Poetry Posse: Northland’s only performance poetry troupe.
Michael Botur has curated a suite of poems from Northland/ Te Tai Tokerau poets to showcase on Poetry Shelf. There are four here – but there easily could have been ten representing a vibrant and vital poetry scene. I grew up in Northland – its soil is in my blood and bones and every time I hit the top of the Brynderwyn Range I feel home and at home. This is where I first started writing poems, where James K Baxter stood on the Kamo High School stage a week or so before he died, where I discovered Hone Tuwhare in the school library. To get a poetry line to what is happening now, so many decades later, gave me goosebumps. Kia ora.
Two poems from Vivian Thonger
Gardening with grandmother
for Elizabeth Bishop
Child, stove in
in bed, secretly:
stove in her bed,
her teacup, her almanac. Bed
the tears, black the stove,
brown the bread.
Man the kettle,
iron the buttons. Time
the clever dark tea,
marvel with crayons
on the pathway.
House old jokes,
winding moons. Dance
like rain on another
hot old, failing old roof. Carefully
her up, birdlike.
Plant her out
in chilly September.
Stop hey what’s that sound? (Haruru sonnet)
An engine throbs over hills to the north.
I expect the farmer in his 4×4
to crest in silhouette, cattle cantering ahead,
dog barks and bull bellows trailing
the procession of cutesy cutouts.
The hill is still. The engine revs. Perhaps
a ‘copter’s hurtling to the beach,
to hoist aboard a battered kayaker
coughed up onshore, his empty craft bobbing
off among the rocks, hijacked by dolphins.
Wrong. A plane emerges, shades of WW2,
twin vapour plumes expand and blanket
gorseflower culverts full of yellow cheer.
Roundup, not romance. I’m new here.
Vivian Thonger is a Kerikeri poet, writer, performer, actor and musician with degrees in psychology and creative writing. Member of Northland’s Poetry Posse; regular participant at Whangarei’s monthly Dirty Word event. Poetry published in Offshoots 13+14, Fast Fibres 2,3,4+5. See here.
Two poems from Piet Nieuwland
Walking to the sea to breathe
We go at dusk, dark
Waves coloured copper, emerald
Take refuge in the night, your voice
Between the mirror and the mirror
Stars taught me to write
A new semantic in light playing on the warp
And abra cloud silk wind weft
Its dialect, weightless as
Oceanic neutrinos and spring jasmines on
A path to nowhere that overflows
With kisses and bejewelled aureoles
Laughing a luminescent charm
Those kaleidoscope eyes, chocolate
In a garden of pomegranate and orange
Tulips and amaranth, blood
In the clay of our flesh
© Piet Nieuwland
An Indium Morning
Between Te Whara and Paepae o Tū
Pohutukawa elbows knotted
With an asymptotic curve of fine holocene sands
Taonga islands drifting through a sifting, shifting lens
Where we landed,
Cloud caverns of frontal activity loom
A spring tide in spring pulls the dunes down
Ice plants melt in the white sun
In a season of fires
A red kete, red tee shirt
Ebony bikini, blushing cheeks
Red billed gull quartet
He korero, plays the ivory surf
The fertile ocean carved whakairo
Into literatures of foam and air
A pizzicato for children
Ngaruaroha, her cello, violins
Trembling like the toiling clouds
Haere mai te kara
Ka nuku nuku
Ka neke neke
© Piet Nieuwland
Piet Nieuwland has poems and flash fiction appear in numerous print and online journals published in New Zealand, Australia, United States of America, and Canada. He is a performance poet, book reviewer, edits Fast Fibres Poetry and lives near Whangarei.
Two poems from Vaughan Gunson
This won’t be news to you,
but it’s always worth noting, scribbling on a tablet
those times when you’re snug
with the world, like an Avocado stone
inside the pale green oily flesh of the fruit
and I don’t know
whether to extend this idea into a neat
or twisted metaphor about life
and the tree with an egg-shaped fruit
with skin like an Armadillo’s shell, even though
I’ve never touched an Armadillo, being
just the first thing that came to me, and maybe
I’m starting at the beginning of the alphabet
are often just the start of something,
like that philosophical treatise you’re confident
will be the last word on Schopenhauer.
That’s what it feels like when you begin writing,
thinking you have all the answers.
Or maybe it’s like having the very best sex
after the very best conversation
when you ascend into each other
and then it’s over,
that philosophical treatise didn’t even last a page,
and no comparison was made
between loving life right now
and a fruit or animal starting with the letter ‘B’.
© Vaughan Gunson
Detouring, if on hunch, taken perhaps by a message imbedded on a faded sign,
which invites you, in an old fashioned way,
to leave the criss-crossed tourist route
to sail along a wide street, used once
by carriages and proper women in white
embroidered dresses, and barefooted kids
in collars; a temporary stretch of bitumen
and stone, before the mud and puddles
return, that our quiet ancestors knew
in their distant photos, who looked down
more often to the unevenness of ground
we’ve strived to flatten. Look both ways
at the easy floating trees and timbered walls―
you won’t see our rough desires and coarse
pleasures; the blistering from all we polish.
© Vaughan Gunson
Vaughan Gunson lives in Hikurangi, north of Whangarei. He’s an occasional writer of poems and a regular columnist on light and heavy matters for the Northern Advocate newspaper. A small selection of poems and columns can be found here.
Two poems from Michael Botur
Don’t Look Down
Don’t look down, maintain your tightrope traipse
Ignore that you’re a blob on a rock in space
And a slim Darwinian coinflip made you exist in the first place.
This race of ruthless apes frustrates, so keep the faith.
Don’t look down when you can’t keep chill about the daycare and doctor’s bills
When all your friends seem to be on Bondi Beach holidays, eating Instragram canapes
When prices rise like a flooding tide and your income ain’t gone up since two thousand five
A millennial, with fuck-all, everything seems to scream without a home loan for property that’s overpriced you won’t survive.
Don’t look down and doubt your little miracles. They’ll light your day with rainbow fingerpaint
Then go from gleeful squeals to meningococcal in the brain whether or not you pray
But don’t conclude the earth’s a black and unforgiving place
With earthquakes and fates undeserved; it worsens if you look down and lose faith.
Some days nice guys finish thousandth place while snakes get to golden parachute away
Other days you wake and the news is nothing but nooses, another Robin Williams gone,
another Bourdain, Cornell or Chester Bennington.
Water and air are free but there’s no land left to live on.
Survive your tightrope life. Don’t let malice upset your balance.
Leave imposter syndrome at home. Pour your hearts out on Wednesdays to strangers on a stage.
Recycle. Exercise. Admire the skyline. Be grateful for rain.
Don’t let WINZ get under your skin. Don’t scream at redneck Letters to the Editor in vain
Balance pride in the left hand, regrets on the right
Good times behind, and eyes on the other side.
© Michael Botur
Somebody To Smoke With
I sat the Friday night in a Subaru
in a car park with male ape mates in oversized
t-shirts sucking on pipes
Just for somebody to smoke with
Did three weeks sweaty sunburned work
pushing a post hole borer in the dirt
with an ex-con who shared his pipe,
wet with spit from our lips.
At knock-off we said Fuck it, wiped ourselves down
with a paint-stiffened towel,
shared a bucket of crunchy KFC motivated by munchies,
washed it down with cans of bourbon cola Cody’s
pleased to have a bro to share a cone and a Family Feast. We
grown men make out like we are staunch, strong, chill, unafraid
like we ain’t at pains to get laid and praised
cause we could get hit by a bus any day
Men in their 30s, 40s, 50s. Men in matching patches, hoodies,
Men in rugby stubbies. Men in cycle-lycra.
Men having mid-life crises.
Men ram-raiding Unichem pharmacies
at 4.15 on a Thursday morning, squealing tyres and guilty pleas
And getting bulldogs and BPs tattooed on our cheeks
Consigning us to a life we can’t come back from,
like tryina climb a hydroslide
All cause we wanted somebody to be a bloke with
To feel less alone, somebody to smoke with.
© Michael Botur
Michael Botur, born 1984, is of Polish and British ancestry, hails from Christchurch and lives in Whangarei. He has published one novel, five short story collections and tonnes of journalism.