Poetry Matters

It’s shaping up as a busy month in Adelaide for book launches.

Rob Scott and Bookends Books continue their support of the local poetry scene with the launch of Gail Walker’s long overdue debut collection, Blue Woman. Gail is well known in the Adelaide poetry scene as a writer of succinct, often dark poems about love and life. I will be featuring some of Gail’s poetry on this web log next month. In the meantime, a sample of her work is available to read at the Friendly Street website.

Blue Woman will be launched by Jude Aquilina and Graham Rowlands at the SA Writers’ Centre on Friday 21st April 2006. Celebrations begin at 6.30pm. All are welcome.

One of the sadder events of last year was the death of local poet, Ray Stuart.

Ray was about to launch his second poetry collection, High Mountainous Country, No Reliable Information, when he passed away suddenly last September. Ray’s family are now looking to launch the collection on 25th April (Anzac Day) 2006 at 2pm. Once again, the venue is the SA Writers’ Centre, and the ‘launcher’ is Jude Aquilina.

High Mountainous Country is a collection of poetry drawn from Ray’s experiences as a serviceman in Papua New Guinea in the 1960s. Complementing Ray’s poems are photographs by Teunis Ritman. For more information about Ray and his work visit www.raystuart.bigpondhosting.com

Support South Australian poetry and attend both launches.

Ringleader of the Tormentors – a Review

Morrissey has built on the success of ‘comeback’ album ‘You are the Quarry’ with his strongest, most assured, set of songs since ‘Vauxhall and I’. Recorded in Rome with legendary producer, Tony Visconti, ‘Ringleader of the Tormentors’ is full of passion and drama, and features a rich blend of sounds, including a children’s choir and strings arranged by Ennio Morricone.

The album opens with ‘I Will See You In Far Off Places’, with its rumbling electronic rhythms, Arabic motif, and vague lyrics about the afterlife, but it’s the second track, ‘Dear God Please Help Me’, where the record really hits its stride.

There are explosive kegs
Between my legs
Dear God, please help me

– Morrissey implores over delicate piano accompaniment. And later, over a shimmer of strings –

The heart feels free

Indeed, the album is littered with comments that point to a happier, contented (if not perfect) life.

Another highlight, the closing track, ‘At Last I Am Born’, sees the artist declare –

I once was a mess of guilt because of the flesh
It’s remarkable what you can learn
Once you are born, born, born

‘To Me You Are A Work Of Art’ and ‘Life Is A Pigsty’ are other tracks hinting at the possibility of love, albeit in a world otherwise bereft of goodness.

The latter song is a seven-minute epic that starts moodily, a throbbing bass over sounds of rain, and ends with clattering drums and splintered guitar, over which Morrissey intones –

Can you stop this pain?
Even now in the final hour of my life
I’m falling in love again

‘To Me To Are A Work Of Art’ offers a similar view of the importance of love in an otherwise bleak existence.

I see the world
It makes me puke
But then I look at you and know
That somewhere there’s a someone who can soothe me

Amid these more dramatic moments there are some fabulously catchy pop songs – the first single, ‘You Have Killed Me’, with its references to Italian film directors, ‘In The Future When All’s Well’ and ‘The Father Who Must Be Killed’, with its menacing verse and singalong chorus.

For me, the only misstep is ‘On The Streets I Ran’, a rather pedestrian rocker amid a set of gems.

Apart from this one track, the album exudes a confidence missing from Morrissey’s music for many years. Where ‘Quarry’ was tentative, ‘Ringleader’ is assured. And his voice has never sounded stronger. The vocal in ‘I’ll Never Be Anybody’s Hero Now’, for example, might even induce ‘I Know It’s Over’ flashbacks.

The reasons behind this newfound confidence might be numerous – a new writing partner (five of the songs were co-written with new boy, Jesse Tobias), Rome, Tony Visconti, a generally adoring press, the success of ‘You Are The Quarry’ and subsequent tours.

Or maybe it is just love.

Inside Man – a Review

Inside Man is a caper movie – the ‘perfect’ crime, a battle of wits between criminals and police, and surprising plot twists. But with Spike Lee directing, it is anything but a straightforward caper movie. In the hands of another director the movie might have remained standard action fare, but Lee is interested in dialogue, character and the small details.

The movie opens with the criminal mastermind, Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), addressing the camera from within what we believe is a prison cell. He tells us that he has committed the perfect crime. We then flashback to the crime itself, following Dalton’s group as they hold up the bank, take hostages, and put their plan into operation.

Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) and partner, Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are the detectives assigned to oversee negotiations with the criminals, along with uniformed police captain, Darius (Willem Dafoe). As the negotiations progress they learn that things are not as they seem.

Enter bank boss, Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer), who has something in the bank he wants to remain secret, and Madeline White (Jodie Foster), the power-broker he hires to protect his interests. We soon learn that Russell is no simple bank robber, and that there is more at stake than a pile of cash.

To reveal much more would spoil the fun, suffice to say that you will probably leave the movie scratching your head and wondering why and how certain things happened. It’s that kind of movie. I would have liked a bit more information about Russell’s background and motivation, while Madeline White’s role is hazy at best.

Clive Owen is well cast as the cool, arrogant criminal, and Washington cruises in his role as the imperfect police detective, but Dafoe is wasted, and Jodie Foster’s role is surprisingly undemanding.

There are sprinklings of Spike Lee’s humour and politics – a racially charged conversation between Frazier and a street cop, the Sikh accused of being an Arab terrorist, the glimpse of Grand Theft Auto style videogame violence. And you can’t help but wonder if the treatment of the hostages by the police is a comment on post-911 America.

There are also a few clichéd moments – the banter between Frazier and Russell, the final confrontation between the cops and the bank chief. And the undercooked romantic scenes between Frazier and his lover add nothing (apart from some very corny references to ‘Big Willy and the twins’).

Inside Man will probably not be remembered as a great Spike Lee movie, but it is an engrossing and entertaining take on the genre that will keep you involved until the final credits.