Tag Archives: Murray edmond

My two poetry readings to launch my new book feature some of my favourite poets

Like so many poets, I loathe people making speeches about me or my work. Much better to stage a poetry reading and celebrate the pull of cities.

My new poetry collection comes out of ten exceptional days I spent in New York with my family awhile ago. So I have invited a bunch of poets I love to read city poems by themselves and others. Big line-ups but it will free flow and leave time for wine and nibbles.

Once I got to fifteen I realised what poetry wealth we have in these places. I could have hosted another 15  in each place easily. That was so reassuring.

If I had time and money, I would have staged similar events in Christchurch and Dunedin where there bundles of poets I love too.

Please share if you have the inclination.

And you are ALL warmly invited!








Poetry Shelf, poet’s choice; Murray Edmond makes some picks

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Mais pourquoi entre parenthèses? Four Highly Mentionable Items from the Poetry Year

A long poem, a magazine, a collected poems and a set of translations.


I had the pleasure of giving the champagne-cracking speech to launch Roger HorrocksSong of the Ghost in the Machine (Victoria UP, 2015) in the first half of 2015. This is a single poem of nearly 70 pages. Lovely to read a long philosophical, meditative poem, which pays homage to Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura (first century BC).

The third issue of Ika from the Manukau Institute of Technology Faculty of Creative Arts is edited by Anne Kennedy. It includes prose and fine arts design and photography, but poetry is the mainstay of the magazine. MIT writing students are featured, but you will also find work by Tusiata Avia, Courtney Sina Meredith, Kiri Piahana-Wong, Chris Tse, Anna Jackson, Emma Neale, Kent McCarter, and Michael Steven among a host of others. Attractive production.

Collected poems tend to go on-line these days (eg. Kendrick Smithyman’s), but David Howard’s editing of the poetry of Iain Lonie (1932-1988) has produced a well-ordered, hard-cover volume from Otago University Press: A Place to Go On From: The Collected Poems of Iain Lonie (2015). There’s a Preface, a Chronology, A Memoir and an Essay to bind the collection together, with Sources and Notes and Indexes of Titles and of First Lines. The layout is generous. Lonie’s output at just under 300 pages was not large and it is here contextualized and clarified by excellent editing.

Pam Brown’s selection of poems Alibis (Societe Jamais-Jamais: Sydney), translated into French by her partner Jane Zemiro, actually appeared in 2014, but I wanted to mention it for Kiwi readers. The poems are selected from four earlier volumes by Brown and include the poem ‘One Day in Auckland/Un jour à Auckland with its lines:


I’ve woken up early

In Auckland,

New Zealand (Aotearoa)

(why bracket that?)


“Mais pourquoi entre parenthèses’ indeed. Nice to read an Australian poet waking us up. There is a Preface from Brown and Zemiro about translation. An earlier version of this Preface appeared in Ka Mate Ka Ora: A New Zealand Journal of Poetry and Poetics, No. 11 (2013) www.nzepc.auckland.ac/kmko/index11.asp

For the poet, the translated poem gives the poet an alibi, ‘slightly displaced,’ having been somewhere else at the time of the translation.

Murray Edmond


Poetry Shelf review: Murray Edmond’s Shaggy Magpie Songs – I pictured I was sitting in a dark room, listening to a bit of blues or folk or jazz, a spotlight picking up a pianist whose fingers were freewheeling,


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Murray Edmond, Shaggy Magpie Songs Auckland University Press 2015


On the back of his new collection of poems, Murray Edmond writes, ‘Songs are poems that are incomplete without their music, so I think of these poems as all wanting to get off the page and start singing and dancing. The magpies of Aotearoa are silly (and slightly dangerous) birds who have given rise to the most profound line in the New Zealand poetry canon: Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle …. I like to think the poems are the kind of songs that magpies might sing if they were into making up words: a little bubbly, a little bitter, a little absurd, and echoing with the sound of laughter: songs with shaggy tales to tell.’

Murray’s musings are the perfect gateway to a collection that relishes sound, a sense of humour and pocket-book anecdotes. Not far into the collection, I pictured I was sitting in a dark room, listening to a bit of blues or folk or jazz, a spotlight picking up a pianist whose fingers were freewheeling, bodies were swaying, feet tapping, voices saying, Yeah! Aah! Mmm! These poems make you move because these poems make music before they do anything else. Your ear picks out melody, aural chords, infectious rhythms and shifty rhyme, so often rhyme. Rhyme has multiple effects but initially it taps into that deep-buried allure that rhyme holds for the child. With Murray’s fingers flicking along the scale of rhyme though, rhyme is surprising, it makes you laugh out loud when it hits the mark, it drives the poem, it sidetracks the poem, it celebrates the utter joy of electric aural connections. The music is never constrained. Always on the move. Consonants shuffle to make little bridges for your ear. The rhythm, jaunty, jittery, smooth.


Here is one example from ‘The Poet Returns to New York’


Frank O’Hara strolls on by in pyjamas

a knowing smile disposes the inelegant aftermath of dramas

that might otherwise threaten to alarm us

because this morning there is nothing that can harm us

and Tennessee has bought us tickets to the Bahamas


Here is another sample from ‘Snap Snap’:


addicted to your pictures

a picture ain’t a fixture

conjure hocus-pocus

turn me soft like focus

nail me with a frame

sign me with a name



The collection is divided into four sections (Praise, Nonsense, Blues, Pop) with no Endnotes (the poem is the thing!) and there is much traffic between. Murray sings the praises of colleagues, fellow poets. Stories are delivered in pieces, sung into pieces with those melodic arches. There is almost a cheekiness in the loping, looping sounds. Splinters of nonsense might tilt the praise. Maybe there is autobiography skimming between the lines, hiding in the flicks of wit. Or a madcap flow of stream-of-consciousness. Or a keen mind jamming facts and fiction.


Some samples. This from ‘Tongatapu Dream Choruses”


thar she


blow hole

blow mind

blow wind

blow whale

blow horn

blow me




from ‘National Standards’


Please step out of the poem slowly

stand by your word with hands on your head

the dogs will sniff you an officer will

frisk you please enjoy the experience



The collection is contoured in terms of pitch and tone. One of my favourite poems in the collection, ‘The Letter from Rilke,’ is like an onion. It is the poem that I keep returning to because each time I peel off a layer I get a different reaction. The visual and aural links are sumptuous (I have posted this poem). I am also drawn to ‘Kiss the Impossible Good Night,’ a poem for Kendrick Smithyman. After suggesting that the poem might work, a question is asked: ‘but can you/ get it to do anything? It is a poem with surreal kinks as you read, but it gets to the heart of writing. Murray’s poetry wears the look of play: a musician at play, a wordsmith at play, the wit of play, yet this playfulness belies the craft that steers the pen.



the impossible good night

before your very eyes

the poem appears


to work


it might work but can you

get it to do anything?)



If poets have recurring motifs, I claim the moon for Murray. His previous collection was entitled Fool Moon, and the moon features in a number of his poems. The motif is stamped here like a lunar signature — mysterious, mesmerising, moody, and is like a tether to poems of the past. Reading the new poems, through the folds and unfoldings, is to listen to different keys, yet whichever key you hit, these poems are sung into being out of a joy of words. Wonderful.


Auckland University Press page

Poem Friday: Murray Edmond’s ‘The Letter from Rilke — Like a boat under the milky moon you slip and sway upon the crest of the poem


The  Letter from Rilke


Did you get the moon?

(I ask) as you come in

in your hoodie with your tripod.

You laugh. Recall another evening.

When you did ‘get the moon.’

Nice to see the sky. Okay. True.

Clock ticks. One always looks

for a total time of ecstasy

called writing. Taking a photo

it’s all there – or it’s not.

But even to trace letters

has no immediacy. It’s

like the moon rising.

There. You said. Some trace

of old enormity beckons.

The jug is heating up.

Footsteps. Water pump. Floorboards

shaking. I peel off

the outer layer of my insistence.

There is a letter from Rilke

underneath. As if it were a

landscape on the skin. He writes

about how it is impossible for

anything to escape itself. The sea

burnished with the full moon

blue of hyacinths. When you

look into them.


© Murray Edmond Shaggy Magpie Songs Auckland University Press, 2015


Author Bio: Murray Edmond was born in Hamilton in 1949. He has published thirteen books of poems. Letters and Paragraphs (1987) and Fool Moon (2005) were New Zealand Book Awards finalists. His latest volume of poems is Shaggy Magpie Songs (2015) from Auckland University Press. A collection of fiction, Strait Men and Other Tales, will be published by Steele Roberts in October 2015. His collection of critical writings, Then It Was Now Again: Selected Critical Writing was published by Atuanui Press in 2014. A study of Noh theatre and the Western avant-garde, Noh Business, was published by Atelos Press in California in 2005 and the long poem A Piece of Work was published by Tinfish Press in Hawai’i in 2002. He co-edited the anthology Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960–1975 (AUP, 2000); and is the editor of the peer-reviewed, online journal of poetics Ka Mate Ka Ora: A New Zealand Journal of Poetry and Poetics. Since the 1970s, Edmond has been active in experimental and innovative theatre companies and for over 25 years taught theatre and drama at The University of Auckland, retiring from his position as Associate Professor of Drama at the end of 2014. He works as the dramaturge for Indian Ink Theatre Company, whose latest play, Kiss the Fish, was awarded Best New Play of 2014 in the Chapman Tripp Awards.


Note from Paula: Reading a Murray Edmond poem is like entering a linguistic harbour – you are held by the sway and slip of words, the way that sharp sea air alerts your senses, rejuvenates skin and eye and ear. He is the master of word play but the coils and overlaps and skids never feel stuck in exercise mode. This word play is infectious. It nourishes the gap and supports the bridge. Beneath the surface there is always heart, and with that subterranean heart, these are poems that matter.

Moons are a favoured motif in this collection and others. Mysterious; a drawcard in the pitch black of night or a poem or a myth or mood. The first line startles in its punning sidetracks (‘Did you get the moon?’). The last lines startling in their pitch for beauty. In between, gossamer threads that make silvery links between things. Luminous. Eye catching. In the heart of the poem, a relationship. And then another. A letter read. Under the skin; a poet, a lover perhaps. Like a boat under the milky moon you slip and sway upon the crest of the poem. It haunts. Lines stick like glue (‘I peel off/ the outer layer of my insistence’ ‘As if it were a/ landscape on the skin’). Do you get the poem? Jammed packed as it is with light and dark, everyday detail (Floorboards/ shaking’).  The line that sends you between the lines (‘He writes/ about how it is impossible for/ anything to escape itself’). Get – arrivals. Glorious.


Auckland University Press page

NZ Book Council page

nzepc page