Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'The Threepenny Kowhai Stamp Brooch' by Jennifer Compton

The Threepenny Kowhai Stamp Brooch

If I get lost someone will pick me up and post me.
I am already licked and stamped on my green lapel.

The brooch from Te Papa will see me safely home.
It's 3D — as in LSD pounds, shillings and pence.

Let us go out and do the passegiata on the waterfront.
If and when I get lost, you can slide me into the red box.

Of course I will be posted back into the past
back to when kowhai was pronounced kowhai.

I got my six monthly statement for This City from Otago University
Press today. And oh dear, not one sale. Just a lot of 0s and a $1.30
carried over from the last statement. What a pitiful document it was.
So I emailed and asked how many copies are left. Just 84. So when
the present liquidity crisis eases, I shall order them in 10 at a time and
flog them at cost at poetry readings. (It's a handsome book, but an
expensive book. $30 plus postage for the average punter. About $12
for me.) I haven't given that book a fair chance to sell out. I shall
renew the struggle.

I picked this poem to represent the book because it has done well
for itself, although I was extremely doubtful when I wrote it if I could
place it. I couldn't see how the different pronunciations of 'kowhai'
would work on the page. But Les Murray took it for Quadrant, then
it was in Best New Zealand Poems on line – then it was in the book
The Best of Best New Zealand Poems. And the last time I was in
Palmerston North, Joy Green told me they were teaching it at Massey.
So woo hoo little poem.

A dear friend had bought me the brooch, from Te Papa of course. I was
wearing it when Fiona Kidman took me on the Writers Walk around the
waterfront. We started at her plaque in Oriental Bay and worked our way
 back to Queens Wharf. Then we stopped for a coffee, and as I walked
towards the table, the poem presented itself to me, fully formed. One of
those ones you get for free.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'Ghazal' by Andy Jackson


Pretending to gaze out the window, the whole carriage listens
to its only conversation. Clouds hold and won't release rain.

Pedestrians, unsure whether to move left or right, collide.
Drivers at intersections wave us across, smiling, briefly.

A plastic shovel, face down in our backyard. Wilting
leaves. Cobwebbed pages. Overhead, another plane lifting …

We have become no-one to each other, bleached, thin.
Drought opens cracks in the wall, the shape of our gods.

Streets away, the grinding wheels of a turning tram. Near,
insect-hum, a neighbour hammering a nail into a mortgage.

I stroke the immense flank of a ghost gum and wait,
sandalwood breathing softly against my wrist.

Incense circles the room, the wrung half-limes sing
their silence to a wet blade. Home, as solid as smoke.

Immune Systems by Melbourne poet, Andy Jackson, is a new(ish)
book out from the irrepressible small press, Transit Lounge. And it's
tip top. Of course. Cool and astute, exact and exacting, honed, grounded.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'Spirited Questions Overheard' by Michelle Leber


Very Old Madame Yin Asks Very Old Minister Yang:

The evening, too brief for idleness, must you chatter
on the subject of fresh air and unobstructed spaces?
Tossing — more than ideas in your bed,
why are you restless like Mounting Stag?
Too much happiness? Perhaps you need
ask physician if extravagant joy is injurious to the Heart?

Very Old Minister Yang Asks Very Old Madame Yin:

Memory prefers a nap — again I enquire
which part of you is like a watercourse?
After your name circles my lilies,
silver hair flowing like Celestial Horse,
can doubt and panic be left behind?
I cling to your answers — for what purpose
did we meet halfway up the mountain
to glimpse light and dark in each other's eyes?

From Notes On Text

extravagant joy is injurious to the heart (from Huang Di Nei Jing
translated by Ilza Veith).

I feel so very fortunate to be right in the thick of so much
marvellous poetry-making. Recently I went to the launch
of Cocky's Joy by Michael Farrell (Giramondo) and that is
a book and a half. As Laurie Duggan writes in the blurb —
You feel there's a language being created here and yet it's
your own language.” So true.
And I came home to re read The Yellow Emperor by Michelle
Leber (Five Islands Press) to bring myself to the point where
I could pick just one for my Tuesday Poem deal, and there was
another wonderful book, a book and a half, under my hand.
Two wonderful books in one night! And of course the language
Yellow Emperor is couched in. What very difficult choices the
poet made, and with what a deft hand she made them. With
what subtle and seductive artistry. I did find this book a bit
of a struggle at first. Michelle has given us a foreword and
some after-notes to place us in the historical/legendary
milieu — just enough, not too much, not too little — so I
wasn't lost in that sense. What lost me was that I pride myself
on being a bit of a literary detective, and I could not penetrate
where this book had come from! I could sense an aftertaste
of Arthur Waley, and maybe a soupcon of Ezra Pound. But
none of my reading, which has been westerncentric, could help
me place the provenance. Of course, Michelle has been a lecturer
and clinician of Chinese Medicine for over twenty years. That
has informed the book. But what helped me in the end to get a
grip, was a certain sort of elliptical and enigmatic French film,
where the rules of engagement in conversation have a rock/
paper/scissors tone, and wit always wins.
To quote the last lines of the last poem in the book 'QI, Blood
And Essence' —
'Remember, the emperor and I
know where you live.'

Monday, May 4, 2015

Tuesday Poem - 'Two boys on roller blades' by Carolyn McCurdie

Two boys on roller blades

They've set up a goal:
some wooden struts

wedged in the gutter, strapped
to a power pole

and a sheet of black vinyl salvaged
trimmed, for this.

They flow across the road
up and back and around

loose, lazy
as if it's the camber of the road

that lifts them, drops and lifts
till a neighbour's car in careful low gear

washes the boys to the side
in a cross-current.

Hockey sticks dangle, wait.
Then wrists flex; they check,

snag the pockmarked puck, flick it
whack it, gulp into the goal.

Circling again, no words
just eyebrows.

I am just back from a big trip to New Zealand to launch the three new
Hoopla books from Mākaro Press. (And a few gigs on the side with my
good mate Coral Carter who came along for the ride.) I think I can safely
say that all three Hoopla poets (me, Bryan Walpert and Carolyn McCurdie,
plus our sidekick Coral, plus of course our esteemed editor and publisher
Mary McCallum) had a great time. But then - and how we were
staggered and almost on the point of dumbfoundery - our books entered
the NZ bestseller list. First Bryan, then Carolyn, then me. Then Carolyn's
book shot to number one! Well knock me sideways and tickle me with a
feather! Cheers to Mākaro Press and all who sail in her.
It was hard to pick just one poem from Carolyn's debut book. It is so fresh
and well grounded, so charming and perspicacious. But I went for the lads
and their hockey sticks, for reasons that will be obvious.

Carolyn McCurdie is a Dunedin writer who has worked as a teacher
and librarian. Winner of the New Zealand Poetry Society’s International
Poetry Competition and the Lilian Ida Smith Award, she is a long-time
contributor to New Zealand’s leading poetry journals, and has published
an ebook of short stories and a children’s fantasy novel. Carolyn is a member
of the Octagon Poets Collective and helps to organise live poetry events in