Tag Archives: Auckland University Press

Poetry Shelf Winter Season: Chris Price off-piste

 

Six Thinkers

 

Six thinkers

 

Anne thinks that Brian should stop pestering her to marry him.

Brian thinks if only Anne would only stop worrying about how they were

going to live.

Catherine thinks that Dean would be a far better choice for her daughter.

Dean thinks that Erica is the hottest thing since Elvis Costello.

Erica thinks that accountancy students may be the most boring people on

earth.

Frank thinks that Catherine should just leave Anne alone to make up her

own mind.

 

Brian thinks it looks like rain as he hesitates on the porch.

Catherine isn’t sure, but she offers Brian an umbrella.

Dean sees that drip Brian leaving Anne’s place as he pulls into the next-door

 driveway in his Ford Capri.

Erica has been ready for ages but she still goes to the mirror to check her

make-up when she hears the car.

Frank thinks That boy’s got his head screwed on the right way, Erica’s a real

 doll, if I were his age . . .

Anne thanks God (in whom she no longer believes) that Brian’s gone at last,

and wonders what her father is looking at through the kitchen window.

 

Catherine says Would you like to join us for a barbeque, Dean?

Dean leans over the fence and says No thanks Mrs Franklin, I’ve got some

serious studying to do.

Erica says Yes, he’s got exams next week.

Frank says Gotta get your priorities straight eh Dean?

Anne says Well, maybe after exams, then?

Brian says nothing, he’s halfway to Forrest Hill, grateful that the rain’s held

off, whistling, not a clue in the world what a no-hoper he is.

 

Dean passes that git Brian on his way home and pretends not to see him so

he won’t have to offer him a lift.

Erica wonders whether Dean really is the man for her, when accountants

 are so uncool, even if he does have a Ford Capri and a flat on his own

with a view of the Harbour Bridge.

Frank lingers at the window, which affords him a good view of Erica’s

 cleavage as she stands at the fence talking to his wife.

Anne finally twigs to the reason for the amount of time her dad spends at the

kitchen window.

Brian gets home and puts on a cup of tea for his mum, who is asleep over

the racing pages, radio cantering on in the background.

Catherine wonders why her daughter doesn’t get out more, meet a few

boys like Dean.

 

Erica thinks Dean just wants to get into her pants, he’s like any other boy,

in the end.

Frank thinks he wouldn’t mind getting into that girl’s pants, if he were a

 younger man . . .

Anne thinks I know what you’re thinking you dirty old bastard.

Brian thinks I wonder what’s for dinner?

Catherine thinks that young women today just don’t know how easy

they’ve got it.

Dean thinks about slipping his hand down Erica’s jeans as he slides into

the bath with Elvis Costello up loud on the stereo.

 

Frank starts guiltily as his daughter clatters the knives and forks onto the

tray with unnecessary force.

Anne decides she’s never going to get married, at least not until she’s finished

her degree and got a few year’s work behind her.

Brian sets the table, and puts the steaming cup quietly down where his

mother can’t knock it over when she wakes.

Catherine comes inside and says, Well, time to light the barbeque, eh Frank?

Dean flings some Brut about his steaming person, wraps a towel round his

waist, strolls into the lounge and flicks through his address book.

Erica walks in her parent’s front door and sits thoughtfully by the

telephone in the hall.

 

Anne begins buttering the bread, but her mind is elsewhere, and she butters

the teatowel thoroughly before she realizes.

Brian finds some fish fingers and frozen peas in the freezer and thinks

that’ll do us as his mum’s snore begins to ruffle the pages of the paper,

 ever so slightly.

Catherine wonders if her daughter might be pregnant, she’s been so vague

lately, and now this thing with the teatowel.

Dean finds Glenda’s phone number and begins to dial.

Erica decides it’s time to begin again.

Frank begins to build up a nice wee blaze.

 

©Chris Price, from Husk (Auckland University Press, 2002)

 

 

‘Six Thinkers’ was a response to an exercise Bill Manhire set the IIML’s MA workshop of 1998. The exercise was simply to write a poem in the form of a list (although Bill did hand out a couple of example poems along with that instruction, one a recipe poem by Gary Snyder, the other an Allen Ginsberg poem that used anaphora – every line began with the word ‘Because’).

My initial idea was simple: I would write down the first six letters of the alphabet, in order, a bit like a multi-choice test, and use each letter to begin a new line. The next step was to assign a name to each initial, so I found myself with a cast of characters whom I needed to set in motion.

The added constraint was that I applied the rotating end-word pattern of the sestina to those six names at the beginning of each line, which gave me a template for a story in six six-line stanzas plus a three-line tailpiece that also had to (once again, drawing on the sestina) use all six names. I may have had the formal pattern in place, but the poem itself came to me very early one morning, and I got out of bed to write it down. I’ve never repeated the mongrel sestina form, nor have I produced another study of multiple characters like this one. It’s the first and last time that I’ve tricked myself into writing a story in poem form.

 

Chris Price‘s latest book is Beside Herself (AUP,2016). She convenes the Poetry and Creative Non-fiction MA Workshop at the International Institute of Modern Letters. ‘Six Thinkers’ appeared in her first book, Husk (AUP, 2002).

 

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!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Poetry Shelf Winter Season: Ian Wedde off-piste

 

From ‘A hymn to beauty: days of a year’

 

Beauty

you’re the trouble I’m in

because there’s a lot of sweetness in my life

with that rude kind of magnificence

as when they hung Le Bateau upside down,

unusually animated and sparking.

Happy Birthday Montgomery Clift:

Where did I see this guy—in Red River

or in From Here to Eternity?

Accept and you become whole

bend and you straighten.

 

 

I hung around a little too long

I was good but now I’m gone,

I may find myself in a tight spot

but forge ahead

where satellite images show Yongbyon

and a mariner in the distance appears cordial.

Happy Birthday Betty Hutton

who is to be found in the lines and gradations

of unsullied snow

for your heart will always be

where your riches are.

 

 

They’re Justified and they’re Ancient

and they drive an ice-cream van

so do what will help

and don’t worry what others think

if King Kong premieres in New York.

In his eyes, beauty may be seen.

Happy Birthday Lou Reed,

as fast as a musician scatters sounds

out of an instrument.

One thing only do I want

to marvel there.

 

©Ian Wedde Three Regrets and a Hymn to Beauty (Auckland University Press, 2005)

 

 

Note for poetry shelf

In ‘Enjoyment’, the preface to Selected Poems (2017), I ‘confess to restlessness and the enjoyment of subverting my own practice’, which is one way of saying I got bored with myself and switched tracks regularly over the years. In a selection covering fourteen collections these swerves look more abrupt than they were. One place where they converge is in ‘A hymn to beauty: days of a year’, a sequence of fifty-seven sections that sampled lines from songs, the day’s horoscope advice to Librans, a ‘today in history’ clip from the Evening Post, the birthday of someone famous, a quote from the shambolic literature of the Sublime, and a religious homily. It took up 22 pages in its original covers (Three Regrets and a Hymn to Beauty, AUP 2005) and I only stopped when a sensible little voice told me to—I was having too much fun. It took me out of an autoethnography groove, it allowed me to mess around with a complex word, beauty, without being trapped by aestheticising lyric conventions, and it construed narrative meanings that had nothing to do with my intentions. Fergus Barrowman first published the whole thing in Sport 32 (Summer 2004) for which I thank him. Here are three sections, the opening one and two more picked at random with my eyes shut.

 

Ian Wedde’s first (very small) book was published by Amphedesma Press in 1971 and in May this year his (fairly chunky) Selected Poems was published by Auckland University Press, with artwork by John Reynolds. A small book about the art of Judy Millar, Refer Judy Millar, is just out from Wunderblock in Berlin. His essay ‘How Not To Be At Home’ is in the anthology Home: New Writing just out from Massey University Press.

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

NZ Festival series: Ian Wedde’s Reading Life (and Bill and Catherine’s)

 

 

The_Green_Road.width-900.jpg

 

This terrific series edited by Guy Somerset also includes Bill Manhire and Catherine Chidgey.

To celebrate Ian Wedde’s Selected Poems, we are invited to share a smidgeon of Ian’s reading life:

‘The first book to capture my imagination was … A toss up between May Gibbs’ Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (I was scared of the Banksia Men) and Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Books (I was Mowgli!).’

Ian’s full book shelf here

Sadly this was Guy’s last edition, but he left a terrific Glastonbury link as an adieu.

Poetry Shelf interviews Elizabeth Smither: ‘ I think poetry in many ways is a dare’

 

Smither photo.jpg

Elizabeth Smither with Rusty and Sneaky

 

 

 

‘The Labradors have made nests already

simply by lying in the long grass

sucking the green into their bodies’

 

from ‘Lying in the long grass between two black Labradors’ in Night Horse

 

 

I recently read through the alluring stretch of Elizabeth Smither’s poetry; from Here Come the Clouds published in 1975, to the new collection, Night Horse, just released by Auckland University Press. I was drawn into melodious lines, pocket anecdotes, bright images and enviable movement. Harry Ricketts talked about the transformative quality of Elizabeth’s poems in an interview with Kathryn Ryan, and I agree. As you follow reading paths from the opening line, there is always  some form of transformation. The poetry, from debut until now, is meditative, andante, beautiful.

Elizabeth Smither has written 18 collections of poetry, five novels, five short story collections, journals, essays and reviews. She was New Zealand’s Poet Laureate (2001-3), was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry in 2008, the same year she received an Hon D. Litt from Auckland University. She has appeared widely at festivals and her work has been published in Australia, USA and UK.

To celebrate Night Horse (Auckland University Press, 2017), Elizabeth agreed to answer a few questions.

 

‘You can run as fast as Atalanta

who bowled three apples at her suitors

Double Red Delicious’

 

from ‘An apple tree for Ruby’ in Night Horse

 

What sparked your imagination as a child? Was reading a main attraction or did you also write? Did particular books endure?

Reading and writing. I liked to say long sentences to myself as I walked. The first thing I can remember writing about was my pet New Zealand White rabbit. All the usual books of the period: Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, A Girl of the Limberlost  which I found faintly terrifying. I can see these are the precursors of George Eliot and Jane Austen. As a teenager I had a crush on French writers: Colette, Gide, Mauriac, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Simenon. My father was a great novel reader and he impressed on me the sacrifices made by writers like Charles Dickens. I was scared of Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop and never got past the page on which he appeared.

 

‘The cats are out by the letterboxes

at the ends of long driveways

waiting to see how the night will shape itself.’

 

from ‘Cat night’ in Night Horse

 

Your debut poetry collection, Here Come the Clouds, appeared in 1975, your eighteenth volume, Night Horse, was published in June this year. I see the same poetic attentiveness and ability to assemble detail that both stalls and surprises the reader. Do you see any changes in the way your write poems, or what you bring to poems, over the past decades?

Elizabeth Caffin wrote of an assured voice but I am unaware of it. I think it is more a question of a philosophy: Keats being lost in the leaves of a tree; being most ourselves when we are unconscious of what the self is; not feeling we are the centre of the universe but one of its parts. It is also a balancing act: the outside world meeting the interior; the sad existing alongside the pleasing, our mixed motives and our inability to ever know more than a fraction. In compensation we have the lovely leap of the imagination. I think poetry in many ways is a dare.

 

Have any poets or books affected or boosted your poetic directions?

Wallace Stevens was a huge discovery. I used to spend a year reading a major poet. Stevens, Roethke, Berryman, Plath, Sexton, Bishop, Lowell, Synder, The Beats, Black Mountain. Now I am less of a swot and read wherever I please. And when I am tired and jaded I re-read Hercule Poirot.

 

‘More moon tonight. 14 per cent  bigger

and closer to the earth. The whole sky

seems to leap to greet a visitor.’

 

from ‘Perigee moon’ in Night Horse

 

 

In 1975, very few women poets were getting published in New Zealand. Did you feel you were writing within a community of poets? Men or women? Was it difficult to get your first book out?

Part community, part social movement: Greer, Friedan, Steinem, Kedgley, Mead. The United Women’s Convention. We were all swallowing American poets at that time, looking for a freer way forward. My first book I owe to Sam Hunt who was visiting and found a folder of poems he gave to Alister Taylor. After Alister came McIndoe and then AUP.

 

‘Fast the pulse of the music, every beat

clear as a little stream running over stones’

 

from ‘At the ballet’ in Night Horse

 

Your new collection is a delight to read and offers so many poetic treats. I was thinking as I read that your poems are like little jackets that can be worn inside out and outside in. In stillness there is movement and in movement there is stillness; in musicality there is plainness and in plainness there is musicality. In the strange there is the ordinary and in the ordinary there is the strange. What do you like your poems to do?

I want them to do everything. Everything at once. I want them to feel and think (and feel the thinking in them as you read). I want them to be quick, in the old sense of the word: the opposite of dead. I want them to not know something and try to find it out – I would never write a poem with prior knowledge – I think ignorance can be bliss or at least start the motor. And as I write more I find out more and more about musicality. Isn’t one of the loveliest moments in music when harmony breaks through discord as though it is earned and you know that discord, instead of being a thicket or a dark wood, is part of it?

 

 

‘Down their sleeves (his jacket, her blouse)

run currents the early evening stars detect

and whose meaning is held in great museums’

 

from ‘Holding hands’ in Night Horse

 

I love that idea! What attracts you in the poetry of others?

Boldness, form (the pressure of it), language as clear as it can be, given the difficulty or otherwise of the content, not being self-centred, engaging the reader. Visceral was the quality Allen Curnow looked for when I had the temerity to leave a poem in his letterbox. ‘I poked it with a stick and it was alive.’ James Brown does it in ‘Flying Fuck’ (‘The Spinoff, June 9, 2017); Stephen Romer in some lines about cleaning a barn (‘Carcanet Eletter: Set Thy Love in Order)

            ‘Perhaps in our cool northern air

you rose some echelons

being lighter, the barn empty’

 

while Carol Ann Duffy excoriates Theresa May with lines that reach back to the roots of poetry:

‘The furious young

ran towards her through fields of wheat.’

 

 

‘Morals that are so pure they blaze

the sunlight back into the air’

 

from ‘A landscape of shining of leaves’ in Night Horse

 

Janet Frame worked hard to get the rhythm right in her poems and she wasn’t always satisfied (ah, the rogue self-doubt! I adore her musical effects). I find you are able to slow down the pace of your poems so that I linger as reader upon an image, a word, an anecdote, a side-thought to see what surfaces. Does this reflect your process as a writer?

I think, since I write in longhand, it may echo the pauses during composition.

 

Do you, like Janet and countless other poets, have poetry anxieties?

Just the big anxiety, the generalised one. To be better, to get closer, to go deeper, knowing that a rigorous equation awaits. I particularly felt this in ballet: any advance, even within the safety of a spotlight, opened a further and equivalent unknown. My other anxiety is that, having embarked on a poem at speed and decided on a stanza form, the stanzas won’t add up when I have finished.

 

‘Eggs in foil were hidden everywhere

until the taste of sweetness palled.

She sits in an armchair with her bear’

 

from ‘Ruby and fruit’ in Night Horse

 

Your poetry does not slip into a self-confession or grant a window on your most private life, yet it acts as an autobiographical record of your relations with the world, people, animals and objects. How do you see the relationship between autobiography and your poems?

Some of the recent autobiographical poems remind me a little of Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’. Ruminating portraits of friends or events illustrating a friend. The ‘Enigma Variations’ are tender but well-defined, different in tone. Autobiography, to me, has many hazards. We all excuse ourselves and even the most honest and analytic among us favour some perspectives over others. I feel confident that something of ourselves always gets in and reveals more than we can imagine. ‘Am I in this poem?’ has never worried me. I know I am.

 

Are there taboo areas?

No, never. It’s just a case of what you can handle.

 

 

‘It was all those unseen moments we do not see

the best of a friend, the best of a mother

competent and gracious in her solitude’

 

from ‘My mother’s house’ in Night Horse

 

‘Later you’ll scrub individual stains

from the white field: the rim of someone’s glass

down which a red droplet ran, a smear

of eggy quiche, a buttered crumb.’

 

from ‘The tablecloth’ in Night Horse

 

I especially love the ongoing friendship and granddaughter poems, but I particularly love the first poem, ‘My mother’s house.’ Kate Camp and I heard you read this at the National Library’s Circle of Laureates  and were so moved and uplifted that we asked for copies! Unseen, you are observing your mother move through the house from the street (you gave us this introduction) and see her in shifting lights. The moment is extraordinary; are we are at our truest self when we are not observed? There is the characteristic Smither movement through the poem, slow and attentive, to the point of tilt or surprise. The final lines reverberate and alter the pitch of looking: ‘but she who made it/who would soon walk into the last room/of her life and go to sleep in it.’  Do you have a poem or two in the collection that particularly resonate with you?

I’m fond of ‘The tablecloth’ after I observed my friend, Clay, scrubbing at a corner of a white damask tablecloth in the laundry after a dinner party. It reminded me of the old-fashioned way of washing linen in a river. It’s both a doll-sized tablecloth and something almost as large as the tablecloth for a royal banquet around which staff walk, measuring the placement of cutlery and the distance between each chair. ‘Ukulele for a dying child’ tumbles all over itself in an incoherent manner because the subject is so serious and no poet can do it justice. The grandmother poems will probably be ongoing because it is such an intense experience: something between a hovering angel and a lioness. Going back to your remark about ‘My mother’s house’ I agree with the truth that is available in our unobserved moments. Perhaps there is a balance between our social and our private moments which might comprise something Keats called ‘soul-making’.

 

‘Next morning she was called again

to undo the work of her marvellous wrists.

“Miss Bowerman, can you let out the water?”‘

 

from ‘Miss Bowerman and the hot water bottles’ in Night Horse

 

There is no formula for an ending but I often get an intake of breath, a tiny heart skip when I read your poems. What do you like endings to do?

The endings I like best have some extravagance in them, like the ending of ‘Cat Night’ where the road which still retains the day’s warmth turns into carriages and cocottes on the Champs-Elysées.

 

‘Let the street lights mark

the great promenade down which love will come

like black carriages on the Champs-Elysées.’

 

There’s a big difference between the size of a cat and a carriage but the emotion is the same.

 

 

Which New Zealand poets have you read in the past year or so that have struck or stuck?

Diana Bridge, Claire Orchard, John Dennison, yourself in New York, Michael Harlow, Geoff Cochrane and all the laureates.

 

Or from elsewhere?

Lots of Australians. I’ve just read Rosemary Dobson’s Collected Poems.

 

Do you read widely in other genres?

Yes, I particularly like hybrid forms – travelogues that turn into miniature poetry collections, diaries, memoirs that admit to no rules as if they understand the psychology of the reader who is liable to become bored, and also the limits of being an author. My main love remains the novel, followed closely by the short story and the detective story.

 

I was once asked to pick a single New Zealand poem I love to talk about on Summer Noelle. What poem would you pick?

Since Allen Curnow: Simply by Sailing in a New Direction, a biography by Terry Sturm, edited by Linda Cassells and Allen Curnow: Collected Poems, edited by Elizabeth Caffin and Terry Sturm are being published by AUP later this year, and since our pohutukawa are threatened by myrtle rust, I would pick ‘Spectacular Blossom’.

 

‘ – Can anyone choose

And call it beauty? – The victims

Are always beautiful.’

 

 

 

Auckland University Press Night Horse page and author page

Booksellers review by Emma Shi

Radio NZ National review by Harry Ricketts with Kathryn Ryan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Smither’s Auckland launch

Auckland University Press and The Women’s Bookshop
warmly invite you to the launch of Night Horse

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Please join us in celebrating the launch of Elizabeth Smither’s new poetry collection, Night Horse.

6.00 pm, Tuesday 20 June 2017
The Women’s Bookshop
105 Ponsonby Road
Auckland

 

Please RSVP by 18 June.
Email books@womensbookshop.co.nz or phone (09) 3764399

Auckland University Press