“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)





30 December 2014


George Grainger Aldridge wanted a poem about white for his friend Cathy White on the occasion of her completion of fifty laps of the sun  ... here they are on the veranda of the Spalding pub, which has one of the  world's best collections of types of barbed wire...

... and here's my poem:


most places I’ve been on Earth
there are people called White 
regardless of skin
every language has its own bright version

but unless somebody brings a prism
white hangs invisibly in blue sky
the perfect mixture of all other colours
morphing when it likes
through phantom shapes of aerial water and ice 
which may or may not choose to fall
to fill Lake Eyre with fish and pelicans or salt 
surge spume along a reach
make the friggin sand for chrissake 
the Ninety Mile Beach
deposit the limestone Mallee 
or smother Antarctica with ice

white concentrates in clays too
so clean it’s good enough for paint
and in the precise intensity of barite marble and talc
and the zillions of microscopic oysters
that make the cliffs of Dover
and the moist bright chalk of Chablis

somehow the oyster sucks the whiteness from water
and hardens it for a home
one dark old town in Japan knows this
the householders hurl their empty shells
onto the grey midden in the square
fifty feet of oysters towering over a waist-high fence
post and rail
they scratch the cured ones from beneath
hundreds of years they’ve been there
grind them up with boiled pig glue
and make exquisite faces for dolls
beyond pearlescent
pure white

in Australia you’d get a bag of fresh ones
take them up to Ashton Hills
guts them on the veranda with a Riesling
and hurl the spent shells into the vineyard for calcium
so your white from the sun via the sea
enters you through a glass of crisp austerity
leaves the teeth and attitude a-sparkle
and heads off through the black gizzards
and the porcelain to the deep
to eventually worm its way back into the blue
dance the whole crazy move again

it’s called pissing on

this is where the colour thing comes in
my black mates giggle when they call me Whitey
like a brother from Yothu Yindi mob
siphoning great reds into his silver pillow
in the Victorian Italianate apartment I could not afford
watched by a spellbound wine critic from London
on whose behalf
I put it all down to morbid anthropological fascination
and got on with the business
passing the guitar
having a schluck

my girlfriend had a fluffball maltese terrier called Oscar
he called it Ggurrrrnnnnakkk then said
White Cockatoo
he liked the contrast when he wore their feathers
them Yolgnu blokes could tell you a thing or two about middens

with love 
philip white

My beloved brother and teacher Jardine Kiwat at George Grainger Aldridge's joint at Glen Oak on the Druid Range, Flinders Ranges, South Australia ... photos Philip White

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