Tag Archives: poetry shelf monday poem

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Chris Tse’s ‘Identikit’

Identikit

when asked to explain the lines that lead to now, you describe / 

the shape of your body as it hits water / the shape of cold water

shocking muscle / the shape of fleshy chambers forced to loosen

and acquiesce / the shape of your grandparents in their coffins /

the shape of coffins that are too small to contain entire lifetimes /

the soft and hard moments we can’t forget no matter how often we

turn our backs to the light / [you write this poem out of love / but

even love can be a blindfold] / the shape of you and your parents

standing in your grandparents’ driveway / after being kicked out

for talking to your aunty’s white boyfriend / your hand reaching

out to someone you don’t recognise in a dream / their silhouette

branded upon your brain / [you’ve tried to swallow the night and

all its inhabitants / but they weren’t designed for consumption] / the

night standing in for doubt / as you argue with your own memory /

waking up to the smell of 皮蛋瘦肉粥 / the shape of a bowl designed

to hold love / love that is never spoken of because to do so would

silence it / the shape of silence when you tell your parents you’ve

fallen in love with a white boy / the shape of that white boy pressed

against your body / both your hearts / shaped like hungry mouths /

the shape of your mouth biting into the world’s biggest egg / the

shape of years spent running before walking / your knees shredded

and bloody / even after you grew the thick skin they said you would

need in this lifetime / the years pass like a watched pot / but you imagine

steam rising from its wide open body / flashbacks to the shape of air

being forced into a lifeless body / some incisions are made to clean

blood, others to fast-forward a certain end / when your grandparents

spoke of life it was whatever came their way / no one back then had

time to hide behind the sky / to pull strings / to taste control / the shape

of control does not fit with the shape of effort / a grounded bird tries

to climb an invisible ladder to heaven / to correct a path the world

wouldn’t let it look upon / in case it traced a line too close to comfort /

we all fear the shape of comfort when it belongs to someone else /

forgetting that we all look the same buried six feet under / both your

grandparents appear before you on the night you learn how to take off

your blindfold / when you finally recognise the shape of acceptance /

and how it might fit among the ruins of your rejections / it goes like this: /

the fights, the kisses, the direct hits / unfolding yourself into a shape

the world doesn’t know how to contain / what doesn’t fit / what doesn’t

hold true / the shape of your name / the shape of a bowl that never

empties / all of these things fit together if you turn them the right way up /

you run your finger along the lip of the bowl and remember / what it

means to be laced in time and not know how to use your hands to feed

yourself / you count the years / you feel their shape flooding your

throat / making a noise / making a space for what’s to come

Chris Tse

Chris Tse is the author of the poetry collections How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes and HE’S SO MASC. He and Emma Barnes are co-editing an anthology of LGBTQIA+ and Takatāpui writers to be published by Auckland University Press in 2021. He also edits The Spinoff’s Friday Poem.

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Ruby Solly’s ‘Pōria’

 

Pōria

 

A Judas bird

is the first bird you trap.

Not for its meat,

or feathers,

but for its song.

 

The Judas bird

has its foot folded by its captor.

pushed gently through the pōria;

a ring that it can put on

but not take off.

This is it kare,

you are wearing this pounamu

for life.

 

The Judas bird

cannot help but sing.

Sings for her supper,

sings for her sleep,

sings for her sisters,

sings for you,

sings for me.

 

The Judas bird

sees its sisters fly closer

and closer,

as they fly from the mind’s eye into her vision.

The singing growing more frantic,

higher and lower,

bigger and quicker.

Then the pull of the snare, the thud of the rock.

The tiny sound of air passing through vocal chords

not meaning to sound

but doing so against their best efforts.

An accordion pushed closed with none of its keys down.

We call it a last breath, but really it should be called

a last exhale.

 

The Judas bird watches

its sisters be eaten

and she tries not to sing.

Every bird sound is singing,

a scream is singing, a warning is singing.

She holds it in, the notes rising to her throat like a vapour.

Her mouth full of pitches,

that can’t help but spill from the corners of her beak.

 

The Judas bird wishes

the dawn would not break.

But every morning she finds herself singing.

Small arrows of notes pierce the air

as she releases more and more from her quiver.

Even a cry is song.

 

The Judas bird

sings true and long.

But she has learnt to lessen herself,

to bow to not just the loftiest mountain,

but the smallest grain of sand,

to the dirt under the fingernails

of those who tether her.

She is teaching herself

to song without resonation.

With no harmonics,

no above or below.

Like dropping a stone into a pond

and having it sink with no ripples.

No evidence of its movements

to tell the land

that it is gone.

 

Ruby Solly

 

Ruby Solly is a Kai Tahu musician, taonga puoro practitioner, music therapist and writer living in Wellington. She has played with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Whirimako Black, Trinity Roots, and The New Zealand String Quartet as both a cellist, and a player of traditional Māori instruments (ngā taonga puoro). She has also worked as a session musician and recording artist with groups such as So Laid Back Country China, Jhan Lindsay, Strowlini Orchestra, and many other artists around Wellington. In 2019 she completed a Masters thesis in the therapeutic potential of taonga puoro in mental health based music therapy, while working in schools, hospitals, prisons and with private clients from iwi around the motu. She also has experience as a composer with pieces commissioned by the New Zealand School of Music in association with SOUNZ, as well as in film work in association with Someday Stories, and the Goethe Institute with Wellington Film Society.

Ruby is also a published poet and has been published in journals associated with many of New Zealand’s universities such as LandfallSportTurbine, and Mayhem. She has also exhibited poetry in Antarctica, America and New Zealand, and was a runner up for the 2019 Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize. Additionally, Ruby is a script writer and has found success with her film Super Special which shares knowledge about Māori views of menstruation through narrative. The film aired on Māori TV, and will also air at the LA Women Film Fest.

In 2020, Ruby released her debut album Pōneke and in early 2021 her first book Toku Papa is being released by Victoria University Press.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Sue Wootton’s ‘At Moeraki’

At Moeraki

Midweek. Midwinter. The village

is pared back. At dusk

the houses on the hill go black.

Only here and there a window shines

and a slippered lighthouse keeper shuffles

between chair and cupboard, bath and bed.

In the bay the fishing boats lilt at anchor.

Beneath their hulls the ocean shifts in sleep.

Ale-bellied, full, we take our tavern talk outside,

searching for it on the stone stoop beneath the stars.

Still they are lost, the words we want

for that thing on the wall inside and what it did

although they knock and knock, these words,

behind the tongue. The boat ramp stinks of brine.

The moon rises slow and golden from the headland.

Old eye. The dock is matted with weed and slime. 

 

Queen’s shilling. Shanghai. Press gang. Cosh.

The words we’ve been casting for are caught.

Deckloads of the disappeared come up now on the hook.

The bay’s awash with them, awash.

Sue Wootton

Sue Wootton ( suewootton.com ) lives in Ōtepoti Dunedin. Her debut novel, Strip (Mākaro Press), was longlisted in the 2017 Ockham NZ Book Awards, and the following year her poetry collection The Yield (Otago University Press) was a finalist in the poetry category of these awards. She is co-editor of the e-zine Corpus: Conversations about Medicine and Life, found at corpus.nz


The poem ‘At Moeraki’ was shortlisted for the 2019 University of Canberra Vice Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Lynn Davidson’s ‘They don’t know what is coming’

They don’t know what is coming

for the women of North Berwick 1589

 

Their tongues are behind their teeth.

Their thoughts are not elaborate.

Evening has come and they are in their gardens.

 

One is pulling carrots

Another stands between her arms

And still another adjusts her waistband.

 

They are in the ordinary evening

The way a cup is under a tap,

To catch ordinary water.

 

It feels good to be free of the house

Now that the storm has passed.

 

The women are in their gardens.

The women are in their gardens.

The women are in their gardens

 

And evening is a weightless place

Where anything can happen.

 

A three-days moon

Nicks the sky.

 

Lynn Davidson

Writer Lynn Davidson, after living in Edinburgh for the past four years, has returned home to New Zealand. Her latest poetry collection Islander is published by Shearsman Books in the UK and Victoria University Press in New Zealand. She had a Hawthornden Fellowship in 2013 and a Bothy Project Residency at Inshriach Bothy in the Cairngorms in 2016. Lynn has a doctorate in creative writing, teaches creative writing, and is a member of 12, an Edinburgh-based feminist poetry collective. Her website

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Gregory O’Brien’s ‘Streets and mountains’

Streets and mountains

As the cloud reads the orchard, a swimmer reads the curve

of the bay, an ice-skater reads the surface of the half-frozen lake

and, in season, a fisherman reads the pattern of sea-birds. As a

chair reads its position at table, an aeroplane reads the evening

sky and finds a way through. The weather reads the furrowed

brow of the forecaster and is itself, in turn, read. As ever, a bird

reads the absence of birds above a certain field, just as the

streets read the mountains, the mountains the streets, and have

as much to say, as much to say.

Gregory O’Brien

An exhibition of Gregory O’Brien’s paintings–‘The Wading Birds of Drybread’–opened at the Millenium Gallery, Blenheim, on November 1. Recent projects include a new suite of seven collaborative etchings made with John Pule–see below.

Roadsigns for a highway without end, Liku, Niue, 2020, etching and aquatint

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Rachel Lockwood’s ‘Water Ways’

Water Ways

I have bloodied and been bloodied,

I have been rivered and streamed away,

I have been forest, honey, and I have

been dirt drawn beetle, honey, and

I have been mud. I have been

lung smoke, throat clearing,

menthol rasp, honey.

I have been liar and bullshitter,

I have been the round pot of tallow, honey,

and I have scraped. I have been

oceaned and rivered away.

I have been deep ravine, baby,

I have been gully, I have been fog.

I have been mirage darling,

I have been cowboy antithesis.

I have been shadow hungry, honey,

I have been fern, and salmon, and bird.

I have been runt of the litter, honey,

I have been fed fat on cream.

I have been love lettered, been Dear John lettered,

I have been written to ask to leave

and leave and come back again

like some migratory sea bird

to the winter. I have been soft-held,

honey, I have been soft-held by you.

Rachel Lockwood

Rachel Lockwood is Hawke’s Bay born and bred but now living in Wellington and studying a BA at VUW. She was a 2019 National Schools Poetry Award finalist, and has previously been published in Starling.

You can hear Rachel read her poem in Starling 10 here

Rachel muses on essa may ranapiri’s poem ‘she cut her face shaving’

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Emma Neale’s ‘The First World Hotel’

The First World Hotel

You’re quite some guest, you know, buddy. Wet towels tossed in loose crumples like botched thank-you notes; toast crumbs Hanselled in pockets of your room; thoughts and plans kept schtoom behind that door-sized don’t disturb sign. The other occupants only ever hear you from behind the clam-shell of your walls; as if your murmured conversations always hide private, no-tell pearls.

Sometimes, true, they glimpse you in the front foyer as you knock storm-strewn camellias, tea-bag brown, from your shoes; shake rain, wood-smoke, and leaf-lint from your lapels. Or with their arms laden with laundry, linen, they might pass you in the corridor’s electric fritz and hum, where your fleet nod and smile flash up like ID, for security scans that you hope run glitch-free, let you back into your own hushed interior.

They carry on: attend to quiet comforts. Not after-dinner mints on pillows; white cloths folded into mute swans; not single malt, strong, campfire peaty and dry, in doll-sized phials. They store and preserve the apple-fall of small realisations. Such as, when you leave, how polite this son will be, as he acknowledges transient strangers in the world’s anonymous spaces.

Emma Neale

Emma Neale is the author of six novels and six collections of poetry. Her most recent novel, Billy Bird (2016) was short-listed for the Acorn Prize at the Ockham NZ Book Awards and long-listed for the Dublin International Literary Award. Emma has received a number of literary fellowships, residencies and awards, the most recent of which is the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for a Distinguished Contribution to New Zealand Poetry 2020. Her first collection of short stories, Party Games, is due out late 2020/early 2021. Emma lives and works in Ōtepoti/Dunedin, and she is the current editor of Landfall, New Zealand’s longest-running literary journal.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Mohamed Hassan’s ‘Heaven is a window you can climb through’

Heaven is a window you can climb through

From the top of the sky-

tower we watch lovers

uncouple against

the sunset, red and screaming

light across faces of buildings

unbent by time, everyone belts

romance and the band plays over-

produced pop songs, a girl weeps

in disbelief, a boyfriend begs her

to calm down, two strangers long

for each other’s bones, a boy made

of scruff dances for every lost

night of wild, his heart unnerved, a hurt

like a heaven on his chest, we eat burgers

by the wharf, I make conversation

with people I’d rather not, practice my best

fake smile, the train smells like the morning

after, the earth is a flat plane, an endless reel

spinning on a loop, what if I never leave?

Mohamed Hassan

Mohamed Hassan is an award-winning journalist and poet from Auckland and Cairo. He was the 2015 National Poetry Slam Champion, a TEDx fellow, and represented NZ at the Individual World Poetry Slam in 2016. In 2017 he was awarded the Gold Trophy at the New York Radio Awards for his RNZ podcast series ‘Public Enemy’. His new collection of poems ‘National Anthem’ will be released in October by Dead Bird Books, and is available for pre-order.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Pippi Jean’s ‘What We Owe to Each Other’

WHAT WE OWE TO EACH OTHER

Is teething at the river mouth. Burrowing down.
Between the dirt and wild things. Frozen breathing, rain,
this place, is smoking from the mountainside.
Is setting bush on fire.
Is suspended by wire pins. Browning alpine sunshine
slunk onto muck. Sky and the sailing moors,
all bright descended pictures,
falling on the roof.
Is passing under cars.
Is passerby. Non-belonging. Beating trails
where the road hitches and pulls from
snow, matted scrubland, country laid
in bird formation. Is burnt-out
with believing. Festering.
Splintered. Usually
self-inflicted.

Pippi Jean

Pippi Jean is seventeen and has yet to decide on a music taste. Her work has appeared in Signals, Starling, Poetry NZ Yearbook, Overcommunicate and Toitoi. Last year she was a finalist in the National Schools Poetry Award.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Alison Glenny’s ‘Notes on The Nocturne Tradition’





Notes on The Nocturne Tradition

By the end of the decade the song is said to have lost most of its charm. This did not diminish the vogue for delicate compositions, likened to albums of fragrant leaves or to finger bowls in which reveries drifted among the reflections.

A preference for ornament over direction led to a confusion of jewellery boxes. The greatest treasures mingled with trinkets of lesser value, or were lost against the velvet lining.

The expressed aim of the cantilena was to drown the world in night.

The enigmatic nature of beauty is said to have inspired his phrasing of the portamento. At its most lucid moments a slight staccato, almost a stammer, conveyed the vague sensation of a serenade.

The belief that the action of the wrist was a form of respiration gave rise to experiments with breathlessness. Audiences likened the experience to diving into a deep lake, or being smothered in song.

Each charmed moment coaxed a new loop of melody from the shadows. Also her hair, which he compared to a curtain made of silk and embroidered with tiny stars.

Although the modulations were described as ‘tormenting’, this did not diminish the rapture that greeted the appearance of the sub-clause.

She compared the delicate figurations in the left hand to an attempt to conceive of a vaporous machine. Also a pattering of raindrops, or the sound of a bird tapping its beak against a shell.

By wandering into less dominant keys, he hoped to reveal a gender that slipped through minor modulations like water, and had no name.

Likened to a failure of the symbolic code due to an exhaustion of available resources. For example, the disappearance of the object, or the composer burying himself in a large white handkerchief.

Alison Glenny

Alison Glenny’s Antarctic-themed collection of prose poems and fragments, The Farewell Tourist, was published by Otago University Press in 2018. She lives on the Kāpiti Coast.