‘Not Bondi Beach’

The longest poem in this short collection, A LULL, is centered on homelessness. The most startling phrase was “among the boots & nets / a child’s cry / tangled in the bows”, which – as well as drawing on Homer – is surprisingly realist, despite not dropping the tune, which was earlier remarked on: “hear it ask for forgiveness / plead insanity”. An unusual misreading ordered my first take on A LULL: “a pub garden / on a June evening / seem a sea calmed”; I read ‘calmed’ as ‘cold’.

In light of my recent post on Brass, the “The shifting stair”, in COLD p16 of poems 2000-2010, seems to refer to ‘The Winding Stair’ romance novel by AEW Mason, and Yeats’ collection after ‘The Tower’ – including its interest in death, with its “wild”, strange, meaning. I’m primarily interested in whether there is a deliberate doubling of high – Yeats – and kitsch – Mason – art, given I also read the low art substitution of a “stairway to heaven” there.

As that would be an exact mirror image of my analysis of – perhaps all the poems in Brass – which I think folds ‘art’ and ‘culture’ into ‘kitsch’. Perhaps why a child struggling to ride a boat – with its sentimental – if here authentic value – was so striking.

I cannot say if these poems are a success. Fisher lurks. The line is suitable, and the collection has a lot of heart, whether Baker is writing on a woman, a friend, a worker.



‘Poems’, ii

Smooth Landing (p191 in Poems)

“There is a lie of the immortal […] he boils his egg”

I see this poem as in effect maintaining and developing the tension between avant garde and art, and thereby, kitsch and low brow.

The first phrase – DEFINITELY – seems pseudo kitsch, in Greenberg’s sense of using art “values” exclusive of ‘expression’. It’s hackneyed sentiment, however formally coherent. Content is made less relevant, by the structure (making sense) of the rest of the poem (“peace with honour”: a repudiation)

The second phrase – clearly to me – is low brow, but in a different sense (is it a post modern collage?). It makes the poem, but so robustly that – given content – it’s slightly absurd, as if a parody of closure; even as there are links with the ‘cataract’ in the penultimate line, a doubling that mirrors the dynamic of the kitschy introduction – from ease / speed, to old age / blindness (or perhaps vice versa).

The poem reads like an avant garde work that erases all that is said in so much as it collapses into a meaningful whole, when the poet aligns the importance of his avant garde erasure with the indeterminate figuration. Yet the ‘whole’ does not – for me – suggest either metonymic reading is preferable; which is puzzling.

So, perhaps the work is a success if it is not a “lie”, if interior to the poem “the immortal” has “honour”. If so, that is a matter of form


Ed Dorn’s ‘The North Atlantic Turbine’

Quoting from an early poem:

“there came on Lexden road / a long, high hearse / with a sloping back like a / medium hill. / a man in funereal garments / rode shotgun / his face under the black / top hat / a grinning / memento mori”

These poems remind me of how form – shape – is historically mediated content that has, via the artistic impulse, become irrelevant to form. Ed Dorn wont sit still, content seems incidental to what is said. The philosopher Josh Robinson claims on a phrase of Adorno’s:

“Sedimentation refers here to a process whereby the content of what come to be artworks […] ceases to be relevant (or even exist), while the objects continue to be made with the same or similar features.”

Could one see Prynne’s poetic career as the extension of that?


‘In Darkest Capital’ i


Whatever the problem

we’ve developed the answer.

The result is a range that takes

caring for your hair seriously –

because we know you do.

(from READY-MADES IN VOGUE: a student’s guide to capitalist poetry)

Lurking in the slogans – is a “language forcing itself through content”, and it shocks, horrifying the ready made daily routine: ‘problem’ solved (‘loosened’) not just answered.

These seem the most accessible poems in the collection.


A poem from ‘Poems’

Reproduced as best as possible, without permission

I want to read this, straightforwardly, as taking a photograph and returning home, being warmed there and the image of “wheels / muffled in sheep- / skin”, a reference to smuggling amber in Austria, and – for me – commentary on the symbol of kitsch car accessories.

I suppose I tend to need to anchor a poem in some – any – experience the poet has had, however trivial, for coherence. That problem seems the inverse of the bodily experience of pressure when writing, which suggests that it might be an equation – tacitly – of free verse to speech.

But what is an alternative mode of coherence: beyond trivia and self?

Starting with meaning in melopoeia – music.