Category Archives: NZ poems

Poetry Shelf audio spot: Vaughan Rapatahana reads ‘mō ōtautahi’ [for Christchurch]

 

 

 

 

Vaughan Rapatahana is a New Zealand writer, anthologist and reviewer whose work is published both in New Zealand and internationally. Though perhaps best known for his poetry, his bibliography also includes prose fiction, educational material, academic articles, philosophy, and language critiques. Vaughan is of Māori ancestry, and many of his works deal with the subjects of colonial repression and cultural encounter.  In 2016 he won the Proverse Poetry Prize and Atonement was nominated for the 2016 Philippines National Book Awards, for the category Best English Book in Poetry. In 2019 he edited an anthology of Waikato poets: Ngā Kupu Waikato. He is currently writing a new series of commentaries regarding Aotearoa New Zealand poetry for Jacket 2. A new poetry collection ngā whakamatuatanga/interludes was recently published by Cyberwit, Allahabad, India.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf review: Landfall 237

otago708667.jpg

Landfall 237 edited by Emma Neale

 

Landfall 237 offers rich pickings for the poetry fans: familiar names (Peter Bland, David Eggleton, Elizabeth Smither, Ria Masae, Lynley Edmeades and Cilla McQueen) to emerging poets (Rebecca Hawkes, Claudia Jardine, essa may ranapiri) and those I am reading for the first time (Robynanne Milford, Jeremy Roberts, Catherine Trundle to name a few). The reading experience is kaleidoscopic, pulling you in different directions, towards both lightness and darkness, risk and comfort. And that is exactly what a literary journal can do. I was tempted to say should, but literary journals can do anything.

Landfall has a history of showcasing quirky artwork – and this issue is no exception. Sharon Singer’s sequence, “Everyday Calamities’ with its potent colour, surreal juxtapositions, strange and estranging narratives, and thematic bridges, is an addictive puzzle for heart and mind. I am circling humanity, the power of connection, the individual both tenacious and frail, the state of the planet. Paintings whirling and tipping you into moments that soothe, bewilder and provoke. I adore these.

I turned from these to Rachel O’Neill’s prose poem ‘The Supernatural Frame’ and get goosebumps:

You may look upon the painting through these special

foiled binoculars. We are at a safe distance. Afterwards you

may feel a chill or a fever linger for two days and a night,

accompanied by an infernal cough.

 

 

On the centennial of the birth of Ruth Dallas in Invercargill, I am also delighted to see John Geraets spotlight her poetry. Certain Dallas poems have always had a place in NZ literary anthologies (think ‘Milking Before Dawn’) but as readers we may less familiar with the wider expanse of her work. Like so many women poets of the twentieth century she is in the shadows. In his intro John suggests it is not clear how to include her ‘within more recent nexus based on gender, ethnicity, ecology, avant-gardism, faith or political affiliation’. He responds by assembling her words – culled from Landfall editor-contributor responses and her autobiography Curved Horizon – on the left-hand pages and his words on the right. He first sees in her poetry – compared with contemporary writing choices – predictability, regularity, un-excitement, regionalism; and then, by paying attention and refreshing his routes, he opens up poems to different movements. He moves in close to the poem. I love that. Much I could say on how we approach the women from the past! Expect 568 pages soon.

 

I absolutely love the poetry in this issue; it is both fresh and vital! I see neither formula nor dominating style but shifting stories, musicality, feeling, political bite, muted shades, bright tones.

 

Here are some highlights:

 

Joanna Preston’s poem ‘Allegrophobia’ carries you from birth to tardiness to spring in a layered on punctuality – a perfect little package.

Jasmine Gallagher’s ‘Be Still’ sent me to her bio because I want to read more by her. She is a doctoral student at the University of Otago and has previously been published in brief. Her poem is poetry as brocade – glinting for the eye and chiming for the ear.

 

Slattern: a

hoar frost:

a rime

Cold see bed

Roat and slime

 

Another poet, Catherine Trundle, also sent me scavenging for more. She writes poetry, flash fiction and experimental ethnography. Her poem ‘The Caravan behind the Plum Tree’ is also an exquisite brocade.

 

This lush cusp of spring rides

pinkish, amoebic, wilding

the inside, every flesh ’n’ cranny

while the sunlight lunges in

through winter tidelines

of curtain rot

 

Tam Vosper’s ‘Ailurophilia’ was an equal hook for me. He is working on a PhD at Canterbury University that considers Allen Curnow and the poetics of place. Again this is brocade poetry: so rich in effect.

 

All Gallic pluck

and casual loft

you claim a suntrap,

slump sidewise down,

and unhinge your barbed yawn:

           a shark to shoaling mice.

 

And I want to add Medb Charleton’s ‘I think I Saw You Dreaming’, Rebecca Hawkes’s ‘If I could breed your cultivar / I’d have you in my garden’ and Gail Ingram’s ‘The Kitchen’ to my list of brocade poetry. Glorious.

In contrast you have the spare deliciousness of Ariha Latham’s ‘Waitangi’. Another poet whose work I want to track down.

 

When I read Ria Masae’s “Jack Didn’t Build Here’ I can hear her performing its sharp mix of personal and politics  – and it cuts into my skin. Six houses built. She carries us from the father’s house full of stories to David Lange’s Mangere home open to the locals: he ‘understood the pressures of fa’alavelave,/ cos he brown on the inside like that’. She bears us from the house her mum built with its’ celebration tables’ to the house Key built with its ‘security code gate’. She ends with a question (the house to be built?):

 

What house will Jacinda build?

Will it enable my daughters to build their own homes

of tangata whenua foundations and fa’a Samoa roofs

in this palagified City of Sales?

 

You can move from political bite to the glorious wit you often find in an Erik Kennedy poem. His ‘All Holidays Are Made-Up Holidays’ is no exception. Meet Cabinet Day – ‘we went along/ from house to house hanging little doors / around each other’s necks to hide our secrets’. Or the Feast of Holy Indifference. Genius!

Claire Orchard’s poem, ‘Breakages’, swivels on a set of shelves, on the objects that they hold, and in that satisfying movement speaks of so much more; the poem resembles a shelf of family history with peaks and troughs.

 

I enjoyed the way it had begun to display time

in the style of tottering, elderly people

 

I heard Joan Fleming talk about new poetry she was writing at the Poetry & Essay conference at Victoria University in 2017. The poems came out of her experience of camp life in Nyrripi and surrounding areas in Australia’s Central Desert. I was moved by her discussions of collaboration and consent, her attentiveness to the local. Two poems here – ‘Alterations’ and ‘Papunya is Gorgeous Dirty and I Second-guess my Purposes’ – come out of this experience. I can’t wait to see this in book form.

 

Finally a treat from Cilla McQueen. She has written ‘Poem for my Tokotoko’; it is personal, physical and abundant with the possibilities of poetry. Pure pleasure.

 

Sometimes I see you as an enchanter’s staff,

scattering poems like leaves to the west wind;

at others you’re practical, a trusty pole

by means of which, through quarrelling

undercurrents, I can ford turbulent water.

By means of which I put myself across.

 

This is such good issue – there are reviews and fiction I haven’t read yet, and the announcement of the Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition 2019 – but on the poems only, it warrants a subscription. Yep – Landfall has its finger on the pulse of NZ poetry.

 

Landfall 237 page

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Maringikura Mary Campbell’s ‘How we loved’

 

How we loved

for Meg and Te Ariki Campbell

 

i always wondered why
the dogs never pissed inside the house
How the house gripped onto the hill
the wind
and how we never fell
How you lived even though
you wanted to die, my mother
How we loved and hated
but mostly loved
How we doubted the sincerity
of those whose lives seemed easier
How we hated the Nats
because they hated the poor
How we tolerated those who voted for National
because they thought their wealth would rub off on
them
How our family, our mokopuna, surpassed all others
and how every time we looked at each other we saw
out Tupuna
staring right back at us
How we loved our parents right to the end
of their lives and ours
My beloved parents
How we loved.

 

Maringikura Mary Campbell

 

Maringikura Mary Campbell lives in the family home in Pukerua Bay. She is a mother of three and has one mokopuna whom she adores. She published Maringi in 2017. She also published Smells like Sugar – poems by rangatahi young people in psychiatric care and What it takes to fly – poems by mental health consumers from around New Zealand.

You can listen to Maringikura Mary Campbell read another poem (for her grandmother), ‘Ethell Mary’, here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Johanna Emeney picks Michael Jackson’s ‘Green Turtle’

 

Green Turtle

 

Sam smashes its head in

with the same sledgehammer

I used this afternoon

to ram our tent pegs home.

 

A hemisphere turns

turtle; Sonny hacks

its mildewed, sea-marbled

breastplate free.

 

It recoils from the sky.

Head lolls.

A flipper feebly pushes

Sonny’s knife away.

 

They empty

the long gray rope of its life

onto the sand by the thudding boat

that holds two more

 

And its carapace is a vessel

filled with a wine lake

in which clouds

float, birds fly, leaves fall.

 

Michael Jackson

From Walking to Pencarrow: selected poems Cold Hub Press (2016)

 

 

This poem was occasioned during Jackson’s one-year stay with a Kuku-Yalanji family in the Bloomfield rainforest. The butchering of the turtle was carried out by his host’s brother and brother-in-law, and it was an incident that clearly raised conflicts within Jackson, both cultural and emotional. It is described in his nonfiction books The Accidental Anthropologist (Longacre, 2013) and As Wide as the World Is Wise: Reinventing Philosophical Anthropology (Columbia University Press, 2016). Jackson includes the poem in the memoir and the textbook.

The speaker’s complete vulnerability to the experience (not openness, vulnerability) is one of the main things that makes the poem so powerful for me. The narrative position of the speaker is that of an outsider endeavouring to be respectfully uninvolved in the spectacle. The reader can feel his reluctance to place judgement on this cultural encounter. However, it impossible not to intuit the initial shock of the first lines and the reverence of metaphor describing the turtle—I see him almost like an old general being denuded of his armour when “Sonny hacks/its mildewed, sea-marbled/breastplate free”. The diction and imagery create a perfectly credible awkwardness and humility to the speaker in the face of the turtle’s brutal death.

The other aspect of “Green Turtle” that I find very powerful is the transcendence of the final image. The last stanza is a distillation of everything that has gone before, and, as an ending to the poem, is exquisite, raising the narrative recollection of the killing of the turtle to a lyric contemplation of this event in the scheme of things, especially within a Western, Christian model. Here, in the final lines, is the shell of the turtle, a vessel containing a blood-wine, literally reflecting the things of the world that go on as normal despite the creature’s violent death just moments before. With this ultimate image, the poet invites his readers to undertake their own reflection on humankind and nature, on life and death, on religion and culture. The poem ends with such opening out, and such unexpected beauty.

Johanna Emeney

 

Jo Emeney holds a PhD in Creative Writing, and has taught at Massey, Albany, for the past nine years. She also runs the Michael King Young Writers Programme with Ros Ali.
Jo read English Literature at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and then taught senior school English Literature for twelve years. She has written two books of poetry (Apple & Tree, 2011; Family History, 2017), and one nonfiction book on the topic of lyric poetry and the medical humanities (2018). She has just finished drafting a chapter for Routledge on Disability and Poetry.

Michael Jackson is internationally renowned for his work in the field of existential anthropology and has been widely praised for his innovations in ethnographic writing. Jackson has done extensive fieldwork in Sierra Leone since 1969, and also carried out anthropological research in Aboriginal Australia, Europe, and New Zealand. He has taught in universities in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and is currently Distinguished Professor of World Religions at Harvard Divinity School. His most recent books include The Varieties of Temporal Experience (2018), Selected Poems (2017), and The Paper Nautilus: A Trilogy (2019). Cold Hub Press author page.

 

41cl-rF2JDL._SX353_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Kim Meredith’s ‘Summer’

 

 

Summer

 

I have eyes for the cake

rising slowly in the oven.

The sweet smell of vanilla

escaping, but there is talk

about the pond teeming

with Goldfish. Go see the fish.

Every visit goes like this.

 

Now my mother joins my

aunt, looking back and forth

to her sister and the gaggle

of us, her head nodding toward

the kitchen door that leads out

to the lush garden and pond.

 

On the steps I hear the kettle

whistling over my aunt laughing

as the two relax, swapping secrets

of forbidden love. Our ears deaf to

their native tongue.

 

Outside amongst the hedges we

reach between branches of Camellias

searching for treasure. The winner –

the first to hold up a fist with a cicada

singing for release.

 

The clouds move at great pace

animals drift in and out of view.

In the distance the wind carries

the sound of intermittent sobbing.

I cock my head to the left and

hear only the cicadas singing

freely on the wind.

 

Kim Meredith

 

 

Kim Meredith was raised in Glen Innes, Auckland; her works have appeared in journals and collections. She has collaborated with artists in New Zealand and overseas. A multi-media artist she is part of Auckland duo Marvellous with Kingsley Melhuish performing poetry and music, their compositions narrate urban sketches of New Zealand life. She is a businesswoman and also teaches at a Music Tertiary School.

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Anna Livesey’s ‘Little words’

 

Little words

 

Dear heart, a word —

which word? Shall we choose something

secret and unexpected?

 

Don’t say ‘moon’, everyone knows

that code of longing. Don’t say ‘talk’, the running sound

of every banal conversation.

 

Don’t say ‘bread’ or ‘wine’ or ‘salt’ —

those easy gestures towards

humanity and history.

 

Don’t say ‘love’ — that hollow ‘o’ so easy to look through.

One might say ‘bird’ or ‘house’ or ‘hand’ —

nearer sounds to the one we are looking for.

 

There is always ‘silence’

or ‘question’ — don’t say these words,

too large to qualify.

 

Let us sit quietly.

 

Let us shape a small word that holds us.

Let that little word

be ‘name’.

 

Anna Livesey

 

 

Anna Livesey is a poet, corporate strategist, stand-up comic, policy analyst, literary curator-at-large, podcaster, shouting yogi and early morning raver. Born and raised in Wellington, Anna studied at Victoria University where she completed a BA in English and an MA in Creative Writing. Anna also holds Masters degrees in Public Policy and Business Administration.

Anna has published three poetry collections to date: Good Luck (2003), The Moonmen (2010), and Ordinary Time (2017). She currently lives in Auckland with her husband and two children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf audio spot: Jane Arthur reads ‘Snowglobe’

 

 

 

 

 

 

The poem, ‘Snowglobe’, was published in Mimicry 5 and will appear in Jane’s first collection CRAVEN to be published by Victoria University Press in September 2019.

 

 

 

Jane Arthur was the recipient of the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize in 2018, judged by Eileen Myles. She has worked in the book industry for over fifteen years as a bookseller and editor, and has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the IIML at Victoria University of Wellington. Born in New Plymouth, she lives in Wellington with her family. Her first poetry collection will be published in September 2019 by Victoria University Press.