Monday, August 17, 2009

Hockey and the Armidale poets

Push, girls, push. Hockey call.

I finished Sunday Essay - obsessions with reading wondering just what book I would select next.

As it happened, I had to take Clare to hockey at Little Bay. To pass the time, I grabbed a few small books of poetry off the shelf.

No shots, girls, no shots. Don't let them in.

The three books I chose were all published in Armidale in 1980 or 1981. I read them in breaks in the hockey. It was quite an exciting match.

Slow it down, girls, slow it down.

Next hockey match I am going to take a note pad. I really need to get the cadences down. Hockey is visual, but this was poetry in action.

Talk to her girls, talk to her.

As I said, I read the poems in breaks. These are very short books. I read each a number of times.

Fuck! That was our ball.

As I did, patterns emerged. These are generally expatriate poets brought to Armidale by circumstance. Their poems reflect the circumstances of the time. There are memories of different homes, of local life, of their opposition to Sydney.

Feeling posthumous in in Bondi
After tablelands' dawn and the death of poetry,
Sydney existential and drear,
I decide to remember friendships
Rather than renew them here
Greg Shortis, First Ode

This was the time the Armidale poets were challenging what they saw as the intellectual dominance and pretensions of the Balmain push. They did so through writing, readings and their own small presses.

Keep with her girls, keep with her.

You will not find an entry in Wikipedia on the Amidale poets. They were and still are. Their poems appear in anthologies. The dream of creating an alternative view still, I think, continues. Yet their presence as a collective is lost.

The game ends. Clare has done really well as goalie in keeping it to a draw.

I come home and in the midst of lunch preparation write Introducing the Armidale poets, the first in a possible series.

You see, I know these poets. I was there at the time these books were published. One is signed by the author.

The problem the Armidale poets face is the one that influenced some of their writing in the first instance, the difficulty in this country of providing an authentic alternative regional voice when so much is controlled by and set within cultural patterns dominated by metro cultural elites.

My own writing may not have much impact. But at least I can review their work for my own pleasure.

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