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JOHN KINSELLA - SPRING 2001 FEATURE  

The Cortland Review

FEATURE

Grace Cavalieri
The Poet and The Poem #5: A one- hour audio program exploring the African-American roots of rap poetry and the current art form with German rap poet Bastian Boettcher.

David Kennedy
David Kennedy discusses the state of anthologies and the latest gathering by Nicholas Johnson, Foil: Defining Poetry 1985-2000.

Daniela Gioseffi
The haunting, subconscious-driven poetry of Martha Rhodes in her new book, Perfect Disappearance.

John Kinsella
Haycarting: Dialogue, discussion, and dictation among herbs, vegetables, and fruits in the latest chapter of John Kinsella's autobiographical series.

John Kinsella

John Kinsella is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, most recently, The Hunt and Poems 1980-1994. His work has appeared in Poetry and The Paris Review, among many others. As well, he is the editor of The Stand and Salt. Currently, he teaches at Cambridge University in England. 
John Kinsella - Haycarting

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Haycarting    


What was written:

Yarloop. An old woodmilling town. The area is almost bare of trees on the coast side of the rail line now. It's dairy country and heavily irrigated. The source is Harvey dam. Up over the rail lines, in the hills, is forest. There's a place where an old homestead has been consumed by scrub and blackbutt, but the fruit trees remain. On weekends people picnic under them, surrounded by windfalls. The cows work overtime. They are cybernetic. The dairy farmer has managed to meld flesh and steel.

Moving on. A phone conversation with my brother:

Things have changed—improved even, in one way, the delay on the telephone gone or so slight you don't notice, it being hot and a day full of birds—a "century" on the old scale, which they still cling to here. Our geographies are confused in the dialogue. Here it's a bright day, warmer than we might expect, gales rolling in overnight—the shearing season is over and the money's gone and even a bus trip down to the city doesn't bring a cent—they wouldn't listen if André Segovia himself was busking on a street corner. You said to call back with an anecdote—well how's this, mate: this nyungar bloke told me that double-gees were introduced as a weapon of genocide—the people no longer able to walk barefoot. He wasn't taking the piss, he was serious—and when you think about it... stock feed, genocide. Addition and subtraction. Group sets and statistics. Remember the Aboriginal settlement on the edge of town? We knew it as kids; he grew up there, on the edge of the paddocks. Probably stooked hay on the farm. Can't ride my bike, need thorn-proof tubes, the double-gees are so bad they get you every time. Might have to start chaff cutting next week. The worst job. Even worse than haycarting. Remember Yarloop. That was heavy hay—meadowhay with all the seeds and bits'n'pieces in each bale. The heaviest sort. They're lighter here in York—wheat hay. More air, lots of straw. They wanted to break you. Glasses and books and a strange way of speaking. But you kept going and you made friends for life. They respected that. Yeah, remember how they thought our way of gardening was a joke. A hobby. They were about serious food production. Drums of roundup and tonnes of superphosphate mixed with traditional farming methods from the south of Italy. The best artichoke hearts in olive oil I've ever had! Yes, and bean plants the size of trees. The telephone is a strange thing—you're almost here.

Interregnum—a rapid-fire email exchange with Ken Wark mid-composition:

i'm listening to the tapes right now. i put it off
for a while, worried that they might disappoint me.
but they don't. i'm dubbing them onto cassette tape
for my new research assistant. i was waiting to find the
right person. i think Carrie Lumby can do the job (she's
Catharine Lumby's younger sister, and a brilliant
philosophy postgrad, besides being hyper-fastidious,
a good quality in research assistants!) i'm going to
leave her the tapes to transcribe when i'm up at
Varuna.

you just said something like: "there's a great story
about that" which you don't talk about. I'm thinking
that where there's asides that aren't followed, maybe
we can hyperlink bits of writing, rather than
mess with the transciption too much. what do you
think? i kinda like the rhythm of the spoken word.
k

--On Sat, 27 Nov 1999 1:08 AM +1100 "McKenzie Wark" wrote:
> maybe
> we can hyperlink bits of writing, rather than
> mess with the transciption too much. what do you
> think? i kinda like the rhythm of the spoken word.

yes, let's do this
glad they're up to scratch
are we looking at a pluto book or should we 
be looking elsewhere
do you recall acker cutting a hole in her trousers and suggesting her friends do the same re visits from the family pet to the sacred chamber (my words)?
anything from terri-ann re closing speed off?
best,
jk

great acker anecdote—haven't heard that one before
k

would it be possible to do a tape via phone sometime?
best,
jk

by phone, yes no worries
k

listening to "Bleach" at the moment—can't help it, 
still love kurt
best,
jk

phone—yes—when—say Monday week? how would we record it?
negative creep gets me every time
our millennial anthem—we're no genative (sic) creeps!
jk

the subject will have to be—PHONE
my brother rang me for the first time in years yesterday (we are actually very close but he doesn't trust anything from outside the wheatbelt of WA—and not even anything from there)—he commented on how there was no time delay like there was sixteen years ago when we'd spoken on the phone when I was in London...
jk

tracy and i watched sunday bloody sunday last night—as tracy says, a film entirely about style—"the phone" plays a big part, esp the message service—rich pickings i reckon!
jk

ah, kurt... do you remember where you where when he died?
i was catching a train from NYC to Princeton. he made
the cover of the New York Post
k

--On Sat, 27 Nov 1999 1:27 AM +1100 "McKenzie Wark" wrote:
> ah, kurt... do you remember where you were when he died?
od'd on hammer—literally
jk

--On Sat, 27 Nov 1999 1:28 AM +1100 "McKenzie Wark" wrote:
> its a bandwidth thing—the satellite lines
> have delay, the optic fibre doesn't. you can
> *hear* the technology

beautiful!
best,
jk

i always listen to public image limited's rise
before making any decisions about the future
anger is an energy
(or is it really the other way around?)
k

"We no longer have roots, we have aerials."
http://www.mcs.mq.edu.au/~mwark
-- McKenzie Wark

--On Fri, 26 Nov 1999 "John Kinsella" wrote:
> i always listen to public image limited's rise
> before making any decisions about the future

--On Sat, 27 Nov 1999 1:33 AM +1100 "McKenzie Wark" wrote:
> anger is an energy

motto!
jk

--On Sat, 27 Nov 1999 1:33 AM +1100 "McKenzie Wark" wrote:
> anger is an energy

motto
which brings to mind a motograph - re phones
jk

--On Sat, 27 Nov 1999 1:42 AM +1100 "McKenzie Wark" wrote:
> could do it 22-24 dec

this is good for the phone job. i'll speak to the abc and bbc guys about a hook-up. so that will be two conversations. how many do you think we can include in the book? all other text might work best as footnotes and/or appendices don't you think? and there's always the intro....
jk

i'll have to find the right mic to do a phone
tape, but let's do it.
k

only problem is dates—i'm off to varuna 1-21 dec
could do it 22-24 dec
i'm off to nyc 26 dec
i'll get a 'spy mic' so we can do the phoner anywhere,
any time, but a studio recording would also be pretty
cool. dialogue across different tech—interesting!
k

--On Sat, 27 Nov 1999 1:50 AM +1100 "McKenzie Wark" wrote:

> not sure how much more to record, or what might be needed
> by way of an introduction—do you have any ideas on
> that?

maybe 'just' an essay on the nature of
conversation/dialogue/discussion/interview/symposium
/theatre/dictation/trans cription
we could piece that together via email (a point in itself) after we've prepared the text
jk

i think we might want to *subtract* from the transcripts
—it isn't all equally interesting to the *reader*. But
any new material should hang off it, maybe at the back or
in the margin. not sure how much more to record, or what might be needed by way of an introduction—do you have any ideas on that?
k

just listening to the end of the Toulouse tape, the
other title that suggests itself is Mindfuck. I
remember being totally fried at the end of that one,
like the way acid wears out the synapses. (Philip
Brophy is right, the mind is a muscle)
k

--On Sat, 27 Nov 1999 2:32 AM +1100 "McKenzie Wark" wrote:

> Mindfuck

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
jk

We weren't on the phone in Yarloop:

We have to walk or ride into town to make a call from a public phone box. A few miles. We all go on bikes. F rides a low-slung dragster. People think we are freaks. The Mormon police sergeant invites us into his house and asks about dope. Sometimes he comes out and has a gentle look around. Not quite a search. Like to know what's going on in my town, he says. He picks us up walking home one evening from the bus station and offers us a lift back. He says, I bet you've got dope in your bags. We keep straight faces and climb into the back. He's a vegetarian. I've not been vegetarian long. Living on the dairy farm makes it easy to become vegan. Stephen becomes vegetarian and then vegan in one evening over a bowl of cream. The cows are dragging tonnes about the paddock. They enter the machine and plug straight into the human body. Stephen plays the piano for the police sergeant's family and I read them poetry. They store dry foodstuffs in tin cans waiting for the end. They collect original seed strains and get on well with the local Italian farmers who maintain original seed stocks and know the difference between "real" and "constructed" tomatoes. And that's in the mid-eighties. The house is consumed by fleas, and we retreat. When the news breaks that the guy we've been buying dope from has been murdering women and girls we go straight to the cop and tell him everything we know about this bloke and his partner.

They were people you felt fear and horror being around, though you could never say why. They sold pot cheap, saying they wanted to keep things quiet. One time the man asked me to leave my girlfriend with them while I went to get some money. She and I looked at each other and declined his paternalistic offer. We backed out of there, just knowing it was weird. But there was never anything more than this until we heard the news. We all went mad. It destroyed our minds and everything fell apart. There was still some hay left in the fields, and we refused to help bring it in. The farmers couldn't understand why our attitude had changed. Too heavy for you? Too fast. Bit rough? The look of hell in our faces scared them off. We left soon after and wandered. Everything seemed hopeless. The world was bad. We told our story over and over to detectives but what we knew of their characters was of no help. We heard rumours of what they'd done to their victims. We knew of others who'd known them being placed under police guard. There seemed to be things beneath the surface. We tried to forget we'd ever seen them. We all tried to go straight.

At Yarloop I grew vegetables and wrote poems. I grew herbs and read. Without television or phone we talked to each other. Sometimes a dark silence filled the house. We talked about the fate of the cows that surrounded the house, contained by fences and irrigation ditches. We heard the bells at dawn as the boys from next door rounded the cows up for milking. As the truck came in to cart them off to the knacker's yard—worn out. One of the old blokes asked me if I liked taking it up the arse. I rolled another bale of hay and filled my head with the sound of the heat, the tractor working the rows of hay. Bringing the hay in brought satisfaction. Best of all, I cultivated strawberries.

In the Best Interest of Strawberries

Not at all predictable, strawberries.
Begun earlier, this would have been
nothing out of the ordinary,
nothing more than a justification
for the slow creep of a not so long ago
dormant strawberry. Though now,
after abstinence, brought about
in uncertainty and delay, they have
begun their creep, in bursts. Transplanted,
they shall reach the edge of grass, the
threat of tangling, eventual choking.
We can only survey their movements, attempt
to curve frustration with our coaxings.
If we do not witness, a hope should be
held in their eventual fruiting.

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