Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Sally Blundell picks poems

These are poems chosen in lockdown. Perhaps it shows. They are rooted in one place, with an eye on a flickering, shifting other. Ruth France, who died in 1968, finds herself between ‘headlands we did not know were headlands’ – France mastered the art of dislocation, her experience never quite fitted the map. Bernadette Hall’s twist in the tale, her superb tripwire, gives the land the upper hand, puts us in our place. Simone Kaho’s Blues holds the dream of music success just beyond the horizon of island time and an alcohol-fuelled bender. Rhian Gallagher is in that other place, of foreign sounds and welcome anonymity. Selina Tusitala Marsh’s perfunctory dismissal of ‘Jimmy’ Cook from his step on the podium of our history; Richard Langston’s gentle last rites for a roadkill seabird; the charged adolescent hopes in Airini Beautrais’ The Library – from our masked up, emptied spaces, these are Apirana Taylor’s reasons for writing: the richness of the land given to the poor.

Sally Blundell

The Poems

Near Hurunui

It is surprising, not far from home, to discover
An unknown, a shy bay where the water is very blue.


Where the road comes in through the bush
Casually, and arrives with no rush

But just comes there, beside the beach.
Where the headlands we did not know were headlands reach

Blue-shadowed into the the blue sea, stealing
Each from the other as an old remembered song


Of Greek islands lost, a long time ago.
There is a a feeling here of sleep, too

Many completed times we did not have part in,
And a strangeness as of other gods than our own

Walking among these hills. It is good in some ways
To come at evening back over the high ranges

Towards our own land, to leave such shadows behind us,
And feel tired, as though we have been a long way.

Ruth France

from No Traveller Returns: The selected poems of Ruth France, ed. Robert McLean, Cold Hub Press, 2020

The River Whau

for Linda

 

she tells me how her big desire
is to capture the River Whau

every day she sends me another photo

here is the river in gold dust
here is the river in ice        here is the river in mist
as it twists the sweet daily bread of language

who can explain the mystery of desire?

now, we’ve both been captured by the River Whau

Bernadette Hall

from The Ponies (Victoria University Press, 2007).

Poem note:  The Whau estuary is in Kelston. Auckland. The quotation is from Janet Frame’s poem, ‘I Write Surrounded by Poets’, from The Goose Bath (Random House, 2006)   

Blues

Andy Blues, man, soul man
let’s jam to the view
Do you want a cup of tea brother?
How did we get home last night?

Nah – good call good call.
Things have moved on man
it’s another day.
I’d give you that cat if it was mine
I swear sister.
Nah I’m Sāmoan, mainly Sāmoan.
My woman – she saved me
I like to think of her as an angel
I haven’t seen her all weekend

she doesn’t like to see me when I am on a bender.
Don’t you know who I am?
I’m Andy Blues
I’m gonna make it big in the UK
and come back and buy this street.
Yeah that’s what I said on Police Ten 7
haha cos they said You’ve got to turn it down sir
but here drink this sis

you gotta hydrate all the time
on the island.
That’s it
have a big long drink.

Simone Kaho

from Lucky Punch, Anahera Press, 2016

Abroad

I

Your own voice comes back at you
accentuating the rise
as if scaling a staircase of sound,
and everything here goes the other way round.
Everything you say is in question.

II

For the first time in your life
you feel free of your story,
walking street after street
in a city that is layered with history.
You are alone; you are in a zone of millions.
Anonymity shines down on you
from a sky so unclear
after years you will still not know
its true colour.

III

The islands shimmer against damp red brick,
flaunting their best appearances:
wild mountains & rivers & sea.
A tape in your head
plays the earliest memories. That girl,
you mother says, where she has gone?

Rhian Gallagher

from Shift, Auckland University Press, 2011

Breaking Up With Captain Cook on Our 250th Anniversary

Dear Jimmy,

It’s not you, it’s me.

Well,
maybe it is you.

We’ve both changed.

When I first met you
you were my change.

Well, your ride
the Endeavour
was anyway
on my 50-cent coin.

Your handsome face
was plastered everywhere.

On money
on stamps
on all my world maps.

You were so Christian
you were second to Jesus
and both of you
came to save us.

But I’ve changed.

We need to see other people
other perspectives
other world views.

We’ve grown apart.

I need space.

We’re just at different points
in our lives —

compass points

that is.

I need to find myself
and I can’t do that with you
hanging around all the time.

Posters, book covers, tea cozies
every year, every anniversary.

You’re a legend.

I don’t know the real you
(your wife did burn all your personal papers
but that’s beside the point.)

I don’t think you’ve ever really seen me.

You’re too wrapped up in discovery.

I’m sorry
but there just isn’t room
in my life
for the two of you right now:

you and your drama
your possessive colonising Empire.

We’re worlds apart.

I just don’t want to be in a thing right now.

Besides, my friends don’t like you.

And I can’t break up with my them so …

Selina Tusitala Marsh

from Ko Aotearoa Tātou: We Are New Zealand An Anthology, eds Michelle Elvy, Paula Morris & James Norcliffe, Otago University Press, 2020

Seabird

I have not forgotten that seabird,
the one I saw with its wings
stretched across the hard road.

One eye open,
one closed.
I wanted to walk past,

but the road is no place
for a burial –
I picked it up by the wings

took it to the
water & floated it
out to sea,

which was of no use
to the bird. It had ceased.
I like to think someone

was coaching me in the small,
never futile art,
of gentleness.

Richard Langston

from Five O’Clock Shadows, The Cuba Press, 2020

The library


The library is full of people looking for love. At the
sound of footsteps approaching, a boy turns around with
a meaningful glance, and casually slips a pencil behind his
ear. Girls pause on the landings, clutching armfuls of books
to their breasts. Sometimes, you feel sorry for these people.
You wish this wasn’t happening. All you want is a book,
and all the shelves are filled with eyes of longing.

Airini Beautrais

from Secret Heart, Victoria University Press, 2006

To write

to write of the mountains
to write of the rivers
to write of the lakes
to write of the seas
to write of the land
to write for the poor
that is the dream

Apirana Taylor

from Ko Aotearoa Tātou: We Are New Zealand An Anthology, eds Michelle Elvy, Paula Morris & James Norcliffe, Otago University Press, 2020

Sally Blundell is a freelance journalist and writer in Ōtautahi Christchurch. She holds a PhD from the University of Canterbury. She was books and culture editor for the NZ Listener and a judge (fiction) in the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She was awarded MPA journalist of the year in 2020 and was runner up as reviewer of the year in this year’s Voyager Media Awards.

Airini Beautrais lives in Whanganui and is the author of four poetry collections and a collection of short fiction. Her most recent poetry collection is Flow: Whanganui River Poems (VUP 2017). Bug Week and Other Stories recently won the Ockham NZ Book Fiction Award 2021.

Ruth France (1913–68) published two novels: The Race (1958), which won the New Zealand Literary Fund’s Award for Achievement, and Ice Cold River (1961); and two volumes of poetry: Unwilling Pilgrim (1955) and The Halting Place (1961), under the pseudonym Paul Henderson. Poems from a third collection, which remained in manuscript at the time of her death, are published as No Traveller Returns: The Selected poems of Ruth France (Cold Hub Press, 2020).

Rhian Gallagher’s first poetry collection Salt Water Creek (Enitharmon Press, 2003) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for First Collection. In 2008 she received the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. Her second poetry collection Shift, (Auckland University Press 2011, Enitharmon Press, UK, 2012) won the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry. A collaborative work, Freda: Freda Du Faur, Southern Alps, 1909-1913, was produced with printer Sarah M. Smith and printmaker Lynn Taylor in 2016 (Otakou Press). Rhian was the Robert Burns Fellow in 2018. Her most recent poetry collection Far-Flung was published by Auckland University Press in 2020.

Bernadette Hall lives in the Hurunui, North Canterbury. She retired from high-school teaching in 2005 in order to embrace a writing life. Fancy Dancing is her eleventh collection of poetry (VUP, 2020). In 2015 she was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for literary achievement in poetry and in 2017 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Richard Langston is a poet, television director, and writer. Five O’Clock Shadows is his sixth book of poems. His previous books are Things Lay in Pieces (2012), The Trouble Lamp (2009), The Newspaper Poems (2007), Henry, Come See the Blue (2005), and Boy (2003). He also writes about NZ music and posts interviews with musicians on the Phantom Billstickers website.

Simone Kaho is a digital strategist, author, performance poet and director. Her debut poetry collection Lucky Punch was published in 2016. She has a master’s degree in poetry from Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML). She’s the Director of the E-Tangata web series ‘Conversations’ and a journalist for Tagata Pasifika. In 2021 Simone was awarded the Emerging Pasifika Writer residency at the IIML.

Selina Tusitala Marsh (ONZM, FRSNZ) is the former New Zealand Poet Laureate and  has performed poetry for primary schoolers and presidents (Obama), queers and Queens (HRH Elizabeth II). She has published three critically acclaimed collections of poetry, Fast Talking PI (2009), Dark Sparring (2013), Tightrope (2017) and an award-winning graphic memoir, Mophead (Auckland University Press, 2019) followed by Mophead TU (2020), dubbed as ‘colonialism 101 for kids’.

Apirana Taylor, Ngati Porou, Te Whanau a Apanui, Ngati Ruanui, Te Ati Awa, is a nationally and internationally published poet, playwright, short story writer, novelist, actor, painter and musician. He has been Writer in Residence at Canterbury and Massey Universities. He frequently tours nationally and internationally visiting schools, tertiary institutions and prisons reading his poetry, storytelling and taking creative writing workshops. He has written six collections of poetry, a book of plays, three collections of short stories, and two novels. His work has been included in many national and international anthologies.

Poetry Shelf Spring Season

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1 thought on “Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Sally Blundell picks poems

  1. Pingback: Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Francis Cooke picks poems | NZ Poetry Shelf

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