new zealand electronic poetry centre

 

Laurie Duggan in Auckland 23-24 March 2006


Introduction
 |  Reading  |  Links


 

Introduction

Australian poet Laurie Duggan read and spoke at the University of Auckland 23-24 March 2006. He gave an autobiographical talk ‘Amaze Your Friends!’ which subsequently appeared in ka mate ka ora #2. Laurie was presented with a Tapa Notebook and read with local poets and student writers at STRATA #5. Next day he recorded a selection of poems for nzepc archives (video and texts below).

Laurie Duggan’s most recent book is The Passenger (U of Queensland P, 2006). He was Writer in Residence in the School of Arts, Media and Culture at Griffith University, Queensland, 2005-06 and relocated to Kent, England, in August 2006.

‘I began this talk with family details. Yet I don’t see anything particularly special about my own case; family history for many people turns out to be both more and less than the establishment of a clear line of descent. In the words of the Fascist ideologues I might well be considered a “rootless cosmopolitan”. And I would like to embrace this state of existence even if much of my work addresses notions of place and history since I remain suspicious of national impulses. The current craze for genealogy (and one has only to visit a library to become aware of its extent) is perhaps a misplaced desire for self-importance in an age which threatens to reduce us all to ciphers. At the same time government camouflages its dismantling of local initiative with a mythical national agenda. The documented resurgence of Anzac Day in Australia at least has all the hallmarks of an “invented tradition”’. (‘Amaze Your Friends!’)



 

Laurie Duggan reads in Albert Park, Auckland, 24 March 2006

Links

 


Tilt

The feeling of being here, without explanation, miraculous and terrible in a space where all is gratuitous. The grey mist of rain or the grime of windows. The sharp notes of an unidentified bird.

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An object never before noticed on the horizon seems to advance and recede though it is stable: a highlit part of a familiar building detached from its customary anchorage.

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The air is hard and cool. The road goes nowhere under the clouds and the high-tension lines.

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A landscape opens up and closes in. Its benign features - signage - become, in the stilled image, markers of identity, reminders of loss.

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The concrete soldier with raised bayonet. The head of a lion. The metal sheaths of streetlights. An invisible flagpole. The buttress of a monument.

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The inhabitants have left the scene. Their washing, strung across the verandah, a plastic bucket: these are the clues.

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A country mailbox. Faces of children by a road void of traffic. A handstand holds the planet for a moment upside-down. Figures in middle distance move lightly on its surface.

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These people. Do they expect us to know them? To know what is inside this briefcase, on the back seat of that car?

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A comforting myth: that the world and all things in it are made of gelatin silver. We rise from a chemical bath and are lovingly curated in acid-free surrounds. Or we are found, curled and cracked in a pile of refuse.

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What we don’t see in the photographs we take: the slip of a genteel aunt, a disembodied hand, the image of ripe tomatoes on a blue cardboard box.

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Tattoos, aniline and permanent, on flesh that withers.

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The buildings are all in their rightful places. Then blankness. What if all this were an invention?

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All things are concepts. But we are trapped in their consequence. The cash register and the typewriter, archaeology that surrounds us. Our smiles already periodised; those tics that represent an era.

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There are no interiors, or what we see is already an interior. Blinding light through windows. Television presuming an outside world.

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If you turn quickly the scene will change its shape. Laughter from the street. Your own?   Memory is displaced by memorabilia.

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A reflection in plate glass of a pedestrian walking out of shot. She walks from the bank across a car park. Then she disappears into 1987.

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Words stare you in the face. Crazy paving and 1960s functionalism become the architecture of despair. A language of shapes dismantled like the genetic code.

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An old calendar on which events are marked. The taper of trousers passing the demolition site. An engine meticulously restored. Hell for leather. Guarded with your life.

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The sky darkens over a small town. Gorse on the otherwise bare surrounding hills. Power lines intersect above a memorial fountain.

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There is no room for nostalgia. The paint is not yet dry on this edifice. Dance steps come straight from an instruction manual.

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A distance, not local, but from somewhere else. A life led in relation to lives presumed elsewhere. A style reflecting an imagined capital. A capital as fantastic as life on another planet.

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A dog stares backwards into history like Walter Benjamin’s angel. The future, ill-lit, waits beyond the dashboard.

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The destination of the photograph does not include us or our concerns. It moves away at the speed of light. We remain in our own narratives.

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Or we are held in another narrative. The lights at the crossing remain forever red.

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Wind blows the photograph away. The weather in the photograph does not blow the photograph away.

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A smeared window. Steam and rain. The lit shapes of petrol bowsers.

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There is no horizon. We are shadows in a moving car. Speed is our history. There are fables behind these images that are forgotten.

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As though, in waking, benign objects become for a moment the ogres of childhood. Walking in a foreign land where only the accents differ; alternate narratives that might be yours.

 

 


Short Poems

 

A nation of small investors

we can hardly wait for management
to ‘have to let us go’

 

War Poem

emotion recollected
in tanks

 

Market research

‘is your poetry poetry like poetry
people who like poetry like?’

 

A near perfect definition of poetry supplied by
a Queensland Police traffic officer describing
with a double negative a major cause of the
Christmas road toll

‘momentary lapses of inattention’

 


Upside down

 

Rosemary reads a passage from a novel
describing the sloth, an animal
that sleeps mostly, is slow to move,
reminding her of me.
                                After dinner
we walk past an apartment
labelled ‘ minimalistic elegance’
    unattractive
as the description of a potential residence
though ok if applied to
a book of poems . . . my poems.
                                        I mean
does it mean ‘a minimum of elegance’ (cut corners)
or an elegance of minimal nature (like the Japanese)?

I hang by my toes upside down in the trees.

 


Lines for a reading

I have to write a poem
for a poetry reading
in the House of Parliament.
It’s the House they don’t use
since they closed it
some time ago. But it will do
for poems, the ‘Dorothy Dixers’
that live forever. Well, what to put
in my poem for the poetry reading?
Should I take a ‘heroic’ theme
in tune with the atmosphere
of an historic building? Or would this
be wrenching my voice
a little too far? With a diaphragm
like mine, booming is an impossibility.
So I’ll take a casual route
allowing accident to mingle
with intention. It could be
a Frank O’Hara type poem
as in ‘I did this, I did that’
(I looked at a map of Kent
calculating how long it would take
to walk from Sandwich to Canterbury
- Sandwich, because
it’s just near Pegwell Bay
where William Dyce painted
his wonderful painting of people
on the beach, standing, as the sun falls,
in isolated groups in this liminal space
as though waiting for the end of something
- the nineteenth century? or some even more momentous
occurrence, like, say, the arrival
of visitors from another galaxy.
Actually they have just witnessed
(or failed to witness) the passing
of Donati’s comet; an event
that dates the picture
precisely.   It is October 5 th, 1858.
(But now, as I write this poem
to be read in the Upper House
it is 6.30 p.m., July 20 th, 2001.
On the SBS News, George W Bush
visits Europe, reads to uncomfortable children
in the British Museum Reading Room and offers:
‘Marx, Lenin, Mark Twain, George W Bush’.
A naked man sprints across the road
near Buckingham Palace. Genoa is fortified
against ‘anti- Globalist’ protesters. In Nepal
the Prime Minister decides ‘to leave these
corridors of power’ . . . Corridors
like these I’m (at this very moment) reading in?
‘Corridors of poetry’ sounds too
High School Confidential
(but all this detail draws me still further
from my objective: to introduce something
in a not inappropriate tone
to the present setting: red plush
of a House of Review
(though my poems are stuck
on a lower level, or at least somewhere
between the high ideal (the metapoetic?)
and the mundane;
bicameral in Spirit
if not in Action.

 


Difference and repetition

The sheet darkens
with added ink, lightens
when the contrast eases.
Enlarged, a comma
becomes a bent lake
on a map, diminished
an impurity in the paper.
From a distance a world
of ruled margins and neat
habitations, closer
it’s a mess, repeated over
and over, nearly
but not quite a replica,
a simple pattern with variations,
pier of small black crosses
invisible, almost, against
a sea of hyphens.

 

 


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Last updated 25 September, 2006