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 written work prefaced *; published work prefaced +. All work revised and edited subsequent to initial date of composition. Dates are styled day/month/year.
|1819||Barron 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
|1897||Vienna 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
|1932||5/10/1932 d Christopher Brennan|
|1938||Jindyworobak movement founded|
|1939||Kenneth Slessor's Five Bells published|
|1944||Autumn edition of Angry Penguins-Ern Malley hoax; Dobell Archibald Prize lawsuit|
|1948||6/3/1948 Marriage of Patricia Alice Field and Frank Nicholson|
|1950||b Peter Nicholson Waverley, New South Wales|
|1952||11/1/1952 d William Ernest Nicholson|
|1956||Ginsberg Howl; Melbourne Olympic Games|
|1957 - 1962||Epping Infants, Epping Primary|
|1958||A. A. Phillips The Australian Tradition|
|1960||Bernard Smith European Vision and the South Pacific|
|1961||22/7/1961 d Elizabeth Janetta Nicholson|
|1962||The New Poetry ed. Alvarez|
|1963 - 1968||Epping Boys High School|
Australian Literary Studies; Australian Society of Authors
22/11/1963 John F. Kennedy assassinated
|1964||Donald Horne The Lucky Country|
|1965||4/1/1965 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|
|1968||New Impulses in Australian Poetry ed. Shapcott, Hall|
|1969-1971||Armidale Teachers College|
|1970||20/10/1970 d Wilfred Ernest Field|
|1971||30/6/1971 d Kenneth Slessor|
Wake in Fright directed by Ted Kotcheff
|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
|1974||John 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|
|1984||Jean-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
|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
|2004||2/8/2004 Resign Department of Education|
|2005||26/9/2005 - 3/3/2008 Poetry and Culture columns 3 Quarks Daily|
26/9/2005 First blog entry
Large Hadron Collider inaugurated
|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|
|19/4/2000||Praising Gathered Worth added to site|
|8/1/2001||Student reference added to site|
|2/8/2002||Selected Chronology added to site|
|18/11/2002||Site archived National Library of Australia|
|8/6/2004||CAKC added to site|
|3/4/2006||Links added to site|
|21/1/2009||Archive added to site|
|22/1/2014||Gallery added to site|