Movies

august 16, 2015

Ecco Homo

I don’t know how to write about this film. My usual flippant tone doesn’t match. The subject, Troy, was someone, a name, I’d been hearing stories about for years, from a friend. There’s some description of it by the filmmakers here: http://www.pozible.com/project/197636. I kept thinking of people who I thought ‘should’ see it.

Pasolini

I dream I am walking around Gosnells at the age I am now. I enter a slow, still, winding river area which resembles a swamp near my house of that time. It had a kind of reconstructed land jetty that you could walk out onto, and which I liked very much and would walk out onto often, and which was also, I think, the reason Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, when I saw pictures of it years later, always felt oddly familar. This dream river area also resembles a river near Dimboola that I once drove along for a while with D. We’d had intentions to camp there but something soon felt ‘wrong’ about the place, ‘bad’ even. In what sense? ‘Like being watched’ would perhaps be the more obvious thing to say. More specifically, it was the experience of walking into a room and finding that the things in it appear somehow too neatly reconstructed, and the attendant sense that the room is concealing something of its recent past. An edge of the suburbs appeared (we’re back in the dream), a cul-de-sac perhaps that might perhaps lead me towards – what else is there in suburbs? – more houses, shops. It leads, however, only into a kind of ‘estate’, which, as I write, seems to derive from or shade into memories of houses sighted on hills, posted above winding roads in the Dandenongs, accessible only via long driveways. I go down the stairs quickly with a slight shame of trespass on me, as two school kids are walking up, into the estate; I walk right past without acknowledging them. Back on the river path now, and there is a slightly vertiginous, Lilliputian mismatch between my body and this place. It’s not as small as a miniature village, but slightly smaller than it was before. There are reputed to be crocs in the water, and I fall in (indeed, I feel as if the dream ‘pushes me in’) and I flail about for a while, scared in a detached way but moreso bored by the exhausted theatricality of it. As in, surely there aren’t really crocs in here, tell me, when was the last one actually seen? and so on. Back on the path, I am trying to leave the way that I came in, and pass a couple of high wooden gates (Janus), folded back as if they haven’t been closed for a long time, the kind that might mark the edge of an old European city or perhaps village (or gated community reconstruction of these). Seeing these, there is a small shock of realisation that I have been ‘inside’ all this time. I resolve that when I get back ‘home’ I will get the street directory out and find this area and photocopy and enlarge it and perhaps colour-in different sections of it with pencils – I see myself doing this – and thereby work something out about this strange local place, and there is a sense of excitement about this, that it is still possible to do, despite my age and ‘time passed’ and so on.

Movies

august 13, 2015

Tales

Walk outside into a graffiti-coated lane where several men are delicately painting, one with a miniature miner’s light strapped to his head, gleaming. He’s working in white paint, has sketched some lines, quick strokes, and now moves back, index finger tensed on the spraycan nozzle – an animal figure? – this on a freshly blackened, glossy section of wall: how many coats has that section received? It is the layeredness of walls around here that impressed me once, a prior century, and does so again. Several more people hold cameras before them, then we duck into the street behind Flinders (‘Little’ Something?) with small shops and either densely packed or very spare displays of luxury commodities, then cut back through the church building, stopping to stare for a while at the grottos with miniature figures in them, installed in brightly-lit window stalls. Well-worn bluestone steps, a hundred and fifty years of foot traffic create a bend in the stone, I turn around to stretch my achilles tendons on them, then turn back to see a figure that looks like a person dressed in a blanket, lying down, bad place to sleep I think, though where’s good?, and which turns into a person a few steps later, as I pass him or her, a freshly hatched four-wheel-drive sidles up beside me, two boys in private school blazers peer down from their palanquin at the sleeping human, raising to their mouths, perhaps, chips, I skip across six lanes of Flinders and ascend some more stairs while trying to find a sightline through the chips of sky between the angular buildings at Fed Square, to the station clock, to check time; three police stand around a citizen, sitting down, their bright yellow accoutrements, just chatting. Then more stairs, people gathering for other films, Ella arrives and we walk the other way past the cue snaking up the stairs, glad not to be in it. Follow the bike through 6:13pm streets, just gone dark, pedestrians collecting up at corners then flowing over them, a woman shaking a metal container at the corner, ‘for the homeless’, ‘I give her money sometimes’, ‘Is that her usual spot?’. Hardly notice the old Greater Union site now (now it is a ‘site’), consider the Japanese bar across the road with the glazed food displays: fish head, noodles being raised out of soup with chopsticks. ‘Funky Curry isn’t there any more’, ‘Some phở place’, ‘faux phở, geddit!?’ (‘fur phở?!); lock up bike on road island. Then the length of Cardigan Street, the length of Princes Park, different fields, faces under the sports oval Klieg lights, the ‘poured in’ green, the new years gatherings there, the solitary trips to the toilet block, happily drunk, passing the decorative lake, a train strike to look forward to, the parallel back lane, ‘goes quite a long way’, and more well-worn, toothy squares of bluestone.

(Dir: Rakhshan Banietemad)

Eisenstein in Guanajuato

While walking towards the theatre I ran into a friend and we caught up for a few minutes beneath a number of neon signs affixed to the threshold of an underground parking station, intermittently placing a blue cast upon his face. I continued on my way, eating from a bag of salt and vinegar chips I had just purchased for the fictional price of $1.99, entered a builidng, walked up a set of stairs, bought a small bottle for the regrettable price of $8.50, which was immediately opened and poured into a ridiculous, translucent, slightly columnar, plastic recepticle, walked up another set of stairs and took a seat on the far side of the theatre. Having not seen one of his films before, I had a sense of what ‘Peter Greenaway’ stood for in cinema terms and this was partly confirmed and partly modulated. For example I had a sense that the mise en scène would be sort of luxurious and factitious, and some of it was. Related to this, I had the sense there would be serious and severe long takes that desired to be Renaissance paintings. It was not like this; the camera jumped and span around quite quickly the whole way through, and several times the screen split up into a triptych of the same shot but staggered with a slight delay: The Eisentsein character’s monologues were punctuated with photographs – as in, he mentions Maiakovski, the right third of the screen becomes a photograph of Maiakovski, looking impressive; he mentions Chaplin, the left third of the screen… and so on (these lists of friends were a treat). Remember ‘special effects’? Whatever happened to them? Or do I not see the right movies? There were some of these, I think. One effect consisted of a very wide camera angle and psychedelically enhanced colours, and spinning around. In fact, ‘spinning around’ and ‘splitting into three’ were probably the most frequent formal ‘things’ that were happening, which, as I write this, seem to collude with the virgin Eisenstein’s dizziness in exoticised Mexico, struck down by lust and love. In short, it was much more playful than I’d expected, and was less reliant on/interested in the idea of the screen as a window ‘onto’ than the other films I’ve seen this festival, even the more experimental ones. The screen seems more like a console or a field, into or onto which quite ‘other’ things might happen. It confirmed that the theme of my film choices this year has been the Soviet past and our mixed feelings about it. The actor playing the Eisenstein character was clearly a thesp, ‘treading the boards’ restlessly, around and around and around, in various scenes, often nude or half nude, and when not so wearing a white (seersucker?) suit. It contained the most honest portrayal of food poisoning I think I’ve seen in a film.

Movies

august 12, 2015

Due to too cursory consultation of movie timetable I missed Those Who Feel The Fire Burning (Dir. Morgan Knibbe) and thence followed forty-eight movieless hours and thence a Yakuza film entitled Battles Without Honour Or Humanity. Made in the 1960s, it follows a number of warring families, from immediately after World War Two to the late 1950s. I am reminded again that from the 1960s at least Japan looked about twenty years ahead of the rest of the world. Apparently The Godfather is heavily ‘under the influence’ of this film and it and this is apparent. There are many shlocky death scenes, blood appearing as a kind of fluoro puce pigment. I sit almost at the back of the Forum, a freedom afforded by a secondhand pair of opera glasses found at an opshop, and this in itself is a treat, the screen looming down there sharply among the black. The opening credits, red characters, are stamped on the screen. They look good, it’s a kind of red you don’t see anymore. There are so many characters and the terrain changes so quickly (who’s at war with who) that it’s hard to keep up. For a while we lose the main character (Hirono?), and one assumes that one missed some detail explaining this, or that he was just left in the wake of the plot, and one goes along with this, happily, but then he returns, is released from gaol and has some scores to settle. In the final scene he arrives at the funeral of a Yakuza colleague, whose death he knows to have been the work of their pusillanimous boss, who has already contrived to have not a few of his underlings kill each other unnecessarily. Hirono sublimates his desire to exact revenge upon his boss by instead shooting up the funeral shrine, much to the dismay of the mourners. What are you doing, you’re crazy etc, intones the boss, to which Hirono replies, I’ve still got some bullets left, and then walks away, towards/into the camera. Fin. This last shot was the most Clint Eastwood Western-ish that the film got, however in the American version Hirono surely would have killed the boss, and then perhaps gone off to start his own ‘family’ (the homoerotics of these clans was elaborately obvious, particularly in one scene when two decide to become brothers by cutting each other’s arms and exchanging fluids), no, more likely to become a sole trader of some variety. Instead he shows the shows the Yakuza boss ‘who’s boss’ while allowing the appearance of the former hierarchy to remain.

Tokyo Olympiad

What to say? Three hours of watching athletes limbering, grimacing. All the strange things one does with one’s body before competing are telescopically revealed in beautiful 1960s film colours. One could go on for kilometres describing the surprise of each new sport exhibited, ones one had more or less forgotten existed, and perhaps one will at a later point. Was my favourite the judo? I think perhaps it was. I liked the way their suits would got all disarrayed during the throwing and pinning, the apparent gracelessness of it, and then the way they stepped back at the end to their different sides, kneeled, and then simultaneously began straightening their suits and re-tying their belts carefully and efficiently. The way ritual blurred into competition. The first competition shown was the mens one hundred metre race. The depiction of it was hugely enstranging (ostranenie), particularly when juxtaposed to the way these events are usually constructed by television. As the runners paced around before the race the narrator told us they appeared ‘almost sad’ and this had the ring of a true statement. In fact the film was more like three and a half hours as it had four false starts (itself seeming to fit the Olympic theme) before the projectionist could get the version with English subtitles to appear. When the lights came up I heard someone say, ‘I could rewind that and watch it again’….And then that night, in the same theatre, Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room, director of the first film I saw at a film festival in 2003, a film (The Saddest Music in the World – who could resist?) which included a woman with glass legs filled with beer. This film was just as unusual. A frame tale with a bath-robed narrator who looked a little bit like John Ashbery – a resemblance I may have only noticed because Ashbery, so I read, had some involvement with the script. The story had something to do with a submarine crew, I remember. The visual aesthetic isn’t like anything else, a blend of old adventure comics and silent film. One knows one should not see a movie after drinking. One learned this in approximately the same period one saw The Saddest Music in the World – there is photographic evidence of this: three of us outside the Leichhardt Town Hall with a goon bag, not long before walking in to see the film Adaptation, from which we walked out two minutues later. And yet, not being a walker-outerer (I have not, I don’t think, since), one persists, and I persisted.

Movies

august 10, 2015

Corn Island

This is a tale told almost entirely without words and when there were words they are in an extremely beautiful sounding language called Abkhazian. So, haptic images: a gumboot landing on a shore; a stump hammered; a hand digging earth and the earth brought to the mouth and tasted; an oar lowered into water. It’s a story of a man building a house on a tiny island on a river, then planting a corn field, then the island being washed away. First the man is alone, then he is with his granddaughter, and a brief coming of age narrative is veered towards, when a wounded Georgian soldier appears on the island, and then veered away from again. The soldier is nursed back to health by the grandfather. They are on opposing sides, the grandfather protects him; the island, we know by now, lies on a border zone, on the edge of a disputed territory. This phrase takes on a resonance, we begin to wonder how ‘earth’ could be disputed, being so tangible and tasteable in itself. The loving shots of turned-earth recalled another MIFF film from several years ago, a doco in which a soil-scientist argued that ploughing is the worst thing to do to earth because it turns it into concrete, where good soil ought to be loose like couscous. So, it confronted these ideas of settlement and belonging to earth and fighting over it at some particulate level of sensation and experience. The border dispute only signified by the occasional Georgian, Abkhazian and Russian soldiers skimming by in dinghies with outboard motors and rifles over shoulders, slowly nodding to the island inhabitants. The island and everything on it is washed away in a rainstorm. The final scene loops back to the beginning, showing a different man arrive on what’s left of the island and digging up a remnant (the granddaughter’s doll) of its previous iteration, and we now realise-remember that the first man had done the same thing at the beginning of the film, exhuming a small plastic pipe, which he kept with him throughout the film and took out at anxious moments. And so a greater truth, and a number of very European/Western themes, the resilience and persistence of earth and the contingency of the human pursuits that take place upon it, earth as agriculture and earth as territoire fought over, as memory, and earth in its biblical and ongoing disputation with water.

Movies

august 10, 2015

The Postman’s White Nights

Well maybe the film’s quality is determined by the clarity of the street when you walk out. This time Melbourne appears more antique, like it used to when I would visit. I am writing this in ‘Aero Bar’, which appears to be a suit bar, one I’ve walked past many times but never visited, perhaps somewhat second-tier compared to the flashy redeveloped bars de jour – more from the era of Pancake Parlour. Another Russian film but this time it is summer not winter and the country not the city; a lacustrine village, serviced by the postman of the title, who gets around in a speedy motorboat. A velvetty shot of about two minutes length from the perspective of this boat, cutting across a huge lake, completely silent. Men appear to high-five each other in this bar, or as if they are about to. Before and after the film I talk with the guy sitting next to me who as it turns out was a taxi driver in the seventies. He tells me he chooses the festival films that look like they’ll be ‘a slow burn’, and I say I do the same. There is a postcard quality to this film, I see, writing this almost a week later; it begins with a closely-cropped shot of two hands sorting through old photographs of different sizes, mementos, domestic scenes. Captioning one photograph, a voice relates ‘I could be singing or arguing’; this past life explained by one word: ‘votka’. Later we will see kettles boiled, sugar cubes dropped into cups of tea and stirred mellifluously, cigarettes ignited. The quiet dignity of life maintained amid thieving neighbours and sexual frustration.

When the Dogs Talked & Windjarramerru, The Stealing C*nts

An unexpected seat, planted in the centre of the theatre and the film wraps around. It opens with an image of an egg being fried and ends with one of the sun going down over a beach somewhere near Darwin. Two films of about half an hour each. The second pits the avarice and humbug of a mining company against a bunch of kids wagging school or suspended; the latter, walking through the bush, happen upon two cartons of VB, which, we later learn, is a trap that has been set for them, and into which they happily fall. Soon enough there is a chase scene through the bush, during which the kids escape their pursuers by hiding in radioactive territory that the cops are too scared to enter. It ends with a sort of atmospheric slo-mo scene, which suggests ghosts and the morbid death cult of uranium mining. The first centres around a dog dreaming story, and the way this is related this to a younger generation amid the day-to-day of housing commission life, the needs of extended family, broken down cars and elusive mobile reception. A woman is telling it to a young child as the film begins, and we return to it at the end. One of the best scenes shows some of the kids discussing different things that might have caused a particular land formation (how certain rocks were moved), a dreaming story or more recent machinery, casually plaiting mythic and historical time. The question and answer session at the end was conducted through a smart phone to Darwin (the main actors were meant to be there but had had their flight ‘flipped’, this a term I hadn’t heard before) and had a delightful ‘delay’ to it, making everyone listen closely, and provided a back-story to the film-makers, but malheureusement I had to rush off before the end to make an appearance at a birthday drinks in a well-lit back lane bar, where I chatted for an hour and downed two quick pints before skimming back across town for Kommunisten which, well, I asked for modernism, and modernism responded. It was very hard to figure out the formal unity of this film. It was made up of around forty or so shots, so, quite a few very long takes. The long takes I ‘understood’, but the actors reading from scripts, texts that sounded like confessions and fragments of narratives, less so. I believe the film was in dialogue with Jean-Marie Straub’s earlier work, and no doubt it would have helped to have been familiar with this. My response, however, was clearly not aided by the two pints – in a different state I may have been more receptive. If seeing it I again would prescribe myself strong black tea and a poultice made of soda water and tuscan cigars.

Movies

august 1, 2015

Under Electric Clouds

The best thing about this film were the fringes of light on either side, first Swanston and Flinders in the middle of the day busy with tourists and school groups but not the messy, angry busy of a few hours later; then the dim, clear, intricate light and colour, coming out onto the street again, forming into locked-up bikes, poles, cars and people and so on (this an aesthetic experience I associate with being a child or younger teenager when going to see a movie invariably meant ‘going into town’ for a middle of the day session, say 12:45 or 1:15 start, and coming out mid-afternoon to wander around the city for a bit longer). Mostly this is because of the interminableness of the film but also because of the gloominess, winteriness, and the episodic structure of it, the latter having the effect of repeatedly dashing one’s hopes that this end might be the real end. I can’t have been the only one experiencing the film in this way as let’s say 1/5 of the audience had left by the credits. A recurring theme appears to be unfinished constructions. We see people standing under desolate Flemington Bridge-like expressways, the camera once gazing meaningfully at the mushroomy underbelly of one; inside doss-houses, buildings left to ruin with sheets of plastic flapping (meaningfully) over the windows. The central image or symbol is a spiral-shaped, beautifully-useless, white tower, that we only ever see a gauzy emanation of in the distance through fog, and which alludes fairly clearly to Vladimir Tatlin’s also-unfinished-(in-fact-never-started) Constructivist ‘Monument to the Third International’, and hence, the unrealised potential and utopian spirit of the Soviet past now presented on a platter to organised crime and foreign capital (the terms seem to blend: double vision). The conflation of the latter with ‘Japanese’ seemed to me near racist as well as anachronistic, wasn’t the Japanese boom over by then/now? So: seven episodes (why not six? why not five?) constitute the film. These were separated with inter-titles, ‘First Chapter’, etc. This came across as pretentious. Maybe I’m being too picky, but they weren’t really chapters: each was a separate short film, even if there was a common theme, and some of the ‘threads’ vaguely came together at the end. I guess the formal influence here is Altman but there was nothing delightful about this film. There were a number of quite gorey and unexplained deaths that just seemed to happen. I guess that was the point. Signifying ‘Contemporary Russia’. This vaguely alluding to things, reliance on atmosphere, the stagey wasteland-like backdrops (Sculpture by the Sea?) did make me think ‘HSC Art Exhibition’ more than once. This sounds unfair I know, how could I say such a thing? Well, ok, to take one example the first section features a Kyrgyz man wandering around a snowy wasteland, later a city, holding a large outmoded boom-box, asking people where he could find an ‘electronics repair shop’. No one understands him; then, eventually, a kind stranger teaches him how to ask his one question in Russian. The Kyrgyz man smiles, repeating the question to himself like a talisman, goes off on his way. Plot aside, men walking around waste-lands carrying ‘a thing’ has, emphatically, been done (‘Falling Down’, was it called, Michael Douglas?). So, this was somewhat embarrassing, despite what was supposed to be the harsh beauty of the scenery, and so on. I guess my problem with films like this (and I’m always drawn to them, every film fest!) is that they so rarely go far enough, suggesting or referencing modernism without actually being modernist. One of the things I liked about it was that when people would walk by, during a scene, as they frequently did, speaking a language other than Russian, a subtitle would inform us ‘people speaking foreign language’ (or something to that effect) – there was some kind of truth to this. At one point I thought: this film is bad in the way that a bad Australian film is bad. It still seems true even if I’m not sure I could explain why.

2007

iulie 8, 2015

2007

iulie 4, 2015



graffito

there are
no forms of art
which are

not
forms of
experience

outside of art

(Kenneth Burke)

iunie 30, 2015


u nt it le dc i ty


life tumbles along

discontinuous sky

&how,andperhapsmoreimportantly*why*,doesPlathblurthebrodersbetweenthepublicandtheprivate?

“thrumming”

weirdly enough

iunie 29, 2015



morning particle


from the ground of lowered expectations
these desires appear to mask
come toothsome experiences dealcoholised
in solar flows of trust or pleasure
grassy plights, nostalgic dam levels
the printed day seen fall on it heels
sing the commodious husked hot-desk!
bundled failure and pulse of water
presently officeworks blinks krill
and sparkling tablet ground to foam, disappear



iunie 28, 2015



disconstructed appliance


a bird folds into a sling

impassive as a dinghy

the inside-city has changed

as the days became boomgates

a casino in the spoken world

who is thinking ran above this

tuft of soaked alcohol

regretted light


‘A Dream’ by John Forbes.

iunie 25, 2015

Around the middle of 2009, a few months after I moved to Melbourne, I was on the way or about to go to the weekly poetry group at Sam Langer’s house in Station Street, North Carlton. He was feeling sick and had texted me to ask if I could get him some cold and flu tablets from the chemist on Lygon Street on my way there. As I remember it, the pharmacist approached me to ask what I was looking for and I said I was after Codral Linctus. She seemed just-perceptibly startled at this but at the same time totally cool: ‘They took that off the shelves years ago.’ Then, as if I might need further convincing, became suddenly defiant: ‘You can go to any chemist in Melbourne and they won’t sell you that!’ I remember that this second statement seemed unecessary given she’d just told me – or so I thought – that the stuff wasn’t made anymore. Thinking about it afterwards, it was even slightly suspicion-inducing: why did she feel the need to emphasise this, indeed, to invoke this limit case: ‘any chemist in Melbourne’? Was there a cache somewhere? Did ‘off the shelves’ mean that you could still get it, but it was just no longer ‘over the counter’? I realised then – actually, almost as soon as I’d said it – that I was folded into a time-wrinkle, effected by the John Forbes poems I’d been re-reading that afternoon. Specifically, the poem ‘A Dream’, which concerns Frank O’Hara, the city of London, several attempts to purchase Actifed CC cough mixture, and something to do with the murky correspondences between fiscal inflation, nostalgia, death, and writing poetry. I corrected myself, asked for the cold and flu tablets, which were provided, paid and left.

I think I have read this poem almost as if it were a dream of my own. My encounter with the pharmacist seemed to be an acting-out of part of the poem, without my knowing at the time that I was doing so, nor the circumstances which had made such an acting out plausible or weirdly logical. Why had I said ‘Codral Linctus’ – words I hadn’t heard or thought about for years, not since ads for cough mixture when I was a kid? Why had this happened as I was about to attend a poetry night at Station Street, a few doors up from the last house John Forbes lived in? The coincidences were interesting and confusing; trying to write what happened has a similar feeling to trying to recount a dream, but without the excuse of its being a dream. Something in the telling of Forbes’ dream, ‘A Dream’, encourages the feeling in the reader of complicity. Partly this is because Forbes, the character in, and recounter of, the dream, leaves it as unsure as to what the dream signifies or symbolises as the reader does. That is, the ‘old bloke’ pharmacist’s explanation of how he avoids inflation, unlike the more expensive place down the road, leaves Forbes, ‘baffled but knowing that he’s right’, which is exactly how we seem to feel, leaving the poem. Like a dream, when reading the telling of this dream we seem to be inside a world of which only the action taking place is visible.

The logic of the chemist/pharmacy for the purposes of dream and waking life is as that which both displays and conceals the objects of desire. The lower grades are arrayed on the shelves, needing only money to be obtained, the higher grades behind the high office, in the dispensary, require something more than that (I recall the 80s/90s movie Drugstore Cowboy explores this problem). In Australia access seems to be organised around the system of drugs which are in one of three categories: ‘over the counter’; not ‘over the counter’; ‘prescription’. Cough mixture, at least higher quality cough mixture of the 1980s, I suspect would have been in the second category, ‘not over the counter’, whereby the customer who would otherwise see it as his-her right to be able to take any product off the shelf, bring it to the counter, purchase it and have it wrapped in a brown paper bag if he-she wishes, is instead required to ask for their desired commodity to be brought down especially, allowing him-her thereby to be judged by the pharmacist and placed in the role of the needy supplicant, the drug addict (‘Oh you drug addicts live in a little world of your own’, the snooty pommy dream pharmacist tells the dream Forbes). Thus a strange space opens up in the logic of customer service: the business-entity wants the customer’s money, but at the same time maintains the authority, like a publican, to refuse service. To be allowed to buy the product, the customer must be judged as worthy: they must not be a drug addict, and their symptoms must be performed authentically. They must submit to their given role of good customer-child, being allowed the drugs (on condition) by the father-pharmacist-judge. The high office of the pharmacist resembles that of a judge’s. There is an illustrative Seinfeld ‘bit’ about this architectural aspect: Seinfeld exagerrates the raised position of the pharmacist and then switches roles to the customer, reaching up for the product being dangled, just out of reach, demonstrating the minaturizing/infantilising effect achieved. Forbes’ poem is less about this theatre of the transaction (‘point of sale’) than it is about the panic – and the skill and quick-thinking required – to get to the pharmacy (or the bottle shop) before closing time, and, once there, the problem of how much one can afford of what is required, and the question of how insulted, belittled or ‘observed’ one is prepared to be made to feel for buying it. Even though he can afford one bottle at the first pharmacy, the pharmacist’s slur has dream Forbes (brilliantly) change tack at the last minute. Like an old-timey gumshoe he says ‘Shove it, lady’ to the pharmacist, and races out to see if he can find another open chemist.

The one he finds is clearly, overly, signified as of the past: ‘It’s a very old-fashioned looking place with thin windows between carved Gothic frames.’ This chemist sells his cough mixture for 2.50 a bottle, and, when asked about this, he explains that he can sell it this cheaply because, unlike the woman down the road who charges 9.60, he doesn’t let inflation ‘get to him’.

How do you avoid it I ask & he says ‘The way to beat inflation is to live in the past.’ I ask him what he means & he says, ‘Anyone can do it. Look at Frank O’Hara – he was still writing good poems in 1976 & he’d been dead for ten years. It’s simple.’

‘Living in the past’ seems a familiar shorthand description for nostalgia. And the idea of Frank O’Hara still writing good poems ten years after he died might (‘simply’) be symbolic of the chronic largesse of his style and his oeuvre, that his poems seem to keep arriving, keep bringing fresh encounters despite being technically past their used by date, in a way that gathering his Collected Poems together surely facilitated rather than limited (i.e. contra Basil Bunting in the preface to his Complete Poems: ‘A man who collects his poems screws together the boards of his coffin.’) Part of the charm and disquieting oddness of this last part of the poem is that the example that the old man chemist gives to explain his statement apparently bears little relation to that statement, i.e. how is it Frank O’Hara writing good poems ten years after his death is an example of living in the past? Or is it that year in particular – 1976 (at a guess, ten years before the poem was written – given that the collection it’s from was published in 1988 – and, if so, the halfway point between O’Hara’s 1966 and his 1986) – that is the active ingredient, one that signifies Forbes as ‘still’ a young man, ‘still’ writing good poems (critically acclaimed first collection, Tropical Skiing, just out, etc. etc.)?

It is the confounding logic of this poem beneath its simple-seeming and appealing story-book surface that the different elements of it seem to fit together simply and invite piecing together, but defy actual explanation. Peter Porter noticed this story-book quality, referring to it (as I recall) as ‘The Search for the Original Cough Mixture’. Unlike most Forbes poems it is without the artifices of line breaks or couplets or stanza divisions. The only other dream poem of his I know, the elegy ‘lassu in cielo’ (‘my first dream of home / from Loughborough U’), though also strange, is quite different, more formally reduced and concise.

The process of nostalgia is simplifying and decontextusalising. To live in the past is to live in a kind of conditional state: melancholia, the refusal to let go of the external object of attachment. The poem is at least as much about value. Things were so much cheaper in the 70s! And those heavy cans of beer – how enormous they were! And the poem is self-consciously a dream, ‘A Dream’, such that we read it as a sincere attempt at telling, and are invited to interpret its dream-logic, and as Forbes’ own dream-work. The economic theory of inflation seems to have been mingling with the modulations that nostalgia effects on memory: as we recede further into the future, the object of memory becomes more colour-saturated with nostalgia as its exchange value seems to shrink – so as to seem available to us. There is something too about the logic of addiction mixed in with all of this.

iunie 13, 2015

November 4






                 electricity


                 substations             (Bolton)




                   a ‘lucozadey’ car          (Brown)




the first touches of rain –
fretted
almost courteous
spreading the paper out beneath one’s wrists
one could couch it in such terms
the fumes of sound which permeate
a ceiling space
a pulse of water
the beautiful close pieces of metal
released
onto the page (?)
maybe
i’ll just open that window a bit
see what the air is like
crinkle the chocolate
involve myself in the air
the dried-out
once-stowed things
left out the front of the flats
‘clearing the eye’
the tree in brief
and then in detail
a tree replanted
in reverse
particularized
leaves in the earth
acclimatise
or die
is the imperative
we learn
to repeat we learn
no such thing
the trees remain closed
viewy, uninsistent
marvels
one assents to
their watery undersea look
and soon comes to waiting less
holding fewer
and moves through the scene more passably
less emotionlessly
for from the weather of one comes the
weather of several
in most countries
one’s motives said to be scribbled, ephemera
the wind unseats
and carries down the street
this late in spring
no longer knowing why it does this
hurling one way then another
‘pieces of weather’
the remainders to return
with coughs bottles nursed
dangled from hands
no longer tensed
in this air
a car
materializes
‘something shy
about the air’
and the image of oneself
‘however many’



4.11.14

martie 30, 2015

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