Tag Archives: poetry shelf monday poem

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Jenny Bornholdt’s ‘Crossing’

 

Crossing

 

Driving across town

she feels plain

and botanical.

 

At a crossing

there’s a man

with a cake, girl

with a tune.

Four young people

wheel a bed,

headed for a house

where a young woman

might read, love a man/some

men, might hold their bodies

close and welcome some parts

of those bodies

into hers.

 

Years later

she might see these men

in suits and on television and

many years later

might pass one, a house painter,

as she drives to buy

paint, for heaven’s sake.

 

Now, nearing sixty,

this woman loves her husband

ferociously.

When she turns the compost

and finds the flat wrinkled body

of a mouse,

she remembers the time

he rang her in Scotland

to say he’d seen one in the pile

and what should he do?

 

She shovels the remains

of the mouse with the rest

of the compost to beneath

the blossom, which bows

low and graceful over neglect,

which abounds, as it does,

wonderfully, in the garden of the

southern house they move to

for a time.

 

He’s up to his ears

in sadness, both of them aghast

at landscape. Being asthmatic

he is immediately attractive

to animals – at the lake

a fox terrier pup takes shelter

under his chest as he lies down

on a towel after a swim.

In the kitchen a mouse

bumps into his foot. Drama

in the house! Not for the first

time. These were rooms

of costume, scenery,

leading ladies and men

on the front terrace, leaning

on architect Ernst Plischke’s rail,

stone warm underfoot, snowed

mountains as backdrop

while the deep, broad river passed

below them, always

on its way.

 

Jenny Bornholdt, from Lost and Somewhere Else, Victoria University Press, 2019

 

 

Jenny Bornholdt is the author of many poetry collections, including The Rocky Shore (Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry winner, 2009) and Selected Poems (2016). She has edited several notable anthologies including Short Poems of New Zealand (2018).

Victoria University Press author page

 

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Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Hebe Kearney’s ‘Clytemnestra Takes a Bath’

 

Clytemnestra Takes a Bath

 

Woman — cast your tyrannical spell upon the water,

heart of red dwarf star, fizzing wonder,

and to the seething foam pour your oils, aromatic offerings,

libations of rose petals. Let candles blaze in the dark,

a ring of ensnaring flame.

 

Woman — run the bath red,

drop by crimson drop, let the red tide flow

unsheathe the cold steel, let it slide in long strokes

and when it nicks it oozes,

draw it quick down beneath the scarlet waters,

and keep it there.

 

Woman — I know you,

you own the distant scream or two of flesh

dragged against white marble,

the sound behind the door of a call:

in another life, you betrayed a kingdom of nothing,

wrenched off an eagle’s wings, sprayed its black blood wide,

assumed the form of a snake.

 

Clytemnestra — in this life, relax;

the day is beginning.

Untangle the net of your dressing gown from the bathroom floor,

wrap your blushed flesh in silk,

apply a plaster to that bright-ooze, shaving cut,

and let the crimson bathwater all the way out.

Breathe deep, dry off, moisturise.

Fish the rose petals from the teeth of the bathtub’s drain

with your hands.

 

Hebe Kearney

 

Hebe Kearney is from Christchurch but now calls Auckland her home. She is currently studying to complete her Honours in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Auckland. She couldn’t stop writing poems if she tried, and her work has appeared in Starling, The Three Lamps and Oscen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.