Martin Johnston/Bloomsday Literary Walk
Sunday 20 June 2.30 to 5.00 pm.
To register and receive the program, email Nadia at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hurry, numbers strictly limited!
More on Martin Johnston....
If Greece has The Odyssey and Dublin Ulysses, then Sydney has Cicada Gambit
Martin Johnston was one of Australia’s leading poets of the generation that came to the fore in the 1960s. Indeed he inherited quite a literary pedigree from author parents George Johnston and Charmian Clift.
A passionate advocate for literary and experimental writing, Martin regarded Ulysses as one of the benchmarks of twentieth century fiction. His island childhood off Greece’s Peloponnesian coast meant he had a natural affinity to the maritime adventures of Homer’s Odysseus, many of which became metaphors for Joyce’s Ulysses.
Martin celebrated Bloomsday every year. His 1972 Bloomsday party in a ramshackle flat in Enmore has gone down in legend because the laden brick-and-board bookshelves collapsed, nearly wiping out the assembled poets and drinkers of the Inner West.
Naturally, when Martin himself came to write a novel, it was in part an homage to Bloomsday. He called it Cicada Gambit. A number of scenes were devoted to the comical and ill-fated attempts of character Dr Skogg to celebrate 16 June in the streets and pubs of Sydney by attempting to recreate scenes from Ulysses, notably the Cyclops, Nausicaa and Circe episodes. Cicada Gambit was published by Hale & Iremonger in 1983 but is now out of print.
By 16 June 1990, Martin’s alcoholism had pretty much reached the point of no-return when he set about his annual Bloomsday binge at his local pub. Suffering a collapse, he was taken by ambulance to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, where the triage nurses tried to check his comprehension level by asking him what day it was.
"It is Mr Bloom’s day," Martin insisted in his precisely pedantic voice. The nurses, who obviously did not know the significance of June 16, thought he was rambling.
Sadly, a few days later, Martin died.
Last year, on the thirtieth anniversary of his death, Nadia Wheatley (Martin’s literary executor) and Vivienne Latham (Martin’s copyright holder) developed a memorial website and launched a new selection of his poems, Beautiful Objects, published by Ligature (www.martinjohnstonpoet.com).
This year, they are planning a literary walk through Newtown. Along the way, short readings of Bloomsday scenes from Cicada Gambit will take place at sites featured in the novel.
At the beginning and midpoint of the walk, there will be opportunities for refreshments, and we will finish up at a local pub for a drink in memory of Martin and Mr Bloom. Some of us will stay on for a pub meal.