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Sunday, October 18, 2020

George Anderson: The Dispute: A Preposterous Short Story

Visiting my mother one evening, she dumps a large sealed box at my feet  as I am about to depart.

 

“Here,” she nudges me forcefully, “You better take this before I throw the lot out.”

 

“What is it?” I ask, genuinely surprized.

 

“I don’t know but it has your name on it and it has been clogging my basement for decades!”


 

Dumbfounded, I toss the box in the back of the Camry.

 

*

 

A few weeks later, I use a cutter to open the box. It contains a great wad of A4 papers, perhaps two thousand pages in total. I empty the box, and by way of contrast, stack the papers next to a slim volume of poems by the American poet Tim Peeler and take a photo.


Flipping through the pages over the next few weeks, I realise that this is my long lost first novel I had written in the summer of 1979 at Maroubra Beach when I was on the dole for three months. I had been working as a head storeman in a sheet and curtain factory in Ultimo near the city. When I heard my Aboriginal workers from Moree had been sacked upon their return from our Christmas break, I asked the boss why he let them go without consulting me.

 

“I didn’t think they would come back,” he tells me.

 

The blokes were living in entrenched poverty in Chippendale, twenty to a house, six or seven to a double bed- but they were easy to work with, had a hilarious sense of humour and were usually reliable.

 

I sniffed around the office for the next couple of days and it appeared the boss had no trust in the mob and suspected some of them of stealing the company’s merchandise- pillow cases, single bed sheets, curtains and the like. Just before the Christmas break, I recall he had stopped to search a few workers from leaving the premises but he had found nothing.

 

I told the boss I suspected he may have been racially targeting the workers and after some heated words I quit the job. I explained all this to a Commonwealth Employee Service worker who was fully empathetic but she warned me I had to wait six weeks before I could access any benefits. My partner Marcia worked as a barmaid at a bar at the airport, and on principle, I was prepared to wait.

 

At the time, we shared the top of a 4 bedroom flat overlooking Maroubra Beach, 20 kilometres south of Sydney. There was Liam an aspiring painter from New Zealand who was methodically working on his latest project: a life-sized human skeleton carved out of balsa wood. There was Jeff who lived in a cupboard of a room by the back door. He was a professional diver and who like to annoy people and big note himself. Donny & Milly lived in largest bedroom and were casual bar staff at the local pub.

 

We lived at the top of the crest on Maroubra Road and had a terrific view of the beach. The best aspect of the flat was you were able to sit on the toilet on the south side and watch the breakers roll in as you had a crap.

 

I can’t recall too much about writing the novel The Dispute: A Preposterous Tale (284 pages) but I must have had a lot of fun writing it. According to the Contents page, the book was divided into 8 parts and 75 short chapters with such edifying titles as: ‘Portable Bazooka Word Launcher’, ‘The Old Dart Board Wino’, ‘Worn Out Re-tread On A Rampant Rabbit’s Foreskin’, ‘How Do You Spell “Shit?’, ‘Do The Police Street Shuffle’ and “Oink-Off: A Literary Debate.’

 

Glancing at the first chapter ‘Stretched Elastic’ my spirits quickly sagged as I read the deeply flawed work. The heavy spray of similes and the underlying meta-narrative groaningly exposed how poorly I was imitating writers such as Richard Brautigan and John Fowles at the time: (click on the pages to enlarge)




We lived in that flat for 12 months and shortly afterwards I gained entrance into the NSW Public Service. My novel was never submitted & eventually found its way into my parent’s basement a few years later when I shifted to Western Sydney to teach.

 

From these ancient times, I can only recall three incidents from Maroubra Beach. They have long since been immortalised into poetry. The first involved Jeff who, blind drunk, stumbled over Liam’s skeleton exhibition on opening night at the Bondi Pavilion and smashed it to pieces. In another incident, Jeff was escorted home by the police after repeated requests by the lifeguards not to skateboard along the beach promenade. I remember Donny scurrying along the back steps to hide his cherished pot plant.

 

The last unfortunate event  happened to Donny & Milly. A few weeks previously they had carefully installed twenty four one-foot by one foot mirrors on the ceiling above their bed so they could check out each other as they were making love. One night, we unexpectedly heard these god-awful shrieks coming from their bedroom. Slamming the door open, we found a mirror panel had fallen from the ceiling and had implanted itself into Milly’s back. She was bleeding profusely, but after  stemming the flow, she was more shaken than anything else.

 

Sadly, none of this gold made it into The Dispute. In retrospect, the novel was more of a treatise on the process of writing than something that reflected a lived experience. The book was mildly amusing but was phony and pretentious. 

 

In the days which followed, I re-read a few of the opening chapters & became increasingly disillusioned. Most of the material must have been written while I was stoned & perhaps revised while pissed. It has its moments of originality- but overall, the book was an embarrassing reminder that I was a lousy writer and I needed to pull my head in and get a real job.


It amazes me now that I may have found some of the writing funny- at least, while straight. I scan Chapter 2 'Renegade Naval band, Trampoline Spasms and Runaway Brain' before tossing it into the flames:






The following day, I am left with a dilemma. I really don't want to simply discard my fledgling novel without a trace. I had to somehow pay tribute to its nascent creativity & hope, despite its vomit-inducing content and abject use of language. 

 So I’ve immortalised the book through the following series of images to perhaps breath new life into The Dispute, a novel I had written as a displaced 23 year-old Canadian in Oz decades ago.



My first brainstorming response was for me to set the thing alight as I casually mentioned above. I soon found there were far too many reams of paper of paper to do it safely, especially after a few cold ones. 



Next, I considered using The Dispute as a compost additive. The pH levels in my bin recently  tested in the low alkaline range, so I reckon it was ok to add paper to the pile, say 100 pages per week.



Uncle Bob flew hundreds of missions into Germany during World War 2 in a Lancaster Bomber and miraculously survived. This squadron is for you Uncle Bob!



The Dispute is also a great liner for the green recycling bin and also makes for a wonderful floor covering.



Better still: a fire effigy. The photo below reminds me of The Last Supper entombed in flame.



*

 

I visit my mother for Thanksgiving and bring over a turkey I had cooked earlier on my Weber. We chat amicably about COVID, the upcoming presidential election, and her favourite streamed series at the moment, Grace and Frankie.

 

As I’m about to leave, she tells me to wait a minute and returns with another box.

 

“What’s that?”

 

“I don’t know, but it’s been here for ages.”

 

“Thanks, mom.”

 

On the side of the box is inscribed in bold black letters: “INSIDE THE TYPE WRITER MAN.”

 

“Holy shit! Not another mongrel!”

Saturday, October 17, 2020

New Release: John D. Robinson (poetry) Marcel Herms (paintings) The Barbed & the Beautiful (Petrichor, 2020) 30 pages

 

This new paperback is a collaboration between two underground legends U.K. writer John D. Robinson and the Dutch artist Marcel Herms. The book is hand sewn, printed on quality paper and partly funded by the Dutch Arts Council. Limited to a print run of 75 copies.

 

Look inside and buy the book here: https://uitgeverijpetrichor.nl/product/the-barbed-the-beautiful/

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Literary Journal: Shot Glass Journal


Find two collage poems by me in Shot Glass Journal #32 (September 2020). From a series of collage poems, taken from student work under exam conditions:http://www.musepiepress.com/shotglass/george_anderson1.html

Monday, October 5, 2020

WAYNE F. BURKE INTERVIEWS GEORGE ANDERSON 25 SEPTEMBER 2020

 


Wayne F. Burke: Your poetry brings to my mind the work of ubermench Charles Bukowski. Not so much in form, though similarities exist, but in subject matter, meaning the grittiness of the life pictured, the occasional outbreak of mayhem, and oftentimes indiscriminate violence. My question is not has Bukowski's work influenced your writing, but how big an influence has his writing been to your work?

Anderson: Charles who? Haha...yes, I've read most of Buk's stuff, but mostly in the last ten years to contribute to a few critical reviews of his work on my blog Bold Monkey. Bukowski’s Best Poetry Books is a useful example: https://georgedanderson.blogspot.com/2018/11/a-readers-appraisal-after-25-years-best.html


I first read Bukowski in New Zealand where I lived for six months before I migrated to Australia from Canada at aged 23. I read his short story collection 
Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness (City Lights Books, 1972) and a few years later his novel Women (Wild & Woolley, Sydney, 1979). The first book of poetry I read of his was BURNING IN WATER DROWNING IN FLAME (Black Sparrow Press, 1978) which is a significant volume of his new & selected poems published between 1955-1973. 

I was highly impressed by the collection but at the time I was writing fiction, including two unpublishable novels The Dispute: A Preposterous Story and Inside the Typewriter Man. As a young teacher in Western Sydney, I recall returning to Buk's poetry and incorporating 'k.o.' and 'machinegun towers & timeclocks' (from At Terror Street and Agony Way) into my Year 9 English curriculum. Years later, as a Year 11 teacher at another school, I devised a Preliminary HSC course on Bukowski's poetry, initially focussed on the theme of 'The Outsider.'


I'm probably the only high school teacher in Australia who has taught Buk in any detail. The poems we studied  over a ten year period usually included 'the tragedy of the leaves', 'spark', 'Young in New Orleans', 'Bluebird' and my personal favourites, 'Dinosauria, we' and 'The Genius of the Crowd'. I loved the subversive nature of Bukowski's writing- how he barred his ass to the establishment- both in form and subject matter. In creating the course, I was trying to expose my largely privileged students to alternative ways of thinking, of momentarily getting them to step into the shoes of a struggling artist who was far less fortunate than themselves. 

It wasn't until the shocking death of my mate Roger in 2000 from throat cancer that I decided to write down some of my ideas. As his coffin was being swallowed behind the curtain towards his cremation- I told myself that I better get some of my stuff down before I too cacked it. 

A couple of days later, I was at school supervising an exam when a poem flew out of me- raw and direct. The poem 'A View of a Friend' which appears in the collection The Rough End of the Pineapple is the first poem that I wrote:

 

Arriving at your viewing

at Palm Grove Memorial Cemetery that late June morning

you joking, only days before,

how you’d avoid the GST

if you cacked it before the 1st of July.

 

The blank, tattooed receptionist

glides us to an impressive   

gold-coloured plaque on a door which reads:

DAVID ROGER JOHNSON.

 

Roger, I didn’t know 

your first name was actually David!

 

Pushing the door open-

bewildered

stumbling before you

amazed

 

& with each step

aghast

      seeing your corpse for the first time

through the bright

but soulless room

from

      changing perspectives

of alternating light

& meaning:

 

the manufactured scent

the opulent coffin

 

you seemingly sinking 

small and insignificant within it-

 

the former hulking beast of your huge frame

a sham-

a remnant of your former boisterous Rogerness.

 

The boys reckoned you looked like a vampire 

in that silent black box-

those bucked incisors they could never fix

your dark black hair smoothly caressed

in your preferred mid 70s Elvis appropriation.

 

I couldn’t help thinking

I could poke 

my fingers

without too much effort

through your rice paper cheeks.

 

As I grieved beside you 

I tried vainly to fathom the significance 

of your death at age 48

 

working it all out-

the tragic  

stupid inevitability of it all-

 

even picturing 

the view of the room

 

the afternoon light

dancing on the western walls

& on the plastic vases of flowers

 

from the perspective 

of your depleted

 

cancerous frame.



In retrospect, the poem adopts elements that Buk may have used- free verse, lower case, experiments in enjambment- but to me it was a one off- a creative exercise in attempting to capture a key moment in my life- using what limited language skills I possessed.  

 

After writing about my friend Roger, I was on a roll for a couple of years and wrote about everything and used a variety of styles and forms. I wrote about my past in Canada & about the friends I grew up with and about my old man. I mostly wrote narrative poems in free verse using simple, unembellished language. 

 

There are about 25 poems in the collection set in Montreal, below the tracks in NDG, which recall some of my juvenile exploits in poetic form, including, ‘At the Sanair Super Speedway’, ‘The Dope Plant’, ‘First Fist Fight’, ‘Chopper’, ‘Tabarnac!’, ‘Ten O’Clock’ & others.

 

Looking back, my old man was a kind of Chinaski figure- a drunken bum but without the insane creativity. Similar to Buk, he grew up in a time of depression and world war. He was a disgraceful role model & he features in several of my poems and stories, including 'Cold Turkey', 'Frankie', 'The Police Interview' and 'Switching Off the Lights' in the collection. 


In 'Cold Turkey', a cringe-worthy but biographically accurate poem, I explore the dark depths the old man sank, following the death of his wife, my mother, aged 47:



Cold Turkey

 

One winter evening

after my mother died 

of a massive heart attack

the old man pounds

on my bedroom door

& drunkenly asks, ‘You hungry?’

 

In the kitchen

he takes a large turkey

directly from the freezer

& whacks it into the oven- 

and turns the temperature up to 450F

 

He has been drinking for two or three days.

 

As we wait for the turkey to cook 

the conversation is circular

 

every 20 minutes or so

he glances up at me and slurs-

 

‘You think you’re smart?

You don’t know fuck all!’

 

The old man sits there in his white singlet

his eyes dissolving slowly into his head

 

& later like clockwork he asks

flexing his right bicep

steeled by years of foundry work:

 

‘You think you’re tough, don’t you? Feel this!’

 

It is rock hard-

I try to crush the muscle with my soft teenage hands

I can only get them half way around.

 

He takes another drag from his Players Export cigarettes

downs another Molson

& in mid sentence nods off.

 

*

 

I set the alarm

& wake at  4 AM. 

 

As expected, the old man is crashed out-

under the kitchen table in pissed pants

snoring in a rhythmic but shaky rattle

his left arm his pillow.

 

*

 

Our huge mongrel cat 

Thomas Reef Redback

is most content for nearly a week-

 

the old man in the early mornings

flinging him

half-raw portions

from the big bird’s inner core.



I've always been attracted to writers who realistically focus on characters who live on the margins of society- Orwell, London, Steinbeck, Dostoyevsky, Kerouac. Even as a young child I loved reading the tales and adventures of the courier de bois in Canada. 


In my writing I often like to explore the thin edge between order and mayhem, when ordinarily good people drop any pretence at civility and plunge into shameful, atavistic behaviour. I first developed an interest in this concept years ago when I closely studied novels, such as HG Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau and The First Man on the Moon, Shelley's Frankenstein and Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The poems 'Wright', 'Mad Kiwi', 'Surrey Hills on a Saturday Night', 'K.O.'  and 'My First Fist Fight' are some examples from the collection which attempt to show this arbitrary descent into chaos. 


In a belated answer to your question, who came first Bukowski or the egg? It's impossible to apportion the percentage of his influence. Being familiar with his writing certainly helped to shape the form and content of my work when I decided to record the stuff. Like any writer, I borrow from here and there and put a specific, individual spin on my ideas.


Q: Following up on my Bukowski question: the first of Sir Charles' I read, like you, was BURNING IN WATER DROWNING IN FLAME. It blew my mind in that it gave me the idea that my life--no matter how boring or dull, or full of shit I thought it--could be used as poetic material. The sense of meaningless I often felt, about myself and life in general could be given meaning through artistic creation. Who I was, what I was, had relevance. Did you feel anything similar after reading Buk? How about some other writer?

 

Anderson: Yeah, I totally agree. I remember attending a Poet's Union seminar about 20 years ago and all the academics talked about for about 2 hours was the evolving aesthetic concept of the vase in literature over the last 10,000 years or so. Although I still consider John Keats's poem 'Ode On a Grecian Urn' (1819) as one of my favourite poems of all time- I was bored shitless on the day! 

 

For Bukowski any topic is permissible, however trivial or controversial. I was first attracted to his poetry for his humour, his interesting choice of subject matter, and as I've said, how he put the boots into the establishment. I liked his cynical tone, how he incorporated dialogue into many of his poems, and especially, the improvisational feel of his writing. 

 

I wrote the poem ‘One Clear Winged Morning’ in tribute to Buk and how  he challenged cultural norms and raised a stiff finger to the elites:

 

 

One Clear Winged Morning

 

For years, I understood poetry

to be the work of flabby grey men

 

in pompous suits & ties

pouring over obscure lines

 

in heavily annotated books

mocking each other’s poetics.

 

But then one clear winged morning 

I discovered that it can be found anywhere: 

 

in the shell of a burnt out car

in the automated voice of a train guard

 

on the side of trucks or bathroom doors 

belted out in pubs or on factory floors.


(first published in The Legendary, 2009) 


The poem, was also a direct reference to some of my own material, including to 'burn out'- a 2003 broadside- which was written after a friend's car was brazenly stolen outside my house in Doonside during a party & later set alight in a nearby reserve: 

 


As you know, there is a downside to Bukowski's writing.Every wanna-be writer (like myself) now thinks they can string a sentence or 2 together and with print-on-demand publishing- they can now cheaply inflict their sexual exploits, depression or alcoholic misdeeds onto the world. 

Bukowski's estate also left him a massive target by allowing so much of his less capable work to be published posthumously through ECCO. He obviously never allowed this material to be published during his lifetime. I gently mock this overkill:  

 

Horses that Shit in the Woods Eat Sushi at Dawn

 

the skid row poet

cum multi-millionaire

 

another used condom of 

his poems recently released

 

the fourteenth since his death

the proverbial scrapping of the barrel: 

 

cigar butts, Ludwig, pussy, beer.

 

(first published in The Legendary, 2010)

 

 

Q: I view your work as that of a "descriptive" poet rather than an "introspective" one. (Not to say I find NO introspection in the work.) An "action" poet, if you will; concerned with telling a story, a narrative, rather than, or in addition to, relating feelings involved, of narrator or character/subject of the poem. Would you agree with this assessment?


Sure, I agree! In The Rough End of the Pineapple I deliberately included some of my more accessible portrait poems which use simple language and personal anecdotes to create a visual image in the head of the reader. They usually tell an external story rather than explore the inner eye. 


Over the years, I have experimented in many forms and styles- for the sake of continuity- in this book I have adopted an observational tone and a consistant authorial voice. I tend to view "introspective" poems with suspicion and often find myself gagging on revelatory verse which often provide the reader with a self-absorbed or sentimental illumination.  

 


Q: Do you feel (ha! I am putting you on the spot), that writing criticism, as in your BOLD MONKEY columns, takes away from your own work or does it feed it? Is your approach to writing criticism like that to a disliked job--something to get through? An irritant maybe? A pain in the you know what? If not, what are your feelings toward writing criticism? What does the act of doing so consist of for you? The results?

 

I started writing criticism on Bold Monkey in 2007 to help me strengthen my ability to teach my students how to write the stuff. I also used the platform to help support the small alternative press by providing reviews of poetry books which academics usually avoided. 


Early on, I got a lot of positive feedback from Wolfgang Carstens (Epic Rites Press) and RD Armstrong (Lummox Press) and many individual writers. I also tried my hand at reviewing classic texts, such as Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Brautigan’s Watermelon Sugar and Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley. I saw each new book as an intricate puzzle that I had to unravel and had a lot of fun constructing my analysis. 


Later on, John D. Robinson of Holy & Intoxicated Publications (UK) and Hank Stanton of Uncollected Press (USA) were key contributors in getting me to shift my focus from critical to imaginative writing.

 

In the last couple of years, I am finding it more difficult to find the time to stay on task to complete all reviews. I usually read a book at least 5-6 times, compile notes and interview the writer to gain a greater understanding of what they are trying to achieve. I hate taking shortcuts and as other projects intercede, some reviews have had to be abandoned or have been substantially delayed. 

 

I never try to kiss the ass of the writers I review. I generally will only review books I can get into, and as you can appreciate, some books are well beyond the scope of Bold Monkey and my comprehension of poetry. Sometimes in my reviews I feel I am writing parody or hyperbole, but at its heart my thoughts are non-bullshit, genuine.


Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.


No worries.

Friday, September 25, 2020

New Poems- Jack Henry an affair in south florida

 


an affair in south florida - temptation 

 

she wipes her mouth with a silk handkerchief 

her mother gave her when she graduated summa cum laude 

from Florida State University, in 1972. 

 

her eyes dig into mine as tries to breathe in my soul,  

just as she tried with her bright red lips and garish pink tongue. 

 

you cannot steal that which is not owned. 

 

phone rings, another client, better deal. 

i ask her about Saturday, she glares as she buttons her blouse 

and walks from the room. 

 

 

an affair in south florida – his turn 

 

i watch 

as he 

exits 

a motel 

on the edge 

of a swamp, 

50 miles 

north of his  

marital bed, 

and a wife 

that spends 

most afternoons 

snorting 

cocaine 

and seducing 

young men 

from a nearby 

college. 

 

he does not 

see me, 

he is preoccupied 

with his 

thoughts, 

his infidelity. 

 

another man 

appears a 

minute later 

and walks 

in a different 

direction, 

gets in 

a Cooper Mini, 

and drives away. 

 

big fat 

raindrops 

begin to 

fall as a  

tropical storm 

sweeps 

into the 

area. 

 

it’s Tuesday 

around 9am. 

the postman will be here

soon.

 

 

 

an affair in south florida - confrontation 

 

he walks in the front door, 

a metal bell rings his announcement. 

i look up from the sports page 

and smile in contempt. 

 

i know him from a picture his wife 

carries in her Dolce and Gabbana pocketbook, 

the one with crisp $100 dollar bills utilized as my payment 

five bills at a time. 

 

he has a series of lovers, she does as well. 

neither party knows about the others infidelities. 

at least, 

not yet. 

 

he thinks i am the bad guy. 

for once in his life he picked the right man. 

 

a black cat pauses at the threshold, just so i see him. 

there’s another storm waiting to slide into town. 

 

 

 

 

 

an affair in south florida – almost an ending 

 

i light a cigarette 

and sit on the edge of a rented bed 

covered in a threadbare, stained comforter, 

wearing black socks 

and red satin boxers. 

 

she asks me a question, 

i do not hear her. 

she asks me again, 

i do not respond. 

 

the wind raps against double-paned glass  

old growth oak trees bend and moan 

as the far horizon blackens and lightning 

cracks a mile away. 

 

i think he knows, 

she says. 

as she stands naked 

before me, offering me a beer. 

 

the cops will soon find him, 

i think, and she’ll be the prime suspect. 

i’ll watch from the courtroom 

and have nothing to say. 

 

 

 

 

 

an affair in so florida – sad face emoji 

 

the evidence is sketchy. 

the prosecutor is inept. 

the defense attorney is prepared. 

the defendant just plays her part, 

with precision and grace. 

 

she walks out free and clear after a mistrial declared. 

 

i open an umbrella and walk her to her car. 

she kisses me like a sister. 

 

the executor awarded her nothing but lint 

her husband’s lover, Eduardo, left with a deed to it all. 

i sat in my car, across the street, under 

an old elm, watching the participants exit 

in single file. 

i had already received my check, services rendered, 

 

weeks later a client walks through my front door. 

she is beautiful, and crying. 

i think he’s cheating. 

i stare as if caring, and say, 

please, tell me more. 

 

 

bio: jck hnry is a california/arizona desert-based writer/editor. recent publications include: madness muse, rat's ass review, litterateur, newington press, rogue wolf, fleas on the dog, dissident voice, and others.  sometime in 2021 a new book, "driving w/crazy," will be released by Punk Hostage Press. for more please see jackhenry.wordpress.com.