Friday, December 31, 2004

& a reminder

that today - or tomorrow, depending on yr time zone - is the last day for submissions to The Hay(na)ku Anthology, to be published in 2005 by Meritage Press.

poles apart

poles apart contains a selection of our collaborative work, both published & unpublished, plus some 'each for the other' pieces. Included are excerpts from The Oracular Sonnets, Karl Marx' Rubric Journal & The Sketchbooks of Hieronymous Bosch. Available through
 Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 30, 2004

The Fifth Book of Peace

The bookshops of Rockhampton are not places to browse in. They're where you go if you want to order something in - though I did find a copy of Bob Dylan's Chronicles on the shelf. The only copy I might add.

Where you go to browse are the newsagents, who bring in remaindered books by weight. "Give me a couple of hundred kilos of popular paperbacks, &, say, fifty kilos of those larger-sized ones. Oh yeah, & a tonne of sports books." Books appear which would otherwise never come within 700 kilometres of Rockhampton.

I picked up Maxine Hong Kingston's The Fifth Book of Peace in such a bin a month or so ago, for a fraction of its original price. She's a writer I've liked ever since I found The Woman Warrior in a similar chance fashion in Sydney, maybe in a second-hand shop. I started reading the new book a couple of days ago, & was struck by an image a couple of pages in where she describes rushing back to find her house burnt down in a firestorm in the Oakland-Berkeley Hills. "Someone once told me about a child who lived at the time of the burning of a great library. He caught pages of burned paper, and read Latin words."

I suppose what made this image so poignant for me was the recent fire at Michael Rothenberg's home in which he lost his books & his archives. When I returned to writing a few years ago Michael was the first editor to encourage me & give me a place to publish. I mourn his lost library.

SOFTBLOW, Stylus & Singapore

SOFTBLOW is a relatively new poetry e-zine out of Singapore. It refreshes rather than bringing out issues, keeping about eight poets on the "front page" & an archive of those others whose work has previously appeared. So far the majority of contributors seem to be non-Singaporean & include MTC Cronin, Catherine Daly, Simon Perchik & Lewis Warsh.

The latest issue of Stylus features Singaporean poets, & includes an interview with Cyril Wong, the founding editor of SOFTBLOW.

Asian-American Poetry

"Some people like to collect open-toed sandals. Others like to throw boomerangs at wasps' nests. I happen to like to read Asian-American poetry (using the most expansive definition possible here.) I've read A LOT of it, more than anyone I know personally. In fact, I doubt that there are that many people in the world out there who has read more than I have, but if you think that you have, by all means, let's talk! I'm starved for conversation about Asian-American poetry. I started a whole blog about it, for goodness sake! (And as we all know, starting a blog is clearly a cry for help.) Like I keep trying to convince my bedroom mirror, I have a life, you know."
from Asian-American Poetry, a new blog started by Roger Pao.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

& in one of those

strange acts of synchronicity, the The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami blog, the SEA-EAT blog for short has just paid a "next blog" visit to Series Magritte. This multi-authored blog contains extremely extensive news & information about resources, aid, donations, volunteer efforts & links from both sides of the Indian Ocean.
The only way I can comprehend the enormity of the loss of life in the tsunami that swept the Indian Ocean is to picture myself standing on top of Mt Archer, looking down at the city of Rockhampton below & imagining all of its 60,000 inhabitants dead.

Yet this is a natural disaster, made more horrific by the speed at which it happened. But it is less than the death toll of Iraqis since the U.S. & its partners invaded that country. To envisage what Man(un)kind does to its fellow humans, I would probably have to be in a satellite looking down over the continent of Australia & imagining all of its 20 million inhabitants dead. & even that might not be enough.

We may not be able to stop the war in Iraq. But we can provide some help to the devastated communities in Southern Asia. Two Australian agencies seeking donations are Care Australia & oxfam. & there are others. kari edwards has a comprehensive list of U.S. sites at transdada.

a rockhampton blues hay(na)ku

that never
sleep / never die.

others shut
up shop early.

Monday, December 27, 2004

snakes alive

There are no land snakes in New Zealand. There may be some exotics in zoos, but I don't remember ever seeing them. So because you are unfamiliar with them you grow up on a diet of rattlers in Westerns, asps zapping Cleopatra & snakes in myth & scary movies & end up being shit-scared of them.

It's a fear I brought with me to Australia. & because I have yet to see a snake in the wild I am still afraid of them. I've seen snakes behind glass in zoos here, & loose in displays at local Shows. I found a shed skin when I went walking in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney when I lived there. Here in Rockhampton I once heard the cat yowling at what I thought was the tom next door, went out to shoo it away, found no cat but saw / heard something long & lizard-like slithering away across the dead leaves in the garden. Put it down as a possible sighting.

& yesterday the closest I have come yet, finding a dead snake on one of the pavers next to the path in the back garden. About eighteen inches long, but in two parts. Killed by maybe an owl or a kookaburra or perhaps even the cat, though if it were the latter I would have expected it to have been at least part-eaten. & I don't think the cat has the classical education to sever it in accordance with the principles of the golden mean.

Saturday, December 25, 2004


Thursday, December 23, 2004

My French is so execrable

that someone has asked me to post the original of my de Chirico poem below. Here 'tis

Giorgio de Chirico's Departure of a friend
            Time is clasped

in the hands of the station clock

even as the hands of friends
           grow cold
in their final parting.

one shadow is the
           form of two men -

& it is autumn.

living in the tropics

go outside
raise an eyebrow
break out
into a sweat

green ants
on the left foot
black ants
on the right

four varieties
of mosquito
yr blood flow

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

a favourite dedication

Were it not for Maurice Pilorge,
whose death keeps plaguing my life,
I would never have written this book.
I dedicate it to his memory.
Jean Genet: Notre-Dame des Fleurs


a bonsai textual conjecture by Jukka.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

draining the adriatic

The irrepressible César de Oliviera, aka Super Sharp, silver medalist in the prestigious Prémio Lopes-Graça de Composição for 2004, has posted his ideal house plans up at Hauptwege und Nebenwege. Before budding architects get too excited, he lists his desired specifications which include a library based on Borges, & it should also be noted that the gardens incorporate the Duchy of Luxembourg within the garden, & the swimming pool is given as the Adriatic Sea transported.

Which leads me into a koan of sorts. If you dig up the Adriatic Sea, then the Mediterranean Sea would rush in to fill up the space & the Adriatic Sea would therefore still be there. So would César's Sea be the real sea? Or a fallacy?

Giorgio de Chirico's Le départ de l'ami

           Le temps est étreindit
dans les mains de l'horloge de la gare

de même que les mains des amis
           croitent froid
dans leur séparation finale.

Une ombre seule est la
           forme des deux hommes -
et c'est l'automne.

 Posted by Hello

Monday, December 20, 2004

harry k stammer zooming in on the intersection in an excellent series of posts. 12/18, 12/16, 12/15/04.
I have cold climate genes. I was born in a town where the only ways out were the railway tunnel that ran under the mountains & a road pass through the mountains that was often snowed shut. I began school in another town where I refused to wear shoes so that I could break the ice on the puddles with my bare feet. The town after that was far enough south to be able to see the Aurora Australis. Strangely enough I have never lived anywhere where snow was commonplace.

I remember coal-fired trains, coal stoves, no ice-boxes but a cupboard, called a safe, that was on the outside of the house, with zinc mesh so that the wind could breathe through but the flies couldn't enter. The milk was delivered, tipped out into billy-cans from a churn. The bread was delivered, unwrapped, tasty, loaves that broke in half & which I used to love eating the insides out of. There is a Henry Miller piece I have always liked called the Staff of Life in which he bemoaned the trend in the U.S. towards tasteless bread. Which has now conquered the world, & bred niche markets for bread the way it used to be. At one hundred times the price.

There were outside toilets, "dunnies", that would be emptied by the night-soil man. I do not remember, but my parents have told me of, the night-soil collecter who was prosecuted because he also used to deliver the milk. At the same time.

All this prompted by the fact that it's hot & humid & uncomfortable at present, & I'm reading volume one of Bob Dylan's Chronicles. "The sound of trains off in the distance more or less made me feel at home." Not an autobiography, more of a memoir. Large chunks left out that I would rather have been put in. Though maybe that's how the ongoing volumes are going to be, collated like a game of leapfrog or a knight's moves in chess, each part jumping about, so that you need to read the volume after to discover what happened halfway through the one before.

& historic events as almost throwaway sentences.
"As for me, what I did to break away was to take simple folk changes and put new imagery and attitude to them, use catchphrases and metaphor combined with a new set of ordinances that evolved into something different that had not been heard before."

Sunday, December 19, 2004

sound & vision

I am not a radiohead, usually only listen to it in the car. Watch tv, & am conditioned by its weekend rules of Saturday = sport, Sunday = things serious. Which is why I only caught the last half of Jill Jones reading her poetry on Radio National because I saw her post announcing the upcoming program & filed it away as serious = Sunday, forgetting radio does not run under tv rules. But I loved what I heard, & will catch up with the full program when it is linked at the Poetica site. Hopefully it will be up tomorrow (Monday) & will be available for the next four weeks or so. Hie thee hither.

Had to load RealPlayer in preparation to listen to it, & glad I did, because when I logged back on later on there was an email from Michele Leggott saying that video clips plus texts of the poems from the reading for the 3rd birthday celebrations were now up at the New Zealand electronic poetry centre . So if you want to see a ten minute clip of my first reading for thirty years it's available there in both dial-up (resolution in dial-up is pretty crappy so best kept as a smallscreen) & broadband formats.

11.05 p.m. The link to Jill's broadcast is now in place. Listen to it. It's a beautiful & moving program.

a week in the life of JoJo

yo wazz up, ppl!
My first posting worx.. heehee.. clap for me.. *clap*clap* juz kidding! Mmm.. currently now nothing to share la.. If i have things to share, sure got thing to share de.. haha.. i will be back for things to share.. Muahaha.. I will be sharing all the stuffs around me.. and maybe lame jokes too.. haha.. LoLx.. Rock my life! Cya!
~signing off~
aka JoJo

Argh.. Ouch! and Yea..!
heehee.. today i helped my church to distribute fliers ar.. quite tiring la, but is fun and worth it la.. Juz don't know why ar.. Haha, I juz luv my church a lot..! revival nation, Rock 'n' Roll! So after i came home, I got terrible headache.. Argh! *Pain*Pain* I hate it! haha! Mmm.. so i pray and tell God to take my headache away.. hee! So after for a while, it's gone.. haha! Yea! Thank you, God! you see, God can do anything. Nothing is impossible for God! With God, things will be great.. Muz have this craziest for God! Ya? Heehee..
~signing off~
aka JoJo

yea! water baptism on the 26th Dec 04!
Woo.. my church will being having water baptism on 26th Dec 04. Muahahaha.. This is the day, I have been waiting for... Although I know that I will have parents objection.. But I wanna go for it because of God. Hm.. Coz He called me to go for it and etc... haha! (come and ask me more about it. very interesting worx.) heehee.. Me wanna know God more and more daily. I want to talk to Him and hear Him daily too. haha.. Wanna have visions and dreams from Him. The most importantly is want to win more and more people to know Christ. Yea! hee! Juz keeping loving God forever! Rock 'n' Roll again! =X Oops! Juz Kidding!
aka JoJo

How's my life before I know God...
So before I know God.. All this days, in my life is meaningless.. Friends around me, want to commit suicide. Hate my family, feel like killing them, so that my life may be good without them.. Basically no love at all loh… until I get to know God.. His love is great, powerful and etc.. Accepted Christ, because He touched my life and He’s the one who give me a chance to prove that I can change. Want to love Him more and more everyday.. Mmm.. I think that all, coz i make it shorter.. haha..
Heehee.. I accepted Christ on 28th March 2004.. Wow.. still rmb.. haha! lol!
H.M. Texas

How I got my tongue? (Holy Spirit's language)
haha.. I received my tongue on Thursay, 20th May 2004. Some more in class leh... Keke! Cool ar?! Mmm.. It go like this.. That day, I was having my maths lesson in class, then felt boring and a bit moody la.. So decided to put my head on the table and rest. Then for a moment, my teacher called me to wake up and dont sleep. So I talked back to her, saying that I didn't sleep la.. So I put my head on the table again, and i don't know why I started to open my mouth and speak in tongue. So I wanted to stop it cos' i scared that people will get shocked for nothing.. But I juz couldn't stop it, until for a while and it juz stopped..(Luckily is not very loud, or else i think everybody would be staring at me.) Then my heart was beating so fast.. Really it's super fast! (Wow!) Then my friend sitted slightly a part from me, he's like in a shocked.. He looked at me and asked me, "What are you doing?" Then I smiled back to him and said nothing.. Hahaha.. I was delighted.. Woo.. Feel like shouting at that moment but I can't.. heehee.. So before I got my tongue, I just didn’t doubt God and I kept praying and asking God for it. Yup! So new Christian, whenever you pray, don't doubt God. If you do, then it mean u don't trust Him.. So keep praying and ask God to give you tongue, if you dont have la.. Soon you will get yours.. Trust the Lord with your whole heart..
A kid who want to have visions and dream from God,

say Wow! cos' my cousin is saved..
Muahaha.. =X Oops! to happy ar.. Can't wait to share...! My cousin, Celeste, accepted Christ today... Wow! Clap for her! *clap*clap* heehee.. Yea! u know what?! next will be my parents! haha! God bless them! After my parents, then will be my whole household. Amen? Yea! Just keep loving God and really trust in Him.. Yea! I really want to see all of my friends to get save too.. Cant wait for that too...! Yea?! Yahoo!

Yoyo.. wazz up, ppl!
Haha! Finally a friend of mine kena saved.. haha! i dont know when la. Me, everytime called her to go my church, but she dont want.. She always mixed with bad accompanies la.. Me, worry for her until like siao.. heehee! Sometime also pray for her, hope that she will get to know Christ. Hooray! now she know who is He! Praise the LORD! prayer works! God is listening! ok?! dont play play ar.. =X Oops! haha! now she's currently in hostel la... Sigh.. nevermind! haha.. i told her to come my church after she come out.. then she said, 'OK ar'! haha.. Yea!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Friday, December 17, 2004

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Negative Wingspan

For me, one of the greatest - if not THE greatest - writing blogs around is Kirsten Kaschock's Negative Wingspan. Her writing takes my breath away, & her most recent posts especially so. I now have to have an oxygen cylinder conveniently at hand when I visit.

The semantics of postcards

When I drive, I think of the inside lane as being that closest to the kerb & the outside lane as being that closest to the centre of the road. Lauren, my wife, the scientist in the family, uses the terms the other way around. So now, to avoid confusion, it's your side & my side depending on who's driving.

& so it is with postcards. I consider the front of a postcard to be that side with the address on, like an envelope. Apparently that's wrong. The address is on the back. So below is the back of Jukka's card.

from Jukka 12/15/04

a little bit battered in the mail

   Posted by Hello

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A new issue

of Bill Allegrezza's Moria is up.

Series Magritte

I was reminded when posting The Listening Room below that it must be almost a year since the first poem in the series appeared. Checked, & found that it was twelve months & twelve days ago when the initial one was posted to As/Is.

Which is not why I posted TLR here. Series Magritte only contains links because (a) I'd probably get into deep shit with the estate of the late René if I had pages of images (b) it would take ages for the page to download & (c) sometimes the link(s) appear in the poem rather than the title. I've decided that I'd occasionally like to see both poem & painting together, & since I've got the hang of hello, I'll post a few here.

There have been 58 more poems since that first one, & I've jottings for another couple. Most are as they first appeared trotting across the wasteland of my brain; so there's shit & good, dark & light, directly referencing or only tangentially so.

& a confession. Giorgio de Chirico used to be my main man, but Magritte is now as I've dug & pried my way through his work. I love his juxtapositions, his familar/ unfamiliar objects & people in unfamiliar/ familiar surroundings.

& I still want to write a poem about the opening sequence to the Simpsons where the Magritte clouds appear.

The Listening Room

An apple
on the table
is no threat; but
walk into a room
to find it
filled by a
giant apple.....


Had gone
to write "the apple
peers out the
window". Wrote
"pears" instead. A
slight tectonic drift
of associated words
done accidently &


placement of objects is
deliberate, is earth-
quake territory. The
displacement of space
by things that should
not be there
but are seemingly
quite at home.


Maldoror in whom I dream apples.


Only a painter
could place
this giant object
in a space where
the entry
place & space
is so small.


Cliffs, chasms. A
precipice pre-
cipitated by the
unexpected. It is why
even in the light
we fear closed doors
& rooms that
may not be empty.


How large the tree?
Who picked the apple?


There are no
eyes. How then to
tell in
what direction
it is facing? The
apple appears
to be looking
out the window. Small
wordplay. All
the room
that's left to
in. There
are no ears.


What is it
listening for?

(Series Magritte #19)

   Posted by Hello

an apology

Tom. I
really wanted to

a poem
for yr competition

found the
telephone lines were

when I
tried to get

touch with
my other self.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

precision can not be measured, because there is no machine yet built that is precise enough.

The meeter & greeter of the south side

Spain they
have statues of

In Rockhampton
statues of bulls.                Posted by Hello

Monday, December 13, 2004

storm damage

38° C., about 75% humidity. The storm, a reticent lover, lingers behind the hills, threatens, never arrives. The constant sound is airconditioner noise – next door/here/next door.

The storm hits, 700 kilometres south, 2000 kilometres south. Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra. Hail, high winds. Airports close, planes are damaged. Here we get five seconds of rain.

I cannot write. I blame the oppressiveness but it's not that. I turn into Blogden Nash on the pelican, I leave postings in the comments boxes of other blogs. I look through my Magritte books. I think about revising The Allegrezza Ficcione for publication. Martin Edmond feels that my prose should be more lyrical, that I should be more forthcoming about the eponymous hero. I read his latest post on Luca Antara. He writes that it is the revision he enjoys when writing, the workings toward the finished product once the first draft is complete. That is the part I hate. Let it stand is my motto. Though I rarely adhere to it.

What I really think is getting at me is that I am no longer stimulated by Rockhampton. I've explored it as far as I can. I went to a concert on Friday, in the local municipal theatre. Enjoyed it, but the sound was designed for a larger venue, was overwhelming in the context; & that is almost a summation of my vexation.

In retrospect it was the re-settlement period, the transition from big city to small city, that kept me agile. But now I am settled in, & I look around, & I am living in a bigoted, racist, country-music loving, redneck environment where the shops close at about 7 p.m. & don't open on Sundays.

I think about joining Tom Beckett & Jim Ryals in walking away – temporarily? permanently? - from blogging. Probably won't. I still rely on it. It is a prime source of contact with a milieu that, strangely enough, I ignored when I lived in Sydney. But I knew it was there, even if I didn't take part in it. I think there may be a poet living in Yeppoon, about forty kilometres away from here, on the coast. Then again, it may just be rumour.

So here I am, uninspired, over-perspired. I have just put on my third T-shirt of the day. I need something to look forward to. I dream of California, of Finland, of Portugal. L. is going back to Sydney next month for another conference. I have decided to accompany her. I need the cosmopolitan fix. Big city osmosis.


Alex Gildzen's Arroyo Chamisa.

the couch poetato

He looked on
poetry as a
spectator sport

to be
watched from
the comfort of
his loungeroom

taking note
of the most

so he could
later use &
claim them
as his own.

She writes to tell him

life has turned to shit since she moved
south of the river. Not just the mosquitoes
but the mould getting into everything,
the books decaying before she gets
a chance to read them, the isolation.

Nothing is permanent. In winter
the river floods, eating away at its banks
& bringing down debris that weakens
jetties & bridges. In spring the tides attack
from the other direction, finishing
the job. The bridges break, the boats go
spinning away. You cannot swim in the bay.

The paper the letter is on is stained. She
points this out to him, identifying
the marks around the edges as those
that are caused by the moisture in the air;
the ones in the centre come from rain
dripping through the roof as she writes.

The rest, she tells him, are her tears.

from calligraphies. xPress(ed), Fall 2004

Sunday, December 12, 2004

"Hence, my number one suggestion for publicly advancing one's work as a visual poet is to pretend to be a painter and aim for exhibitions rather than publications."
      a quote from Bob Grumman

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Fall 2004 range

of e-books has just been published by Jukka-Pekka Kervinen's xPress(ed).

Writers include harry k. stammer, Clayton Couch, Gregory Vincent St Thomasino, Andrew Lundwall, Andrew Topel & Jim Leftwich, John M. Bennett & myself.

The Poets' Corner

Poets' Corner, that wonderful site curated by Anny Ballardini, has just been augmented with additional poets including Barry Schwabsky, Andrew Lundwall, Patrick Herron, Sheila E. Murphy & Kent Johnson. The full list of new items is posted at narcissusworks.

From Jukka

front side of to M (I)
 Posted by Hello

Thursday, December 09, 2004

wishes & dreams

   So I want to stress the importance of the wish . The real magical element is the wish , and if we don't know the wish then we stumble about and we accept entrapment because we don't really know what we are going towards. Then we have no strength, we have no inspirational visions. I took dreams as the guide. Sometimes the dream was prophetic, it was a warning, it may have been a symptom of anxiety. But very often it was a dynamic  dream, the real creative dream that propels you forward and illuminates the wish. And having once a vision of the wish, then we can move towards it.
Anaïs Nin: A Woman Speaks

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Every month or so

I take a journey on the Blogger next blog random train. Despite the programming & design skills encountered which I quite admire, I usually get pissed off before too long because of the constant posting of song lyrics, the text message language & the pop-ups that get me stuck, unable to exit.

Most times the blogs seem to be out of South-East Asia, but this afternoon the first one I was taken to was Portuguese. Only about six posts over three or four months. But a couple of posts down was this photo that frightened the shit out of me. I don't know if it's an anti-gun lobby poster or some such, but check it out. & be afraid, be very, very afraid.

I Populate a Private Europe

On most warm nights you will find us
walking the streets on the edges of the
inner city. Sandstone terrace houses
come right up to the pavement, there are no
lawns, no patios. People sit on their stoops
or first-floor balconies to take the air. Sycamores
grown up over the last two centuries
blunt the streetlights. Their branches stretch
to the houses, we walk beneath them, shutting
each other out of our thoughts in the same way
the trees shut out much of the light. I drift
through the mixed metaphors of a private Europe,
populate my dreamy avenues with those I'd like
to find there. You prefer to watch the passers-by,
to take them on some private dance, up the street
down the street round the corner where the real
action starts. They're innocent you say as I
question your glances. I reply that innocence
is a presumption, something you lay
tenuous claim to in the hope no evidence
will be forthcoming that proves you
otherwise. In the dimness I risk the moral
high ground. There is no innocence in the way
either of us interact with our separate populations.

from Sun Moon's Mother, just published by Poetic Inhalation

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

I'm delighted

to be able to pass on the news that Martin Edmond, of Luca Antara has shared first prize in an essay competition run by what is probably New Zealand's foremost literary magazine, Landfall.

Martin Edmond and Tze Ming Mok are the winners of the 2004 Landfall Essay Prize.
Judge Vincent O'Sullivan says the winning essays immediately stood out from the other entries. "A good essay picks up on the times when it was written; it is a form that tells us what it is to be contemporary. Each of these essays tells me about the country I live in and come from in ways that are fresh and challenging."
"I was taken with Martin Edmond's sophistication and deft intellectual turns. Tze Ming Mok had a drilling eye for what it is to begin as an outsider, and a sharp assessment of what the inside implies and excludes."
In his essay 'The Abandoned House as a Refuge for the Imagination', Martin Edmond explores the rich imaginative source of old houses, of his past and of artist Philip Clairmont and writer Ronald Hugh Morrieson.
Tze Ming Mok explores belonging in 'Race You There'. Her essay looks at being Asian in New Zealand - the encounters of racism and colour-blindness and the need for Asian communities to address the Treaty of Waitangi.
Martin's blog has been quiet of late, due partially to his recent trip to Malacca & nearby islands, partially to the fact that he acquired some venomous virus while he was there & partially to the fact that is he currently finishing his latest book.

I came across the above news today, through a chance series of links; & in one of those marvellous acts of synchronicity I also received through the post from N.Z. a DVD of a reading I did for the nzepc archives where Martin took part in the roles of an audience of one & interlocutor. I was expecting a DVD in a plain plastic case which I could then copy & send off to a few people who I owe "solid" favours to. Instead it came professionally presented, a beautiful wrap-around cover, bearing the University of Auckland coat-of-arms & with copyright problems all over it. So I'm in the process of finding out how to get further "official" copies.

Joy / Division

Eileen strikes a provocative pose in her posts of December 6 where she comments on joy in readings, the separate(dness of) audiences, who do you read?, who do you listen to?

As she says, open yourself up to the world.

The Allegrezza Ficcione, Part 27 - A Postscript

The Ministry of the Interior today announced the death of Umberto Allegrezza, the Italian scholar who has lived in Uzbekistan for the past four years & is well-known for his translations of Alisher Navoi & other historic Central Asian poets.

He was killed six days ago by an avalanche whilst on a climbing expedition in the Pamirs, but his death has only just been reported with the return of his climbing companions.

His body could not be recovered.
The Tashkent Daily Record, April 4, 2001.

A reminder of the tragic death in a climbing accident of the late Umberto Allegrezza, the Italian scholar who resided near Bukhara for a number of years, has come about with the publication in a Finnish literary journal of five poems, purported to be translations by Allegrezza of Phoenician writers.

Nils Pedersen, a Danish systems analyst, claims to have been given a notebook containing the poems by Allegrezza in a backpackers' café in Termez. "It was a strange gift, but I thought it was nothing special at the time," said Pedersen. "Then a week or so later I saw a report of the tragic accident on State TV & wondered if he'd had a premonition of his imminent death. I decided to keep the notebook until I returned to Oslo & see if I could get the poems published. I have just arrived back here after five years abroad."

Jukka-Pekka Kervinen, the editor of the magazine xStream in which the poems appeared, said "I have seen the notebook. It has on the first page the inscription 'Translations from the Phoenician, #3 , Umberto Allegrezza, Bukhara 2001' with five poems on the next recto pages. The hand-writing on all these pages has been verified as that of Umberto Allegrezza. I believe in the poems' provenance."

Allegrezza is remembered for his translations of Alisher Navoi, Rudaki & other known & unknown historical Central Asian poets, but is probably best known for his co-discovery, with the late Professor Alexei Vershenko, of what is now considered to be, albeit prototypical, the earliest recorded ghazal, which they found amongst early manuscripts in the UAS Institute of Oriental Studies in Tashkent.

Professor Vershenko's grand-daughter, Dr Kamilla Patel, speaking from the family farm, commented "I have not seen the poems but I believe them to be spurious. Someone is taking advantage of Doctor Allegrezza's good reputation. Besides, it is a well-established fact that apart from some inscriptions on monuments, there is no writing from the Phoenicians still in existence. If there were manuscripts they would have been discovered by now, & definitely not in Uzbekistan."
The Tashkent Daily Record, December 7, 2004
Previous Part

Monday, December 06, 2004

Series Magritte # 57

The False Mirror

in the

 Posted by Hello

A couple of days late marking the anniversary, but

On December 3rd, 1984, thousands of people in Bhopal, India, were gassed to death after a catastrophic chemical leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant. More than 150,000 people were left severely disabled ––of whom 20,000 have since died of their injuries––in a disaster now widely acknowledged as the world’s worst-ever industrial disaster. None of the six safety systems at the plant were functional, and Union Carbide’s own documents prove the company cut corners on safety and maintenance in order to save money. Today, twenty years after the Bhopal disaster, those who survived the gas remain sick, and the chemicals that Union Carbide left behind in Bhopal have poisoned the water supply and contributed to an epidemic of cancers, birth defects, and other afflictions. Since its purchase of Carbide in 2001, Dow-Carbide has refused to clean up the site, which continues to contaminate those near it. It has refused to fund medical care or livelihood regeneration, and it has refused to stand trial in Bhopal, where the Union Carbide Corporation faces criminal charges of culpable homicide (manslaughter), and has fled these charges for the past 12 years.
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.
There are echoes of Bhopal in the current Australian activities of James Hardie who, also through a series of legal manouevres, have decided profit has preference over compassion & responsibility & are fighting to stay at arm's-length from compensation claims relating to asbestos deaths. The claims are estimated to amount to around $2billion. Last week James Hardie handed over $82 million to the compensation fund.

20 years before Bhopal was the invasion of Vietnam. 20 years after, the invasion of Iraq. Australia was/is a strong ally of the U.S. in both. Industrial. Military. Forgive me when I say it's not complex but a simple overriding desire for power & profit.

Both countries refuse to ratify the Kyoto Protocol for controlling green house gas emissions. The U.S., like Israel, refuses to recognise the authority of the International Court of Justice fearing that its citizens may be charged with war crimes. The Australian government has just refused to sign a non-aggression treaty with the ASEAN group of countries because, it admits, doing so may offend the U.S. The U.S. has just said (& in doing so have completely demolished their earlier claims that they aren't engaged in torture at Camp Delta - nobody shoots themselves in the foot quite like the military) that confessions obtained through torture are admissable as evidence in the kangaroo court they've set up to try the Guantanamo Bay internees. But then, the U.S. has always refused to recognise that the Geneva Convention rules should apply.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

A nice piece

by Nick Piombino on "But why write if you have nothing to tell us?".

Issue #26

of xStream is out, available in html, as a pdf download, &, as an additional option, in a hardcopy print-on-demand version available from

The Decline & Fall of Genghis Khan

The few photographs
of Genghis Khan that
are known to exist
date from the Barnum &
Bailey years & show him
standing either before
a backdrop of The Great Wall
or outside a circus tent
made up to resemble
a yurt. Invariably
he is dressed in western
clothes - derby hat, three-
piece suit, wing collar, a
pair of shiny black boots
over which are the spats
that were de rigeur
for the time. It is said
he chose to appear
like this so as to be
unrecognisable to the
Lords of the Spirit World
who would otherwise
capture his soul
through the capture of
his true image. The beard,
so important to the Han,
is bound by a leather
thong, pulling it together
in a pigtail as if to face
the queue of servitude
full on. He is a small
man, an innocuous uncle,
an unlikely claimant to
the title of Conqueror
of All Asia which was how
he was promoted. Perhaps
his appearance is why his
act never proved popular;
though historians of a
slightly later time identify
the lack of popularity as the
first stirrings of the American
xenophobia against all Asian
races. After this the programs
of B & B never mention him
again; though there is a single
photograph taken shortly
after Bailey's takeover
of Buffalo Bill's Wild West
Show in which, at one end of
the back row of the lined-up
Native Americans, just under
the first F of the banner
"The Former Foe – The
Present Friend", wearing a
feather head-dress that trails
on the floor, is an elderly
stocky unshaven man gazing
hollowly into the distance,
as if inside him there were
no soul left for the Lords
of the Spirit World to take.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Jukka's new blog

& I'm also adding Geof Huth's qbdp:the mailartworks to the sidebar because it was through Geof's blogs that I came across this marvellous art form.

There are enough links listed between the two sites to show what a wonderful world of mail art there is out there.

Just out

from Andrew Lundwall & Jeannie Smith's Poetic Inhalation is a new issue of Tin Lustre Mobile, plus creative writing from Skip Fox & kari edwards, plus a couple of reviews, plus three new e-books, one of which, Sun Moon's Mother, is, if I may be permitted a moment of self-promotion, the first of two I have coming out this month.

Karri Kokko's

Poem | in re | verse is starting to emulate the Odyssey. Or perhaps, more appropriately, emulate the Kalevala.

Green Ant Dreaming

There are a number of varieties of ants running about our place. Some so small that I need my glasses to see them, some quite large - the black "meat ants" that bite quite strongly & the green ants of which there are probably millions in the back yard.

Green ants build their nests in trees, by sticking leaves together. For adhesive they use a secretion obtained by squeezing the bodies of their pupae. Usually their nests are about the size of a mango or papaya; but there is currently one in the garden, on top of a palm frond, that is the size of a basketball.

Their clear abdomens - dig the back ant - contain an ascorbic acid-like substance that is used by the Aborigines as bush tucker.
 Posted by Hello

Friday, December 03, 2004

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Rockhampton notes

The solitary busker is back in town. Turns out she's not a backpacker but a uni student, doing music in Brisbane, home for the holidays.

& the lagoons in the Botanical Gardens have dried up so much they're now mowing them.

The Allegrezza Ficcione, Part 26

A few hours later Ibrohim lead them into a small arroyo over which the trees grew, hiding it from above. A kilometre further on the dry stream bed ended under a large overhang of rock. At the back of it, invisible until one was almost upon it, was a cave mouth.

They dismounted. One of the riflemen got grass out of a saddle bag to feed the horses with, the other poured water into a depression for them to drink from. The horses seemed disinclined to wander.

Ibrohim took a haversack out of his saddlebag, slung it over his shoulder. He waited for Tamur – slow because of age - & Umberto – slow because of saddlesoreness – to dismount, & then the three of them set off into the cave, Ibrohim turning on a large flashlight as they entered.

The cave sloped downwards through the sandstone. They walked for perhaps five hundred metres & then the cave branched off in two right angles. Ibrohim shone the flashlight down one. It ended in an open area the size of a small room. There were faded murals on the walls. The other way seemed exactly the same, without the murals, but that was the way they went. When the reached the open area Ibrohim turned hard left & Allegrezza discovered that there was an opening in the wall.

"I do not know how the cave was made" said Tamur from behind him. "Part of it seems natural, part carved out of the stone. Possibly at some point there might have been an entrance through which rainwater ran & gradually eroded a channel away. Perhaps earthquakes. This area is known for them. Or it may have been this way ever since it was thrust up from the sea. & there are rivers that run far below."

The cave was wide enough for them all to walk side by side, though they walked in single file, & high enough for them to have no need of bending. It was long. Allegrezza held his watch in the flashlight beam & saw that almost three hours had passed since they entered it.

Then the slight slope stopped & the cave flattened out. There were a lot of small rooms, cells, off both sides, & Ibrohim paused to light them up. Small Buddhas sat in alcoves surrounded by decorative panels as colourful as carpets. Some were carved out of the wall, some carved from pieces of stone. "This was a place of pilgrimage, of hermitage" said Ibrohim. "It still is a place of spirituality, of great beauty. Buddhism is not the path I follow, but I try & come here at least once a year, to spend some days by myself, to look inside myself. I do not regard these as idols, not matter what the Koran says. They are not things of worship but articles of a faith I respect."

"You asked, Umberto, why I kept things hidden" said Tamur. "If this place was known about then within a few years there would be nothing left. The Buddhas would be taken away, the murals chipped off the walls. It's a market I know about, Umberto. A shark market. Perhaps I am like them, keeping things hidden away where only I & a select few can appreciate them, but I preserve these things in the hope that some day someone may come along who doesn't covet them." He looked around him. "I do not come here often enough."

They continued on. There were two large halls on their left – "A dining room I think" said Ibrohim as they passed the first, "& this, because of the large Buddha in the corner, was probably a meditation hall." - & then the walls of the cave ended.

Ibrohim turned off his flashlight. "Wait here a moment." He turned on a smaller torch. Allegrezza could see a number of wooden barrels in its limited light but beyond that was darkness. He watched as Ibrohim reached down & picked up a bound bundle of sticks from the floor in front of the barrels, lifted the lid of one of the barrels & dipped the bundle in. Then he took a cigarette lighter from his pocket & lit the sticks. Oily smoke came off.

The small torch was turned off. Ibrohim walked some distance away from the barrels & then bent down & placed the burning bundle into a hole in the ground. "Behold" he said.

Moments later a flame appeared about five metres off to Ibrohim's right & a bit lower down & began running across the wall opposite where they stood in the beginnings of a downwards & continuous spiral. Allegrezza watched its progress, a ziggurat of flame. He could make out the silhouette of a railing against it & walked over to it.

The area was like a large well, two hundred metres across. As the flame moved steadily downwards, passing at first ten metres beneath him & then ten metres below that a few seconds later, the well began to be illuminated. Allegrezza peered over the side. There seemed to be a massive shape in the centre. The flame reached lower. Forty metres, sixty metres.

Slowly the giant head of a sleeping Buddha could be made out, then the body, then the feet. If the well was two hundred metres wide, then the figure was nearly one hundred & fifty metres long. The flames went lower, reached a point close to the head, then stopped. The head, resting on a stone pillow, was twenty metres high, the toes ten.

"The reclining Buddha of Bamiyan" said Tamur. "It exists, not as long as described by Hiuen-Tsiang, nor in the place he said it was, but it truly exists.

"What was written in that first introduction to The Journey To The West is basically correct. There was a man, called Qashqari, though whether that was his real name or whether he was called that because he came from the Qashqar province is unknown, who did journey to India to bring the sutras back to China. He obtained copies of the texts, but on his return journey he was injured in a rock slide here, so badly his legs were crushed & he could go no further, so he stayed here & taught. The two standing Buddhas were built to honour Buddha & to bring pilgrims, but the secret of this place was known to some, the rock that rose from the centre of it, so they carved this statue in honour of their own special teacher. He died before they finished it, & is entombed here, in that niche just to the right of the statue's head. If you allow for his mummified state & the smoke stains, it is true there is some resemblance between his features & the face of the statue."

"How do you know so much about him, about this place, when the rest of the world knows only rumours?" asked Allegrezza.

"All things, all people, eventually came to Hassan-i-Sabah. He had a follower whose family came from this place & who knew the secret of it. Hassan sent some of his men out to find it, which they did, but the people who had originally lived around the feet of the standing Buddhas had disappeared, wiped out by pestilence & invaders, & none of the current inhabitants knew what lay inside the cliffs. Hassan ordered that it remain secret but that the knowledge be passed down through the custodians of the Library. Most of us have visited here. I believe that there are still some others who know of this place. Ibrohim & I have both seen traces of visitors, visible only to one who knows the place well, but our paths have never crossed, & they appear to guard its secret as jealously as we do. Nothing has been taken from it. You will be the fourth person we have brought to share its glory. Giovanni was the first. That is his skeleton down there, just beneath where the flame ends. There is a leather-bound journal beside him, kept shut so the ink will not fade, that I am sure will be of intense interest to you."

Ibrohim, meanwhile, had been busying himself pulling a large bundle out from behind the barrels. It was a rope ladder, with metal loops at the top which he fixed onto two small metal bars that had been set a metre back from the well's edge. He then pushed the ladder out & over the edge. The wooden rungs of the ladder could be heard bumping against the wall as it unrolled.

When the silence came back again Ibrohim turned to Allegrezza & gave him the haversack he had taken from the saddlebag. "There is food & water in here for ten days. There is a battery-operated lamp that should also last that length of time if you do not use it constantly. The oil will burn for about seven days. There are small ventilation shafts that draw the smoke down into a river cavern far below so you will not suffocate. There is a hole to use as a latrine that discharges to the same place so you will not need to live amongst your waste. No-one will disturb you." He embraced Allegrezza then turned away.

Tamur took a small bottle from out of his pocket & handed it to Allegrezza. "There are pills inside. Opium, refined, pure & very strong. One will make you dream, ten will kill you. Use them wisely." He put his arms around Allegrezza & then kissed him on both cheeks. "I will never forget our time together." Then he, too, turned away.

Allegrezza started climbing down the ladder. It was quite steady considering its construction & length. As he descended he noticed that it had been built so that those portions that came close to the fire channel were reinforced in some way & though warm did not smoulder.

He looked up & could see the faces of the two men peering over the railing. When next he looked they were only blurs. He reached the bottom & stepped out onto the floor of the well. The ladder was pulled back up. He heard Tamur call out. "Go with joy, Umberto."

He walked across to the skeleton he had been told was his ancestor. The clothing had decayed & there were only remnants of leathery flesh on the bones. But around the waist was a belt, now greatly over-sized, & it had as a buckle a metal letter A, lengthwise in an oblong border. Involuntarily he made the sign of the cross over the remains, something he had not done since his early childhood. "Continue to rest in peace, Giovanni. I will be joining you soon."

Then he set out to explore the area. There were four mummies in alcoves, that of Qashqari obvious from the shattered leg bones. The walls were plain, perhaps pink, though that may have been the reflection of the flames. There were three skeletons on the floor, the other two on each side of the sleeping Buddha. It was impossible to tell who they had been. Both had obviously been here for a long time, but apart from the bones & the scraps of flesh that clung to them the only item still remaining was a curved dagger in a sheath that had fallen through the rib cage of one of them. He decided that he would take up a position at the Buddha's feet when he felt his time had come.

He tried to climb up onto the Buddha, but found it difficult. Eventually he managed to get up at the ankles. He took his shoes off to make purchase easier & carefully worked his way up towards the face. There was a definite smile of enlightenment. He hoped that he would appear the same to any later visitor.

He thought about sliding down to the ground from where he was, but decided it was risky & that he had no wish to spend his last few days suffering the pain of a broken leg. He turned around & made his way back to the ankles & climbed down from there. Then he walked once more to where his ancestor lay.

There was an ink bottle with its contents dried & turned to dust. A stopper & a quill pen lay on the gound beside it. Between the bones & the statue was a large leather book, closed with a clasp. He opened it up & began to read the journal of Giovanni Allegrezza, faded, but still legible.
"That there be someone who, at a later date, will read this journal I have no doubt. & let me say to them that what I am about to set down, no matter what they may think, is, although fantastical, a veracious account of my travellings. This is not a ficcione."
Previous Part / Postscript

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The Allegrezza Ficcione, Part 25

He was woken by Iskander. It was still dark outside.

"Umberto. The master has need of you, has asked me to bring you to Termez. You will need some clothes. It'll be cold there, & you'll be gone for a couple of days. Get some fruit from the kitchen to eat on the way. I will meet you outside."

Allegrezza threw a few things into a shoulderbag & went downstairs. No-one else was up. He got some fruit & went out to where Iskander was waiting with the motor running in the camouflage Landrover.

"What's happened?"

"I think he has found something he wants you to see. He didn't tell me much, only that I am to take you to Termez where Ibrohim will meet us & take you the rest of the way."

They drove cross-country, some of the time on roads, other times across farms & fields, arriving in Termez mid-morning. Iskander stopped in a street full of coffee-houses. "We've another hour before we meet Ibrohim. Time for a piss, coffee, something to eat."

"Fine by me," said Allegrezza. "Let's go to the backpacker place over there. I feel like a hamburger. It's been years since I last had one."

Ibrohim was waiting for them outside a godown on the road that headed south towards Afghanistan. He was driving a large khaki-coloured Toyota Landcruiser that had Pakistani plates. Umberto got out of the Landrover, walked around to the driver's side to say goodbye to Iskander. Iskander said nothing, held Umberto's hand for half a minute, seemed about to weep.

Allegrezza & Ibrohim drove south, crossing the border as if it wasn't there. "We have several hours driving ahead of us, up into the Hindu Kush," said Ibrohim & then lapsed into silence.

The views were spectacular, the road almost empty. They passed a couple of army patrols who seemed to recognise Ibrohim's Toyota & did no more than wave to him as they drove past. At one point they had to pull over to allow a convoy of trucks, head & tailed by army vehicles, to pass by. The back army truck stopped beside the Landcruiser, & the officer in the passenger seat leaned across the driver to look up at Ibrohim with a questioning expression.

"Zahir will be there to look after you," Ibrohim called out. The officer nodded, settled back, & the truck continued on after the others.

Around nine o'clock Ibrohim turned off the road, cut his headlights & headed up a path into the forest. They continued along it for another fifteen minutes until they finally came to a clearing where a cooking fire smouldered & a couple of tents were pitched. As they drove in four men armed with rifles appeared around them & then the flap of one of the tents opened & Tamur came out to greet them.

"Umberto. My apologies for not having accompanied you, but at my age I needed the head start. Come, have some coffee & something to eat."

Tamur led him across to the fire. Ibrohim stayed to talk to the men. A minute later he came across to them. "We must be careful. They have brought tanks into the Foladi Valley. Nobody knows why." Then he dished himself some food – rice & meat - & went back to the others.

Allegrezza ladled some food onto the tin plate Tamur gave him, then sat down. Tamur lit a cigarette, puffed on it for a minute & then threw it into the fire.

"I am sorry it has to end, Umberto, but we had an agreement; & even though I have total trust in you, we have found that four years is usually as long as anyone can go before they start wanting to tell the world about what they have seen, what they have read, what they have found. There are many ways we end the relationships, but this one is special, & I think you will appreciate what I am going to show you, & will go quietly, happily.

"This is the way Giovanni Allegrezza came all those years ago, following the same path that I asked Iskander to bring you on today & that Ibrohim took to bring you here. A little more slowly, perhaps – your ancestor took days where you took hours. Yes, he knew the Library though it was much smaller then. One cave. Hassan sent him there, as the next major stop after Alamut, & he stayed rather than go on to China. What was that line that von Holstein quoted? 'It is the journey, not the endpoint, that is important.' & the journey does not have to be physical. Your ancestor spent the time reading many things, mainly Arabic texts because he didn't have the grounding in languages that you have had. But he was interested in spiritual things outside of Islam, & that is why he chose this road to end his journeying."

"How do you know so much about him?"

"The Brotherhood has records, not just of names but of deeds. Some trivial, some great. It notes of Rashid al'Farah that he went willingly, on a journey that few had taken before. & not many since, I must add. Now, a final cigarette, & then we must be off. Ibrohim, could you ready the horses."

Two of the riflemen came with them. They rode through the night. Shortly after daybreak they stopped briefly to have coffee from a vacuum flask that Ibrohim had brought along. Dull thumps could be heard in the distance. "Tank fire" said Ibrohim.

Tamur reined his horse to a stop, stood up in the stirrups as if sniffing the air. "Tanks. The Foladi Valley. The Taliban. They are trying to accomplish what the centuries have failed to do. They are mad. They have corrupted the teachings of The Book. The Taliban are setting out to destroy the Buddhas of Bamiyan."

Previous Part / Next Part

Monday, November 29, 2004

Hey, Junichiro, wanna see my samurai sword?

Apparently it's not just his mouth that George W. has trouble keeping zipped up. My thanks to Crag Hill for pointing the picture out. Posted by Hello

& a reminder

that December is the last month for submissions to The Hay(na)ku Anthology, to be published in 2005 by Eileen Tabios' Meritage Press, & to be edited by Jean Vengua & myself. The full details & submission address are available here.

some monday afternoon hay(na)ku

clouds have
been replaced by

smoke haze
on the horizon.
kookaburra samples
the swimming pool.
palm fronds
against the back

The hose
does not reach.

it has a certain rhythm to it

which are
from the is

as I

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Yesterday I had a hit at Series Magritte from someone who had entered which song are these lyrics from -and now the end is near, as I face the final curtain. My friends in a Google search. Google noted that which are from the is as I the are common words, excluded them, & offered the searcher as first preference the S.M. archives.

Truly an exquisite corpse. I wonder what Sinatra would say. Or Sid Vicious. Or even René M.

(& floating through my mind I have a vision of a surrealist karaoke night, where Breton storms out because Magritte chose to sing My Way.)

saw this quoted, & couldn't let it pass by unremarked

“The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even a mob with him by the force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second or third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.

“The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920

Saturday, November 27, 2004

The Allegrezza Ficcione, Part 24

Wolves & the wind howl in the upper valleys. I only hear your silence.
The women are singing as they cook. Amongst them I hear your silence.

You were singing when I first saw you. Daughter, sister, future bride.
Your voice a delicate bell. Never quiet. I did not expect to hear your silence.

I proposed. I gave your father four ponies. For you, cloth from the plains.
On our wedding night the whole encampment did not hear your silence.

We rode all over the mountains. Our laughter made the snow melt.
Only when we looked down towards the plains would I hear your silence.

Taken by a spring fresh, not even a year gone by. Not even a year.
I heard you call out. I came too late. I arrived to hear your silence.

At night I watch the stars. I pick out your eyes & smile in them.
By day I watch the children play. Their games do not hear your silence.

Once I was known as Friend To All. Now I am friend to none.
Wanting only one friend, you, back beside me so I can hear your silence.

Anonymous. c.500 CE
included in: Rivalling The Six Dynasties: Poems from the Eastern Turkish Khaganate selected & translated by Umberto Allegrezza; The Uzbekistan Historical Society; Bukhara, 2000.

Previous Part / Next Part

Thursday, November 25, 2004

& the little ones chewed on the bones-o

Ivy Alvarez, on what poets sometimes bring to the dinner table.

New e-books from Faux Press

12 new e-books from Jack Kimball's Faux Press:
Carl Annarummo: High Heaven Ugly Hat
Micah Ballard: Unforeseen
Corina Copp: Carpeted
Joe Elliot: 101 Designs for The World Trade Center
Mitch Highfill: A Dozen Sonnets
Jukka-Pekka Kervinen: Permutations
Michael Magee: The Complete Plays
Tim Peterson: Trinkets Mashed into a Blender
Kelly Sherman: With love always, Kelly
Christina Strong: Utopian Politics
Stephen Vincent: Sleeping with Sappho
Alli Warren: Yoke

The Allegrezza Ficcione, Part 23

Allegrezza continued translating the early Persian poetry, concentrating on Abu Abd Allah Rudaki whose poems he particularly liked. Classical scholars were emphatic that only one thousand bayt – a distich although usually considered as one line – of his work survived. He found around two thousand in the collection. Tamur decided it would be an excellent second publication for The Manichean Press, "but only about 1400 bayt. That way we can say that the number is open to interpretation of line lengths."

All Tomorrow's Parties, a sequel to Idoru, arrived for him. He read it in the one sitting. He wondered how Gibson would sound in early Persian, if the concepts could be translated.

His studies moved backwards in time, into the poetry of what was called the Eastern Turkish Khaganate. It was a strange mix of styles, equally influenced by both the Greeks & the Chinese.

Zafar, Anil & Betseba's son, arrived back from England. After a day of warmth & pleasantries a shouting match erupted between him & his parents. Tamur locked himself in the electronics room; the Lees disappeared into the caves; Allegrezza went for a walk in the orchard, hearing as he left Betseba’s raised voice. "Will she make a suitable wife? Will she understand?"

The translations of Rudaki were better received than the Navoi. Apparently the older the work, the less stringent were the demands that the strict formal structure be adhered to.

He found a ghazal amongst the Khaganate manuscripts, written five hundred years before the form was supposed to have begun. He talked about it to Tamur. Tamur decided to have the Lees forge a transcript dated a century later & to smuggle it into the pieces he'd given the Institute of Oriental Studies.

Zafar discovered what the Lees had been doing for the past two years. He confronted his grandfather about it, talking about "ethics", "morality", "scholarship not profit". Tamur appeared contrite after the conversation, but that night he made a couple of phone calls, to France & The Netherlands. Two days later the Lees left for Amsterdam.

Allegrezza & Tamur went to Tashkent for a week, to inspect the collection at the IOS. It was impressive, but Tamur had obviously held back the best. On the third day there they discovered the ghazal.

In the evenings Allegrezza visited the brothels Anil had given him a list of. Tamur joined him on a couple of occasions.

Ibrohim was in Tamur's hotel room when he returned one night. They had obviously been discussing their business interests in Termez. "Zafar must never know."

Tamur visited the Ministry of Arts & Education. A fortnight later came the announcement of a bequest from an expatriate Uzbeki that would allow for the re-establishment of the School of Persian Literature at the State University of Samarkand.

Zafur returned to England. Two weeks afterwards he rang his parents to tell them he had been offered a professorship in Samarkand which he had decided to accept. He also informed them he was going to get married, to the Portuguese girl, a post-doctoral researcher at his University, that he had told them about. His parents offered no objections, but insisted the wedding be held on the farm.

Tamur & Umberto prepared a paper on the ghazal which was accepted, without revisions, by a German publication, the Journal of Asian Literature & Letters. Tamur was listed as corresponding author, under the name Alexei Vershenko, of the School of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Damascus. "I hold an honorary position there." Allegrezza recognised the name. He had cited two earlier papers by Vershenko in his doctoral thesis.

Anil came to see him, to ask his help in identifying some documents he had found that were written in a script he didn't recognise. Nor did Allegrezza at first, though there seemed to be elements of early Greek & Aramaic. Then he remembered some tomb & stele inscriptions he had seen photographs of, & realised it was Phoenician. Not the Punic used in Carthage & Malta, but the original language, although of a much later time, & with some Greek & Akkadian words mixed in. These were the first manuscripts in Phoenician ever discovered. They became his passion.

There had been sufficient interest generated by the publication of the paper to elicit a request from the Uzbekistan Historical Society for a collection. He made a selection from his translations, showed them to Tamur who approved wholeheartedly & suggested the title Rivalling the Six Dynasties for them.

His emails to Gemma became less frequent.

A date for the wedding was fixed. A month before the day, the Engineering Corps of the Uzbek Army arrived to begin constructing a yurt city complete with a mobile kitchen, shower facilities & latrines. They brought their own generator. Allegrezza asked how many guests were expected. He was told a thousand.

He gathered up what information he could on Phoenician, sent away for a copy of Zellig Harris' 1936 A Grammar of the Phoenician Language. He began sorting out the manuscripts. They fell into three categories; a few letters, about seventy-five poems, & a collection of commercial documents – invoices, ledger entries & what would prove to be his Rosetta Stone, an extremely detailed document written in both Greek & Phoenician giving a trader named Menon rights to act as a providore to any ship of the Greek Navy that might enter the ports of Tyre or Saidoon.

Tamur's other two grandchildren flew in two weeks before the wedding, Zafur a few days later. Then Ibrohim arrived from Termez with his family. More relatives turned up. The bride, her parents & their friends arrived three days before the wedding, ferried in by a fleet of Army helicopters from Bukhara where they had all arrived on an Airbus chartered by Tamur. People came from neighbouring countries & from far more distant ones. State & local dignitaries arrived. Musicians came & played. The children raced ponies. The Suit appeared mysteriously & greeted Allegrezza like an old friend.

The Library was off limits for a month. Allegrezza worked when he could on a couple of poems he had transcribed into a notebook.

It was a secular wedding, performed by the Minister of Justice herself, although the Bishop of the Diocese in which the bride’s parents lived, who had apparently come on the charter, added a few prayers. So, too, did the Iman of Tashkent.

The bride & groom went off to their new home in Samarkand. The bride's entourage flew back to Europe. Ibrohim & his family left. The remaining guests gradually departed but the last not until after a long series of meetings had taken place. Anil & Betseba's youngest son left a week after the wedding, their daughter a week later. She took part in several of the meetings.

Zelig Harris' Phoenician Grammar arrived. Allegrezza settled in to read it, then read it again with the documents at hand. Things began to fall into place. When he felt he was ready he took a notebook from the pile in the Library, wrote at the top of the first page "Translations from the Phoenician", beneath it "#1", & underneath that wrote his name. He set to work. It was quiet without the Lees

He changed his pattern of work. He worked on his Phoenician translations during the morning, would do any identifying, cataloguing or translating that Tamur asked him to do in the afternoon. Tamur seemed as excited as he was about the manuscripts, but Umberto felt that part of the pleasure was working out how he could introduce the commercial documents into the antiquities market.

At night he would often go for a walk around the farm, or sit beneath the Moore smoking a cigarette & looking at the stars. He stayed in the courtyard on the nights when a movie was shown.

The Library continued to enthrall him. He wondered what other unknown manuscripts were still to be identified. "Why do you keep all this hidden away?" he asked Tamur one day as they sat together in one of the workrooms.

"Once it was done to keep it away from barbarians of all persuasions," Tamur replied. "Then because it might provide the building blocks for a second age of enlightenment. Now, I fear the chaos that it would cause if it was given to the world. In the future? Only Allah knows. Perhaps someone who comes after me may decide that it should be wiped out as if it never existed. Perhaps I may do it."

On a moonless but star-bright night they watched Kurosawa's Dreams.

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Monday, November 22, 2004

Thursday, November 18, 2004

posting this for jean vengua - she'll understand why

They were alive and they spoke to me!
Henry Miller: The Books in my Life

No matter how large the library,
the book I wanted was never in
or else it was forbidden me.
Henry Miller: The Time of the Assassins
Years ago, in the belief
that it was a book of
short stories by Arthur Miller
whom I knew of as the author
of Death of a Salesman & the
husband of Marilyn Monroe,
I picked up a paperback
from amongst the detritus
left by the previous tenants
of a house into which friends
of mine were moving, & was half-
way through it before I realised
it was by a different Miller, first
name Henry, whom I didn't
know existed until then.

The writing was alive & it
spoke to me! & the
titles! Someone
who could come up with
The Alcoholic Veteran with the Washboard Cranium
was someone I wanted to
read more of. But life
imitated art. Many of Miller's
books were banned; most
of those that weren't
were out of print; & I could find
nothing more of his until, in a
second-hand bookshop,
I unearthed The Time of the Assassins,
about some French poet, first
name Arthur, second name Rimbaud,
whom I also didn't know
existed until then.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The Allegrezza Ficcione, Part 22

Gradually Allegrezza settled into the rhythm of the place. For several weeks all he did was prowl the library, looking in rooms, compactuses, taking out things at random. At first Tamur or Anil accompanied him, opening doors for him, watching what he did; but then he was given his own entry code, discovered that there was a hidden check in it, the letter X which always had to be a part of it & which had to be keyed in with the first finger of his right hand so that a fingerprint verification could be made.

The evenings were given over to long dinners & conversations in the courtyard. Occasionally a projector was brought out, to be operated by Iskander, & they would watch movies, the titles dependent on whose turn it was to select them. Allegrezza's arrival had coincided with Tamur's selection, so over two nights they watched the three parts of Eisenstein's Ivan The Terrible, with Disney's Fantasia separating the second & third parts.

Tamur gave him some books by Alisher Navoi to read. Then he showed him the originals. "There were more," he said, "but we gave some to the Institute of Oriental Studies in Tashkent. Something of a bribe, a payment to the state for ignoring us."

Anil decided it was time to see a six-hour musical epic based on a battle between the Hindu gods. He watched the last two-thirds of it alone.

Betseba arrived back. Tamur & Anil drove off in a Mercedes early one morning to go to Tashkent to pick her up. No Landrover for her noted Allegrezza, no crappy local plane. They arrived back late afternoon, Betseba driving.

"She will be distant, distrustful at first," Lee Joo-eun had told him during the day, "but once she gets to know you it will be fine." The prediction proved correct.

They watched a week of Alain Delon & Jean Paul Belmondo movies.

Tamur told him where to find the room full of early Persian poetry.

He started re-reading Idoru. This time he finished it.

He overheard Betseba & Tamur talking. She called him Papa Yevgeni. They were discussing her elder son, Tamur’s grandson. "I went across to see him, to tell him it was time he was thinking about coming home." "Good," said Tamur.

Tamur's son Ibrohim arrived from Termez. He called Tamur Papa Yusif. They spent most of the day locked in what Allegrezza thought of as the electronic room. Ibrohim said he was in "import/export" in answer to Allegrezza's enquiry over lunch. He wasn't any more forthcoming.

The Lees were divided in their movie tastes. Dae liked Humphrey Bogart, Joo-eun was into anime. They argued as to whose selection should be shown first. "It's always like this," said Anil. Iskander went into the house & reappeared five minutes later with some hash & another projector. They ended up watching The Maltese Falcon & The Return of the Tokugawa Ninja side by side, with the sound turned off on the Falcon. Later they put some music on. The Lees got up & danced. A few minutes after Anil & Betseba joined in. Iskander asked Allegrezza to dance. He declined. Iskander went inside. Umberto & Tamur sat there smoking cigarettes, listening to Sting drift out into the otherwise empty Uzbeki night.

He started brushing up on his classical Persian. He showed Tamur his translations of Navoi. Tamur liked them, suggested they publish them through a printing house he owned. The Manichean Press was born.

Unable to contain his inquisitiveness, he asked Dae what she & Joo-eun were doing, was told that they were forging ancient Egyptian & Greek commercial documents, that one of Tamur's sidelines was selling them through blackmarket channels. Tamur admitted it, said that the dig at Oxyrhynkhos had given him the opportunity to suggest to prospective buyers that he might be able to obtain documents smuggled out from the site. Allegrezza was surprised when he told him how many museums had taken advantage of his offers.

He still wandered through the collection, opening rooms randomly. Then he discovered that what Anil had been working on for these past few months was a database of everything that was there. Anil gave him a password to access it. The wanderings were no longer random.

The first reviews of his Navoi translations appeared. He was universally criticised for not adhering to the strict ghazal form of the originals.

He spent time working in the orchard. Unused to physical labour, he found it hard but relaxing. Iskander seemed not to resent Allegrezza's rejection of his advances. If anything he became more open & friendly.

He began translating the Persian poets during the morning, reading various things that caught his eye during the afternoon. There was an almost complete collection of the works of Arrian which, because of his enjoyment of that author's The Campaigns of Alexander, he started on but gave up halfway through the first book of the History of Bithynia when he realised that Arrian seemed to have expended all his creativity writing The Campaigns. He moved on to a previously unheard-of work by Apuleius, The Daughters of the Slavemaster of Madaurus, but put it aside after he had an erotic dream that night in which one of the daughters morphed into his cousin Gemma, in a habit, & he ejaculated. He decided to talk to Anil about what avenues of relief were available in Bukhara.

The print of Blade Runner he had asked Tamur to bring in for him finally arrived. Both the Lees like it.

Helicopters arrived at various times. With various visitors. Uzbek bureaucrats – "They are honourable people. Nothing for themselves. Ever. But if I can provide them with hard currency which helps to build schools & hospitals & roads & water-purification plants then their gratitude knows no limits." Two men whose Pathan clothing & beards did little to conceal the fact that they were anything but – "Yankees. Fucking CIA." It was the only time Umberto ever heard Tamur swear. "They have their claws into me. When I began renovating the caves they thought there were missile silos being built. I talked them out of that. Then when they got satellites in the sky they picked up the high energy signatures & came back again. I talked my way out of that, but had to give them a bit of an idea about what was actually here. Which they held over me & forced me to give them information about the Russians & the Iranians. Then a mole inside the CIA told the Russians about me so I had to pacify them. & I had, of course, to tell the Iranians about what I was doing. Nobody was happy. But they all used me.

"Then the Americans came back. They wanted to know what the Russians were doing in Afghanistan. Then when they found out they wanted to use me as a conduit to smuggle arms to the Mujahadeen. I sent Ibrohim to Termez on the border to set up a business to look after it. & how did the CIA pay me for my services? Opium, the cursed juice of the poppy. Which they shipped out for me using their own planes & refined for me using their own processing plants in Thailand & Mexico."

He paused for a minute, as if considering whether he should go on.

"Their greed was my salvation. They made me a rich man, but they were also interested in making themselves rich. No-one in the Organisation was aware of the sideline to their activities. So one day I had all four of them eliminated, all at the same time, in different parts of the world. The Brotherhood can still arrange such things. I still import the opium tar from Afghanistan, but now I use it to make legitimate pharmaceuticals. & I ended up with quite a stockpile of weapons, which I gradually got rid of, at good prices, over the years."

He paused again, & this time he did not continue.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Allegrezza Ficcione, Part 21

My willowy beauty did not come to me
(Kecha kelgumdir debon)

That night, despite her promises,
my willowy beauty did not come to me.

That night, through until dawn,
sleep did not come to me.

In pain I searched the road, over & over.
Even though my heart was heavy

& felt like it was about to break
my light-hearted one did not come to me.

Perhaps it was the light of the moon
that her beauty resembles that stopped her;

but then again, on another night that was
as dark as my depression, she did not come to me.

People laughed at me because I wept.
Don't put me down thinking my eyes shed water.

All I could do was to shed blood
for that night even tears wouldn't come to me.

There isn't a person alive who can truthfully say
that they have never waited in vain for their lover

to come to them. So Navoiy, wash your heart
with wine. For in a home where wine is poured

sadness will never come.

from: Selected Poems of Alisher Navoi
translated by Umberto Allegrezza
The Manichean Press; Bukhara, Uzbekistan, 1998.

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Monday, November 15, 2004

I have been remiss

in not previously mentioning Karri Kokko's translation into Finnish of #54 in my Series Magritte, The Future of Statues. He has also posted one of the five or so versions of the plaster cast of the death mask of Napoleon painted over by Magritte with white clouds in a blue sky & thus, to quote Paul Nougé in René Magritte ou les Images Défendues, "transforming, in a totally unexpected manner, the face of death itself".

The Allegrezza Ficcione, Part 20

He was woken by Akhmat bringing him breakfast – coffee, yoghourt, orange juice & toast. Somehow the simplicity of the meal seemed reassuring, an indicator that despite the ultimate end he had committed himself to last night the journey would be straightforward & rewarding. &, after all, four years was a time long enough for a great deal to happen in.

He went & had what seemed like a short shower; but by the time he returned his breakfast tray had gone, & his bag was open & the dirty clothes removed from it. He was almost dressed when there was a knock on the door. He opened it to find Iskander standing there.

"The master has asked that I take you for a drive & show you the farm this morning, let you get your bearings, get some fresh air. You won't need a jacket, but I would suggest putting some shoes on. There'll be a bit of walking involved. I'll pick you up at the front door in five minutes."

Iskander was at the wheel of another Landrover when Allegrezza came outside. Again right hand drive, but this one had a canvas-covered back & was painted in camouflage colours. They started off, continuing on the driveway that Anil had brought him in by. It didn't circle the house, only went round to the back & then several paths branched off from there.

They passed the buildings Allegrezza had seen previously. There was a garage that would hold at least six cars or several trucks plus a large attached workshop which was open & appeared extremely well-equipped. Beside it was a high-roofed barn – "A fruit-packing shed". But behind them, & hidden from the road, were a number of other large buildings. One was obviously a cool store, but the others could have been anything, & Iskander did not say what they were. They were all air-conditioned, the cooling towers not on the roof where they would have been visible from a distance but beside them.

The generator noise was much louder here, & Iskander drove in its direction. Allegrezza was astounded when they came to it. It was the size of a small power station, with three attendant fuel tanks. There was a second, smaller building nearby. A back-up generator, explained Iskander, sufficient to keep most of the place going should there be a breakdown, or for those times maintenance was carried on the main one.

Then they headed out towards the more open side of the grounds. Yes, it was a Moore – "Before my time," said Iskander as he parked on a square sealed area marked with lines that could have been either a tennis court without the net posts or a helicopter pad – Iskander shrugged in answer to Allegrezza's question.

They walked through fenced fields with goats of obviously different varieties – "meat" as they passed through one; "wool" as they went by another; sheep – "both"; & a larger field with Mongolian ponies in it. "The master breeds them."

Further back Allegrezza could see what at first seemed to be shrubs but which, he realised after a few minutes, were actually the tops of trees growing somewhere below the level of the surrounding land. "There's a dry river bed over there which we've turned into part of the orchard. We're growing avocadoes in it. I've run rails along each side so we can cover it with netting. Keeps the trees hidden from the birds. It's a trick I learnt in Afghanistan, fighting the Russians. A little more sophisticated, but it serves the same purpose. & it's time we were getting back."

They walked back to the Landrover. Iskander returned to the house by way of the main orchard, along a track that ran between mangoes on one side & figs & oranges on the other. "We are blessed with water here. There are aquifers that we draw on, & they in turn are fed by rivers that this far up are not yet polluted. Plus we recycle much of what we use & that helps keep these trees irrigated. & the waste makes good fertiliser. Nothing is wasted, nothing is thrown away. It is a necessary condition for survival."

The house felt empty when they got back, but within five minutes everybody was gathered in the courtyard for lunch. Afterwards Tamur took Allegrezza inside & down a corridor that ran around the courtyard side of the downstairs floor. He opened the door of a room about halfway down. There were several computers & fax machines on desks around the room, & on the wall were six tv monitors, all on, one with the CNN crawl-line underneath, another with the BBC logo on it, a stock-market report, Iran State TV, a Russian-language channel &, incongruously, a Disney cartoon channel.

Tamur laughed when he saw Allegrezza's double-take at the latter. "We all have our eccentricities. Did you enjoy your trip around the farm? We've been self-supporting here for nearly seven hundred years. Some things are new – the avocadoes & mangoes, the angora goats, a few invisible things – but this has been a commercial venture for all that time. We've had to make accomodations with various parties at various times, but we've survived."

"Seven hundred years?"

"Yes. Actually longer. This was a way-station for Hassan, near the Silk Road but away from it, with certain natural features that have been improved over the years. Then it became a refuge & a repository, & then just a repository with the need to pay for itself."

"A repository for what?"

"Hassan's records initially. But at the time of the Crusades it was felt that all the manuscripts & books that fuelled the great Islamic rebirth of knowledge, especially those that had been taken out from Alexandria by those opposed to Omar's zealotry, should be kept somewhere safe. & this was the perfect spot. There were caves beneath, with dry air flowing through them, unknown to all but a few. There was sufficient water, again the extent of which was widely unknown, which meant that food could be grown. In moderation, but sufficient to trade in. It was out of the way, but still accessible by coming overland & avoiding the main towns. It was part of the domain of a Khan whose family had followed the teachings of The Book for several generations. It has remained intact ever since, not through warlike methods but mainly through diplomacy. Besides, it was never thought that there was much here of value. Custodianship has devolved generally through descent, but there have been times when the Council has stepped in. I've spent the last forty years modernising it. Have had to enter into some partnerships that I have been uneasy about, & some that others have been uncomfortable with, but we've thrived rather than just survived. Now everbody protects us, because we're an asset to all of them. Come, let me show you the Library."

There was a door beside the room they had just left, which, judging by its position relative to the size of the room where they had been, opened into something that could be little more than a cupboard. Tamur unlocked it. In front of them was a steel wall but which, about a minute after Tamur had pressed his hand against a point two thirds of the way up it, slid open to reveal a lift.

"How far down do we go?" asked Allegrezza.

"About sixty metres."

The lift opened out into a glassed-in vestibule, about three metres square. There was a door directly opposite, with an alpha-numeric keypad. Tamur walked across to it, waited for the lift doors to close, then entered in a ten-key code & pulled the door open. He waved Allegrezza through, then followed.

The air was cool, dry. The sound of the air-conditioners maintaining the atmosphere was faint but they seemed extremely efficient. The area was large; the corridor – aisle? – that faced them ran for what must have been a hundred metres. Off to each side of them a fifty-metre stretch. They were dimly lit, but Umberto could see other corridors running off them, creating blocks of four rooms each.

Directly in front of them, the two rooms on each side of the central corridor had been turned into one larger room. These were brightly lit. In one of them Anil was entering data into a computer. In the other the two Lees were working on either side of a long bench. White screens descended from the ceiling. On the screen Allegrezza could see there was a projected image of what looked like a commercial invoice in Classical Greek which the Lee with her back to him – Joo-eun? – was copying onto a sheet of papyrus using a stylus. Dae was engaged in a similar task.

Tamur ignored them, appeared not to hear Allegrezza's enquiry about what they were doing. He beckoned Allegrezza & they walked down the corridor in front of them. "It is an inefficient use of space, but it is a most effective way of maintaining the integrity of the collection. A controlled temperature, & almost no humidity. It was a cave originally, but it has now been strengthened by steel & concrete. Designed to resist the earthquakes that happen here with some regularity, though they are nowhere near as severe as those in other parts of the country."

He opened a door & a light came on. There was a compactus down each side of each room. He wound the first handle & when there was a sufficiently large opening reached in, took out a plastic envelope & handed it to Allegrezza. Inside was a single sheet of parchment, about A5 size, on which, slightly faded but still elegantly scribed, was a poem inside an ornate decorative border. Allegrezza translated the Arabic as he looked at it, over-whelmed. It was titled The Mother of Wine, & had the signature Abu Abd Allah Rudaki at the bottom.

"We have been fortunate in that most of those who have presided over this collection have felt compelled to increase it. There are books & manuscripts from the West, from the East, from Russia, from India. There are poems from schools of poetry that have been forgotten, There are treatises on mathematics & medicine & science & philosphy. There are plays from the Greeks that surpass those that are known. There is erotica from writers whose other work would suggest that they had no interest in sex. & there are two more caves. I am sure there will be much to interest you."

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