Dear Tombs, Dear Horizon, Anna Jackson, Seraph Press, 2017
Anna wrote this hand-stitched chapbook in Menton, France when she held the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship in 2016. The long poem savours time to write in the slow stretch of the present participle: walking, dreaming, seeing, reading, writing and more walking. Such leisurely engagement with books read, the world sighted and thoughts that appear like surprising musical notes renders the poem lento, adagio, largo.
For the reader to be caught in such a contemplative beat is immensely satisfying. The physical world simmers on the line while the abstract world, both dreamed and mused, shines below and above.
Sun on the coast, sun on my back, but
the mountains dark with cloud,
misty down to the ground, and higher
up, stormy. The shadow of my hand
on the page as I write, writing
inside my own shadow.
The poem steps off from graffiti witnessed on rocks: ‘You are my most lovely horizon’. Each experience, thought, recalled page or vista steps off into the mysterious elsewhere of thinking, and from the elsewhere of thinking into the paradoxical here yet elsewhere of writing. The horizon is the translucent line where Mediterranean sky meets Mediterranean sea, a sensual hook of beauty that stalls the walker, but it is also the indefinable lure that poses a need to write, to think, to experience. It is Katherine Mansfield, the other authors, the conversations that stick, the not-home-ness that becomes a home-ness.
I am thinking of the way the doorstep at Villa Isola Bella leads to the corner of a Vermeer painting and the poem produces a mise en abyme of looking. Stillness matters: the long pleasurable look into the corner of a painting becomes the long pleasurable look into the corner of a poem where detail stockpiles and sparks daydream.
At the Villa Isola Bella, my favourite place
is the doorstep, on the corner where a spider
grooms itself on the mottled buttery
yellow stone, beside the eggshell blue
door frame, and the terracotta tiles.
It is like finding myself in a corner
of a Vermeer interior, a detail
closer up than a Vermeer painting
has ever gone, so that with all the stillness
on the canvas, there is this corner
so close up, the spider moves.
Therein lies the beauty of this sequence: in stillness you find movement and in movement you find stillness.
I adore this poem because it takes me to an unfamiliar physical place, yet allows me to ride the coat tails of a roving, inquisitive mind. Such curiosity fires the writing process. I am reminded of the way Bill Manhire produced his astonishing collection, Lifted, after his Menton Fellowship with its gift of time. Anna has a new collection in the pipeline but, in the meantime, this is a must-read treasure, also in debt to the gift of time. I don’t want to unpick the curves, arcs and echoes in the poem, the illuminations and the epiphanies, because I want you to read it for yourself. I just love it.
A ticket simply to go, or to go and to return?
Oh, to return, to return, to return,
to return, to return. I walk once again
méthode flâneusoise around
the coast and the graffiti
reads, “Ma plus belle horizon, c’est toi.”
I wonder how to turn the dream about the
tombs into a poem. I think of
starting the poem “Dear Tombs,” and
wonder whether perhaps I should
try writing the poem
in terza rima. Really I just want
to pile into it everything I have got.
Seraph Press page
gate-crashes your lunch
through an opening
in the bus shelter wall
it salts your chips
makes you squeeze
the tomato sauce out of your words
onto the battered fish
the butcher’s paper
grabs the name of your crush
and coats it with the hot oil
before the wind blows it
through the door of the Metrolink bus
you mouth feed the seagulls
©Mere Taito, The Light and dark in Our Stuff (2017)
Mere introduces herself at the start of her debut poetry book – a book that I like very much indeed.
‘The island of Rotuma is my ancestral-mapiga (grandmother) home. It looks like a whale on Google Earth. Fiji is my I-grew-up here-home and New Zealand, my right-now home. I moved to New Zealand in 2007 because my father ‘talked up’ this country – he said it was a great country to live in. Except for winter, I have no reason to believe otherwise.’
The book is a book of two halves; five dark poems and five light poems. I have read it twice, sitting on the beach at the end of my run, finding the shift from dark to light sparking even sharper in a dramatic setting. Mere offers music, challenges, an attentive eye and heart, and it feels like a little guidebook to living. On this particular occasion, in this particular way. Wonderful.
So with this poem, and permission from Mere, a warm seasonal, poetry toast to you all!
Dear poetry fans
Thank you so much for your support this year: your contributions, emails, invitations, challenges and poetry conversations!
I still have a sizable tower of New Zealand poetry books I have been sent this year and I am keen to read them over the next few months. Poetry seems to have got a bit more attention in 2017 or am I imagining it? I started Poetry Shelf because it felt like so many local arrivals vanished into the ether and I’d stumble upon them by chance. Reviews were few and far between. However, it feels like we are part of myriad poetry communities that are doing myriad things in diverse ways, with distinctive voices, and these connections matter.
Yesterday I finished a major draft of my book on NZ women’s poetry – and I just don’t have the time to write an end of year set of crackers and tinsel. This year I am not posting the annual monster roundup by local poetry fans of favourite reads from any time and any place. Next year the blog will spark back into renewed action, but I will post little pieces to highlight my summer poetry delights as I can.
Thank you for sending books. I might not write about them all, but I will read them all and definitely showcase some.
I am about to a post a poem from a little book that caught my attention as my Happy Summer time toast to you all.
Meanwhile I am taking a week out to reboot with novels, movies, the garden and early morning runs and swims on the beach – not to mention long periods gazing at the sky.
A “powerful, restrained but unafraid” collection of poems that explore the lives of four generations of Māori women has been awarded the 2017 Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing by Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML).
Tayi Tibble, 22, wrote the winning work—In a Fish Tank Filled with Pink Light—as part of her 2017 Master of Arts (MA) at the IIML.
Tayi describes winning the Adam Foundation Prize as incredibly encouraging. “It was a privilege and a pleasure to have spent the year so deeply immersed in the world of writing with such talented, intelligent, and generous friends. I believe it was the high calibre of work from my peers that stimulated my growth as a writer, as well as the guidance and encouragement from Louise Wallace and Chris Price. Although I am sad to see the end of this invaluable year, winning the Adam Foundation Prize signals the beginning of a new chapter.”
Wellington-born Tayi (Te Whānau a Apanui/Ngāti Porou) went to school in Porirua and holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Social Policy from Victoria. She has regularly appeared in Wellington’s LitCrawl Festival, and her work has been published in Starling—the journal for writers under 25—and Landfall.
Supported by Wellingtonians Denis and Verna Adam through the Victoria University Foundation, the $3,000 Adam Foundation Prize is awarded annually to an outstanding student in the MA in Creative Writing programme at the IIML.
Chris Price, a senior lecturer at the IIML and co-convenor of this year’s Master’s programme, says it’s been a pleasure to read the poems as they have developed over the course of the year.
“Tayi is an ambitious writer who has seized every opportunity to extend her craft and her range of subject matter. Her poems speak to contemporary urban realities, and to the histories that created them. They are also charming, funny and on point.”
This is the second year running that the Adam Foundation Prize has gone to a 22-year-old writer, after Annaleese Jochems’ novel Baby received the prize in 2016.
“Tayi joins the incoming wave of young writers who are forging the future of literature in this country. We are confident she will make her mark,” says Chris.
Previous Adam Foundation Prize recipients include acclaimed authors Catherine Chidgey, Ashleigh Young, Hera Lindsay Bird and Eleanor Catton.