Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Eviscerator Returns

Six and a half years ago, as the deadly fireworks display called Shock and Awe was brightening the skies above Baghdad, I helped to run an anti-war poetry reading at a small pub in Ponsonby. The event attracted political activists, whose staccato verses perhaps needed to be shouted through a megaphone and repeated by a crowd of thousands to attain their best effect, plus a few uncompromising avant-gardists like Richard Taylor, who insisted on performing a particularly long and particularly recondite pasage of his notorious Infinite Poem, and a gaggle of apolitical Bohemian hipsters, who recited the sort of sub-Kerouac kitsch which seems to be the stock in trade of the live poetry 'scene' in Auckland.

The evening was saved by the money collected for the anti-war movement, and by the unexpected appearance of Hamish Dewe, a talented young Auckland poet who had departed for the wilds of China at the beginning of the noughties. Apart from his fierce love of Ezra Pound and his impeccable craftsmanship, Hamish had been renowned in nineties for the enormous Panama hat he would almost always wear in public.

'One form of war is economics', a bare-headed Dewe told the audience as he took the stage, 'and one type of war booty is cheap labour'. Perhaps noting the puzzled looks on the stoned faces of the wannabe Kerouacs, Dewe explained that he had 'exchanged time for money in China, which is now a capitalist hellhole'. Hamish read several short, caustic poems that drew on his experiences attempting to share the pearls of English literature with the bored, spoilt children of a brand new bourgeoisie in the universities of Chinese cities mutilated and polluted by out of control capital accumulation:

disgust engendered

in the human mechanism

——what is there to

keep you from

doing away with

it, altogether?

——the call of the


though bestial

cannot be ignored


'As Marx said', Dewe muttered, while fossicking about in a folder for one of his poems, 'capital comes into this world oozing blood and sweat from every pore. China is blood and sweat.'

When the audience was asked to vote for the best performer of the night, they gave Hamish the honour by a solid margin. The lefties had responded to his evisceration of Wild West capitalism, the literary crowd admired the careful, high modernist construction of his poems, and the hipsters were impressed by his cool, almost detached delivery.

Later in 2003 Hamish Dewe returned to China to exchange more of his labour-time for money, but he sent home regular poem-reports on the country he hated. 'Shanghai', which was published in the the journal brief earlier this year, exemplifies the controlled fury of Dewe's despatches:

our backs, minds, like

our streets,


with the force of acquiescence







and crowded round the effluvia of

the Huangpu

studded with hairdressers

that don’t cut hair, staffed

with the cream of Anhui

‘virginity’, like our




So much to revile and so little time.

Hamish Dewe recently returned from China for good, and I am pleased to announce that he was resumed his early habit of producing short, caustic commentaries on Kiwi society. I am also pleased to announce that Hamish be will be taking the mike during next Friday night's Titus Books launch for Richard von Sturmer's memoir On The Eve of Never Departing and the acclaimed Mexican poet Rogelio Guedea's collection Free Fall (you can read a preview of each book here). Dewe is a fan of Latin American poetry and an accomplished translator from Spanish and Lusophone literatures, so it is appropriate that Titus Books boss Brett Cross has invited him to read some of Free Fall's lapidarian prose poems. Just don't ask Hamish whether he had a good day at the office.

Here's the formal invite for what should be an exciting night:

Titus Books

is pleased to invite you along with friends, family &c.
to the launch of

On the Eve of Never Departing
by Richard von Sturmer

Free Fall
by Rogelio Guedea

Friday Sept 25th
Fordes Bar, 122 Anzac Ave
Central City from 6.30pm

Introduction by Tony Green

Readings by Richard von Sturmer
and Hamish Dewe

MC: Scott Hamilton

Live music by Otis Mace


Blogger Ross Brighton said...

What's wrong with uncompromising avant-gardism?

1:43 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Nothing! It just comes across amusingly in certain contexts. I am a great fan of Richard's Infinite Poem - though I can never quite get to the end of it...

4:14 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

I didn't read from The Infinite poem Maps!!

And the context was abysmal for poetry or what I call "high art"...

(It cant be read from - except it can be but it cant - how can ideas be expressed - why should they be?)

If Hamish is a Marxist I'll eat his big hat! And he loves China - or he loves the women in China!!

Of course Capitalism has taken over - but let's get real - what else is there?

Actually, apart from some poems from my book, in which I read some "realist" poems from Hospital, [and maybe part of "from The Infinte Poem" which as Maps knows is only "from" what is endless - hence CANT have an end, and who would want one??] - I read another, very different kind of poem from what I have written, was an old poem influenced by Joyce (and Dylan Thomas) I think in sense it was about a father-daughter relationships - based on an incident with my daughter - that is it was basically "about" my daughter's growing independence (or any young person's who is growing up) and however it had subtext (and I played a lot with words) - most of it was not "heard" by the audience who were made up either of philistinic Marxists or drugged Kerouacians or people just wanting to booz and listen to music - some of the so-called politicos were mad - well one was raving about the police raids and so on...

It was terrible place to read poetry!!

Like many of the tales Maps it is mostly very distorted if not invented - very embellished in any cases - but it makes for good reading! I remember Ted Jenner was there but I cant recall Hamish! And I was sober!

Maybe he was there...

But Hamish moves in mysterious ways...

There was music by Direen but pop music etc doesn't interest me so I didn't listen - there were some political speeches etc which were somewhat interesting.

I was too sober to give a good reading. (Although I have also sometimes been too drunk in the past...) But in my "hey day" I was always drunk when I was Sam Hunt.

But Hamish is indeed perhaps NZ's Ed Dorn.

5:26 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

live poetry in orkland rulz...

much better than BORING old shit on the page that U seem 2 like...

shame hollands and miriam barr and the literati are the only LIVING NZ POETS...

theres dead old shit like shakespear and dickens that boring academics like you talk about but who else is actually doing poems NOW?

oh yes richard taylor but he is not as good as shane and he would say that himself...

shane has proven himself the best nz poet by far...

the only NZ poet?!???!!?

& where do you get off dissing kerouac...

kerouac bukowski and tupac are the only MODERN American poets...

y don't u guys DO poetry instead of critising the few who DO?!??!

5:43 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Anonymous - we all DO poetry - it would help me to know who you are so I could give you a blast.. but Kerouac I am afraid is very old stuff. He died of a burst stomach ulcer caused by too much boozing and drugs. By the way we are none of us "you guys" we all disagree about poetry and aesthetics and everything else which is good....Shane is good - he is the half brother of Maps friend and poet Mathew Arnold who is a kind of genius - as is Hamish of course - but H D is more cunning...

But it is not that Poetry Live is better than - whatever - there are all kinds of places and all kinds of styles... and it's not if I am "better" than Shane - he has didiferent style...what does it mean to say I am or am not "better"...?

Ross lives way down in some other part of the world and and has never been to Poetry Live - not sure if he would want to...he might but he is no where near it!!

Hamish hates Poetry Live - fair enough...each to his own

Look if truly great poets such as Emily Dickinson, Robert Browing, Pound, Gertrude Stein, H.D., W H Auden, Francis Webb, Geoffrey Hill, John Ashbery, Lyn Heijinian, Ron Silliman or Tom Raworth et al were to arrive in Auckland - there is no way they are going to read at Poetry Live.

7:22 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"Robert Browning" that should have been

To study ART or POETRY go to this Blog:

7:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

robert browning isn't he DEAD?

shane is ALIVE

he can rouse the crowd

sorry richard but that site you entioned is just full academic b...s...

big words, dead words...


ps also check out murray h - he has soe wicked wordz...reading soon...

luke d

8:15 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Browning may well be dead - but he is a famous and rightly considered to be a very great poet whereas about


per cent of the world will ever know of Shane Hollands.

And - a little secret - everyone dies - even poets!

Are you Shane - if it is you - come on - admit it like a man! if it is you then you are truly broken - worrying about whether a or b is better than c or f etc

The Shane Hollands I know is pretty well educated. He also admires my poetry. He is also part of the very wide and growing Richard Taylor Admiration Club... members of which - quite rightly - realise my immense abilities... The Others (who don't read Browning or Eliot or Ashbery etc) get banished OUT of my Club.

9:39 pm  
Blogger maps said...

Hi Richard,

I think you may be confusing the anti-war poetry night held at Pogue Mahones in March 2003 with the night of poetry and music held at the PR Bar in November 2007 to protest the police raids in the Urewera and elsewhere and raise funds for the victims of the raids.

Having said that, I myself may have confused the reading of March 2003 with another reading you did about the same time, when I said that I remember you performing part of the Infinite Poem. I certainly recall you doing the sequence Bricks at the anti-war reading, and encountering a fair amount of incomprehension, but I thought you did the section of the Infinite Poem which begins 'Richard, you really must try...' - I think it's taken from an old school report - as well.

I agree that the atmosphere at both the 2003 and 2007 events was not very conducive to the appreciation of poetry. I don't think this is because the activist left is especially philistine, compared to other parts of the political spectrum - I think it's the result of an expectation in our society, and in many societies like it, that language should be a transparent, trouble-free medium for the transmission of pre-prepared, easily comprehensible messages. In our era of twitter, five second soundbites, and multitasking, the deamnd that language be transparent rather than ambiguous is louder than ever.

Because poetry takes the nuances of language as its raw material, in the same way that painting takes paint as its raw material, it is swimming against a cold and powerful current.

7:16 am  
Blogger maps said...

On the subject of Hamish's beliefs - I never called him a Marxist, but it's fact he was reading Marx in the late nineties and early noughties, at least. He wrote a Masters thesis on the avant-garde Marxist poet Bruce Andrews, and so he probably needed to mug up, but I think his interest went a good deal deeper.

Hamish also read a lot of Althusser, and I think he was attracted to Althusser's 'anti-humanist' interpretation of Marx, which holds that human beings are determined at a very fundamental level by forces outside their control, and that concepts of the self and of individual will are therefore problematic.

Hamish seemed to share Althusser's pessimism about the possibility that human beings could become conscious of their situation, and take their fate into their own hands. I think that is one reason he was never attracetd to socialist politics: he considered them utopian. He may have accepted Marx's analysis of capitalism, but he didn't have Marx's faith that capitalism could be overthrown by workers. A famous slogan asserts that the era capitalism can end either in socialism or barbarism; Hamish saw, and perhaps still sees, only barbarism as a possibility.

I don't think Hamish's scathing remarks about contemporary China reflect a wholesale distaste for Chinese culture and society, so much as disappointment at the way the positive features of Chinese civilisation have been obscured or even destroyed by untramelled capitalism. Hamish seems depressed by the destruction of the architecture of Chinese cities by developers, and by the pollution of China's environment. A Sinophobe wouldn't feel such emotions.

9:16 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

intellectual crap has nothing to with poetry poetry is about a pure expression of emotion but you wouldn't know that would you because you are too busy reading books rather than LIVING

11:07 am  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

what exactly is "intellectual crap", and why does it have nothing to do with poetry, or emotion?

and both Bukowski and Kerouac are dead, and weren't that good. Bukowski was a misogynist and a loser. Give me Bruce Andrews any day. Hamish sounds like an interesting chap.

12:56 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Ye - I got mixed up between them -also I went for walk across the road to the petrol station for some drinks as I had had 2 beers -I wasn't drunk but I felt thirsty but didn't want anymore booze - so I must have missed some of it - I agree some of what I read was met with "incomprehension" - I was being a bit ... when I use the term philistine as indeed itisnotlimited to the politicos and I recall Dave and the Maori Marxist fellow liked part of my Hospital series that I read...and yes I maybe did read that part of the so-called IP ... which met with some incomprehension.

I didn't have much that was particularly political - although when I started reading in public in 1989 I had some political satires I of the first poems I wrote was an attack on the Chinmese Government for the Tientsin Square massacres...but I found such poetry too didactic, as with Rosemary Menzies poems about Bosnia..and when I met you in 1994 neither you, I , Michael or Hamish had any time or truck for ANY politics we were super postmodernsts...almost literary anarchists which tradition I have somewhat own version of postmodernism mixed with a dash of Marxism and so on...also the way I sued to write way back in about 1966 or so - but I burnt all my poetry from those days..

I remember that I had to work on building my audiences until in the mid to near late 90s I just about had to keep people away! Michelle Leggott would be reading, or some other "famous poet" but many many people would come up to me very anxious that I was going to read....

but also I lubricated my Sam Huntian cavortings with rather too much of the sacred ichor of which I and Bob Orr used to continue imbibing until thee early hours when directed by need or alcohol inflamed desire we repaired to various houses of ill repute and staggered home (to face terrible hangovers - in my case) - also I was - from this reason - collecting too many DIC charges (bob had had the choice of not drive or drink and he chose not to, so he had bicycle at that time) - which puzzled me as I couldn't understand why the police were concerned with people being drunk - while driving. When I was young -when I didn't drink - it was traffic cops and they tended to be a little more lenient - but then I hadn't been drinking in those halycon times (except one or two memorable times) - in fact I didn't start drinking (seriously!) until I was in my 40s as I needed (or thought I needed) the Dutch courage to read poetry live ... and so on...

3:09 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Yes, Bruce Andrews was the poet Hamish studied and I was "enamoured" of many of the other Langpos (many were infuenced by other "strands" including the European poets, and the (so-called) NY or East Coast poets etc etc- in fact you "introduced" me to Antin- who is a really strange case...hmm..and he started so well with his poems and experiments then he got into those mavellous talk poems - BUT then he reacted strangely in 2001...

Bruce Andrews is brilliant - can be very funny - he was hammered by some right wing nut on Fox News as he teaches (or taught) a course that studies conspiracy theories and other politics - doesn't advocate them! "Give 'em Enough Rope" is great example... maybe in the tradition of Mark Twain etc But much involved with the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Movement which did a lot of good and still influences writing.

Bukowski is o.k. he can be great -but after a while his anti intellectual stance and his boorishness start to end up really not liking the guy.

to "Ross" and others -

Yes - Bruce Andrews is more interesting in the long run. In fact poets such as Basil Bunting, Geoffrey Hill, David Jones, Roy Fuller, Raworth (especially) the early works of his), Stein, E Bishop, Ashbery, Schuyler, Simic... Susan and Fanny Howe, Clark Coolidge, Kenneth Goldsmith (and earlier) H.D. (Hamish studied her) but there are so many... to limit to the Beats and Bukowksy is a bit pathetic. It's like limiting NZ poetry down to Baxter and Sam Hunt.

3:36 pm  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

yeah. and I can't stand Sam Hunt - he seems far too much of a Denis Glover ape, and I'm not a big fan of him, either.
Baxter is the only such figure who I can forgive for the exercises in self-mythogogising.

3:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Progressive poetry rhymes and serves the needs of the workers movement (something you people obviously know nothing about). For my money the best poet in NZ is Don Franks, the Wellington cleaner and revolutionary. Here is one of his poems I found on the net -

The Baring of the Green

A Poem By Don Franks
Post election, the National candidate
For Epsom sighed and did bemoan his fate

But not as much as Epsom Greeny Locke
Who'd promised to reveal before his flock

If Rodney Hide did ever win that seat
A post election natural Greeny treat

The whole of Keith ­ the barrel, lock and stock
The baring of, if not his soul, his brioche

And all that went before,
Running wild and free through Epsom, Keith, Bare Naked, In the Raw.

4:46 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

"I agree that the atmosphere at both the 2003 and 2007 events was not very conducive to the appreciation of poetry. I don't think this is because the activist left is especially philistine, compared to other parts of the political spectrum - I think it's the result of an expectation in our society, and in many societies like it, that language should be a transparent, trouble-free medium for the transmission of pre-prepared, easily comprehensible messages. In our era of twitter, five second soundbites, and multitasking, the deamnd that language be transparent rather than ambiguous is louder than ever.

Because poetry takes the nuances of language as its raw material, in the same way that painting takes paint as its raw material, it is swimming against a cold and powerful current."

Yes - and this is a world wide phenomena - its why anon/Maps? - fixates on the Beats - whereas we have read them all (and appreciated them - BUT we moved on, as we did with Confessionalists (and some great stuff came from or via them - not that they were really movement as such)... (Ashbery has a line incorporating: "...always being rescued like heroines in 'Orlando Furioso'" and so on... not that he was a snob* (not long after)... "Happy Hooligan, in his rusted green automobile, came ploughing down the course, Just to see everything was o.k..."); but it was a corrective, but also satirical (but celebratory also!) of the "stance" [assuming everyone had, of course, read (or "should" have read?) Orlando Furioso] to this kind of simplistc and this anti-intellectualism. But also slightly self mocking, or mocking the over intellectualization etc

The "sound bite" era we are in doesn't mean that poetry or art of a serious kind will "die away " -quite the opposite. (And that is implied in the fact that you have announced the Titus Launch). There is room for many styles. Shane -who is a good friend- is much into Kerouac...and I have read a lot of Kerouac - he is great - but as I say I feel that I have gone beyond him - and as to Murray Haddow - he is in his way quite extraordinary - again he needs to be "experienced". Murray and I get on very well and he liked my performance of "This green bottle Joseph Khutze" which I did one night this year - and which blew the night out of the box ..Murray was agog, the crowd were screaming, young women were rushing up to me, as if I was some kind of Eros incarnate, or (name the handsome actor or singer) and I was subsequently exhausted ...such was my enormous and instant fame from my wonderfully bravura performance...(s!))" !

...but I really liked Murray's performance-readings...

If I am partly talking to Maps/anon then the Murray Haddow you saw was reading a poem someone else had made up (which is a refrain whose joke has vanished) - but Haddow has a kind of genius for picking up languages (he read poem in French and it was extremely good despite that I don't know much French) and ideas and he hasn't been outside NZ (as far as I know) - or had only - but he has a great ability. And presence.
This ability (and he has a great talent as a performer and a declaimer shall we say (Bob Orr really likes what he does, as do many others with good reason)) would be enhanced by University study of literature etc This doesn't need to interfere with his natural presence and raw performance abilities.

Shane is good also (he knows more than just about Bukowksi - don't be fooled) - but as I said before - there is no one path so to speak.

So by having a launch of books by Richard von Sturmer (who is incredible) and the Mexican poet -this is great. We can struggle against those cold currents...

*Frank O'Hara, his friend steered him more toward 'pop culture' - but as was Ashbery was Harvard educated.

** The poem is: "Soonest Mended" in his book 'House Boat Days'

5:01 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Ross - I think Hunt has his place.

But we all like different things.
The problem is when people get fixated on Hunt or Baxter or whatever - or certain kind of poetry or writing...

Hunt was good friends with Baxter and Hone Tuwhare, as far as I know. Manhire, who I respect as a poet a lot, doesn't rubbish Hunt in his book "Doubtful Sounds" he talks there about the role of "magic" or chanting in poetry.

5:08 pm  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

Yeah, we all have our taste. For magic/chanting poetry though my go-to resource would be Jerome Rothenberg's Technicians of the Sacred, or Shaking the Pumpkin, or somesuch.

7:30 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why all poetry sucks -

3:54 pm  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

That is ridiculous. Poetry as a means of telling stories etc is older than prose - the novel was only invented in the 17th or 18 century (or around abouts). And to compare Paradise Lost to The Grapes of Wrath is facitious at best, dishonest at worst - they were written at different times, for different audiences, and with different political motivations.

4:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rooss you seem to be implying the question

Do all dogs go to heaven?

Animals do if fact have an accountability to God for their existence as animals, even as Genesis 9:5 tells us, "And for your lifeblood I will surely demand and accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man."

An animal's accountability is different from that of man in that their accountability is not as sinners in need of a Savior, as is the case of man although they suffer as a result of man's sin. Adam and Eve partook of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

No animal was recorded as having partaken of the forbidden fruit. Under the curse imposed by Adam's sin upon all of the creation, Paul tells us in Romans 8:22 "For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now." Animals suffer even as does man and the rest of creation.

If animals must give an account for their lives it is reasonable to conclude that there must be an afterlife of some sort which they experience wherein the animal communicates is account to its Maker.

The book of Revelation descibes white horses whose riders arrive from heaven: Revelation 19:11, "I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war." Revelation 19:14 "The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean." Revelation 19:4. Birds are mentioned also: "The twenty-four elders and the foul living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was seated on the throne. And they cried: 'Amen, Hallelujah!'

I see horses mentioned. I see birds praising God. I do not see dogs mentioned. But then again, if horses, and birds, why not dogs also?

I have six golden retrievers myself. I have owned and cared for a total of ten so far. I believe that God has prepared a place for each one of them.

Maybe in that day He will get a confession out of the "malefactor" who helped themselves to my daughter's freshly prepared lemon squares as they sat on the kitchen counter....

11:44 pm  
Blogger Edward said...

I don't know anything about poetry, but I do know anti-intellectualism when I see it, and I also know bullshit rhetoric about "human nature" and what is "natural" when I see it.

The former comes through in the earlier anon's comments about 'academics', as though any study or appreciation of past works is an irrelevancy, and only the 'here and now' of the political struggle or some tripe is important. One would think humans were a little more multi-facited than anon gives us credit.

The latter comes through in the link to 'lean left' where the post is riddled with words and phrases like "unnatural means of expression" and "real human communication" or even "because it is not normal human communication". I wonder on what authority the author is basing such statements? It seems to me that such boxed statements about very diverse cultural and cognitive human behaviours can only be based on a rather embarrasing lack of understanding of human behaviour. Which begs to question, why make an argument based on something you don't understand? There are many forms of human communication, all of which are 'natural'. After all, culture is natural as is communication. You may as well say writing is unnatural, based upon some bizzare misunderstanding of human nature as some static ideal relegated to some dim epoch of prehistory. I think the link anon provided has leant so far to the left that it has fallen over.

4:12 pm  
Blogger Ross Brighton said...

And then there's the fact that language is, in itself, artificial....

4:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee, guys, lighten up. I like blokes, but blokey blogs - not on your nelly.

9:42 pm  

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