new zealand electronic poetry centre


Len Lye

online works


(The extraordinary nice thing about this plateau of quiet is the sun shines as usual and the 
smoke from previous grass clippings got around grave edges takes the usual wispy two 
steps upwards to one back as on my nice day down on the flats. Up here tombstones of 
language hold down sacred bones of bequeathed wit and word style. Some get out and 
wander about with the land of the living and over there a couple of stone carvers carve 
epitaphs for beer and talk pastime. Snatches of conversation drift about with the smoke 
and here Iím tending simply to grass in the place. Idle grass clipping doings on such days 
is steel, chlorophyl, sky, earth, dew and salts to the marrow and goes with poetic brain-
body magic). How do you do.
            A Celt and an Englishman the former forgetting the blood of the latter (could they 
be Dylan Thomas and William Blake) discuss the magic of style in word imagery. The 
latter carves words on a tombstone in a boneyard of english while the former dangles a 
cigarette on his lower talking-lip right-hand-clutching his tankard of beer. Could Lye clip 
grass ledges and mix manifold grass tips with wafted snatches of their conversation. Why 
not to both queries.
            For instance, is said the Joyce type of pure diffluent imagery is beautifully intactly 
lifted right from spontaneous mind-level first thought classical fluorescence, less bones 
than the gray matter irridation about it. No straight-jacketting into everyday workshop 
grammar either. Snip, snip, snip, the words are faluting as milky way constellations in 
flow of imagery. To the Blake its, "mitigated night custard", to the clipper its read in the 
grass tips at the urnís bottom, "interpolated litigation of archaic classics". To the Thomas 
who wags the cigarette of his lips in rejoinder its "Liffeyís for gravey as BBC moneyís for 
jam". The grass cremator says into the urn "Itís more like the smell of my green grass 
clippings growing freshly around the levitating hills and dales of old Dublinís pubsí doors, 
the hills sitting down inside with dimensional Irish humanness, shine on harvest oil of hair 
of peat pony and celtic heifer sweat of". Indeed.
            In contrast to pure diffluent type first thought after-the-ball-game flow of classic 
imagery is Steinís dear Gertrude of plastic plonk and oak word bank scrubbed clean and 
strata built pure Bach fugue stitched with buttons sewn in a big dutch of a room full of 
daylight all beamed by church buttresses to put one of a ward in a word rose to revolve 
around the top of a letterhead and book-root it not stationary but in a static image, no pot 
for the mental root of it, but for the toe of the mind to find.
            More like a lizard a grass clipper chews on his cud waiting for simple myth level of 
chlorophyl while word-cutters in stone continue engrossed in their serifs. Dust of words 
caught in their nostrils they stop to blow noses and chat and chip a bit. I spy the carved 
name Rimbaud on stone and see the camembert of visual dry wine precipitating my 
marrow by his youth in intense tang of feelings communed with as easily as clarity to the 
haze of a hillís base, the stark of a gallows arm, the dank of a woods in the mystery of 
wandering alone in the romantic commune of Nature very. And why not? in Latin.
            To fill a tankard and sharpen a chisel to continue the two come more drifts of their 
skipping about the heaven of language in rocks. The grass blade man cremates a few 
more grass tips a contented pariah without western culture in Greek or ivy but 
appreciative so far as it goes with the chemicals of his own cremations. He hears the 
splash of Gerard Manley Hopkins getting out of his window over the hill to strew his 
alphabetical stones along the banks of his monastery vistaís garden stream to make words 
to be seen as from a Roman-wise reclining elbow on a surplice, not of silk but of linen, to 
look down and read them on the bottom, sharp crystal clear words smoothed by spring 
water, some put in place by troutís nosings.
            Into the vast boneyard of tombstones to all men of imagery, unable to read a single 
epitaph, wanders the greatest troutnoser of all, itís an Australian Aboriginal. Whatís he 
want? It appears to Lye and his tsetse fly tied to a string the Abo wishes to wander to 
learn the bones of his own saying in keeping with the words on stone henges. For, as Lye 
with his fly lets it go a little and pulls it back a little, he hears him say, "WHAT IS IT 
fly casting and cremating his readings to ostensibly roll a cigarette but really wondering 
why the beauty and stone-blind strength of such aboriginal word-imagery, mentally 
necklacing the mindís ideas of walkings, are left out of the reckoning of epitaph carvers? 
Too many stained windows, too much albumen?
            "I beg your pardon", said this grass prospector, saying, locking a dictionary on its 
two lexicographical legs straight in the binding of itís A-Z-ing, "Listen dear Bookhead, 
one glance at your one standard of meanings and on reckons our civilization like yours and 
mine has gnawed at those big white bones of classic calcium quite long enough sucking up 
lime for our quills lo, and its ponderous bulk of domed learning". "Continue at once", said 
Bookhead. "K.O." said my tsetse fly. "Thou great smug brittle-boned Ö." "Lye, did you 
or your tsetse say that?" "I have no hair on my head and the fly with his hairy legs said it, 
so Iíll let him go again, and maybe pull it back too." "As one bookhead to a green-grass 
snipper, Iíd rather tape the world of the senses in strict awake logic than risk sleeping 
sickness, said the Dictionary. "OK", said I, "And youíre part of walking sticks for the 
bone in from-the-bone to-the-bone process. But, Sir, youíre not the myth of the land nor 
the gleam in the elements. No, youíre the one who gives us the wide-a-wake sickness." 
Bookhead snapped "Shut", embalm-pressing the tsetse, and wandered off to check all 
epitaphs for a ready reckoning of whoís who. Names were his unbidding.
            I stand to all names but respect more the deep freedom of imagery and all those 
wonders of individual expression in all cells of our hopes for plumbing the vastness of 
individuality Ė Absolute in aspects of all experience. In the Abo and the Islander of Seas, 
the Spanish and African caves. Carved on veldt rocks I see between the lexicographical 
legs of taped knowledge some deeper wisdom notched into our power to comprehend 
beyond epitaphs which only echo the grave of social sects in evolution. All man is all man 
from intuition to knowledge and back via his aesthetics. I would stand like a stonehenge 
and say looking between my eyes, "WHAT IS IT ROAD FOR US HERE ARE 


© Len Lye

Last updated 22 August, 2001