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The following is excerpted from Notebook, the complete text of which can be found in A Dwelling Place, 49-60

   What are a writer's responsibilities and obligations to an inheritance they must by now acknowledge either as a civilising influence or a delusion? Alienation from the levelling tendencies of post-industrial capitalist culture is not the same thing as disillusionment with aesthetic and cultural traditions themselves. Feminist, ethnic, gay and green critiques have been an essential part of an ongoing reassessment of the Western intellectual tradition, but absolute scepticism hardly seems fertile ground for a poet.
   Biotherm, Howl, The Maximus Poems, Paterson: 'barbaric yawp'?
   Translations — not a soft landing. Bilingual editions at least put a mattress in place.
   History of bad criticism: Four legs good. Two legs bad.
   Obsessive aestheticising — a fin-de-siècle speciality?

   Two kinds of poetry: the poetry we live, that is unique to each of us, the sex and death that is ours alone, the pain and pleasure we feel, the ideas we think; the poetry we write, the best of which survives each day's detritus, the work that speaks beyond our individuality. That poetry is profound, like our lives, yet eloquent, as our lives can never be.

   There is no entrance exam to the school of Proper Poetic Intelligence, but a study of versification, like life drawing classes and a mastery of counterpoint, is a suitable departure point for innovation and rebellion.

   Perhaps you can look on Rilke and Celan as an entrance point to and warning sign beyond the black hole of the Holocaust.

   Australian: references to flora and fauna, soaps, cricket teams and money-spinning films won't do any longer. Here is a different kind of sensibility that requires new ways of seeing, thinking and feeling.

   Stravinsky — one of the most original and gifted composers of the twentieth century. But we still want to listen to Rachmaninov.

   Market surveys — pop sociology. If a poll had been taken of the Austrian public as to whether or not Bruckner should have continued to compose symphonies, we know what the result would have been.

   Little money in non-funded poetry. That helps keep the motive pure.

   Hackers entering computer systems — poets entering nervestreams.

   Emotion recollected in tranquillity, overt linguistic expressiveness — falling on one side of the language tightrope bruises stanzas and rhythms; falling on the other means hospitalisation in the ward of damaged language.

   If Hart Crane and Dylan Thomas had managed to stay afloat, what then?

   Mummies — dead poems wrapped in theoretical bindings.

   Lorenz Hart, Cole Porter, Ira Gershwin, Stephen Sondheim — wit and artistry, sophistication, tenderness of feeling. Not poets — supremely useful lyricists.

   It is easy, as with van Gogh and Wagner, to satirise the myth of Romantic genius, trying to convince ourselves that we have gone further than them. But no amount of critical fascism will help us make a silk purse out of an over-extended sow's ear.

   Some cities trade on their appearance rather than their reality. That can become a cult serviced by artists who prefer appearances to reality.

   Tristan und Isolde and 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', Der Zauberberg and Superman, a Rembrandt portrait and the Coca-Cola logo — reaching a new low point when you actually have to state that there is an intentional aesthetic achievement in one that surpasses the other.

   Several generations now exist for whom art is what they have grown up with. To hope that discrimination ensues is not elitism, nor a denigration of popular culture, which I enjoy as much as anyone, simply a wish for human fulfilment.

   American demotic: Gershwin, Tennessee Williams. American Gothic: Poe, Hopper, Arbus. American graffiti: Warhol, television talk shows.

   Philosophers suspicious of poets — poets distrusting philosophers.

   Passion makes mistakes, mistakes leading to beauty that lasts, beauty that can't be paid for.


‘Orpheus Ascending: A Reassessment of Wagner and Wagnerism’

Talk given at the Goethe Institute, Sydney April 18, 1999, subsequently published with prefatory poem ‘Starnberg Quartet’ in London in WAGNER Volume 22 Number 1 March 2001 ISSN 0963-3332  3-37

Cover art Claudia & Gürhan Kalay

‘This phenomenon of Wagner, so riddled with contradictions that will not fit our preconceived notions of what art and artists should be about, lies like a Venus Fly Trap, waiting to enclose anyone in its suffocating petals who gets too close to it. The singing head continues to sing its lovesong to the world. The lovesong contains our best and our worst, our beauties and our terrors, our loneliness and our giant capacity for love and friendship. We too have drunk the draught of forgetfulness and forgotten our history and duty. Like Wagner, we have abandoned many projects in wounded exile, perhaps to take them up again when our spiritual strength has reconstituted itself.’



Selected Chronology

Selected written work prefaced *; published work prefaced +. All work revised and edited subsequent to initial date of composition. Dates are styled day/month/year.

1819Barron Field First Fruits of Australian Poetry; first volume of poetry published in Australia
1890 24/6/1890 b William Ernest Edward Nicholson paternal grandfather
1892 6/5/1892 b Wilfred Ernest Field maternal grandfather
1895 19/5/1895 b Frieda Myee Nall maternal grandmother
A. B. Paterson The Man from Snowy River and other verses
1897Vienna Secession inaugurated
1899 18/10/1899 b Elizabeth Janetta Francis paternal grandmother
1901 1/1/1901 Australian Commonwealth federated as an independent nation
1909 Schönberg's first atonal work
1915 C. J. Dennis The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke; Gallipoli
1919 11/2/1919 Marriage of Elizabeth Janetta Francis and William Ernest Nicholson
Treaty of Versailles, general theory of relativity experimentally confirmed


15/3/1920 Marriage of Frieda Myee Nall and Wilfred Ernest Field
1922 2/9/1922 d Henry Lawson
29/10/1922 b Frank Nicholson father

28/4/1924 b Patricia Alice Field mother
A Book of Australasian Verse
ed. Murdoch, published in London

1932 5/10/1932 d Christopher Brennan
1938Jindyworobak movement founded
1939Kenneth Slessor's Five Bells published
1944Autumn edition of Angry Penguins-Ern Malley hoax; Dobell Archibald Prize lawsuit
1948 6/3/1948 Marriage of Patricia Alice Field and Frank Nicholson
1950b Peter Nicholson Waverley, New South Wales
1952 11/1/1952 d William Ernest Nicholson
1956Ginsberg Howl;  Melbourne Olympic Games
1957 - 1962Epping Infants, Epping Primary
1958 A. A. Phillips The Australian Tradition
1960 Bernard Smith European Vision and the South Pacific
196122/7/1961 d Elizabeth Janetta Nicholson
1962The New Poetry ed. Alvarez
1963 - 1968Epping Boys High School
Australian Literary Studies; Australian Society of Authors
22/11/1963 John F. Kennedy assassinated
1964Donald Horne The Lucky Country
19654/1/1965 d T. S. Eliot
Australian troops sent to Vietnam; Freedom ride through NSW
Judith Wright Preoccupations in Australian Poetry
1966 Begin writing *At The Water's Edge 1966 - 1/12/1981
1968New Impulses in Australian Poetry  ed. Shapcott, Hall
1969-1971Armidale Teachers College
1970 20/10/1970 d Wilfred Ernest Field
1971 30/6/1971 d Kenneth Slessor
Wake in Fright  directed by Ted Kotcheff
1972Begin teaching
           5/12/1972 Election of Whitlam Labor government
1973-1978 Macquarie University B.A.(Hons) * Honours thesis Wallace Stevens and  the poetry of the earth March-October 1978
Literature Board of Australia Council inaugurated by the Whitlam government
28/8/1973   d W. H. Auden
23/11/1973 d Francis Webb
1974John Docker Australian Cultural Elites
1975 11/11/1975 Dismissal of Whitlam Labor government by Sir John Kerr;
          subsequent election of Fraser Liberal-National Party government
          7/12/1975 Indonesia invades East Timor
1976 28/8/1976 d Frank Nicholson
Contemporary American & Australian Poetry  ed. Shapcott
1979 *Fast Forward 22/12/1979 - 23/3/1980
1981*Views To A Bridge 25/12/1981 - 1/2/1986
Macquarie Dictionary ed. Delbridge
1983 16/2/1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires 5/3/1983
1984Jean-François Lyotard The Postmodern Condition 
1985 *Prometheus 3/7/1985 - 10/3/1987
1986 *Shadow Of A Doubt 2/2/1986 - 5/6/1987
26/4/1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident
1987 *S.S. Snakebite 6/6/1987 - 7/12/1988
1988 26/1/1988 200th anniversary of white settlement in Australia
*Speech To A Mountain 8/12/1988 - 24/5/1990
1989 24/8/1989 Voyager ll passes Neptune
9/11/1989 Fall of the Berlin Wall
1990 *New Affection, New Noise 25/5/1990 - 21/3/1991

*Bush Imperial 22/3/1991 - 12/2/1992
+28/8/1991 A Temporary Grace ATG published (At The Water's Edge, Fast Forward, Views To A Bridge)
First newspaper article Sue Hicks Mosman Daily

1992 *Up To The Living  13/2/1992 - 14/2/1994
3/6/1992 Mabo High Court decision; end of legal concept Terra Nullius
First review Peter Pierce The Canberra Times
1994*A Bit Black  15/2/1994 - 28/1/1995
+28/4/1994 Such Sweet Thunder  SST published (Shadow Of A Doubt, Prometheus, S.S. Snakebite)
1995 13/1/1995 d Max Harris
*Stranger Thing Completed 29/1/1995 - 12/10/1997
First television program carried by Internet
1996 27/1/1996 Last nuclear test by French government in the South Pacific
1997 14/5/1997 First online reference 3 poems Ozlit Mareya and Peter Schmidt ICI
REPOSE VINCENT van GOGH, Laurel, New Affection, New Noise
+12/7/1997 A Dwelling Place ADP published (Speech To A Mountain, Notebook, New Affection, New Noise)
Mark Davis Gangland  Cultural Elites and the New Generationalism
1998 31/3/1998 Personal website activated — see Site Data below
*Roses While Cleaning Teeth 13/10/1998 - 17/6/2002
1999 8/3/1999 d Patricia Alice Nicholson
2000*Starnet Continental 20/5/2000 - 21/6/2000
Sydney Olympic Games
2001 1/1/2001 100th anniversary of Federation
2002*Salt Music 18/6/2002 - 13/11/2004
*27/6/2002 - December Condemned At Kangaroo Court
2003 *Hammerhead 6/1/2003 - March, revised 2003 - 2011 + 2011
*The Price Of Shark Has Gone Up 14/11/2004 - 7/12/2006
20042/8/2004 Resign Department of Education
200526/9/2005 - 3/3/2008 Poetry and Culture columns 3 Quarks Daily
26/9/2005 First blog entry

Large Hadron Collider inaugurated
Facebook page

2012 3/9/2012 + New & Selected Poems *1966 - 1995
2016 *Finish editing and typing of Diary Notes and Diaries 1980 - present

Keats House, Hampstead, London 1998

Site Data

31/3/1998Site activated
19/4/2000Praising Gathered Worth added to site
8/1/2001Student reference added to site
2/8/2002Selected Chronology added to site
18/11/2002Site archived National Library of Australia
8/6/2004CAKC added to site
3/4/2006Links added to site
21/1/2009Archive added to site
22/1/2014 Gallery added to site