Poetry Shelf favourite poems: Chris Price’s ‘Dog’s Body’

Dog’s body

If this were child’s play
and I could choose

I’d be the dog — 
body a soft black curve

on the stone flags 
of the square outside the gallery —

patient in my red collar 
and tongue

all my love
in waiting.

Chris Price
from Husk (Auckland University Press, 2002)

Note on Poem

This poem holds a special place in my first book because I can remember so vividly the circumstances of its composition. It was a Sunday in spring 1997, and I’d just seen the big Hotere show Out The Black Window, ‘a literary take on the use of words and poetry in Ralph Hotere’s painting’ curated by Greg O’Brien, at City Gallery, Wellington.  Hotere’s collaborators Hone Tuwhare, Cilla McQueen, Bill Manhire, and Ian Wedde had just given a reading in front of one of Hotere’s huge paintings: it may have been Dawn/Water Poem (1968). My eyes were full of Hotere’s powerful blacks and reds when I emerged blinking into a sunny Sunday afternoon  in Civic Square, and the poets’ words were in my ears, when I saw a black Labrador with a red collar tied up outside the gallery, waiting for its owner.  My partner Robbie was out of town at the time, so I too was in a kind of waiting state, and the poem started up in my head immediately.

You can hear Chris read the poem here.

Chris Price

Chris Price is based in Wellington, where she teaches the poetry MA at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University. Her first collection of poems, Husk (Auckland University Press, 2002), won the 2002 NZSA Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry and her next book, the genre-busting Brief Lives (Auckland University Press, 2006), was shortlisted in the biography category in the 2007 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. She has published two other collections with Auckland University Press: Beside Herself (2016) and The Blind Singer (2009).

Favourite Poems is a series where a poet picks a favourite poem from their own backlist and writes an accompanying note.

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