Tag Archives: Poetry Shelf Classic poem

Poetry Shelf classic poem: Jordan Hamel picks Ria Masae’s ‘Jack Didn’t Build Here’

 

Jack Didn’t Build Here

 

This is the house that Dad built.

Foundation laid with stories

from sitting under the ulu tree

to learnings from palagi scholarship:

for wife, for offspring, for aiga.

Sunday School teachings echo in his mother-tongue

dotted with Oxford Dictionary words.

 

This is the house that Lange built.

Southside Prime Minister. The only home

in the hood with a pool. He invited the locals

– his Mangere locals – over to swim

and understood the pressures of fa’alavelave,

cos he brown on the inside like that.

 

This is the house that Mum built.

Chandelier hangs over the heads of churchy

poker players, cheating and laughing on

the woven fala. Celebration trestle tables

laden with islands of sapasui, oka,

fa’alifu taro, palusami, and umu pork

surrounding a pavlova cheesecake.

 

This is the house that Key built.

Double-glazed windows within a security code gate.

His pool stretches across his Parnell palace

where riff raff are never invited to take a dip,

instead he swims regular laps to drown the reality

of midnight figures huddled inside torn sleeping bags

outside glaring high-fashion mannequin stores.

 

This is the house that I built.

Now in State House central. Wallpaper designed with parents’ language

smudged into Samoglish. One post carved from

the ancient va’a of bloodline ocean wayfarers.

Other post, a mighty kauri etched with Hans fairytales,

and Chinese script I feel but I can’t translate.

 

What house will Jacinda build?

Will her house accommodate the next generation?

Will it enable my daughters to build their own homes

of tangata whenua foundations and fa’a Samoa roofs

in this palagified City of Sales?

 

Ria Masae, originally appeared in Landfall

 

 

poem appeared in latest Landfall 237

 

Note from Jordan:

I was lucky enough to see Ria Masae perform poetry last year and I’ve been a fanboy ever since.  I fell in with love this poem when I read it in Landfall instantly because of how it delineates the relationship between the personal and political. While those with power have the ability to create structures and systems that shield them from one or the other, the two spheres of experience are inherently and inevitably reciprocal.

Ria shows us the house as a place of learning, eating, sharing, a place to nurture Whanaungatanga. But she also shows us the house as something unattainable, surrounded by barriers and surveillance, somewhere that can spread fear, otherness or indifference. We spend our whole lives as house guests: we consciously and subconsciously pick and choose experiences and lessons as we build our own, deciding who to invite in, how we speak inside, what wallpaper to put up. Ria has built a house that is a sum of her, her knowledge, her language, her whakapapa, her space within a nation, where the treatment of its guests fluctuates with the whims of those sitting at the head of the table. Ria ends with a question:

What house will Jacinda build? Will it enable my daughters to build their own houses/of tangata whenua foundations and fa’a Samoa roofs/in the palangified City of Sales?

This ending resonates in a time where Aotearoa is asking more of it’s leaders, asking how they will allow rangatiratanga to flourish, how they will create a sustainable future and undo the harms of colonialism and capitalism, how they will celebrate and protect the unique experiences and histories of all its guests, how they will rectify their positions of power and privilege with the whenua they stand on. Ria will have an answer to her question sooner or later. In the meantime, I’m getting a grappling hook, a balaclava, a bottle of whisky and going for a midnight skinny dip in John Key’s forbidden pool, who’s coming with me?

 

Jordan Hamel is a Pōneke-based poet and performer. He was raised in Timaru on a diet of Catholicism and masculine emotional repression. He is the current New Zealand Poetry Slam champion and has words published or forthcoming in Takahē, Poetry NZ, Mimicry, Sweet Mammalian, Glass Poetry, Queen Mob’s Teahouse and elsewhere.

Ria Masae is a writer, poet and a spoken word artist. Her work has appeared in various writing outlets such as, Landfall, Circulo de Poesia / Circle of Poets (Mexico), and Best NZ Poems 2017. She is a member of the South Auckland Poets’ Collective.

This year Ria was accepted for the 2019 New Zealand Society of Authors Mentorship Programme in which she is working on new material for her sole poetry collection. She is also compiling poetry to be published by Auckland University Press, alongside two other emerging poets in a book series, New Poets #6. This is due to be released next year.

 

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Landfall page

Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Helen Heath picks Vana Manasiadis’s ‘Talking Tectonics’

 

Talking Tectonics

 

You know, even if I hadn’t come on the plane, on a bus, in a taxi,

I’d get here at some point – cos that clever tektonos, that shifty carpenter,

poet, boat-builder in the sky, he’s been scheming all the while; been doing

a bit of backyard DIY, a bit of God-honest labouring and jack-hammering

on the boundary – right under that picket fence between the plates,

between the kanuka and manuka.

 

There’s a paratekstosyni afoot, a volcanic and magnanimous change,

a winching and an earthmoving: those alpine ridges, those glaciers,

plains and Hutt Valleys, they’re slap-hugging the rest of the North Island

goodbye – Ya old mudpool, ya long drawn out beach, ya tall and flashy

neighbour, I’m off to the Arctic Ocean – I hear you’re off to the Pontos –

never heard of it.

 

And all this in broad daylight, Yiayia – can you believe it?

 

This is what I know: Oceanus gave birth to Styx, the Arcadian spring into which Achilles

was dipped; from which Alexander got sick; whose water Iris drew and took to the Gods

so that it might witness oaths. Or, Styx was the river mortals crossed.

 

Or, the ocean is what I’m standing in – one tiptoe on the Pacific rim

and one not.

 

Vana Manasiadis from Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima, Seraph Press, 2009

 

 

From Helen Heath:

One of the things that draws me to Vana’s work is our shared Greek heritage. I feel a deep affinity to this part of my genetic make-up; my ancestors’ homeland, the island of Ithaca in Greece, plays a big role in my debut collection, Graft.

However, I feel awkward claiming Greek heritage because I am only 1/8th Greek and my family wasn’t close to the Wellington Greek community when I was young. I barely know any Greek language and the Greek alphabet does my head in. I suffer from imposter syndrome, although I’m frequently told I look very Greek.

Vana, on the other hand, has more Greek heritage, she speaks Greek and has lived in Greece. In my mind, she far more authentically Greek than me. However, because she is pale skinned and strawberry blonde, she experienced prejudice from members of the Wellington Greek community. As Vana says. “The criteria of inclusion were missing: we didn’t look stereotypically Greek.”

Vana’s collection: Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima (Seraph Press, SSS), which this poem appears in, weaves her Greek heritage with her New Zealand experience. In it, I feel her working towards a different understanding – moving between worlds and time frames, inclusion and exclusion, reinvention and fragmentation. There is uncertainty and otherness, but also, she gives me hope for a new kind of belonging.

Vana’s new collection, The Grief Almanac A Sequel, was launched in May. by Seraph Press.

μπράβο – Bravo Vana!

 

 

Helen Heath is a poet and essayist from the Kapiti Coast, Wellington. Her debut collection of poetry Graft (VUP) won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book for Poetry award in 2013 and was the first book of fiction or poetry to ever be shortlisted for the Royal Society of NZ Science Book Prize. Her latest collection of poems – Are Friends Electric?  (VUP) – is about people, animals and technology, and won Best Poetry Book at the 2019 Ockham Book Awards.

Vana Manasiadis is a New Zealand Greek writer, editor and translator who spent many years in Greece and Europe, and is now based back in Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau. She is the author of acclaimed collection  and her writing has appeared in a many outlets including 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry (Vintage, 2010) and Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page (Random NZ, 2014). As co-editor of the Seraph Press Translation Series, she has co-edited Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Women Poets in Translation (2018) and edited and translated from the Greek for Ναυάγια/Καταφύγια: Shipwrecks/Shelters: Six Contemporary Greek Poets (2016). The Grief Almanac: A Sequel was published May,  2019 (Seraph Press).

 

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Poetry Shelf classic poem: Robyn Maree Pickens picks Joanna Margaret Paul’s ‘For Felix’

 

for Felix (1981)

 

a black shawl over a chair

& the corner

composed itself.

the light came from outside

& delayed/on the

delphinium

& behind the oak trees

1 2 3

a grey stripe

is a tennis court

& men have

white shirts only

& sometimes

arms

while the ball

flying/occasionally

thru trees

keeps the moon

in motion.

 

Joanna Margaret Paul

 

from like love poems: selected poems (Victoria University Press, 2006)

Posted with kind permission from JM Paul estate

 

 

Robyn Maree Pickens:

Recently I had the opportunity to write a review of Louise Menzies’ exhibition In an orange my mother was eating at Hocken Collections, Dunedin for The Pantograph Punch. Menzies, the 2018 Frances Hodgkins Fellow, produced an exhibition that foregrounded overlooked works by three artists, Frances Hodgkins, M.C Richards, and Joanna Margaret Paul. Of the three artists Paul seems to have been the most influential. This is evident in the enigmatic exhibition title In an orange my mother was eating, which is itself the title of a poem by artist and poet Joanna Margaret Paul (1945-2003). Published in 1981 on the occasion of the exhibition Mothers at the Women’s Gallery in Wellington, the poem records a dialogue between Paul’s daughter Maggie, and her friend Charles when they were five years old. In this poem Maggie and Charles spark off each other all the possible places they could have been born, including: “in a mirror / in a hot fire / in my gym / in my brain / in your hat.”[i] As engaging as this poem is—showing Paul’s attunement to and valorisation of her children’s world—I want to discuss another poem by Paul, one that invokes her interdisciplinary practice that included poetry, drawing, painting, photography, and film. The poem I have chosen is called for Felix and is published in like love poems edited by Bernadette Hall (Wellington: VUP. 2006, 99).

I chose for Felix because this poem has an extraordinary poetic breadth. While it is decidedly and primarily a poem, for Felix could also be a cinematic vignette, a black and white photograph, a series of graphite drawings, and a loosely gestural painting.

The corner is agentive; it has composed itself with a black shawl over a chair. In contrast to the black shawl, daylight is introduced and delayed on the slender stems of blue flowers and oak trees. From inside, the poem looks out to a tennis court in the distance (a grey stripe). The sport evokes male tennis players who again are viewed from a distance (& sometimes / arms). This distance, and the object and arc of the tennis ball lend their likeness to the moon, which Paul figures as batted between spheres, or tennis players. Paul charts this course from corner to cosmos with incredible lightness, a few sure brushstrokes, a gently panning shot. This lightness is accented formally with the short lines, lower caps throughout, ampersand symbol, forward slash, numbers, and a casually abbreviated word, “thru.”

I chose this poem partly in sympathetic response to a comment by arts writer Eleanor Woodhouse, who in a recent article primarily on Paul’s experimental film wrote, “yet the effect of dispersed critical attention—a little within the field of literature, a little within art, a little within film—isn’t additive; perversely, the effect is even subtractive.”[ii] Woodhouse’s observation—that writing done in silos on an interdisciplinary artist can be diminishing—has stayed with me. And I am conscious that writing about Paul’s poetry in a poetry forum could also be problematic. That is why I chose for Felix for its potentially “interdisciplinary” qualities, and gestured towards other possible resonances of this poem in other mediums. But it is only a gesture.

Paul was an interdisciplinary artist from the early 1970s to her premature death in 2003. In the early decades of her career she was “interdisciplinary,” or postmodern, before such a position was recognised and understood in New Zealand. This is partly why her presence is under-recognised in all the disciplines she worked in and across. Also she was a woman. In her introduction to Paul’s poems (to return to this particular discipline), editor Bernadette Hall writes:

 

The academic and literary worlds of the 70s were dominated by brilliant young men for

whom women might well be the Other, the Lover, the Muse. But not the Poet. Attempts

to express real womanly experience or the domestic were most likely to be sidelined as

trivial, hysterical or hormonal.[iii]

 

Paul was triply marginalised, as a woman, a boundary-crosser, and for her predominately everyday subject matter. This short piece introduces one of her poems and makes an attempt to validate a multi-disciplinary artist who has been neglected from several canons because she didn’t fit the circumscribed model. Call it another (small) effort towards feminist retrieval and recirculation.

 

 

[i] From In an orange my mother was eating, a digital video work by Louise Menzies in an exhibition of the same name. Hocken Collections, 16 February – 30 March 2019.

[ii] Eleanor Woodhouse. “The Transcendent and Domestic in Joanna Margaret Paul’s Films.” Contemporary Hum 19.04.18. https://www.contemporaryhum.com/joanna-margaret-paul-film-programme

[iii] Bernadette Hall. like love poems. Wellington: VUP (2006): 10.

 

 

Robyn Maree Pickens is a PhD candidate in ecological aesthetics at the University of Otago. Her poetry is forthcoming in Peach Magazine and has appeared in SAND, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain, Matador Review, Jacket 2, and at ARTSPACE. Her poetry criticism is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal and has appeared in Rain Taxi and Jacket 2. She was a finalist of the 2018 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize judged by Eileen Myles, and winner of the takahē Monica Taylor Poetry Prize 2018.

Joanna Margaret Paul (1945-2003), poet, painter and experimental filmmaker, was born in Hamilton. She graduated from the University of Auckland with a BA in Philosophy and English, and Elam School of Fine Arts. She was awarded the Frances Hodgkins Fellowship (1983) and the Rita Angus Residency (1993). During her lifetime she published several poetry collections while a range of her poems were showcased in the posthumous like love poems, edited by Bernadette Hall. Her debut collection Imogen was awarded the PEN Best First Book Award for Poetry. (1978). After her death the Wellington City Gallery exhibited her artwork in Beauty, even 1945-2003 with an accompanying book of poems.

 

Victoria University Press author page

 

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Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Sarah Jane Barnett picks ‘The Starlings’ by Tim Upperton

 

The Starlings

 

Anger sang in that house until the scrim walls thrummed.
The clamour rang the window panes, dizzying up chimneys.
Get on, get on, the wide rooms cried, until it seemed our unease
as we passed on the stairs or chewed our meals in dimmed

light were all an attending to that voice. And so we got on,
and to muffle that sound we gibbed and plastered, built
shelves for all our good books. What we sometimes felt
is hard to say. We replaced what we thought was rotten.

I remember the starlings, the pair that returned to that gap
above the purple hydrangeas, between weatherboard and eaves.
The same birds, we thought, not knowing how long a starling lives.
For twenty years they came and went, flit and pause and up

into that hidden place. A dry rustle at night, fidgeting, calling,
a murmuration: bird business. The vastness and splendour
of their piecemeal activity, their lives’ long labour,
we discovered at last; blinking, in the murk of the ceiling,

at that whole cavernous space filled, stuffed like a haybarn.
It was like gold, except it was more like shit and straw,
jumbled with their own young, dead, desiccated, sinew
and bone, fledgling and newborn. Starlings only learn

a little thing, made big from not knowing when to leave off:
gone past all need except need, enough never enough.

 

Tim Upperton
from A House on Fire, Steele Roberts, 2009

 

 

Sarah Jane Barnett:

Since I first read Tim’s poem, it’s been my favourite by an Aotearoa writer. When I was a kid living in Christchurch, a hive of bees lodged themselves in our bathroom’s exterior wall. We could see them go in and out through a tiny hole in the stucco concrete. They’d land, pause for a moment on the hole’s lip, and disappear into the hollow. Eventually my parents had them fumigated.

There is so much to admire in Tim’s poem – the vibrating yet unpretentious language; the gentle comparison he creates between the labour of the family who ‘gibbed and plastered’ and the labour of the starlings’ ‘bird business’; his use of the collective noun, ‘murmuration’. I recommend listening to Tim read the poem to really see how good it is.

For me, the emotion of the poem comes from the family trying to ‘muffle’ the starlings. It makes me think about growing up in a house where ‘anger sang’ but was never acknowledged, and the way a child will push their fear and feelings down by concentrating on something else: starlings for example, or bees.

 

 

Sarah Jane Barnett is a freelance writer and editor. Her poetry, essays, interviews and reviews have been published in numerous journals and anthologies in Aotearoa and internationally. She has two poetry collections: A Man Runs into a Woman (finalist in the 2013 New Zealand Post Book Awards) and WORK (2015). Her poems often inhabit the lives of others, and ask how we find connection and intimacy when affected by trauma. Her essays explore the multifaceted theme of modern womanhood. Find out more here.

Tim Upperton’s second poetry collection, The Night We Ate The Baby, was an Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalist in 2016. He won the Caselberg International Poetry Competition in 2012 and again in 2013. His poems have been published widely in New Zealand and overseas, and are anthologised in The Best of Best New Zealand Poems (2011), Villanelles (2012), Essential New Zealand Poems (2014), Obsession: Sestinas in the Twenty-First Century (2014), and Bonsai (2018).

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf guest spot: Rhian Gallagher selects Cilla McQueen’s ‘Low Tide, Aramoana’

 

Low Tide, Aramoana

 

Sky with blurred pebbles

a ruffle on water

 

sky with long stripes

straight lines of ripples

 

sky-mirror full of

sand and long pools

 

I step into the sky

the clouds shiver and disappear

 

thin waterskin over underfoot cockles here and there old timber

and iron orange and purple barnacled crab shells snails green

karengo small holes

 

I look up from walking at

a shy grey heron on

the point of flight.

 

oystercatchers whistle stilts and big gulls eye my quiet

stepping over shells and seaweed towards the biggest farthest

cockles out by the channel beacon at dead low tide

 

It’s still going out.

I tell by the moving

of fine weeds in

underwater breeze.

 

takes a time to gather these rust and barnacle coloured  whole

sweet mouthfuls

 

Low.

and

there’s a sudden

 

wait

 

for the moment

of precise

solstice: the whole sea

hills and sky

wait

 

 

and everything

stops.

 

high gulls hang seaweed is arrested the water’s skin

tightens we all stand still. even the wind evaporates

leaving a scent of salt.

 

 

I snap out start back get moving before the new tide back

over cockle beds through clouds underfoot laying creamy

furrows over furrowed sand over flats arched above and below

with blue and yellow and green reflection and counter reflection

 

 

look  back to

ripples

begun again.

 

 

Cilla McQueen

 

from Homing In  (McIndoe, 1982), also published in poeta: selected and new poems (Otago University Press, 2018)

 

 

 

From Rhian Gallagher

Sometime in the early 1980s I heard Cilla read ‘Low Tide, Aramoana’ on TV. I was utterly spellbound.

Cilla does not so much read her poems as enact them. They seem written to a music score, a sound choreography. Her work is also very visual and ‘Low Tide, Aramoana’ is a big canvas.

Whatever expectations the title sets up are given a tilt at the outset. For it is not the tide that is encountered but the sky. It is a simple notion, the sky being reflected in the water, but I experience it in the poem as if it were a brand new thing and

‘I (too) step into the sky’

In more than one way ‘I step into the sky’. The tides are a condundrum, taking place on earth yet the movement is being conducted by the moon and sun. The spaciousness of the poem on the page has me feeling this mystery all over again — my mind is up there with the moon and the sun.

The meditative opening lines are followed by a hurried, heaped-up rhythm, detailing forms and life-forms encountered on the sand flats:

‘thin waterskin over underfoot cockles here & there old timber/& iron orange & purple barnacled crab shells snails green karengo small holes’

This alternating rhythmn shapes the poem. It is a movement from a contemplative interior to the external world and back again, flowing in and out, almost as a tide itself.

On one level this is a foraging poem: going ‘out to the channel beacon at dead low tide’ for ‘the biggest farthest/cockles’. Foraging is also a metaphor for the making of the poem: the gathering is going on right from the first footstep onto the sandflats and the poem is, indeed, made of ‘whole/sweet mouthfuls’.

Some decades past before I heard Cilla read this poem again, at the Dunedin Writers Festival. It was almost eerie. The poem has a tipping point. It takes us there, way out to the edge – a brink of change, when something amazing (or horrendous) is about to happen. That moment when ‘we all stand still’.

I may risk overloading the achieved simplicity of the poem. The environment it brings to life, the multiple invocations it sets going in me, is why it has stayed close. Cilla’s pared-down language and accessibility belies an underlying multi-layered sophistication. ‘Low Tide, Aramoana’ has never given up all its secrets.

 

Rhian Gallagher

 

Rhian Gallagher‘s debut poetry collection Salt Water Creek (Enitharmon Press, 2003) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for First Collection while her second collection Shift, ( 2011/ 2012) won the 2012 New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry. Gallagher’s most recent work Freda: Freda Du Faur, Southern Alps, 1909-1913 was produced in collaboration with printer Sarah M. Smith and printmaker Lynn Taylor (Otakou Press 2016). Rhian was awarded the Robert Burns Fellowship in 2018.

Cilla McQueen is a poet, teacher and artist; her multiple honours and awards include a Fulbright Visiting Writer’s Fellowship 1985,three New Zealand Book Awards 1983, 1989, 1991; an Hon.LittD Otago 2008, and the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry 2010. She was the National Library New Zealand Poet Laureate 2009 -11.  Recent works include The Radio Room (Otago University Press 2010), In A Slant Light (Otago University Press, 2016), and poeta: selected and new poems (Otago University Press, 2018).

 

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Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Kiri Piahana-Wong picks Hone Tuwhare’s ‘Toroa: Albatross’

 

Toroa: Albatross

 

Day and night endlessly you have flown effortless of wing

over chest-expanding oceans far from land.

Do you switch on an automatic pilot, close your eyes

in sleep, Toroa?

 

On your way to your home-ground at Otakou Heads

you tried to rest briefly on the Wai-o-te-mata

but were shot at by ignorant people.

Crippled, you found a resting-place at Whanga-nui-a-Tara;

found space at last to recompose yourself. And now

 

without skin and flesh to hold you together

the division of your aerodynamic parts lies whitening

licked clean by sun and air and water. Children will

discover narrow corridors of airiness between, the suddenness

of bulk. Naked, laugh in the gush and ripple—the play

of light on water.

 

You are not alone, Toroa. A taniwha once tried to break out

of the harbour for the open sea. He failed.

He is lonely. From the top of the mountain nearby he calls

to you: Haeremai, haeremai, welcome home, traveller.

Your head tilts, your eyes open to the world.

 

Hone Tuwhare

 

Originally published in Mihi: Collected Poems (Penguin, 1987) and subsequently published in Small Holes in the Silence: Collected Poems (Godwit, 2011). Published with kind permission of the Estate of Hone Tuwhare.

 

 

Note from Kiri:

Hone Tuwhare has written so many beloved and iconic poems, but for me, this poem ­– ‘Toroa: Albatross’ – has always particularly resonated. It’s a poem about a bird that is so much more than a poem about a bird. The poem speaks of death, loneliness and homecoming. It crosses effortlessly from the physical world into the metaphysical. When I read this poem, I hear the voices of my departed tūpuna calling from the other side. I hear the ineffable beat of wings.

 

Kiri Piahana-Wong, Ngāti Ranginui, is a poet and editor, and is the publisher at Anahera Press. Kiri is currently working on the fourth edition of Māori literary journal Ora Nui, due out this September.

Hone Tuwhare (1922- 2008) was a father, poet, political activist and boilermaker. He published at least thirteen collections of poetry, won two New Zealand Book Awards, held two honorary doctorates and, in 1999, was Te Mata Poet Laureate. In 2003 he was named an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Icon Artist.

 

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