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Spring things to do

Steve Evans' annual survey of what poets are reading,
Attention Span has been released for 2006.

               Steve Evans - a rose is a rose is a rrose

Steve Evans is Associate Professor of English at the University of Maine, where he teaches courses on critical theory, poetry and poetics, and the avant-garde. He coordinates the New Writing Series, is a contributing editor for The Poker and tends Third Factory website.

The Poetry Picture Show
poems on films, films on poems

with JS Harry, John Tranter,
Kate Lilley, David Prater & others

one night only :
At 6pm
Old Darlington School
University of Sydney
(entry by donation)

Eurobeat the ridiculously funny, musical send-up of the annual Eurovision Song Contest is currently playing at the State Theatre in Sydney. Coincidentally, it stars the gorgeous daughter of my blended family, Julia Zemiro.
Sometimes, I'm hard to please, I hardly ever go to musical theatre, generally find self-described comedy unfunny, but I laughed throughout this entirely upbeat, hoot of a show. Book through Ticketmaster.

The Lost Echo
directed by Barrie Kosky co-written with Tom Wright

12 stories of love, lust, madness and revenge
38 of Australia's finest performers
8 hours experienced in two parts.

The Lost Echo is about how the world, human beings and nature are all in a constant of flux and change.
It's about how we love. How passions change us. It's about how desire can destroy.

Based on Ovid's Metamorphoses, The Lost Echo is a kaleidoscope of music, text, dance, and image using the music of Cole Porter, John Dowland and Franz Schubert.

I have seen Part One – four hours of crazy, intense, marvelous theatre and have booked my ticket for Part Two.
At the Sydney Theatre Company
Hickson Road, Walsh Bay

Part Two began with the gruelling tale of The Bacchae ('The Song of Bacchus' -isn't that Euripides, not Ovid ?) and the the demise of Pentheus, dismembered and cannibalised by the female followers of Bacchus, his head is returned to Cadmus by an incredibly demented Agave. All this godly gore and human misery performed in an over-sized urban male washroom and toilet.
'The Lost Echo' concluded with 'The Song of Orpheus' interpreted, incredibly, via Franz Schubert's song cycle 'Die Winterreise' (The Winter Journey). All ultra camp, amazingly choreographed, burlesque, kitsch, post modern, pop, funk (snatches of 'Blame It on The Boogie' accompanied by action freezes) and classical. The theatre Barrie Kosky makes, to use an old cliche, defies description. It is stunning. It is THEATRE.

'The Lost Echo' closes tonight, Saturday 30th September.


at Gallery de la Catessen:
9 Anster St., off Waymouth
Adelaide, South Australia

Mondays 7.30 for 8PM
Price $5

10th Reading October 2
Jordan D'Arsie
Kerryn Goldsworthy
Ashley Graetz
Bern Smith
Naomi Horridge

11th Reading October 9
Peter Rose
Stephen Lawrence
Moya Costello
Paul Hoban
Andrea Jorss

12th Reading October 16
Stephen Whittington
John Jenkins
Linda Marie Walker
Shannon Burns
Carol Lefevre

13th Reading October 23
Ken Bolton
Jordan D'Arsie
Tracy Crisp
Miriel Lenore
Teri Hoskin

14th Reading October 30
Bel Schenk
Heather Johnson
Cath Kenneally
Khail Jureidini
Steve Evans (not the U.S. Steve Evans)

Sasha : some further notes

Mark Young has sent me a copy of a poetry pamphlet from the mid–70's Patterns series. Mark's poem is an emulation of Arthur Rimbaud. The cover drawing is by Sasha (who also had a poem published in the series).

Over a period of time in the late 1990's, Sasha sent a group of self-portraits to Nicholas Pounder.

In Hanoi

While the United States Of America's punitive embargo on Vietnam was still in place and the internal process of doi moi had begun as a 'renovation' of Vietnamese society (something like Mikhail Gorbachev's 'glas nost' program in the USSR), I travelled to Hanoi to visit a friend, Sue Howe, who had been living there for some time, working as a teacher at the University for Foreign Languages, sponsored by Australian Aid Abroad. Sue obtained an invitation from the Ministry of Education for me to conduct some classes in English on Australian poetry – that was the only way to get a visa in those days. Not long after I'd arrived in Hanoi in the north, Sasha landed in Ho Chi Minh City, in the south. About a week later and with (miraculously) only one minor scrape with the authorities to report, he joined us in the Giang Vo flats.

              Giang Vo, 1991

We met the very hospitable staff at the Vietnamese Womens Publishing House and spent time with the poet Nguyen Thi Hong, and we also visited the official Writers Association.
At the time, these groups were extremely impoverished and did not have access to western writing apart from occasional magazines like 'Time', brought in to Hanoi by NGO workers, and Colleen McCullough's 'The Thorn Birds' and some Shakespeare – both of which had been translated into Vietnamese from English via Russian and had become new versions of the original texts. Both groups gave us lists of books they would like us to send from Australia.

On my return to Sydney, I organised a benefit reading at 'Writers in the Park' at the Harold Park Hotel in Glebe to raise money to buy books for the Vietnamese writers. Tom Thompson, then the publisher at Angus & Robertson donated a box of the Australian classics and modern poets he was publishing. I bought the books, packaged them up and then tried to get the Department of Foreign Affairs to freight them up to Hanoi. Of course, even with contacts in the Australian embassy, including the Ambassador to Vietnam, the department in Canberra refused assistance. Around that time, Sasha had decided to travel to Moscow and was heading up via Hanoi. He carted the boxes of books off with him, with some cash to pay for excess baggage.

         Hoa (translator), Vu Tu Nam, Vietnam Writers Association – Sasha, delivering the books

Some years later (I think in 1997 when Sasha was returning to Vietnam for an AsiaLink residency) he claimed, in his inimitable manner, in the pages of the Australian Book Review to have been solely responsible for my altruistic project - an undertaking that had taken considerable time and energy to co–ordinate. Subsequently, Sasha and I engaged in a minor public stoush in the correspondence pages of the magazine. Sasha had a way of bragging about 'his' radicalisms that was sometimes unthinking. Of course, after a couple of months silence, we reconciled. And just now, when I looked for copies of that correspondence I seem to have mislaid it. (Although it can probably be found in the Mitchell Library archive).

                Sasha Soldatow 2005


Sasha Soltadow, choked by the bureaucracy, in his Special Broadcasting Service editing booth, mid 1980s (foto John Tranter)

In 1983, before homosexuality was legalised in New South Wales, the Oxford Street gay bar, Club 80 was raided by police. There was a shocked reaction from people who frequented the bars and saunas. Sasha Soldatow produced a pamphlet that was critical of the response. It provides an important historical analysis of the early history of the Sydney Gay Mardi Gras, and the pursuit of the gay dollar to the detriment of the development of sexual politics which broadly challenges the power relationships in society. You can read What Is This Gay Community Shit? here on Takver's site. (It includes Sasha's commentary on the pamphlet from 2001.)

Takver, who first met Sasha in 1974, last saw him at an Anarchist and Autonomist Gathering at Melbourne University in 2001. Over several months during that year they worked on updating notes on the pamphlet and on Sasha's biographical material on the neglected Australian poet Harry Hooton, whose Poet of the 21st Century : Collected Poems Sasha edited for Angus & Robertson publishers in 1990.

       'Be realistic – demand the impossible'. Slogan from walls of the Sorbonne, Paris, May 1968

Vale Sasha Soldatow

       Sasha working on a filmscript for filmmaker, Margot Nash, at her flat in Coogee, Sydney (foto: Margot Nash)

There are so many things you could say about Sasha.
There are so many people who could say something.
I hope I can include at least some of those things now.

Sasha was a one-off.
He was a romantic.
He was a hedonist.

I loved him for his inventiveness, his wit and his daring lack of concern for limits. He believed in an anarchic philosophy that could set people free, he certainly wanted that and acted that way, boundlessly. He followed the anarchist adage from the graffiti of 1968 'Be realistic - demand the impossible '.

It was fun and a bit risky to get around with Sasha. I have a strong moral streak that compels me to loathe hypocrisy, calumny and, well, in general, smooth explaining. But I'd credit Sasha with showing me how to laugh at peoples' foibles and jealousies rather than judging them and also how to laugh at life's absurdities.
He was forgiving and generous.

He liked to get drunk and play powerful music that nobody could resist. Especially at two in the morning.
He could also be a terrible nuisance - like an ant in your warm and comfortable armpit.
He liked to rock the boat.    He lived in harm's way.
He was an original kind of troublemaker.
I know that in the years of our friendship, that Sasha was sometimes 'too much' for his friends and 'too much' for me too but I have not one, not even a smidgin of regret.

He was a founding member of several ephemeral but spirited mini-movements like 'Drink Against Drunkenness'. He and I founded 'The Bon Mot Gang' - our motto was 'we're always funny'. We had a membership of three dedicated and others floating.

I remember the pleasure, the actual fun of making performances with Sasha - Percy Grainger and his Whips at The Performance Space, in Sydney, with Elizabeth Drake. Some of you will remember his Tin Sheds show The Adventures of Rock'n' Roll Sally: A Burlesque, an ongoing work, that he repeated in various versions for Pride Week shows at the Gay Community Centre in Holt Street Surry Hills, and in Miss The Opera Lights with Elizabeth, & Amanda Stewart & myself at The Gap Cabaret in Surry Hills and later in the Writers Week Tent at the Adelaide festival.

     Rock'n'Roll Sally: A Burlesque (Sasha as Marilyn)
     Poster by Chips Mackinolty

Together we read and changed and re-read the pieces for his first book of fiction Private Do Not Open until it was ready for publication. We edited an edition of Cargo magazine together for the gay press, Blackwattle. He was the editor of The Only Sensible News.

Sasha, Ian MacNeill, Denis Gallagher, Gary Dunne - Blackwattle authors. 1990 (foto: William Yang)

Sasha was almost-permanently translating the great Russian poet Anna Ahkmatova because, according to him everyone else was getting it wrong. Richard Mills set Sasha's translation of her long poem Requiem to music and the piece was performed at The Sydney Opera House in 2005.

He was a talented writer but, really, that extra and required dose of perseverance was, puzzlingly, wanting in Sasha. Writing is a solitary task and Sasha was gregarious and hospitable. I think Sasha would always prefer a crowded party in honour of a newly-acquired washing machine to a few hours of torture of the back and bum alone at the writing table.

Sasha's quick temperament and attention span was better suited to painting watercolours and making collages , which he also did. And on piano he played his famous 'Mozart in a Minute'.

Sasha was an eclectic collector - he had the famous ticket collection (part of which is held in the National Gallery in Canberra), innumerable interesting pencils, coloured lead seals from the tops of wine bottles and a marvellous collection of burnt & broken matchsticks.

Sasha liked the details. When you went mushrooming with Sasha he'd refer to the Fungi species chart before deciding whether to actually pick that mushroom or toadstool - then later, in the kitchen, he'd cook up the rarest and most evil-looking ones and even the utterly sceptical diner survived the meal.

He loved plants, plants in gardens, plants in the bush, he loved and respected weeds.
There are white pelargoniums growing in various locations from Sydney to Blackheath to who-knows-where from a cutting from Park Parade, Bondi that Sash gave me.

Sasha always reckoned that if you had poor eyesight your sight would be restored at the moment of your death. I hope he was right.

Ah Sasha
Dasvidanya Sasha, spasiba

         Twenty Years Ago - Xmas Day

Some books by Sasha Soldatow:

click on the image for larger format