pulmonic air thrusts into your
mouth and funnels a fri-
cative between your fence
of upper teeth and lower
your mouth widens and with
a voiced vibration utters
a closed central vowel until
your soft palate rises to choke
the flow in a velar plosive
almost without pause, your jaws
close a bit as if to bite the co-
articulation and you
voice a velar fricative;
your mouth opens and
closes as you push
the resonance forward,
and knowing those teeth upon which my tongue has slid
intensely and knowing those lips
the portal it was impossible to say where you stopped
and I started and knowing that vibration which has soothed
and softened me and know that mouth
adrenalin shrieks, I throw
open the door, I open my mouth to fuck
you too when the stapler
Editor Mary McCallum
See if you will how this poem is written in the language of a speech language therapist which is the job of Verity Charlotte Button - hit by a stapler during a fight with her husband John Portsmouth Button (solicitor). Did he do it deliberately? That's for the courts to find out.
'Fuck you' is not the only poem in Judge John Adams' Briefcase, not by any means. Yes, there are legal documents - as one would expect, or what appear to be legal documents, court reports, police reports etc, until one looks more closely. The form is there, the language too, but they are all strangely askew (Exhibit D), defaced, cut adrift from their origins. There are also other documents not usually found in a Judge's briefcase: a sudoku puzzle, a menu, a dictionary entry.
|Exhibit D - extract from Risk, Going Forward|
I need to stop right here and confess five things:
1. I am not a solicitor or a Judge nor do I have anything to do with the courts
2. I am, however, a poet
3. Judge John Adams was one of my first students in 139.123 extramural creative writing (Massey University).
4. Briefcase won this year's NZ Society of Authors Best First Book Award for Poetry.
5. Of this, I am extraordinarily proud (woo hoo!)
|Exhibit E - as signed by the poet|
In the beginning was the
gnomic hope of it,
the staple desire, to fix
with some sort of meaning, a place where things
could clinch together ....
What was staple is no longer
available; things connect incorrectly;
even the index escapes our fingers;
our aggregations scatter.
extract from Buttons
But it's more than just a game of words to this poet. As the judges of the NZSA award said, John Adams' 'experimentation with form depends upon the heart as much as it does the intellect.'
In 'Fuck you', you can see John Adams' vigorous delight in words and their possibilities. Hear how it gets right inside the workings of the mouth, inside the language of the workings of the mouth, and inside the workings of the mouth of man and wife, and see how it ends up in the air like the stapler before it fell to earth and everything went terribly wrong. The extract from 'Risk, Going Forward' does something else entirely - legal apparently but poetic in fact.
Every poem in Briefcase does something else entirely in fact ... this is a provocative, passionate, highly rewarding read. Congratulations John!
'Fuck you' is published with permission from the poet and his publisher Auckland University Press. 'Justice' - another poem from the collection - can be read here. Come back next week to read extracts from each of finalists in the Best Book of Poetry Award in the NZ Book Awards, selected by Andrew Bell.
This week's editor, Mary McCallum is co-curator of Tuesday Poem. A Wellington poet and novelist she recently published The Tenderness of Light (Makaro Press 2012), and before that, The Blue (Penguin 2007) which won two NZ Book Awards. Mary is also a creative writing tutor, freelance writer, reviewer and bookseller. She blogs at O Audacious Book.
After reading the poem at the hub, try the 30 Tuesday Poets in the sidebar, and the poems they've written or selected - you won't be disappointed!