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Monday, August 31, 2015

Books from Melbourne: 2

From City Basement Books

The Book of Francois Villon: The Little Testament and Ballads, translated into English verse by Algernon Charles Swinburne, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Payne.

I have two copies of Villon at home, but I like this translation better than either. Not that I have ever read the original, but when you look at who the translators of this edition are, perhaps that explains it. There is also an introductory essay by H. De Vere Stacpoole. and on the facing page a poem on Villon by Andrew Lang. Swinburne, too, has written a poem about Villon, which is included after Stacpoole's essay. So many famous men of letters! These poems seem to me to flow more naturally than other translations. The publication date is 1914 and the language is of that time, yet is readily understandable today. 

Bellbirds: A poem by Henry Kendall with watercolours by John Caldwell.

The poem was first published in 1869. This beautiful illustrated edition from Angus & Roberston appeared in 1982. What a treasure! What a find! For non-Aussies, the back cover blurb tells it best. And for everyone, a sample of the illustrations.

medium security by Louise Wakeling

Louise Wakeling, the book tells me, is a Sydney poet, teacher, freelance editor and novelist. I knew the name but not the work. The book looked far too interesting to pass up, and now that I'm dipping into it I'm glad I got it. There's plenty to like, not least her poems of place, including some about places near where I live (albeit written before 3002). But as I'd best stick to a short piece here, this is a place I know only through the poet's words: 

As It Was by Bruce Beaver

Yet another Australian poet, an award-winning and very highly regarded one, who lived from 1928 to 2004. He was also a novelist, but I didn't know he had written a memoir of his early life. This is it, in both verse and prose. I'm looking forward to a lovely read; and I sometimes think that if I ever succeed in writing a memoir, it might have to be partly in verse, so it will be interesting to see how this one works. (Some of the lines have been numbered by a previous reader, mostly in pencil, a few in biro. I'll rub out the pencil very gently, and for the ink I'll send foul thoughts to the person whose name is written in the same hand on the inside cover.)

archly and mehitabel / archy's life of mehitabel by don marquis 

I was brought up on these gems. I have one at home, but it's a long time since I looked at it. I think it's the first but I'm not quite sure. So I will have a duplicate, but no matter; it will make a great gift for someone. For those who don't know, archy is a cockroach and his friend mehitabel is a cat, and archy tells their story by jumping on the keys of Don Marquis's typewriter at night while the writer is asleep. (Hence no upper case letters as he couldn't be in two places at once.) Just as well it was before the days of computers or we might never have known these two charming characters!

Amongst the Graffiti: Haiku by Janice Bostock

Janice Bostock was a world-renowned Australian haiku writer. The book has a foreword by her equally famous mentor and friend William Higginson. Both have now passed away, but this book was published in 2003, around the time I first (briefly) met Janice Bostock, who happened to live in the same region as me. I also encountered her later on MySpace, where she kindly tried to mentor me as I began attempting haiku. Unfortunately we couldn't get the technology to do what we wanted. So I never did really get to know her, but became very well aware of her work, which was highly acclaimed and rightly so. She was innovative, exploring both one-line and occasionally four-line haiku, and was among the first to recognise that Japanese and English syllables are very different, so that short/long/short lines (when using three) are preferable to 5/7/5 English syllables. This book is illustrated with her own pen-and-ink illustrations, which have an Oriental feel. She was a prolific poet, author of many books. I'm thrilled to have found this one.

A gift from my friend Linda

Kin, by Anne Elvey

When I stayed with my old friend Linda Stevenson recently, she gave me a signed copy of this recent, acclaimed book of poetry. She knows the author in real,life; I know her online and had seen some glowing reviews which made me think I'd like to read this book. Yes, it's beautiful poetry. The language is very spare and economical, yet the effect is by no means sparse. This is poetry of depth and resonance, with much craft and no pretension. See for yourselves! One, about the suspension bridge over the Cataract Gorge in Launceston, Tasmania, takes me straight back to childhood -- she is speaking me; me then. However, I'll give you this short piece which says so much in so few words:

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