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!


susan t. landry said...

thank you so much; another writer of whom i am (shamefully) ignorant; mythology, passion--i'm ordering her book!

Mary McCallum said...

Susan, the whole thing is so damn good. I love it. It is - or should be - a modern kiwi classic (there's a fantastic scene when they're watching the rugby on TV).

I especially love the stuff of a woman giant - how a big woman tries to pass herself of as a small woman (kneeling down in the library where she works pretending to put books on the bottom shelf so he doesn't see how big she is) which feels to me what woman do with themselves mentally and physically so often. How she bursts out of her skin despite herself. How hugely she loves...

I think you can buy the book on Amazon, if not, let me know and I will try and track you one down.

Thanks Sarah Jane for this and Anne for lending it to us.

susan t. landry said...

i found it, ordered it already--on amazon earlier today!
and mary--yes; exactly what you say, that compelling
theme of disproportion--it set me off on a whole tangent of thought; i'll blog about it soon.
all thanx to both of you & anne k.,

Sarah Jane Barnett said...

The underlying feminist theme was something that attracted me to the book as well. Even though the story is about giants it felt like it was about all women who have to make themselves disappear.

I am glad you have discovered a new poet, Susan!

Kay Cooke said...

Ashamed to admit I haven't read this book either - I am setting aside next year to catch up on my reading, so this one will go on my list for sure - a wonderful poem. Thanks Sarah.

Janis said...

I love this book - great choice!

Kathleen Jones said...

I found this really interesting - the narrative in the poem was compelling. I don't usually like long poems - often they can't sustain the quality, but this does. A fantastic poet.