Coalcliff House

Coalcliff House
Ken Bolton & Sal Brereton standing beside house. Photo by Kurt Brereton (1980)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wollongong Poets' Ball 1979

Nigel Roberts

John Tranter

Sal Brereton

Kurt Brereton Denis Gallagher Claire O'Connor

Dorothy Porter


Ken Bolton
Photos by Rae Desmond Jones except top two by John Tranter

Thursday, May 20, 2010

coalcliff poems

The house stood

The house stood as though it had been washed there by an enormous tide.

Lodged above the tree line, between it and the escarpment

that rose directly behind it.

It stood weathered like a wooden raft. Still in one piece

but leaning gently in one corner.

The house had been weathered like the bare wood

growing out of the side of the cliff. Everything set at weird angles,

like the undersea frozen in a strong current.

Even the garden had something of a sunken quality to it.

as though, in order to find the existing form you might have to dig down

one foot- discover the original bones of plants

gleaned white by the moon.


Trains are shunting up and down the track. It’s early morning

and the hill cliffs beyond the road are hit by the first bits of sunlight.

A movement so slight, like the buzzing of a butterfly coming

closer to the ear.


Some construction sheds are erected across the road.

Little white ones that look like toys in comparison to the hill

that rises behind them.

I imagine what they must look like from the very top – more toy-like

probably. These sheds that have been constructed to house the thirty

or so men employed to build the new railway.


I spend too much time in front of the radio.

I hear the floorboards and I know you’re out there somewhere

drawing me into your place. Curling in the space between two large rocks

behind the sand dunes.

On the other side of the house, ocean-blue Pacific O.

Windows that open out suddenly to the extended relief of coastline.

There has been a significant change in the size and placement of the horizon.

The trees upon the hill are reflecting the sun as though they are made of

some resilient galvanized iron – they are reflecting the light everywhere in

strips of green.


I stayed up reading late. My light was the last one to go out

on the whole block. I checked.

And every now and then I leave this book in which i have been looking

for the last few hours, at poems etc… mostly not reading them

and go outside and piss over the verandah into the front garden.

Feel the cold creepy feel of August wind creeping up my bare legs and

looking up to the sky, which is unarguably full of stars and bright almost

full waning moon giving everything that moves a definite shape

that sways in what now is an energetic breeze.

Among the Living

alone in Ken’s house
it can be funny sometimes
when it’s late and you’re up
reading one of his books
from his endless collection of books

and all around you
the walls lined with the shrouds
of writers
lying next to each other
or on top of each other
or standing back to back
spine to spine

and thinking,
how some poets must be dead already
and some must be dying
and some must be living

and it makes me feel good
in a funny sort of way
to be still such a young writer
with so much yet to write about
and with such a long way to go.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the2nd half

Fantastic project. It really is worth exploring a place or a building that attracts energy/enthusiasms over a solid period of years.

I was a fairly regular visitor when Alan Jefferies was the bearer of the legacy (& yes, he deftly carried on the tradition that made the place so memorable). As before, the only constancy was words, music & friendship. Extraordinary.

The Coalcliff cottage was also a doorway for many of us to that mysteriously industrial city of Wollongong. Rae Jones was there, it had its own branch of the Poets Union -- oddly including pio who had split from the Melbourne branch. Five Islands Press & Scarp were yet to emerge.

The only time I visited when Ken & Sal were there was a time they weren't. Went down there with Donna Maegraith (sorry Laurie, she was a fine reader!) & Alan Jefferies. Pam Brown and Micky greeted us on arrival. A superbly relaxed night followed by a fragile morning. Donna and I went onto Burning Palms, another Illawarra place of resonance for a number of us.

A great mutual friend of Alan's and mine -- Mark Leabeater (artist muso and latterly poet) died some five years ago. His life has also been profoundly marked by the Coalcliff house. Some of his ashes were scattered on the rock platform down below & on the escarpment above.

More than once I've stopped at the site of the old cottage & had a couple of quiet for him & the succession of bright moments.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Here I come

Dear Coalcliffers,

Kurt has been after me for months to contribute to this blog: but I’m too inept technically to do it.

Well, except that I’ve finally broken thru, here, now: like the kid with trainer wheels, pushed by admiring — or doubtful — parents, skooting a few yards, legs trailing either side. Pitiful, isn’t it?

I’ve written a long essay that will introduce the show & will send you each your bit of it (yes, there is a cameo spot for each of you, in which you appear as I remember you. My memory is inept, too. So you may want me to change things. And I’ll do it, too, to a degree.

Last night I turned my room over to find a photo Sal wants because it features in a watercolour one of us painted showing our 1981 interior. If I find it it will verify the watercolour as ‘accurate’ — or will at least look amusing & ’curious’ if placed beside the watercolour. Which is what we intend to do.

Anyway, I still haven’t found the picture, but material we used as a table-cloth back then turned up. I had emailed Sal just the day before that, despite having kept it all this time, I thought I had thrown it out just recently. Possibly you will all be conducting similar searches soon.

“Hang on,” I hear you say, “I don’t recall them ever stretching to table-cloths!” It was just cheap material we bought as a bargain in Thirroul or somewhere. I don’t know why I kept it. Maybe it reminds me of Coalcliff.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

invitation letter

Dear all,

Ken Bolton will be sending out an invitation letter to you all next week asking for contributions to the book/catalog in more specific terms. We hope to have everything back to us by the end of October so we can start the production process. The show is coming along well. Ken and I had a good production meeting recently (ie when his book A Little Bit of Bop was launched in Sydney) and we are all excited to start compiling all the various contributions.

We have had no luck tracking down Erica Callan so if anyone knows where she is and a contact email etc please let us know. We want her involved if possible. thanks  Kurt