“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





25 April 2013



Wine tasting

the dead-weight of years crushing down, down,
largely destructive,
yet has crushed from these barren lives
a wine we'll call Australian,
since no tariff has been paid.
Taste it. Not bitter
but with the dust of the outback
prominent. Slide it around the palate.
See with what rosy light
the chandelier blazes through this blood you
suckle on. Consider the delicate
bouquet of revolution
it was a good year for martyrs.
Jan Palach lit up half the silent east with his death agonies
taste the ashes you thought were sediment
from long storage it is hard
to forget. Remember too the vintners
whose feet trod flat the grapes,
trod flat the barbed wire at Lone Pine
so the press could sing,
sing of "significant advances", a selflessness.
Taste it at V. C. Corner,
how many heroes then trod flat the fields to grow
the grapes you think you taste.
An amusing little vintage, you call it,
vampires of humanity,
from your penthouse the world is beautiful
the filth of streets is far below
the dead cannot be smelt unless the wind changes
bringing you the sound of death of city solitudes
of labourers returning home exhausted
from factories you control. You
suck their lives away, their spirit,
an amusing little wine.
They toil that you can celebrate your profits,
play aristo with some amusing friends
drawn from the ranks of profiteers, scuttling
from Europe to get near the cash,
jetting from Texas to pick up the pennies
better men would scorn to touch.
It was a good year, you say, the auditors agree
inside a wilderness a hermit
listens/the change he speaks of to the world
will come; dare you face it?

Michael Dransfield
Windhover, 1972

When Michael wrote this poem during some stolen Hunter Shiraz in the Blue Mountains on ANZAC day I realised one could write about wine. And then a year later on Good Friday he was dead, and I was suddenly aware of the brutality of such shit. You can read 398 of his beautiful poems here.

Australia has never had a poet to come within an inch of him.

 If my grainy memory serves me correctly, poetry editor Rodney Hall first published Wine Tasting in The Australian (!) on the ANZAC day following Michael Dransfield's death on Good Friday, 1973.   For a biography of Michael, and to read a grand collection of his published poems, go to Australian Poetry Library.  Apologies for the fuzzy portrait - sharp focus in those drug-hazed days was something more likely found in the young bard's poetry. To discover the meaning of ANZAC Day, click here.


‏@BirdCageOpen said...

@whiteswine if I never read anything again in my life after that, I'll be content

Respectful Skeptic Seppo said...

Is that a grimace or a grin? Looks set-up to me!

Philip White said...

Presuming you refer to the top photograph, I think that if it is indeed a set-up, and it is a grin, it's simply more tragic: Aussie diggers laughing as they rehearse their own dismal deaths for the camera.