Tuesday, October 11, 2011

128 Abel Smith Street, by Vivienne Plumb

the high wind has stirred thousands of dust particles that have become a mist
hanging over the city in the early morning light that is a fragile pale blue similar to
that of transparent bone china teacups/ the police have raided 128 looking for
terrorist firearms and balaclavas/ 128 opposed the notorious traffic bypass they fix
bicycles and grow vegetables and rent out their front room for community and
political functions/ i was invited there once to read poetry and to listen to a musical
concert/ like the old days of the salon/ and my friend Jackie Williams told me she was
born in 128 when it was a nursing home/ many years ago/ and now Jackie has gone
to the big salon in the sky/ the dust particles refuse to settle all morning they dance
above the harbour making it look as if there are fires out at sea/ the police raid is in
the news and has even reached the newspapers in Bangkok in London and in
Istanbul/ a city council street cleaner wearing a fluoro orange waistcoat tidies up
debris that came down onto Abel Smith Street in the high wind/ probably a security
intelligence officer

from The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and Other New Zealand Icons (Seraph Press, 2011)

Editor Janis Freegard

With a New Zealand mother and an Australian father, award-winning writer Vivienne Plumb has one foot on either side of the ditch. She's one of literature's all-rounders. As well as six previous collections of poetry, she has written plays, short fiction and a novel. Her recent play The Cape, which has been performed throughout New Zealand, has been translated into Polish and published in Warsaw.

I was delighted to hear that Helen Rickerby's Seraph Press is publishing Vivienne Plumb's brand new collection (The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and Other New Zealand Icons). I'm a big fan of Vivienne's work, particularly her prose poems, and this collection is all prose poems. Vivienne celebrates and satirises such New Zealand icons as ferry crossings, sly grogging, crockpots, whitebait, weather, gambling, tramping, motels and (of course!) cheese and onion sandwiches.

The poem I've chosen (and it was difficult to choose from so many that stood out) is a great mix of the lyrical ("the dust particles refuse to settle all morning they dance above the harbour making it look as if there are fires out at sea"), the satirical ("probably a security intelligence officer") and the political. New Zealand is still dealing with the aftermath of its so-called "anti-terror raids", with several people still awaiting trial and a new "search and surveillance" bill recently introduced into parliament.

I was also drawn to this poem because I have a personal connection to the house at 128 Abel Smith St - a friend used to live there years ago, before it became an anarchist/community house. It's a lovely old place and I'm pleased to see it's still being used and appreciated.

Janis Freegard is this week's TP editor. Based in Wellington, New Zealand, her poetry is widely published including at the Tuesday Poem hub and the US-based Anomalous Press. Her collection Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus (Auckland University Press) was released earlier this year.
For more Tuesday Poems, please follow the links in the side-bar to the right.


Helen Lowe said...

I like this poem a lot. In addition to your comments, Janis, "a great mix of the lyrical,... the satirical, ... and the political" I would add 'and a great sense of place.'

Saradha said...

This is an amazing poem. I enjoyed hearing Vivienne read it at the Ballroom and it reminded me again of the important role poetry plays in commemorating, retaliating, voicing and questioning. Thanks Janis :)

Mary McCallum said...

Yes, Saradha - as I read the poem, I hear Vivienne's voice, for sure. The wryness and warmth - the grin always waiting to surface. I love that this poem has a specific identifable address. As you say, Helen, a great sense of place. A very Wellington poem.

Ben Hur said...

Good choice, Janis. Vivienne always has great humour in her work.

I know the area well. I've acted or directed or watched many a great production at Tonks Avenue, the old setting for Stagecraft Theatre.

It is a great pity that that scruffy, anarchic and fun area was compromised by the great Motorcar and Bypass.

susan t. landry said...

thank you for posting. i have been exploring prose poetry of late, and this is a plum. :)