Poetry Shelf fascinations: Tony Beyer’s Friday Prayers

 

the moon’s reflected path on water

leads only to the moon

from ‘Island time’ Friday Prayers Cold Hub Press, 2019

 

 

For some poets poetry is a form of contemplation – a bridge to the unreachable sublime, a way of achieving inner equilibrium, even stillness amidst the arrival of words – regardless of the boundaries you push, regardless of pressing issues or wayward circumstances. Writing and reading poetry can be rewardingly untethered – a way to activate cells, to follow trails with only the haziest of maps.

For some of us poetry is something as both readers and writers we cannot do without. For me poetry is my anchor, my flotation device, my equilibrium.

This year has produced a glorious crop of poetry published in Aotearoa, some of which has been reviewed elsewhere and some which has not. I have over 30 books on my shelf I am dead keen to share over summer.

I have picked out Tony Beyer’s Friday Prayers and the chapbook fills me with joy. Everything washes to the side and I am there with the words on the page, the trails and bridges that lead beyond the font and white paper to how we live our lives, how we absorb the world.

This is a human-rich view: there’s a ghost city under Christchurch, the possibility of wisdom, broken buildings, daily chores, the chives planted, sheets on the line, a poem wending its mysterious way into being.

This is a human-rich view: ‘Crusade’ replays a rugby game with breathless momentum until full time.  The final kick though is the polemical question for the pack of gladiators and supporters.  How far does our respect and empathy go when it comes to the currency of a word?

 

so is Sam Whitelock

taking it on the chin

a gladiator

the Crusaders

threatened with losing their name

did it proud

 

The collection’s title poem, ‘Friday prayers’, is a response to the Christchurch massacre – it opens its arms wide. Its explicit call to how we proceed underlines how little bad behaviours born out of indifference or ignorance count and are ‘not small’. The last page makes me weep.

 

I know I

and those I love

living and dead

have done these things

and it must cease

children in my classroom

eagerly anticipated

the before and after

feasts of Eid

and wrote stories about them

the blood on the mosque floor

is human blood

like that of Christ

or of countless

helpless bystanders

everything we love

songs prayers

our children’s faces

and their children’s

gone in a gunshot

 

 

Tony’s book moves in multiple directions, traversing everyday experience with both heart and insight while facing catastrophic events both politically and personally. The overall effect is one of sublime fluency. I read this book and I am tipped into a state of profound contemplation and I am glad of it. Thank you.

 

Cold Hub Press author page

Tony’s previous collection Anchor Stone was a finalist in the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards for Poetry (Cold Hub Press 2018). He lives in Taranaki.

 

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