John Mateer was born in Johannesberg, South Africa. He grew up there and in Canada. Prior to being conscripted during the State of Emergency in South Africa, he moved with his parents to Western Australia in 1989 and then to Melbourne in 1998. Twelve years ago he remarked that he had occasionally written in Afrikaans 'in order to examine more fully what it means to be African'. (Fremantle Arts Review, Aug/Sept 1994) John has published five collections of poems in Australia, and several chapbooks in Australia, South Africa, Indonesia and most recently Japan: among them Barefoot Speech, Loanwords, and the 2005 book I've only just read, The Ancient Capital of Images. John has been writer-in-residence in North Sumatra, Indonesia, at the School of Contemporary Art (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts), Australia, and in 2002 in Kyoto, Japan. He is also an art critic, contributing regularly to several national Australian art magazines. John moves around a lot but currently he has returned to one of his more frequent places of residence, Perth, Western Australia.
The strange, yet beautiful, cover photo is a detail from Melbourne-based artist Domenico de Clario's performance Crown Chakra on Sabbath Day Lake, Maine, USA in 1996.
The poems in this slim book are keen in perception, intense in both thought and feeling and sometimes almost bleakly droll as John Mateer moves around in Africa, Australia and Japan locating images, ghosts and feelings from his past in Cape Town and from recent sojourns in Melbourne and Kyoto.
Five Artefacts Found On The Highveld
Rattle those keys, the whole bossie, and hear
how the metal is a silver skeleton and the corridor
of your inner ear a city of shattered glass for you to sprint across
And that razor-wire, more than doringdraad
that a giraffe's black chewing-gum tongue could circumvent without touching,
is invisible, car-jackers, makwerewere everywhere in your head
Let those chains be a memorial to heavy industry and the zoo
and to the home since they are metaphor, tethered to thought
as a dog to the tokeloshe and ground to its owner
on summer afternoons lightning used to hunt down thatched houses,
but electrified fences are its avatars now
and the whole city a gamepark
Stones: hardly less than the Ruins of Great Zimbabwe,
these walls broken like the crusty bread of a bunny-chow chucked
from the back of a speeding bakkie.
excerpt from The Deepest North
2. On Asahi-dake
The rock is large enough to block the wind if I crouch down
like a primitive man inventing shelter. I do.
And from here on Asahi-dake my view is of the distant mountain range
and a nearby gravel slope where, with streaming smoke,
the Earth is pouring into the grey sky and howling endlessly
jet-engine harsh through the holes of its volcanic vents, its exhausts.
Whole industrial cities could be buried here under the rubble
right up to the tips of their smokestacks.
Why do mountains always miniaturise the human,
reduce us to an imagining ?
I wait there until the mist descends,
then wander the stony paths until I am lost in the whiteness.
The book is published by
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
You can read an interview with John Mateer made in Melbourne, Victoria, five years ago in 2001.
News from Adelaide:
The regular Lee Marvin Reading Series continues in the 'Athens Of The South'>
THE LEE MARVIN READINGS
at Gallery de la Catessen
9 Anster St., Adelaide
(off Waymouth at the King William end, near FAD nightclub)
7.30 for 8 PM start
LEE MARVIN IN A LONELY PLACE
ADEEB KAMAL AD-DEEN Iraq
LEE MARVIN IN A MELLOW MOOD
Linda Marie Walker
LEE MARVIN IN A GADDADAVIDA
John Cage'sOverpopulation & Art (1992)
KEN BOLTON:THE CIRCUS
LEE MARVIN IN A PURPLE HAZE
RAY LIVERSIDGE (Vic)
Pru La Motte
Francesca Da Rimini
KEN BOLTON:THE CIRCUS