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Writers of the West.

last night, i went to the opening of the Western Sydney's Writer festival. it was free, and there was, i believe, forty people there.

it's not surprising. the writers were, to be blunt, not writers. yes, i know this opens up the question of, when do you say you're a writer, and my answer is when you're not self publishing. granted, there are exceptions. henry rollins, for example. but not this bunch. the majority of them appeared to be retired, or close to it, and they enjoyed rhyming bush poetry, something i have a particular dislike for. in fact, poetry was pretty much what was read during this little opening ceremony, and when every poem has a rhyming rhythm, you find yourself asking just why there isn't a building, located in every city, where people who want to become writers have to go and take a test before they run out and claim to be so.

but perhaps i'm getting ahead of myself. lets back track:

At the Door.

i showed up at around seven, in parramatta mall, to a haze of smoke. an old guy was standing out the front with a fire damaged drum, burning eucalyptus branches. in the past, when i have done this, it's been called vandalism. public nuisance even. here, it's connecting with the aboriginal past. go figure. but you know, i just looked at that and shrugged: i'm sure burning the said leaves did have a point some two hundred years ago, but sometimes you just have to say it's not got one now. but that's me. i can be wrong.

the guy in charge of the burning was a bit more of a problem, however. the program promised me a daruk elder, but gave me, instead, uncle wes, who, by his own admission, was not a daruk elder. wes kicked off the night with an aboriginal story about the lyre bird and birds in general, which ended with, 'and the girl birds came back plain, and the boy birds pretty, and that is why girls have to paint their faces to look good when they go out.'

perhaps, if uncle wes had been the kind of story teller who held an audience, and didn't dart all over the place, this might have been funny. it wasn't.

The First Half.

the mc for the night was a 'poet' who, while liking rhyming verse that called on god, enjoyed puns. throughout the night, he presented the dwindling audience with extended puns. for those unknowing, i have a particular distaste for the pun, believing them to be the lowest of humour, and thus this neat, grey, minister looking man did not earn any support from me.

following the mc was another rhyming poet, who talked about children teaching us the way, and all that kind of niceness. of all the rhyming poetry i listened too, this was, probably, the best. it wasn't a thinly veiled rip off of henry lawson or banjo patternson, and so that stood him in good stead. (though introducing anyone as, 'he can read dante in latin,' is hardly as impressive as you think it might be.)

after that there was a song. it wasn't bad, but, for fucks sake if it wasn't about a fucking tree in the middle of the bush.

let me pause. i live in the western suburbs. what does this mean to me? well, no art house cinemas, chain bookstores, no public buses, and the majority of the middle to lower middle class population of sydney locked into the sprawling mass that is the western suburbs. parts of it are nice, parts of it are shit.

the bush begins somewhere out in richmond, though i tend to be more generous and say the mountains are this divide. to my mind, following the invisible borders of my youth, when you live in the mountains you're no longer part of the population of the western suburbs.

meaning: if you think the people in parramatta are going to be impressed by a song about an old tree, you're playing to the wrong audience.

but, the following act, which was of hip hop, suggested that they did understand their audience. or at least the young girls there did. it is a shame then, that i must tell people that the hip hop scene in the western suburbs of sydney is nothing more than black american hip hop, sung by white people. the fresh faced girls who stood and told me that they'd had guns strapped to them didn't really convince me of this, though i must admit, the second act wasn't so bad. this could be because the first act was fucking awful, however.

(and what is it with trying to be american hip hop? yes, guns, drugs, very good, you've got them, but they're so very cliched, and i thought the whole idea of hip hop was the expression of self and not the regurgitation of another culture?)

btw: the hip hop rhymed.

Then a young girl gave us a song, in which her backing vocalist had a phone call. despite this, one girl in the audience appeared to be crying. perhaps the writer of the song, which sounded a touch familiar.

Interlude.

coffee, cake, and my friend, cas, informing me that he was leaving. he would be at a bar when i finished. i, however, believing the worse over, was staying. there was a lebanese dance troop at the end, and i was curious. shortly after he left, i realised my mistake. i was cornered by one of the people running the festival, and who told me she had published one short story. that's nice, i said, and then she tried to get me to go to her group.

"we just a found a group in queensland that, if you pay them, will critique your work."

christ. i view those people like movie producers who sleep with teenage girls, explaining that they will bring them fame and fortune: scum. if people want to spend money, enroll in a night course, or TAFE, or anything, but do not, not once, send your money and story to a complete stranger and expect them to make you a writer. it won't happen. if you're extremely unlucky, you'll get a disease.

i explained this to the woman. i said there were groups online, communities, she could join. join one of them.

i think she listened to me. she took down my name. maybe she'll find this journal, and if she does, i have this to say: don't pay anyone to critique your work!

The Second Half.

and so, the second half.

what can i say? more puns, and a guy who told a story that could have been nicked from henry lawson. what was worse, was that he had a bit of a swagger as he approached the stage, as if it was true, we were all here to see him. well, he was retired, and the poem he read after the lawson like story, rhymed. i was beginning to think i would have to kill someone for entertainment.

then came the woman with a short story. it was based off the grimm brothers, and in it, the fairy creatures sniffed the white dust, the magical fairy dust, to go to another world.

she was sixty, your typical grandmother, and so very earnest. i bit the inside of my mouth, trying not to laugh, and about four other people did the same.

then she read a rhyming poem.

another guy stood.

rhyming poem.

i thought: these lebanese dancers better be pretty fucking good.

another good stood on stage, holding a guitar.

his song rhymed.

he was also out of key.

then the lebanese dancers came onstage.

they sucked. really and truly, they sucked. no rhythm, no timing, though it should be said that their costumes were quite spiffy.

but make no mistake: they sucked.

Comments

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mariness
May. 31st, 2003 08:05 am (UTC)
You've just described (quite well) for me --
the reasons why I cannot be
a member of a "writer's group" --
I'd sink into their nasty soup!
But I beg you now, and will beg again --
Do not put such an awful spin
on the works of those who try
to tell bad writers how and why
their work makes some people cry --
Because one or two of those editors
Are not, in fact, such awful curs
But labor under the dreadful task
Of taking their little wordsmith axe
To articles, tales and dissertations --
(Hey, that word rhymes with puns!)
I'd say more, but I must find caffeine
Since I feel my mind getting cruel and mean.


(And yes, I know, all too well, about the so-called editors who charge $100 and up to read a chapter or two of your novel, and provide absolutely no helpful information whatsoever. I am proud to say I bounced a check on one of them in my younger days.)
benpeek
May. 31st, 2003 08:17 pm (UTC)
oh, yeah, totally: there are good, helpful editors out there. i should have said that they were different from those charge to make you a writer people.

i knew this would rhyme, btw. just knew.
mariness
Jun. 1st, 2003 09:09 am (UTC)
For what it's worth, I used to avoid rhyme like the plague. Or, realy, people coughing flu germs, since we really don't have enough plague here for me to take an active role in avoiding it, really.

Now, I embrace rhyme the way I do coffee beans. Which is saying a lot.


coldecho
Jun. 1st, 2003 09:46 am (UTC)
Beans
The darkening spiral of volatile oils
worthless without the waking world
tipped and erupted in sudden bursts
the morning explodes

a hungry calf with liquid sigh
lows and pouts and trembles
with udders lacking and stale
dry without the creaming loads

As thickened white it spurts into
darkest swirling night
to ignite the glow of eager morn
on mocha walnut roads

and as the light spoons up against
the sable scene in spinning thoughts
a sweeter fear is comforting
willing wild in milling modes

and plugged into the daylight
blinding sleep and electric sense
the hands vibratto raising need
the squeezing bean abodes

dark and light blend to brown
the cravings bitter bilious
a morning pressed into perfect space
the sleeping smile implodes

(Okay now, what was that about rhyme? Sometimes it can be used without specific rhythms and meters, and still be interesting, at least. Of course, there is a little more rhythm in this than I intended. I had to make this up on the fly, so don't shoot me.)


mariness
Jun. 2nd, 2003 05:02 am (UTC)
Re: Beans
Squeezing bean abodes?

coldecho
Jun. 2nd, 2003 06:15 am (UTC)
Re: Beans
The squeezing bean abodes

Which is to say, the places where beans that squeeze might choose to dwell. Or, more indirectly, the places where beans that have been squeezed might end up. In this case, abodes is a plural noun, you know, and "squeezing bean" is the descriptor. Its like saying "Pine Weasel Forests" or "The Whooping Shlepkin Gutters." (Go ahead, ask me what a Whooping Shlepkin is... if thou darest!) I'm explaining it this way because some people are locked down inside grammatical necessities, and poetry is one place within which we need not follow all these guidelines. Sometimes, breaking the law makes a point. Although in this case, it didn't actually break the rules . . . it just tripped the mental tongue. Highly relevant given the subject involved.

Indistinct grammatical constructs can be linked more to imagery than distinct ones. The images might not be as clear, but then sometimes you want them open to interpretation. Even Stream of Consciousness writing can shatter sense every now and then, for effect.

(Alright, I don't know why I am bothering to explain this, since its well known by anyone who would bother to read through my tedious ramblings... and self-effacements. Mustn't forget the self-effacements. It's where I get my peanut brittle.)
benpeek
Jun. 1st, 2003 05:39 pm (UTC)
i don't mind poems that rhyme. a lot do, and so do it quite creatively. but not this lot. it was all full rhyming (or half rhymes) that were like 'tree/bee' in their creativity.

and they were all identical. at first, i was like, hmm, that was a bad rhyming poem. at the end it was like, does anything in this place *not* rhyme?!

i know a few people who say, oh no, i hate poetry. never understood it, myself. but i figure if i thought poetry was only what those people wrote (and i went down to the creek/and there i helped the meek) then i too would hate poetry.

i was talking to my friend chris about it yesterday. he was with me. in his view, all the poetry was nothing than teenage doggeral. his words.

but, outside this venue, i really don't mind poems that rhyme. honest.
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