Maria McMillan’s The Ski Flier: Nine thoughts




The Ski Flier  Maria McMillan, Victoria University Press, 2017



  1. The content’s page is in the shape of a mountain, in a book that lets mountains loom large along with little things like snowflakes, bread and goggles. Maria’s repeating mountain motif draws the bigger beyond, that is beautiful and mysterious, closer. Sometimes it is as though I enter a fable.


The mountain and sky push each

other but just enough so the mountain

is held up by the sky, and the sky

does not fall into the sea.


from ‘The Ski Flier’


  1. Unlikely things coexist and the connections are electric. In the first sequence, ‘Eleven,’ eleven poems comprise eleven lines each, and the real world is like the bony spine upon which curiosity hangs. ‘11.1’ juxtaposes a teapot, a cat and an All Black to illustrate the way we think in metaphors, or conversely, that ‘the teapot is only/ red to me and shines only like itself.’ The gap between the physical object and the thought hosts the eyes of the cats that ‘appear brilliant, appear blind,’ in the light. The poem puts me on a thought loop and I love it.


‘11.3’ leapfrogs from dream static to the body as satellite and this time the loop is heart. The other dreams her uniformed children go to war:


(..) and my sadness is larger

than my ability to take them to some

place hidden by the sheer force of my fury

and I wake knowing myself ordinary

and afraid.


The leapfrog movement, like a musing mind alighting on this and then that, takes you to a satellite base which leads to this strange and genius ending:


(..) Our lives

so many small signals that could no longer

fall onto the ground and receive rain and rot.


  1. The first lines are little hooks: ‘I, myself, have always wanted to be a

monster’ ‘There will be no mountains in this poem/ only people walking along footpaths in flat cities.’ ‘Whoever knows my name/ knows the sky was dark.’


  1. The last lines are spinning tops: ‘All your troubles sluiced off you./ You were sycamore leaf and hot standing foal.’ ‘They can see a long way in any direction/ but there is nothing to see.’ ‘I wake each morning as one buried.’


  1. Dragons stalk the pages with tough days on their backs or querulous children or mountains beneath them. ‘The dragon is as least as likely as our cat.’


  1. Music changes key; introduces different harmonies and counterpoints.


  1. Daily life hides and reveals so that you feel something sharp:


By breakfast you’d remembered how we were all cruel

and the starry jacket I bought you was wrong.

Every room is painted the spectacular colour of your yelling.


  1. Boundaries are porous. Ideas are at work here, and so is heart. This becomes that and that becomes this. It is as though the world is driven movement:


(…) And

there is a movement when they pass,

the snow and the ski flier,

each taking on the character of the other.


  1. Reading this book lets you into the domestic fracas and then sits you on a mountain to review the sky. It is a puzzle and it pays homage to magnificent things, and is one of the knottiest and most alluring reads I have read in ages. I keep going back to find different pathways through its poetry thicket because each route is rich in rewards.



Victoria University Press author page

1 thought on “Maria McMillan’s The Ski Flier: Nine thoughts

  1. Pingback: Poets on Tour: Airini Beautrais and Maria McMillan | NZ Poetry Shelf

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