Tag Archives: poetry shelf monday poem

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Meg Doughty’s ‘Under the Moon as it Rises’

 

Under the Moon as it Rises

I love the thought of running
out under the moon as it rises
on warm sand, still warm
from the day Like me
like my skin hot
like when I was just born
My black hair the night
flanking the moon, impending
(to run toward it as it rises too)…

But I don’t live near beaches
near dunes Just a city
that runs to the water and ceases
runs down and over hills
that keep me as a fish
in a bowl a cat in a bowl
hemmed in and antsy
scratching for the sun to leave
and let me run over sand to sea

Carving valleys with my claws
a prayer to bring rain
to bring the hills down
or turn them to dunes
to waves to let me away
across the wild Soft and hot
sand black white and red
on my paw pads and unending
Running and running and running…

 

Meg Doughty

 

Meg Doughty: I am a reactionary writer who is fascinated by the everyday mystic. I completed my English Honours degree in June from Vic, where I was lucky to be taught by Anna Jackson. I grew up with a black cat and we read Meg and Mog books together, convincing me I was a witch. I am now living in the big smoke, Auckland.

Meg’s poem ‘Potion’ at Starling

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Claire Orchard’s ‘Vacancy’

Vacancy

 

The chair – beige linen, wingback,

a little light wear where the head rests

and along the arms – sits next to the unmade

bed – rumpled white sheets, cream wool

blanket with a charcoal double stripe.

 

The lamp – switched on, small, round, bright

orange glass shade – glows on the desk

in the corner where there is another chair – oak,

straight-backed, ladder-backed, pushed in.

 

The morning sunlight slanting through

the open French windows is touching

all of this but especially highlighting

the filmy white curtains, the thin layer

of dust on the polished floorboards.

 

Outside, the climber scaling the balcony railings

is mostly thin, leggy stalks now, having lost

almost all its leaves. The open door,

barely visible to one side, is in fact

just the suggestion of an exit.

 

Claire Orchard

 

Claire Orchard was born in Wainuiomata, grew up in the Hutt Valley and now lives in Wellington where she completed an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML in 2013. Her first book of poems, Cold Water Cure, was published by VUP in 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf review: Emma Neale’s To the Occupant

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Emma Neale, To the Occupant, Otago University Press, 2019

 

Emma Neale has published five novels and five poetry collections, edited several anthologies and is the current editor of Landfall. She has won numerous awards including The Kathleen Grattan Award for her collection Truth Garden (2011). Her novel Billy Bird was shortlisted for the NZ Book Awards (2017). Emma’s new poetry collection To the Occupant is a textured reading experience; it is both visually and aurally ornate while never losing touch with its humane core.

The complex melodies, an Emma Neale trademark, employ diverse harmonies and counterpoints, and are always the first glorious reading effect. Take ‘Morning Song’ for example. The poem resembles an ode to a grandfather, the familial figure shining bright with life in  memories that stand out: drying dishes, hearing his whistle, spotting hidden cigarettes. Cat Steven’s song ‘Morning Has Broken’ is like the poem’s axle as grandfather details spin off the fragments of song.

 

Better warble down the past’s wind

mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning.

We grinned, raised eyebrows at its no-fail return;

praise with elation, praise every morning

the tune all whiskered trill, all rheumy-eyed wink

as he’d pop a dishcloth over his shoulder,

a clown’s epaulette; praise for the sweetness

 

The melody favours compound words (sun-speckled kitchen), chords built upon assonance, alliteration, repetition, clipped words next to those drawn out (‘it meant Gramps and damp tea towels; thin coffee cups and saucers / glazed with flowers that could be owls’). But there is more to the grandfather than the daily occurrences and to his happy song whistled; behind the gladness is past trauma, a lucky escape.  Herein lies the second joy of a Neale poem – moving through both the aural and the visual to the humane core.

The subject matter is always on the move: poems carry you from a season of teenagers, to politics of the homeless to mother anxiety. You shift from a fable to everyday vignettes, from old diaries to tightly held secrets. The younger son enters the kitchen with a secret in ‘Small Wonder’; he barely holds it in he is so desperate to tell his mother.

 

He pushes in hard at the sides of his mouth

as the blue-green fire of his irises

brims and flickers, swells and burns.

 

Such tension, such mother promises, as she bends in close and listens, and by not telling us, by sharing the intensity of the moment rather than the revelation, it makes the promise even sweeter. She will:

 

protect the pale-pink nimbus

of his secret

as it buds, opens.

 

Again a single poem transports me through music that works on my body, the sharp visuals move to the human core that makes a poem matter.

Emma’s collection is the sort that demands a summer sojourn; you can sunbathe at leisure within the light and dark of each poem. At times I am reminded of Elizabeth Smither’s ability to achieve both movement and stillness within the same poetic terrain, with the physical world exposing byways to an internal state of being, to the subconscious even. In ‘Doorway’, we stop to absorb a scene:

 

On the pavement outside the famous patisserie

a slender, chignon-haired woman sits inside her fortress

 

of backpack, tote bags, suitcases

which she arranges and rearranges

 

with the worn sobriety of a new mother

or a nurse in a recovery-ward hover.

 

Increasingly open-cast politics is finding its way into our poetry – poets might adopt strident voices or weave in opinions and grievances at more of a whisper, and I welcome all of this, whatever the tone or poetic form. In ‘Withdrawn’, Emma describes a scene where the poem’s speaker gives a ‘thin young man / in a sleeping bag’ a pack of bread rolls:

 

with our conscience burning holes

in the sleek, fat satin of our well-fed hearts

 

I read of the ‘big old drunk’ who knocks his paper cup of coins over and I am sent skating back to the first verse and the way the unfolding scene makes me ache and ponder at the ‘glaring discrepancies’. This is what a poem can do.

 

It is not within the scope of this poem

to discuss the failure of successive governments

to address the glaring discrepancies

between all the different weights and shades

of human pain —

 

Emma’s breathtaking new collection is wide in scope and reading impact. She is one of my favourite New Zealand poets because she never fails to fill me with joy, awe and musings at what poetry can do. This book is a sumptuous word treat.

 

Otago University Press author page

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Jennifer Compton’s ‘A Farm in the King Country’

 

A Farm in the King Country

 

 

On the shelf beside the brick chimney piece

in the farmhouse lounge room (off the hall)

 

a room that was out of the usual run of things

(a lofty box, a sash window, a retreating echo)

 

I came across a copy of Faces In The Water

(with a dangerous cover) written by a certain

 

Janet Frame. A woman by her name, and why

would they lie? And from the words written

 

on the back, she was one of us. Had I never

laid my hands/eyes upon a book by a NZer

 

before? (No, never.) I read, sitting on the rump

of a dusty sofa, as the other people were doing

 

something useful outside. Finding chook eggs

in the orchard, milking the house cow, hoeing

 

cabbages, rendering horse fat to clean harness.

And the stink of her menstrual blood shook me

 

out of my orbit. (Forever.) Outside this wooden

box a mountain and her sisters claimed ground.

 

 

Jennifer Compton was born in Wellington and now lives in Melbourne. Recent work has been published in Antipodes, Cicerone, Not Very Quiet, Poetry New Zealand, Rabbit, Styluslit, The Frogmore Papers, The Moth, and Verity La. Her next book of poetry, ‘the moment, taken’, nears completion.

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Arihia Latham’s ‘Elephant/ your room’

 

Elephant/ your room

 

An elephant walks in

 

I harp on

 

You pull your hood over your eyes

 

Why do I think you are going to talk about feelings

 

I still sit here shivering

In the part of the night like cellophane;

See through and crackly on my eyes.

 

The punishment was normal you said.

Just a bit of old piping

Quick whack on the legs

 

No words for it

 

Tar your mouth shut

A roady and his signs

Quiet guffaws and boots tack.

 

You’ve got no ears just a talking disorder.

 

Your last words echo.  I want to leave you.

 

But is that fair when you are asleep.

 

Arihia Latham

 

 

Arihia Latham is of Ngai Tahu Māori, English, Irish and Dutch descent and lives in Wellington. She is a facilitator, writer, rongoā practitioner and mother. Her writing has featured in Huia short story collections, RNZ, Landfall and Oranui journals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Brian Turner – an unpublished poem and a new book

 

In the Middle of Nowhere

 

On a late winter morning when driving east towards Ranfurly

pale grey fog’s smothering most of the land from Wedderburn

to Naseby, Kyeburn, Kokonga, Waipiata, Hamilton’s, Patearoa

and beyond. And I’m thinking how often we’re told we live

in the middle of nowhere: that nowadays people everywhere

are categorised, seen as somewheres, anywheres, or nowheres,

and that, in particular, this place is empty, needs more people.

So it goes. In ‘Furl’ I shop at the corner Four Square, pluck

some cash from a money machine, buy a long black and two

thick egg and chive sandwiches at the E-Café, fill up with gas

at the garage and set off homewards. Then, when re-entering

the Ida Valley and emerging into sharp sunlight, and wondering,

yet again, whether what is ever present always feels burdened

by the past, everywhere one looks – north south east and west –

bulky hills and shining mountains glisten with heavy snow.

And, oddly perhaps, so-called nowhere’s nowhere to be found.

 

Brian Turner

 

Brian Turner was born in Dunedin in 1944. His debut collection Ladders of Rain (1978) won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. He has published a number of collections including Just This which won the NZ Post Book Award for Poetry in 2010. He has received the Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry (2009) and was NZ Poet Laureate (2003-5).  He lives in Central Otago.

In April Victoria University Press published Brian’s Selected Poems, a hardback treasury of poetry that gains life from southern skies and soil, and so much more. When I am longing to retreat to the beauty of the south, I find refuge in one of Brian’s poems. The economy on the line, the exquisite images, the braided rhythms. Read a poem and your feet are in the current of a gleaming river, your eyes fixed on a purple gold horizon line.

 

Once in a while

you may come across a place

where everything

seems as close to perfection

as you will ever need.

from ‘Place’

 

Yet the joy of reading the Selected Poems is also in the diverse subject matter: the acerbic political bite when he considers a world under threat, the love poems, poems of his mother and his father, the elegies, the humour, the storms, the seasons. In ‘The mixing bowl’ the mother is kneading, she feeds her son cakes and scones, along with ‘a rough and tart / unstinting love’. The final stanzas catch my heart:

 

But I did not know

it would be so hard

to watch her grow,

enfeebled, toward oblivion,

her hands and face

yellow as floury

butter, her arms

white as gentled flour.

 

I love ‘In Ladbroke Grove’: a woman in a London cafe is surprised he is writer because she didn’t ‘know there were any in New Zealand.’ When she asked where New Zealand was ‘he refused to answer that because too many know anyway’. Ha!

I emailed Brain earlier in the year to see if had any new poems -and he said he had hundreds. ‘In the middle of nowhere’ is one of them – a Turner taste before you read the glorious Selected Poems. His poetry might carry you to the middle of nowhere (a fiction of course!) but his poems are rich in the sumptuous experience of somewhere. His poetry somewhere is vital, humane, illuminating. His Selected Poems is an essential volume for me and I want to keep quoting poems to you because they are so rewarding. Instead I  recommend you pack the book in your bag and take time out for a Turner retreat.

 

The dead do

sing in us, in

us and through

us, and to themselves

under their mounds of earth

swelling  in the sun, or in their

ashes that shine

as they depart on the wind.

from ‘After’ for Grahame

 

Victoria University Press page

 

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Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Jess Fiebig’s ‘Summer’

 

Summer 2016

 

that summer was heavy, thick

I felt myself weighted,

struggling to move through air

it was underwater with open eyes

breathless and pressurised

seeing everything through

the blur and sting

of sea water

 

my new breasts were tight and hard in my chest,

and I had to sleep on my back for the first time;

my body was an unfamiliar collection of bones,

brittle as shells, and freshly bleached hair.

 

it was an achingly empty summer,

it was bitten, itchy skin,

damp thighs rubbing on denim,

it was bare chested and freckled,

salt licking new scars

 

it was the season of lemons

softening in the bowl,

damp fur, and fingernails bitter and green

from tearing and linking

daisy stems

 

it was clotted black blood, sprinklers,

strawberries and razorblades,

it was warm, long nights alone

 

it was the summer of the 6 am hate poem,

the first summer the soles of my feet

grew thick and hard

and as I watched shadows stretch

and felt cool wind come off the water,

it was the summer

I fell in love with

myself.

 

Jess Fiebig

 

 

Jess Fiebig is a nationally-recognised poet, educator and performer living in Otautahi/Christchurch, New Zealand. Her writing has featured in journals such as Aotearotica, Catalyst, Landfall, takahē, Turbine, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook and Best New Zealand Poems 2018. Jess was commended in the 2017 and 2018 New Zealand Poetry Society International Poetry Competitions and was highly commended in 2019 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize. Her poetry explores themes such as madness, sex, love, family violence, friendship, drugs and dislocation. Jess teaches creative writing and is a tutor at the Christchurch School for Young Writers.  Jess’s website.