Tag Archives: Ruth Dallas

Poetry Shelf review: Landfall 237

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Landfall 237 edited by Emma Neale

 

Landfall 237 offers rich pickings for the poetry fans: familiar names (Peter Bland, David Eggleton, Elizabeth Smither, Ria Masae, Lynley Edmeades and Cilla McQueen) to emerging poets (Rebecca Hawkes, Claudia Jardine, essa may ranapiri) and those I am reading for the first time (Robynanne Milford, Jeremy Roberts, Catherine Trundle to name a few). The reading experience is kaleidoscopic, pulling you in different directions, towards both lightness and darkness, risk and comfort. And that is exactly what a literary journal can do. I was tempted to say should, but literary journals can do anything.

Landfall has a history of showcasing quirky artwork – and this issue is no exception. Sharon Singer’s sequence, “Everyday Calamities’ with its potent colour, surreal juxtapositions, strange and estranging narratives, and thematic bridges, is an addictive puzzle for heart and mind. I am circling humanity, the power of connection, the individual both tenacious and frail, the state of the planet. Paintings whirling and tipping you into moments that soothe, bewilder and provoke. I adore these.

I turned from these to Rachel O’Neill’s prose poem ‘The Supernatural Frame’ and get goosebumps:

You may look upon the painting through these special

foiled binoculars. We are at a safe distance. Afterwards you

may feel a chill or a fever linger for two days and a night,

accompanied by an infernal cough.

 

 

On the centennial of the birth of Ruth Dallas in Invercargill, I am also delighted to see John Geraets spotlight her poetry. Certain Dallas poems have always had a place in NZ literary anthologies (think ‘Milking Before Dawn’) but as readers we may less familiar with the wider expanse of her work. Like so many women poets of the twentieth century she is in the shadows. In his intro John suggests it is not clear how to include her ‘within more recent nexus based on gender, ethnicity, ecology, avant-gardism, faith or political affiliation’. He responds by assembling her words – culled from Landfall editor-contributor responses and her autobiography Curved Horizon – on the left-hand pages and his words on the right. He first sees in her poetry – compared with contemporary writing choices – predictability, regularity, un-excitement, regionalism; and then, by paying attention and refreshing his routes, he opens up poems to different movements. He moves in close to the poem. I love that. Much I could say on how we approach the women from the past! Expect 568 pages soon.

 

I absolutely love the poetry in this issue; it is both fresh and vital! I see neither formula nor dominating style but shifting stories, musicality, feeling, political bite, muted shades, bright tones.

 

Here are some highlights:

 

Joanna Preston’s poem ‘Allegrophobia’ carries you from birth to tardiness to spring in a layered on punctuality – a perfect little package.

Jasmine Gallagher’s ‘Be Still’ sent me to her bio because I want to read more by her. She is a doctoral student at the University of Otago and has previously been published in brief. Her poem is poetry as brocade – glinting for the eye and chiming for the ear.

 

Slattern: a

hoar frost:

a rime

Cold seed bed

Rot and slime

 

Another poet, Catherine Trundle, also sent me scavenging for more. She writes poetry, flash fiction and experimental ethnography. Her poem ‘The Caravan behind the Plum Tree’ is also an exquisite brocade.

 

This lush cusp of spring rides

pinkish, amoebic, wilding

the inside, every flesh ’n’ cranny

while the sunlight lunges in

through winter tidelines

of curtain rot

 

Tam Vosper’s ‘Ailurophilia’ was an equal hook for me. He is working on a PhD at Canterbury University that considers Allen Curnow and the poetics of place. Again this is brocade poetry: so rich in effect.

 

All Gallic pluck

and casual loft

you claim a suntrap,

slump sidewise down,

and unhinge your barbed yawn:

           a shark to shoaling mice.

 

And I want to add Medb Charleton’s ‘I think I Saw You Dreaming’, Rebecca Hawkes’s ‘If I could breed your cultivar / I’d have you in my garden’ and Gail Ingram’s ‘The Kitchen’ to my list of brocade poetry. Glorious.

In contrast you have the spare deliciousness of Ariha Latham’s ‘Waitangi’. Another poet whose work I want to track down.

 

When I read Ria Masae’s “Jack Didn’t Build Here’ I can hear her performing its sharp mix of personal and politics  – and it cuts into my skin. Six houses built. She carries us from the father’s house full of stories to David Lange’s Mangere home open to the locals: he ‘understood the pressures of fa’alavelave,/ cos he brown on the inside like that’. She bears us from the house her mum built with its’ celebration tables’ to the house Key built with its ‘security code gate’. She ends with a question (the house to be built?):

 

What house will Jacinda build?

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?

 

You can move from political bite to the glorious wit you often find in an Erik Kennedy poem. His ‘All Holidays Are Made-Up Holidays’ is no exception. Meet Cabinet Day – ‘we went along/ from house to house hanging little doors / around each other’s necks to hide our secrets’. Or the Feast of Holy Indifference. Genius!

Claire Orchard’s poem, ‘Breakages’, swivels on a set of shelves, on the objects that they hold, and in that satisfying movement speaks of so much more; the poem resembles a shelf of family history with peaks and troughs.

 

I enjoyed the way it had begun to display time

in the style of tottering, elderly people

 

I heard Joan Fleming talk about new poetry she was writing at the Poetry & Essay conference at Victoria University in 2017. The poems came out of her experience of camp life in Nyrripi and surrounding areas in Australia’s Central Desert. I was moved by her discussions of collaboration and consent, her attentiveness to the local. Two poems here – ‘Alterations’ and ‘Papunya is Gorgeous Dirty and I Second-guess my Purposes’ – come out of this experience. I can’t wait to see this in book form.

 

Finally a treat from Cilla McQueen. She has written ‘Poem for my Tokotoko’; it is personal, physical and abundant with the possibilities of poetry. Pure pleasure.

 

Sometimes I see you as an enchanter’s staff,

scattering poems like leaves to the west wind;

at others you’re practical, a trusty pole

by means of which, through quarrelling

undercurrents, I can ford turbulent water.

By means of which I put myself across.

 

This is such good issue – there are reviews and fiction I haven’t read yet, and the announcement of the Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Essay Competition 2019 – but on the poems only, it warrants a subscription. Yep – Landfall has its finger on the pulse of NZ poetry.

 

Landfall 237 page

 

 

Some poetry fans pick a recent favourite NZ poetry read – and my giveaway bundle

Thanks for sharing these. I put all the names in a hat and drew out Nicola Easthope. I will send you a wee bundle of poetry books. Can you email me your postal address please?

 

Sarah Jane Barnett: Congratulations on your 500th post! What an achievement and also such a contribution to New Zealand poetry readers. The book I’m enjoying at the moment is Joan Fleming’s Failed Love Poems. It’s an intense read and I feel immersed in the characters, especially in the second section. The poem ‘The invention of enough’ blew my mind!

 

Harvey Molloy: One book that comes to mind is Native Bird by Bryan Walpert.  It’s such a well-crafted, polished book. There’s a diversity of poetic forms and tones so the work’s quite dynamic.  There’s also a certain reticence in places, a skirting around painful issues which I find quite refreshing  – – at times emotions are understated and there’s a control and restraint which I find quite moving; the poetry is at times actively self-conscious but never cold or impersonal (for example the poem, ‘Ōakura’).  I’ll be coming back to this book.

 

Sian Robyns: Airini Beautrais’ Dear Neil Roberts had me enthralled enraged and weeping. To paraphrase ‘History Books’ (p 43), she admitted Neil Roberts into our histories and gave us a harrowing reminder of the particular awfulness of Muldoon’s New Zealand. Sadly, we still maintain a silence closely resembling stupidity.

Can I have two? I also loved Jennifer Compton’s Mr Clean and the Junkie. I loved the story, the sense of place, and that swooping, interfering, conversational, self-aware authorial voice.

 

Crissi Blair: I loved Caoilinn Hughes’ Gathering Evidence which I had from the library after hearing Gregory O’Brien talking to Kim Hill about her marvellous first lines. Congratulations on your 500th post Paula. You are doing a great job at spreading the poetry word!

 

Nicola Easthope: One Aotearoa poetry book I have enjoyed this year (there are so many) is Janet Frame’s The Goose Bath, winner of the 2007 Montana NZ Book Awards. I have come late to Janet’s poetry (having gobbled up her prose at university in the late 80s) and love meeting her flaring imagination and dance of language through poems with apparently innocent beginnings that usually turn, back and forth, between the light and the dark of her life.The entire collection leaves me fizzing and aching with appreciation.

 

Lara Anderson:

The body is a nest alive with new song
The brain is fluent in ghost
The tongue is rich with poetry ~ Siobhan Harvey from ‘Cumulus’ in Cloudboy Otago University Press, 2014

These are just a few of my favourite lines in a book of NZ poetry that I have read and re-read this year. Using the metaphor of clouds to express her feelings and to give poetic form to her son. Harvey is at times both confronted and confronting. You would think that over an extended piece you would get tired of the cloud metaphor but it provides a cohesion that allows the reader to trace the ever changing cloudscapes – like watching the weather dance across the city in time-lapse fashion. Every time I re-read her work I garner something new from it.

Anyway, thank you for your 500 wonderful posts!

 

Susan Wardell: I stole away from evening toddler-ing duties for a full hour to attend the launch of Emma Neale’s Tender Machines. For the first three days I kept the book lovingly tucked in it’s friendly brown-paper bag, carrying it around in my over-sized, multipurpose parenting handbag, and stealing it out just a few times a day, in the gaps between work-work and home-work, to savour the poems one, or maybe (greedily) two, at a time – along with the salted crackers keeping my ‘morning’ sickness at bay – then carefully replacing it. Parked by the road or outside the house, while my daughter squirmed/sang/ate raisins in the back seat, I cried more than a bit, and more than once, as I read Emma’s poignant, humourous, gentle, and sometimes brutally-true poems about, well… about life. To find something that could capture, without reifying, the beauty and fragility of the mundane and domestic, reading the micro everyday of mealtimes and bedtimes into the macro of our uncertain global times…. it is special. I don’t believe I had ever read what I could call a ‘true’ poem about parenting before I read Emma’s (earlier) work. This collection, too, became a lifeline, another level at which to process my own experience, emotion, as a mother and a woman and a citizen of a broken world. I breathed. It was ok to be human after all. I forgave myself as the book came out of it’s paper sheath permanently and, in the space of only a week, gained nutella fingerprints, sand in the page creases, water bottle stains, and dog ears. I finished it and cried a bit more into the spaghetti, not sure whether to blame hormones or metaphors. This collection is personal in a tender and unapologetic way, political in a raw and thoughtful way, beautiful in a subtle, tangible, heart-lifting way. It is both grounded and soaring; it is both the heartbeat and the wind. It came at just the right moment for me personally, in the way poetry often does. But I am also pleased to think of it’s permanence now, in print; it will remain as a beautiful little signpost in the history, the story, of NZ poetry… should the archaeologists of the future unearth my well-loved copy, they will know us better for it.

 

Kathryn Crookenden: Congratulations on your 500th post for NZ Poetry Shelf and thank you for all your efforts to promote poetry in New Zealand. I enjoy reading the blog, especially the reviews and the interviews with poets.

I have enjoyed reading Frances Samuel’s Sleeping on Horseback this year. I got it out of the library twice and then bought my own copy because there were so many poems that I enjoyed and wanted to keep going back to. Through her poems I have travelled with Chinese poets and Russian writers, visited Japan and Latvia in summer, and considered how to draw spires and towers. I like her wry humour and sharp observations. My favourite poem in the collection is ‘Just twinkling in the moonlight’ with its baby ‘all shiny with the moon.’ I’d also like to mention the gardening anthology, The Earth’s Deep Breathing, which has been a good companion for the last few weeks as I’ve been getting my own garden into shape, and Glenn Colquhoun’s The Art of Walking Upright which I read earlier this year – there are some beautiful kuia honoured in his poems.

 

Maureen Sudlow: I am currently reading the collected poems of Ruth Dallas, published by the University of Otago Press, and I am struck again with the breadth and depth of her writing.  Some of her work is influenced by the early Chinese poets, and some returns to the strong heritage of her own environment and upbringing. Ruth also includes haiku, which are one of my favourite poetic forms, and which are not often included in general poetry collections.

Her poems are gathered into five groups that show changes to Ruth’s writing over time.  I particularly love ‘Felled Trees’:

Nobody has come to burn them,
Long green grass grows up between them.
Up between white boughs that lie
Dead and empty, dry,
That once were full of leaves and sky.

and ‘Night Rain’

Needles of the rain
Restitch
Restitch the linen of the flesh

The rich variety of her writing brings me back to read again and again.  If you have no other New Zealand Poet on your shelves, you must at least have Ruth Dallas.  Ruth has gone but she has left a treasure trove of words behind for us to enjoy.

 

Helen Anderson: I am very pleased to have the opportunity to write about C.K Stead’s Collected Poems 1951 – 2006. This was a very welcome gift that has sat beside my bed all year for dipping into. It was published in 2008 and came to me via Hard to Find book store having never been opened!  I had the privilege of being in Professor Stead’s  classes far too many years ago and reading his text The New Poetic published back in 1964 accounted for my first experience of some understanding of the poetic enterprise. Collected Poems is full of surprises, the range is extraordinary and the collection includes previously unpublished work. It is an ongoing lesson about the power of language to invoke memory, to rebuild perception and to take us beyond our boundaries when crafted by a poet who is serious, playful, cynical and optimistic and an artist.