Friday, 25 April 2014

On Three Portraits, the Young Poet, the Politician, the Old Philosopher…

(photo from unknown light source)

By Jason B.R. Maxwell,
29th March 2013.
Bachelor of Art student,
Curtin University.

“…its group mind, it’s one of the means that’s available to us of attaining group mind and there’s a lot I think in there that’s akin to a religion, there’s a religious dimension to this…”
(Di’Stephano, Poetic Interview 27.4.13)

The Young Poet:
If Tigga, Mr. Happy and Raa Raa the Lion were all one character in a series made for some childishly
strange hippy reality TV network, the poet I know as Ben Andrews or ‘tigs’ would be him. A smiling
yet gentle and charismatic gentleman-hippy of the Belgrave poetry and performing arts scene, it can
truly be said that people and auric sunshine seem to exude from the very space around him. This of
course, for a poet like me, an urchin, dark-eyed and hermit like, hardly able to remember a friends
name let alone how to truly smile without obscene paranoia , makes me jealous as…

But of course, as poetry is always a civilized, social game, it’s quite natural and easy to forgive him.
Especially since anyone offering easy, associative barrel-fire-on-the-street type friendships are like
gold mines of paranoia break free, both essential and human…. Even before I round the cold-day –
ghost screaming corner, I know he’ll be there at the door, short and kid-like, his old special jeans
lent against the café, champion ruby roll drifting smoke into the wind, old top hat casually held out
to collect the door fee, those huge signature blond woolly lamb-chop-cheeks bending with each free
smile, waiting for the poets to come from their dark corners...

 It seems, no matter how strange, how completely wild or weird, he welcomes them all
and knows them all. With an easy few words, a few easy hugs, he’s excited as a bounce about any
topic, protest, world reincarnation, permaculture (especially permaculture) even weather boredom
and sharp barb wire subjects like ‘whether one should even bother voting in a capitalistic age such as
 ours’ never drops, for there truly is a tapestry of every moment about him, weaving and weaving
the hacky sack of each conversation around the circles that gather in the crisp fog breath air. 

As the milling and the flow of feet take us to the warmer bar and he stays behind smoking with a few
friends, it’s a little obvious I’m torn between conversation and poetic duty to perform first, but we
finish up an impossibly large concept of a borderless world with an ease that is ever so slightly
astonishing in its synchronicity “thank god poetry has no borders” and I can only smile at the insane
truth of it and join the crazy Salvadore Dali ant march down the eighties gloss white stairwell, too
bright, too quiet again. When I see him again, he’s like some high school rebel, fashionably late, the
convenor has to call him, assuming with comedic value, the teachers role “tigs, your on man!” And
he bounds down the stairs with a red-cheeked puff-goof-pause on the landing, everyone including
me laughs when he says with a big open cheese “hi…” and it’s obviously as a butterfly on a bears
face, he’s well known by everyone here. 

It shows in the start to his poetry too. No stuttered mumbling awkward introductions or grand-
standing his place in any world, no useless droning monologues about his day spent lounging at the
café shop laughing at tourists, just casually flicking back his shoulder length fringe and straight into
it. Poetry about Lego, about the art of play, about life…

The Politician…
Rest? What is this rest you speak of? This, I imagine, is the motto of Local Councillor Samantha Dunn.
Searching for her titled name brings up 37,300 results by Bing Australia and 39,000 by Yahoo
Australia (Bing, 2013, Yahoo, 2013). Taking out the white noise from these searches, it is
clear from almost any of them that her name keeps finding itself in all the right places.  In the local
hip “Burrinja Arts Centre” website (Burrinja, 2013) for instance, under the section
labelled ‘Committee,’ her generous biography firmly entrenches her character in the lush
Dandenong Ranges.  Lived in the area “since she was eight” she has been elected councillor for
Lyster Ward 2 terms running and it is clear that she “feels a profound connection with the area”
(Burrinja, 2013).

Especially since she has so many positions within this vibrant community; chairperson of the Eastern
Transport Coalition since 2009, chairperson of the President of the Victorian Local Governance
Association since 2011, she’s also the council’s face for the Monbulk Aquatic Centre Project, the now
complete Sherbrooke Children and Family Centre Project, Monbulk Soccer Project, Flora and Fauna
Strategy, Municipal Emergency Management Planning Committee, Graffiti Advisory Group and the
Shire's Advocacy Group, clearly, a passionate woman! (Burrinja, 2013)

On her blog she promises to better public transport, make more pathways for walking and cycling,
build a new community hub for Belgrave, make more funding available to tackle weeds, make safer
streets and roads, and encouraging business and innovation and to make peace on earth with
whatever aspect of herself she has left (Dunn, 2013). On her recent election to
the VLGA, federal Greens member Jo Tenner said “Samantha has the skills and energy to provide a
strong voice for the people of Eastern Victoria” (The Greens, 2013).

Of her politics, Cr. Dunn believes like many that “people are tired of the old parties and their broken
promises, the Greens represent honest hard working democracy and a just transition to a
sustainable future for us all,” (The Greens, 2013)  And honest hard working
democracy runs thick in her blood.  In her work with the “No Maccas in Tecoma” group for instance,
against an inappropriate VCAT approved planning permit to build in the local town of Tecoma, she is
a most vehement force of nature in opposing the build along-side other councillors, who also
opposed the build unanimously  (Dunn, 2013). 

Yet her campaign against the McDonalds intrusive build is not just an enactment of Greens inspired
Democratic process, there is a practical side as well. On her blog for instance, she mentions a whole
range of planning problems with the project, not least of which is the intense traffic and road
planning on Burwood Hwy that is “a recipe for disaster if you ask me, however as VicRoads have
signed off on it and they are the roads authority there is no avenue to overturn this”
(Dunn, 2013). 

However, while big business have the lawyers and the money, her vehement attention to detail,
incredible powers of initiative and go get ‘em attitude, Cr. Samantha Dunn is clearly force to be
reckoned with and any company seeking to further thwart the democratic process on her watch will
have a fight on their hands that’s for sure. For if I’ve learnt anything from my research into this
woman, it seems Cr. Dunn for the sake of peace, promises to never let rest enter her vocabulary, not
even once…

The Old Philosopher…
There was an eerie barking quietness about the start to my Interview with Zen-full, Osteopathic
healer and scholar of poetry Vince De’Stephano.  Almost an aura of fear expressed in a young
dog that punctuated, fear of a stranger in his big open house about to unleash a storm of
deep psyche in his owner. A storm that turned out to be a wise, hard earned poetic philosophy
juxtaposed with a painful and passionate Sicilian family history.

Yet the dog calmed down eventually and we then went into the largely wooden kitchen where we
set up the equipment. My first question was aimed at framing how he was introduced to poetry, to
which he casually replies “by an older fellow [Peter] when I was asked to paint a church where he
lived … I was amazed by his ability and vast store house of poetic phrases drawn from great
poets that he would drop into our conversation all the time” and this story clearly brings up a
warmth within him as he smiles and leans back, almost punctuating my visions with his stares. 

While I listen to him talking of this man who was also a man working with disabled youth, I get a
poetic vision of them, mighty warrior-medics on the battle field of life, fighting to save troubled
youths in careless, cold institutions.  Yet as he further explains his humanity in philosophy, it is clear
that poetry and healing seem intimately linked.  For he reflects from 30 years of clinical practice,
that it has “brought me face to face with the truth of human suffering, [that] scratch any life and it
bleeds, but it’s only close, patient, caring contact with people where truth is revealed”.

From there the interview takes a rather darker turn with a question of family influences, a turn
towards his own human sufferings through anger, dissatisfaction and a yin and yang polarity
between his father and mother. He describes with stoic expression, how his father spent two years
carrying a machine gun in North Africa and spent four years in a Scottish war camp. In comparison
his mother had always dreamed of joining a convent and was a softer “spiritual woman” whom was
shocked by the reality of his father, a man that “totally shook her existential foundations in a way
that I don’t think she really came back from…” for she died suddenly from a stroke after they moved
to Australia from Sicily.

As I listen I see not only the visible pain in his expressions, but the visionary experience that Vince
pours out from the sudden nature of her death. For he describes how, shortly after her death, his
father read to his family for the first time ever from a Bible, the psalms of David; “as though he was
recounting and retelling the story we had already lived and that we were to live more fully” and how
it was “completely beyond linear time where the images, the sounds, the tones were all familiar …
like a old Lama performing death rights”. After this painful moment in their lives he told how his
father softened and mourned for months if not years, but “there was [still] a core of anger and that
core was never really dissipated. And that was related to the un-satisfactoriness that he felt and at
the core of that anger.” And from that lesson I believe there is this statement: “I suppose what
prompted me at the time [to write and perform poetry] was a sense of mortality and by mortality I
mean that sense of what is it that we leave behind”
…. And then the storm was over…

Reference List:

Bing. (2013). Search results: Cr. Samantha Dunn, accessed 28th April 2013: q=Cr.+Samantha+Dunn&qs=n&form=QBLH&filt=all&pq=cr.+samantha+dunn&sc=1-17&sp=-1&sk=.
Burrinja. (2013). Burrinja Committee: Cr. Samantha Dunn, accessed 28th April 2013:
 Dunn, Samantha Cr. (2013). The official Blog of Cr. Samantha Dunn shire of Yarra Ranges, Accessed          28th April 2013: 
The Greens. (2013). Country Greens Victoria Network, accessed 28th April 2013:        
Yahoo. (2013). Search results: Cr. Samantha Dunn, accessed 28th April 2013:            ;_ylt=A0oGkmWxZINRtR4A5XsL5gt.?p=Cr.+Samantha+Du                  nn&fr2=sb-top&fr=yfp-t-501&type_param=&rd=r2

No comments:

Post a Comment