Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Fiona Farrell picks Paula Green’s ‘Glenburn’

 

Glenburn

 

Even in the face of an icy wind, the stillness

dazzles us, and we journey south to the dulcet honey.

He falls silent, the din left destitute, far

from the hive. The sound of his laugh, it rises

and becomes music, a vein of sun that is in him

 

like a mountain. Appearances remain objects of barter.

All the calm. All that fury. We cross a threshold

to witness the unbidden cloud. Our chamber of words

sweetened as if made of honey or beeswax,

for we arrive at last, the smell now in him of hive.

 

We will eat bread and cheese, forgetting the northern

city, the pull of the ocean. He moves with his sight

fixed on stillness, finding a fickle appearance

like a star behind slow speech. All that fury. All that calm.

Where will we find the scale of love? The journey south

 

undoes the mountain of cloud. His own incubus

the riddle that is land. We are certain that buildings

will appear in the stillness, kept alive by our eyes.

 

Paula Green

from Crosswind, Auckland University Press, 2004. Also published in Dear Heart: 150 NZ Love Poems, Random House, 2012.

 

Note from Fiona Farrell

My favourite poem? I had enough trouble selecting 25 recently for the IIML annual anthology.

So, a single poem? Should it be one that has repeatedly popped into my head at odd intervals over many years, a single line, a phrase, one of those little handgrips that keeps me from falling? Should it be a poem that belongs so strongly to a time I like going back to in my mind, that it arrives fully packed and tagged to memory? Or the one that touched me so much because it was a gift from a friend and unexpected and it said something I loved hearing? Or the one that was very old and strange? Or the one that made something I knew well gleam with newness so I noticed it again as if it was for the first time? Or the one I read this morning that has left the day feeling just great?

I’ll go with that: Paula Green’s ‘Glenburn’ because it speaks to the strangeness I feel moving to Otago again after many years absence. And to the feeling of discovering it – and it might as well be for the first time – in the company of someone I love who has other eyes to bring to the journey south. And to my knowledge of Michael Hight’s paintings of beehives, so there is an illustration – not any one painting, but many – lurking beside the words.

And it speaks too to a feeling that’s been growing steadily since I came here, that it’s all so fragile, this beautiful golden south. Last night I talked to a woman fighting subdivisions in Arrowtown. ‘It’s going,’ she said. ‘Queenstown, and Wanaka and Arrowtown and the lakes.’ Pockmarked with 400 house subdivisions, an airport proposal which could go anywhere, hotels and resorts and dairy conversions.

This poem of Paula’s makes me think about love: for people and for a landscape.

 

 

Fiona Farrell publishes fiction, non-fiction, poetry and drama. She lived for many years at Otanerito on Banks Peninsula but has moved recently to Dunedin.

Paula Green has just published two new poetry collections (Groovy Fish, The Cuba Press) and (The Track, Seraph Press) with Wild Honey: Reading NZ Women’s Poetry (Massey University Press) out early August.

 

 

 

 

 

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