No one was saved

Last Thursday afternoon I drove out west to the evocatively named suburb of Kingswood, near Penrith, to pick up a mannequin that a friend had bought on eBay. It was about a three quarter hour drive each way, easy going once I got onto the M4; the radio was tuned to 2SER FM and, soon after I hit the highway, a show called The Hands of Time began with a recording of Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin on vocals, playing at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967. They were followed by a series of live recordings of others who played that epochal festival: Canned Heat, the Steve Miller Band, The Byrds, The Animals, Simon and Garfunkel, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Grateful Dead. I would have missed a couple of numbers when, at #18 Peppermint Grove, I knocked on the door of a McMansion standing on bare clay ground opposite a beautiful stand of peppermint gums and received said mannequin from an uncommunicative older woman who might once have auditioned, unsuccessfully surely, for The Munsters. A lot of the music was fairly undistinguished - ragged four bar blues, lots of guitar - and the sound quality pretty bad, apart from Simon and Garfunkel (Homeward Bound) and Jimi Hendrix (The Wind Cries Mary). The other highlight was David Crosby introducing a Byrds' number with the news that JFK was not shot by a lone assassin but by several armed men firing from different points, including the grassy knoll. Still ... not a bad accompaniment to the trip. Next morning I visited an old friend, recently returned to Sydney after a few years away up north, and she gave me two books: City Lights Journal #3 (1966) and City Lights Anthology (1974). This second I recognised as my own book that I must have lent to her now deceased partner some time over the thirty odd years we knew each other; it begins with a piece, Encounters with Ezra Pound, written up from 1967 journal notes by Allen Ginsberg, and ends with a hip translation of Un Saison en Enfer followed by a manifesto (Death to miserablism!) and an anthology of American surrealism. The other, which I had never seen before, has a wonderfully diverting series of translations by Roger Shattuck from the Mercure of 1913, titled Apollinaire's Great Whitman Happening, several avant playscripts (The Living Theatre; Alexandro Jodorowsky) and a selection of poems read at Spoleto in 1965, including one by Charles Olson and another by Barbara Guest, along with a Ferlingetti memoir of Pound at that festival. In 1966 and 67 I was a fourth and fifth former at Huntly College in the Waikato and was more or less oblivious to both Monterey Pop and High Modernist American poetry; but even for me as I was then there were connections with this cornucopia: when I read that Ginsberg played Pound a recording of the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby (Pound smiled slightly at the line No one was saved) I remembered other songs I knew at and from that time, including the radio versions of The Wind Cries Mary and Homeward Bound and also Otis Redding's (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay and Jefferson Airplane's Somebody to Love ... but somehow, today, driving around Centennial Park, the one that lodges in my head is quite different, is in fact a song that might have been a token of an ambition to write that was probably being formed in those years. It starts like this: Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? / It took me years to write, will you take a look? and is so well known I probably don't need to quote any more lyrics from it or even mention the title.


Lloyd Mintern said...

Lord! What about the mannequin? (Not to mention the friend who sent you on this trip . . . I mean, digression)

artandmylife said...

I was thinking yesterday about triggers to writing. A commentor on my blog mentioned kai moana and it immediately brought back detailed memories of being force fed oysters as a kid (long story). Then I read your post and I see that maybe these sorts of triggers are how writing works.