Thursday, November 23, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Poetry Readings

This week at Poetry Thursday we were asked to seek out and attend a poetry reading. "Yeah right" I thought (which, if you are a New Zealander, you will recognise as a reference to a certain advertising campaign - otherwise of course, you won't). To get back to the prompt - after it appeared, on Monday evening I went to the meeting of my small poetry group, where I learnt that our main local organiser of poetry readings had not been successful with its grant application for the next series - usually held annually around April-May. With luck, the readings will still go ahead, but without the ability to pay expenses, they will have to rely on local readers.

I like to think I live in a big city, but it's not New York, or even Seattle. We have the above-mentioned series of readings which run for about eight weeks once a year, and we have poetry as part of the book festival which takes place every two years. Apart from that, there are occasional invitations to book launches, but as far as I know, there are none coming up. Per head of population, I suspect New Zealand has as many poets as pretty well anywhere, but the population is about the same as the state of Wyoming.

I did attend quite a few sessions of the book festival which was held back in September. Even in the book festival, the poets were mostly those who were available. I was impressed by the international line-up - among them Chilean poet Cecilia Guridi, Korean-American poet Ishle Yi Park and Irish poet Iggy McGovern. Then I found out that the first two were actually living in New Zealand, and the last of the three was spending six months "across the ditch" in Melbourne. So, even with the big festivals, we take what we can get down here in this corner of the world. I enjoyed attending a session with poet/physicist Iggy McGovern. The discussion was mostly about the relationship between science and poetry. Iggy is an engaging speaker - I remember him saying of the sestina that it is a "very difficult form, so you only ever have to write one". He says that language for scientists has to be about precision, whereas poets prefer language imprecise and metaphorical. He did agree with me, however, in question time, that scientists are not beyond the use of metaphors - as in the wave/ particle theories of light, or string theory. I do believe that poets and scientists are closer to each other than they might think.

The poem below, "The Bony", was Iggy McGovern's most popular poem at the festival. If you click the link above, you will find links to three more of his poems, to audio files of several poems including "The Bony", and to an interesting interview that appeared recently in the New Zealand Listener. You can also order a copy of his book, "The King of Suburbia".

The Bony

When I shared a bed
in nineteen fifty-two or three
with my bony father I was led
to believe that we
were alone;

now I can own
that when his bony frame
closed in upon my back
and he whispered my name
into my bony neck,

behind him
lay his bony father and, behind,
his bony grandfather, his bony great-
grandfather...all that long-lined
boniness, lying in state,

their collective bony weight
pulling him down, but slow,
a little heavier each year
until he finally let go
and I fear
he's here
now with the same bony crew,
light as a feathery ton:
O they have a job to do.
But not a word to my son.

- Iggy McGovern

More Poetry Thursday here


Deb R said...

Oh dang, I got so caught up in prep for Thanksgiving over here that I forgot all about Poetry Thursday. Oops!! Glad you posted for it...I enjoyed reading it!

Crafty Green Poet said...

Interesting post. I like finding poets who can make connections between science and poetry, there aren't that many out there though there was a recent project in Scotland linking poets and scientists specifically so poets could write more poems about science. There were some interesting results. More interesting though are those poets who have some real understanding of and interest in science.

Heather said...

I totally agree with you about poets and scientists. Besides - I have proof! I work for a biotech company and one of our scientist VPs accidentally found my blog because he was doing an internet search for haiku! Turns out he's a poet and scientist.

Really interesting to get a little slice of life on what is happening in poetry in your neck of the woods.

About the Group said...

enjoyed your post. have a great thanksgiving!!

ren powell said...

The link between science and poetry is interesting. It "grounds" poetry nicely, I think. I don't agree that poets like imprecise language. That's not representative of the bulk of what I read or was taught or what I try to write.

But I know that there are other traditions- the Persian poets like to go for the word that is the most ambiguous. Norwegians are the other extreme. I think most American contemporary published verse is also as specific as possible. There are poets like Matthea Harvey who use words ambiguously on purpose, but it's often been criticized as a gimmick when it's done often.

Thanks for priming my brain today. I'll step away from the podium now. . . and take off the pointy cap.

Rethabile said...

Nice all around. Very precise control of language in the poem, I find. And seeing as to how long it takes me to settle on the most appropriate word for a feeling, I must disagree with the statement that "poets prefer language imprecise and metaphorical."

I think poets prefer language that is both precise and metaphorical.


January said...

Good post, although, I think sestinas are one of the easier forms to try because you repeat the same six words in each stanza. That being said, I haven't written one in a very long time.

And I liked the Iggy McGovern poem. Thanks for introducing me to his work.

Anonymous said...

A discussion about the relationship between science and poetry? I bet I would have like that discussion.