Highlight: Voyagers Goes To Frankfurt

National Poetry Day Series

Introduction by Tim Jones

In 2004, poet, editor and anthologist Mark Pirie had a good idea, and he turned to me to help him realise it. Mark’s idea was to put together an anthology of New Zealand science fiction poetry, with a mixture of previously-published poems and new work: an anthology called Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand.

The idea was met with a degree of scepticism at first: was there such a thing as science fiction poetry? Had any New Zealanders written science fiction poetry? Even more pertinently, would anyone want to publish such a book?

The answers to the first two questions were easy. Science fiction poetry has a long history that includes the involvement of many distinguished authors, as the story of the Science Fiction Poetry Association makes clear — and plenty of New Zealand poets had written and were writing poems with science fiction themes, content or images.

The third question was a little harder to answer. Publisher after publisher told us there was no market for such a book in New Zealand, and when one publisher did express interest, the relevant funding agency couldn’t be convinced.

But, in 2009, IP of Brisbane published Voyagers, and since then the book has gone from strength to strength. It was well reviewed, listed as one of the Listener’s “100 Best Books of 2009″, and won a Sir Julius Vogel Award for “Best Collected Work”. One of the poems from VoyagersTwo Kinds of Time by Meliors Simms, was also nominated for an international Rhysling Award for science fiction poetry.

We’ve just received word that the organisers of the Frankfurt Book Fair have selected Voyagers for inclusion in the “Books on New Zealand” exhibition at this year’s Fair. To celebrate, here are four poems from Voyagers plus brief notes and/or bios from the poets. They give you a glimpse of the distances covered by this particular voyage.

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Iain Britton, Departing Takaparawha

A woman squats.
She’s not peeing
or grubbing for worms.

She hugs her coffee
and stares at clouds
at islands in the gulf.

A man
cut from wood
and heavily tattooed

sits astride a gate
his penis
pointing at the sun.

Another man
the colour of dirt
comes to us

strips off his old clothes
and stands sweating
upright in the light.

In his house masked people
leap down from walls
and sit on the floor. They talk

and chant genealogies.
On the roof
someone

tugs strings,
works eyes
and limbs.

The show goes on.
We traipse outside
visibly swallowing the day.

A child (as if hatching)
crawls from her dugout
in the ground

and takes off.
A man as if wrapped in silverfoil
tells us she has this passion

for re-enactments
for re-entering the earth’s atmosphere
when she’s ready.

About Iain Britton: Oystercatcher Press published Iaian Britton’s 3rdpoetry collection in 2009, Kilmog Press his 4th in 2010. The Red Ceilings Press and the Argotist have recently published ebooks. A full collection with Lapwing Publications is out now, plus a pamphlet from Like This Press. Beard of Bees (US) chapbook is now online. Forthcoming: poems in Peter Hughes’ Sea Pie: a Shearsman Anthology of Oystercatcher Poetry. Also, Department Press and The Gumtree Press will be publishing collections later this year or in 2013.

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Janis Freegard, Beside the Laughing Kitchen

I’ve been past the unbelievable planet:
Slabs of nostalgia, the soft skin of memory

Disruptive days, now swiftly approaching
For a stolen second I was myself again

I’ve been squeezing out the careful old songs
Eyes up looking, lights down dancing

Irregular obsession, beside the laughing kitchen
Tell me again, in empty eyelid sleep

Just how you got here: overgrown and delicate
Anxiously correct in curtained ballrooms

Author Commentary: “Beside the Laughing Kitchen” came about through a process of cutting up sentences and lists of words I’d written, then rearranging and adding to them until a poem started emerging with its own character. In this case there seemed to be a traveller in a dreamlike world encountering a strange, graceful creature – although I like to think there’s enough room for readers to find their own interpretation.

About Janis Freegard: Janis Freegard is the author of the poetry collection Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus (Auckland University Press, 2011) and co-author of AUP New Poets 3 (2008).  Her poem “Gator” was included in the online anthology Best New Zealand Poems 2011 and one of her science fiction poems was recently nominated for a Rhysling Award. She also writes fiction and is a past winner of the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award. She lives in Wellington with an historian called Peter and a cat called Polly, and blogs at http://janisfreegard.com.

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Harvey Molloy, Nanosphere

The Enemy of the World
watery eyed, unkempt,
finally captured after months in a hole.

A lab coat prods his back dentures
with a disposable spatula. How
slow and compliant the prisoner moves
like a rest home inmate.

In this cosmos his capture
shall be eclipsed by news
of the accidental discovery of the end of time

as weightless above this earth
from the station console
Irina checks the Doppler shifts
from the Sombrero, Andromeda, closer Tau Ceti.

Aware of the pressure of the moment
she pauses to gaze at the withered fingers
of a passing river delta
then tells Control her final confirmation:

the expansion is over and the big crunch has begun
the slow seven billion year retrenchment
from universe to nanosphere.

Her news crosses the twittering
of the only known radio intelligence:

0800 chatline numbers
psychic advice lines
impending Serbian elections
weather updates
body counts
Chinese operas
Marilyn’s slow turn in a hall of mirrors
Chico & the Man.

The day’s journeying calls roll out
within the bounded horizon of vast contracting dot.
There is only so much time. And time is running back.

The children watch television in the dark.

Author Commentary: I was thinking of Saddam Hussein’s final capture from his hideout, how pathetic he looked, and I started to imagine an alternative world in which the date of his capture coincided with the astounding discovery that the expansion of the universe was over and that the great contraction had begun.  The poem explores this idea.  The Sombrero was one of the first galaxies discovered beyond our Milky Way.

About Harvey Molloy: Harvey Molloy lives and teaches in Wellington, New Zealand. His poems have appeared in Best New Zealand Poems, Blackmail Press, Brief, International Literary Quarterly, JAAM, Landfall, Lancashire Life, NZ Listener, Poetry New Zealand, Snorkel and Takahe. His first book of poems, Moonshot, is published by Steele Roberts. He blogs at http://harveymolloy.blogspot.com

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Sue Wootton, the verdigris critic

Suddenly tired
of the complicated interlacing of words in lyrical trim
she goes outside
and shouts very loudly
into the night.

The stars tremble
infinitesimally
then regroup.

In a distant time
on a distant planet
a literary critic with a greenish tinge
cups a tentacle to a blobular ear

hears UCK! UCK! UCK! UCK! UCK!
reverberate gently in the heavens.

Ah, sighs the verdigris critic.
Truly, poetry
is universal.

About Sue Wootton: Sue Wootton has won several awards for her work, most recently winning the 2011 New Zealand Poetry Society International Competition.   She has published three collections of poetry (Hourglass 2005, Magnetic South 2008, and By Birdlight 2012). She also writes for children and is the author of the children’s story, Cloudcatcher (2010).  Some of her work has been translated into Hungarian, Romanian, Vietnamese and Spanish. Further information is available on her website, http://www.suewootton.co.nz.

Highlight: Siobhan Harvey

National Poetry Day Series

The gifted nephologist goes to school

It’s all a matter of perspective: how altocumulus cloudlets above Awhitu promise a nest of fernbirds; stratus gliding across the surface of Foveaux Strait suggest muttonbirds migrating; and stratocumulus flurrying snow over Okarito might be kotuku in flight.

These are the things I think I see when my son reads to me, a dictionary open like the face of a planet. Pareidolia he reads, p-a-r-e-i-d-o-l-i-a. It means….

It means a teacher’s search for definition. He won’t listen she says. He answers back she says. He stares out of the window, watches clouds. It means seeing synchronicities that may or may not exist in the things that shape his curiosity: a tornado birthed in Botany Downs; Jesus’ face appearing upon a tortilla; the Man in the Moon; the Monkey Tree phenomenon.

Do improbability, angle and atmosphere coalesce in my son as if they are rising thermals fomenting cumuli? Does his mind imagine cloud in the same way it invents language? Iage amage feedage peckage he says scattering seed at chooks, then points to nimbostratus. Like birds wearing police hats he says. Like Christmas trees walking; or wisps of cirrus, like a ladybird eating cheese he says. Like a cloud-mother holding her son’s hand.

I wonder what cloud-mother thinks when cloud-son says no one wants to play with me. Does her cloudy heart dissolve too? Does she spill drizzle as she considers genetics and remembers how, as a lonely girl, she watched while other children played?

I wonder what cloud-mother thinks when cloud-son draws a map of the world and cloud-teacher glimpses the fluffy terrains of Aotearoa, Australia, China, Russia and the Arctic, then says i see mummy helped you with this. Does cloud-son cry torrentially too? Does he grow, like cumulonimbus, into a storm threatening to break?

Here are other synchronicities: each cloud is an outcast child befriended by a label – ‘gifted’, ‘difficult’, ‘troubled’, ‘trouble’; each cloud exists at the edge of its emotions and obedience; each cloud knows all there is to know about Paleontology, Egyptology, Astronomy and Nephology.

It’s all a matter of perspective: how school isn’t like Awhitu, Foveaux Strait, Okarito or places where clouds are spoken of like propellers, like woodpeckers, like whales, like great barrier island, like little barrier island; how school isn’t land upon which people like my son can gather to stare at heavens illustrated by clouds

and see more than air and water

elevated.

(c) Siobhan Harvey PO Box 125 135, St Heliers Post Office Auckland 1740

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AUTHOR COMMENTARY: This poem originated out of numerous experiences which occurred during my son’s first year at school. All we knew back then was that my son was gifted — he continues to be exceedingly intelligent and curious of the unusual in the world, but his social skills towards his peers are quite limited. As he — and I — travelled through that first year of his schooling, I came to realise that the structured environment and focus of conventional schooling can fail to meet gifted and/or difference children, and such children can easily become tagged as “problematic”. One of my son’s very acute fascinations when he started school was clouds, interpreting their shapes and personalities and so forth. Allowing this insight and fascination to frame the structure and content of the poem became my keys to completing it.

Siobhan Harvey’s works include the poetry collection Lost Relatives and book of literary criticism, Words Chosen Carefully: New Zealand Writers in Discussion. She’s Poetry Editor of Takahe, Coordinator of National Poetry Day and a Mentor for the New Zealand Society of Authors. Her recent awards include Runner-Up in the 2011 Landfall Essay Competition and 2011 Kathleen Grattan Sequence of Poems Award, and a nomination for the 2011 Pushcart Prize (US). She’s been a guest writer at 2011 Ubud Writers Festival in Indonesia, 2011 Auckland Writers and Readers Festival, 2010 Going West Literary Festival and 2000 Manchester Literary Festival. Siobhan’s ‘Poet’s Page’, including selected texts and recordings from Lost Relatives, has just been launched on The Poetry Archive (U.K.), directed by Andrew Motion.
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Highlight: Helen McKinlay

National Poetry Day Series

The German and the Hoiho

he caught the sea at Birdlings
with his lens
before its hugeness broke
blasting spray

he asked himself
was his control illusory
nature’s power
he usually overrode it

on alpen screes
where panic had no place
the mind’s need
to focus
or die

on autobahns
at three figures plus
his car
a ripple hidden in the wind

but this was the ocean
and he felt his balance shift
as its pull
sucked out the sand
between the stones

and then a hoiho
struggled out the surf
plodded up the beach
and fell

as if to say
though I like you
move fishlike
in the deep
I too
concede the breaking wave

© Helen McKinlay

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AUTHOR COMMENTARY:I wrote this poem for a German friend, visiting New Zealand. He had a great love of nature. One day he was very excited to meet up with a hoiho, or yellow-eyed penguin, on a wild and lonely beach. He was also very keen on fast cars…and racing them. The whole mix demanded a poem.

Helen McKinlay is a published children’s author and poet. She is best-known for her picture book series about a hang gliding, skateboarding, rugby playing, marmalade making Grandma. For more information visit her at gurglewords.

Highlight: Tuesday Poets Collaboration

National Poetry Day Series

The Poets’ Birthday by The Tuesday Poets 2012

The shyest sparrow’s supplications in the early evening trees
are a careful arpeggio — each note liberates a flotilla of leaves
fleeting, indeed, left scattered as archipelago in a dew-grass sea.
The song’s begun: feathered entreaties lift from every hedgerow, every
field, join in one great arc of beak and wing and downy plume –
brief benediction for the worker trudging home, a heart-lifted pause
at day’s end. Summer’s pages fall. Leaf by leaf, they shorten days,
strip bare the trunks, spill forth a concertina of split, sagging plums,
crimson globes — Demeter’s heart strung low against the blue note
sky. Furrowed fields lie flat beneath the tramp of corn-fed feet.

The scene is set, two candles lit, another year opens a window
through which we pass in streak of silver, burst of wheels’ screech, breath
of horns’ bright blasting. Inside, the chink of glass against china,
bubble of laughter tossed from one guest to the next draws us
to warmth, the blissful promise of shared experience. How it swells
the soul’s bright plumage! A winking flame copies itself on the clean
slope of the knife before it passes. The reflection flickers: and beyond
the window frame, a final guest hesitates in mauve-hued shadow, ghost
of Keats maybe, listening still, reticent, reluctant to eschew
autumn’s arias. And hear now, along the bay,

the pulse of song ticks out again in joyous iteration, a boy kicks
a ball against a wall, a sole finch adds bebop syncopation. Gabble,
and its consistency of warm honey dampen the tenor, the tune — best
left out in the tang of sharpened daylight. Shadows unwilling to retreat
stand shoulder-to-shoulder and beat the day’s thrum chanting come, cold,
come, dark, come firelight, we too have our part. Gladly, watch effulgence fade,
into this gentler glow of murmured crackle and spark-fed thoughts. Each year
is gathered and falls away in a clap of digits, up from nothing to where
we find ourselves surrounded. It’s come to this: the riffle of breath, the winking
flame. One is out, then the other. Stay with us, poet, it’s time to start over.

*

A global birthday poem written line by line by 26 poets from six countries and 12 cities over two weeks: from Tuesday April 3 to April 17 2012. It has been written to celebrate our second birthday.

The Tuesday Poets are (in order of their lines): Melissa Green, Claire Beynon, Saradha Koirala, Janis Freegard, T. Clear, Catherine Bateson, Renee Liang, Elizabeth Welsh, Alicia Ponder, Tim Jones, Kathleen Jones, Helen McKinlay, Helen Lowe, Eileen Moeller, Orchid Tierney, Susan T. Landry, Keith Westwater, Belinda Hollyer, Harvey Molloy, Bernadette Keating, Andrew M. Bell, Michelle Elvy, Catherine Fitchett, P.S. Cottier, Helen Rickerby, Mary McCallum.

Unable to post this year: Sarah Jane Barnett, Robert Sullivan, Zireaux, Emma McCleary

*

EDITOR COMMENTARY, MARY McCALLUM: 

Tuesday Poem is two years old, and The Poets’ Birthday is a magnificent way to celebrate. It kicked off on April 3 with a line from Boston poet Melissa Green, title: Birthday Poem (working title) and has been criss-crossing the globe ever since like a digital marathon, with all the adrenalin and excitement you can imagine it generating.

The posts were twice a day, usually around 8 am and 6 pm NZ Time. As soon as a poet had logged into the TP blog and posted a line, s/he emailed the next poet on the roster to pass on the baton.

I love this image of the Tuesday Poet hard at work, it comes from our own Susan Landry in Maine: ‘… sitting in her bathrobe in Maine, hair sticking out in nine different directions, coffee cup rings marking her desktop…’ There is something very familiar about this.

My co-curator Claire Beynon contributed the poem’s second line from Ibiza, Spain, ten hours after Melissa Green posted, and Saradha Koirala from Wellington, New Zealand, came up with the third. And on it went. We passed the baton around the world from Dunedin to London to Canberra to somewhere in Italy to Seattle to Auckland to Maine and many other places besides. And look what came out! A poem about song and celebration, light and company.

There were remarkably few hiccups with the posting despite the time differences — most notably the poem disappeared twice due to a pesky ‘update’ button and some mis-scheduling. But it came back again. Phew. We tidied up some lines and line breaks as we went along but the lines are mostly as posted. For example, ‘it’ appeared five times in three lines – some ‘its’ clearly had to ‘hit’ the dust, and early on we realised the growing poem was better in longer stanzas rather than the three-lines we started with.

I was quoted on Beattie’s book blog last week as saying: ‘It’s an exciting process watching the lines go up one by one – seeing the thinking behind each line: the language, the line-breaks, where it’s left for the next poet to pick it up. It’s like watching one poetic mind at work with each poet acting like one of the many competing voices that a poet hears as s/he writes: ‘break the line there’ ‘no don’t’ ‘rhyme it’ ‘don’t you dare’ ‘how about plums to echo plume?’ ‘what are you thinking?’ and so on.’

Tuesday Poem co-curator Claire Beynon and I are once more delighted to raise a glass to our remarkable bunch of poets and devoted blog readers who come together in this place once a week to enjoy and celebrate poetry. We are a community built on trust, generosity, flexibility and a mutual obsession — and long may it last.

Happy Birthday! Ra whanau ki a korua!

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For a complete list of National Poetry Day events around the country, go here.

Highlight: Maureen Sudlow

DEAD WOOD

Bored
on the road to Whangarei
we counted logging trucks
mostly empty
with trailers crouched
hump-backed
behind.

Some with lethal logs
held down
by fragile chains
to be avoided
on the switchback
corners.

I wonder
if there are any trees left
in the Kaipara.
*

Christchurch born and bred, but now a resident of the Kaipara, Maureen started writing rather late in life, and writes mainly poetry and children’s picture books.  She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from Whitireia and was short-listed for this year’s Joy Cowley Award.  Maureen travelled extensively throughout New Zealand with her husband during his years in the Air Force. She’ll always be a South Islander at heart, but is not sure if she could tolerate those cold winters now.  She has two children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and feels at home in the far north.

Highlight: Michele Leggott

harbour lights

my father’s blue eyes    shining

with tears he won’t admit to    and which

we can’t see up here on the after deck

of the Picton ferry    he is looking up    waving

from the wharf    we are waving back and calling

though we know he can’t hear us    all day

we drove to catch the ferry that is taking us

away    he got us there in the nick of time

triumphant now as the boat pulls out    green water

between us    up here    and down there

he waits until he can’t see us any longer

then tangles with rush hour traffic

on the motorway north    two semis give him

trouble but he pushes on    a cup of tea

at Levin then the four hours to home

a long day    when the Valiant pulls in

my mother gets up and they talk into the night

drinking cocoa    we’re over the strait and safe

in the next house on the journey to Canada    but

I remember my father’s blue eyes and the tears

we couldn’t see against the late sun    my father

driving north as we sailed south    the last time

I saw him    his blue eyes full of tears

*

Michele Leggott was the Inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate 2008-09. Her most recent publications are northland (Pania Press, 2010), Mirabile Dictu (Auckland UP, 2009) and a CD of selected poems, Michele Leggott / The Laureate Series (Braeburn/Jayrem 2009). She coordinates the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc) with Brian Flaherty at the University of Auckland.

Highlight: Ora Nui

National Poetry Day Series

Today’s National Poetry Day highlight features poetry from Ora Nui.

Ora Nui 2012 is a new biennial Maori literary journal edited and published by Auckland writer Anton Blank. The journal showcases emerging Maori writers and includes poetry, prose, short fiction, plays and short film scripts. The next issue which will be published next year will include work from Maori and Aboriginal writers.

Copies of the 2012 edition of the journal are available at the Women’s Bookshop Ponsonby, Unity Wellington and UBS Dunedin. Interested readers can also email the editor/publisher at blankanton61@gmail.com

Here we bring you a few poems from the inaugural edition of Ora Nui. We encourage readers to find the journal in a shop near you! It’s a beautiful collection.

Hinemoana Baker, Politics

We watched a documentary about six Maori women writers.
I had a bad cold.
My nose was so blocked I had to breathe through my tears ducts to eat.
In the corner of the room the tarata tree ached towards the sunlight.
The writer on the documentary said “My background is law and these statutes are real.”
The Tohunga Suppression Act, the Suppression of Rebellion Act.
I said It’s time for a snack.
You said We haven’t got any cheese I’ll go to the dairy.
I said No point can’t taste it anyway.
You said No I’ll go I’ll get some corn chips too.
I said Can you pick me up some politics while you’re there babe I seem to have run out.
You said No point you couldn’t taste them anyway.

*

Marino Blank, August

It’s a perfect day
Poets’ words
I curled into my cardigan
And walked to the chip shop
The cool of the wind
Reminded me to button up and roll warmth around my neck
August is the month of promise
Life after death
Sees Spring and the birth of the garden
My heart smiled

Earlier in the day walking took me to the foot of Puketapapa
Mt Roskill reigned supreme
State Highway 20 snaked at her feet
A river of cars passed in silence from where we stood
Waharoa the gateway of mind-shifts
Balustrade of carved edifices faced
North-South-East and West
The sun caught the colour of stainless steel
A twentieth century shimmer
Puketapapa My Turangawaewae
Meditations shape-shifted this emerald cone
A winding path
The sound of the silent wing
Ruru Guardian of the Night
Let out his cry
I relaxed attentive to the moment
Such a perfect day

*

Moana Nepia, Ka tangi te ruru

Ka tangi te ruru,
alone in the night…
rising, circling…
echoes reply…
fall…
to river,
stone…
and shore.
Koutuku north,
through floating mists,
ki Whetumatarau…
my grief-laden tears.
fall…
to river,
stone…
and shore.
Grasp these weary bones
and carry me,
home.
Let paddles sink deep,
into beating hearts…
direct,
swiftly…
to follow the tide
Keep silver cliffs close,
so our faces be seen,
with incoming tide,
and warm rising sun.
At Kakepo rest… canoes hauled high.
Let the traps be set,
and the rats be caught.
My people will feed you…
my mana
restored.

*

Reihana Robinson, On our Knees or Homage to the Potato

In war zones agriculture is the first casualty
The enemy must be made hungry
You read stories about how she fed her family on grass
Boiling water with a strand of herb, a strip of bark
How good one raspberry served on a leaf
How good

The potato’s true worth
Prances onto the stage in groggy
Sleep-deprived dirty glory

Da-da
Here I am
Je suis ici
I am here

On our knees sheltering from a storm of bullets
Begging lusting
Oh God of Potato teach us this gratitude
Now

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Kawiti Waetford, He kai kōrero…

“Ko te kai a te Rangatira, he kōrero…”
Nau mai ngā kai o aku whēinga!
Na Tāne i hora; na Rongo, na Haumie i whakatōngia, kia tupu.
Hua ake nā ko te tōmairangi, rere kau ki uta, rere kau ki tai
Rere kau ki ngā ngutu o Tāwhiri, nānā te hau marangai
Waiwaiā te terenga waiora -
Mōu te kai o te wao
Mōu te kai o te ngākina
Kokō te whare o Tāne – kōmiria te papa, kōmiria te whenua
Kokō te marae o Tangaroa – kauria te ākau, kauria te tai
Mahue ake nā ki ngā ringaringa o te kete
Te kete mā-puna, te kete kirikiri-wai
Whakahokia ake ki te toto kāinga, kaingia
Warua, kōngia
Poroa, kakaungia
Kōhua taku kete, kaingia kia pau
Mā ngā ringaringa te wera o te kai
Mā ngā ngutu te kai o te kupu
Kei ngā kupu o aku tupuna whēinga te oranga
Kihai, kua matemate te wā
Kua tanū te mere pounamu
Kua pūhuki te koi o te tewhatewha
Kua puruheka katoa ngā mokomōkai
Kainga e te Rō!
Ko te toenga ihotanga o aku whēinga
Ko te kupu – kaingia kia ora!

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For a complete list of National Poetry Day events around the country, go here.

Highlight: Andrew Bell

National Poetry Day Series

HOUSE OF THE FORGOTTEN

Like time travellers,
we arrived at the boarding house,
rare in our youth and togetherness.
Behind the brave smile
of the white, wooden facade
the men lived like mementoes
in sad, concrete shoeboxes.

It was the nadir of winter
and shadows seeped through the courtyard,
squeezing old lungs with icy fingers
until they wheezed like defective accordions.
In the drab lounge room
television held out its flickering promises to them
as they sat on musty furniture in mustier suits.
The kerosene heater could not dispel
the coldness of their hope.

At six o’clock, we assembled
in the ’50s functional ugliness dining room
where they used the arctic cutlery
to cut each other down to size.
The car accident man whose disfigured face
was reduced to spouting clichés,
the man whose heart was devoured by the bottle,
the man who walked miles every day
but had nowhere to go,
the man whose wife had turned him out
for fear of catching his self-pity
and the friendless young man
who had never learnt to listen.

It seemed almost sinful
to look forward
to the European summer
when some of these men
would die forgotten
in the Australian winter.

*

AUTHOR COMMENTARY: In the southern winter of 1987, I was living in a small summer resort town called Mandurah which is on the coast about 72 kilometres south of Perth, Western Australia. I’d turned 30 earlier that year and my partner, Adrienne, and I had been saving hard to travel to the UK and Europe.

In my early 20s, I’d travelled extensively through Southeast and Central Asia with a friend, but neither Adrienne nor I had been to Europe. The lease on our flat expired a couple of weeks before our departure date so we checked into a local boarding house.

Places that revolve around the activities of summer seem especially dreary in winter. Somehow these men seemed to live at the periphery of the happy family image that the town’s authorities liked to cultivate. Perhaps they were cruel to each other because life had been cruel to them.

*

TELEMPATHY

Hollywood wouldn’t last five minutes
if an actor said:
“Darling, we’re so wrong for each other.”
But my avant-garde emotions
never scripted good sense.
It’s all experiment and instinct,
fiercely independent of the studio system.
Logic never bankrolled my heart.

“Quiet on the set!”
Cue sound: English modern black soul-R’n’B hybrid.
Roll film and “Action!”

Man driving alone
through Taranaki sharp frosted glass night
trying to enter the dreams
of a woman who sleeps
somewhere in this city.

She has told him there’s no profit in pursuit,
but she might just as well
tell a dog not to have fleas.
He cannot stop
thinking about her.

*

AUTHOR COMMENTARY: At the end of 1994, I parted company amicably with my first wife, Adrienne, and returned to my homeland, New Zealand, to be nearer to my aging parents. In 1995, I found myself living in Wellington. I was 38, single again after about ten years and re-adjusting to a society that had changed dramatically in my eight years absence.

I had a lot of strange experiences “searching for a heart”, as Warren Zevon sings so poignantly, and this poem documents one of them. I tried to romance a woman who was a long-time friend of my brother. She wasn’t in a good place emotionally at the time. The quote in line 3 is verbatim.

As a postscript, I met my second wife, Christine, in 1997 and we are happily married with two sons, aged 9 and 13.

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Andrew M. Bell writes poetry, short fiction, plays, screenplays and non-fiction. His work has been published and broadcast in New Zealand/Aotearoa, Australia, England, Israel and USA. His most recent publications are Aotearoa Sunrise, a short story collection, and Clawed Rains, a poetry collection.

Andrew lives in Christchurch with his family and loves to surf. Although poetry and poverty are usually bedfellows, Andrew once won a prize package of $A10,400 in a love poetry competition. More of Andrew’s poetry can be found at Bigger Than Ben Hur.

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For a complete list of National Poetry Day events around the country, go here.