Tag Archives: Lynley Edmeades

Poetry Shelf classic poem: Lynley Edmeades picks Lauris Edmond’s ‘Epiphany’

 

Many years ago I was working two jobs to save to go overseas. One of these two jobs was an early morning shift in a coffee cart, just off Courtenay Place in Wellington, outside a building that housed corporates of many kinds. I worked at the coffee at cart with Jenny, who became a good friend.

Jenny was everything I thought going overseas would make me: effortless artistic, politically informed, culturally savvy. Her parents were both artists, and her uncle was once a Labour Prime Minister. Unlike me, she didn’t need to go overseas; she already knew about the world. In fact, when I told her I was saving to go to India, she just shrugged and said, sweet. No bravado, no interest in impressing. The opposite to me.

Jenny knew I was interested in poetry and that I’d been trying to write for a while. She knew I’d been reading people like Simone de Beauviour and Anaïs Nin, and that I carried this deep-seated belief that real life happened beyond these shores. Probably in France in the 1960s, but that didn’t stop me from going in search of it. Instead of challenging me on this warped idea, she simply slipped a beautiful cream paperback into my hands the day before I set sail; a parting gift. The book was 50 Poems: A Celebration, by Lauris Edmond. As if to say, there might just be some life here too.

I took Edmond with me in my rucksack, and together we would travel through India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and later, onto the UK, where I met up with Jenny in Glasgow some years later. I never said anything to Jenny, but even now, twenty or so years later, as I write this from my home in Dunedin, I still think about that parting gift and what it taught me.

There are several poems from this book that I have continued to come back to over the years. Including this one:

 

Epiphany

for Bruce Mason

 

I saw a woman singing in a car

opening her mouth as wide as the sky,

cigarette burning down in her hand

– even the lights didn’t interrupt her

though that’s how I know the car

was high-toned cream, and sleek:

it is harder for a rich woman…

 

Of course the world went on

fucking itself up just the same –

and I hate the very idea of stabbing at

poems as though they are flatfish,

but how can you ignore a perfect lyric

in a navy blue blouse, carolling away

as though it’s got two minutes

out of the whole of eternity, just

to the corner of Wakefield Street –

which after all is a very long life

for pure ecstasy to be given.

 

Lauris Edmond

 

Who was Bruce Mason, and why was Lauris Edmond writing a poem for him? More importantly, who was Lauris Edmond, and how could she write a poem that had the lines “the world went on/fucking itself up just the same,” in such close proximity to “Wakefield Street”? In my extraordinary naïvety, this poem took me by the hand and said: see, there are people here that think. Here was the poet, looking and noticing, thinking carefully, trying to understand, playing, slowing reality down a little … There was a form of existential enquiry happening in New Zealand, right under my nose — I’d just been too ignorant and ill-informed (and religiously adhering to a stereotype) to take notice. Which seems to me the whole point of the poem — there is stuff happening right in front of us all the time, we’re just too egotistic or preoccupied to see or hear it.

Lynley Edmeades

 

‘Epiphany’ is from 50 Poems: A Celebration (Bridget William Books, 1999) and was originally published in New & Selected Poems (Oxford University Press, 1991) and is posted with kind permission from the Lauris Edmond Estate.

 

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Lauris Edmond (1924-2000) completed an MA in English Literature with First Class Honours at Victoria University. She wrote poetry, novels, short stories, stage plays, autobiography and edited several books, including ARD Fairburn letters. She received multiple awards including the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship (1981), an OBE for Services to Poetry and Literature (1986) and an Honorary DLitt from Massey University (1988). Edmond was a founder of New Zealand Books. The Lauris Edmond Memorial Award was established in her name. Her daughter, Frances Edmond, and poet, Sue Fitchett, published Night Burns with a White Fire: The Essential Lauris Edmond, a selection of her poems, in 2017.

Lynley Edmeades is the author of As the Verb Tenses (Otago University Press, 2016), and her second poetry collection, Listening In, will be published in September this year (with Otago University Press). She is also a scholar and essayist, and currently teaches on the English program at the University of Otago. Her writing has been published widely, in NZ, the US, the UK and Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

Ten reasons to read Sport 46

 

 

 

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1. Anna Smaill’s long interview with Bill Manhire. The advantages of  slow-paced email interviews are evident as Anna and Bill explore the personal, ventriloquism, creative writing programmes, reading poetry, writing poetry, weirdness, holding back, trauma, God, mystery, parents, memory, drinking jugs of beer with Hone Tuwhare through the night. Life and poetry still maintain the requisite cloudy patches, private life and inner life are signposted but not made specific. This is a cracking interview – it refreshes my engagements with Bill’s poems, and writing and reading poetry in general.

2. Oscar Upperton’s poem ‘Yellow House’ because it has bright detail in the present tense and I am in the scene reading on a glorious loop.

The stream crosses the bridge. Pūkeko flicker

from blue to white, bikes rust into each other.

We rust at table.

 

(and the fact this poem is followed by ‘Explaining yellow house’ where Pip Adam gets a mention)

 

3. Sarah Barnett’s long poem essay ‘One last thing before I go’. Wow. This piece of writing is one of my treasures of the year because it goes deep into tough dark experience. It is measured and probing and hits you in the gut. Yet the fact of it on the page in front of me, so crafted and exposed, is uplifting.

 

4. Jane Arthur’s poem ‘I’m home a lot’ because it’s strange and real and unsettling.

 

This one sounds loudest against the front windows

and this one across the roof, nearly lifting it,

in an angry violent way. not like a bird taking off.

And even the birds here are massive and prehistoric.

Silence is rare. It’s eerie when it happens. Our dreams are mute.

 

5. Morgan Bach’s poem ‘carousel’ because when you read this your breathing changes and you enter a glorious mysterious complicated experience in the present tense.

 

but now having swallowed full moons,

coupled with mirrors of reticence, I find

life is not an experiment like that

and soon the body gives up its hunt

how soon the body becomes a cliff

how soon the body becomes a full stop

 

6. Discovering new-to-me poet Nikki-Lee Birdsey – she has a collection out with VUP next year and is currently an IIML PhD candidate. Her first-person storytelling in the form of a poem gripped me from the first lines.

7. essa may ranapiri’s selections because I find myself picturing them performing the poems and then I take supreme delight in the detail on the page.

8. Lynley Edmeades’s “We’ve All Got to Be Somewhere’ because it left a wry grin on my face. Poetry can do that.

9. Emma Neale’s ‘Unlove’ because this poem sings so beautifully.

 

My friend whose mind has frozen

sends me small gifts she says to keep her sane —

a cornflower-blue watch;

a box carved of light with a green latch;

a pink soapstone egg she says will one day hatch

a small, exquisite monster, its teeth sharp as love.

 

10. Rata Gordon’s poem ‘Mango’ because the writing is spare but it makes you feel so many different things.

 

This is all you have

to look forward to

your heartbeat and a

mango

everything else has dissolved:

your family

your intentions

 

 

Sport page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 readings from VUP’s Short Poems of New Zealand

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Short Poems of New Zealand, edited by Jenny Bornholdt, Victoria University Press, 2018

 

 

 

Angela Andrews reads ‘Grandparents’

 

 

 

Tusiata Avia reads  ‘Waiting for my  brother’

 

 

 

Lynley Edmeades reads ‘The Order of Things’

 

 

 

Brian Turner reads ‘Sky’

 

 

 

 

Albert Wendt reads ‘Night’

 

 

 

VUP page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf audio spot: Lynley Edmeades reads ‘The Age of Reason’

 

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Photo credit: Rory Mearns

 

 

Lynley Edmeades’s ‘The Age of Reason’ appeared in Landfall 235 edited by Emma Neale

 

Lynley Edmeades is currently working on her second collection of poems, which explores ideas of listening. Her first book, As the Verb Tenses, was published by Otago University Press in 2016. She is the 2018 Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury and is living in Lyttelton for now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the hammock: Reading Landfall 235

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Landfall 235 launches Emma Neale as the new editor. The cover aptly features ‘The House Party’; Kathryn Madill’s monoprint is strange and seductive with sunken black space and textured skin. It is like a poem that tempts and then holds you in an intricate grip. There is a Madill sequence inside that is equally sumptuous, surprising, lyrical.

This is an addictive issue – think of it as a musical composition that carries you through diverse and distinctive reading effects across an arc from first poem to final story. I do hope more Pasifika, Māori and Asian poets send in submissions for the next issue to increase the diversity of voice.

The two visual sequences (by Madill and photogapher Russ Flatt) are stunning. Flatt’s photographs reconstruct memories from the ‘subconscious grief’ and experience of growing up gay in Auckland in 1970s and 1980s. Wow. This is the power of art to take you some place that transcends ideas and feeling but that is ideas and feeling.

Landfall 235 also includes the winner of the Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Competition,  Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor, fiction (including a keenly observed piece by Airini Beautrais) and reviews. It welcomes established elders such as Elizabeth Smither and Bernadette Hall and barely published authors such as Sarah Scott and James Tremlett.

 

 

Here are a few poetry highlights:

Tracey Slaughter has turned from her dark, edgy must-read fiction to poetry. She was recently shortlisted for the 2018 Peter Porter Poetry Prize and I can see why. Her poem, ‘the mine wife’, with short-line fluidity, fictional momentum building, spiky detail, gritty feeling, is all about voice. A vulnerable, risking, space clearing, ‘self’ admitting voice:

 

the hand is a useless

surface for showing

the love it takes

to clear a path. Under

layers you wait for me to sift

your face from its mask.

 

from ‘the mine wife’

 

Lynley Edmeades‘ list poem, ‘The Age of Reason’, kicks off from Jean Paul Sartre’s title to move from ‘longing’ to ‘baby’, scooping up Simone de Beauvoir on the way, and all the staccato thoughts that propel a micro portrait: because why because how because who. I adore this!

 

Because fear of death

Because a dog might do

Because antidepressants

Because déjà vu

Because the trees

Because the population

Because plastic

 

from ‘The Age of Reason’

 

‘A Love Letter to My Mother: A work in progress’ by Wen-Juenn Lee is layered and probing and direct. I am wanting to read the whole work:

 

She takes astronomy classes at night.

I do not ask her why she stargazes

what she looks for              in the oily darkness

we go to a poetry reading on migrant women

I do not tell her

I remember her crying on the plane

 

from ‘A Love Letter to My Mother: A work in progress’

 

Nick Ascroft’s playful word shenanigans in ‘A Writer Wrongs’ are a delicious shift in key as rhyme binds  writer, hater and waiter:

 

So my fish is pallid.

So there’s a little pebble in my freekeh salad.

Is it necessary a balladeer batters

out a ballad?

 

from ‘A Writer Wrongs’

 

I haven’t encountered Rachel Connor‘s poetry before. She is a medievalist and a  postgraduate student in Otago University’s Department of English. I want to read more of her poetry! Her poem, ‘Home’, captivates with its quirky tropes and agile pivots upon ‘swan’:

 

A swan like a carved radish kickstarts its way across the water.

It should be easier

to temper my words and make iron gates of them,

to remember the names picked out in gold

that echo a memorial garden.

 

from ‘Home’

 

Tim Vosper offers my favourite ending in ‘The False Way to the Real’

 

When it comes time to kill the lamp

the leaf will turn into a shade.

 

from ‘The False Way to the Real’

 

I am fan of Sugar Magnolia Wilson’s poetry and have fingers crossed she gets a book out soon. ‘Betty as a Boy’ is lush with detail and movement:

 

And you, outside the upmarket  grocer’s, camouflaged top, khaki pants

slashed with a silk of red, a backpack strung with things that clink,

disappearing into your androgyny— the inverse of a newly minted drag queen,

appearing like a flaming comet, burning to be noticed.

 

from ‘Betty as a Boy’

 

Here is another unfamiliar poet I want to see a collection from. Susan Wardell’s poem pulsates with glorious surprising life. I will quote a piece but I urge you to read the whole thing: place rich, lithely troped, visually sparking, enigmatic, humane.  I am drawn to the voice, to the word hunger, to the portrait built.

 

They say

when meaning is gone, all that is left

is the grain

of the voice.

 

Well, hers sweeps the room like salt-flecked taffeta.

 

from ‘Grain of her Voice’

 

Writing journals, literary journals open up new avenues of reading and engagement. Landfall 235 is no exception. I have not finished, I have not yet read the reviews and all the fiction, but congratulations Emma Neale, you have taken the literary torch from David Eggleton, and the boost he gave, and turned your astute editorial eye to our advantage. I have new poets I am keen to track  down. I have seen familiar poets with fresh eyes. Kind of like a poetry house party in my head.

 

Landfall page

You can also go to the Landfall Exhibition if you live in Dunedin. Opening is Thursday May 25 at 5.30 pm.

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