Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Hammock by Terry Moyle

Editor: Orchid Tierney

Terry Moyle is a vector artist and a top-notch experimental poet. His debut book, Cominghomeland (Auckland: Ducks on the Wall Publishing), was published in 2011. He has an MA Hons (English) from the University of Waikato and currently resides in Kaiwaka, Northland. 

What I particularly enjoy about Terry's work is his diversity.  Ranging from comic strips to 3D milk cartons, his work pushes poetry off the page into real life tangible artefacts. In this way, his experimental works are suggestive of new forms of literacy where text, image and object are inextricably related.  Yet, if I can sum up briefly, I want to suggest that works like Terry's are conversations that challenge binary demarcations of high and low art. Comic strips and milk cartons-throw away items in consumer society-are rendered unique through the interface of poetic language. The resultant work is a new territory between old and new forms of text.

I'd also encourage you to view his challenging Ugly/Beauty poem found here, in which typefaces  exert unusual pressure on the textual meaning.
Want more Terry? Feel free to visit his website here.

Orchid Tierney is an MA student at the University of Otago.  She has numerous publications on and offline.  Her first book, Brachiation, was released from the Gumtree Press in 2012. She edits Rem Magazine, a journal dedicated to New Zealand experimental writing. Wander over to her personal website here.
Please take some time to experience the marvellous selections of poetry from the Tuesday Poem community. You can find these listed along at the sidebar.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Zealand Post Book Awards Poetry Finalists 2012

To celebrate the upcoming National Poetry Day in New Zealand, Tuesday Poem is presenting a poem selected from each of the three Poetry finalists for the New Zealand Post Book Awards - the winner to be announced August 1. National Poetry Day on Friday July 27 has events all over the country and will involve a number of Tuesday Poets.

But first, one of this country's most magical of poets and storytellers Margaret Mahy died in Christchurch yesterday. The Booksellers NZ blog has posted The Fairy Child as a tribute to a remarkable writer who has touched so many around the world. It begins: 'The very hour that I was born/I rode upon a unicorn' - yes, Margaret Mahy, you did. RIP. [More tributes in our sidebar]

Now the poetry finalists ...

Editor: Andrew M. Bell.

Unknown Unknowns 

Maybe one day we will even teach in schools,
along with Homer again, and the Aeneid,
the equally complex songs of the whale,
graduate students composing theories 
about the mysterious bass shift
in song latitude 61˚ longitude 15˚
towards the end of 1971 –
still, we will never know the secret song
the whale sings to himself,
the heretic variations,
the secret pleasure
he allows himself in the silence and the dark;
any more than the poet’s biographer,
revealing everything he’s told,
accounting for contradictions
in accounts, gaps in the paper trail,
can know where the poet goes at night
when even his wife, lying beside him
in the dark, can’t know where he goes
in the privacy of his mind;
any more than we can know
what other worlds God might have dreamed up
too secret, too sentimental,
too erotic to be manifest
in the universe
of dust and light;
any more than we can know
it isn’t this one after all
that is the imaginary world 
too sentimental, too beautiful,
too privately pleasurable
really to be real.

(from Thicket by Anna Jackson, published by Auckland University Press)

More erudite and scholarly readers could tell you more about the literary features of this poem than I can, but I can tell you that it appealed to me because it manages to be playful and profound simultaneously.

I love that it explores magical possibilities, the "what ifs" that are the jumping off point for so much creative endeavour. I admire how Anna Jackson has woven the secret lives of whales, poets and God together so seamlessly.

Blood Work 

Sheep and cattle arrived by lorry,
the lorries were like yards on wheels.
It was a big deal, my father’s work, the smell
was stronger than the brewery.
I took wide paces in my gumboots,
matching his steel-toed stride, I followed him
into the killing room
and spoke my name to the other men.

Nothing stopped, the chain ground on,
sheep hung from hooks, each man with a knife
had his own bit of flesh to deal with.
My lungs ached, my eyes watered
as if there was a fire, the blood everywhere,
red and red over their white cover-alls.

My father handled the aftermath, the sheep
with no head, or feet, or skin, or gut.
Dead cold carcasses coming down a ramp
like fallen angels. He shouldered and stacked.

When the whistle blew
we sat drinking tea from tin mugs.
I was spoken of as his girl,
strong as his strong,
that’s when it started
in the blood: this was his life.
I felt the join no knife could part
and I couldn’t see
how I’d make the journey
going away and away from him.

(from Shift by Rhian Gallagher, published by Auckland University Press)

Regardless of the dynamics, families are a subject everyone can relate to. I love the richness of this poem, the finely wrought nuances and the way the poet strikes a balance between the visceral nature of her father's workplace with the love and tenderness she feels for her father.

The repetition of "the blood everywhere,/red and red" is beautifully echoed in the final line "going away and away from him." This is a poem with a huge, beating heart.

November, 2009 

There is a little girl whose head
fits into my hand and whose spine
you can finger like a row of pearl buttons.

Her breathing is brisk and she startles
—like a skink in a beach garden—
even when she sleeps.

Each hair on her head is fine
and soft and her eyebrows
are two raised dashes on a pale page.

They are dark blue, oval, and new
—her open eyes. Her mother looks into
them and calls her ‘sweet pea’, ‘tree-frog’

or ‘mouth’, which is a lovely one
especially when the bottom lip
comes out from somewhere and quivers.

It is smaller than a wallflower,
a daisy or a miniature rose.
It could be a little walnut
except it is always opening
to fit around a nipple.

Her body is the length
of my forearm and her long
oblong feet are shoving the air.

Everyone asks to see her fingers
and their tiny mirrors but look, the nails
are like pruning saws—they flail
and catch across her face.

You cannot imagine or even dream
what a little face will be
until it is here named Elsa
and the centre of everything.

(from The leaf-ride by Dinah Hawken, published by Victoria University Press)

It is often an extremely difficult thing to write an intimate poem which expresses joy and celebration without tipping over into mawkishness. That Dinah Hawken seems to achieve it so effortlessly speaks volumes for her experience, her precision and her artistry. I presume she is writing about a newborn grandchild and she builds her description of Elsa with such delicate craftsmanship, detail by startling detail, until the scene is intensely vivid in the reader's mind.

The above three poems are reproduced here at Tuesday Poem with the permission of the respective poets and publishers. On a personal note, I would like to thank the poets and the publishers of these three fine collections, each one richly deserving of its place as a finalist.

This week's editor, 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. 

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!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

'Fuck you' by John Adams

Your chest contracts and egressive
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
croak but,
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

[Exhibit A]

                                                                  Editor Mary McCallum 

Exhibit B
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, what you have before you is a poem (Exhibit A) found amongst legal documents in the Briefcase (Exhibit B) of a Judge John Adams  (Family Court & District Court), identified in Exhibit C.
Exhibit C

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
Language is the thing for John Adams the Judge and John Adams the Poet. Words to him are there to be cross-examined, broken down in the dock, made to confess their origins, their intentions, their innermost desires. The whole of this collection is about the promise language holds and its actual limitations in the workings of law and the society it apparently serves.

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! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gigabyte by Mary Cresswell

The fact is that computers, like people,
have no problem remembering the messy stuff:
it's forgetting they can't do.

How much memory can you sell me? I want it all, asleep and awake, at the light
touch of a finger. I want the blood to stay liquid, the bones never to rise again, the
stink to stay undissipated in either still or moving air.

Forget bloody algorithms, archives, downloads, codices, indices, books, paper-brittle
files to fragment into contemplation, make me rest on my heels, make me wonder at
all this dust and cold coffee, ask what I am really after and is it worth it.

I have seen you watching action glowing in the dark bodies twisting, coupling, dying
out as the power dies leaving images burnt on memory ready to retrieve. We know
our passion is present; our passion is action.

You know, too, such frenzies are best gulped down fresh before some ungodly
troika variously rendered as reason, recall, reflection clatters up the driveway like
unwelcome parents coming home early because they forgot the key, when you
thought they would be out all night and leave you to it with all your mindless

Originally published in the online magazine, Talking, Writing, in January 2012.
Reproduced here with kind permission from the author.

                                          Editor: Elizabeth Welsh

Mary Cresswell is a Wellington poet who lives on the Kapiti Coast. Her book, Trace Fossils, was published by Steele Roberts in 2011. I have admired Mary's poetry for quite some time, and I recently stumbled across this new poem - Gigabyte - when I was reading a fascinating article 'Why Poets Sometimes Think in Numbers' in the online literary magazine, Talking Writing. 

I was immediately drawn to the poem, with its focus on time, memory, and the intertwining of past, present and future experiences, having spent hours during my Masters delving into the conceit of inner time in New Zealand literature. 

The idea of memory as a possible commodity - something to be purchased, to be 'had', to be casually picked up - is so human, so real. I can't express enough how much I feel that Mary has hit the nail on the head with her final stanza, where she invites the reader to share in, and relish, those trembling lived, felt, experienced moments - 'such frenzies are best gulped down fresh' - that seem to hold such illicit pleasures - 'you thought they would be out all night and leave you to it'.

When I contacted Mary to ask her if I could republish 'Gigabyte', she was kind enough to share with me some of her thoughts behind the poem and her approach: 'Like most of us, I think a lot about memory as I grow older. It irritates me that memory doesn't fall into nice, manageable compartments - it would be so much easier to deal with if it did. But, alas, at times, the past is as much a happening as the present is, and there are moments when I find them totally mixed in with each other. This poem "just happened" (pretty much) in one of those moments.'

For more information about her and her innovative poetry, please see her profile on the New Zealand Book Council website.

Elizabeth Welsh is a freelance editor, poet and PhD student. Originally from New Zealand, she now lives in South London. Her poetry and short fiction has been published in print and online. She is currently writing a chapter for a book collection on Katherine Mansfield's influences and has recently returned from speaking on Mansfield at the Sorbonne. She blogs about literary stuff here.

After reading 'Gigabyte', please do take the time to dip into this week's poetry selections from the rest of the Tuesday Poem community. You can find these listed along at the sidebar.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why Don't You Talk To Me? by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

Why do I post my love letters
in a hollow log?
Why put my lips to a knothole in a tree
and whisper your name?

The spiders spread their nets
and catch the sun,
and by my foot in the dry grass
ants rebuild a broken city.
Butterflies pair in the wind,
and the yellow bee,
his holsters packed with bread,
rides the blue air like a drunken cowboy.

More and more I find myself
talking to the sea.
I am alone with my footsteps.
I watch the tide recede
and I am left with miles of shining sand.

Why don't you talk to me?

                                       Editor: Tim Jones

Alistair Te Ariki Campbell (1925–2009) is my favourite New Zealand poet. While Allen Curnow and James K Baxter were conventionally regarded, during the high nationalist (and masculinist) period of New Zealand poetry, as the twin titans of New Zealand poetry – or perhaps, for aspiring poets, its Scylla and Charybdis – Alistair Campbell's poetry, rooted in observation and experience rather than poetic ideology, speaks more directly to me.

Kapiti: Selected Poems 1947–71 was, if I recall correctly, the first collection of New Zealand poetry I bought. While some of the early poems in this selection, such as "The Return" (1949), are magnificent, it was the increasing simplicity, freshness and directness of address of the later poems in the book that especially impressed and (I hope) influenced me.

"Why Don't You Talk To Me?", written in 1965, has all these qualities, plus a cunning indirection. For much of the poem, the central question is present only by implication: the natural world makes its customary arrangements all around me, yet I am separate; why don't you talk to me? This poem says all that needs to be said, and no more.

For more information about Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, see his Wikipedia and New Zealand Book Council pages and his obituary in The Guardian.

Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

Publication Information

Published in Alistair Campbell, Kapiti: Selected Poems 1947-71, and reprinted in Harvey McQueen, ed., These I Have Loved (Steele Roberts, 2010). Reproduced as a Tuesday Poem by kind permission of Alistair Te Ariki Campbell's literary executor.

Tim Jones is a poet, author, editor and blogger. His latest book is his third poetry collection, Men Briefly Explained. His short story "The New Neighbours" has been included in the recently-published anthology The Apex Book of World SF 2. For more on Tim and his writing, please see his blog Books in the Trees.

Once you have read "Why Don't You Talk To Me?", please take the opportunity to read the poems which the individual Tuesday Poets have posted on their blogs. You'll see them linked from the sidebar at the left of this page.