Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Tuesday Poem: The Genesis Wafers, by Clive James

Genesis carried wafers in her hold
To catch the particles sent from the sun.
Diamond, sapphire, gold
Were those fine webs, as if by spiders spun
Beside whom specks of dust would weigh a ton.

Continue reading

Years back I used to watch Clive James on TV, and found him an entertaining critic and travel writer - but I was only vaguely aware of his poetry, from the title poem in his collection "The Book of My Enemy has been Remaindered". So I had always thought of him as someone who wrote light satirical poetry. That is, until I took a class with Joanna Preston which looked at a number of his more recent poems, and I found that he was a good deal more serious than that.

Some of his most beautiful poems, such as "Japanese Maple", have been written in the last few years, since his diagnosis with leukaemia in 2010.However, while on holiday last week I read his slightly earlier collection, "Angels Over Elsinore", from which the above poem is taken. It appealed to me for its expression of the beauties of science, as I have been working on a scientific poetry project of my own.

Clive James is generous with his poetry and shares most of it on his website, so I have linked to the rest of the poem there. It is well worth clicking through to read it all, and then exploring further.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site. The poem shared there this week is "What Heartbreak Felt Like" by Annabel Hawkins. And you will find links to many other participating blogs in the side bar.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Sunday Lunch, by Paula Green

Sunday Lunch

Everyone turns up for Sunday lunch
even Pythagoras makes an appearance.

I want to discuss the great novels
but conversation favours the harmony of the spheres.

If our ears are deaf to the music
of objects in motion, I hear that
we are immune to the ever-present world.

Simone de Beauvoir passes the kofta.
Everyone agrees the taste of eggplant
and mashed potato is in perfect harmony.

Plato is cutting the bread and
admiring the baker’s thumbprint.

Copernicus dresses the salad
oil lemon mustard honey
on runner beans and radishes.

Simone has laid pomegranate seeds
the length of the table
to track the faultline of human existence.

‘It all comes back to story,’
she says, admiring her handiwork.

- Paula Green
used by permission

I have been reading and enjoying Paula Green's collection The Baker's Thumbprint published in 2013 by Seraph Press. I felt the poem above, Sunday Lunch, best gave the flavour of the first part of the collection, which reminded me of that question beloved of certain interviewers: if you could ask anyone to a dinner party, living or dead, who would you invite? Besides the characters above, Einstein, Florence Nightingale, Jane Austen, Janet Frame and others wander in and out of these playful and yet somehow serious poems. And then, of course, there are the descriptions of food, which make me feel rather hungry!

Paula Green has published seven previous collections of poetry, including two for children, and has written several children's books. With Harry Ricketts, she co-authored 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tuesday Poem: The Soldier Born in 1983, by Jennifer Compton

The Soldier Born in 1983

Before he could walk he crawled
for all the world the way a soldier
slithered through New Guinea
or Vietnam.

I could almost see the rifle
in his crooked arms
as he went elbows and knees
across the kitchen floor.

He searched the house through
but could not find his gun.
Rose up on his hind legs
found the wood basket and

something comfortable like a weapon.
He turned with a happy grin
slew his family with a practised sweep
and exactly the right sound.

- Jennifer Compton
used with permission

When I started high school I dove happily into everything on offer (everything except sports, at least!). This included the public speaking competitions - prepared and impromptu. One year ahead of me, and therefore in the same "junior" competitions, was one Jennifer Compton who impressed me enormously with her facility with words. We each went our separate ways, and it was not until 2004 when I discovered the poem above on the Poetry Daily website, with an attribution to Poetry Wales and wondered if it might possibly be the same Jennifer Compton. (Wales being a long way from New Zealand!)

And yes, it turned out to be the same Jennifer Compton, living in Australia, not Wales, and now a fellow Tuesday Poet. And I still admire her facility with words. She has written plays, short stories, and several collections of poems, including This City which won the Kathleen Grattan award and was published by Otago University Press in 2011. Her most recent publications are Mr Clean and the Junkie, a verse novella published by Wellington's Makaro Press, and Now You Shall Know, published in Australia by Five Islands Press. The poem above was included in her 2004 collection Parker and Quink. She blogs at Stillcraic

Monday, August 03, 2015

Tuesday Poem: Landscape with the Fall of John Damian

Landscape with the Fall of John Damian

after Auden, “Musée des Beaux Arts”

If the painter had been there, he would have seen
how flat the lands below the castle
dotted with people – the tenant in his fields
making hay, the fisherman in his barge,
the distant drover bringing cattle
from the markets at Crieff. They did not
turn their backs. They glanced up
from time to time, checking for signs
the king was in residence, wondering
when the carts would be sent out
to gather their crops and cattle for a feast.
So it might have been that one of them
would have noted the fall from the cliff –
an indeterminate shape dark against the sky,
not flying too close to the weak Scottish sun
even for a moment, but plummeting –
too distant to make out the detail.
The observer would have shrugged, assumed
a particularly large bundle of rubbish
had followed the piss that the maids
emptied from the chamber pots,
wiped his brow, turned back to his work.

© Catherine Fitchett

Note: Scotland’s first recorded attempt at flight took place at Stirling Castle in September 1507. John Damian, an Italian alchemist at the court of James IV, attempted to fly from the castle’s walls with the aid of feathered wings. He failed completely, landing in a dunghill and breaking his thigh.

After wrestling with a different poem about our 2007 visit to Stirling Castle, I laid it aside. Some years later, inspired by Breughel's painting "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus", and the Auden poem which was inspired by that painting, I wrote the above poem, which was included in the 2014 New Zealand Poetry Society anthology take back our sky.

My ancestors farmed in the very flat lands across the river from Stirling Castle. I was able to visit the farm where my great grandparents were married, and observed the magnificent view of the castle across the river. I like to imagine one of my ancestors working in the fields and looking up to observe John Damian falling from the castle walls, as described in the poem.

I have been a bit slack about posting to Tuesday Poem lately. However, I am having a poetry reading binge lately and am in the process of selecting a number of poems to post over coming weeks, providing that permission is forthcoming. So, to kick it all off, I am posting one of my own this week.