New and Enticing Shapes:
Andrew Galan’s That Place of Infested Roads (life during wartime)

Posted on March 29, 2014 by in Verity La Reviews

That place of Infested RoadsReview by Nigel Featherstone

What is it that we are to make of poetry, especially in an era when even well-written and relevant fiction is being ignored for reality cooking shows on commercial television, YouTube videos of skateboarding mishaps, the endless electronic chatter of Twitter, and cats doing allegedly totally you know hilarious things on Facebook?  No doubt it is a question that Andrew Galan has asked himself.  Or maybe he hasn’t – he’s just got on with the heady business of being a poet.

The Canberra-based Galan is best known as a performance poet who has scored gigs in many Australian festivals as well as overseas.  He is also a literary mover and shaker, organising the regular and popular BAD! SLAM! NO! BISCUIT! performance-poetry nights in a pub, and is the founder of The Tragic Troubadours, who, amongst other things, wander the streets sharing poetry with unsuspecting – and probably very nervous – commuters.  Quite frankly, the world needs more people like Andrew Galan, so we can be reminded of the sort of magic that can happen when two words are put together with care and craft.

And there is a stack of care and craft in That Place of Infested Roads (life during wartime), Galan’s first physical collection.  His work has already been published in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Best Australian Poetry and this-here steam-driven e-rag, so clearly he is interested in how poems can be formed on the page as well as performed in front of an audience.  But this is not easy poetry; it requires – deserves – multiple readings before meanings are revealed.  Take these few lines from ‘Real Gone Lee-on’:

I Real Gone into the bar – and stop
there he sits
Atlas slumped over a pint of cider
chickpea in the froth
of the drip tray
his arms end in taps

Or this from ‘Wrong side of the road (an autumn poem)’:

Silver escalator going up, red struck stick going down
seized ebon ink trip stair, stainless dimples on fire

 Galan’s interest in putting words together to create new and enticing shapes is obvious – and attractive – but for many accessibility will be an issue.  Exactly how much effort should be expended on unpacking a poem so its power and resonance is able to come to life?  For some, the sheer musicality of the words and lines will be more than enough.  ‘Bag Bog Cat, the Caterpillar an’ the Glue Man’, published in Verity La back on 14 December 2011, is a good example – it is deliriously and deliciously shanty-like.  But Galan can also do simple and unambiguous – this is a haiku called ‘Untitled’:

Blue Converse shuffle
amid zombie leaves, brand
new on undead feet

Overall, this collection explores issues of urban violence, ultra-masculinity (fights are almost always about to happen), and hyper-realism.  In parts characters and scenarios come across as entertainingly cartoonesque.  Here is the first stanza of ‘Plod’:

Bob, ya don’ want’a do this | ya know Rex | ‘e ‘as it made | eats where
‘e wants | drives what ‘e wants | strides these sidewalks | wit’ who ‘e
wants | she was nut’in’

By the end of That Place of Infested Roads (life during wartime), Galan’s poetry has hinted at the dark (over)dramatics of Nick Cave, the great play of ee cummings, and the grim humour of films by Tarrantino and the Coen brothers.  Perhaps the poet is still synthesising his influences – he has a tertiary education in the classics – and finding his way to put words down on the page so they truly sit up and sing in a solitary reader’s mind.  However, there is no doubt, none whatsoever, that Andrew Galan has a long future ahead of him in the poetry game, and that future should have every chance at becoming as real and as lively and as affecting as possible.

That Place of Infested Roads (life during wartime)
Andrew Galan
The Knives Forks And Spoons Press, 2013
57pp. cost variable

Bag Bog Cat, the Caterpillar an’ the Glue Man (Andrew Galan)

Posted on December 14, 2011 by in Heightened Talk

 

Horse serrations vibrate floorboards ta’ squeal a rockin’ billycock woe
· · an’ we was diggin’ ditches an’ shovelin’ mud an’ burnin’ faeces
when the Caterpillar said sorry, sorry was for not eatin’
· · ‘cause we was workin’ for the waste disposal company
so bring a there Bag Bog Cat, bring a there with that bone-saw
· · an’ we was wearin’ overalls an’ iron face an’ corduroy cap

Carve on this here thigh, suffa’ the bitta’ ol’bite
· · an’ we was diggin’ ditches an’ shovelin’ mud an’ burnin’ faeces
tearin’ inna’ flesh, flesh fresh from the Caterpillar wrack
· · ‘cause we was workin’ for the waste disposal company
so tap another, tap another ta’ croon that Bag Bog Cat syncopation
· · an’ we was wearin’ overalls an’ iron face an’ corduroy cap

But the Glue Man knows, he knows we can’t afford the teeth (or the meat)
· · an’ we was diggin’ ditches an’ shovellin’ mud an’ burnin’ faeces
so shoo, shoo the Glue Man, that stoep belongs ta’ the Bag Bog Cat
· · ‘cause we was workin’ for the waste disposal company
eat at home Glue Man, this table ain’t yours, nor the rusty han’held
· · an’ we was wearin’ overalls an’ iron face an’ corduroy cap

Tin wheel gurney with flamin’ sheet, that ain’t nothin’ for the Glue Man
· · an’ we was diggin’ ditches an’ shovellin’ mud an’ burnin’ faeces
still grill bug with all its chewin’— this too be Bag Bog Cat’s
· · ‘cause we was workin’ for the waste disposal company
so the Caterpillar, it’s gunna crawl down, it’s gunna scuttle down
· · an’ we was wearin’ overalls an’ iron face an’ corduroy cap

Placemat of piranha on a waste of land outside the Machine of Wha— gotcha
· · an’ we was diggin’ ditches an’ shovellin’ mud an’ burnin’ faeces
so grind thighs ta’ think, ta’ think on sugar sweat cloth’d wrack
· · ‘cause we was workin’ for the waste disposal company
a ferocious run a’ slicin’ll strip them bones in teeth-saw lines
· · an’ we was wearin’ overalls an’ iron face an’ corduroy cap

So she saw her long brown hair with nonsense syllables
· · an’ we was diggin’ ditches an’ shovelin’ mud an’ burnin’ faeces
(can ya’ do what ya’ want what can ya’ want tonight?)
· · ‘cause we was workin’ for the waste disposal company
the Caterpillar did foot-stomp lov’d Granna’ Range who cut usin’ garden metal
· · an’ we was wearin’ overalls an’ iron face an’ corduroy cap

New lard suds wash hands from the Caterpillar lock
· · an’ we was diggin’ ditches an’ shovelin’ mud an’ burnin’ faeces
but across the bar the Glue Man divines (he divines the range of every enemy)
· · ‘cause we was workin’ for the waste disposal company
so— with a ratta-tat-tat —the Glue Man could feel the gun under jacket
· · an’ we was wearin’ overalls an’ iron face an’ corduroy cap

The Glue Man could smell, he could smell the weight of every round
· · an’ we was diggin’ ditches an’ shovelin’ mud an’ burnin’ faeces
a street a’ways threw coaches ta’ clash— shook the Caterpillar
· · ‘cause we was workin’ for the waste disposal company
so one on another, into broken board hold, toss tied survivors
· · an’ we was wearin’ overalls an’ iron face an’ corduroy cap

The rifle— crack —outside said (sweet ya’ don’t beat the Caterpillar jive)
· · an’ we was diggin’ ditches an’ shovelin’ mud an’ burnin’ faeces
so what are we ta’ the lone star? The same stock riff
· · ‘cause we was workin’ for the waste disposal company
wishin’ for that one boulevard ta’ bolt for this Bag Bog Cat
· · an’ we was wearin’ overalls an’ iron face an’ corduroy cap

Long uniform footfalls— stomp —down the Caterpillar door
· · an’ we was diggin’ ditches an’ shovelin’ mud an’ burnin’ faeces
low on blue horizon (first on the line) so comes the Glue Man
· · ‘cause we was workin’ for the waste disposal company
we thought we told ya’ Glue Man ta’ scat, scat Glue Man scat
· · an’ we was wearin’ overalls an’ iron face an’ corduroy cap

 

The Upstairs Food Court
(Andrew Galan)

Posted on December 1, 2011 by in Heightened Talk

 

Rubber tyre rolls

bain-marie aisles

grips heavy toddler

centrifugally snug

three kids run beside

reaching pushing

scream delight

across fluorescent tiles

tread bounces

down metal staircase

arm waves round’n’round

momentum carries

curry fur bear

a half loop

to ground

lady upstairs cries

drops at silver screen

where tall figures

wade ocean

with giant yellow sucking straws

one turns to audience

wide mouth whispers

“There’s something here.”

 

Duck Part 2 (Andrew Galan)

Posted on October 4, 2011 by in Heightened Talk

Two six-fingered blue arms loop around black, black, black boiling ink. It should not gawk; but with toes pigeoned around night’s dark dirt, the storm-cloud to salmon tulip is an open mouth, a bare lightning eye, and leg gloom paint. Amidst the stems, the thorns, the flowers, with venetian pupil, away marches mechanical periscope. And the birds look back as they move forward.

The small brown bird single-eyed throws up ack — ack — ack — blue, turns away, arches over thunder-head. The mono grey-eye hairy holds out his pea-cock gift that spews skin and dribbles agua as a whale gushes right across the sky behind a nearer hollow-eye grey owl; its tubular feather vision crimson within low-light sights. Amidst the stems, the thorns, the flowers, with venetian pupil, away marches mechanical periscope. And the birds look back as they move forward.

Her eye closed, blush ribbon on white neck in symmetry to tight stripe top, flesh firm under night air, lips parted, no smile, no grimace. His eye, agape with the jaw of the cetacean, brushes in long strokes that carve her shoulders. Her arms stretch the scene beyond her hips, toward lightning and thunder, toward a legless beggar dog droopy eared, tongue panting huh, huh, huh — red. Amidst the stems, the thorns, the flowers, with venetian pupil, away marches mechanical periscope. And the birds look back as they move forward.

The android duck turns back to speak: “Quack — quack — quack.” Fishnets taut from feet held in imaginary heels run up past the cloud over cherry bulb to stretch garters to thigh split skirt, the touch of her abdomen points down around the sky’s diamond. Amidst the stems, the thorns, the flowers, with venetian pupil, away marches mechanical periscope. And the birds look back as they move forward.

Spitting sea, grey owl carries away on head pink tulip bowl posies, its varicose eye does not see the star its beak eats, and the small brown bird, now alight the fowl-robot’s three prongs, speaks of a chocolate beanie clad canine’s grimace — menace — a blood background in the speech bubble. Amidst the stems, the thorns, the flowers, with venetian pupil, away marches mechanical periscope. And the birds look back as they move forward.

 

Where is the Werewolf?
(Andrew Galan)

Posted on September 3, 2011 by in Heightened Talk

 

 

What is going to be different this winter?
When vests are still in fashion
and I forget my hat
but remember my tie
that was how many years ago?

And it’s the same long feet
the same fake nose
the same peep-holes
the same tired green rows.
But at least no houses are on fire
and the pub
still has the same cider
though for a brief moment there, there was fear in the air.

And at work I still find the spiders and
and at work under the desk I still find the crunchy boogers and
and the roaches still run laps of the coffee cup rim and
and the cat
still looks the other way
while it licks its arse and
and manicured dreadlocks are still in vogue while
while the same old vampires jump me
and the buses go on strike
and the cops still fish the odd body from the lake.
But the Werewolf remains missing
I flick through these blocked pages
where is the Werewolf?

— But it doesn’t matter ‘cause they don’t distribute very far —

And at least no houses are on fire
and the pub
still has the same cider
though for a brief moment there, there was fear in the air
and it’s the same long feet
the same fake nose
the same peep-holes
the same tired green rows.

And the placeholders are the same
the plastic is the same
the printed words are the same
so the orders have to be
have to be
the same
the same chairs are on the floors
that are the same
these tiles are
they are the same
under this roof
that is the same
these pictures are

basically

the same
these letters are
they are the same
this meat pie, it is the same
this brick road, the same
dirty awning, the same
the same     one     too     many     anti-    biotics    the same
because Canberra
it is the same.

And so what?
What am I going to do different this winter?
What am I doing different this winter?
This winter,
what this winter’s different?
What this winter keeps me here?
Only one thing has me here
and has that changed a little
and changed me a little
and got me through more than one winter?

What’s different about this winter
this winter
with the same old old Vampires
the same missing missing Werewolf
the same roaches rim running?

Nothing, nothing is different this winter.
It is the same as last winter, the same.

But at least no houses are on fire
and the pub
still has the same cider
though for a brief moment there, there was fear in the air
and it’s the same long feet
the same fake nose
the same peep-holes
the same tired green rows.

 

The Mother Poem (Andrew Galan)

Posted on July 28, 2011 by in Heightened Talk

[In preparation you will need a photocopy or printout of this poem, a book or pieces of cardboard big enough to hold this poem, glue, and a wooden spoon. Paste the copy of this poem into the book or onto the cardboard so the poem can be held in one hand. Hide the spoon on your person; the back pocket is not a good place, you may sit on the spoon and break it. Put the cardboard or book with the poem into a bag. Take the bag with you to a poetry slam or open mic that has a microphone, mic stand and Public Address system. Sign-up to perform, find a chair, sit in the chair, await your turn. When it is your turn: in silence take the chair and place it before the mic stand, position the bag beside the chair, sit, test the chair’s comfort, take the time to arrange the mic stand to point down toward you so your mouth is over the top of the mike. Still silent, take the poem from the bag and arrange it in your lap; you should be able to look down at the poem and read into the mic simultaneously, don’t worry about making eye contact with the audience. Still silent, grip the poem with one hand, with your other hand flourish the spoon from hiding; begin to recite the non-italicised words while enacting those words italicised within the square brackets.]

My concept is: Mothers

 [With the wooden spoon start to hit your thigh repeatedly, hit hard and with rhythm — the sound should be loud, meaty, each hit should hurt.]

What are you doing

back there

in the shadows

[Keep hitting.]

in the bowels

in the bowl?

Snigger will you?

[Keep hitting.]

I think

you need

to understand

[Keep hitting, remember to hit hard.]

what it means

to be

in the wrong.

[Keep hitting.]

You do realise

what you have done

don’t you?

[Keep hitting — start to slowly push the microphone down with your mouth.]

The wrong

you have done

in your naughtiness?

[Keep hitting and keep pushing the microphone down with your mouth.]

If I thought

it would hurt

enough

[Keep hitting, keep pushing — start to pant, panting will help with the pain.]

I would say

come over

bend over

[Keep hitting, keep pushing until you are hunched over — keep panting.]

but instead

it is time

for the wheel.

[Keep hitting and panting until someone stops you.]