Wearne and his mates

By Rhonda Dredge

The world might have become more tonal but our poets still have an ear for the old vernacular. We were an upfront lot who didn’t leave much to the imagination.

Alan Wearne, in his latest book These Things are Real, is blunt, threadbare and sardonic – forever the lad.

The old guard was there, at Collected Works, to launch his collection.

While a cut above the teller of the shaggy dog story, these keepers of the word do not suffer fools gladly. You have to be a swift talker to get a freebie to review.

It’s pay as you go for Wearne and his mates. Get it down. Churn it out. You can’t afford to be lazy.

“Alan inhabits a city,” says fellow poet Phil Salom. “Poets think they must describe things. Alan writes districts. He channels us, the local, and creates our own folklore.”

Collected Works in the Nicholas Building is the place to go if you want a serve. The bookshop is authentic, loves nostalgia and is a hang-out for poetic types who are not afraid of the spoken word.

Many of those at the September do were also at the launch of Wearne’s prize-winning Nightmarkets, which won the Banjo award in 1986.

“Alan is a speaker of our speaking rather than a visualiser,” said Salom, launching the book. He picks up our turn of phrase with “unadulterated and uncanny accuracy”.

In the verse narrative They Came to Moorabbin, Keith, one of those post-war husbands who is a wiz at accounts, calls the widow Nance “Toots” when he visits to give her a hand with her figures.

In Anger Management: a South Coast Tale, Wearne shows narrative sensitivity when he delves into the world of single mums and musos, a potent mix of drinking and hopelessness.

These first two poems in the collection have the status of mini-novels, says Salom, in the way they get close to characters: “If, in single motherhood there’s chaos, some days though are blessed.”

After that, the book plummets into private school dross, a hotbed of raging hormones, altars, prejudice and midnight roots, to finally re-emerge into the contemporary writing scene with its preference for in-jokes and personalised asides.

On the way, there are some treats for the reader. In The Ballade of Easy Listening, the poet muses on what ever happened to Roberta Flack.

“It’s farewell pap and welcome cack with so much AM radio selling out to vox pop yak.”

In Memoires of a one time EDFL Seconds Boundary Umpire the narrator, with an ego twice as large as Asia, reflects on the humiliations of the job: “Your role is anything but major, deadshits, son, run the boundary line …”

For those who missed the experience of a Wearne launch there will be readings from The Sarsaparilla Writers Centre Section of the book at Compass Pizza in Lygon Street at 5.30 on October 8.

Alan Wearne, These Things are Real, Giramondo Publishing Company, 2017.

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