Shikibu Shuffle

I recently received a box of an array of newly published pamphlets and chapbooks from Ottawa's above/ground press. One of them is a collaboration between the two well-known poets: Perth, Australia-based Andrew Burke and Perth, Canada-based Phil Hall. It's a really nice chapbook with a glued cover image (I think each cover is different), a bright orange fly leaf and a line drawing that resembles a rubber stamp, and could be a rubber stamp, on the title and end pages. There are fifteen short, minimal poems riffing on a tenth century Japanese poet. The suite is at once kind of dainty and perky. It's called Shikibu Shuffle.

The introductory page reads:

"Happy fate brought a poet from Perth Western Australia and a poet from Perth Ontario Canada together in 2009.

Then Andrew had a heart attack and was queued up for life-saving surgery.

With nothing to do but wait, kept alive by sprays and medical potions - to distract himself - Andrew agreed to work with Phil on a collaboration.

Andrew suggested the Japanese court poet Murasaki Shikibu (973-1014); her 5-line form might be a place to start.

Phil was thinking of Ornette Coleman: two quartets facing each other and going at it (1960).

We wrote in 5s back and forth, then shuffled our silence-inducing cacophony into 10s, then improvised from there...

Andrew's operation was bumped once, and then happened. He's fine.

The shuffle served its purpose, and now surprises and delights them both."


      I watch my chest
      rise and fall in the mirror

      nature in the raw

      nothing I see or think
      means anything to me

      then I plan to tell you about it

      and into each dull thunk
      like lemon on fish

      comes flugelhorn

      a faint zing


      Talking to the air

      I break cobwebs
      on the line

      cello   kite  fishing

      making lurid
      the net result

      while hammock hook shines

      sun holds   motes float

1 comment:

Andrew Burke said...

Thank you for mentioning this delightful collaborative effort. I could never have written such interesting and imaginative poetry if it wasn't for the inspiration of working with Phil, a brilliant poet on his own.