Monday, November 16, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Memories of Long Grass, by Carolyn McCurdie

Memories of long grass
for Lesley and Steve

We were quick to claim this ground
relinquished by thick-tongued cows
not yet chomped by bulldozers;
on long swooping slopes and gullies
the seeding grasses nodded, waited just for us.

Disdainful, we pushed aside
stalks swaddled by the nursery web spider
ready for her teeming young;
we trampled tracks where no one
walked but skinks, mice, a cat.
Tiger tracks.

The huts we made were dreams of huts, made more
of air than granny-knotted grass that broke
and slipped. Inside the open walls, we sat
and watched the sun stripe our arms and legs.

We rolled the grass flat to make circles
the radius of our bodies. Then our eyes probed eternity
finding it blue, and beyond that, blue
and beyond that…

The grass held us cupped; the sky bent down
and sipped us up.

copyright Carolyn McCurdie
used with permission

I have been enjoying a number of poetry books lately put out by Makaro Press, the imprint started by the indefatigable Mary McCallum, who is also the instigator of Tuesday Poem. Among them was Carolyn McCurdie's first collection, Bones in the Octagon. My first instinct was to ask her if I could post January Begins as my Tuesday Poem (although it is slightly out of season), however I found that it had already been posted online - so I chose this one, especially for its wonderful last stanza, which to me evoked the wonder of childhood, of exploring the outdoors, of summer days that seem to last forever.

Carolyn 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 Dunedin.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site. We are a group of New Zealand and international poets who each try to post a poem on our blogs every Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

So Much Depends On...

I have been flat out lately. I'm hoping to get back to the blog with a Tuesday Poem next week.
In the meantime, I enjoyed Joe Bennett's rewrite of William Carlos William's red wheelbarrow poem in our newspaper, and online here.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Making Starfish, by Serie Barford

Making Starfish

to the untrained eye
starfish have no front or back

but village women know better
these days they cut stencils
from discarded x-ray plates

create whole beds of starfish
on bark cloth and cotton sheets

when you cut x-rays
they utter a peculiar cry

but starfish split silently
make more of themselves
to fill up empty spaces

something the lonely could do

- Serie Barford, published in Tapa Talk (Huia Publishers, 2007)

It is that time of year again when Canterbury poets and poet lovers enjoy the Canterbury Poets' Collective spring reading series, stretching over more than two months. One of this year's guest readers' was Serie Barford, whose work I enjoyed very much.

Serie is a poet and short story writer with a strong interest in performance poetry. She was born in Aotearoa/New Zealand to a German Samoan mother and palagi father. She has published three collections of poetry (with another book forthcoming) and in 2011 was awarded the Seresin Landfall Residency. A much fuller bio is found on the New Zealand Book Council website, which I have linked to above. The collection "Tapa Talk" was inspired by her time on the mainland and various other islands of New Caledonia, along with poems based on her Samoan background. Serie says:

In Samoa the templates cut from x-rays were used for design making on siapo (tapa cloth). They don't do tivaevae but they do make fala su'i, a kind of bedpread that's made by emboidering pandanus mats with wool. My next book (Entangled Islands) is based on this concept and each emboidered panel is metaphorically based on a cluster of poems and short stoies.

Entangled Islands is published by Anahera Press and is due out in December of this year.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site and check out all the bloggers in the side bar.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Tuesday Poem: The Girl Who Sings Islands

The Girl Who Sings Islands

The girl who sings islands stands
on the branch of an apple tree
grasping the one above.
She sings, and small shoals
of fish swim from her mouth,
slip into the river and head for the sea.
She sings and each syllable
becomes coral, becomes pearl,
becomes a small chain of atolls
strung across the Pacific.

The girl who sings islands
has a white dress, its broderie hem
a froth of white foam washing
around her shores. She sings,
and the apple tree breaks into blooms
of frangipani, tiare, hibiscus.

The girl who sings islands
swings her foot back and forth,
back and forth, dipping into the air
as a paddle dips into the waves.
She propels her waka
on its long ocean journey
sings and paddles, sings and paddles
paddles and sings.

copyright Catherine Fitchett

I have been a bit slow in organising permissions and haven't posted a Tuesday Poem for a few weeks, so thought I would post one of my own this week. This poem was placed third in the 2015 Poems in the Waiting Room competition and appeared in their Winter Poetry Card.

The girl in the poem was a young girl I used to watch on my walks home from work. She was singing and playing much as described,in a language I thought to be one of the Pasifika tongues, although obviously I added an element of fantasy to the poem.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Sabbath, by Mary Cresswell


not that the dead will visit – they are dead.
But while we living bathe in such mild air,
neither will I rinse them from my mind,
beloved bones dismantled into sand.
Rachel Hadas, “Shells”

I lay the table as I always did:
blue and white dishes, crystal glasses.
The linen cloth is new. Never mind,
when he comes, he will recognise
if not me, at least the meal I serve,
the candles, the wine, the braided bread.
The words come more slowly.
I am out of practice and unused
to visitors. Greeting them is hard –
not that the dead will visit – they are dead.

I display my dead on the mantelpiece
arrange them in rows like smoky quartz
picked up on mountain trails
or bivalves washed up on beaches.
Unlike the loud and living, they don’t answer back.
They stand mute and dusty. Always, the dead are
accommodating, part of rituals past
and rituals yet to come. Either way,
it’s OK to leave them there.
But while we living bathe in such mild air,

storms roll in from every compass point;
unrecognisable flotsam and jetsam
pile up in heaps. When high tide relaxes
we are left with an expanse of debris
otherwise known as thoughts.
The dead are more kind.
They rest outside our tumbling chaos
waiting for us to pick through them.
I pause my sorting, grubby and begrimed,
to swear I’ll never rinse them from my mind

so I decide it’s time to build
a place to hold us all, perhaps
a temple – a tumulus – a bower
to safely store the memories
I need to keep with me. Call it what
you like. The dead have all the words to hand.
I mine them all to pick through
and extract my dearest shards. Then I
use them to construct my promised land:
beloved bones dismantled into sand.

© Mary Cresswell

Mary Cresswell is a poet and science editor who lives on the Kapiti Coast. She was born in Los Angeles and moved to New Zealand in 1970. "Sabbath" is taken from her book, Fish Stories, published by Canterbury University Press.

I asked Mary if I could post the poem because I have fallen for a form called the glosa, of which it is a fine example. The glosa is based on a quatrain by another author. Each line of the glosa forms the last line of one of four ten line stanzas. In each stanza, lines six and nine rhyme with line ten.

Mary says:
The poem was written for a Los Angeles friend, a World War II refugee from France (a "displaced person" as they were called then) and later used at her memorial service. It's a twist on the usual Friday night sabbath meal, because it welcomes the sabbath as a bridegroom rather than a bride.

The Tuesday Poem community is a group of poets who each aim to post a poem on their blogs every Tuesday. For more Tuesday Poems, check out the main hub site.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Ozymandias, by Horace Smith


In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows: -
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand." the City's gone, -
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.

We wonder, - and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chase,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

- Horace Smith(1779-1849)

Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem Ozymandias is well-known. This companion poem by his friend Horace Smith is not so well-known, indeed, I had never heard of it until attending a course on poetic forms with Joanna Preston, where we were introduced to bout-rimé. The idea of bout-rimé is a sort of poetic game whereby the participants are given a set of end rhymes by another participant, and have to come up with a poem using those end rhymes in the given order. Shelley and Smith had read about the discovery of the statue of Ozymandias (the Greek name for Rameses II), and challenged each other to write a sonnet about it, beginning with set end rhymes.

The Tuesday Poets are a group of poets who each aim to post a poem on their blogs on Tuesdays. At the main hub site, one of the members acts as editor and posts a poem for the week, while all the participants are listed in the sidebar. There is lots of poetic inspiration to be found there if you click on through!

(Yes, it's Wednesday. I suddenly found this had not appeared on my blog, and discovered that it was still in "draft". So here it is, a day late).

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday Poem: The Genesis Wafers, by Clive James

Genesis carried wafers in her hold
To catch the particles sent from the sun.
Diamond, sapphire, gold
Were those fine webs, as if by spiders spun
Beside whom specks of dust would weigh a ton.

Continue reading

Years back I used to watch Clive James on TV, and found him an entertaining critic and travel writer - but I was only vaguely aware of his poetry, from the title poem in his collection "The Book of My Enemy has been Remaindered". So I had always thought of him as someone who wrote light satirical poetry. That is, until I took a class with Joanna Preston which looked at a number of his more recent poems, and I found that he was a good deal more serious than that.

Some of his most beautiful poems, such as "Japanese Maple", have been written in the last few years, since his diagnosis with leukaemia in 2010.However, while on holiday last week I read his slightly earlier collection, "Angels Over Elsinore", from which the above poem is taken. It appealed to me for its expression of the beauties of science, as I have been working on a scientific poetry project of my own.

Clive James is generous with his poetry and shares most of it on his website, so I have linked to the rest of the poem there. It is well worth clicking through to read it all, and then exploring further.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site. The poem shared there this week is "What Heartbreak Felt Like" by Annabel Hawkins. And you will find links to many other participating blogs in the side bar.