Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Poem: The Weight of Calves, by Karen Zelas

The Weight of Calves

after Mandy Coe

A calf estimated to weigh
thirty million tonnes
split from the Tasman Glacier.
If this was its weight,
imagine if you can, its size, ice
more voluminous than water.

And imagine its age:
I’m told the residence time
of glacier water may tip
one million years. All
those old molecules, trapped
for aeons, waiting release
into Brownian motion.
The world’s reservoirs
leaking. Greened plains lapped
by cattle. The weight.

The birth of a calf is assisted
by gravity. Maternal groans
as the glacier labours through rock
and the calf drops,
torn from terminal ice. An echoing crash.
A wave. Turquoise light. Hard
shards slice water. The calf
part-submerged, melting. Freshwater
mingles with saline.

Calving into water causes a splash;
into oceans, raises the level. Collapse
the ice sheets and tides will lift
six metres perhaps. Think of that.

Cows and calves
where they never should be.
Weighing heavy.

Karen Zelas lives in Christchurch. A former psychiatrist and psychotherapist, she returned to university, taking creative writing papers at Canterbury University in preparation for giving up her day job. Since 2004, her poetry has been increasingly widely published within New Zealand, including in Landfall, Poetry New Zealand and Takahē, and broadcast on radio. It has also appeared in Australian ezines Snorkel and Eclecticism and recently been blogged by Interlitq (UK). Several anthologies contain her work. In 2009 she was the recipient of a Creative Communities grant. She is editor of the anthology Crest to Crest: Impressions of Canterbury, prose and poetry (Wily Publications, 2009).

Karen’s first novel Past Perfect was published by Wily Publications in 2010, and is to be released as an ebook by Interactive Publications this year.

For the last five years, Karen has been Fiction Editor of Takahē literary magazine and chairs the Takahe Collective Board. She is married with children, grandchildren and a child-substitute: a miniature poodle.

Karen's book, Night's Glass Table, was the winner of the 2012 IP Picks Best First Book Competition run by IP (Interactive Publications), Brisbane. It is to be launched in conjunction with the Christchurch Writers' Festival at 4.30 - 6pm on Thursday 30 August, as part of an extensive reading tour through NZ. Books can be purchased online, including e-publications, via the IP website (click on "Store"), or directly at the Night's Glass Table mini-site.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Looking Back, by Aleksandra Lane

Looking Back

Something must have disappeared
from that day. A little sun veneer,
surface of light stolen
by the swooping hands
on your watch
perhaps. All around us
the grass was dazed dry
and the trees above were moving
in small fits, like children
not yet acquainted
with their own bodies,
but still painfully aware of their will.
We willed each other away
and then willed the other too quickly too
close again. Between us
there were no words, only children
unmade and children undone. It seemed
nothing was missing
at the time – that something
must have disappeared just now in me
explaining the day
must have lost a tooth
in that grass, in those clouds –
a little milkiness
never to be found again.

Looking Back is taken from Birds of Clay, Aleksandra Lane’s first book in English, after two published in Serbian. Aleks moved to New Zealand in 1996, and completed her MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University’s Institute of Modern Letters in 2010, receiving the Biggs Poetry Prize. Her poems have been published in Jacket2, Sport, Turbine, Takahe, Snorkel, Side Stream and Swamp. She lives in Wellington and is studying for a PhD in English at Massey University.

I enjoyed reading Birds of Clay, a varied collection which contains a range of forms - a number of prose poems, free form poems like Looking Back, but also more traditional forms such as the rather edgy villanelle "Knife". I was attracted to Aleks's beautiful although sometimes surreal imagery. I found some of the poems rather mystifying at first, but they reward careful re-reading. A book to be savoured. My thanks to Aleks for allowing me to choose a Tuesday Poem from her collection.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday Poem: The Annunciation, by Rhian Gallagher

The Annunciation


This is no swallow, no butterfly.
Feathered with Concorde power
Titanic bulk, breathlessly aerobic
Gabriel dives in under the lintel,
wings swept back behind Olympic shoulders
he tilts like a display pilot
and just clears the entrance.

Mary pulls up under the impact
cherubs sail on the draught
like a herd of sky-diving babies. Outside
Joseph grapples with a bit
of four by two, oblivious to the super-human
frequency. The earth's in a bad way.

As to Gabriel
you can see he's not going to help
pick up the pieces, he's not even going to land,
message delivered on a rush of air,
no buttering up of Mary,
his beautiful arms poised towards heaven
before he back-flips out of there.

- Rhian Gallagher


Rhian Gallagher recently won the New Zealand Post Book Awards poetry category for her second collection of poems, Shift. This is her first with a New Zealand publisher - her earlier collection, Salt Water Creek (where The Annunciation appeared) was published by Enitharmon Press in the UK, where she lived for eighteen years.

While there are many fine poems in "Shift", it is often the first poem that I read by a new author that most impresses itself on my memory, and that is the case here. I read The Annunciation when it appeared on the Poetry Daily website, and it led me to seek out more of Rhian's poetry, which I enjoy immensely.

Rhian suggested that it might be hard to find a copy of Salt Water Creek now, but I did find it listed on both the Fishpond and Amazon websites. Shift is much more readily available, and both books are well worth reading.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.