Wednesday, May 04, 2016

the near side of the world

When I went to other side of the world last year I encountered for the first time two things that would soon be mundane here too. One was contactless payment, which was breaking out all over, but I'd never used it prior to that memorable breakfast in South Fremantle on my first day. The other, which still isn't in the UK yet but has just survived legal challenge, is plain packaging for cigarettes. I looked for a long time at the yellow packet thrown away on the beach. (Significantly, I can't remember now what brand it was.) I wish I'd brought it home as a souvenir!

Meanwhile, my copy of Hazel Smith's new collection has arrived from NSW. Hazel was one of London's "future exiles" back in the 1980s, and I learnt of her work from the anthology of London poetry Floating Capital (eds. Robert Sheppard and Adrian Clarke). 

What's here is very different and, from a read of three of four pieces, fully as exciting as I'd hoped. Here's an extract from "Soundtracks". The feet referred to at the beginning of the quote have been heard, in boots, on the other side of a wall. 

The feet became a face. A house burns into light. A careless guess becomes a premonition.

What country are we hovering over, you say, as we hurl into outer space. Is this a heatwave or a blizzard? A microphone sways in the wind trying to find an ideal position. Geography becomes an art form, rising from its own ruins. 

The walls of the rooms are severely dented with urgent, unidentified knocking. A plane continues to soar and swoop but can't find the courage to land. It could be a warning or a confession, it could be a desert or savannah. You hear a chord faintly in the distance: a destination or a rejigging?

You kept asking where we were going and demanding to see a map. It was below zero, the wind swirled then dispersed, the horizon oozed unease. We took the first road, and even though it didn't seem to belong to us, we kept on going. 

Unquenched, we walked past a field of discarded keyboards. The river was switched off though flowing. In the distance the ocean, fatally wounded, groaned. Time swayed like an out-of-orbit drunkard. The earth was studded with torn dollar bills, broken lamps and carcasses. 



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