I'm on holiday. That's when you get yourself little treats, right?
I was in town. I went with Jennie Fraine to say hello to Kris Hemensley at Collected Works bookshop. And, as you do, I cast my eye over his wondrous collection of poetry. This is a shop that exists for poetry! I found four little treasures, things of magical beauty, small and light enough to take home easily on the plane. The total price shocked me a bit. I have been spoilt by the price of ebooks. But I didn't flinch. I haven't had to spend much on myself this trip, thanks to my generous family, and these books are undoubtedly worth it.
I asked Kris if by any chance he might have a copy of The Book of Bellerive. I inherited my Dad's cherished copy, which I foolishly lent years later to someone who lost it! Bellerive was the pen-name of a now long-dead Australian poet who was our version of the famed Scotsman McGonaghal -- so bad he was good. He used to get published in The Bulletin, even. The lines I still recall came from a poem about weevils: 'those jumpers, white jumpers / whom live in old cheese.' Of course Bellerive was a very serious poet; it was everyone else who found him funny. I love whimsy, shaggy dog stories, satire, absurdity ... of course I love him too!
If I were to find a copy nowadays it would probably cost a heap. But Kris had not heard of him, and I suppose few have by now. However he suggested I try City Basement Books, a really good second-hand bookshop. So next time I was in town, I dragged my son David in there and went straight to the poetry shelves (in this shop as small a section as in most book shops; *sigh*.) I didn't really expect to find it, and I didn't. Nor did the woman at the counter when she did a computer search. I did, however, find other treasures I couldn't pass up -- and David kindly bought them for me. This time I got seven, and being second-hand the total cost was little more than half the ones from Collected Works. I still went for small, light volumes, but most not quite so slim as the first lot. I MUST NOT add anything else to my luggage! It was only just under maximum weight when I left home.
And these are the treasures I found --
From Collected Works:
haiku waterfront city, by marina scott and patsy m. bush
I hadn't heard of this poet. Exquisite, perfect, contemporary urban haiku. The prints illustrating them are just right too. And the format of this tiny black-and-white book is also just right: one haiku per page with accompanying print on facing page. It's a gem, a joy. We are told the haiku were 'written at - sushi, ramsays, geelong hospital cafeteria, cafe go, the chocolate room, dish, cafe on the common, and wesley church, johnstone park, and at home'. The women describe their book as 'a text and image celebration of their waterfront city, geelong, australia'. It makes me want to revisit and rediscover Geelong. Above all, it gives me pleasure in itself.
A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas.
One Dylan Thomas work I didn't know before. I bought it thinking I would read it and then pass it on to a grand-daughter. I read it fast and decided to keep it. I like to treat myself to beautiful language. I'll be re-reading. It's childhood tales but they are poetry too. Dylan's Thomas couldn't write without making poetry. The little woodcuts add an extra touch of magic.
Still Life and other poems by Suzanne Edgar
Intriguing, well crafted poems by an Australian poet I'd vaguely heard of long ago, whose work I had not encountered. She is accomplished in both free and formal verse; sometimes tragic, sometimes funny. The language is simple and clear, yet she uses it in ways that create striking effects and can seem lush and rare. This I may give away, to someone I know will appreciate it too, but I'm glad to have read it. On the other hand, it has a haunting quality and I've already re-read it several times, so perhaps I'll keep it.
eMailing flowers to Mondrian, by Alan Loney and Max Gimblett
A fascinating book! It is poems made from parts of emails between Loney (poet) and Gimblett (artist) when they were working on a volume called Mondrian's flowers, a long poem with pictures published by a New York publisher in 2002. I dare say that would be an expensive book and I'm sure it would be a very beautiful one, but I can't find any record of it still being in print, let alone for sale. Meanwhile, the Melbourne-published book I have is beautiful too. There are two wonderful roses by way of illustration, and the words are delectable. I am not always certain which man wrote which words, and in the end it doesn't matter; it all comes together as one whole poem. But it is in sections, each given its own page. Any of them would be good to quote, so, opening at random, I give you this (you might need to zoom in):
And from City Basement Books -- look for my next post.