‘Guard these moments well’: the lyrics of Chris de Burgh

We need to talk about Chris de Burgh’s lyrics. Let’s just for a moment pretend that he never wrote ‘The Lady In Red’. Let’s also pretend that ‘Don’t Pay the Ferryman’ was never recorded, let alone ‘a minor hit in the states [sic]’ as alleged on his official website. Indeed, let’s go so far as to say that Chris de Burgh never existed at all.

Okay, perhaps that’s taking things a bit too far.

However if, like me, you grew up on Chris de Burgh’s records, you can probably understand why I get frustrated when people mention those two songs as if that’s all Chris de Burgh ever did.

For the benefit of the vast majority of the world’s population, therefore, I’d like to set the record (no pun intended) straight. In fact, an analysis of Chris de Burgh’s early albums shows that he was already a formidable songwriter. The lyrical prowess demonstrated on ‘Don’t Pay the Ferryman’ was no fluke.

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Three literary devices that really cheese me off

If I had to write a complete list of all the things creative types do that really give me the jitches, I’d be here all day. So, in my own therapeutical interests, here’s three literary devices that cheese me off no end. What cheeses you off?

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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.

Between Empires: the reissue

Like the poems in The Happy Farang, the pieces that make up the two parts of Between Empires—namely, Peace Falls and Forever Wende—are predominantly about the travelling experience. In fact, pretty much every series of poems I’ve ever written is about travelling. Seems I’m not much good at (or interested in) anything else.

Anyway, here we are in 2012, and I’m knee-deep in some kind of sentimental journey whereby I’m going back through all of my old writings, looking for affirmation. But affirmation of what? The fact that I was actually writing? Or travelling? Or writing about travelling? Gaaaah!

Reading these poems again is a slightly awkward experience for me, although I’m hoping that others don’t feel that way. I get the feeling that there’s something missing in the lines, perhaps a result of the fact that they were composed by hand (i.e., hand-written) and then typed up in a word processing programme. But there’s something else missing, and I’m not even quite sure what it is.

I guess a lot of travel writing has to grapple with a sense of being out of time, or place. These poems certainly don’t ‘belong’ in the context in which they’re now being presented to the world. They’re a bit like the poem ‘Thomas Pynchon and the Art of Anonymity Maintenance’, which I wrote while in Thailand, and which appears in The Happy Farang, but which has nothing to do with either Thailand or travelling.

During my travels in 2002, I was on a train heading from NYC to Buffalo, when I saw this guy sitting across from me, who I will swear to this day was Thomas Pynchon himself. I tried to engage him in conversation, but to the end he swore his name was Jerry. Perhaps the spirit haunting the poems in Between Empires is also called Jerry. Perhaps he never existed.

In any case, it would be another three years before I wrote about Pynchon again. But that is the subject of another blog post. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these poems for what they are: brief excerpts from an itinerary long since forgotten; random thoughts from a diary never kept.

Download volumes I and II of Between Empires: Peace Falls and Forever Wende.