack of mind progression in dealing with dementia … clearly there is separation in the ability to deal with everyday life

And Time is capitalised to give strength to the personification as it gnaws away life … nicely connecting to the problem with trying to remember what’s for tea previously mentioned in the second stanza.

S4 … we have a picture of Colin’s mother looking out on the dreary winter Suffolk environment … creating a small window hole on life outside … the hole that is dementia in reducing life, and she sees the cold rain descending …

… and Colin too remembers the Suffolk scene … and there is a sense of beauty in his recollection of his Suffolk days … perhaps different to the way his mother sees the countryside … but although there is separation there is that strong personal connection.

This is a poem that will relate to those coming to terms with dementia in whatever way the condition manifests.

Vitai Lampada – Henry Newbolt – Comments

Vitai Lampada
There's a breathless hush in the Close to-night—
Ten to make and the match to win—
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it's not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season's fame,
But his captain's hand on his shoulder smote
'Play up! play up! and play the game! '

The sand of the desert is sodden red,—
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; —
The Gatling's jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England's far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
'Play up! play up! and play the game! '

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the school is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind—
'Play up! play up! and play the game!
Sir Henry Newbolt (1862 – 1938)

Born in Bilston, Staffordshire in 1862, Newbolt was educated at Clifton School and Oxford University. After his studies Newbolt became a barrister. Higly respected, Newbolt was a lawyer, novelist, playwright and magazine editor. Above all, he was a poet who championed the virtues of chivalry and sportsmanship combined in the service of the British Empire.

Written in 1892 Vitaï Lampada was published in Newbolt’s first collection of poetry, Admirals All in 1897. It is probably the best known of all Newbolt’s poems, and for which he is now chiefly remembered. The title is taken from a quotation by Lucretius and means The torch of life. It refers to how a schoolboy, a future soldier, learns selfless commitment to duty in cricket matches in the famous Close at Clifton College. And of course, extension of duty goes far beyond the cricket field.

This is all about playing the game regardless, being part of the team is all important – and concentrating on doing your bit for King and country.

This is a propaganda poem using mate-ship to rally the war cause. And mate-ship is based on that old school tradition of loyalty to your friends. I think times have changed markedly and soldiers have now learned to think for themselves without blindly following orders! Unless of course, they are coerced by authoritarian regimes.

Here is my own propaganda. Seen on the back window of a car parked at the Balloon Festival in Canberra, the following words –
UNITED
in
TRUTH – LOVE – PEACE

Sir Henry Newbolt on Wikipedia … Henry Newbolt – Wikipedia

Yussouf – James Russell Lowell – Analysis

Yussouf
A stranger came one night to Yussouf’s tent,
Saying, “Behold one outcast and in dread,
Against whose life the bow of power is bent,
Who flies, and hath not where to lay his head;
I come to thee for shelter and for food,
To Yussouf, called through all our tribes ‘The Good.’”
“This tent is mine,” said Yussouf, “but no more
Than it is God’s; come in, and be at peace;
Freely shalt thou partake of all my store
As I of his who buildeth over these
Our tents his glorious roof of night and day,
And at whose door none ever yet heard Nay.”
So Yussouf entertained his guest that night,
And, waking him ere day, said: “Here is gold,
My swiftest horse is saddled for thy flight,
Depart before the prying day grow bold.”
As one lamp lights another, nor grows less,
So nobleness enkindleth nobleness.
That inward light the stranger’s face made grand,
Which shines from all self-conquest; kneeling low,
He bowed his forehead upon Yussouf’s hand,
Sobbing: “O Sheik, I cannot leave thee so;
I will repay thee; all this thou hast done
Unto that Ibrahim who slew thy son!”
“Take thrice the gold,” said Yussouf, “for with thee
Into the desert, never to return,
My one black thought shall ride away from me;
First-born, for whom by day and night I yearn,
Balanced and just are all of God’s decrees;
Thou art avenged, my first-born, sleep in peace!”
James Russell Lowell (1819 – 1891)

This is a prose story poem between the two characters Yussouf and Ibrahim set to an Arab background.

Yussouf is a sheik, a leader of his people, and many years ago Ibrahim murdered his son. Ibrahim is an outcast and is now in fear for his life and seeks sanctuary in the tent of Yussouf. Yussouf accepts him as his guest and gives him shelter and food, stating that his tent is akin to the home of God.

In the tradition of treating a guest with kindness, in the morning he gives a horse and gold to Ibrahim before sending him on his way stating –

As one lamp lights another, nor grows less,
So nobleness enkindleth nobleness.

This is all too much for Ibrahim and sobbing confesses that he has murdered Yussouf’s son.

And here is the critical decision point in the story. Yussouf does not take revenge. He quite astounds the reader by giving more gold coins before sending Ibrahim on his way.

Why does he do this – well for one reason Ibrahim is repentant and for many years Yussouf has held revenge in his heart as a dark shadow and by this act he is released of this shackle. At the same time Yussouf forgives. A wonderful example of great humanity and perhaps indicative of how God would respond.

balanced and just are all of God’s decrees.

If there is a new way of thinking and acting, then it is easy to aid and give ‘poetic gold’ in assistance in the new life of the offender. Consider the conversion of Paul the Apostle on the road to Damascus that led him to cease persecuting early Christians and become a follower of Jesus.

But ‘Love’ your enemies takes on a whole new way of thinking when there is no repentance; especially when your own life is threatened.

James Russell Lowell on Wikipedia

Canberra Day: Some Les Murray Words

It is Canberra Day today and a public holiday for Canberrans. And each autumn there is a balloon festival. The following is a sunrise photograph from Commonwealth Avenue Bridge looking towards the National Gallery and the Parliamentary lawns as the balloons start to lift in the early morning air.

Canberra Balloon Festival Autumn 2022

In a letter when feeling down and living in Canberra at the time (1962-65), Les Murray had these words to say about the Capital …

I’ve had a bad attack of the old tedium vitae lately. Can’t say why then one never can. It’ll pass. I need a tonic. Like escape from Canberra, which would, without the least fragment of a doubt, be the deadest, dullest, most worthless, ephemeral, baseless, pretentious, pathetic, artificial, over-planned shithouse of a town I’ve ever laid eyes on. I’d set it alight, some days, but I’m sure they’d merely put the fire out with dull, unimaginative efficiency and go on as before. Sod the place.

From an unpublished letter, LM to Greg O’Hara 7August 1963 … taken from ‘Les Murray: A Life In Progress‘ by Peter F. Alexander.

Canberra has grown into a truly magnificent vibrant city, far removed from that rampant LM rage that caused such toxic words to flow fifty years ago!

LM also wrote some short Canberra pieces (Rhymes for a Small Capital) … a couple of examples …

As I walked in Garema Place
I met a man with shining face
Who cried I am not in The Know!
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
But Canberra's neither cold nor soulless
(except to those unsold, or coal-less)
she has her delights - I won't distort 'em -
wide embassies of Spring and Autumn

I’m glad to hear LM mentioned some positives! … Spring and Autumn are magic times of the year in Canberra, the Floriade Festival in Spring and the Autumn Balloon week make use of the excellent weather in these seasons.

Les Murray on Wikipedia

– he was arguably an Australian Defacto Poet Laureate.

Canberra as defined by Wikipedia