This piece is about 25 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Laurie Duggan and Jacket magazine 2007.
gathering swallows &c
a rabbit, crushed on the road, is removed within hours.
words for the angled brickwork?
(tiled walls = pargeting)
to dive in amidst all this difference
mushrooms, spongy underside, meaty consistency,
found in Church Wood near Blean, a warm mid-afternoon
today 80°, September’s hottest recorded?
cleaners converse on mobiles in the shade
the newspapers introduce nature liftouts
stillness, at 6 pm.
as though readying a season
I sit in the Gulbenkian
(the nearest boozer)
the numeral 19 amid
(large spaces, plinths with hewn objects
mimicked by insignias on bins
the trees so neat.
thought this the closest
architecture came to paradise
no gargoyles to mock aspiration
struck by lightning (timor mortis
conturbat me) on the side
of a generator
(on the upper branches
of a(n) [ . . . . .] leaves
begin to rot
the air thick with smoke
–is this place turning into Brisbane?
rabbits across the lawn
cathedral town in a haze
compost (this notebook)
a pleasure, to sit in the slight cool
viewing the campus.
a province (so close to London),
the land of Soft Machine and Caravan
some adolescent drama
— meaning costume drama — going on here, before me
a French horn emerges from the theatre
I have to do battle with Ron Silliman’s fake notions of ‘music’: that these make him seem not so unlike that same School of Quietude he denigrates. ‘Music’: shouldn’t it take care of itself? And the American sense of ‘expertise’? We are
all inspired amateurs around here, dude!
(Sign on you crazy diamond)
A government department
housed on an estate in Chelmsford, Essex,
no shop for miles
The road signs don’t always work (lost between Ash and Meopham, having missed the A2). Each village signposts only the next.
rumori, thunder clouds over the campus
(though these move rapidly north-east)
a sense of rain
(or tighten up–
Archie Bell & the Drells (or
or the Alan Bown Set (a
different ‘loosen up’
the importance of all this: a version
with a misplaced accent
(Get the picture?
Yes, we see.
everything at ground level seems quite still
the language of trucks
en route from the tunnel
and news from Australia: the image
of Sasha, Denis and others
in pyjamas, reading books
(an influx from the drizzle,
the Gulbenkian’s barman collects the empties)
(how could he write, an act
a bad poet, but one he cared about
–enough to see the work in print again
O’Hara would have written him up
had he had an O’Hara
I remember him
disrobing to white underpants
–a piece about, was it Grainger?
also, retreating with me to the bar
when Gough Whitlam exceeded his brief
(launching Meredith Burgmann’s book about
the Green Bans, but instead
reefing pages from various documents
to defend his own Prime Ministership
–this would be the last kind feeling
either of us would have for Gough
(at that stage Sasha, walking, with aid
of a stick)
the rain is a false alarm (it doesn’t,
here in Kent, so I believe.)
but how do these old roofs keep out the water?
model aeroplanes in mist
over the White Horse
the poets gather
at the Dark Barn
. . . outside the Barn
a monument to the Welsh
killed in 1643
— Gloucester stone
Like having to write a discussion paper on the new metal, I can’t wrap my mind round the book I’m supposed to review. My lamp, tested for electrical safety, is no use now (it’s broad daylight)
I rage in a
white room at an institutionally coloured
unaccountably, the memory
of Kathy Kirby singing
‘Secret Love’ and ‘Dance On’
The couple on the London train–brought together by an introduction agency? Comfortably middle-class, nervously drinking beer on their way to a blues (?) concert. They seemed patently ill-matched though unaware of this, filling each other in with their histories. He was obviously on the make and lacked a degree of self-awareness. She was quite possibly alcoholic, not wishing for sexual intimacy but not wanting to be alone.
On Radio 4 this morning, a debate between the presenter and a radical Muslim from London who keeps using the strange metaphor: Wake up and smell the coffee!
St Dunstan’s: A corner of the cemetery reserved for small children. One grave features a black marble teddy-bear with the photo of a baby on its belly. Next to it, a parrot with wings rotated by the breeze.
the cathedral in the hollow; the army base on the opposite hill.
the light behind the trees
of, was it, Samuel Palmer
signalling an end to something,
the season, or more portentous . . .
late September the fruit
footsteps in the courtyard
the rattle of leaves on the path
those spade-like leaves
are they alder? (the fruit above
‘are we here yet?’
bressummer–the beam across the fireplace
not ‘a floor you could eat off’, a floor
many people have eaten off
this limbo state
the origins of ‘goth’
(the Puritanism of the academy?)
answers to all these questions.
Ken in New Zealand
Pam in Limbo
August settling back
in San Francisco
the gents stride back to the Registrar’s
carrying the kind of cases that ought to contain
bundles of bank notes
Hürlimann / Braukunst seit 1836
The spread of architecture as landscape reacts against Piranesian compression;
it assumes ‘breathing space’.
I have functioned as though things put together stood for something, or rather become something other than what they were before.
the disjuncts become too great . . .
o.k. so Pound said mind is shapely
–my mind? I wonder.
the button everybody presses . . .
the sequence of genes . . .
elusive bar talk (eleusive, as in
it always seems to be more than the sum of its parts,
though destined as a repository of trivia
(a woman picks several leaves of the Alder(?) for
–and one decays, blown in,
at the base of a table
my ‘worldly goods’ now somewhere in the
There’s no place in a writing school for a poetic predicated on doubt.
a huge black & white cat crosses the plaza
& climbs the grassy verge of the library
a curved corrugated roof
begins to merge with the sky.
you figure why Samuel Beckett wrote in French
but what’s out there will always exceed art
rab éfac / amenic / ertaeht
remembering that line of The Angelic Upstarts:
I want two pints of lager and a packet of crisps please
back to the old drafts of a poem that
has lost its way
the sky darkens
and everything seems quite still
across the road a fortnight ago
the bus shelter was stripped of flyers
and painted brown
a week later
it was bulldozed.
an orange spotlight
directed at this building is often turned off
this is the season
I like low ceilings, but not small rooms.
a pattern: the sky clears late afternoon
(it will be after dark when daylight saving ends)
Oxford: the Ashmolean
Piero di Cosimo–animals fleeing a fire
An anon (?) work showing a French siege, where the armoured figures
inhabit flattened perspective like a Wyndham Lewis
the sculpted head of Lorenzo di Medici
A watercolour by Natalia Goncharova
Some old men in a work by, was it, Veronese?
Endless convulsions of the Labour Conference reported daily in the Guardian.
cloudbursts passing over
(last night, thunder)
time to read about the ‘poetry wars’
late afternoon the sky opens up
–I mean, lightens–the city below
revealed clearly, its outlying power lines
the military base diagonally opposite
how, by an almost complete avoidance
the matter of . . . .
those who would spell it out
the matter of England?
the shadow of a football spinning from a knee?
Spitfire Ale? (how Kentish)
what would youth be like? I mean
how ironic are they? who look just like
I looked, are full, undeniably
of the same self-importance (mine, I suspect,
the more naïve)? I would love that sense
of centrality, of things being within my reach.
They’re not, of course. Though no further away
than from them, probably. (Notionally . . .
thanks Ken). Anyway, I wish them well.
It’s a harder place than it was.
I don’t miss my birthplace, yet. At least feel no more alien here than there.
1698–a decade after the ‘glorious revolution’
getting to the point
(or getting to the pint)?
harvest moon (due tomorrow
though possibly obscured by clouds)
the prisons overflowing
–why don’t they resume transportation?
or moor hulks in the Thames?
drive through the rain
to Whitstable to eat vegan
(in my leather jacket)
a hatchet job on a poem
I cut and paste together again
suddenly moss is noticeable, in a pocket
on the south-east of this building–
it must have been there all along?
I’d reach for books
that aren’t yet here
(the harvest moon, full nearest
autumn solstice, would be large
on the horizon were it visible)
the head of George Barker
upside down on a bookshelf
the stars (a telescope)
& electric guitars
the smiling face of
a telephone on wheels
an inverted funnel
on the head of a hippopotamus
all the bears, frogs and pandas
somewhere in Cambridge
tamed by Motown (tamed by Mottram?)
we lie on (someone else’s) bed
at the Granta
watching wobbly punts
the poetics, Cantab. 2006
In the morning paper: Britain really is a shrinking island (erosion).
dismember the poem (one-way ticket)
into ‘hills’ (& dales?)
& date however
a coughing man on the stairs
a lit office in the Tizard Centre
the mizzle lifts from Faversham
At Oare Marshes the roadside thick with bird-watchers (tripods and telephoto lenses). The road peters out at Harty Ferry, tracks rise from the water on Sheppey, the other side.
Vittorio Sereni (tr. Peter Robinson)
West House Books
the dissolving fabric
for sore eyes (this apartment)
its grimy carpets
a state of life
here, in territory
described by a Londoner in Wellington NZ
as blooody tropical
of remote cars
a house, circa 1750
in West St (West House?)
movement and associated distortion
over the ensuing period
the rabbits have disappeared
(the big ampersand)
a plug-in infinity
the shadow of a creature
on the upper branches
(gaps in the foliage)
our minimal décor
in which a poem dismantles
neighbours thump the floor above
Could ‘one-way ticket’ work as a small book, the gaps as sections or page breaks?
plants being built
it does work!
though laid low (chest infection)
the weeks pass quickly
a large spider
emptied into the garden
the grey, and why
a handful of leaves
should have coloured
the dream of cleaning dirty windows
a backward text
erupts through this one
maps show the way to markets
a scale you could step into
where to obtain these portions
these well-lit cover photographs
as Hardy’s soil throws darkness
back at the sky
a notice-board pieces our life together
as debt and adventure
the windows (begrimed casements)
impossible to clean
and now, a light from the street
visible through shifting foliage
an almost-silence, mid-weekend
(the denizens elsewhere)
illness is a kind of boredom
–like money is a kind of poetry?
the king’s reall or his
In the Guardian an item on bushfires & drought in south-east Australia. Another season’s stock lost. The Darling River almost dry.
So much is still ‘up in the air’. Our possible residence a tangle of legalities. We have the contents of four suitcases plus a small pile of books.
outlines of squirrels in the branches
like 1930s woodcuts by Eric Ravilious
The ‘one-way ticket’ piece began as a long poem, then after several drafts appeared not to work. But when regrouped as parts of familiar series (Blue Hills, Dogs &c) it was clear this wasn’t an option either. What another edit showed was that it would work as a loose grouping of pieces with the general title. It’s a little book (like ‘The Nathan Papers’ is a [not so] little book). What I wanted to do in the first place.
a haze over town
these glum bedsits
though the English
in their songs were always
home for tea
(blotting paper w. chips?)
mother . . . I’m in a field
somewhere in England
and I’ve lost part of my brain
children’s books were the oddest things
to fall back on
in the back of a wardrobe
(a way out
of the Home Counties
extended summer period: the hottest since
66° in London at 6pm.
Universities to ‘monitor’ Islamic students activities
The forecast today is ‘rain’, but Kent seems to defy prediction. The ‘weather’ happens elsewhere–or simply, this microclimate isn’t recorded by Radio 4
(Last night: in the station parking lot listening to a program about hedgehogs, frost on the car windows)
People leave (and enter) this building at the oddest hours. Doors slam at 5 am. Half the heaters don’t work.
I can’t read your poems,
I suffer from Silliman’s Ear
this farmhouse like a ship, beached
on a hillside in Kent (& these rooms
with all the disadvantages of ships cabins)
the large window faces north-west, a court
of decaying cardboard boxes, assorted junk,
the smaller one, south-east,
the university grounds and the forest, strewn
with food cartons and disposables
on either side
constant human traffic
beams, 1970s dormitory doors with faux-medieval handles, fire notices,
peeling paintwork, boot-sale furniture
a cracked mirror
timetables, council tax bills, various regional maps
an enormous fireplace
Some years ago P’s goods (from Australia) arrived at the Liverpool docks in time for a waterside workers’ strike. He lived out of a suitcase for eight months.
maintenance arrive in a van, then leave
il pleut doucement sur la ville
the steady bubbling sound of distant plumbing
Where is the lightning bolt? The implausible John Martin landscape? As they say in the badly-translated futurist movie: ‘Romanticism! You are finished!’
A bored DJ entertains himself, then steps out for a smoke. No-one is listening to the music, it’s just background rumble
The silhouette of a clock-face ticks towards 6 pm.
In the theatre mural figures disport amid curlicues of smoke–nostalgia?
I realise that in this English university setting I expect to see British actors as dysfunctional academics, but instead I get British academics who appear (slightly) like actors.
The new DJ ‘pumps up the volume’. Though no-one is really interested. It’s mostly techno though it could have been made at any time since about 1980. Friends seem to be photographing the DJ though there’s now almost nobody that end of the room.
diagonals of rain
taking the sunlight while it lasts
(though this season has been
I do not miss my country
squirrels nibble the damp course
& there is nothing
upon the long mantelpiece
(on the floor:
Not Everything Remotely;
Am I sentimental about the environment?
Why should I care about young people?
(somehow I do)
Poetry is a kind of ecological practice.
You want things to be around
(maybe not in 3. something million years
when the Milky Way collides with some other gaseous body,
but for a while at least, where time makes sense.
Does my desire for this render me an outcast?
or just a not-so-ideal specimen of
two strawberries in Pewsey on
October the 11th 1906
a jar of Kentish mustard
scuds of rain
a collapsed umbrella
a maintenance man came hammering
just as next-door’s inhabitants
seem to shift furniture at 3 am
–maybe they’re making a bomb?
& the overweight guy
who steps outside the door every 15 minutes to smoke.
is that precipitation
or just a fine coat of dirt?
there’s no spectacular ‘turn’ so far
just dead leaves
the laundry’s done at least
(those back room figures in Velazquez’ early paintings
–a sketchy Christ viewed through an opening–
as they wash bowls, prepare dishes
all of them looking much like the inhabitants
of Seville circa 1620.
The sad post-coital Mars a testament
Outside in the wet, Covent Garden, waiting for a train.
And the day before that, sheltered by cliffs at St Margaret’s, the Channel walled by container vessels.
And the day before that, a movie that my lack of narrative sense transformed into a raft of inconsistencies. I mean I hadn’t worked out who was telling the story and someone’s character changed unaccountably (‘Why I am not a movie critic’).
eat a banana (from Costa Rica)
We have been here nearly two months, yet it seems much longer. Paradoxically, the days go quickly.
the promise of a cold morning
this record I keep
Pam en route for Melbourne
the oddness of leaving; the way a habitation
becomes other, once packed; a space, once
of personality, something we’d think
hard to leave, gone, already
& how many years yet
for Ken & Cath, in Adelaide?
it’s not a virtue of mine to be no trouble,
perhaps an inadequacy.
a fire-alarm test
faults us badly, failing to take account
of a certain weariness, dealing with a situation
that’s as contrived as this is.
my friends in their various places, I think of you all
(hoping that Jenny is well in Wellington)
as I await the frost
(the fire alarm labelled: ‘Bardic #5’)
Some change in the form of life, gives from time to time a new epocha of existence. In a new place there is something new to be done, and a different system of thoughts rises in the mind. I wish I could gather currants in your garden.
increasingly dark afternoon
though ‘good news’
in the post
buy more books!
say the weather people, more like November.
in the office up the hill
(I can’t read
my own writing)
the prognosis for the planet is not good
does any of this reach Australian newspapers?
do I turn the heater on?
1750–the date of Piranesi’s Fanciful images of Prisons, etchings published by Buzard in Rome, conducting business on the Corso.
of John Anderson,
his deep ecology
the thought of it now
buried in three small books in a container
‘somewhere in England’.
a respite here
from the deluge, banks of cloud, moving
quickly, this room floored with sunlight
& this, in praise of the lost poets
were not in love with diagrams
–seemingly crude maps
now the effect
of all things
only too apparent
bands of sunlight
on that chair, the map
of Canterbury crossed by shadow
If I had no duties, and no reference to futurity, I would spend my life in driving briskly in a post-chaise with a pretty woman [cars & girls 1777?]
— Dr Johnson
the Stour and its tributary channels
gush about Deans Mill
and under St Radigund’s
a network of one-ways
it seems impossible to navigate
–other end of town, the old tannery
up for development, as back lanes
connect old pubs and uncertain sites
after a day of sunlight the grey blanket
comes down and everything stills
clocks set back to GMT
The Hayward Gallery
Tate Modern (for drinks only)
Josef Sudek: the detritus of lunch; condensation on a window
Stanislaw Witkiewicz: the self as multiple personality; the look outlasting
Henryk Ross: a scaffold; a melting negative
Jikka Hanzlová: the tint of grass-blades; luminous tree trunks
out of eggshells
the long hook
hanging from a cross-
dance of light
on a toast-rack
pipes with their ornate brackets, out
from the gutterings
a tradesman’s clatter
opening two doors
in the wall
a former port, beached (or beachless)–a hill
in the levels, where every second shop
a woman carries a jug of beer up the street
distant shapes of the nuclear plant (across Romney
the consequences of our inaction
will be irreversible
The train to Margate is a myth. Monitors show different times. People just sit on the platform patiently (in an icy wind). I get a refund and go to the ‘Goods Shed’ for coffee (the market). It’s 45 minutes since ‘breakfast’ and 45 before ‘lunch’.
The sense of a different time-frame. In 1992 when we spent three months in Britain it felt like a long time. We’ve been here now two months: in one sense it seems not so long at all, yet in another sense a great deal seems to have happened. In 1992 I kept a proper diary, a page at least of description every day.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . but this is:
half-diary, half-what? The opening of the
We lived (1992) from suitcases. But I had plastered a wall of student residence with postcards and magazine cuttings (there seemed to be more art in ‘Arts’ magazines back then).
the lamp’s angle reveals brush strokes on plasterboard
a great sea institutional off-white
the odd dip and puttied hole
a Freudian ship
in which we serve
Laurie Duggan was born in Melbourne in 1949 and currently lives in England. His most recent books are The Passenger, (UQP, 2006), Let’s Get Lost (with Pam Brown and Ken Bolton, Sydney, Vagabond, 2005), Compared to What: Selected Poems 1971–2003, (Exeter, Shearsman, 2005), and Mangroves (UQP, 2003). Shearsman have also republished his 1987 documentary poem The Ash Range (2005). A selection of earlier work together with critical articles may be found online at http://april.edu.au/duggan-l/index.shtml
The Internet address of this page is http://jacketmagazine.com/34/duggan2p.shtml