Thursday, September 8, 2016

A. V. Koshy writes


Something’s stirring
like a butterfly's wings
It's clear that, again, someone's going batty

Somewhere there's mud
It feels so gritty
under one's boots the sound drives you crazy

In the damp rain falling hard
taking shelter
in a cowshed smelling of stale hay and piss
so no one can think It's so nutty

I feel like i’m almost about to scream

There he says he knelt
the gay writer
with a name like W/white!
Pa-trick luna-tic
and he said he came to believe in the almighty -
I’ve heard taller stories but i take it easy -
and he wept like a baby

cursin’ the damn rain (must have been night?!)
beating on his wet face like thunder -
Is that where he caught the chill that led to the Nobel? -
I don't have an ace like that hid up my shirtsleeve
I must have cheated at the game of life, gambling
Voss, isst du, poker-face?

The countdown for the usual cast off begins all over this year
I wait in the days of Lent in a deserted vestry

standing by the river in spate
Can you hear the words of my roaring
it asks I listen
 Hear It's the same old sound
the crucified one crying out in human(e) agony

Note:The experiments with language are intentional.

 Portrait of Patrick White -- Louis Kahan


  1. “I always like to write three versions of a book. The first is agony and no one would understand it. With the second you get the shape, it is more or less all right... The third gives some enlightenment out of that suffering.” Patrick White was an Australian winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature; he published 12 novels, 3 short-story collections, 8 plays, and various essays, poems, and screenplays. As a young boy he began writing plays at Tudor House School in Moss Vale, New South Wales before being sent to Cheltenham College in Gloucestershire, which he regarded as "a four-year prison sentence." Wishing to drop out to become an actor and writer, he was allowed to leave early if he returned home and worked as a jackaroo, an apprentice stockman, which he did for two years near the Snowy Mountains (while he wrote his first novel, “Happy Valle,” which he published years later, in 1939, dedicated to the painter Roy De Maistre, who "became what I most needed, an intellectual and aesthetic mentor." From 1932 to 1935 he studied French and German literature at King's College, Cambridge University, and published a collection of poems and some early plays. In the late 1930s he lived for awhile in New York and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in the US, and wrote “The Living and the Dead.” During World War II he served as an intelligence officer, spending part of his time in Egypt, Palestine, and Greece, but mainly “my war was a comfortable exercise in futility carried out in a grand Scottish hotel amongst the bridge players and swillers of easy-come-by whisky. My chest got me out of active service and into guilt, as I wrote two, or is it three of the novels for which I am now acclaimed.” Then he returned to Sydney and began to see success as a writer, though his critical acclaim was in the US and the UK; at home, his work was regarded as “un-Australian.” But his fifth published novel, “Voss” (1957), won the first Miles Franklin Literary Award (created by the author of “My Brilliant Career” to award "a novel which is of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases"), and his best seller, “Riders in the Chariot,” won a second one in 1961. After that he declined another Miles Franklin, a Britannia Award, and a knighthood. When “The Twyborn Affair” was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, White requested its removal. In 1973, however, he did accept the Nobel Prize "for an epic and psychological narrative art, which has introduced a new continent into literature," but he sent his painter friend Sidney Nolan to Stockholm receive it on his behalf. The same year, the speaker of Australia’s House of Representatives invited him to take a seat in the chamber (as it had done once before when the aviator Bert Hinkler had been honored in 1928 after making the first solo flight between England and Australia), but White refused. He was in the first group of Companions of the Order of Australia when it was created in 1975 but resigned the following year to protest the governor-general’s dismissal of Gough Whitlam's Labor government. In 1986 Richard Meale and David Malouf adapted “Voss” as an opera, but White refused to attend its premier at the Adelaide Festival of Arts because Elizabeth II had been invited. “I would like to believe in the myth that we grow wiser with age,” he wrote. “In a sense my disbelief is wisdom. Those of a middle generation, if charitable or sentimental, subscribe to the wisdom myth, while the callous see us as dispensable objects, like broken furniture or dead flowers. For the young we scarcely exist unless we are unavoidable members of the same family, farting, slobbering, perpetually mislaying teeth and bifocals.”

  2. “Voss” was a fictionalized biography of the 19th-century Prussian naturalist Ludwig Leichhardt who had explored northern and central Australia in the 1840s after going to the continent to avoid conscription. His last expedition disappeared in the Great Sandy Desert after leaving Allan Macpherson's station, Cogoon, on the Darling Downs, on 2 April 1848. In 2006, historians and scientists authenticated a small brass plate marked "LUDWIG LEICHHARDT 1848" which an Aboriginal stockman had found at the turn of the 20th century near Sturt Creek, attached to a partially burnt shotgun slung in a boab tree with the initial "L" carbed in its bark. In 2003, a librarian located a letter dated 2 April 1874 from a station owner who had met Leichhardt soon before his party vanished; he claimed that Wallumbilla informants had told him that Aboriginals had murdered the party by the Maranoah river, some 4,000 km east of Sturt Creek. In White’s novel, “Johann Ulrich Voss” set out to cross the Australian continent in 1845; the account of his journey is interspersed with an account of the life of Laura Trevelyan, whom he met before starting out. The story ended two decades later when the only survivor, a pardoned convict, attended a garden party hosted by Laura's cousin. Throughout, White repeatedly compared Voss to God, Christ, and the Devil, and Voss and Laura communicated with each other through visions. When Sydney musical promoter Harry M. Miller bought the movie rights. White at first wanted the flamboyant, controversial Ken Russell to direct it [He had risen to fame in 1969 when he was nominated for an Oscar for his adaptation of D. H. Lawrence’s “Women In Love,” which had included a nude wrestling scene that exposed male genitalia; in 1971, “The Devils” based on Aldous Huxley's book “The Devils of Loudun”) featured sexuality among nuns even after being heavily censored; in 1975 he scored again with the film version of The Who's rock opera “Tommy” with Roger Daltrey, Ann-Margret, Oliver Reed, Elton John, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, and Jack Nicholson, and “Lisztomania,” which posited that Richard Wagner had stolen his great music from Franz Liszt.] White’s next choice was Joseph Losey [who in the late 1940s had co-directed Bertolt Brecht’s “Galileo” (which he later turned into a film version in 1974), and his close association with other leftist artists, including the composer Hanns Eisler Hollywood writers Dalton Trumbo and Ring Lardner, Jr., and actor Charles Laughton] led to his fleeing the US in advance of scheduled testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. In the 1960s he began his work with future Nobel-Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, making films (“The Servant,” “Accident,” and “The Go-Between”) that examined the politics of class and sexuality]. Miller wanted to cast Donald Sutherland as Voss and Mia Farrow as Laura, but White disagreed on both choices: Farrow was too soft, and Sutherland did not look the part: "That flabby wet mouth is entirely wrong. Voss was dry and ascetic – he had a thin mouth like a piece of fence-wire. I do think a whole characterisation can go astray on a single physical feature like that." Eventually Maximilian Schell was cast. David Mercer’s script was finalized, but Miller was unable to raise enough capital and the film was never made.


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