Monday, March 24, 2014

"Tuatara", by Nola Borrell

Matiu/Somes Island, Wellington
Keep your distance
you’re new here
rough-edged and arrogant

One step closer
and you won’t see me
you won’t see me anywhere

Always lie low, I say
I’ve learnt a thing or two
over 200 million years

Take away your ‘ecologically
appropriate quarters’
this drainpipe will do

And quit drooling over me
I pounce on skinks and wetas
eat my own kind

If a female won’t dance
I bite her neck
and then I take her

Still, I’m glad of a bit 
of company. Keep our numbers up
and keep yours down

Not that I’m worried
I’ve outlived the dinosaur
I may outlive you

How many years did you say you’d been here?


First published in Turbine
Published here with permission of the poet

TP hub editor this week: Janis Freegard

I have long admired this tuatara poem by Nola Borrell. I like its matter-of-fact, irreverent tone, its down-to-earthness and its perfect ending. I like the way interesting facts about tuatara (their dining habits, the fact that they've been here 200 million years) have been woven in, but without it sounding as though the poem is trying to teach us something.  And I cling to the hope that tuatara and many other species will outlast humans. Nola is also an accomplished, award-winning haiku poet and her economy with words shows in this poem.

Nola and I are both "in residence" at New Pacific Studio as I write and I was lucky enough to hear her read 'Tuatara' at the Open Day last weekend. Nola tells me that this well-travelled poem has been translated into Ukrainian and French.

Nola Borrell has had poetry including haiku published in New Zealand and overseas since the mid 1990s, and has won various awards. Her work has appeared in NZ journals and anthologies, Australia, US, UK, Croatia, Slovenia, Roumania, Poland, Japan and Algeria and online websites. Nola co-edited (with Karen P Butterworth) the taste of nashi - New Zealand Haiku (Windrift, 2008). Her chapbook this wide sky was published in 2012 (Puriri Press); and waking echoes in 2013 (Korimako Press). Nola is a member of Zazen, an international haiku workshop, and Convenor of
Windrift Haiku Group, Wellington.

This week's editor, Janis Freegard, is the author of The Continuing Adventures of Alice Spider (Anomalous Press, 2013) and Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus (Auckland University Press, 2011) and co-author of AUP New Poets 3. She lives in Wellington and is the current Ema Saiko Fellow at New Pacific Studio in the Wairarapa. 


Leah said...

This is such an incredible poem! I love the roughness described, the history and pride that bristles in these lines. Thanks for sharing this!

Harvey Molloy said...

I've always enjoyed this poem--a tuatara with attitude!

Claire Beynon said...

Ah, Janice - I love tuataras and, too, Nola's poem that does them excellent justice. Leah, I quoted you on FB when I posted the link to TP this morning - such a quotable comment! Thanks all.

Elizabeth said...

Ah, I love the conversational, advice-giving tone of 'Tuatara': 'Always lie low, I say'. Fabulous! Thanks for sharing, Nola & Janis :)

Penelope said...

They refuse to show themselves for tourists. I like that.

Lovely poem.

Keith Westwater said...

Great poem - vintage Nola. Thanks Janis.

lillyanne said...

I love the style and mood of this poem. Thanks so much for sharing it,