Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Albert Park by Alice Miller

I hear the sea how we come back                                claiming to be altered when    
the painting of the barracks shows                  once we were never    
live in what’s                           now owned by us, round trees curled
down to hear                           your thoughts starred
bold but let’s walk unscripted             to the bar where we sang
when we knew where we were                      where the baby grand played
her high chalked notes and we                                     cried ourselves to water

(Shared with permission. Previously published in  IKA 2, Manakau Institute of Technology.)

Alice Miller was a finalist for this year's Sarah Broom Poetry Prize, the winner of which was announced on Sunday at the Auckland Writers Festival. 'Albert Park' was part of her submission for this.

I had all the best intentions in the world to attend the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize event at the festival and to visit Albert Park in between times, but festivals can be crazy places. However, I was delighted Alice gave us this poem and although I initially thought of the wonderful Albert Park in central Auckland - the curled trees and being framed by water - I also like the generic name of the park that you could find anywhere in the world. Alice Miller is a universal presence herself, having lived and written in New Zealand, North America and Europe.

The line breaks intrigue me and I'm inclined to read them in several different ways as they curl about the page like the leaves and branches implied. The lines also create a sense of movement - the "unscripted walk" to the bar perhaps, the sea or the claim of having been altered as "we" return. 

The "round trees curled / down to hear / your thoughts" echoes so clearly a Charles Simic poem I love, 'Evening Walk' that I can't escape marrying the "high chalked notes" and crying at the end of Miller's poem to the sound of nightbirds like lost children at the end of Simic's. "Once we were never" is an absolute truth of this poem, again evoking the "other evening strolling ahead" in Simic's world. The past is just so damn present.
'Albert Park' is dynamic and subtle. I urge you to read it again.

Alice Miller is a poet, essayist, short story writer and playwright. Her first book The Limits was published by Auckland University Press and Shearsman in 2014. She has been the Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow, a Visiting Writer at Massey University, and a resident at the Michael King Centre. These days she calls Vienna home.


This week's Tuesday Poem was selected by Saradha Koirala, a teacher and poet based in Wellington. 

Check out the other Tuesday Poems in the sidebar to the left.


Unknown said...

Great choice. The breaks for me are an interruption or a displacement--Miller dares not to make easy sense--the painting of the barrack reminds us of our occupation--although we are different, so we say; we say we now belong, now we have ownership . . .but we don't no matter what we sing. We never really belong. And The Limits is also a very exciting book. That dislocation, that being a foreigner at home; yea, I can relate to that alright. Take all the place names off the map and where are we?

Nikita said...

Really Good Poem Collection...