Category Archives: NZ poems

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Michael Fitzsimons’s ‘Lifeboat’

 

Lifeboat

 

You are rowing a lifeboat around a little garden in summer.

You are happy like that,
just you and a few birds and some swaying trees.
Just you and some herbs and a yellow rose.
You could be praying.

You dip your oars in the quiet,
forget everything that has happened.
All your questions are unanswered,
your beliefs unimaginable.
No matter.

You row on, thinking:
I can hop into this boat anytime,
on any disastrous afternoon.
When push comes to shove, when words fail me,
this boat is mine. There is no other.

 

Michael Fitzsimons

 

 

 

from Michael, I thought you were dead, illustration by William Carden-Horton  (The Cuba Press, 2019)

Michael Fitzsimons is a proud member of the three-person South Wellington Poetry Society and co-founder of Wellington communications and publishing company Fitzbeck Creative. Michael, I Thought You Were Dead (The Cuba Press) is his second collection. His first, Now You Know, was recommended in RNZ’s annual poetry highlights. Michael lives in Seatoun with his wife, Rose, in a hillside house overlooking Wellington Harbour.

The Cuba Press author page

 

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Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Lynley Edmeade’s ‘The Day’

 

 

The Day

Cambrian Valley

 

 

The dog lies down in the shade of the table.

Knives lie down with pieces of lunch on them.

The mountains lie down across the valley

and the sunlight lies down across everything.

 

When we drive Neil says I love this:

the car and the music and the dog

and the sun and the spring and the lambs

and the light and the mountains and the sky.

 

The sky is so blue you can almost hear it skying.

 

 

Lynley Edmeades from Listening In, Otago University Press, 2019

 

 

Lynley Edmeades is a poet, essayist and scholar. Her debut collection As the Verb Tenses (2016) was longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Award for Poetry and was a finalist in the UNESCO Bridges of Struga Best First Book of Poetry. She has a PhD in avant-garde poetics, and lives in Dunedin with her partner.

Otago University Press author page

Poetry Shelf review of Listening In

 

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Poetry Shelf summer reading: Lynley Edmeades’s Listening In

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Listening In Lynley Edmeades, Otago University Press, 2019

 

Most of the time things slip

 

The seed on your plate slides

in the mess of leftover dressing

 

the hum of three street lights

making bright for no one

 

But every now and then

it feels as if things might hold

 

like here in this room

with its air and its airlight

 

from ‘Blue Planet Sky’

 

 

This is my summer holiday: reading gardening cooking walking on the wind-whipped beach. Trying to get better at sour dough. Most of all it is reading. Most of all it is reading novels. But some Aotearoa poetry books I dipped into in 2019 have been tugging at me, diverting me from the glorious satisfactions of fiction. I would hate to be a book-award judge this year as my shortlist of astonishing NZ poetry reads is Waikato-River long!

Here is another one is one to add to my list: Lynley Edmeades’s Listening In.

I adore this book. I adore the the extraordinary scope of writing.

The playful title evokes the reader bending into the frequencies of the poems but also underlines the attentiveness of the poet as she ‘listens in’ to her life, her preoccupations, the way words sing, misbehave, connect, disconnect, soothe, challenge. The linguistic play is breathtaking. You get different rhythms: from stammering staccato to sweet fluency, wayward full stops that introduce breathlessness, pause, discomfort, further pause. Verbs are signed posted (as is Lynley’s debut book As the Verb Tenses), as though each poem is a movement, as though each thing made visible is movement. A poem becomes a matter of being and doing in the now of the present tense.

 

The day unravels in the precarious throws of verb.

It’s everywhere we look: kitchen, bathroom, garden.

Even the floor waits in its doingness.

 

from ‘Things to Do With Verbs’

 

This is poetry as the flux of life where things are in place and out of place, where a great swell of language repeats and sidetracks and repeats again. You get to laugh and you get to feel. If we had all day, sitting together in a cafe or atop the dunes, I would tell you about the delights of each poem because there is such variation, such diverse impact as you read. ‘The Way’ is a knife-in-the-heart love poem and you have no idea the knife is coming and the love heat makes way for heartbreak. ‘Where Would You Like to Sit’ is an anxiety poem where questions pose as statements in a therapist’s chair.

You have to read the poems to see how they gather inside you. How the language gathers inside. How you can’t stop feeling the poems: the wit, the music, the originality.

Lynley takes three politicians as poem starting points. ‘Speetch’ is a transliteration of ex Prime Minister John Key’s valedictory speech in parliament. ‘Again America Great Make’ quantifies Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. ‘Ask a Woman’ juxtaposes Margaret Thatcher quotes that Lynley found online. All three poems are quite disconcerting!

 

(..) But long

before Wall Shtreet my political views hid been shaped by my Aushtrian Jewish

mutha Ruth, who single handedly raised me and my sisstas in now the infimiss

state house at nineteen Hollyfird Av Christchurch. My mutha wazza no nonsense

womin who refused to take no in answer. She wuddun accept fayure.

 

from ‘Speetch’

 

 

On other occasions a single word (stone, because) prompts a poem like an ode to a word that shadows an ode to experience. ‘Poem (Frank O’Hara Has Collapsed)’ spins on the word ‘collapse’ like a free wheeling stream of consciousness unsettling whirlpool. I adore these poems. ‘Islands of Stone’ leads from physical stones to language play. A quote from Viktor Shklovsky heads the poem and it is how I feel about the book: ‘Art exists that one may recover the sensation of life, it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony.’

 

Stone-sober stone

Getting-stoned stone

Stepping-stone stone

Sticks-and-stones stone

 

Leave-no-stone-unturned stone

Blood-from-a-stone stone

Two-birds-with-one-stone-stone

A-stone’s-throw stone

 

Then there are the poems that glow. That fill you with poetry warmth. I am thinking of ‘Constellations’, a in which Chloe tells us ‘we draw stars/ around the adjectives/ to identify them’. She is writing a story about friends and lunchtime at school and whether friends are kind or nice.

 

It has little shadows

of very and kinda

that reach out

towards the stars.

 

Perhaps another way to view Listening In is as translation.  A small poem ‘The Order of Things’ makes multiple appearances (it originally appeared in As the Verb Tenses) as half-translations and iterations. I am thinking each book we write is enmeshed in the books that we wrote before, and the books we write foreshadow the books to come. Lynley is translating the world (life) with an exuberance of words, out-of-step syntax (a nod to Gertrude Stein), repeating motifs, word chords, word cunning and delicious humour. She tests what a poem can do by testing what words can do and the effect is awe-inspiring. It makes me want to write. It makes me want to put the book in your hand. Because. Because. Because. Life is here out in the open and hiding in the crevices. Because. Because. Because. Her words open up like little explosions inside you and you know poems can do anything. I have barely touched upon what this poetry does. I love love love this book.

 

 

Otago University Press author page

Lynley Edmeades is a poet, essayist and scholar. Her debut collection As the Verb Tenses (2016) was longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Award for Poetry and was a finalist in the UNESCO Bridges of Struga Best First Book of Poetry. She has a PhD in avant-garde poetics, and lives in Dunedin with her partner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Emma Neale’s ‘Global’

 

Global

 

Search for counter-attack

Replace with hold

Search for attack

Replace with attach
Search for murdered

Replace with heard

Search for killed

Replace with serenaded

Search for ambushed

Replace with invited

Search for missile launchers

Replace with, oh, red silk fans

Search for front line

Replace with lamp-lit threshold

Search for grenades

Replace with iris bulbs

Search for smart bombs

Replace with crayoned paper folded into lilies, swans

Search for generals

Replace with farmers, orchardists, gardeners, mechanics, doctors, veterinarians, school-teachers, artists, painters, housekeepers, marine biologists, zoologists, nurses, musicians

Search for combatants

Replace with counsellors, conductors, bus drivers, ecologists, train drivers, sailors, fire-fighters, ambulance drivers, historians, solar engineers, designers, seamstresses, artesian well-drillers, builders

Search for profits

Replace with prophets

Save as

New World.doc

 

Emma Neale

from Tender Machines  (Dunedin: OUP, 2015)

 

 

Emma Neale is the author of 6 novels and 6 collections of poetry. She is the current editor of Landfall.

Otago University page

 

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Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Maeve Hughes’s ‘Understanding Transactions’

 

Understanding Transactions

 

 

Heat comes from hot things like

potatoes come from the earth

and gurgles come from babies

like birds come from trees

and I came from you

and your smiles

so many of them

came from me

and, mother, I know it.

 

 

Maeve Hughes from Horsepower

 

 

 

Maeve Hughes lives in a tall house in Wellington. She has studied Fine Arts and Creative Writing. Her first publication horse power won the 2018 Story Inc Prize for poetry and was launched in October of this year.

 

Read my review of horse power

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf fascinations: Anne Kennedy’s Moth Hour

 

 

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Anne Kennedy, Moth Hour, Auckland University Press, 2019

 

1.

 

The thing in the jar

always dies!

The rice cooker steams

so the sun goes down

Deep in the house

sepia gathers

The pencil has eaten

the fragile book

 

from ‘Thirty-Three Transformations on a Theme of Philip’

 

 

 

I first read Anne Kennedy’s new collection Moth Hour as a piece of music that traces the contours of grief. Words form little melodies, solo instruments sound out, there is echo, overlap, loop and patterning. Above all there is a syncopated beat that leaves room for breath, an intake of pain, an out-sigh of grief, an intake of observation, an out-breath of recognition. There is the fragile word-dance to the light.

Moth Hour responds to a family tragedy; in 1973, at the age of twenty-two, Anne’s brother, Philip, accidentally fell to his death. Anne, her seven siblings (she was the youngest and aged fourteen) and parents now lived with unbearable grief and loss, separately, diversely, as a family.

The book is in three parts: the long sequence ‘Thirty-Three Transformations on a Theme of Philip’,  a coda poem ‘The Thé’ and an essay (‘Pattern/Chaos: Afterword’).

Over time Anne had read Philip’s book collection (think a 1970s gathering of books ) along with his poetry. She begins Moth Hour with one of his poems, an affecting piece that forms both the bony skeleton of her book and a fragile yet insistent pattern of echos. A voice calling out over the crevice, a voice that keeps returning. In Philip’s poem a speaker imagines being caught by a child and placed in a jar on a windowsill along with edible leaves, The Book of Tea, paper and a pen. The power of imagination is evoked.

These elements keep returning and if there is syncopation, a form of stutter, a difficulty of transmission, of speaking and retrieving, there is also fluency. The way both music and poetry can pull you into an utterly absorbing connective movement.

 

The second time I read Moth Hour I listened to Ludwig van Beethoven’s Thirty-Three Variations on a Waltz by Anton Diabelli because Anne had listened to this as she wrote the book. She had first listened to it over and over after Philip’s death.

 

 

Catch me little child and put me in a jar.

Ajar is small and a view of everything.

Hopefully we will always want and want for nothing.

Shall I seize you? Yes, I mean no. Please seizure.

We will live in a jar.

I will live in a jar. And the jar is a house.

Place inside a place inside.

That is how we will look out. Look out.

I am being very straight with you.

Look no hands.

In the language.

 

from ’19’ Thirty-Three Transformations on a theme of Philip’

 

 

The poetic fluency of Moth Hour carries so much in its momentum. There are detailed locations: a Wellington family home, the contemporary Auckland of the poet. Signs of the times (the 1970s). Surreal intrusions. Politics (again think the 1970s). There are contrasts: new / dead / breath; some / any. There are the rebounding questions. Ideas, feelings, words waver as though nothing can be fixed and certain. Such movement evokes a sense of linguistic play but it also performs the difficulty of the subject matter. Death is impossible to pin down. Grief equally so.

Such a symphonic effect means the reader participates in dis-equilibrium – the unease of unknowing along with the whoosh of connection.

If there are no air holes in the jar we cannot breathe but this book is all about breath. Breath is life sustaining and freedom. And yet this breath, this sustained breath of writing and recall, comes in gasps and puffs.

The second poem, ‘The thé’, reflects the concerns of the first  – the reverberating motifs appear in a present tense of grief and observation – but now the short lines float apart on the page. A pattern of drift; the white space fractured like hicccupy breaths. Yet each line (melody) offers a moment of certainty. I am back to the music pooling inside me.

 

The poem burns off an hour.

We walk along the street many times.

The street is practice for death.

The chairs are aching in and out.

He staggers to his feet.

The the is ready to go through.

Ritual finally occupies the body.

Thoughts burst the shelter of the room.

The people swarm into the streets.

 

from ‘The Thé’

 

Like a mesmerising, lung-like piece of music, Moth Hour is a book of return-listening. Every time you place the poetry on the turntable of your reading you will hear something different. It blisters your skin. It touches you. But above all Moth Hour fills you with the variation and joy of what a lithe poet can do.

 

 

 

Anne Kennedy is a writer of fiction, film scripts and poetry. Her debut poetry collection Sing-song was named Poetry Book of the Year at the 2004 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. The Time of the Giants was shortlisted for the same award in 2006, and The Darling North won the 2013 NZ Post Book Award for Poetry. Her novles include The Last Days of the National Costume, shortlisted for the NZ Post Book Award for Fiction in 2014, and The ice Shelf was longlisted in the 2019 Ockham NZ Book Awards. She lives in Auckland.

Auckland University Press author page

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Six-Pack Sound #8 is live at nzepc

 

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Six-Pack Sound #8 is live at nzepc

16 December 2019

nzepc presents Six-Pack Sound #8. Poets Jacqueline Carter, Tim Heath, Joshua Hetherington, Cilla McQueen, Richard Pamatatau and Melanie Rands contribute dazzling audio recordings of recent work and comment on their Six Pack selections. They join a gallery of recorded performances by poets working in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific region. Click, listen and browse Six-Pack Sound’s growing sampler of remarkable poetic voices.