Happy Birthdays New York Greats

John Ashbery turned 80 recently and so did Kenward Elmslie. To view photos of Kenward and friends celebrating his birthday at The Poetry Project in NYNY click here.

Kenward Elmslie & me & Pete Minter in Sydney October 2005

My 2003 poem for Kenward :

Rainy Day in May
‘if only you’d settle down somewhere streamlined’

ah chlorophyll afternoon
green-deepening my day
now I function do my physio

I know I’m at
the bottom of the world
but when we say
‘local word goes here’
we know what we mean

thousands of kilometres
from the adirondacks,
where almost-billionaires
are taking the waters,
warming the poptarts,
getting a little haptic
with the foil-wrapped
cell-shaped chocolates

am I missing anything,
down here
in murwillumbah
thousands of kilometres
from granite-ville ?


sorry you were
a bit late
for the fennel snags,
the sweet purple cabbage,
too late
for the salty feta
( we’d already eaten
the feta,
all the feta)

& the rain fell down,
too wet, too sombre & grey,
all afternoon
but mellifluous tenor,
you sang and read,
a Babe Rainbow
brightening the place up,
just like (we imagine) at
Touché’s Salon -
all those synaesthetic pleasures
as it turned out to be,
your saddest anniversary

good news was the G-G quit
during your show
(god save the queen
because nothing will save
the governor-general)
thus ending weeks & weeks
of everything interesting
down here in the wilds
far from

note - ‘your saddest anniversary’ - Kenward Elmslie first performed in Sydney in 2003 on May 25th , the anniversary of his partner Joe Brainard’s death.
In the line, ‘good news was the G-G quit’, the ‘G-G’ is the Governor General of Australia,(appointed on approval of the English monarch) who was at the time an Anglican Bishop embroiled in a scandal about the treatment of sexual abuse victims in his church. He resigned on the weekend of Kenward’s visit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just one reading through of 'Rainy Day in May' but I am very impressed with it in connection with a specific feature; namely, how it gets down to the phonemic and orthographic levels, while (naturally) observing the extensions and formations of theme tied in with some of the usual devices -- assonance here, sensuality there, moments of alliteration -- that make the value of all good poems apparent. There you have it, unashamedly. From Robert Mueller.