It is well known that Elvis never toured internationally because his Dutch-born manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, believed that if he (Parker) ever left the United States, he would never leave the world, and Australia was no exception, where a healthy fascination with the king is still very strong. Every year for Elvis’ birthday around 30,000 Australian Elvis impersonators come to the small rural town of Parkes for the Parkes Elvis Festival. In its 28th year, the festival will host over 200 events over five days.
The Elvis Festival in Parkes
Unfortunately, not all Australians’ passion for Elvis translates into such happy events. After enduring as long as possible and fearing the worst, I recently saw Australian director Baz Luhrmann’s biopic of Elvis, for which I feel it my patriotic duty to apologize.
As an olive branch, I offer The Biography of Elvis by Claire Nashar, a Sydney-born poet who is completing her Ph.D. at the University of Buffalo and has two volumes of poetry to her name: Lake (2016) and Handmade (2015). Nashar’s poem adds sometimes absurd and fantastic, often intimate and mundane details (all hearsay) to the bloated legend of Elvis. To me, these speculations, no louder than murmurs, seem far more worthy inclusions in Elvis’ story than Mr. Lurhmann’s over-the-top theatrics.
Biography of Elvis
(after Mark Leidner)
It is said that Elvis can shoot a tire from twelve meters away.
They say it was because he was missing a tiny bone
in each of his wrists.
They say that as he sweated the inside of his clothes
were gilded, and if they were gilded, they were
like rainbows or supernovae.
It is said that Elvis had a knack for birds.
They say this explains the mob of ornithologists who tried
to kill him in Georgia.
They say so once after watching a group of Grays fly
Elvis predicted the rise and fall of the Spice Girls with pigeons.
They say if you hear Blue Suede Shoes backwards, that’s it
what it says.
It is said that as a child Elvis often saw the spirit of a dog
who had been shot in the head.
It is said that when he was older he drank Dom Peringon just like that
They say he once lived in Alaska in a spare log cabin with a
potbelly oven and watched movies about pilgrims
the television sets he collected will be to the people
Home with presidents and game show hosts.
It is said that he once visited Sydney, Australia, but I am not sure
I believe that.
They say that Elvis never lied.
They say that he married for love.
They say that when his heart broke for the first time, he invented a dance move
so sad it would break everyone else’s heart forever but it did
He was so scared that he died without ever showing anyone.
They say Elvis was born a lion, but that’s the end of it
it didn’t matter.
They say if he was born an insect he would be
would have made a great bumblebee.
They say if Elvis was born a fruiting tree
he would have been a Santa Rosa plum.
They say if Elvis had never been born at all Michael Jackson
should have invented him from plasticine
and chux cloths and to breathe the breath of life
into his tiny open mouth.
All in all, they say that Elvis was a very sad man at times.
They say that after Michael Jackson brought him to life
Elvis cried and cried and cried.
They say he hasn’t moved much to this day
They say he had a twin brother who died in childbirth
in a cabin in Mississippi, above
the biographers tend to agree.
That’s what they always say when he’s checked out of a hotel
He would write a warm letter to the cleaners of this hotel
message on the special hotel stationery and sign it
with a swipe of the special hotel pin that follows
he would sometimes, but always absent-mindedly,
put in his pocket.
"streams of spring" by Philip Met [Introduced by Thomas Moody]