Sunday, August 24, 2014

Disorder of the herd

In an attempt to defy Brett Cross' claim that twitter is a hostile environment for every writer who does not resort to the brutal brevity of a Hemingway or Chandler, I recently tweeted this 'Meme Poem'. It was made at the Meme Generator site, and matches a line from the incorrigibly verbose Kendrick Smithyman's great poem 'Near Ellon' with a portrait of the arrest of a trade unionist during a demonstration in Wellington in 1931. I think the Meme Poem could be a new literary genre.


Blogger Richard said...

That's an interesting poem by Smithyman. There is nothing overtly political about it though. I had another look at it and saw I had been studying it, probably about 2004, and had made a few notes, but I didn't know where he was, so to speak, in the poem, but on a road atlas of Britain I found he was in Grampian, Scotland. He plays with the word 'kind' very cleverly, and the way the dialect (implicit in 'dialectical' which has even deeper layers) implies history: the words or terms used are from early Briton (via Gaelic or early Briton - Celtic derived) and also the Anglo-Saxon influence. Then he is very near to the machine (a scarifier I think one term is) that spreads cow dung, and the smell of the country (which contrasts perhaps with the 'Horned god [Pan]...or the country god.' So there is a lot going on, then history becomes very real.
Smithyman's herd being the 'human herd' and the animal. There is also the sense of darkness and alienation.

I also like many of the poems of Baxter, his poems often have a similar complexity: but his concern is mostly questions of religion, death and so on. Lindsay was keen on Baxter. Both poets wrote so much.

I see how such a thing could become a new kind of poem but I think there is already too much going on for me without twitter.

I think people, despite the huge increase in the ability to communicate electronically, have in fact become more alienated from each other (just as motor cars and TV in no way improved human interrelationships: the alienation effect is in full force despite FB etc although there are some compensations.

You used to ring me up but now I cant even get your phone number and Jack wont even tell me where he lives, and my daughters rarely phone me. So, despite working for years in tele communications etc I am left with my son (and that is great).

These social-political issues, resolved or not, will be of no significance if people cant live together and the world has become, since even say 1700, increasingly psychotic and alienated: in Africa people are so depraved they murder elephants, gorillas, and other animals for financial gains. Human beings, driven by the selfish gene, are basically fucked.

10:36 pm  
Anonymous Scott said...

Sorry for not being in touch, Richard - we're expecting an important event! But Paul will be in touch!

Peter Simpson did a tour of the UK sites Smithyman travelled through, taking photos and making notes. He doesn't seem to have published it, though! I recently met a Norfolk Island-bred descendant of a Bounty mutineer, and have been showing her some of Private Smithyman's prose descriptions of wartime Norfolk. I've been fantasising about publishing them in a bilingual Norf'k-English edition, and doing launch parties in Kingston and in Auckland! There's be a fair bit of work involved in setting all that up, of course...

9:48 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Ho! Smithyman was a riddler for sure. I read him from time to time. Jack's getting dangerously committed and political now (or particularly since) that these revelations re the Nats are coming out. My problem is I don't trust any of them, e.g. what if we could eveasdrop on Labour?

And then I hear them wanting to put the boot into the Welfare system also (in fact the attacks on Beneficiaries came initially from Labour - and don't forget how there was NO Labour Party interest in Len Parker's struggle, so the wonderful monkey man John Banks was able to go on radio talkback and ridicule him as a 'hero of the working class'...I couldn't get any reply from Beyer (Tony Beyer's brother I think) and meanwhile I recall Labour put in place (as well as the 1984-85 betrayal of the Unions and the Sell Off) the anti-terrorist Laws with a gusto.

Not keen on Mana + .com, not keen on the Green Men.

But back to Smithy, he wasn't political as such, his range is wider, more subtle. Not that (or it is hard to show any actual 'non-political' writing). Graham Lindsay also points to some great poems by Baxter.

I didn't realise he had been up to Scotland, I was reading Kingsley Amis's 'The Old Devils' (set in Wales) and I thought K.S. was talking about Wales.

I have a big box of books re the Pacific and also a Language box (I'm clearing out books I had for sale). I'm sure I have one on Norfolk Island and also the language there. I keep forgetting where it is though: somewhere north, left hand down a bit, near Australia - used it for convicts at one stage? Terrible places they were...

You or someone interested can have the Pacific books (some are very good): but I want to sell off the other (about 3000 I think) but I am clearing out my garage etc first as I need to carefully assess, throw out, collate, take what I what might etc so I'm not ready to dispose of said books as I have more to look at.

The 'Archeology,Sociology, Indigenous...etc' is interesting as is the 'Political, History, Countries...' I have also some NZ Lit and Lit gen. but there are other categories such as Fiction, Biogs, Film, Music and so some work to do. Should have a car ca. the 8th of September so tell Janman to get his act together. !


2:23 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Simpson's done a lot of work on literature in NZ and his books about McCahon I appreciated.

2:24 pm  
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12:37 am  

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