Leaves of Glass: it’s real!

LeavesofGlass_cover front

Yes, in the words of Jersey-based pop band Real Estate, ‘It’s real!’

Seven years in the making.
Trans-continental in its composition.
Green as a blade of grass in its wrapping.

Leaves of Glass is real.

‘But what’s it all about …’ I hear you whisper.

Well, as I’ve explained here and here and here, Leaves of Glass is a book of poems (47 in all) based on actual correspondence between American ‘Dead Poets Society’-inspiration Walt Whitman (W.W.) and Aussie no-hoper poet Bernard O’Dowd (B.O’D.). These two cats wrote letters to each other in the 1890s in which they poured their hearts out to each other and generally raved on.

In fact, to be honest, most of the outpouring and ranting was on the part of B.O’D. For his part, W.W. seems to have enjoyed the attention, and wrote back to B.O’D with a sort of ‘I’m amused but only in a flattered way’ tone, as if he’d known him his whole life. Between them, W.W. and B.O’D. racked up at least twenty letters, although it’s apparent that many of the letters are missing.

All of which possibly does little to explain why I became so fascinated by this weird ‘roaring days’ correspondence. Call me old-fashioned, call me what you will — I guess I just found the whole thing kind of funny and sad at the same time: funny because B.O’D. was so obviously besotted with his ‘revered master’, but sad because the two of them were unlucky enough to have been writing a century too early to benefit from the Internet and email.

Anyway, my book – called Leaves of Glass in homage to Whitman’s Leaves of Grass – takes the correspondence as its cue and features poems about both B.O’D. and W.W. as well as re-writes (cover versions) of their works. It’s published by Puncher and Wattmann and is available via the P&W website and in all good (read: about two) bookstores. Or, if you’d like a signed copy, send me a message.

The first ‘launch’ of the book took place at Bella Union bar, Trades Hall, Melbourne on 1 December. The second will take place at Balmain Town Hall on 14 December. Information about both events can be found here. You can also sign up to attend the Sydney event via the Facebook event page.

Any questions?

Smokin’ Leaves of Glass!

I’m really glad to announce that my second full-length poetry collection, Leaves of Glass, will soon be released by smokin’ Sydney-based publisher Puncher and Wattmann. Long-term readers of this site would know that said collection has taken a few years to finalise but the wait has surely been worth it.

The book, which was inspired by actual correspondence between Walt Whitman and Australian poet Bernard O’Dowd, and which features re-imaginings of both poets’ works, will be available at two P&W events in Melbourne and Sydney in December 2013 – that’s less than two months from now!

I’m also happy to say that I’ll be in attendance at these shindigs in order to read some poemz, sign autographs and mainline champagne. I’ll post more details soon but I’m looking forward to catching up with loverz of all things Whitman, O’Dowd and Oz-po.

In the meantime, here’s a teaser: ‘O Kitteh! Meh Kitteh!’, a LOLCats transliteration of Whitman’s ‘O Captain! My Captain!’ that may or may not appear in the book.

From the Archives: “What’s Wrong With You?” by the Mike Oldfield Five

Back in 2004 – God, how old does that make me! – I participated in a poetry slam as part of the Melbourne Writers Festival that involved teams of four doing group pieces and random solos. I was fortunate enough to be part of a team called The Mike Oldfield Five, which featured Richard Watts (R), Paul Mitchell (P) and Andy Jackson (A), as well as me (D) and … Mike Oldfield. Our piece was called ‘What’s Wrong With You’ and we came in second on the night behind a bunch of couche tards wearing cowboy hats. Anyway, enough about history. Imagine this …

R: What’s wrong with you?
A: Who?
R: You!
P: Me?
D: Who?
R: You two.
A: Ah, Watts?
R: Yes.
P: What’s?
D: Wrong
R: With you two?
A: What’s wrong with you?
P: What’s wrong with you?
R: What?
D: What’s wrong with you?

R: What’s wrong with me?
All: Yes.
R: I’ve been trying to put my finger on it for years …
A: Can’t see the forest for the trees …
P: Can’t pin it down …
D: Been fossicking around …
R: Tried counselling, even self help books – although they’re all written for straights.
D: If Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus …
P: Does that mean gay men are from Uranus?
R: So, now that we’re sharing …

A: What’s wrong with you?

P: Everything is fine. I’m fine.
R: Really? It looks like there’s something wrong to me …
P: No, I’m fine, everything’s okay …
R: the sun is blue, there’s not a cliché in the sky …
A: Ahhh, he thinks he can get out of it with poetics
D: What?
P: Nothing’s wrong!
R: My elbow’s on the barstool …
A: My pot is full of tear ducts …
D: No, really, I’m …
P: fine. Nothing to worry about …
D: There’s really something very wrong with him.
All: What’s wrong with you?
P: Nothing – everything’s okay I’m fine.
D: (more insistent) What’s wrong with you?
P: I’ve told you I’m okay.
All: (aggressive) What’s wrong?
P: I’ve got good points.
All: That wasn’t the question.
P: I know. But they’re sharp.
A: You’re wrong.
D; You’re all wrong.
R; Wrong wrong wrong.
A: What’s wrong with you?
P: What’s wrong with me is YOU CANT HANDLE WHATS WRONG WITH ME!
D: (softly, imploring) Is that what’s wrong?
P: (pathetic) I stabbed him with my good point …
A: There was so much blood …
R; from such a small virtue!

P: Anyway, what’s wrong with you?

Group breakdown: ‘what’s wrong with you?’ repeat to fade …

D: I feel funny.
R: My right hand and I would like to announce our engagement.
A: I am struggling with the concept of subjectivity.
P: Don’t look at the ground beneath my peach!
D: I’m … a penguin!
R: A fairy penguin?
D: No, an emperor penguin.

R: Well now that you’ve got that off your chest, it’s time to ask: what’s wrong with you?

P: Look I’m so glad you asked …
A: It’s a question that’s been bugging me for a long time now.
R: I’ll be frank.
D: There is something wrong with me.
P: I get mistaken for a backpacker wherever I go.
D: It’s a real chore at airports, railway stations and camping stores.
A: Why?
R: Maybe it’s because you look like a tourist.
D: Well what does a tourist look like then?

A: Am I a tourist in my own life?
P: Possibly.
R: I’d be flattered actually.
D: Yeah right.
R: No, I mean it. I’d feel … cultured. Or something.
D: What about you?
A: Me?
D: Yeah, you’ve been pretty quiet over there in the corner.
R: What’s your excuse?
P: What’s wrong with you?

A: No confession you’d expect will exit these lips – in fact, no confession at all.
P: Well, I can tell by looking at you there’s something wrong.
R: I mean, aren’t you uncomfortable?
A: I think I make YOU uncomfortable.
R: I think you’re in denial.
A: You’re projecting.
D: You’re out of line.
A: Yeah, and proud to be.
I’m inevitable, and if all you see is deformity then you’re blind.
R: At the risk of copping another label …
All: WHATEVER!
P: Thing is, mate, there’s nothing wrong with me.
A: Nothing at all?
P: No.
All: Oh …

© The Mike Oldfield Five 2004