Tag Archives: Auckland University Press

Poetry Shelf Spring Season’s poetry fans: Elizabeth Caffin picks Allen Curnow

 

A Busy Port

I

My turn to embark. A steep gangplank
expects me. An obedient child,
I follow my father down.

It happens that the sun will have topped
a black hill beside the time-ball tower,
and found the spot of a fresh

tear on Bob Hempstalk’s cheekbone, whose wet
red eyes blink back seaward where he leans
for’ard at the wheel-house glass;

one hand wipes an eye, the other shakes
a half-hitch loose, unlashing the wheel.
A man’s tears, obscene to me

caught looking. Too late now. The time-ball
drops. Quayside voices (not for my ears)
discuss the dead, bells repeat

ding-ding across the wharf. Brightwork traps
the sun in brass when I next look up,
following my father down,

who made the trip himself many years
past. The old rust-bucket gets up steam.
Frequent sailings from where we live.

II

Winched aboard still warm over the for’ard
hatch the morning’s bread hangs by a breath
of its own. It smells of bed.

An enriched air. The urinal under
the wharf drip-feeds, the main steam below
sweats. Darky Adams, deckhand

engineer stoker bangs his firebox
open, slings in a shovelful, slams
the insulted flame back home,

thick acrid riddance topples the way
smoke rolls by its own weight, in an air
that barely lifts, off the stack.

One jump clear of the deck the plank dips
with a short uneasy motion, deep-
sea talk to the paddler’s foot

out of my depth, deeper yet, off the Heads,
our Pillars. Pitching like a beer-can.
I’m hanging on tight, can’t hear

clashes from the stokehole for the wind
yelling, crossed on the wheel he’s yelling
back, ‘Ay, bit of a stiff breeze’.

Eyes that last I saw in tears can read
abstruse characters of waves, on course
between them, our plunging bows.

 

©Allen Curnow Early Days Yet (Auckland University Press, 1997) published with kind permission from the Curnow Estate.

 

1448418925728.jpg

 

Note from Elizabeth: This is one of the wonderful poems recalling moments of his childhood that Allen Curnow wrote in the last years of his life. They move me especially because I too had a Canterbury childhood and can also remember sailing out from Lyttelton through the Heads, ‘our Pillars’. Curnow captures the excited anticipation of this birthday treat with his father but at the same time the child’s perplexed and disturbed glimpses of grief and death. (It seems the skipper’s wife has just died.) The voyage becomes the voyage we all make from birth to death; he ‘follows [his] father down’ not only into the bowels of  ‘the old rust bucket’ but also towards death, ‘who made the trip himself many years/ past’.  The famous time ball drops as it always did at 1pm but also to signal the passing of time, the course of his life and of his father’s. The two perspectives of small boy and elderly poet merge; precise details of sight, smell, sound blend with an almost mythic vision in this great poem.

Terry Sturm’s biography of Allen Curnow, Simply by Sailing in a New Direction, and Curnow’s Collected Poems were published at the end of September.

 

Elizabeth Caffin was formerly director of Auckland University Press, which
published Allen Curnow’s poetry over many years. She is also the co-editor,
with Terry Sturm, of the recently published Collected Poems of Allen Curnow (Auckland University Press, 2017).

Allen Curnow (1911 – 2001) published numerous poetry collections – from his debut with Valley of Decision (1933) to The Bells of St Babel (2001). He also produced criticism, plays and anthologies that contributed at both national and international levels. Among numerous awards, he received the Commonwealth Prize for Poetry and the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

1505692801947.jpg    1506300705951.jpg

Poetry Shelf Spring Season’s poetry fans: Philip Matthews picks C. K. Stead

Without

Crossing Cook Strait
going home to be
ordained in the

parish of his
father, while seas wished
by and the wind

had its say in the
wires, it came to
him there was no

God. Not that
God was sulking or had
turned His back—that

had happened
often. It was that God
wasn’t there, was

nowhere, a Word
without reference or
object. Who was

God? He was the
Lord. What Lord was
that? The Lord God. Back

and forth it went while
stern lifted, screw
shuddered, stars glowed

and faded. The
universe was losing
weight. It was

then he threw his
Bible into the
sea. He was a

poet and would
write his own. Happiness
was nothing

but not being
sad. It was your
self in this one and

only moment
without grief or
remorse, without God

or a future—sea,
sky, the decks
rolling underfoot.

 

CK Stead from The Red Tram (Auckland University Press, 2004)

 

Note from Philip:

‘Without’ takes a true story of a crisis of faith and makes it a founding myth of New Zealand literature. Allen Curnow had intended to follow in the footsteps of his father, an Anglican priest, and started his theological training at St John’s in Auckland. Curnow tells the story in Shirley Horrocks’ 2001 documentary Early Days Yet, as Horrocks follows the poet through the wooden Canterbury churches he had not seen since childhood. “I changed my mind about being ordained in the middle of Cook Strait,” he says. “It was rather a stormy night, and I was on my way back from north to south.”

Stead’s poem appeared in The Red Tram in 2004, three years after Curnow died. One of the great legends of New Zealand poetry is that Stead and Curnow lived on opposite sides of the same street in Parnell. They passed each other messages. Sometimes, Stead says in the documentary, they stood and talked in the middle of the road. Maybe Curnow told Stead this story during one of those times, when he popped out to get the mail or a newspaper. I like the idea that the poem is a personal tribute wrestled out of what must have been a time of doubt, disappointment and personal confusion for Curnow. It suggests that literature is worth the personal sacrifices that writers make, and that a kind of destiny drove his decision.
Stead is a rationalist who would view the loss of faith as a personal gain. I don’t know if Curnow’s doubt was as simple or complete as switching from God to no God, but the drama of the poem required something that decisive, as though we are reading a description of the closing scene in the first of three movies about the life of a great writer. It is the origin story. The final shot in that movie would be the black Bible sinking into the dark water. By now it is day, and you can see the emerging outlines of Lyttelton, where his own father had been the local priest. Now everything around him, familiar as it is, seems more present somehow: “This world’s the one you’re in,” as Curnow says in a poem about those times, also titled ‘Early Days Yet’.

 

Philip Matthews is a journalist and reviewer who works for The Press and Stuff. He lives in Christchurch.

C. K. Stead‘s tenure as New Zealand Poetry Laureate ended August 2017. To mark the occasion, Fernbank Studio, with support from The Alexander Turnbull Library Endowment Trust, published his new poetry collection: In the mirror, and dancing. The limited edition was designed and printed by Bendan O’Brien with drawings by Douglas MacDiarmid. His new novel, The Necessary Angel, was recently published by Allen & Unwin NZ.

 

1400026620222.jpg       cv_the_necessary_angel.jpg

Poetry Shelf Spring Season’s poetry fans: Morrin Rout picks Fiona Farrell

Daffodils

No words to start. No
names. Trees learned
the land by touching
it with dumb fingers.

The names flew in
and hovered, light
as mayflies, skimming
the river of the white
calf, the hill of gorse,
the crag of the cat.

They shifted shape,
became other things.
The river is black
now and deep, the
hill is the hill of
hanging, and the
cats have been
butted from the
crags by shaggy
saints.

As my house
stands on the lip
of the bailer of a
black canoe.

And on a heap
of broken timber.

And on a green shoot.

And on the rocky
point of a man.

Or named Long Bay,
plain words,
printed out
in daffodils.

But already, look:
they’ve multiplied.

Gone wild.

Danced over the lines.
Invaded the field.

They are popping up
in odd places, as if they
have forgotten completely

how to spell.

 

©Fiona Farrell, The Pop-up Book of Invasions (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2007).

1400031286961.jpg

Note from Morrin: Fiona’s poem continues to delight me and reward each reading. I too live on Banks Peninsula and feel at times precarious. Words and names mutate and the landscape continually reminds us that we are newcomers and much has gone before. I love the image of the daffodils being bidden to spell out the name of the bay but over time breaking free and defying human intent.

Morrin Rout has co-produced and presented ‘Bookenz’ on PlainsFM 96,9 for over 20 years and is the director of the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch.

Multiple award -winner, Fiona Farrell writes across a variety of genres; she has been a finalist in all three categories at the NZ Book Awards, for fiction, non-fiction and poetry. The critically acclaimed, The Villa at the Edge of the Empire, the factual half of a two-volume work, examines the rebuilding of a city through the twinned lenses of non-fiction and fiction. The accompanying novel, ‘Decline and Fall on Savage Street’ has just been published.

Poetry Shelf Spring Season’s poetry fans: Gina Cole picks Selina Tusitala Marsh

In Creative Writing Class

the pākehā man
calls the kailoma Fijian woman
the Māori woman
and the ‘afakasi Samoan woman
privileged
because they have the experience
of being doubly oppressed
at a time when they qualify
for certain scholarships
when their demographic
is fashionable and interesting
their life experiences
make their writing more convincing
their stories are rich and deep
hot chocolatey and steamy
his are staid, North Shore-ish
lukewarmish gumboot tea

the los atrevido
wait for him to finish
his first world problems
in their global village
their serpent tongues aim
for the space above his collar
they fire simultaneously
no one even hears him holler

©Selina Tusitala Marsh from Tightrope (Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2017)

 

1502933415430.jpg

 

Note from Gina: I love this poem because I have attended many creative writing classes. I am also a kailoma Fijian woman, and I have been in a creative writing class with Selina. In most writing classes that I have attended, I have been one of a minority of Māori and Pasifika writers in the class. I love how the title reads as a play on each word in all their different meanings, especially “class”. I love the last stanza and the description of the women as “los atrevido”. I had to look up what that meant. I found that it translates as – the daring, the badass, the bold. I love that daring in the poem, and that Selina is the new daring, badass, bold Poet Laureate for Aotearoa.

Gina Cole is of Fijian, Scottish and Welsh descent. She lives in Auckland. She writes fiction and poetry. She is a Barrister specialising in Family Law and has a Master of Creative Writing from Auckland University. In 2016, Huia Publishers published Gina’s debut book of short stories Black Ice Matter. Black Ice Matter won the 2017 Hubert Church Prize for Best First Book Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Selina Tusitala Marsh is of Samoan, Tuvaluan, English and French descent. She was the First Pacific Islander to graduate with a PhD in English at the University of Auckland where she currently is an Associate Professor. Her first collection, Fast Talkin’ PI, won the Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry in 2010. As Commonwealth Poet (2016) she composed and performed a poem for the Queen at Westminster Abbey. She is New Zealand’s current Poet Laureate.

Auckland University Press invites you to the launch of Tightrope

1497493006148   1497493006148

On National Poetry Day 2017, please join us in celebrating the launch of Selina Tusitala Marsh’s new poetry collection, Tightrope.

Cat Ruka in collaboration with COVEN will activate ‘Tightrope’ – koha appreciated for these talented dancers!

Maori and Pasifika books sold on the night to celebrate Reading Brown! Teachers in particular are most welcome!

4.30 pm, Friday 25 August 2017
Fale Pasifika
University of Auckland
Auckland, 1010

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!