For Martin Harrison

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I met Martin Harrison some 12 years ago, and quickly found in him a mentoring-figure; indeed, he was almost immediate in offering kind words of advice about my writing.  The fact a complete stranger was sincere and direct in advice was so encouraging. My problem back then and for some time has been a lack of self-confidence.  Martin was a breath of fresh air and I’m sure like many people that his intellectual manner has touched and counselled it was obvious that he was an established wordsmith who hadn’t been moulded by an influential movement of poetic cliché. I didn’t consider Martin an intense or pedantic person, but an articulate thinker whose mind was a hive of activity; dynamic and non-mechanical. 

Natural instinct,
No parlour tricks or cliché,
Probing wild bee…

Sadly both flood and pestilence has claimed journals that I kept about short but interesting escapades with Martin.  The year 2005 was quite busy for both of us but this circuit of engagements we kept allowed time to be in the company of Martin’s ideas; however complex they were.  I relished the moments when he would discuss literary theory and put it to me; ‘Well, you remember what Appollinaire wrote about that, don’t you?”  And of course, I had no idea?  It was the generosity of his being that drew me to him.  Martin was inclusive. 

On a night in another lifetime, he took me to a headland outside of Coffs harbour and we discussed the use of coastal landmarks as ceremonial and midden grounds for First Nations peoples.  His love and passion for maintaining a connection, both physically and intellectually to landscapes was a vital ingredient of his writing regime.  We sat on the windy-bluff, veils of salty brine, contemplations of the viability in ghosts and ink. 

A fishing boat drones,
Pilot house fire-flies
Lost in dark waters…

It’s near impossible to teach a person how to write.  A majority of writers were born with storyteller’s syndrome, which is a collection of creative symptoms that will only cure with mentoring.   Martin was no troubadour.  He was a forensic tactician who wasted very few words.  His pages were multi-dimensional in dexterity and sensually alive with the written word.  He wanted readers to have a sensory experience, and liked to instil in those whom he counselled that the audience always came first.  Martin spoke a language that allowed me to accept my limitations and to also realise that so much was possible…the English dictionary will infinitely be full of unwritten manuscripts. 

Smelling and dancing,
The way of the wild bee
To attract kindred…

 Copyright © 2015 by Samuel Wagan Watson


Sam is a poet commissioned for the Rhyming The Dead Radio Series.

Winner of the 1999 David Unaipon Award for his volume of poetry Of Muse, Meandering and Midnight, Samuel Wagan Watson is a Brisbane-based writer and Public Art Project Manager. His first collection was Itinerant Blues and then followed by Hotel Bone. Most recently, his fourth collection, Smoke-Encrypted Whispers, won the 2005 NSW Premier's Literary Award for Book of the Year and Best Fiction.


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