Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Hallelujah on the Presidential Highway, by Sue Wootton

Hallelujah on the Presidential Highway

Gore to Clinton on State Highway One

Fogged. Loomy. Slews of rain. Hedgerow flax, tall eucalypts,
macrocarpa shelter belts. Pugged and puddled paddocks.

Abandoned cottages slide past; south-wall weatherboards
slump. A woolshed roof has fallen in. In Gore I ask directions

to the Art Gallery. The man says Do we have an art gallery?
Eventually I find it: shut. The Mataura writhes cow-piss yellow

at the bridge. Slip Leonard in the slot - a song, friend, a song.
Fonterra's silver city glides into view. Cohen creaks and cracks -

Hallelujah, hallelujah - and the towers shine. Praise it all, insists
his voice of hopelessness, praise it all to broken hopeful heaven. Praise

the wars, the lies, the constant talk of peace; praise clean white
wealth, unlooked-at art, spilt milk, shut galleries, lost sheep.

-Sue Wootton


"By Birdlight", in which this poem appears, is Sue Wootton's third collection. I purchased it immediately on release towards the end of last year, as I knew from her previous two books that I would enjoy it. I had a hard time choosing from many possibilities which poem to present here. However, I found myself drawn to the celebratory nature of this poem, against an unpromising rain-darkened and somewhat desolate landscape.

For the benefit of overseas readers - Gore and Clinton are small towns in the south of New Zealand. Gore's art gallery has collections of far greater significance than would normally be expected in a town of its size. Fonterra is the corporation responsible for New Zealand's dairy exports.

Thanks to Sue for permission to use this poem. I have had internet problems today and am posting late - so in lieu of the usual bio,here is Sue's website where you will find a bio and links to purchase all three of her books.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.


Joan said...

Hello Catherine. I've been remiss at leaving comments but have been silently visiting. I love this poem. I'll never forget visiting the Gore Gallery. I'd read but forgotten about the Dr Money art collection.. and was blown away by what I saw. It was such a surprise. Wonderful.

Cattyrox said...

Loved this poem, Catherine - without tthe references even. There's a real sense of life about it.

Mary McCallum said...

Thanks so much for posting this and reminding me about Sue Wooton's third book, which I still haven't purchased. I have found it online and will do so today. I simply love her work. I'll never forget a weekend away at Bushy Park in Wanganui reading one of her collections Magnetic South and feeling the wonderful feeling of oneness you get reading a poet whom expresses what you feel and then pushes out beyond that ... She is definitely one of my favourite NZ poets. This poem's terrific. An alternative kiwi anthem perhaps?

Tim Jones said...

I have two contradictory reactions on reading this poem (which is beautifully phrased, as all Sue's poems are) - one is to nod in recognition at what she describes, having driven or been driven along that highway so many times, and the other is a wounded surge of ex-Gore pride: "She hasn't said anything about Sergeant Dan! And what about our modern, spacious restrooms?" It's an odd emotional reaction for a poem to generate ... says a whole lot more about me than about the poem, I fear.