Rhian and Robyn
You know that something is going on when the café is not just packed, but has a crowd three-deep along the back wall. The Dog with Two Tails Café and Bar in Dunedin is usually full for the Octagon Poetry Collective’s monthly readings. But for the March readings, I was the host, and I knew that the word had gone out. I knew that people were juggling dates in their diaries to be there. They’d told me. And the reason was the same for all – Rhian Gallagher.
I was as aware as anyone that Rhian hadn’t read in public for a while, and so was feeling chuffed that she’d accepted my invitation to be one of my two featured poets in March. My second guest was Robyn Maree Pickens, a young poet, less well-known, but with a growing history of publication and a growing local following. Some of the crowd had come to hear Robyn as well.
From a host’s point of view, one of the many advantages of featuring much loved poets, is that other poets turn up in numbers, and the quality of the open mic readings is pretty impressive. This Wednesday night, it was great. We encourage new readers. Established poets also take their turn at the mic and set a standard that lifts everyone’s game. Over time, you can hear wobbly beginners develop confidence and an individual, deft use of words.
I divided the evening in two. After the first half of open mic readings I introduced Robyn. When I’d invited her to read, she’d expressed doubts that her work was ‘good enough’. I had no such doubts. She’d also said how nervous she was. Well, on the night, it didn’t show. Her poise was flawless, or looked that way to an outside observer. The standard of her poetry, and the way she presented it earned well-deserved hearty applause from a poetically discriminating crowd. Robyn Maree Pickens. Watch out for that name.
Then more open mic readers, a break, and time to introduce Rhian. People settled. People hushed. Rhian has a kind of reserve about her. She will undoubtedly think this report is over-blown. It ain’t. Her voice is quiet, measured, and the reserve means that she almost removes herself, and the words take over. And suyes. Rhian Gallagher is an exceptional poet. She finished reading. No one wanted to leave.
Carolyn McCurdie 2017
Into the Blue Light
for Kate Vercoe
I’m walking above myself in the blue light
indecently blue above the bay with its walk-on-water skin
here is the Kilmog slumping seaward
and the men in their high-vis vests
pouring tar and metal on gaping wounds
the last repair broke free; the highway doesn’t want
to lie still, none of us want to be
where we are exactly but somewhere else
bending and arrowing
the track a tree’s ascent, kaikawaka! hold on
to the growing power, sun igniting little shouts against my eyeballs
and clouds come from Australia
hunkering over the Tasman with their strange accent
‘get out the sky mate!’ I’m high as a wing tip
where the aches meet the bliss
summit rocks exploding with lichen and moss –
little soft fellas suckered to a groove
bloom and bloom – the track isn’t content
©Rhian Gallager 2017
All the way
To whet a structure like this:
a temple; a palace; a tomb;
I bring my roosting being down
from an adjacent planetary system,
and feel the dew lining each blade
I offer fresh pineapple chunks
and pointy rose quartz crystals,
twelve distinct species of lichen,
and a harvest of fine salmon bones.
I bend unpruned effusion; quiver
like a minnow free; become human sap
that slips out the side of the mountain.
I smell what bees taste; feel my forehead
crease into the occasional sun; greet
the raindrop that finds my eyelid; trace
the soft down dune of your neck; drift
into immense fields of information:
microbial, arboreal, mycorrhizal. Palpating
organs that bring salt to the pore; lift
heat from the asphalt; hold the glisten
in an ear of corn.
Till we are limbed-loose and I live all
the way through to you; tendered
to the meat-earth; to the black peat;
the mantling mica, oracular bracken, ur-apple.
Craving, lifting into this flowering temple.
with an end, flax rattling their sabres,
tussock like miles of heads
drying their hair in the stiff southeasterly; the track wants to go on
forever because it comes to nothing
but the blue light. I’m going out, out
out into the blue light, walking above myself.
©Robyn Maree Pickens