Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Poem

It's a catch-22 - either I am not doing very much, and therefore have spare time for blogging but not much to write about, or I am very busy doing things that I'd quite like to blog about but have no time to post.

I didn't want to miss Tuesday Poem, thus the above photo - my daughter's T-shirt which she won as a result of a competition at a work conference for the best magnetic poem. Having the poem printed on the T-shirt was the prize.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Fence

The fence has been updated.

Here it is not long after the earthquake of September 4,2010:

and here it is as I found it when I passed on my way to work on Monday:

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tuesday Poem: The Person You Love

The Person You Love

The one you love is 72.8% water

The one you love is a rising torrent,
wet shoes in a flooded basement.
The one you love is a dark pine forest
where you wander without a map.
Rain drips from the branches
and runs down the back of your neck.
The one you love is 72.8% water
and 4.9% grudges.

The one you love is a house on a crumbling headland
under a sky stippled with blackbirds.
The house has many hidden rooms
A woman with a leashed panther
guards the cliff top path.
The one you love is 72.8% water
and 6.1% mystery

The one you love is a crumpled newspaper
and stacked kindling. The one you love
is crackling flames at the touch of a match,
the news ablaze, a burning bride.
The one you love is 72.8% water
and 9.3% fire.

The one you love is an exam for which you haven’t studied.
Your poems in a book published
before you were born.
The one you love
is a girl who carries lions
alongside waves crashing on the shore.

The one you love is 72.8% water,
6.1% mystery, 4.9% grudges,
9.3% fire, and 3.2% salt.

- Catherine Fitchett

"The Person You Love" appears in "Voiceprints 3", a collection of poems recently released by the Canterbury Poets' Collective. Submissions were invited from guest poets and open mic readers from the 2010 season.

The origin of the poem was a phrase I mysteriously found when leafing through old poetry notes - presumably jotted down from a science text or article - "the one you love is 72.8% water". All other percentages in the poem, I have to admit, are entirely my invention. Many of the images are dream fragments.

More Tuesday poems can be found at the main hub site, and at the links in the sidebar of that site.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesday Poem: A Shout, by Michael Harlow

A Shout

      That wakes the fine calligraphy
of trees; the dark-beaked birds
      that have wintered over,
stitching up the air, waiting
      for that shout of green; and here
this mariner's star, rose of the
      winds, bright flower of sun,
like a stunned bee, in the small
      hours of your hand - waking
from its hive the gold the dark
      has been keeping, the mind's
tenderness to the heart, waiting
      for that shout of green, we
are because love says as much.

- Michael Harlow

Michael Harlow's book, The Tram Conductor's Blue Cap, was a finalist in the 2010 New Zealand Post National Book Awards. At the time, I was very drawn to the poem, All About the World and considered asking Michael if I could use it as a Tuesday Poem. However, it was included in the set of poetry postcards that were widely distributed for National Poetry Day last year, and so I picked up my copy of the book to re-read, and see what other poems I might consider.

We've had a hard year here in Christchurch, and I found that Michael's luminous poems really lifted my spirits. In "Canticle", he speaks of two children who "do no less than risk delight". And in "A Shout" we read of "waking...the gold the dark has been keeping" and of "a shout of green". "All About the World" (which I find is already on the internet at the link above) we read "Poetry is when words sing". Michael's poems certainly make words sing, and deserve to be better known.

Michael Harlow was born in the United States but arrived in New Zealand in 1968. In the 1980s, Harlow was an editor of the Caxton Press poetry series and poetry editor of Landfall. He is a practising Jungian psychotherapist and lives and works in Alexandra, Central Otago. He has published numerous poetry collections including "Today is the Piano's Birthday" (1981), Giotto's Elephant" (1991) and "Cassandra's Daughter" (2005). He has written libretti in collaboration with composer Kit Powell, and prose including "Take a Risk, Trust Your Language, Make a Poem" (1986).

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site.

Friday, November 11, 2011


I took heaps of photos while I was in Wellington last weekend. Some of familiar places, and some to show how things had changed. Many of them are not of great quality, but that wasn't really the point.

I loved these quirky murals:

The buildings around Plimmers Steps seem to be getting more modern and shiny, but Plimmer and his wee dog are still there:

Reflections show the mix of old and new buildings:

This arcade was once a bank. I remember going there with my mother, in the days when the tellers were tucked away in their cubicles of polished wood, with fancy wrought iron grille work.

The tile pattern seems familiar - I think it may be the one also found in the Christchurch Cathedral.

I couldn't help thinking of earthquake risk every time I looked at an old building, and wondering when.

It's not really a matter of "if". Wellington sits right on a fault line. In fact the land that the airport is built on didn't exist before 1855, when an earthquake joined Miramar - then an island - to the mainland and raised much of the shoreline. Hopefully, any future earthquake will be far enough in the future that there will have been time to successfully earthquake strengthen the buildings.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Evidence


We should have been kinder to spiders.
We should have checked for nests in the chimneys,
bees in the attic, wasps in the garden.
We should have planted dandelions.
They grow anyway. Better to believe
we wanted it that way.

We should never have built roosts for the chickens.

We should have listened to the canary
when it sang the song of the microwave
and the vacuum cleaner.
We should have sorted the dark days
from the light before washing,
to avoid the accumulation of lint.

We should never have alphabetised our grudges.

We built our quarrels on faultlines
We should have been better prepared
for truthquakes

Look, here comes a man
with a stick of chalk
Lie down so that he can outline our bodies
to be photographed
and used as evidence.

- Catherine Fitchett 2010

I made a quick trip to Wellington at the weekend for the launch of the New Zealand Poetry Society anthology Ice Diver. This is the result of their 2011 poetry competition and takes its title from Sue Wootton's wonderful winning poem. The poem above, Evidence, is my own contribution to the anthology, which I read at the launch.

New Zealand is a shaky country. Earthquakes are part of our vocabulary. So although this was written prior to the big Canterbury earthquakes of the last year or so, a phrase or two crept in. It's not an earthquake poem, it is a relationship poem. The trigger for the poem was actually the phrase "chalk outline". I heard it on a TV programme and suddenly felt all tingly, so I knew I had to try to use it in a poem somehow.

The launch was just an excuse to go to Wellington really as I had been meaning to go for some time. I have spent almost exactly half my life in Wellington - the first half - and the other half in Christchurch, and have relatives in Wellington still, so I feel as if I have two homes although I don't get up there nearly as much as I'd like. An added attraction now is the opportunity to meet up with other Tuesday Poets, which we did on Friday night. If you go to the main Tuesday Poem site and check the sidebar, you will be able to see what the rest of the Tuesday Poets are posting this week.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

November Poetry Challenge

I decided rather at the last minute to participate in the November Poem-a-Day Challenge at Writers' Digest.

It seemed like a good way to get going again, since I haven't written much this year. Also, since the aim is a 10 to 20 poem chapbook, presumably somewhat linked in theme, a good way to write a lot of earthquake poems and get that out of the way, then maybe I can move on to other things.

I won't post them all here - if any are really bad, I may not post them, and if any might be tweaked for later publication, I probably won't post those either. So - this one falls somewhere in the middle. The prompt for today (Day 5, since we are a day ahead of the US so I didn't start till November 2nd) was to write a "broken" poem. Which was a bit problematic, given that so much around here is broken, I wasn't quite sure where to start.

Everyone here has a story and this is ours.
How the insurance assessor pronounced our chimney sound
Then the city shook for a third time and the chimney
sheared off at the roofline, took a leap
over the side of the house
and crashed through the eaves to land in the driveway.
The assessor, from halfway down the ladder,
leapt to the ground to find his car blocked in.
When the builder took the remains of the chimney
to be dumped, he found
it was a tonne of bricks.
It fell like a tonne of bricks.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Lost Buildings

I haven't joined in on Carmi's "Thematic Photographic" game for the last few weeks. When I saw that this week's theme was bricks and mortar I was in two minds as to whether to join in. I have plenty of photos of brick buildings - most of them badly damaged. After a while, it can get a bit much at times.

This is the old Christchurch library buildings. I didn't grow up in Christchurch, but I had relatives here, and spent many holidays here. So I was quite familiar with the Christchurch children's library. The buildings had long since been converted to professional rooms, but were still lovely, and had many fond memories for me. However, they were badly damaged by earthquake - I'm not sure quite which one sealed the fate of the building - and it was pronounced they had to be demolished. The final photo is not actually the library buildings, although that was my intention when I took it. It is actually a corner one block away. But then, one pile of rubble looks very much like the next pile of rubble. Which is why we all wonder, when we can move freely through the central city again, how we will be able to get out bearings.

Sad news this morning, that the Christchurch Cathedral has been issued with a demolition order. The church now has to come up with a plan within ten days or have it compulsory demolished by CERA (the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority). I'm not sure that demolishing everything in sight, even if supposedly unsafe, is the best way to "recover". We had all hoped that the cathedral would be at least partially saved.