Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Caselberg Trust International Poetry Competition 2011

Greetings TP readers. 

Consider today's invitation to enter the Caselberg Trust's inaugural competition a comma in Tuesday Poem's usual weekly rhythm. . . and a challenge to submit one of your poems to this exciting new comp.

TP contributors will be back in the New Year with curator Mary McCallum hosting the year's first posting on Tuesday 18 January. 

Meantime, we wish you all the very best for a happy holiday and an expansive and poetically rewarding 2011. Thank you for being a part of this wonderful online community. 


Inaugural Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize for 2011

The Caselberg Charitable Trust runs a residence for writers and artists at Broad Bay, Dunedin. The Trust has organised a variety of collaborative artistic events since its establishment in 2006, including the Fiordland Wilderness Residency in 2007, and, most recently, ‘A New Line’, in which 8 poets and 8 jewellers presented work inspired by each other’s disciplines.

The Inaugural International Poetry Prize competition will be judged blind by the distinguished poet Bernadette Hall. First Prize will be $500, Second Prize $250, and there will also be 5 Highly-Commended awards (with no monetary prizes). 

Submission deadline is 31 January 2011

The first- and second-placed poems will be published in the May 2011 issue of Landfall, and all winning and highly-commended entries published on the Caselberg Trust web-site (copyright remains with the authors).

For the Conditions and Entry Form, please go to http://www.caselbergtrust.org/

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"Why We Do What We Do" by James Brown

James Brown is great live. He has had a lot of success, having published several collections of his funny, satirical and clever poetry with VUP. He has also won an armload of awards and residencies during his time. But it's when I see him read to an audience that he seems in his element.

Afterward, the crowd drifts away energised and uplifted. This may be because Brown's readings are self deprecating and funny, and it may be because he knows how to read a crowd, pausing at the right times, laughing at others. But it could also be because he seems like a normal guy. He gives other writers hope that, one day, they might be as relaxed with their own work as Brown appears at the podium.

“Why We Do What We Do” is one of my favourite James Brown poems because it gives me the same satisfaction as seeing him read. The poem is from The Year of the Bicycle (2006), a book that circles around Brown's obsession with mountain biking. It comes toward the end of the book and as part of a longer series. The poem can be read as a justification for having spent so much time writing poetry about his favourite subject. But if you flip that around, the poem can be seen as an encouragement to write about what interests you.

For this reason, “Why We Do What We Do” is the perfect poem for the Christmas post.

Since Tuesday Poem started in April this year, up to thirty Tuesday Poets have committed to posting poems weekly on their personal blogs and linking to the Tuesday Poem hub here via the live blog roll (see sidebar). The poems are written by themselves and other poets whose permission they have. As Tuesday Poem Editor, they are also rostered on to select and post poems on the hub.

The depth and breadth of the poetry selections and associated commentaries - by poets from NZ, the US, the UK, Ireland, and Australia - has been breathtaking. Also exciting is the interaction between poets and readers in the comments at the bottom of the posts. For Christmas, the Tuesday Poets have been paired as in 'Secret Santa' (when gifts are exchanged), and are posting poems or other offerings by their 'partner' poet.

We want to celebrate what interests us as writers, and our own voices. We also want to celebrate the Tuesday Poem which provides one more way to fit poetry into our lives. So check out the different blogs to see ones from our “shelf.” If “there's something / you want to hear, / you can sing it / yourself.”

Merry Christmas!

Sarah Jane Barnett is the week's Tuesday Poem editor and organiser of our 'Secret Santa'. Based in Wellington New Zealand, she is a writer, reviewer, and PhD student at Massey University exploring the prose poem. In her spare time, she makes things out of fabric and tries to live sustainably. Sarah blogs here. Why We Do What We Do is posted with permission.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

To Stuart by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

Early spring, and a cold wet morning.
     The wind mooches about outside,
          planning a home invasion.
It’s Mary’s birthday, our Mary whom
     you’d have loved had the Fates
          spared you. I take you back
five years before you joined
     the Maori Battalion, and six before you
          died. I have many questions to put
to you, many that may not even have
     an answer. Why being blessed with
          enviable gifts did you abandon
your studies after only a year?
     You could have made your mark
          in any field that calls
for passion and imagination.
     As a boy I followed you about
          from match to match marvelling
at what you created with a
      cricket ball. Your bowling
          action and the flight of the ball,
gathering speed as it flew
     towards its target, were to me
           a work of art. As an admiring
younger brother, I celebrate
     this image of what you promised
          and never lived to fulfil.
‘Nature,’ wrote William Blake,
     ‘has no Outline, but Imagination has.’
          I see you turn and run up
to the crease. I see your
     arm swing over. I see the
           ball in flight – and that is all.

Alistair Te Ariki Campbell

I selected this poem because of its personal connection with the Maori Battalion, and my admiration for Alistair Te Ariki Campbell who was the first Polynesian poet to have a book published in English, the spectacularly successful Mine Eyes Dazzle (Pegasus Press, 1950, 1951, 1956) with an Oxford revised edition called Wild Honey in 1964.

Campbell’s brother Stuart (named in his ‘Personal Sonnets’ as 446853 Private S.A. Campbell) was killed as a result of ‘friendly fire’ in 1945 while waiting to cross the Santerno River near Massa Lombarda, Italy. An RAF Bomber tragically dropped a 500 pound bomb near Stuart’s D Company unit of the 28th Maori Battalion. The poem shows the younger brother’s admiration for Stuart, and the tremendous promise that was never realized in Stuart whose sharpness of mind and athleticism is captured in the poignant image of the cricket ball in flight that never lands.

Campbell was continuously revising. In a previously published version of the poem the quote from Blake in the penultimate ‘stanza’ uses ‘Art’ rather than this most recent version which uses ‘Imagination’. It’s a revealing re-vision, emphasizing a five-senses aesthetic rather than the highly abstract term art. The quote also grounds Alistair Te Ariki Campbell’s poem in Blake’s English tradition of visionary poetry, while keeping it in the same field of play as cricket, and the promises of university study “…that calls for passion and imagination.” It also shows Campbell’s tremendous artistry, continuing to reshape work well after it was first published.

There are technical aspects to notice. I put stanza in inverted quotes above because the poem moves in eleven stanza-like tercets. The tercet pattern:  the first line far-left, the second line indented, then the third line further indented, cleverly creates small spaces in the long-flowing lyric, or ‘spots in time’ during the bowler’s run-up and then release. The maestro also lays a regular pattern of three stresses per line, creating a sweet or dolce music when speaking of his deceased brother.

Campbell returned and returned to the theme of his brother’s death, perhaps beginning with his famous 1948-49 sequence ‘Elegy’ which mourned his friend the mountain climber Roy Dickson’s death, but  contains an edge of familial grief conjuring his brother’s recent death; through to the 1960 ‘Personal Sonnets I’, 1964’s ‘Grandfather Bosini’ who calls out for Maireriki (Stuart’s Tongarevan name) and then dies, and the 2001 Maori Battalion sequence where this poem “To Stuart” first appeared. An enduring theme of the orphaned Campbell’s poetry was family, and his yearning to re-connect with them.

More on Alistair Te Ariki Campbell here and here. The poem is posted with the kind permission of Andrew Campbell.

This week's Tuesday Poem editor is poet Robert Sullivan of Maori (Ngā Puhi, Kai Tahu) and Galway Irish descent. He has won several NZ literary awards for his poetry, children's writing and editing. His poetry collections include Star Waka, Captain Cook in the Underworld, Voice Carried My Family, and his most recent: Cassino City of Martyrs (Huia) and Shout Ha! to the Sky (Salt Publishing, UK). 

Robert co-edited Whetu Moana: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English with Albert Wendt and Reina Whaitiri. Robert is the new Head of the School of Creative Writing at the Manukau Institute of Technology in Auckland, and before that, directed Creative Writing at the University of Hawai'i.  He blogs here

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hunt the slipper: a romantic divertissement by Jo Thorpe

‘Taglioni’s lilies,’ he says
handing her a long-stemmed
bouquet in the bar near his chambers.
He’s going through his repertoire –
eyes locked over Brut Cuvée,
fingers brushing hers as they reach
for antipasto. He imagines her
conferring limbs. (After the tangled
sheets. After the moonlight).
It seems like the right time to move.

But she’s miles away, out on the
Russian steppes, not with him
not with anyone she’s ever known,
recalling a tale of that chaste ballerina
stopped by a highwayman wanting
not gold, but demanding she dance
on her black panther skins
spread out on the scintillant snow.
For fifteen minutes she plunged him through.
There were stars. They glittered on her
emerald rings, diamonds bestowed by royalty.
Then the highwayman, Trishka, led her
back to her carriage: ‘I keep the rugs,
mademoiselle. I will never part with them’.
And how later, a pair of her ballet slippers
were cooked and eaten by fans.

He’s talking now of bubbles
beaded, winking at the brim
(having googled her clear loves)
but she’s grasping at memory – a slipper
in a lit case. The memory’s piercing,
is standing in a hushed space, peering
through a vitrine at a single ballet slipper,
feather-light on its see-through shelf,
pale, with a faint blush as if it
might once have been pink.
And caged, like a moth in amber.
Emphatically darned around the sides.

He’s taking off her side-laced shoes –
the kind a sylph might wear
on an occasion calling for boots.
There’s pollen on the sheets (from all those
perfumed lilies) and her limbs!
so lustrous under moon.
But her memory insists. That slipper in its
lit case? Where? In what opera house?
Moscow? Paris? New York?
She can’t recall. And when? No idea.
Decades ago, perhaps.

Author's note: Marie Taglioni was the first Sylphide, the most famous ballerina of the Romantic era. The poem draws on two sources – a real-life experience recounted in Taglioni’s own words in Parmenia Megel’s book The Ballerinas, from the Court of Louis XIV to Pavlova, and an article by Tobi Tobias Taglioni’s 'Shoe: Memory & Memorabilia'. In dance spectacles of the 18th century, a divertissement referred to inter-act diversions or episodes loosely connected with the plot. Taglioni is reputed to have loved Christmas lilies, and the poem plays with all these ideas, moving between the present and the past.

I chose 'Hunt the slipper' as the Tuesday Poem for two reasons. Firstly, it's one of the poems in JAAM 28: dance dance dance, which has recently been published. Clare Needham and I are the co-managing editors of JAAM, and together we selected the work for this issue – Clare chose the short stories, I chose the poetry, and we consulted on everything else.

The initial idea for the issue was Clare's. She was producing a theatre/dance show, Sleep/Wake, and she got 'thinking about how exciting it would be to get writers thinking about dance and dancers thinking about writing, then see what happened.'

It seems to have hit a rich seam of creativity, as we were overwhelmed with submissions. We were delighted at how contributors interpreted the theme laterally as well as literally. Some work is about dance or features dances or dancers – such as 'Hunt the slipper'. Other work dances on the page, or sets up dance rhythms – which 'Hunt the slipper' does also, jumping around in time and with language.

In many pieces dance is metaphorical – people dancing gingerly in their relationships with other people (also true of 'Hunt the slipper'), or dancing with death, for example. As you can see, 'Hunt the slipper' is an excellent example of the kind of work that you'll find in JAAM 28, though the issue is nothing if not varied.

The second reason I've chose 'Hunt the slipper' as the Tuesday Poem is that this week 'Hunt the slipper' will be launched in another form – as part of Jo's second collection of poetry: In/let, which is published by Steele Roberts. It's going to be launched by Greg O'Brien on Thursday (9th December) in the foyer of the New Zealand School of Dance, Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Road, Newtown. All welcome.

Jo Thorpe is a dancer, lecturer in dance history (at the New Zealand School of Dance), and a dance writer and critic as well as a poet, so you can see that our theme for JAAM 28 was right up her alley. Her first poetry collection Len & other poems was published in 2003 (also by Steele Roberts). She has an MA in creative writing from Victoria University, in 2001. She has danced for many years with the Crowsfeet Dance Collective under the artistic direction of Jan Bolwell.

You can read more about Jo on the Book Council website, and don't forget to check out the other Tuesday Poems in the live blog roll. The Tuesday Poem on my own blog is 'Forty-League Boots', by Vivienne Plumb (my favourite from Viv's collection Crumple, which I've just published as Seraph Press.)

This week's editor is Helen Rickerby who is the author of two collections of poetry: Abstract Internal Furniture (2001) and My Iron Spine (2008) (both with HeadworX); and a sequence of poems, Heading North, published in a hand-bound edition by Kilmog Press. As well as being co-managing editor of JAAM literary magazine, she runs Seraph Press, a boutique poetry publisher. Helen lives in Wellington, in a cliff-top tower, and works as a web editor. She can be found blogging irregularly at Winged Ink.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fisherman by Brian Turner

When the fisherman found
he could no longer row his dinghy
the tide went out with his heart,

and when I asked him what he felt
about that, he said he didn’t know
where to start. You’ll have to…

he said, but didn’t complete
the sentence about a sentence
because he’d already said it all.

By Brian Turner from Just This (page 40)
Winner of the 2010 New Zealand Post Book Award for Poetry
Used with the permission of Victoria University Press

I love the utter quiet despair in this poem. I find that if you really listen and pay attention to the world then it’s often the small, the quiet and the unassuming people and things that have the most impact. This is especially heightened in cities where bigger, faster, louder, more, seems to be prized.

The end of 2009/start of 2010 for me was a particularly grief-stricken time and this poem sums up exactly how that felt. This poem has a hollowing feel, a poignant sense of loss, and something that I too felt couldn’t completely be explained by words when people asked, “How are you?”

There must be many on the West Coast, reeling from the Pike River mining disaster, who feel exactly this.

The unfinished completeness of the fisherman’s sentence reminds me of a fantastic part in Janet Frame’s autobiography (possibly An Angel at my Table), when her father paints a picture of some dogs but leaves the eyes unfinished. This is seen by a young Frame as a symbol of her father’s – and family’s – circumstance at the time.

Read more about Brian Turner here. And do check out the other Tuesday Poems in the live blog roll in the sidebar.

Emma McCleary is this week's Tuesday Poem editor. Emma has recently started as the Web Editor at Booksellers New Zealand. It’s her job to help support bookshops across New Zealand, regularly post book news, encourage staff to tweet on the @booksellersnz account and compile Bookseller’s weekly member newsletter The Read.

When she’s not at work, Emma blogs about her life in Featherston, runs her craft empire Emma Makes and is a printmaker.

Tuesday Poem acknowledges the terrible losses felt by the families of the Pike River Miners

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Resurrection by Michael McKimm

As the cod that's cooked in a mountain
of salt comes out delicate as butter, a fur
of disappearances, unrecognisable,
so have I buried the book of our lives
in the salt mines of Cheshire, twenty
miles of white tunnels, two hundred feet deep.
I have taken a knife and carved out a shelf
and placed there the first time we met,
the bar where I read you my poems,
the movies we watched, the first piece of furniture
you bolted together, the meals that we ate;
I have stored them in salt where they will
be dry, not feel the touch of blight:
these thoughts, these kisses, these places,
this memory of a white fish becoming tongue,
mouth, throat, disappearing into your body

  This poem is from Michael McKimm's first book, 'Still This    Need' (The Heaventree Press 2009). Published with permission.

  Michael McKimm hails from Northern Ireland and currently lives   in London. He and I were two of 38 writers from around the world who spent three months in residence in the US as part of the University of Iowa's 2010 International Writing Programme.

The first lines of this poem caught me - the visual and taste image of the mountain of salt, then the texture of the fish takes me to a completely different, white-on-white place. I imagine the flesh of the fish not so much flaking as melting, like the butter. Already I'm thinking about love, then - the salts of the body, and the carving out of things (initials in a tree, a life together in the world). The poem invites me to consider the circularity and eternity of things: the fish returning to salt, memory returning to itself over and over, the bodies of lovers embracing and imbibing each other. 

The title, 'Resurrection', takes me to this territory, too. The lasting feeling I take away from this poem is that ache we sometimes have towards precious things - that feeling that is somehow a mix of delight and fear, a thrill of gratitude mixed with the desire to preserve the treasure against 'blight'.

I heard Michael read several times during the Iowa residency, and every time I was taken by his voice - both on the page and in real life. The song in the poem, and in his speaking of it, are still very present for me. You can hear/watch Michael read this poem here:

You can read more about Michael here:
* * * *
This week's guest editor is Hinemoana Baker  - a New Zealand writer, musician, educator and sound enthusiast who has just returned from the US as writer in residence at the University of Iowa's International Writing Programme. 

She has produced several albums, edited several anthologies of New Zealand poetry and published two poetry collections of her own work, 'mātuhi | needle' (VUP/Perceval Press 2004) and 'kōiwi kōiwi | bone bone' (VUP 2010). Last year Hinemoana spent three months in Australia as 2009 Arts Queensland Poet in Residence.  

Hinemoana blogs at www.hinemoana.co.nz.

Tuesday Poem thanks Hinemoana for her work on TP this week and welcomes her back to NZ. Thanks, too, to Michael Mckimm for Resurrection. And congratulations to last week's guest editor Jennifer Compton for winning the Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry 2010. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

cow poem by Chris Mansell

it is a day for poetry   that is to say
one like any other   full of sunshine   paddocks
and cold at heart

all day I speak to screen poets
the artless machine gives me breath
and words             and

I am sitting in
a paddock far away    a cow roars out

even I can tell distress from love
in cows
in others it’s not so easy

blue seeps in at the curtains
of my cow-isolated study
I warn it off with words

there is too much at stake
to start loving now

the phone nags
and there only people
I don’t love
they make their demands
time    money    an honest opinion
a dance
I don’t want to hold hands
there is no one whose thigh I want
to cross no particular blizzard eye I want to
I make the print big with fine
the cow is giving birth
and someone is in trouble     the dairyman
– I know his name –
will come in slow urgent
paces across the paddock
and watch    not wishing
to disturb her   his girl   full of hope in a field
of good winter feed
there is nothing to the print
the page rolls past like a lowing
poets fall off and fail
clipped by time    they thought they were immortal
and not one was
a comet   the size of a swimming pool
glides over and we don’t notice our near extinction

astronomers should take more care we’re not hit
by the unpredictable
she lows in the paddock
and the dairyman­ ­­– Phil – judges with squinty eyes
it’s a matter of economics this love
I write cheques
to poets     petite commercial haikus of trust
it must
be the end of the financial world
the mail drips in
another poem comes reeling up   this is a bluster
of words
high as a blue sky the cow says
and Phil     the master cowman    strides over the field
of the poem    there is food for thought in this green
he takes the cow by the horns
and speaks to her in low tones

then he grasps the calf by the legs and for a while
there is an ten-legged beast    his two   her four
and the four of the new
she bellows out and Phil
pulls the legs and the poems come up on the screen   too much
too many poems    and the new beast is born

I was spoilt for choice once I had decided to choose a poem by Australian poet, Chris Mansell.  I would describe her as one of the more prominent islands in the stormy seas of the Australian poetry scene. She has been there, like, forever. And is a mover and a shaker. A founder of magazines and small presses, an instigator of poetry festivals, a memorable reader, much anthologised etc, and she has written so much good stuff. 

My first thought was 'cow poem' because I took to it straight away when she sent me a copy a while back, and I put it in my mental folder of Special Poems That I Like Very Much, but then she did a reading recently at the Dan O'Connell here in Melbourne, and there was more stuff I liked very much. In particular a poem called 'Parsley' which tickled my fancy with its 'taste of truth'. But no, I went with 'cow poem', just because.

'cow poem' appears in Letters Kardoorair Press 2009  and is published with permission here.

This week's editor is guest poet Jennifer Compton who was born in New Zealand in 1949 and is based in Melbourne. She was the 2008 Randell Cottage Writer in Residence in Wellington, NZ, and was this year's Visiting Literary Artist at Massey University in Palmerston North. She is writing her way through the backlog of good ideas she picked up while she was there. In May 2011 she will be a guest again at Sarajevo Poetry Days. 

Her new book of poetry – 'Barefoot' – was published by Picaro Press this year. You will find one of the Barefoot poems Rongotai and two other Jen Compton poems on Tuesday Poet sites. 

Tuesday Poem congratulates Wellington poet Diana Bridge who is the winner of the 2010 Lauris Edmond Award for Poetry worth $NZ1000.   

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Hand That Signed the Paper by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

The hand that signed the paper felled a city;
Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,
Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;
These five kings did a king to death.

The mighty hand leads to a sloping shoulder,
The finger joints are cramped with chalk;
A goose's quill has put an end to murder
That put an end to talk.

For the full text of this poem, readers can go to the link below:


(Above are the first two stanzas (an extract) of a four-stanza poem, because one of our ever- alert readers has pointed out to us that copyright laws in the UK differ from New Zealand and extend a further 20 years after the author's death. Dylan Thomas died in 1953 so his copyright extends to 2023. As editor, I apologise for this transgression to our readers, fellow contributors, the heirs of Dylan Thomas and the ghosts of Dylan and his wife, Caitlin. Editor: Andrew M. Bell)

When I was a callow youth of 15, I was a boarder at Sacred Heart College in Auckland. My fifth-form English teacher was a man named Brother Roger, a big, solid man with no-nonsense black-rimmed spectacles and a purplish hue to his chin and cheeks because he was rumoured to shave twice a day. Brother Roger loved his subject and he loved the beauty and power of language and he ignited my life-long love of poetry by introducing our class to some wonderful poets. Through him, I discovered the Romantic poets, the War poets, modern American poets and many of the luminaries of twentieth-century poetry.

The poem above by Dylan Thomas, published in 1936, (here reproduced from The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 3rd Edition) has stayed with me since the day Brother Roger brought it to my attention. It illustrated to me that poetry can make profound statements about life and the human condition with brevity and conciseness. Poetry can make us think and perhaps lead us to new insights.

I believe there has never been a time in human history when there was no conflict occurring somewhere in the world. Dylan Thomas wrote this with the Nazi spectre growing in Europe, but its subject will, sadly, be ever pertinent. The documentary maker, Michael Moore, asked US Congressmen if they had sons fighting in Iraq. None of them did. Theirs were the "hands" that signed the paper that sent many young, poor, uneducated, black, white and Hispanic men to their deaths.

Feel free to search out other wonderful poems by Dylan Thomas. For more Tuesday Poems, click on the Tuesday Poets in the sidebar.

This week's editor is Christchurch writer Andrew M Bell whose poetry, screenplays, fiction and non-fiction have been published and broadcast in NZ, Australia, Israel, US and the UK.  You can find his poems here

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Truths by Helen Heath

Let’s not talk about
the whole truth.
Better to let small parts
speak for the whole –
a look, a hand
in the small of my back.
Better to find that
the truth lies
in the smallest things we do.

I chose this poem by Helen Heath because it is the first poem posted by a Tuesday Poet  that grabbed me - with its simple elegance. On the surface it is straighforward, but underneath it has an elegance and grace that is quite breathtaking.  I could wax lyrical, but that is hardly necessary as the poem speaks for itself. It stands alone, a beautiful truth, as rare as any jewel, although perhaps a few words about the author will not be remiss ...

Helen has been one of the true champions of the Tuesday Poem blog, generous not only with her own work, but also showcasing other up-and-coming poets, interviewing authors, and generally being a stellar member of the local writing community. 

Helen blogs at helenheath.com.

She lives in the seaside village of Paekākāriki, on New Zealand's  Kapiti Coast. She completed an MA in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University in 2009. Her poetry has been published in many journals in New Zealand and Australia. Most recently she’s had a chap-book of poems published by Seraph Press called Watching for Smoke (2009). Currently she is working on a full-length book of poems.

Alicia Ponder is this week's Tuesday Poem editor.  She lives in Eastbourne, is the co-author of two art books, and several New Zealand School Journal plays and stories.  She blogs here at an Affliction of Poetry.  

For more Tuesday Poems, click on the Tuesday Poets in the sidebar.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ode to Chocolate by Barbara Crooker

I hate milk chocolate, don't want clouds
of cream diluting the dark night sky,
don't want pralines or raisins, rubble
in this smooth plateau. I like my coffee
black, my beer from Germany, wine
from Burgundy, the darker, the better.
I like my heroes complicated and brooding,
James Dean in oiled leather, leaning
on a motorcycle. You know the color.

Oh, chocolate! From the spice bazaars
of Africa, hulled in mills, beaten,
pressed in bars. The cold slab of a cave's
interior, when all the stars
have gone to sleep.

Chocolate strolls up to the microphone
and plays jazz at midnight, the low slow
notes of a bass clarinet. Chocolate saunters
down the runway, slouches in quaint
boutiques; its style is je ne sais quoi.
Chocolate stays up late and gambles,
likes roulette. Always bets
on the noir.

"Ode to Chocolate" by Barbara Crooker, from More. © C&R Press, 2010. Reprinted with permission

                                           Editor: Kathleen Jones

Since Janis Freegard’s post about her poetry in the new Iron collection of humorous verse, I’ve been thinking of the way we always seem to value ‘serious’ poems more than humorous ones in critical terms and often anthologise them as children’s poetry or talk about ‘light’ verse. This is rather sad, because a lot of wonderful poetry remains neglected.   So I decided to post something at the un-serious end of the spectrum this week and I hope you don’t think I’m too frivolous!

More: PoemsI chose ‘Ode to Chocolate’ because I needed cheering up and I love chocolate - always reach for it when I’m down, but it has to be dark ...... I think the poem somehow gets the essence of the taste of chocolate onto the page - as well as its sensuality and how it makes you feel. Which is quite an achievement. There aren’t too many good poems about food - Pablo Neruda’s ‘Ode to Salt’ perhaps.  There’s also a wonderful poem about eating an avocado - but I couldn’t track it down.

Barbara Crooker is one of the older American poets - a late starter in the publishing stakes, who has won a considerable number of awards for her poetry. She’s an accomplished technician, though I sometimes find her poems just a bit too ‘cosy’ for my taste. I was tempted to post ‘Meditation in Mid October’ because it isn’t and it fitted the season, but thought that the subject, the approaching death of a friend, was just a little bleak.

It has been a challenge for me to read Barbara’s poetry - one that has taken me out of my comfort zone for a number of reasons, one of them being that her work - though not overtly religious, seems to rise organically from deeply held beliefs which are anathema to me. But being a Humanist has never stopped me loving the poetry of John Donne, or T.S. Eliot, or Gerard Manley Hopkins. Then I realised that, when it came to modern poetry, I was choosing the work of poets as I would friends - because we’d got lots in common and understood each other, and this isn’t always a good thing. Being among strangers with different opinions is challenging and very stimulating.

So, last year I set myself the task of reading a new poet every month, and I’ve become aware that there are hundreds and hundreds of poets out there in the world - many of them really good poets - whose work is completely unknown to me. In England we read poetry in a little bubble - mainly British or Irish - some European in translation - some international ‘greats’ like Pablo Neruda or Les Murray - but we rarely interact with the ordinary, everyday poetry of other countries.

Most contemporary Australian, New Zealand, Canadian or American poets are unread here. That, I think, is one of the best things about the Tuesday Poem blog - it can provide a link between islands of culture and showcase poetry that comes from very different directions.

Kathleen Jones is this week's Tuesday Poem editor. She lives in England's Lake District but divides her time between the UK, NZ and Italy. She has published ten books including six biographies and a collection of poetry. Her latest biography, ˜Katherine Mansfield: The Storyteller' was published by Penguin NZ in August. Kathleen is currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. She blogs here

For more Tuesday Poems, click on the Tuesday Poets in the sidebar. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Time of the Giants by Anne Kennedy


Moss picked her way
over the mosaic of strange things away from his bed and
buttoned herself out the door
while he was in the bathroom without saying goodbye.
Why? Because
goodbye seemed like an apple i.e. needing a lot of
She walked along the street feeling new-born, stretched
to let in light.
The bark on the trees was rougher in the palms of her hands.
She carried
his weight in her backpack, his words as loose change
in her purse
his essence in a thermos for comfort and emergencies.
She noticed
she could see sideways. Cars approaching. The ghost
that she always knew
lived in the passage. I knew it. As a child rasping to bed
she'd open her eyes
as wide as possible to let in all the possible light
and the ghost in
but the moment she felt it passing (not dying, passing
as ghosts do)
she'd blink and the ghost would be gone. The others
(the living, Mum, Dad etc)
in the light of the living room as if etched on a jug
would call out
See? It was nothing, there is no ghost and look back
at the TV.
Now Moss is wide open and the ghost
is physical
you can reach out and touch it like this table this chair.

While she was out
a furniture truck came and moved her into his body.
In her room you can see
the marks on the wall where the furniture stood for so many
years. Years.

I first started reading Anne Kennedy's poetry while researching long narrative poems in New Zealand poetry. “Read Kennedy,” other writers told me so I went to the library and took out The Time of The Giants (2005), Kennedy's second collection of poetry. The Giants is a long narrative poem set over 114 pages and eighteen sections or chapters. Each chapter is itself split into sections and the resulting structure resembles of the fractal growth of a fern frond: the long form is a stem from which branches of poems grow.

The poem follows Moss, a young woman giant, who is trying to hide her substantial size from her lover Paul, a normal sized man. The poem/section above is part of chapter nine and occurs just after Moss and Paul have spent their first night together. Of the book Kennedy has written, “[it] reconfigures myth in a contemporary setting. As the descendent of Irish immigrants to Aotearoa/New Zealand, I am interested in where and how diasporas find us today.” The poem does feel like a modern day myth that is lyrical, funny, and quietly satirical of modern etiquette. It also does an excellent job of balancing the imagery and tone of a myth with a contemporary setting and voice. According to the NZ Book Council, Kennedy was once a piano teacher and a music librarian which explains her attention to sound and the alternating long / short line form that repeats its rhythm and ties the poem together. Another extract from the poem can be found here.

As well as poetry Anne Kennedy also writes fiction, autobiography and screenplays, and is the co-editor for the online journal Trout. She has collected a fair few awards such as the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Short Story Award, the ICI Award and Kennedy was also the Literary Fellow at the University of Auckland. She lives in Honolulu and is an Assistant Professor at the University of Hawai'i.

This week's Tuesday Poem editor is Sarah Jane Barnett, a writer and reviewer living in Wellington. Sarah is currently working on a creative PhD at Massey University that looks at the way the human/nonhuman relationship is portrayed in contemporary poetry. You can check out her blog at http://theredroom.org.

For more Tuesday Poems from the rest of the Tuesday Poem community browse our live blog roll in the sidebar – if the header says ‘Tuesday poem’ you know there’s a poem in there somewhere!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Compasses: A Triptych by Nancy Mattson


Blake drew Newton naked, every muscle
tense, seated on a rock, hunched over
the paper world unscrolling at his feet,
inscribing limits with his compasses
like God in Milton’s paradise.


Rodchenko photographs his wife,
Stepanova, working at her table,
a pair of compasses in one hand,
thumb and forefinger twirling the pivot,
eyes intent on the interlocking spheres
of her textile design. The universe
is new from skin to sky. Hand-rolled,
a cigarette rests on her bottom lip.
The ash drops, she smiles and blows it away.
Seed fluff, time flake, off to the past.

This is no lady painter of aquarelles,
she’s a maid’s daughter, Varvara Stepanova,
calls herself ‘Varst’ and she can do anything:
boil pitch or potatoes, build sets for plays,
shoot billiards, dance tangos, make zaum
poems in syllables, grunts and blobs of paint.

Varst is sewing canvas overalls,
her fingertips tough as thimbles. Bites the needle,
spits a smoke ring through its eye, pulls
a thread into a V, cuts and knots it.

Varst sneers at fine art,
slaps the heads off chrysanthemums,
uses her brain like a weapon, wages war
on the object, publishes manifestos, critiques
all ‘isms’ and the artists who deliver them,
writes in her journal with a steel nib,
nails their quirks and egos.

Rodchenko snaps the circle in groups, pairs
and singles, but his wife is his favourite
subject. Never object. She gazes away
from the lens as she points a blade,
arm-length, at six of her collages.

Her self-portrait mocks the easel: forehead
a cross-hatch in blue paint, mouth a scowl
of black X’s. She caricatures herself,
her husband too, as clowns
with elbows and pantaloons.


Never since John Donne has it been so true
as it is with this pair who stride
with equal steps into the Revolution:
If they be two, they are two so
as stiff twin compasses are two.

© Nancy Mattson

First published in Artemis (United Kingdom). Republished on the Tuesday Poem Hub with the permission of the poet.

About the Poem:

"Compasses" is inspired by photographs of Stepanova by her husband, Rodchenko, as well as by her own art and excerpts from her journal – all in Amazons of the Avant-Garde, eds. Bowlt & Drutt, London, Royal Academy of Arts, 1999. I was transfixed by the early 20th century Russian women artists in that exhibition and have nearly completed a book about them and their milieu. To my great surprise, my Finnish great-aunt who emigrated to Soviet Karelia in the 1930s, and was lost in 1939, has now popped up in the poems, insisting that her voice be heard. —Nancy Mattson

About Nancy Mattson:
Nancy Mattson is an ex-patriate Canadian poet, now resident in London. I met Nancy Mattson in 2008, when she and her husband, Mike Bartholomew-Biggs, also a poet, were resident in Christchurch for several months and appeared as guest poets as part of the Canterbury Poets' Collective annual Autumn Season of Poetry Readings at Madras Cafe Bookshop.

At that time, Nancy was already working on her forthcoming collection, working title Finns and Amazons, of which Compasses: A Triptych forms part—and was particularly struck by both the poem's emotional power and also by the strength of the historical narrative, translated into the personal portrait of Varst, Vavara Stepanova, and Rodchenko.

Nancy began writing poetry in 1977 after completing her MA in English Literature at the University of Alberta. Her poetry, non-fiction and reviews have been published in Canada, the US, the UK, Ireland and Finland in magazines, anthologies, the odd scholarly journal, a printed encyclopaedia and a couple of parish newsletters.

In 1982 she edited and co-authored a history book which provided the inspiration for her first collection, Maria Breaks Her Silence (Regina: Coteau, 1989), based on the life of a 19th century Finnish woman who emigrated to Canada. This was shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award for best first book of poetry in Canada. Adapted for the stage as Lye Soap and Dancing Cows, it was also broadcast on CBC Radio.

Her second full collection is Writing with Mercury (Hexham: Flambard, 2006), with cover art by Elaine Kowalsky. Nancy is also one of five poets featured in the anthology, Take Five 06, edited by John Lucas (Nottingham: Shoestring, 2006). The poems in these two volumes are set in contemporary England, Canada, Finland and Italy and use memory, myth, history and family stories to create a rich linguistic and cultural texture.

Nancy is pleased to be one of 20 writers selected by Dr. Beth L. Virtanen to appear in Finnish North American Literature in English: A Concise Anthology (Edwin Mellen Press, 2009) and her work has appeared in many other anthologies.


This week's Tuesday Poem editor Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer and lover of story from Christchurch New Zealand. Her first novel, Thornspell, is published by Knopf, USA and her second The Heir of Night is just out with HarperCollins, USA, and Little, Brown in AU/NZ. Helen has also had both poetry and short fiction published, broadcast and anthologized in New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

For More Tuesday Blog Poems from the rest of the Tuesday Poem community browse our live blog roll in the sidebar – if the header says ‘Tuesday poem’ you know there’s a poem in there somewhere!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Two Photographs by Geoffrey Lehmann

by Geoffrey Lehmann

My sister took two photographs I love,
Both indoor colour shots with yellow filter,
Of father tinkering with a radio
Glittering with tiny lights upon a table.
Wrapped in a hairy old brown dressing-gown
In heavy yellow light he sits and listens
To ancient earphones plugged into the set,
And in the next he has the earphones off,
And sits, a puzzled frown upon his forehead,
A man of seventy with kindly lines
Upon his weathered face, a youngster trying
To probe the age-old whistling of the ether,
The moans and crackles of the distant stars.
How young your face, old man, how young the hand
Of love that made the camera shutter click.

I came across this poem in the 1970s when I was teaching at Melbourne State College (it’s in the old Penguin ‘Australian Voices’ anthology, which is full of treasures). I’ve frequently returned to the poem over the years, always delighting in the way it captures and develops its imagery with such emotional precision and immediacy. And this year I contacted Geoffrey Lehmann to ask for permission to use it on the Tuesday Poem blog. He wrote back saying this:-
“I'm glad you like ‘Two Photographs’. You mention coming across it in the 1970s, which means you came across the correct version. When I prepared a "Collected Poems" (1997) I rewrote a lot of poems, usually improving them considerably, so much so that my editor whom I had asked to compare the old and new versions gave up comparing them. But I wrecked ‘Two Photographs’ by leaving out the last two lines. Sometimes one can get too precious and afraid of frank emotion and this was such an occasion.”
And a day later, when I was still thinking about what he’d said, and rather shocked at the idea of publishing the poem without its utterly necessary last two lines, Geoffrey Lehmann wrote to me again.
“I’ve just taken another look at the revised 1997 version and the opening is better than the 1970’s version which overdoes the use of the word “love” which should have been saved up to the end. I've now combined both versions, the opening of the 1997 version and the end of the 1970s version to get what I think is the right balance. If it is of any interest please feel free to use both of these emails. The photographs were slides as the later version states. My sister died 4 years ago and I have a collection of her slides of family members which were quite remarkable in their naturalness.  
The version with this email is therefore the definitive version and not likely to change.”

So here is the final, revised, definitive and author-approved version of the poem. He’s right, of course: I was unwilling at first to give up allegiance to the 1970 version, but this one does work better.

by Geoffrey Lehmann

My sister took two slides with yellow filter,
Of father tinkering with a radio
Glittering with tiny lights upon a table.
Wrapped in a hairy old brown dressing-gown
In heavy yellow light he sits and listens
To ancient earphones plugged into the set,
And in the next he has the earphones off,
And sits, a puzzled frown upon his forehead,
A man of seventy with kindly lines
Upon his weathered face, a youngster trying
To probe the age-old whistling of the ether,
The moans and crackles of the distant stars.
How young your face, old man, how young the hand
Of love that made the camera shutter click.

Geoffrey Lehman is currently completing a 1,100 page anthology for the University of New South Wales Press (‘Australian Poetry since 1788’) but when he’s finished that he’s going to look for the slides that inspired the poem. And if he finds them, he’s promised to send me digitised versions of them. I’ll let you know ...

This week’s Tuesday Poem editor is Belinda Hollyer, a New Zealand writer and anthologist living in London. She doesn’t write poetry – she thinks it’s far too difficult – but details of her other publications can be found on her website and blog (where her Tuesday Poems reside.)

For more Tuesday Poems from the rest of the Tuesday Poem community browse our live blog roll in the sidebar – if the header says ‘Tuesday poem’ you know there’s a poem in there somewhere!