Friday, July 30, 2010

The Tuesday Poem Blog Celebrates New Zealand's National Poetry Day

Friday 30 July is New Zealand's National Poetry Day and to celebrate both the day, New Zealanders writing poetry, and poetry in New Zealand, the Tuesday Poem blog is featuring a poem by each of the 3 finalists in the Poetry Category of the NZ Post Book Awards.

A brief bio of each of the three poets is presented below their featured poem. (Please note: the 3 finalists are listed in alphabetical order.)


Bernadette Hall: The Lustre Jug

The Lustre Jug

in praise of poetry

there is a question that the sky
asks daily of the sea, something about faith
and unfaith, maybe,
a shirring of the lovely surface,
the silver slip, the embossed artwork

name for me, love, the parts of the flower
and I will tell you how beautiful
the women were when they were young
how they shone in the presence
of God immanent stirring within them, stirring
within everything, how their eyes shone

and then there was always the question
of sex, the joy of it, and death and the poem,
how all three needed, how they still need nothing
more or less than abandonment,
the strewing of roses

name for me, love, the parts of the flower :
anther, aril, axil, bract, calyx, carpel, corolla,
glume, keel, ligule, ovary, pedicel, petal,
petiole, sepal, sinus, sheath, spikelet, sporangium,
stamen, stigma, stipule, tomentum, whorl

the wild geese call as they fly over the estuary,
long strings of them and paradise ducks
and two black swans, the one following the other,
creak creak the sound like a child’s swing

the arguments, the proofs twist down
but they don’t persuade, they never will,
unlike the axle creaking within the turning wheel

Note: This poem also insists on being a gift for Michele Leggott, NZ Poet Laureate 2008 -2009

(c) Bernadette Hall

Bernadette Hall is recognised as one of New Zealand's more distinctive poetic voices. She was the 1996 Burns Fellow at Otago University and an Artists in Antarctica Fellow in 2004. The author of nine poetry collections, her work has been published in a range of national and international anthologies. Hall was the 2006 Victoria University Writer in Residence and in 2007 held the Rathcoola Residency in Donoughmore, Ireland.


Michael Harlow: The Tram Conductor's Blue Cap

Bride with beautiful feet’

Under a sudden sunfall of bright
that strikes the dark in waiting,
we look to sing one pleasure or
another--trying to understand

the way we come to each other,
to let loose words in their looking,
whose language is telling what story,
ours; the right kind of adventure,

waiting for some goddess or other,
dear Sappho to arrive on a rill
of wind; to take your ease, to lean
back, to shout the world the right place

for love to come calling on the ‘wings
of pretty sparrows’. In all the right
places, the right touch to take with great
style the pleasures of your company

Water in one hand fire in the other,
we sing you to make the far, more
near, and the more love’s longing--
some die without it--but look: you

are as sunlight among flow√Čers, such
a ‘bride with pretty feet’, we make
the air be music with your name.

(c) Michael Harlow

Michael Harlow was born in the United States but arrived in New Zealand in 1968. In the 1980s, Harlow was an editor of the Caxton Press poetry series and poetry editor of Landfall. His poetry is distinctly European with a whimsical, questioning sensibility. His collaboration as librettist with the New Zealand composer Kit Powell is extensive. A practising Jungian psychotherapist, Harlow was awarded the 1986 Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship and was the 2009 Burns Fellow at the University of Otago.


Brian Turner: Just This

High Windows

If you want to compliment someone call him grounded.
If you want to do him a favour
pray that there’s more order than chaos, more love

than hatred and resentment in his life, that
transfiguration and redemption are acquaintances,
at least, and possibly friends. Let him be

wistful rather than woeful when looking out of high windows.
Allow him to prance, say he knew wonder and joy
and turned his back on the place called Last Resort.

Let him believe he told the truth, most of the time.

(c) Brian Turner

Brian Turner is a poet, essayist, biographer and editor and brings a fresh perspective to nature poetry, aiming to be at once personal but unsentimental in his approach. In 2009 Brian Turner received both the Lauris Edmond Award for Distinguished Contribution to Poetry and the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry in recognition of significant contribution to New Zealand literature. He has published numerous collections of poetry, as well as works of non-fiction.


In addition to our three featured poets, Tuesday Poem Blog poets are also posting a poem with "New Zealand" as a theme, or—for poets not from NZ—a poem on the joys of poetry and the making of poems. Please do check them out and enjoy Naional Poetry Day with us!


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

'Sab' (excerpt) by Maria McMillan

The last run

Up the hill behind our house.
He’d hardly been talking,
too polite and quiet,
like he had to conserve energy,
take short shallow breaths –
like he was old.

Then he woke me one morning
threw my running shoes on to the bed,
stood shining
in the doorway,
dressed already
brother again.

He was faster.
In the wind ahead of me
his white t-shirt billowed
round like a lantern.
The street lights flicked off
as we passed them.
The sound of our shoes
like a song.

I could almost smell jasmine.
I could almost smell snow.

He reached the top,
where you could see clear over the other side,
and turned to me smiling

Meggie, run faster, I was heaving,
heavy as a horse. Quick, he said
as if it were a gift he was giving me –
quick, before the city disappears.


Loss is a white bound package
so tightly wound, there can be no
leaks, nothing seeping through,
like the Egyptians, only no writing,
no pictures, no gold paint.
Loss is what slips into the sea,
like a silky silver fish sent home.

There were three that day,
only one of them mine.
Each time there was no resistance.
Each time the water closed over at once
like a wound’s uncanny healing.

On land there would have been ropes
at least, a gradual lowering,
the throwing of earth.
A stone to mark the spot.

The Adamant

The sea is a bilious field,
the wind a horse.
We lurch on.


I heard Maria McMillan read part of her 'Sab' series when she was a guest reader at the Palmerston North City Library Stand Up Poetry series in 2008. The piece was breathtaking live and the audience were visibly moved, particularly by the 'Ann' poem.

I find it hard to imagine the pain of not only losing a child, but then being forced to bury it at sea, to let the body go in the middle of the ocean with no hope of returning to the spot where they were lost. 'The Adamant' is the name of the ship the family is emigrating on. I love the way Maria's poems skip around in time examining the lives of multiple generations of one family – the threads that join them and the unique pressures of the different times they live in. Her work presents a facet of New Zealand history in an original, visceral way.

Maria says about the poem:

“This excerpt is from Sab, a series of persona poems spanning many generations of a fictional Pakeha family. I'm interested in how people explain huge things to themselves in not many words - like leaving your home country and never seeing your family again, or war, or the spirit-stripping recession of the 1980s. I wonder if grief that's never dealt with is passed on like eye-colour or strange shaped thumbs.”

Maria McMillan lives, writes and works from, the fish's mouth – Wellington. She has poems published in The Listener, and the Lumiere Reader and was long-listed for the Bridport International Poetry Prize. Maria also has two splendid daughters who teach her every day about keeping language crisp, flexible and to the point.

'Sab' (excerpt) is published by Tuesday Poem with permission. This week's editor Helen Lehndorf is a widely-published New Zealand writer and writing teacher. She shares a blog with poet Helen Heath at Please visit the other Tuesday Poets using our blog list.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Shape of Words (desert love poem) by Odawni AJ Palmer

I found you
folded in the armpit of a megadune
you were crying
and the winds of the Taklamakan Desert
whipped up sand -
it clung to your face.

I had been stepping through sand
on all fours
in search of a lake.
After two days,
I was trying not to believe
it to be fabled.

I had been left by my Bactrian mate,
not long ago,
for a Uighur man with dusty black hair
and green eyes of jade.

To bide time,
I had been pushing a poem,
endlessly trying to find words that hung together
but nonsensical strings of adjectives
tumbled out in the heat.

I tried to find verse
in the sun and the sand,
I looked for inspiration
in the stars and the wind,
in my breath;
in my fantastic illusory oasis,

no words came ::

but more sand, and more sun,
more wind and more stars, and my breath,
and more sand,
and more sand,

and then you.


(Written July 12th to 15th, 2010, while traveling along the Silk Road in Xingiang Province, China.)


I first encountered this poem just last week, sent from a friend who thought I would like it. As I'd been hemming and hawing about which poem/poet to post here, the arrival of this poem in my email was a serendipitous moment. I emailed my friend and asked her who the author was, and could I get permission to publish it. She responded that Odawni was in China and was due back in Seattle the following day. Luckily, we were able to make contact, but only after Odawni recovered a bit from jet lag. I received permission from Odawni and a bio late Sunday afternoon, and was able to post it in time for those of you on the other side of the planet to (hopefully) enjoy it with your morning coffee/tea. I am delighted to say that this is her first official publication.


Odawni AJ Palmer has been writing for most of her life - jotting down verse and words in notebooks, on napkins, airplane sick bags, and anywhere ink will sink. She is working on a compilation of poems and writings from the past 15 years entitled Senescence. She enjoys and garners inspiration from travel, people watching, photography, and from indulgence of the silent moments.

You can read more of her writing and view her photography at her blog:


T. Clear, this week's Tuesday Poem editor, is an award-winning Seattle poet who has been publishing her work for more than thirty years. She is a founder of Floating Bridge Press, and works as a production and shipping manager for a Seattle-based glass artist. Her poetry, photography and creative non-fiction can be found at her blog, Premium T.
Please take some time to visit the other Tuesday poets listed on the sidebar!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Auntie talking to her niece by Joan Fleming

When I was young, I used to steal through the suburbs in the middle of the night where we lived, and smash the light bulbs and garden gnomes from people’s front porches. I thought the people had foolish decorations in places where they never looked. I don’t feel like that anymore. Let’s put zinnias in the places where the people don’t look. Something pretty and specific, something that will only live so long. What else can I tell you? Five-eighths is the same as ten-sixteenths. Salt water is good for your teeth, and if you’re wholehearted about it, you can ask the sea to be your dentist. Some people live in buses that never go anywhere, and that’s okay too, as long as something’s growing. No, blue’s not my favourite colour, but it might be my favourite word.

Joan Fleming lives and writes in Golden Bay, New Zealand. A clutch of prose-poems entitled Two Dreams in which Things Are Taken has just [yesterday] been launched as part of the DUETS chapbook series, which pairs one New Zealand and one American poet. Joan is paired with Emily Toder from Northampton Massachusetts whose collection is called I Hear a Boat

You can read more of Joan's work online at Best New Zealand Poems 2008, Turbine and Snorkel

Published on Tuesday Poem with permission from the author. 
Joan says of the prose poem: “I like prose poems. They’re small and deceptive, like something between a dense vignette and an image with side dishes. The ones I’ve been writing are like little fictions — a bit surreal, mostly human, and totally driven by language.”

This week's editor is Mariana Isara a Christchurch writer currently working on her first collection of poems ‘Delusions of Grandeur’. 

Please take the time to enjoy the other Tuesday Poems by clicking on the links in the sidebar.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

In The Desert by Stephen Crane

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter – bitter", he answered,
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."

Stephen Crane (1871-1900) was an American poet, novelist, short story writer and journalist. His life was short, but eventful, and his output prolific. I have it on good authority (ie the internet) that he is regarded as one of the most innovative writers of his generation and that he won international acclaim for his American Civil War novel 'The Red Badge of Courage'.

I came across this poem in 'The Oxford Book of Short Poems' (Oxford University Press, 1985). It was originally published in 'The Black Riders and Other Lines' in 1895 by Copeland and Day. This was his second published book of poetry with a first print run of 500 copies - and a few issued in vellum. Crane apparently referred to them as "lines" rather than poems and they were printed entirely in small capitals.

I like the striking image of the "creature" in this poem, and the repetition of "it" sounds.

Janis Freegard is the editor of this week's Tuesday Poem. She is co-author of AUP New Poets 3 (Auckland University Press, 2008) and lives in Wellington, New Zealand. You can visit other Tuesday Poets from our blog list to the right.