The last Lee Marvin of September at the Dark Horsey Bookshop saw Brian Castro, Jill Jones and Ken Bolton himself read, with Brian up first.

Lee Marvin 2

Having never heard Brian read but having heard about him, I was looking forward to his set. Brian read a piece of prose from his verse novel ‘Blindness and Rage’ written in 33 cantos, which examined the question of authorship – the desire to live anonymously or claim authorship – by a protagonist with little time left. It begins with a letter to Catherine, the protagonist’s neighbor with whom he is contemplating starting an affair, describing that ‘love is ghostly in the first instance’. The piece explored how ‘the heart beats faster when you’re writing a letter, compared to sitting down to a meal or a good Bordeaux’ and a concept called ‘laptop love’ juxtaposed to the ‘agony of delay’ with postal letters. I particularly liked the part when the protagonist spoke about his mother who ‘expressed through the diving bell of her depression’ and another poignant line was ‘the weight of time is sand and the measure of time is writing’. It was entertaining stuff, fluid and delicate, and Brian reads really well, is both warm and engaging, so I hope to touch base with him again sometime soon.

Jill I’ve heard before, and is an amazing poet with many collections under her belt. Jill shared all new work, some quite recent poems, starting with ‘Early thoughts while turning onto Anzac Highway on 14 September 2015’, i.e. the day one prime minister was ousted and another took over. Jill described Adelaide as ‘the city of birds’, which it definitely is, and there was a wonderful line of ‘for a bomb I thought about in a job you can’t manage’, I loved the rhythm in this. The next poem ‘Rack’ was one Jill said she doesn’t normally write, in which ‘the rust has no consciousness but attacks’ and ‘feral boobs that do the dance to attract cash’, conjuring an interesting picture! Next was from what Jill referred to as the impossible manuscript of hers, where ‘even dead leaves aren’t free’ and ‘skin isn’t dancing away’ finishing with ‘you know you lose even if no one is following you’. Jill’s work has enormous depth, provokes introspection, creates intimacy and a certain moodiness, particularly in her pieces ‘River’ and the final one read comprising a series of song titles.

Ken read three poems, the first about Chapman hitting a ball giving a feeling of speed and deflection in a scene to get lost in. Ken’s next poem, ‘Hard pressed’ was what he called a lunch hour poem, which, he explained, actually helped to begin the Australian Experimental Art Foundation, memorable lines being ‘with lights in the sun’ and a ‘skinny ineffectual poem’. Ken finished with an elegy of sorts called ‘Historical dog, goodbye Paolo’ (at least this is the dog’s name I heard!), which lamented the loss of man’s best friend, ‘a handsome blue-eyed husky’. Ken engages when he reads, is entertaining displayed in his line ‘serial killers are inherently repetitive’ raising laughter from the audience. Ken said the piece seemed long and disjointed, but I think this is part of his appeal, as he invites you along on a journey of the inside of his head, resulting in what I think I’ve said before, a stream of consciousness that lullabies.