Book of the Month
The Delirious Museum

A précis from the publisher -
"The Delirious Museum gives a new interpretation of the relationship between the museum and the city in the twenty-first century. It presents an original view of the idea of the museum, proposing that it is, or should be, both a repository of the artefacts of the past and a continuation of the city street in the present. Storrie reviews our experience of the city and of the museum taking a journey that begins in the Louvre and continues through Paris, London, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, re-imagining the possibilities for museums and their displays and reexamining the blurred boundaries between museums and the cities around them. On his quest for "The Delirious Museum", he visits the museum architecture of Soane and Libeskind, the exhibitions of Lissitsky and Kiesler and the work of such artists as Duchamp and Warhol. Calum Storrie's premise is that the museum and the city street are continuous with one another: the city is a delirious museum, overlaid with levels of history and multiple objects open to many interpretations just as museums and their contents are.In support of his theme, he draws on multiple sources, from Walter Benjamin, Daniel Libeskind & Greil Marcus through Paul Auster and Peter Ackroyd, to Stephen Bayley, Norman Bryson & Sadie Plant and takes readers on a stimulating journey through cities and museums worldwide. Serious general readers interested in urban culture, design and architecture, as well as professional architects, cultural studies and museology academics will enjoy the book, which is illustrated in black and white."

Calum Storrie begins this wonderful book with an account of the famous arrest and imprisonment of Guillaume Apollinaire after he and Pablo Picasso came under suspicion for the theft of Leonardo da Vinci's painting 'Mona Lisa' in 1911. Calum Storrie retrospectively appoints Guillaume Apollinaire as the first curator of The Delirious Museum in compensation for his wrongful imprisonment.
Among the many topics, movements, architects relevant here, Storrie also writes about the Situationists - "Some of the strategies devised by the Situationists in order to dismantle the meaning of the city can also be used to take apart and re-invent the language of collection and display." He does in this context, also acknowledge capitalism's power to recuperate (or absorb) subversion and turn it to its own ends. He uses the Situationist notion of dérive, literally, 'drift' - that almost casual engagement with the city depending on chance and a degree of chaos - to show that the Delirious Museum can occupy an ambiguous position - both an existing and a potential space. He writes 'It is a space that exists hidden within the visible, where there is always the possibility of disorientation and the probability of getting lost.'

A couple of illustrations from The Delirious Museum

Peter Campbell referred to this book in his LRB column
(London Review of Books, Vol 28 No3 February 2006) :

The designer Calum Storrie has just published a book called The Delirious Museum. His starting point is the belief that the museum should be a continuation of the street – as easy to enter, as amusing to pass through. This concept is possible in Britain where we have no museum charges, but the notion that streets have a lot in common with museums – and that the pleasures and interest streets offer may be greater – has a history which parallels that of Modernism. The delirious museum Storrie assembles in his imagination runs together the domain of objects caught in the museum net and that of objects which still float free. Primary texts are those in which Baudelaire and Benjamin describe the flãneur's disengaged observation of the city's unfathomable complexity.
The richness of the street points up shortcomings in museums. In one strand of Modernism, artists were, and are, at war with them. Although this antipathy is on the face of it slightly puzzling – actors seem happy enough with theatres and writers with libraries – reasons for it aren't difficult to find. Duchamp proved that by exhibiting an object you can make it into a work of art. But it turns out that display can also take the acid out of protest. Artists have learned to live with the museum's tendency to impose and change meanings; even when angry they no longer call for the wrecking ball. Instead of destroying museums, dissenters, as Storrie describes them, set out to parasitise and subvert them. Duchamp sidestepped the museum when he distributed multiple sets of miniatures of his work, packed in suitcases. Chris Burden's Samson attacks (or at least pretends to attack) the bricks and mortar. His piece consists of a turnstile, a winch, worm gear, a 100-ton jack, timbers and steel plates, designed to be placed in the entrance to a museum. Visitors passing through the turnstile drive a glacially slow extension of the timbers which, in theory, threaten to knock down the walls. When it was shown in Newport Harbour Art Museum, the fire department was alarmed. In Vienna in 1996 a document was issued which explained that there would never be enough visitors for the machine to do its worst.
Inanimate things in museums – teacups from which no one drinks, pictures which will never again be bought and sold – can, as much as stuffed animals, make one think sadly of the time when they were alive. Modern curators know this and spend much time and money avoiding notions of dust, death and mummification. Even art museums do not cram everything in the reserve collection onto the walls. But in avoiding the confusion, heterogeneity and abundance of old–style museums like the Pitt Rivers in Oxford, some of what they shared with the street has gone: an ability to feed the imagination with unexplained, comical, sinister and melancholy juxtapositions, for example – the aspect of collecting the Surrealists exploited.
Storrie is good on the relation between spaces and things exhibited: on Carlo Scarpa's museum designs, in which windows may bite a top corner out of the walls and ceiling of a room and pieces of sculpture may be positioned to become part of the building, and the intricate interlacing of objects and architecture in the Soane Museum – all of these are striking alternatives to the tradition of the plain room that culminates in white, evenly lit operating-theatre-like spaces. They are still the norm when new rooms are built for notable collections. Storrie's commentary on the work of Daniel Liebeskind and Frank Gehry shows how their most acclaimed buildings – Liebeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin and Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim – achieved presence not by complementing collections but by taking over from them the job of engaging attention.
The contrast between the vivacity of the street and the quiet of the museum is not always to the advantage of the street. The Musée Carnavalet is devoted to the history of Paris; it was founded at Haussmann's instigation at a time when he was supervising the demolition of much of the city. The building was once the home of Madame de Sévigné, and the ad hoc run of rooms with 17th and 18th-century panelling and furniture and a collection of mainly unremarkable portraits causes you to exercise your historical imagination. A collection of striking pieces would be more glamorous, but might not force you to think as hard. If a museum makes it too clear how you are expected to respond to things and if displays are cut down to what can be digested easily, there is less to wonder at and be curious about.


Tinfish Trout

I've just received my subscription copy of Tinfish magazine. This is issue 16 and it's a special collaborative venture with the Aotearoa/New Zealand and Pacific Islands journal Trout.
Tinfish is edited by Susan Schultz. It collects poetic writing from the Pacific Ocean region stretching right acoss to East Asia and always provides an eclectic and original read. Every issue has amazing artwork designed by Gaye Chan.
Trout is an online journal of arts and literature, based in Auckland and edited by a quartet - Brian Flaherty, Anne Kennedy, Tony Murrow and Robert Sullivan. A collaboration of these magazines seems inevitable given their similar editorial bents. There are 81 pages packed with great poetry and off-beat imagery.

Susan Schultz, on the look out

My Dream A Reading With Susan In NY NY

Hawai'i-based poet Susan Schultz is reading on the U.S. mainland this coming week. I wish I could hop a rocket to this event -

Susan M. Schultz has taught at the University of Hawai'i since 1990. She is the author of the books Memory Cards & Adoption Papers and And then something happened. The University of Alabama Press recently published her collection of essays, A Poetics of Impasse in Modern and Contemporary American Poetry. She edits Tinfish Press.

Susan M. Schultz
Mark Wallace & Stephen Vincent

Wednesday, May 31, 8:00pm.
The Poetry Project
St. Mark's Church-in-the-Bowery
131 East 10th Street at Second Avenue
New York City 10003
Trains: 6, F, N, R, and L.

Admission is $8, $7 for students/seniors and $5 for members (though now those who take out a membership at $85 or higher will get in FREE to all regular readings).

We are wheelchair accessible with assistance and advance notice. For more info call 212-674-0910.


Three poets and a CD

I've been reading A Tall, Serious Girl - George Stanley's selected poems from 1957 until 2000, published by Qua Books in 2003. This poet was brought to my attention only early last year by Australian poet Michael Farrell. The title of this book is from George Stanley's beautiful poem Veracruz - 'I wish my father had, like Tiresias, changed himself into a woman,/& that he had been impregnated by my uncle, & given birth to me as a girl./I wish that I had grown up in San Francisco as a girl,/a tall, serious girl'. George Stanley was born and raised in San Francisco where, in the sixties, he was part of the San Francisco Renaissance which included Robert Duncan, Robin Blaser and Jack Spicer. He moved to Vancouver in the seventies where he became associated with New Star Press, and The Grape (an underground newspaper). He has been active in Canadian politics, unions and alternative media. Two other books are Gentle Northern Summer (New Star, 1995) and At Andy's (New Star, 2000). A Tall Serious Girl has an interesting detail - the text of the poems marks his move from the USA to Canada via a change in spelling. His poems are proof that a straightforward approach can accommodate a sense of mystery. George Stanley lives and works as an English teacher in Vancouver.

Here is one of his descriptive poems that I like -

Poem Enclosing Its Dedications

& now I'm looking at someone
in a t-shirt, who comes out of the shade
of his apartment & wags his fingers, briefly,
against the steel frame of his glass door
so they flash white, in the sun.

The sun makes the apartment building opposite
reflect the light, off its paint,

Two trolley poles skim past (the top halves).
The wires sway
    for Judith Copithorne & Daniel Ignas
The hemlocks or firs or whatever move slightly
in the breeze
    for Renee Rodin

Another man in a t-shirt gets out of a grey car
(I don't know the names of things -
trees, makes of cars).
The blue sky says nothing,
but what would you expect it to say -
do you think that behind it there are wheels ?

A man with a yellow shirt & a
yellow cap. A blue truck. If I don't know
him by name why should I know the truck's
family ?
    for Barbara Munk

A lyric poem.
A man in a brown vest & a t-shirt
carrying a plastic Safeway bag.
The traffic signal sways.
     The blue sky means the sun
is warming Vancouver.
     Another bus,
this one going west, to Dunbar or UBC,
so I can see the full length of the poles.

Maroon car. Man in blue jeans & grey
sweatshirt & black helmet on a bike. Another
guy on a bike. Woman with raspberry red coat
walks up old concrete steps with a Safeway
  Red car.
Cherry red. Wild cherry.

Four people, one pushing a bike.
Green sweat, white helmet.

Man sits at desk, looks out window at
cream-coloured apartment building, parked cars,
conifers he doesn't know the name of, only
they're conifers cause he can remember them
greenblack in winter - at trolley wires &
thicker black (hydro?) cable, sometimes birds
sit on, crows, pigeons -

old '20s 2-storey gable-roofed house on
Trafalgar, Avalon milk truck, blue
sign of Westside Ski & pink sign of
Montri's restaurant
& blue sky all behind this. Sky blue.
Sits writing poem. Wowowowow of ambulance.
   Stops writing. Poem goes on, world goes on.

Stan Persky writes - 'Sometime around the beginning of the new millenium, the poet George Stanley half-jokingly invented the idea of 'aboutism.' Among other things, aboutism proposes that a poem is or should be, after all, about something, as contrasted to the contemporary poetries of linguistic abstractionism or anecdotal significances framed in verse. In his book At Andy's Stanley's poems are described (in a back cover blurb) as being 'about movies, ballparks, hockey, dogs, sex, aging, trips to Calgary and Veracruz, Ireland and Scotland, his return to Terrace, British Columbia, where he lived for fifteen years...' You can continue reading this piece.

Barry McKinnon interviews George Stanley.
Listen to George Stanley reading.

In the past week I also read a couple of chapbooks on my early morning trips across town to my job. One that has a direct quality similar to George Stanley, is Cassie Lewis's Bridges.

This is a long prose-poem. It was published by Ralph Wessman's Walleah Press in Hobart, Tasmania. Cassie is an Australian poet who has been living in the USA (currently in Rochester, NY) for some years now. The poems in Bridges calmly consider the small wonders of the quotidian that comprise the challenge of relocation - from country to country and from west to east. Here's an extract -

I wake up slowly as I gather the tea things.

A body stirs, a small tin cooking pot on a gas flame. Outline
of an arm against a flickering curtain, yellow linen. Rolling
my body under the curtain's yellow gauze. Is it morning ?
Then I sleep.

Light crawls across the campsite. Is this still my dream ? I
shadow myself like a tree. I crouch down wrapped in

Soft eyes fluttering against cotton. It is beautiful to know
such textures: linen, eiderdown. The luxury of piled up
leaves to pee on.

'If you stay here any longer you'll become a mystic.' Ha ha.
I smoke an imaginary pipe as a witty gesture against this.
No one laughs.

I turn to bake in the sun of my own volition.

      *      *     *

Cassie Lewis has several other publications and she keeps a blog.

Tim Thorne's chapbook Best Bitter was produced by Chris Mansell's PressPress which has published, from Berry, in regional New South Wales, a number of great pocket-sized chapbooks. Tim lives in Launceston, in northern Tasmania. His cover blurb says he is 'a force in Tasmanian poetry and an icon of Australian poetry'. True. For many years Tim Thorne co-ordinated a legendary annual poetry festival in Launcestion that eventually grew into a showcase for contemporary Australian dance as well as poetry. His writing is always gritty, witty and trenchant. He is definitely opposed to the war in Iraq. Here's one of nine poems grouped as Mesopotamian Suite -

Fallujah Face-Off, April 2004

Scared teenagers steal hubcaps
off the war machine and know
only religion and danger.
There hasn't been time to learn
the history of last year's war,
let alone of this year's peace.
They cannot trust their officers
but they can be sure of Allah and of pain.

Across the two-lane blacktop
Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears
stand wide-eyed in battle fatigues
on a flat desert page from an atlas
they never opened. The flag and the music
provide the substance of their faith.
Their weapons are heavy but they get
regular e-mails from their pastors.

Alongside the road runs a pipeline
full of thick, black democracy
at $40 a barrel. It is oblivious,
having been dead for millions of years.

While I've been typing up today's blog I've had Model by Ukrainian electropop group fotomoto rocketing along on the CD deck. I love all nine minutes of the pacy track Les Nuits Georgiennes

FOTOMOTO are (from left to right): Sergey Sergeyev instruments; Anton Singurov instruments;Olya Volodina vocals; Alexander Ivanov programming.


Two Book Launches in Sydney in May

John Tranter
Urban Myths: 210 Poems
New and Selected

University of Queensland Press
2006, ISBN-0-7022-3557-1

To be launched in Sydney by Pam Brown

at Gleebooks,
49 Glebe Point Road,
Glebe NSW 2037,
on Friday May 19, 2006
at 6 for 6.30pm.
Free and open to all.

To reserve a place or buy the book visit Gleebooks.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Peter Minter
blue grass

Salt Publishing (UK)
2006 ISBN-1-847712-46-2

To be launched in Sydney by Pam Brown

at Bangarra Mezzanine,
The Wharf,
Hickson Road
Sydney Writers Festival,
on Friday May 26, 2006
at 6 pm.

Please come along and share a drink
to help set this new book to the wind.
Everyone welcome.

For more information or to buy the book visit Salt Publishing


Ken Bolton in Sydney

Ken Bolton
is reading this week at
Berkelouw's Bookshop,
19 Oxford Street,
on Thursday 4th May at 7pm

$5 entry buys a wine or coffee/tea

Ken reads in Sydney only rarely so this opportunity to hear a terrific Sydney-poet-who-has-lived-in-Adelaide-for-over twenty-years is one not to be missed. His recently released book At the Flash & At the Baci was The Deletions' book of the month for March. Local poet Mark Mahenoff will also read on Thursday. The Elbow Room reading series is co-ordinated by Greg McLaren.


May Day

1st May
May Day - a day to continue and to commemorate workers' campaigns for workplace rights.
I am a member of the CPSU
Community and Public Sector Union