Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Ruby Solly’s ‘Dedication’

 

Dedication

 

This one’s for the aunty

that taught me

how to knead bread

properly.

Not with love,

but like you hate it.

The warm skin

of someone whose skin

doesn’t deserve it.

The aunty who calls out;

Beat it down girl

when the air bubbles

gasp through the dough.

And so you beat them

so far down

that you beat them

all the way out.

 

This one’s for

the girl in the tutu

and gumboots.

Shit covered

and tractor riding.

Pāpā doing her hair in loose braids,

those old farm ropes

swinging.

Tug of war fighting

to the sugar plum fairy.

 

This one’s for

the boy who thinks himself magic

then throws himself off

the top of the monkey bars

then doesn’t fly

but falls.

For the smashed nose,

for the freckles falling

from the face

in patterned rain.

Salt water cleaning the eyes

of a not special boy.

 

This one’s for

the girl with white skin

but black everything else

Pig dog! Pig dog!”

They say,

pulling her hair

until she barks.

Reaching out

from behind black eyes

to find nothing.

The ladder out

already pulled up

to a light that emanates

from everywhere

but below.

 

This one’s

for the man

who speaks not with words

but with hands in the soil.

Roots coiling down

towards magma core.

Digging to Rangiatea,

he knows he’ll get there

if he just digs and digs.

 

And now

you are all here

and we are ready

to begin.

 

Ruby Solly

 

 

Ruby Solly is a Kai Tahu / Waitaha writer and musician living in Pōneke. She has had poetry and creative non-fiction published in Landfall, Sport, Poetry NZ, Starling, Mimicry, Minarets, E-Tangata, The Spinoff, and Pantograph Punch amongst others. Victoria University Press will be publishing her debut book of poetry ‘Tōku Pāpā’ in early 2021. Ruby is also a scriptwriter and her film ‘Super Special’ which aims to share knowledge around traditional Māori views and practices around menstruation has been featured in film festivals within New Zealand and the US. As a musician, she has played with artists such as Yo-yo Ma as part of his Bach Project, Trinity Roots, Whirimako Black, Rikki Gooch, and Ariana Tikao. Ruby is a taonga puoro (traditional Māori musical instruments) player and therapist with a first-class master’s in music therapy where she conducted kaupapa Māori research into the use of taonga puoro in acute mental health.

 

 

Ruby Solly premieres a video for her new album Pōneke and a wānanga with essa may ranapiri

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: 2020 VISION: NATIONAL POETRY DAY ALL AGES COMPETITION

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National Poetry Day Competition 2020 Dunedin Public Libraries in partnership with the Otago-Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors invite you to celebrate National Poetry Day by creating poetry.

The competition is open to all residents of Otago-Southland and entries will be allocated to one of three categories:

Primary school aged children
Intermediate/high-school aged young people
Adults over the age of 18

You can write about anything, or opt for one of our suggested themes under the following categories:

Open category – choose your own subject

The Invisible
If…
A poem using all of these words in any order: matchstick, luck, slack, trick

The winning entries in each age group (1st, 2nd, 3rd, highly-commended) will be published in Dunedin Public Libraries’ e-magazine NB and website.

Winners will be announced publicly on National Poetry Day Friday 21st August 2020
Fill out the online entry form and attach a copy of your poem (500 words or less).
Complete the entry form which is available at all Dunedin Public Libraries or you can print a copy here.

Postal entries should be sent with a copy of your poem to:
2020 Vision Competition
c/o Kay Mercer
Dunedin Public Libraries
PO Box 5542
Moray Place
Dunedin 9058
CLOSING DATE: Monday 10th August 2020

Terms and Conditions

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf lounge: Rata Gordon celebrates her debut poetry collection Second Person

 

 

 

 

 

Rata Gordon is a poet, dance teacher, mother and arts-therapist in training. Second Person is her first collection of poetry, and was published in June 2020 by Victoria University Press. She is currently based in Raglan. Her website

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Poetry Live presents Anne Kennedy

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Come one come all! Head along to the brilliance that is Poetry Live on the 4th of August for a truly wonderful night!
First up at 8:00pm the night will be started off with Lane and Liz!
Lane and Liz have been playing together for the better part of four years. They are the core song writing team of indie-folk outfit ‘Those Lethals’, but have recently been working at moving in a new electronic groove-pop direction. This Tuesday they will be previewing a stripped back assortment of this new material for your listening pleasure.
The first half of open mic where you are welcome to take the stage to share your latest poetic offers!
At about 9:30pm, we’ll have our guest poet, Anne Kennedy
Anne Kennedy is a poet, fiction writer, screenplay editor and teacher. Her latest books are Moth Hour (AUP) and The Ice Shelf (VUP). Awards and fellowships include the NZ Post Book Award for Poetry, the Montana Book Award for Poetry, the University of Iowa International Writers’ Program and the IIML Writers’ Residency.”
Then open mic until finish!
Jamie ‘shake-rattle-and-roll’ Trower’s MCing too!
Please give generously to koha collected on the night for our special musical and poetic guests!!!

 

Poetry Shelf interviews Kay McKenzie Cooke

 

 

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Kay McKenzie Cooke, Ngāti Tahu, Pākehā, is an award winning poet and short story writer. Her debut collection Feeding the Dogs was awarded the 2003 Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry at the Montana NZ Book Awards. She lives in Dunedin, and spends part of her year in Berlin. Kay’s new collection with The Cuba Press Upturned is an evocative tribute to family, place, childhood, nature. The poems address attachment and kinship, love and grief. Some poems are southern based while others navigate Berlin. The poetry is a celebration of life and that celebration is of great reading comfort.

 

 

Paula What were the first poetry books that mattered to you?

Kay  The first poet that comes to mind is Dylan Thomas. I have this idyllic memory of me at thirteen years old sitting under a silver birch tree reading his poetry. It was on a particularly sunny day at Wendon Primary School in Northern Southland. This may well be a false memory! But the delicious revelation, surprise and impact of Thomas’s particular brand of poetry, is not.

Enid Blyton was an early influence (typical 1950’s-60’s child I guess.) I also loved Walter de la Mere and I remember a book of poems by Christina Rossetti featuring in my childhood. And A.A. Milne.

Dare I confess that Rod McKuen was a poet I adored for a (very) short time in the early ‘70’s?

 

Paula  What poetry books are catching your attention now?

Kay  Another Confession: Lately I have been so buried in my own poetry I haven’t been able to really take a look at what else is out there. There is such a rich seam of recent poetry to be mined. I would not know where to start. I have a lot (a lot!) of books and poets to catch up on. Both from new poets and from established favourites. And that’s just in Aotearoa.

Wild Honey is one I’ve been enjoying as a treasure to dip into. And the latest Landfall (239) as well.

Oh. Does Joni Mitchell’s beautiful book, Morning Glory on the Vine, count? That’s the book I got for my birthday recently and which I’m also dipping into at present.

 

Paula What else do you like to read?

Kay Autobiographies, biographies, modern novels, murder mysteries, non-fiction books about nature. Historical books. The classics.

 

Paula  Any standout poetry events you have attended either as an audience member or as a participant? Do you enjoy performing your work?

Kay  Jenny Powell and I have formed a poetry reading duo called J&K Rolling. We take poetry out into southern rural areas and discover what poetry is to be found in these places.

After five years of us travelling to many varied rural areas, I have a heap of memories of poetry readings performed in halls, art galleries, libraries, show grounds and even a restored, historical bake house. I enjoy performing poetry in such venues and at these low-key events with a small, attentive audience. It’s deeply satisfying.

The Bluff ‘06 organised by nzepc is a standout. Twenty-two poets from all over Aotearoa took part in poetry readings in Motupōhue / Bluff and in Rakiura / Stewart Island.

Reading in Paris at the Chat Noir in 2013 is a poetry reading I will always remember and treasure.

Another more recent reading organised by Jim Gedddes at the beginning of this year with David Eggleton, Cilla McQueen, Richard Reeve, Jenny Powell and myself reading in the Eastern Southland Gallery, is another memorable occasion.

Again – too many to list here. They’re all wonderful events. I feel privileged to have taken part in so many.

 

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One day, back when

everything was only as big

as the span of my forthright steps,

the world shattered into hailstones.

 

from ‘Hail’

 

 

Paula Your new collection Upturned is assured, pitch perfect on the line, multilayered yet runs with sweet economy. What matters to you when you write a poem?

Kay  Thank you!

I guess where and how the line ends is important to me. I like each line to chime. Also how a poem begins and ends matters to me. I guess that it does for all poets.

I favour shorter poems. I used to write haiku. Maybe this is where my love of the succinct and economical comes from. Redundancy is something I try to avoid. I like to write tight poems, but not corset-tight.

 

Paula In the poetry of others?

Kay  For me, poetry needs to have music that I can pick up as a tune. A consonance. And I do like poems to, in some way, tell a story.

I like poems that surprise me, with unexpected imagery. Poems that take me somewhere; that go somewhere.

It’s important, personally speaking, that they make sense even if that’s not on the first reading. There needs to be some point at which the real poem emerges from any ‘camouflage.’ This revelation always feels like a special treat.

Some poems I’ve read recently are tending to the lengthy, the clever, startling, oft-times irreverent and angry or edgy and crude. They’re sometimes surreal streams of consciousness with lines that dance, burst, curse, swirl, meander, fly, divert and segue. Sometimes these scattered lines are safely tethered to a subject – sometimes dangerously free-falling. I’m left startled. Is it good? It’s different. To use an old-fashioned term, even rather fetching. Taking off in new directions. Poetry as performance. Poetry using 21st century vernacular. I can’t keep up. Then again, I don’t need to. It’s all good. All is well.

 

The cotton dress Mum made for me, purple daisies

on black, with puff sleeves, was not the ballgown I longed for

in real satin, electric-blue. And my hair. Too high. Too

stiff. Set with hairspray.

My partner, Maurice, with no idea how to dance,

was not the partner I preferred.

 

from “Many moons ago, Maurice’

 

 

Paula I kept musing on the idea of poet as gardener, memoirist, musician, traveller, daydreamer, archivist as I read. What were you as you wrote this collection?

Kay   I think you may have covered it, Paula.

I guess I was me being all of those at different times … plus chronicler. I like the word chronicler with its connotations of recording time.

I am aware that my poetry falls into poems about memory, place, childhood, whanau, tīpuna / ancestors, grief, daily life, ageing …

I think I am most pleased at your idea of ‘musician’. It’s a nice thought to think of my poetry as a kind of music.

 

I visit her iron-fenced bones

as the sea thumps

below the cliffs of the cemetery,

 

and I name her: Mary Frances Reilly,

my great-great-grandmother,

and use whatever is left of her

 

in me

to picture first the girl,

then the woman.

 

from ‘Name her’

 

Paula Poetry as keepsake? Family is so important in these poems.

Kay   Keepsake is another word I like. It makes me think of a locket. Something treasured and kept safe; kept close.

When one experiences, as I have, the sudden death of a parent at a young age, keeping hold of memories becomes a way of surviving that brutal shock. It’s a way of holding on to a life that has seemingly (or literally) instantly disappeared into some unattainable, unreachable void.

To think someone leaves this world without any trace or memory of their place in it, is an unacceptable thought for me. I just can’t abide the thought of ‘no trace’. Of time itself sweeping away all aspects of a life or valued experiences. And so in my poetry I record. I chronicle. I keep.

 

I’d sat and read a whole book.

Time-wise we are all losers,

fooled back into memory.

Back then, eating a blackberry’s beaded cushion,

my tongue, my teeth, boring down

to its core,

its tiny wooden heart.

 

from ‘Blackberry days’

 

 

Paula I love the structure of the book. Can you tell me about that?

Kay   The poems are divided into four sections. The ones about Berlin were of course easy to place into the one section. However, in order to prevent having too many nature, landscape or place poems together; or bunching-up childhood memories, grief poems, or family poems; it seemed pertinent to switch and mix them around a little. To a certain extent, chronological aspects also had to be taken into account – poems from before and after the Berlin experience for example.

The team at The Cuba Press (especially Mary McCallum) helped me with the structure. The result is pleasing. I like how the different poems speak to each other and how one poem often leads naturally on to the next – sometimes just by the natural extension of an image, key word, idea or impression.

 

Sing old kettle of slung light

that spins on through

this backyard

that could be the last kitchen

or the first. Old kettle, singing kettle,

let the heat of the days rock you.

 

from ‘Sing,sing, sing’

 

 

Paula Reading your poetry is a sensory experience. Do you have motifs you are particularly fond of?

Kay  Yes! I do. And I have to watch that I don’t over-use these favourite motifs.

Mary helped me with that as well. She asked if I realised how many times I use the motifs of air, sun, sky, water … and I also realised that I needed to take out a few too many stones, grasses …

I am perhaps a little too fond of nature’s motifs. Birds are a motif for me as well. They, along with deer and horses, are members of my spirit-animal world.

 

For days now

the unpegged washing of snow

has lain in the mud of Dunedin’s hills

 

where a giant hawk of cloud

lifts off, its talons

Mount Cargill, a sag of grey.

 

from ‘Nor’esterly’

 

Paula I am reminded of Ruth Dallas’s attachment to the land in her poems, she made herself at home in her beloved south as she looked through an urban window. I have seen it in Sue Wootton’s poetry too. How does the land matter? Do you have go-to places?

Kay   As a child brought up in the country way down in the same beloved south, I believe the spirit of that southern rural landscape is in my blood and firmly rooted in my innermost being. As deep as it can go. Even living happily as a city dweller for nearly fifty years has not diminished this relationship I have with this land; this integral part of my being.

Despite its buried streams running underground, Otepoti / Dunedin (as I believe is the case with all cities in Aotearoa) has never lost its relationship with the land. A strong identification with nature is part of its character as a city.

Being tangata whenua has its influence on my relationship with the land too – especially with Murihiku. Nothing needs to be conjured. It’s just there. Even on those days where I don’t leave my house – or even my writing room – my relationship with the land is still a beating heart.

Of course, actually going to places is a helpful and enjoyable top-up of the actual. There is nothing to match looking at a mountain close up, or smelling the seaweed smell of a favourite beach or hearing a mean sou’westerly whining in power lines.

 

I am eating the language of the ocean

on this last day of summer, Sommer,

eating the language

my granddaughter speaks.

She does not care

what they are, foxes of squirrels, Fuchs or Eichhörnchen –

it is simply her favourite dress

 

for now anyway, as she eats potato cake

with apple sauce and hardly ever looks at me

drinking her in with my eyes.

 

from “Foxes or squirrels’

 

Paula Home is so important but so too is the wider world in your writing. What changes when you write about or from elsewhere?

Kay  When I am somewhere unfamiliar, it can manifest as dislocation. This is reflected most in the poems about Berlin which I wrote during and after lone trips there to stay with my son, his wife and their two small children.

While there, I felt something that was akin to homesickness. Keeping a journal helped to chronicle what was happening, both internally and externally. Then once I was back home again, the material in the journal with all its ramblings, jottings and sketches, was what I drew from for the Berlin poems. The many photos I’d taken also triggered poems and helped me to remember cityscapes, trees, pavements, people, sensations and emotions.

 

Paula The Cuba Press has published Upturned along with two others written by poets at an older age (Rachel McAlpine’s How to Be Old and John Tāne Christeller’s Fragments from an Infinite Catalogue). What has changed for you as a poet across the decades (if anything?)? How does age change things?

Kay  As a young child I wrote poems about fairies. As an adolescent and young adult, about coffee and rain. As a young woman, descriptive pieces about what I could see in front of me – some of which were written as haiku.

Then in my late thirties, I started to study poetry, reading nothing but poetry for ten years.

Writing-wise, this stage was excruciating. I remember often being brought to tears because I couldn’t properly put down on paper what was in my head. Then one day – or so it seems – I hit my stride. I found my voice and I was away.

Age-ing is certainly a weird experience. Some part of me thinks it’s all backwards. The older we grow, the younger we feel. We don’t look the age we feel inside. I can’t explain. Maybe it’s time to write some poems about it.

I remember when I was young, I loved reading personal accounts about what it was like to reach the age of eighty. This gives me hope that there may be a younger audience interested in reading about what it’s like to be old.

I am sometimes tempted to feel out of step with younger writers. Doubt threatens to creep in, until I remind myself that everyone is relevant. One of the features that make the regular Dunedin poetry readings so valuable, is the lively cross section of ages and stages of those that attend and read. All are accepted. All are represented. No-one is made to feel redundant or irrelevant, no matter the age.

 

Paula Were there poems you found hard to write? In terms of doubt or of subject matter – you do face grief and loss, along with joy?

Kay  They are not hard poems to write, the ones about grief and loss. They seem to emerge from a place in me that is never empty. Rather than being hard to write, it’s almost like it’s hard to stop writing about these subjects. Poetry heals. And as long as we have stuff to heal from, poetry is there to help with that. Of course it needs to be achieved without maudlin or sentimental cliches. Isn’t there a saying about when describing a funeral, you don’t describe the tears mourners are weeping, but instead you describe the flowers on the casket? Something like that.

 

Daughter

 

My daughter told me about how Ace got run over.

She said that all along she knew it wasn’t a good idea

to let the dog run along beside the car,

but that Kris told her he’d seen his mates do it

and it’d be okay. ‘He should’ve listened to me,’ my daughter said,

‘but he’s too “she’ll be right”. Always with the “she’ll be right”.

Said I’m just being paranoid.’

Then, of course, what she thought would happen

happened: the dog’s leg slipped under the car’s wheel.

 

She asked me to help her take him to the vet

and carried him to the car like a baby.

‘A twenty-kilo baby at that,’ she said,

‘equivalent to twenty bottles of milk.’

The dog sat in the back seat

with a tartan rug draped over his head

like a Highland shawl, underneath, his face

all screwed up like an old person

trying to remember something.

 

In the waiting room, my granddaughter and I

decided that from underneath, the turtle in the tank

looked like a grenade with legs,

its cake-rack-patterned

tummy the shade of milky custard,

its head a thumb. The vet’s X-ray showed

that Ace’s injury was just a sprain.

Afterwards we had a cup of coffee at Rhubarb.

 

‘What’s more,’ my daughter said, referring back,

‘he hasn’t said sorry nearly hard enough.’

On the way home, from the top of Roslyn,

the sea is distant, kidney-shaped,

and my daughter said, ‘Don’t you just hate it

with the sky all white like it is today and no sun?

We may as well all be locked inside

a chilly bin.’ And I think: Daughter, it has to be

one of the most beautiful words.

 

Kay McKenzie Cooke

 

 

Paula Is there a poem that has particularly worked or mattered to you?

Kay  The poem about my daughter. She is extra-precious to me because she was adopted out as a baby and we reconnected – or found each other – twenty-three years ago now. (I write more about this in my third book, Born to a Red Headed Woman.)

The poem, called ‘Daughter’, is a slice of life that highlights for me the relationship my daughter and I now have. A relationship I treasure at a very deep level.

 

Paula  Has Covid 19 affected you as either reader or writer? Did you write any poems in lockdown?

Kay  I wrote about four poems – mostly about birds. Birds became highlighted for me during that time of lockdown. Possibly because they were symbolic of a freedom to fly or rise above all the fuss, worry and fear.

I thought I’d write screeds. But I was too busy editing Upturned with Mary to write new stuff. Too busy to even take notes from which to write poems from later.

Whatever I write about this strange time may not even be in the form of poetry. We’ll see after I’ve processed it all.

 

Paula  What do you like to do apart from writing?

Kay   Watch Netflix and listen to true crime podcasts.

I like to walk and take photos. Spend time with whanau. Go on roadies south.

Watch birds. Pick up stones and shells. I like reading – can’t wait to fully start reading again, to catch up on new poets and read new books from established poets. And add to my murder mystery reading. I’ve spent a whole year just on writing. It’s time to read. It’ll be my summer project.

 

Paula  If you could curate a festival poetry reading, drawing upon any time or place who would you invite?

Kay   I would invite: John Keats. Dylan Thomas. Gerald Manly Hopkins. Marianne Moore. Diane Wakoski. John Dolan. Wendy Cope. Fleur Adcock. Cilla McQueen. Ruth Dallas. Talia Marshall. Jeanne Bernhardt. Nick Ascroft. Richard Reeve. David Eggleton. Jenny Powell. Tony Beyer. Matsuo Basho.

 

 The Cuba Press page

Kay reads and responds to a poem

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Tim Upperton’s ‘Nobody knows’

 

Nobody knows

 

Many things make me sad these days,

the days make me sad, how they fade

into night so soon, how today

becomes yesterday, and then

last year, then seven years ago

when my mother died. She never

minded the passing of time,

getting old. Such a beauty she was.

Divorcing at seventy was a surprise.

She used to sing, sometimes, in a high voice,

‘Nobody knows – the troubles I’ve seen,’

and towards the end she’d sing,

‘Nobody knows …’ and then trail away,

and we knew and didn’t know.

 

 

Tim Upperton’s second poetry collection, The Night We Ate The Baby, was an Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalist in 2016. He won the Caselberg International Poetry Competition in 2012 and again in 2013. His poems have been published in many magazines including Agni, Poetry, Shenandoah, Sport, Takahe, and Landfall, and are anthologised in The Best of Best New Zealand Poems (2011), Villanelles (2012), Essential New Zealand Poems (2014), Obsession: Sestinas in the Twenty-First Century (2014), and Bonsai (2018).