Tag Archives: Anne Kennedy

Monday Poem: Anne Kennedy’s ‘One of My Baxter Poems’

 

One of My Baxter Poems

(from Moth Hour)

 

Coming down off the spine of the Botanical Gardens

onto the green flank of the dragon, shadows arch

 

under my feet. In the dell below, the shell-shaped stage

is strewn with red Camelias. November 

 

and across the valley on the dense dark Tinakori hill

houses begin to light up like Guy Fawkes. 

 

At the top of Patanga Crescent the pared-down villa

trembles with young men thinking,

 

pens lost in the wide sleeves of their dead uncles.

They are ecstatic and do everything extravagantly

 

in the last light: read, drink, fuck.

On the windowsill – a stone, leaf, a twig with buds,

 

and the black cat left behind mewling by the old lady

now in the Home of Compassion. No change.

 

©Anne Kennedy

 

Anne Kennedy’s new novel The Ice Shelf is due from VUP in October. She teaches writing at Manukau Institute of Technology. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The NZ edition of Poetry

 

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I know I find it hard to listen.

I read too much. I often need a drink.

It isn’t the world that makes us think,

it’s words that we can’t come up with.

Sure, I can work up fresh examples

and send them off to the committee.

But the poetry is in the bird. And in the pretty.

 

Bill Manhire, from ‘Polly’

 

International poetry traffic is so often dependent upon fortuitous connections. The degree of familiarity with poetry from elsewhere is utterly paltry compared with the degree of familiarity I have with local writing. Yes I have studied American and British poetry but I am more aware of the luminous stars in these poetry constellations than the grassroot outings.

On the other hand, we are no longer dependent upon ocean voyages and the constraints of distance, but to what degree does our poetry travel (compared say with fiction)? Or our poetry conversations extend beyond our lapping tidelines.

I am acutely aware of my impoverished relations with contemporary Australian poetry. Perhaps Joan Fleming and Amy Brown could guest edit a local journal with an Australian focus? But then again our journals are often annual and offer vital but scant opportunities for local poets.

This is not the first time an overseas journal has showcased New Zealand poetry, but it is perhaps the example I am most excited by. The editors – Stephanie Burt (USA), Paul Millar (NZ) and Chris Price (NZ) – have worked hard to present a distinctive and diverse overview of our current poetry. The selected poets cross all manner of borders: age, geographical location, style, university affiliation, gender, ethnicity. This matters if we want to move beyond the legacy of white male predomination, urban bias and privileged poetry models. I cannot name a NZ journal that has achieved such movement.

Yes the five books Daisy Fried reviewed – from the fifteen 2017 publications she was sent – were all Victoria University Press. Her selection certainly does not reflect the contours of that year, and we can all stand on the sidelines and shout (or sing) about the books we loved, but I have no issue with reviews reflecting individual taste. However I do take issue that a short intro and five VUP books can respond to her opening question: ‘How to characterise a national poetry?’ Why would you even try! It is a personal take on five excellent books.

The rest of the journal is an altogether different joy. The effect of reading is symphonic in the different hues and chords. Every single poem lifts off the page and catches both ear and eye. Such freshness, such lightness, darkness, musicality, room to breathe, surprising arcs and links and undercurrents. I keep swaying between Anna Jackson’s glorious bee poem and the flickering titles that coalesce in Nina Powles’s offering or the infectious wit of James Brown, Ashleigh Young and Tim Upperton.  I am pulled into the bite of Anahera Gildea, Chris Tse and then Tayi Tibble and stop in the tracks of reading. Travelling with Janet Charman and the revelatory suite makes me weep. Switching to Anne Kennedy and the momentum coils and overlaps and poetry transforms a starting point into elasticity on the line. Bill Manhire flips me over into the second stanza, and the lacework of reading – intricate yet full of holes – offers mystery, surprise, wit, curious things.

 

The time of breathing into clasped hands

hovering over a lighter to make a flame

 

not knowing

that an angry man threw his eyes into the night

 

the belly of his shattered father

weeping rain for separation of earth and sky

 

Jessie Puru from ‘Matariki’

 

 

The editors did not feel beholden to poetry that targets versions of New Zealand/ Aotearoa; our poetry might do this and then again it might not. The poems have the freedom to do and be anything whether they spring from spoken-word rhythms or  talkiness or thinginess or anecdotal revelations or sumptuous Baroque-detail or story or slanted humour or cutting political edges.

The poets: Anna Jackson, Kate Camp, Michele Leggott, Therese Lloyd, Jessie Puru, Essa Ranapiri, Tayi Tibble, Robert Sullivan, Kerrin P. Sharpe, Hera Lindsay Bird, Dylan Horrocks, James Brown, Murray Edmond, Jenny Bornholdt, Anne Kennedy, Bill Manhire, Nina Powles, Janet Charman, Anahera Gildea, Bernadette Hall, Vincent O’Sullivan, Courtney Sina Meredith, C.K. Stead, Chris Tse, Tim Upperton, Gregory O’Brien and John Pule, Faith Wilson, Ashleigh Young, Albert Wendt, Steven Toussaint, Erik Kennedy

This issue is a cause for celebration – I absolutely love it – and my celebration will take  the form of a subscription. New Zealand poetry has been well served – congratulations!

 

Poetry here

 

everything I never asked my grandmother

I can understand but I can’t speak

no one has played that piano since

New Zealand is so far away from here

let me translate for you the poem on the wall

 

Nina Powles from ‘Some titles for my childhood memoir’

Poetry Shelf Winter Season: Anne Kennedy off-piste

 

Die die, live live
1.

A puff of air
like a lover’s
sweet speech
bubble, blue
as sky. A brown
horizon turning
fast into tomorrow
and tomorrow, etc.
Mud and leather
and a man
who runs like rubber
drawn from itself
over mud
born from
its muddy
mother field.
A kick-off
and the howl of
a moon’s dog.
They kick
the tender thing and kick and kick the tender thing
and wail and sing.
Five-nil to them.
Fuck. And fuck
the conversion
too. More
points for them.
The ball sings.
The wind
sings a hymn
down the Saint
Patrick’s Day
parade-length
of field
and the wind
blows the ball
where it shouldn’t
go. You have to
hope these idiots
grasp softness
the idea of it
its air and
innocence.
Twelve-nil to
the other side.
Conversion? No.
A rose blooms.
The fullback
there he goes
into a scrum. He’s
in the scrum
for his girlfriend
the girl he loves.
A torn ear a red rose the love-song of the fullback
a big man a
fucking giant
look at him
run. A lot of blood.
He runs for the
invisible woman.
He’s a moving tree
a flowering
tree. The Aussie
should be sin-binned.
Oh. He is.
Penalty. Twelve-
three. Tenderness
and the terrible
wind-sound
necessary for
play. They kick the tender thing and kick and kick
the tender thing
and wail and sing.
A man jumps
to his feet
throwing the hand
of his girl into
the sky. He flails
and beseeches.
Go go go go go!
It’s her envoi.
A guttural
call Moss has
never heard before
coming from
here and here
a beating on
the edge of seagull
i.e. clarinet.
There’s a rolling
maul, players
scragging faces
with sprigs. The referee
runs and blood
runs like tears.
Penalty. Twelve-six.
Go man boot
the groaning
air cradle it
as your child.
Don’t fucking
drop it idiot.
A moan goes up.
It rests in
the bodied
stadium staying
there, living on
among the people
as damage.
They kick the tender thing and kick and kick the tender thing
and wail and sing.
Rain starts. Good
for the home team
(used to it).
The visitors gnash
their teeth. Mud
sprays men
into fossils
memento mori.
They’re covered
in the game
head to foot.
Outrageous penalty
fifteen-six. Fuck.
A scrum in mud
and more rain.
The field is
ankle-glass
sometimes shattered as a dance once seen moved in water
a splish and trail
like scarves.
Half time
(FW).

2.

The land shaved
of trees made
useful by
its nakedness
and water. Men
stand as if cattle
mirrored at
a trough. A whistle
like a cast
in a roving
eye roving
over the field.
The men swarm
towards the ball
flicking earth
and sky.
The Centre’s
butchering
down the field
as a lion hunts
prey in the late
afternoon.
As a boy he
loved animals.
Off-side. Fuck.
Blood and
sweat and blood
and the crack
of bones. They kick the tender thing and kick and kick
the tender thing
and wail and sing
and wail and sing.
A man is carried
off by St John’s
Ambulance. Ah well
Fifteen-eleven
but missed the
conversion the
egg. Another
kick-off and
before long
a line-out whatever
that is. A player
hurling himself
into infinity
running and falling
and not caring
his body everything
and nothing
hovering
on the brink of
his death, death
of a small
nation. He is
a carcass
or palace. He’s carried off by St John’s Ambulance.
But there’s a penalty.
Fifteen-fourteen.
They kick
the tender thing
and kick and kick
the tender thing
and wail and sing.
Howl and a face
coated in the season
and the game
is a season
imperative
compulsory
gone again and
a girl who walks into a woman. And rain drums length
of rain
drumming.
It’s late
and the sun dips
below the cap
of cloud touching
the heads of
the crowd limning
a moment blue.
They kick
the tender thing
and kick and kick
the tender thing
and wail and sing.
On the field
blood squelches
underfoot.
Twenty-fourteen.
Paul weeps
on her shoulder.
They’ve lost.
If they’d won
there’d be
just the same
weeping like a
well a stream
or cataract. She holds his bones under her hands
his back
where wings
might once
have been.
A good man
full of tenderness
giant i.e. a lot of
tenderness.
The small mercy
of no conversion.
A minute to go.
A man runs
down the field
like a doctor
in a field hospital.
A try to us!
Forty seconds
to go. The
half-back
lines up the
wet egg
of the universe
and after some
deliberation kicks
the tender thing.
And wails.
And sings.
Converted.
The sun sinks
The whistle blows.
They won!
(i.e. We won
apparently)
Paul and his mates
leap to their feet.
Hell we won.
They leap one
by one. Fintan
leaps to his feet.
Look even
Forest is leaping
to his feet. Moss
carried away with
the win and
Paul weeping
and giants leaping
and without thinking
she stands.
She looks down
at the long body
her old favourite.
And glances up
at the great giant
there beside her
a head taller
(no matter, he will
soon go away now
the game is over
and there is just
Finnegans Wake
to read or whatever
tall tale it was).
Light from
the tall lamp casts the giant shadow of the girl over Paul.
He is bathed
in a quick new
coolness, as
dusk falls suddenly
in the Tropics
and feels it
and stares up
at the girl and
backs and backs
(the love song
of the full-back).

© Anne Kennedy from The Time of the Giants (Auckland University Press, 2005)

 

 

Author note: Writing poetry at all was a jumping of the tracks for me, and although my prose was ‘poetic’ and my poems prosey, the change still felt enormous, like doing something other than writing. (I still think of it as not really writing, more arranging.) Boiled down, the change to poetry for me was to do with noticing the cool juxtaposition between freedom of language (a poetry reader is more likely to make leaps with you), and the restraint of form that is always there on the page in front of you.

The poem here (which I call my ‘rugby poem’) is from a verse novel, The Time of the Giants. It represents for me a few realizations. The first is the power of line breaks. They are marvellous things! Always have been, but with this poem I began to regard them anew, not just aurally, but visually – as a means to isolate words like stones in a Japanese garden.

With Giants I also realized I wanted to use a quite honed three-act structure to tell the story. In this poem, I knowingly brought together the whole cast at the end of Act III.

But why use this form to tell this part of the story? (I ask myself.) Because it’s fast, and the narrative is on full-throttle at this point; and because I wanted it to be high-energy like a pre-match haka, and a bit funny, and the line-breaks are ludicrous. (When you think about too much, all line breaks are ludicrous.)

 

Anne Kennedy‘s last book was the novel, The Last Days of the National Costume. Among other awards she has won the NZ Post Book Award for Poetry and the Montana Book Award for Poetry. In 2016 she was writer in residence at the IIML. Anne teaches creative writing at Manukau Institute of Technology.

 

From Paula: For Poetry Shelf’s Winter Season, I invited 12 poets to pick one of their own poems that marks a shift in direction, that is outside the usual tracks of their poetry, that moves out of character, that nudges comfort zones of writing. It might be subject matter, style, form, approach, tone, effect, motivation, borrowings, revelation, invention, experimentation, exclusions, inclusions, melody …. anything!

 

 

Some highlights in the 70th anniversary edition of Landfall

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Landfall 233 edited by David Eggleton

 

Last Sunday I was feeling travel worn, flat, depleted, sick and I could not settle on anything. The kind of day where you pick this up and put it down. You pick that and then this and then that and then this. And then find yourself back at the start again. It was only when I opened the new Landfall I found my self settling back and reading.

The 70th Birthday issue is terrific. It includes testimonies from Chris Price and Iain Sharp (both candid on the difficulties of editing a key literary journal), Philip Temple (on the controversial dismissal of Robin Dudding and efforts to revive the flagging enterprise) and Peter Simpson on Charles Brasch and Landfall. Simpson quotes Brasch musing on when to quit editing. He decided he must stop at 15 years – although it stretched to 20. He concluded:

‘I shall have nothing to live for, nothing I badly want to do, nothing I am forced to do in order to live …’

 

Sometimes I like to read a journal from first page to last page in order to follow the contours and harmonies of editing. This time it was pick n’ mix poetry. As I read I jotted down:

vibrant fresh vital diverse essential reading unfamiliar voices much-loved voices direct indirect

 

Adore the Art Portfolios by Chris Corson-Scott and Heather Straka.

 

Two prose pieces caught me eye first. Both surprising and stick like biddibids.

‘Last-ditch Daisies’ Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor

‘It’s All I Had’ Joanna Cho

 

Then the poetry:

 

‘Four Transformations on a theme of Philip’ by Anne Kennedy is like a return to her brother (1951 – 1973). Every time I pick the book up it falls open here and I read it again. The short lines shift patterns on the pages like little twitches of contemplation, memory, bright retrieved detail with indents, parentheses, fluency.

 

Catch me in the garden

and put me in a jar

 

the air where I was

in the palm of your hand

 

 

‘Morning Song’ by Emma Neale builds a loving grandfather portrait that weds sharp detail with war undertones spiky within a family’s daily life. It is sumptuous writing with things hiding off the edges.

 

Gramps stole eggs, green seeds of song, from their nests

to show us wonder; hairline cracks ran

our sooks’ hearts as we watched the robbed mothers fly home.

 

 

‘Mr Anderson, You Heartbreaker’ by Helen Rickerby teases and bites into Hans Christian Anderson and his depiction or wooing of women and harnesses Helen’s adult eyes on the Little Mermaid.

 

And really, if she’d just held onto her tongue

she could have sung him to her

reeled him in, drunk him down

one prince, on the rocks, coming up

 

 

‘Storm’ by Amanda Hunt is a glorious lyrical snapshot that slows down the pace of contemplation to the point each detail is under an enviable spotlight. ( I am reminded of how Janet Frame wanted to slow down the pace of her poems)

 

a butterfly flutter

of moth-soft feathers

glancing across my shoulder

 

‘Fear of Feathers’ by Michael Gould delivers a surprising passage through the lines to the final enticement ‘life is good.’

 

Some sounds of birds (unseen but heard)

may confound those with no sense of the absurd

 

‘Personal Space’ by Johanna Emeney refreshes the domestic poem beautifully and needs to be read in its completeness to catch the humour, the pathos, the politics, the poetry, the feeling. I am including the last stanza.

 

She should clear a space

beneath the sudden worry of crowded floors,

the scatter of feet; the shock of doors,

run downstairs and shut herself in

the last room at the bottom,

then spin, arms open,

to see just how wide

she has forgotten.

 

 

‘Inflammable’ by Anna Jackson is a poem that catches the dark and light of life and living beneath the flicker of candle light. It reminds me of the way a particular moment, against all the millions lost and faded, that is luminous on return.

 

The world was flammable we knew it was.

 

‘Art Is Weak’ by Nick Ascroft is smart and sharp and hooks you from the first line.

 

Conceptual art is not so empty sleeved

and brained.

 

‘The Bee Elle’ by Lynley Edmeades curls and coils deliciously around a physical view and subterranean ideas.

 

Everyone is hooked up

to various elsewheres

as if our bodies don’t matter.

 

‘How a New Zealand Sunrise is Different from Other Sunrises’ by Erik Kennedy is like a landscape poem standing on its head and is thus invigorating to read (I am a landscape poem fan for all kinds of reasons).

 

Pinks and yellows collude to orange the hillside,

but they trick you into thinking the hills are proper orange

on their own, like an oyster catcher’s lurid bill

 

Poetry Shelf The Summer Season: Poets pick poems – Bernadette Hall picks Anne Kennedy

 

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©Anne Kennedy, The Darling North, Anne Kennedy, Auckland University Press, 2012.

 

 

 

Bernadette Hall comments on the poem:

 

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I first read these lines in 2012. Anne Kennedy’s book had just come out. I read the lines and I fell in love with them. I held onto the poem that held onto them as if it was a life-raft. Every time I read that poem, Hello Kitty, Goodbye Piccadilly, (and I read it often) I have the same feeling of home-coming. The thinking is within the same territory I’m fixated on: the tension between the dream places, the places of beginning, of origin, the places that arise from myth. And the materiality of here and now, the stuff that arises from star dust just as our world does and everything including us within it.

On the one hand there’s the ancient dreaming, the naming and the renaming of myth and ritual. Of religion and philosophy. The stuff of the mind, the soul and the imagination. The stuff of desire. And then there’s the solid ground beneath our feet. There’s a collision here surely. How are we to shape a language that it is capacious and mobile and courageous  enough to handle collision and complexity?

It’s an ancient curiosity, this, to ask the existential questions : unde? whence? quo? whither? cur? why? Philosophers and theologians are the professionals. But so often their thinking has been disembodied. Maybe it was up to poets to explore the connective tissue between concrete and abstract, to make new alliances between thought and matter. The body, the mind, the heart, the soul. How serviceable the old language was. But how are we to reveal ourselves to ourselves today?

The framework of Hello KittyGoodbye Picadilly  is the shift from New Zealand with its theatre of memories to Hawai’i. It’s a move north, away from the cold wind – ‘you wish you had gathered it up / and kept it in a suitcase’ – to a Pacific ‘Paradise’. The kind of place the French sailors with Marion du Fresne thought they’d found in Tahiti. But then they went on and found a Pacific ‘Hell’ when they landed in the Bay of Islands in 1772. (I’m fresh from reading Joanna Orwin’s marvellous novel ‘Collision’ that explores these things with spectacular success.)

What I love about the poem is that it arises out of uncertainty, out of questioning. Out of a sense of what’s missing.

There are those repeated lines, the repeated negatives : ‘I don’t have Hawai’iki’    ‘I don’t have Heaven’. Isn’t this the Socratic method, using negatives to slash away the debris and then see what’s left standing? ‘In Paradise you will sit for a long time / looking at everything as if for the first time / and you will understand.’ So we’re back to the very beginning, in need of language, in need of thinking. But then ‘You wonder in passing / about your body, its whereabouts’. And there’s the female body, the human body, the body, not as something corruptible but as an equal.

Maybe memory is the cache where everything holds together, where everything lasts:

 

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Almost at the very end of the poem there’s a recounting of losses:

 

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And my heart turns over. I guess these lines just get richer as I age. As the whole question of getting up and leaving the room becomes more present. How is this to be done?

There’s a scene in J. M Coetzee’s novel ‘ Elizabeth Costello’ where the aged academic finds herself at the gates of what we might call heaven.  She has to face judges there, she has to answer difficult questions. Her life as a writer, a life spent of making up things, is under scrutiny.

‘Is childhood on the Dulgannon another of your stories, Mrs Costello? Along with the frogs and the rain from heaven?’

‘The river exists. The frogs exist. I exist. What more do you want?’

Indeed, what?

The final move in the poem is from loss to uplift.  Once again it’s repetition that’s the key turning in the lock, multiplying the ways to enter the text:

 

 

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.

 

I love this kind of thing. The depth and the nourishment I find here. The way Anne Kennedy’s writing, like that of Coetzee, opens up new rooms in my head and in my heart.

Bernadette Hall

 

 

Bernadette Hall lives at Amberley Beach in the Hurunui, North Canterbury. She has published 10 collections of poetry, the most recent being Life & Customs VUP 2013 and Maukatere, floating mountain, Seraph Press, 2016. The latter includes drawings by the Wellington artist, Rachel O’Neill. In 2015, Bernadette received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. And in 2017, she was invested as a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her Services to Literature.

Poetry Live Kicks off 2017 with Anne Kennedy (report from Carolyn Cossey)

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Photo credit: MW Sellwood

 

You know that the year is settling into its groove when Tuesday nights are again occupied with a trip to the Thirsty Dog for Poetry Live. The first session for the year was held on the 7th of February,  with Anne Kennedy as the featured poet.

Anne has recently returned to Auckland from her year as Writer in Residence at Victoria University, to resume her teaching position at Manukau Institute of Technology’s creative writing programme.

Anne’s poems through the night were in turn political, and personal, and always wrapped in her wry humour. Her stage presence was somehow ethereal, and compelling. (Okay, I know, I’m fan-girling, but it really was that good!) She began by dedicating her first poem to the group of Indian students currently facing deportation from New Zealand due to their association with immigration fraud. She touched on Trumpism and its seed stock from observations during her Hawaiian years, with her sonnets.

 

‘That thing
on the rim of the glass is the sun going down
on America.’

 

There were familiar favourites, such as ‘Island Bay has a new sea wall’, but we were also privileged  with new material; Anne read from a series ‘Transformations’, based on a poem by her late brother. Her final poem was by fellow MIT lecturer Tusiata Avia, published in Ika 3, ‘We are the diasporas of all of us’.

The scene was set for the evening by the raw blues of MW Sellwood. Finally, the Poetry Live team announced the appointment of Sophie Proctor, to fill the vacant MC spot.

 

Carolyn Cossey