Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Nick Whittock’s new cricket poetry The Doon

Last year, Nick Whittock sent me a copy of his latest cricket poetry book called The Doon, an exchange for a copy of Michael O’Leary’s Out of It that I published. It’s taken me a while to get on to it, but here’s a brief review of the book.

Review of The Doon by Nick Whittock (Vagabond Press, Australia, 2012)

Whittock is the author of the superb Covers, a collection of his very imaginative cricket poetry, one of my favourite cricket books. I’ve interviewed him previously for this blog on Covers.
The Doon, beautifully produced with Kay Orchison cover design/b/w artwork, is his follow up to Covers. It is a saddle-stapled chapbook by Vagabond Press in Sydney, Australia. It is a limited edition, a rare cricket and poetry book. My copy is No. 28 of 100 copies.
The cover sports an old, antique cricket bat, and ‘Doon’ in the title is presumably a play on ‘Don’ as in Don Bradman.
Bradman or his myth features in several of the poems here.
There are seven poems in total, including the poem ‘Don Bradman’. I first included that piece in A Tingling Catch in 2010. It is a monologue by a cricket spectator and recommends Ross Taylor as a ‘good fucking batsman’. As a Kiwi, I agree. It goes on to make comments about Twenty 20:

problem with 2020s not that it
dumbsdown cricket or its techniques
(in fact it enhances them all)
but the dumbing down of commentary…

Whittock’s technique is cut-up and Modernist, an element of Dada art involved. This can make the poems not as accessible as some other cricket poetry out there. The poetry texts require several readings to elucidate their ‘meanings’ and the jokes about beer are fair dinkum Australian, from the Rodney Marsh to David Boon era of the ’70s/’80s.
Throughout, the poems examine a contemporary Australian Bradman/Beeradman cultural myth effectively.
‘clara 81’ from Whittock’s Clara series (alluding to Brian Lara/Michael Clarke/Lara Bingle) reads like an elegy for former Australian captain Kim Hughes as ‘the people he could never be’. My favourite is ‘0s’ a poem about noughts in the scoresheet, published in the Sun Herald in Sydney in 2009. It ends by alluding to David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’: ‘blobs just for one day’.
The book concludes with the long, rambling ‘shane watson: becoming opening’ about Watto’s adventures as an opener. The poem conjures pithy one-liners, puns and word-play and fine imagery of a match v Pakistan (Yousuf, Akmal & Co). With plenty of clever allusions to Ricky Ponting, Stuart Law and Michael Clarke in the second section, it is rewarding.
I’ll end with the funniest poem here from a Kiwi perspective called ‘don bradmans wildly successful tour of nz’, a touring/holiday incident about camping in the Bay of Islands:


don bradmans wildly succesful tour of nz

which cuntre ya callin cunt cunt
road trip to the baymarie of islands
minivan shadows tarmac
bob                    dylans a mothership

samuel becketts a mechanism
for opening
bottles scenerys cameras horse
                   stands on the earth

birds stand on the horse
things we cant see stand on the bird
n smaller things ride petes train
in the abscence of bathmats                   we stand on towels

the navigating was fucked
a crotchless cap for dickheads w
aids all over m penis w
unknotted condom                                  ooh! interesting soil
                                                              are you learning?

Poem © Nick Whittock, 2012

Anyone interested in the real Don Bradman’s 1932 visit to New Zealand, a similarly unrewarding spectacle, can read my blog article on it. Thanks to Nick for letting me reproduce the poem.
Copies of The Doon may be hard to get but the best bet is to try obtaining the book from Vagabond Press (

About Vagabond Press: “Independent Literary Press since 1999. Based in Sydney and Tokyo, Vagabond Press is dedicated to promoting new writing in Asia Pacific. Over our first ten years we published many of the key emerging voices in Australian poetry. Over the next ten years we aim to publish and promote new prose, poetry and criticism from Asia Pacific.”

Review © Mark Pirie 2013

The Doon by Nick Whittock
(Vagabond Press, 2012)