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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Book Recommendation: Henry Denander The Loulaki Bar & other poems from Hydra. Miskwabik Press, Calumet, Michigan, 2009 (68 pages).

I have read most of Denander’s poetry and this is probably my favourite collection because it combines his poetry with his beautiful watercolour sketches. The Swedish writer and painter lives in Stockholm but has spent the last dozen or so summers on the Greek Island of Hydra.
The title poem ‘The Loulaki Bar’ recalls an incident in 1988 when Leonard Cohen was in the small Hydra bar sitting with his girlfriend at the next table.

The poetry is largely anecdotal and centred on Denander’s every day experiences on the island: obtaining a post office box with the help of a friend, his wife’s fascination with insecticides, his reflections on Greek priests & on a sleeping man while waiting to catch a ferry in Hydra, how his neighbour Barba Yannis helps him with his garden, how his family is befriending the neighbouring cats, his dealings with the local tradesmen, his thoughts on retirement and the like. The writing is simple, minimalistic, self-deprecatory & creates a vibrant sense of what it is like for Denander to live with his family & friends within the Hydra community.

In the Foreword, the great American poet Gerald Locklin presciently writes, “I now consider any product of his creativity in any form to qualify as an instant collector’s item. In terms of The Loulaki Bar this is certain as the collection appears to be now out of print.


Comments on Henry Denander’s site:

Poet Hound includes the poems ‘Cipporo’, ‘The Flood’ and ‘Basic Philosophy’ from the collection here:

Thursday, September 4, 2014


In 2011 the NSW police released a four minute clip of alcohol fuelled street brawls on You Tube taken from Wollongong Council CCTV footage. The images are stark and brutally confronting. The fighting is desperate and animal like in its fury. All of the combatants are young men and they drunkenly scramble to lash out and punch and kick with the intent of causing serious harm.

In one fight in the Crown Street Mall, a young man spars with and then trips his opponent. He violently kicks the fallen man about the head and torso until he himself is king hit. In another, outside the Harp Hotel on Corrimal Street, bikies strike each other & in the mayhem a bouncer chases a much smaller man and tackles & punches him to the concrete. In another film sequence, a man has wrestled a young bloke to the ground in the mall and squats on his chest. He pins his arms with his legs and every four or five seconds thunders a right hook into different sections of his face.

Pub violence in Wollongong

WARNING: GRAPHIC FOOTAGE NSW Police Association have released this graphic CCTV vision of pub violence in the Wollongong CBD

(I apologise for the annoying ads- I try to keep BM ad free- but this was the best footage I could find) 
(I apologise for the annoying ads- I try to keep BM ad free- but this was the clearest footage I could find)

In my head I have my own film sequence of the horror beatings and mindless fights I have witnessed over the years. A man in a pony tail is grabbed from behind and his head is viciously slammed five or six times into a juke box at the Surrey Hills Hotel. A pool cue is smashed across the face of a young man and the broken shaft speared into his thigh. A fresh-faced lad refuses to give a bloke out on parole a cigarette and is glassed repeatedly with a jagged picture of beer. Another bloke, a semi-professional football player with a wired jaw, is king hit as he emerges from a toilet.

I try to suppress these images but they are always there lurking just below the surface. Sure they are part of the job but incidents of extreme, often random violence, can have a cumulative effect on you. It is difficult to relax. You wonder who is going to cop it next. Will it be you? Sometimes even minor isolated fist fights can ring alarm bells and make you want to throw in the towel.

Don’t get me wrong. Fights can be entertaining and mildly amusing, especially if you do not have to break them up. It’s the cheap shots, the nasty lunatics and thugs out for a random bashing who ruin it for everyone else. If you have been in the game long enough, you realise at the end of the day there is no romance, no warm & fuzzies about the industry- just vomit and shit and opportunist deadshits, who like wild animals, derive cruel thrills out of beating some poor sucker senseless.