Starting At Basheer’s represents in part a determined ‘tightening up’ of the language and sentiment brought to the author’s work. In this book the author responds to growing tensions and growing animosities felt in Australian society: bleakly reductivist withdrawals of sympathy, and of automatic goodwill, are tested, examined and worked around. The poems have unusual virtues in this respect: a kind of ‘realism’ in dealing with ideas, an exciting openness to the social world and the extension of an empathy that seems genuine because hard won. Even the most serious of these poems seems open, too, to playfulness & aesthetic opportunism—jokes, rapid shifts of direction and attention, allusions to popular culture and to literature and the visual arts.
Starting At Basheer’s is continuous with Ken Bolton’s work in its themes and areas of interest—characterized by the poems’ resolve to think through experiences, issues, social, ethical and aesthetic problems, using the lens of the everyday. At the same time the poems refuse to preclude any one register—high, low, or middling, the casual and the seriously proposed, the specialist and the amateur. At all times the ‘Self’, the ‘citizen, is weighed and judged in the light of the imagined Other.
Thoughtful—and yet forgetful, easily distracted, hardly there sometimes—Ken Bolton’s is a lyrical figure limned against the harsh outlines, the stark colours, of the Adelaide art world, adding a word here, a thought there, in the general flux of words and deeds around town, and something of a moodily romantic figure within the dun Australian literary scene, his name inevitably conjuring perhaps that best known image of him, bow-tie askew, lipstick-smeared, grinning cheerfully, at the wheel of his 1957 Jaguar D-type, El Cid. Born in Sydney in 1949 he is associated with the Experimental Art Foundation in Adelaide where he ran the Dark Horsey bookshop & edited Little Esther books.
Ken Bolton, Starting at Basheer's
2018. 148mm x 210mm. 150pp.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.