LONNIE’S LAMENT, the latest collection of poems by Ken Bolton, was recently published by Wakefield Press. Bolton has been a major figure in the Australian poetry and experimental writing scene for decades. Whilst he says that he writes ‘to keep awake, and amused’, this latest collection is yet another reminder of how wonderful a writer he is.
This rather small and slim book is in four sections. Most are new poems, some have been published in other collections before. They are incisively written often as stream of consciousness poems.
The pieces are lyrical, thoughtful, dreamily associative and easily distracting. Bolton reflects on life in ‘difficult times’ and tries to capture how recognize the feeling of changing from one era to another, describing it as being like, ‘a history of the vanishing present’. The poems explore how we define ourselves and how we think we are perceived by others.
There is a great use of the senses in his . Some of the poems are short – only a few lines – others are several pages in length. There are many references to other poets, art, artists, films and books. Bolton’s poems question the meaning and purpose of life and death.
Bolton’s poems with their loose rhythms and sudden shifts jump fluidly between Europe and Australia – mainly Sydney and Adelaide- and there is repeated mention of a favourite Greek restaurant Bolton used to frequent.
The book’s first section consists of three poems. The opening extended poem 2/12/08– A Poem for Philip Whalen meditates not just on Whalen and his work but on Bolton’s father’s World War 2 service. There are references to many artists including Grace Cossington-Smith, the Bauhaus, Rembrandt, Kirchner, and Apollinaire.
Life is a series of short couplets over several pages reflecting on the brevity of life, the passing of time and the passing of important loves in Bolton’s life.
The Funnies uses comics as a springboard for social comment and analysis.
The book’s second section is entitled September Poems and comprises thirteen poems. Poems range from The Palm , where the exploding burst of fronds and the Ent- like ‘ tree-ness’ of the palm is captured to The Blues which is a meditation on inspiration and travel. Geography is visually and aurally sharp and evocative.
Rooftop Apartment is written with a painter’s eyes and love of detail. West Hampstead captures the feelings brought up when Australians catch up far from home.
The third section consists of five poems. New Way of Worrying is a stream of consciousness poem – should he be worrying about Life? Old friends he hasn’t seen for ages? He observes other people and speculates about what they are worrying about.
It also captures other people he is observing and their possible worries.
Train Tripping has plenty of Australian references and is about eavesdropping on people’s conversations.
September Song is about the writing of a poem with dreams of giving a lecture on poetry.
What’s Best distills images of a flower and the moon. or is a streetlight?, interspersed with reflections on his partner Cath’s writing.
The final section – All New Tunes – opens with Spirits – which jumps between Sydney and Surfers Paradise and Bolton’s favourite Greek restaurant. Drink and the muse are invoked as are the spirits of old friends.
Maybe For You twists standard expectations of gender and identity and looks at ways of reading and comprehending a poem. There are also many musical references too.
30:11;12 concerns stylistic decisions in Adelaide and Fewer Pages is another exuberant yet thoughtful riff on reading, art and dogs.
You would be able to read this book in one sitting but my recommendation is to read/savour only a few poems at a time, and then have the pleasure of returning to the book at a later time and having another very enjoyable session.