The ladies at Poetry Thursday are taking a summer break. This doesn't mean no Poetry Thursday, it just means no prompts, so we are free to talk about poetry in any way we wish (which we are, anyway, since all their prompts are Completely and Totally Optional).
It seems a bit strange to be having a summer break in winter. But then, our winter has been a bit strange so far - remarkably warm. In Christchurch it was six and a half degrees (Celsius degrees, which are almost twice as big as Fahrenheit degrees) warmer on the first day of winter than on the first day of summer. In summer there was Antarctic melt water coming up the coast, and bits of icebergs floating by. So perhaps global warming will mean cold summers for New Zealand. I hope not - I hope last summer was an aberration.
Back to poetry. The Montana New Zealand Book Award nominations have been announced - this is New Zealand's major book award. There are three books in the poetry category, and three in the "best first book - poetry" category. So I decided to borrow them all from the library and see what I thought. It just goes to show how popular poetry is (or isn't) that I was able to get all three nominated books in the poetry category straight off the shelves, without placing a request.
The books are "The Goose Bath" by Janet Frame, "The Year of the Bicycle" by James Brown and "One Shapely Thing" by Dinah Hawken. By next week I may have read enough to give an opinion on them. The awards are for books published in 2006, and judging by two poetry books that I have bought this year, I suspect that 2007 is going to be a better year for New Zealand poetry. We'll see.
In the meantime, the James Brown book reminded me of a workshop our small poetry group arranged with James Brown a few years back, when he was Writer in Residence at the local university.
One of the things we talked about was list poems. I can't actually recall any titles or authors of the examples he gave - I do remember one was a very moving list of "things found on a roof" written shortly after the events September 11. He had us write lists, and then we each contributed one item from our list to a sort of group "pool", after which we wrote poems containing some or all of these items.
The items I used were, as I recall, Wellington, a ginger cat, white curtains and the book "Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex but were Afraid to Ask".
Here is the poem, which relates to a trip I made back to Wellington, the city where I was born and grew up (and where Peter Jackson's film studio is located):
The Whole Story
“Remember the house in the bay” she asks,
“the only one with any flat land?
Peter Jackson bought it. Sometimes he lands a helicopter there.”
I know the one. It’s across the road from the beach
where we used to keep our red dinghy.
I’ll walk round the bays and take a look,
maybe I’ll stop at the dairy and buy an Eskimo Pie.
The cottages nestled against the cliff haven’t changed,
except for new paint, and the four wheel drives outside.
A curtain flaps at a window. On the sill a ginger cat sleeps
beside a book that offers “All You Ever Wanted”.
I reach the dairy. It’s now a café crowded with people.
I turn back. A jogger pounds the sand.
My sister says she once saw Michael J. Fox there,
but it’s only an anonymous short man.
Back at the open window I find the cat has jumped down
into the nasturtiums. Now I can see the whole story:
“To Know About Sex But Were Too Afraid to Ask”.