Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas with Dylan Thomas!

Wherever you are and whatever you believe, Christmas has become a kind of universal festival for sharing with friends, giving gifts and remembering those who aren't quite so fortunate.

In the Middle East, our Muslim neighbours celebrated with us (and we celebrated Eidd with them), and this year we're invited to share the day with Israeli friends in Italy (it's Hannukkah at the moment).  There are also Scandinavian and Dutch communities in Pietrasanta and they celebrate different things on different days and, back home in northern England, the Solstice festival will be in full swing because the 21st is the day when the sun begins its long journey back towards summer.

So it was very important to me to find a piece of poetry both gloriously festive and also inclusive.  Much rummaging about in books and Google!  Then, suddenly, it became clear. One of  my great childhood memories is listening to Dylan Thomas's 'A Child's Christmas in Wales'.  As an adult I loved reading it to my own children, and I thought that it would be nice to share it with you all.   Poetry as story-telling, language as music, rooted in the old Welsh oral tradition.

                                                                    Editor: Kathleen Jones

If the video doesn't work, please follow this link.

Whatever your beliefs, and whatever you're doing this week, we in the Tuesday Poem community wish you peace, health, wealth, creativity and happiness - oh!  and the very best of luck -  for the coming year.
Thank you to our regular readers and supporters and those who just stop by.

For more Tuesday Poems, please click on the sidebar.

Edited this week by UK author and poet Kathleen Jones who also lives in Italy.  You can find her Tuesday Poem at www.kathleenjonesauthor.blogspot.com and one of her poems is featured on Helen Lowe's blog this week. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Life by Lyn Hejinian

You spill the sugar when you lift the spoon. My father had filled an old apothecary jar with what he called "sea glass," bits of old bottles rounded and textured by the sea, so abundant on beaches. There is no solitude. It buries itself in veracity. It is as if one splashed in the water lost by one's tears. My mother had climbed into the garbage can in order to stamp down the accumulated trash, but the can was knocked off balance, and when she fell she broke her arm. She could only give a little shrug. The family had little money but plenty of food. At the circus only the elephants were greater than anything I could have imagined. The egg of Columbus, landscape and grammar. She wanted one where the playground was dirt, with grass, shaded by a tree, from which would hang a rubber tire as a swing, and when she found it she sent me. These creatures are compound and nothing they do should surprise us. I don't mind, or I won't mind, where the verb "to care" might multiply. The pilot of the little airplane had forgotten to notify the airport of his approach, so that when the lights of the plane in the night were first spotted, the air raid sirens went off, and the entire city on that coast went dark. He was taking a drink of water and the light was growing dim. My mother stood at the window watching the only lights that were visible, circling over the darkened city in search of the hidden airport. Unhappily, time seems more normative than place. Whether breathing or holding the breath, it was the same thing, driving through the tunnel from one sun to the next under a hot brown hill. She sunned the baby for sixty seconds, leaving him naked except for a blue cotton sunbonnet. At night, to close off the windows from view of the street, my grandmother pulled down the window shades, never loosening the curtains, a gauze starched too stiff to hang properly down. I sat on the windowsill singing sunny lunny teena, ding-dang-dong. Out there is an aging magician who needs a tray of ice in order to turn his bristling breath into steam. He broke the radio silence. Why would anyone find astrology interesting when it is possible to learn about astronomy. What one passes in the Plymouth. It is the wind slamming the doors. All that is nearly incommunicable to my friends. Velocity and throat verisimilitude. Were we seeing a pattern or merely an appearance of small white sailboats on the bay, floating at such a distance from the hill that they appeared to be making no progress. And for once to a country that did not speak another language. To follow the progress of ideas, or that particular line of reasoning, so full of surprises and unexpected correlations, was somehow to take a vacation. Still, you had to wonder where they had gone, since you could speak of reappearance. A blue room is always dark. Everything on the boardwalk was shooting toward the sky. It was not specific to any year, but very early.

                                         Editor: Bernadette Keating

The first time I had the pleasure of hearing Lyn Hejinian was her lecture ‘The quest for knowledge in the western poem,' (free under the Naropa University Archive Project and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poets) which introduced me to her particularness about language.

The copy I have of Hejinian's My Life esteems both its wide readership by 'hundreds of colleges and university courses around the world', as well as status: a 'great work of contemporary literature.' Some are obviously convinced as to its merit, and searching the work's title reveals pleas from confused students who fail to discern its worth.

Yet, the more I read of My Life, the more I'm convinced it is a praiseworthy attempt at documenting the vagaries of memory, thought and nostalgia, which necessitates experimentation and a commitment to language. Hejinian talks about being 'in place', and the self awareness such a statement relies on. As an autobiography, the reader is allowed into much of Hejinian's personal life through these frank phrases, however one really only ends up with a small sense of her way of thinking, less tangible events, people or places.

Originally thirty-eight stanzas of thirty-eight lines—Hejinian’s age in 1980—the updated work is forty-five stanzas of forty-five lines. What I sense from this work is that perhaps to characterize a life by its beginning, middle and end, is to restrain the multiple possibilities of thought and action that occur every second and our ability to reference both past and future without reference to structure or according to entertainment value.

With that in mind, this poem as an autobiography works in a way that I could not have expected until reading it and seeking to understand the poet's purpose.

This week's Tuesday Poem editor, Bernadette Keating, has just completed a postgraduate diploma in art history at Victoria University. She also writes poetry and occasionally blogs about writing and art. Bernadette lives in Wellington, New Zealand.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"The Artist Knows—" by Helen Bascand

how Leda must sit: how she will pick
feathers from her breast: how
the frame of an hour waits for more –
a soft whistle, chill of shadow, dark kite –
he comes.

Sky wraps itself in the wing-span of storm-
brilliance. And the cold whirr of myth turns her hot.
Smell of grass and mute desire, trap her under
rough wings, grasping for the soft down of his belly.
Even a Sun turns aside.

The artist knows the hard ground they lie on: how
a god wraps lust in beautiful places, how trees bend,
flowers lend fragrance. And how she will fool herself,
whisper phrases for him – he will peck
the words from her throat.
Who can deny a god?

Leda un-twines his neck, her legs, his wings. He sleeps
as she holds him, and she clutches crushed
tenderness in a raw cleft, beneath an arched sky –
She’s a woman –
a sackcloth of afterwards – hanging her
crumpled garments like plucked purple skins, broken
eggshells already spilling.
At the river,
his shadow dips, the bony keel
of disguise shrinks, the bastard wing becomes
a god’s hand, raised to bless the empty
hollow where he took her. Feathers
take a last spiral flight –

and he is gone.
Lust remains.


Leda lies
back in the marital bed
under the soiled covers – a haze
of white rain falling, sinking
into soft easy ground.

                                      Editor: Joanna Preston

Helen Bascand is a Christchurch poet, and stalwart of the Canterbury haiku scene. Her first collection, Windows on the Morning Side, was published by Sudden Valley Press in 2001. Her second, Into the Vanishing Point, was published by Steele Roberts in 2007.

Plenty of poets have written about Leda and the swan, with varying levels of success and/or misogyny (surely I’m not the only one who wants to slap Yeats for the “feathered glory” line?). What I love about Helen’s poem is that we see Leda as Leda, not just victim, or vessel, or mother-to-be (of Helen, Clytemnestra, Castor and Pollux). She is a woman and a wife, and someone with thoughts and desires of her very own.

I love the way this poem opens up the question of what Leda did afterwards, how she went back to her husband, literally as well as metaphorically. (Just imagine the conversation – ‘so, my love, what did you do today while I was out Kinging?’) And I love the ambiguity of the first two lines in the last stanza, and the way that last line could be simple factual description, or a hint of how and why the wife of a king might take a little walk on the wild side …

“The Artist Knows—” is published on Tuesday Poem with Helen’s permission.

Joanna Preston is a poet, editor and freelance creative writing tutor from New Zealand. Her first collection, The Summer King, won both the 2009 Kathleen Grattan Award and the 2010 Mary Gilmore Award. Visit her Tuesday Poem at A Dark Feathered Art and the other Tuesday Poets using our blog list.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Polonius: Old Poet by Harry Ricketts

everything seems disconnected

mottled hands mischievous eyes
rough frosted hair and disobedient brown shoes
cheeks with the blush of mulled wine
your soft-vowelled Scottish blur

you shuffle frailly inside your suit
the blood must move so slowly now
your mind still moving in worlds not realised
you shared the air that Eliot breathed

you know we all tell stories
in coffee-rooms and corridors
ironically envious of your eccentricity
how once you said:
‘Which way was I going?
Ah, thank you, that way
– then I have had lunch.’
but Polonius
you are so far out
you’re on your own
way back

though it’s true you stalk dead minotaurs
in labyrinths where we lack the clue
and Hamlet is dead, Polonius,
and Ophelia too
and maybe you’ll never write
all those poems you promised to
you did once live in Elsinore
and for that
                  we envy you

                                        Editor: Keith Westwater

Harry Ricketts teaches English Literature and creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington. He has published eight collections of poems; his next, Just Then, will appear from Victoria University Press in March.

‘Polonius: Old Poet’ appeared in Nothing To Declare (HeadworX, 1998). I like the picture it paints of an aged poet, George Fraser, who in turn has likened himself to Hamlet’s Polonius. I also like the layered references to Hamlet and the respectful tone of the poem.

The poem is the first of a suite entitled Three Poems for George Fraser. Harry prefaced the poems with the following note:

‘GS Fraser, the Scottish poet and critic died in 1980. In one of his last poems ‘Older’, he cast himself as a kind of latter-day Polonius figure. ‘Polonius: Old Poet’ (written while George was still alive) was intended as a reply to ‘Older’. The other two poems were written shortly after his death.’

Harry’s poem is posted on Tuesday Poem with his permission.

Keith Westwater is a poet from Welington, New Zealand, whose debut prize-winning collection Tongues of Ash was recently published by Brisbane-based Interactive Publications. Visit Keith Westwater's Writing and the other Tuesday Poets in our sidebar.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

pidgin peace meal by Iain Britton

the man

in feathers

shuts his eyes          squats

amongst jacaranda fallout

drinks cold tea /

forgets to speak up /        as if his beginning

had its faults in a syllabic nod

in the screwed-up mechanism of a missing tomorrow


he spills daylight

steps on bones

washes his feet / my feet

blackens my shoes / whitens my face

for the photographer
at the gate


I tick all the right boxes

check names              tickets      

the red and blue ribbons
the winners of categories

I cross out others          with heads tucked into chests

convinced every fast-food supper is their last /  every scrap of blue sky/
field of lupins /    every girl washed by the sea /       


the man

paints a tree

a hot pool of mud

a gap where  molecules breed

he pushes me into blurred possibilities

where cargo-cult customers line up

to dismember old myths

flying nuns grab at wasted prayers

the city


on the edge of a steaming oven

I read a book

see for myself how characters are hung out to dry

and how they live

the heat
is in the language
in the breathing fragments


my favourite pastime

is watching my neighbour

through a hole in the fence

dance       birdlike

into a thanksgiving heap

he offers cold tea

to whoever he thinks is thirsty

whoever’s hungry

he speaks to a snapshot

a face in a face

he’s cracked and marred

by three score years

of  sucking

on the smell

of an oily rag

he lives in a drought-stricken room

shifts occasionally

a collage of grafted hybrids

sends out mixed signals

of what branch

what fruit

what tugs the belly

why wait for this flawed human product

to track amongst last year’s residue

I bypass today’s callers

meeting outside

staring in

                                                       Editor: Orchid Tierney
Born and educated in Palmerston North, and now teaching in Auckland, Iain Britton is a prolific poet of work with (what I consider) a philosophical-real world engagement. His debut collection, Hauled Head First Into A Leviathan, was published by the esteemed Cinnamon Press in 2008, followed by Liquefaction (Interactive Publications, 2009), Cravings (Oystercatcher Press, 2009) and Punctuated Experimental (Kilmog Press, 2010).

Iain's work is published with permission.

Orchid Tierney is a New Zealand poet who runs Rem Magazine: a NZ Journal of Experimental Writing, and was involved with the Mapping Me anthology of women's writing, although her primary focus at the moment is trying to secure a placement in an MA programme. Visit her at www.orchidtierney.com

Please check out the sidebar for other offerings from our Tuesday Poets.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fortified by David Vincent Smith

There's a stone wall around this heart.
A moat, a marsh, various misleading traps.
The finest model of modern man
I've become. If you wish to touch me

you'll need the skills to siege a castle,

use the backs of alligators as a bridge
to cross the moat. If you want my love
you'll need to navigate past towers. Do this
and perhaps

I'll let you know my name.

There's a drawbridge to this soul, shut and bolted.
I even check the locks twice a day.

My father gave me a shovel at twelve,
and I've been burying my emotions ever since.
So if you leap over the holes, fill them as fast
as they're made, maybe you and I
could hold hands.

I am man, mute of all emotion.

I'd like to think I've done rather well.

I am emotionless, hoping this stone wall won't erode in this forum of openness. I take the truth and start choking it, coping with the slope that leads to a lone abyss. I'd rather have my throat slit than phone home and be open with my folks and shit. I'm speaking the truth. Every man will start quoting it, and every woman will nod her head because they've all grown with it. These broken lips are a growing cyst reflecting the neglected cancer, constantly provoking it. And you'd best believe that I know that it's

the WHOLE damn reason THIS fucking MOAT EXISTS.
The modern man wears his suit like a protective shield
assassinating emotions 'til he forgets to feel.
And yes, [raise fist] this is a weapon I wield.

Men use it to stop
any relationship from getting real.
If those who know me could actually get to know me
I'd deal with the blows dealt then left to fade slowly.

There's a drawbridge to this soul, shut and bolted.
I even check the locks twice a day.

I am man, mute of all emotion.
I'd like to think I've done rather well.

                 Guest Editor: Janet Jackson

David Vincent Smith, or DVS, is a performance poet, emcee, screenwriter and film director from Perth. David's performance of this poem won him the 2010 WA championship of the Australian Poetry Slam. You can watch a rough video of David's performance here.

David's poem is used with permission. Note stanza 9 'I am emotionless...' is supposed to be one long line, but we're not wide enough for that, so five lines it is. 

Tuesday Poem thanks Australian poet Janet Jackson for being our guest editor this week and bringing a performance poet along with her! Janet says she writes poems, songs and prose, performs poetry and music, teaches poetry and creative writing, coordinates Perth Poetry Club, parents and sometimes sleeps. Her publications include 'Coracle' (2009), ‘q finger’ (PressPress 2011), her website Proximity and poems in Fremantle Press's forthcoming eleven-poet volume 'Performance Poets'. Janet was the editor of David Barnes's collection 'Prayers Waiting for God' (Mulla Mulla Press 2011).  

After you've enjoyed David's poem here at the TP hub - visit the sidebar where up to 30 poets from NZ, Australian, the UK and US post poems by themselves or other poets they admire. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bookcase Full Of Closed Books Wants To Sing by Joan Fleming

The books are all commuters pressed together on a crowded five o’clock train. Every commuter has a bird, trying to beat its wings, inside their chest. No one talks. No one talks about the furled flock of story harboured by the hard spine, the clamouring dusk chorus, suppressed inside the travelling body. Which hardbacks will open up, tonight? Releasing a piteousness of song, a murmuration, an exaltation, a flight.

                                                  Editor: Helen Heath

This poem is from Joan's debut book of poetry, The Same As Yes, which will be launched on November 17. The whole collection is a series of conversations, beautiful and strange. Everyday things take on their own life, if only we can stop and notice them. I love these mysterious and strange little gems.

Joan Fleming won the Biggs Poetry Prize in 2007, and her work has appeared in Landfall, the Listener, Sport, Turbine and The Best of Best New Zealand Poems. She and US poet Emily Toder paired up to produce a chapbook which featured on Tuesday Poem last year. She lives and works between Wellington and Golden Bay.

Joan says:
The poem came about because I have a beautiful, huge, hardback OED thesaurus, and while I hardly ever use it for it's proper purpose (that is, finding better words than the ones I usually choose), I love to read the middle section of the thesaurus which has all kinds of lists: lists of every different sort of hat, lists of the names of diseases, lists of dances, lists of crimes, lists of architectural terms. 
One of the lists is a list of the collective nouns for birds. So, that list, combined with an impulse to imagine the stacked books in a bookshelf as something else entirely, is how this poem was born.

Poem published with permission.

Helen Heath is the editor of this week's Tuesday Poem. Helen's book of poetry, Graft, will be published in May 2012 by VUP. You can read more at her website helenheath.com . Sadly, Helen is leaving Tuesday Poem to go on sabbatical for a little while. She's been an enthusiastic Tuesday Poet since we began in April 2010 - posting all sorts of marvellous poets and poems -- and with Claire Beynon's image, she created our Quill logo. Helen is also so reassuring with her advice on blogging.  We'll miss you, Helen, come back soon. 

Have a look to your right at the sidebar to see all the other wonderful Tuesday Poems this week.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Country Life by David Howard


If things tarnish allegory
if the picture puzzle becomes
commodity, a fruitful but useless
woman marking her birthday
obsessively on friends’ calendars, then

what? You want to object to objects;
a shy child, retire hurt to the countryside
as if it was tabula rasa. The dark –
that’s centuries of varnish.
Get your knife ready.


You think the root is silent
but it grumbles: holding the bank,
that’s harder than dancing
like the leaf – even when frost is expected
and that leaf wants to trade places, to

drop the non-sense of God’s love
which warms beyond knowledge. The leaf
falls silent before the root’s warning:
Yours is the light but mine is the glory…
Cold, the farmer starts his chainsaw.


The wasp that knocks on your windowpane
represented conscience for a younger man –
now it demonstrates partial knowledge,
the limits of will. It is also a wasp
being a wasp.

The wasp never expected to be born
either. When you open
the window it does not come
in, redoubling its efforts to crack
the mystery of what’s clear.


Everything gets burnt: picture perfect
landscape and the figure that moves
across, from left to right
if you’re watching – but you’re not
because you, too, burn

like the shy child who tries to hide,
the wasp that wants to come
through the glass clarified by a kiln
when you were little
and things appeared to be… symbols.


Love isn’t so much an angel as the stump
where a wing used to be. Come middle age
it’s a curiosity, abandoned
like the tractor in a fallow field,
where there were tracks… forget-me-nots.

What confuses you is the clarity of loss.
So many abstracts as you
twist your ankle in a rut, swearing
there is a God. Why are your shoulders
sore? You thought the root was silent.


If allegory tarnishes things
if a puzzle’s the right picture, then
it’s child’s play. Why try to name it?
A name is neither transparent nor opaque –
it clears up nothing.

Nothing is what most of us live on.
Nothing is what most of us live for.
Yours is the glory but mine is the light…
Leaf to root. Such lovely
serrations! This glossy finish.

                                                                      Editor: Catherine Fitchett

Born in Christchurch in 1959, David Howard co-founded Takahe magazine (1989) and the Canterbury Poets Collective (1990). He spent his professional life as a pyrotechnics supervisor whose clients included the All Blacks, Janet Jackson and Metallica. In 2003 he retired to Purakanui in order to write.

David was the inaugural recipient of the New Zealand Society of Authors Mid-Career Writer's Award (2009) for a body of poetry that has been translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Slovene and Spanish. In September 2011 he was joint winner of the poetry section of the international literary competition to mark the launching of the USP Press by the University of the South Pacific.

David comments that "For me the making of poetry is inherently private, while the poem itself is inherently public."

Country Life appears in David's new collection the incomplete poems, published by Cold Hub Press, which will be launched in Christchurch on Wednesday November 2nd at 5.30 pm at the CPIT Students Association Hall, 5 Madras St. More of his poems here. 

This week's Tuesday Poem editor, Catherine Fitchett,  lives in Christchurch NZ.  She wrote poems in high school but studied chemistry at university which led to several careers as a forensic scientist/toxicologist, and work in accounting. She returned to writing in 1999 and is the member of a poetry group, The Poetry Chooks, which has published The Chook Book, and Flap, The Chook Book 2. Vist her blog Still Standing on her Head.

When you've got to grips with Country Life, there are more poems waiting in the sidebar where up to 30 Tuesday Poets post poems by themselves or other poets they admire. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Birthday Poem by Kendrick Smithyman

rather small goat was kneedeep in a paddock.
The paddock entirely was fescue/rye/and clover green.
Also, bushes were there, which are good
for nibbling. Also, for hiding behind.

This small goat was white, like nothing but promise.
She didn't always come when they called her
home, she had her reasons. Families
are like that. Sometimes she came - not announced
through a fence or over a fence - just to see
what was going on. She was, after all, family.

So, I make her, this little ivory would-be nanny,
stand out in a falling dark, twitching her ears,
pricking her lively scut,
at sounds of party
and whether or no she is
at the table she's with them otherwise,
wishing most birthday wishes and that
all manner of things (as surely they will) go well.

This poem is found within the highly recommended pages of Kendrick Smithyman's Selected Poems, published in 1989 by Auckland University Press. It is reprinted here with the kind permission of the copyright holder, Margaret Edgcumbe.

Editor: Elizabeth Welsh.

I first encountered New Zealand poet Kendrick Smithyman's writing five years ago when I enrolled in a 'New Zealand poetry' paper, taught by Peter Simpson, during my Masters at Auckland University. I had no clue who Kendrick Smithyman was, or what his poetry was like, but I did that thing that students often do (and which, incidentally, has driven me crazy since, teaching at University myself) - I liked the sound of it and so committed six months of my year and my degree to learning about him.

It feels rather foolish now to admit such a 'stumbling upon' an author, but I often find, particularly with poets, that this haphazard way is often the best. I found a poet that I loved, such is the way. I spent weeks in the special collections part of the Auckland University library looking over Smithyman's visions and revisions of his work (constant editor and tinker, that he was), intrigued by his dedication and constant belief in Paul Valery's dictum, 'A poem is never finished; it is only abandoned'.

As you can imagine, it took me some time to decide which poem to post this week as the lucky Editor of the Tuesday Poem hub. I was sorely tempted to post 'Communicating' or 'Walk Past Those Houses on a Sunday Morning' - both iconic pieces of New Zealand verse - but instead I opted for a slightly less well known, but, to me, infinitely endearing poem about birthdays and a goat. I must admit, I had a slightly selfish aim in mind, given that this lucky Tuesday is my birthday.

Please click on this link provided and visit the incredible online resource of Kendrick Smithyman's works - Smithyman Online. It boasts the Collected Works 1943-1995, edited and with notes from Margaret Edgcumbe and Peter Simpson, as well as a chronology, reviews, etc. It is a veritable treasure trove!

Elizabeth Welsh the editor of this week's Tuesday Poem. Elizabeth is an academic editor, Katherine Mansfield scholar and poet. For more information about her, please visit her blog.

For more Tuesday Poems, please check out the other blogs in the sidebar where Tuesday Poets post poems by others they admire or poems by themselves. Either way, it's a treasure trove.                      

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Force of Things by Majella Cullinane

 I have tapped the arch of the scapula
     where the skin dips
to the breastbone.

Your breaths
     are the quivering feathers
     of birds
rustling eucalyptus, macrocarpa, pine.

It’s a question of listening:

the guttural call of your dreams
     a kind of offering
I nestle in the cup of my hands.

     I snatch the ghost of things
     you cannot see.

It is this that frightens you.

     The wind holds its blade
against the night’s throat,
but like you, it too will soon forget –

the taste of my lips
     buoyed in a gully of dreams.

"The Force of Things" first appeared in Takake 71, ed. Siobhan Harvey, and was published in Majella Cullinane's collection Guarding the Flame (Salmon Publishing 2011). It is reproduced here by permission of the author.

                                                             Editor: Tim Jones

Majella Cullinane is an Irish poet who has recently emigrated to New Zealand. I heard her read her poetry at September's New Zealand Poetry Society meeting in Wellington, enjoyed hearing her poems very much, bought her debut collection Guarding the Flame, and am very pleased I did.

There are a lot of fine poems in this book, and I had a hard time deciding which of them to ask Majella for permission to publish as a Tuesday Poem, but I kept coming back to "The Force of Things". I like the way it takes the images of the natural world that recur through the collection and makes them both intimate and ominous. Restlessness without and restlessness within...

The poems in Guarding the Flame cover the poet's old life in Ireland, her new life in New Zealand, and the transition between the two. It's well worth reading if you like Irish poetry or New Zealand poetry - or if you just like poetry.

Guarding the Flame is available from the publisherbookdepository.co.ukimpress.co.uk and fishpond.co.nz. The Salmon Publishing page for Guarding the Flame includes Majella's bio and two sample poems.

Tim Jones is the editor of this week's Tuesday Poem. Tim is a poet, author and editor who lives in Wellington, New Zealand, and won the NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010. He is about to embark on a book tour with Keith Westwater, to launch Tim's new collection Men Briefly Explained and Keith's debut collection Tongues of Ash. This week, one of Tim's poems from Men Briefly Explained is Mary McCallum's Tuesday Poem, and next week Tuesday Poet Helen Lowe will post one on her blog. 

Do check out the other Tuesday Poets in the sidebar.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

128 Abel Smith Street, by Vivienne Plumb

the high wind has stirred thousands of dust particles that have become a mist
hanging over the city in the early morning light that is a fragile pale blue similar to
that of transparent bone china teacups/ the police have raided 128 looking for
terrorist firearms and balaclavas/ 128 opposed the notorious traffic bypass they fix
bicycles and grow vegetables and rent out their front room for community and
political functions/ i was invited there once to read poetry and to listen to a musical
concert/ like the old days of the salon/ and my friend Jackie Williams told me she was
born in 128 when it was a nursing home/ many years ago/ and now Jackie has gone
to the big salon in the sky/ the dust particles refuse to settle all morning they dance
above the harbour making it look as if there are fires out at sea/ the police raid is in
the news and has even reached the newspapers in Bangkok in London and in
Istanbul/ a city council street cleaner wearing a fluoro orange waistcoat tidies up
debris that came down onto Abel Smith Street in the high wind/ probably a security
intelligence officer

from The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and Other New Zealand Icons (Seraph Press, 2011)

Editor Janis Freegard

With a New Zealand mother and an Australian father, award-winning writer Vivienne Plumb has one foot on either side of the ditch. She's one of literature's all-rounders. As well as six previous collections of poetry, she has written plays, short fiction and a novel. Her recent play The Cape, which has been performed throughout New Zealand, has been translated into Polish and published in Warsaw.

I was delighted to hear that Helen Rickerby's Seraph Press is publishing Vivienne Plumb's brand new collection (The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and Other New Zealand Icons). I'm a big fan of Vivienne's work, particularly her prose poems, and this collection is all prose poems. Vivienne celebrates and satirises such New Zealand icons as ferry crossings, sly grogging, crockpots, whitebait, weather, gambling, tramping, motels and (of course!) cheese and onion sandwiches.

The poem I've chosen (and it was difficult to choose from so many that stood out) is a great mix of the lyrical ("the dust particles refuse to settle all morning they dance above the harbour making it look as if there are fires out at sea"), the satirical ("probably a security intelligence officer") and the political. New Zealand is still dealing with the aftermath of its so-called "anti-terror raids", with several people still awaiting trial and a new "search and surveillance" bill recently introduced into parliament.

I was also drawn to this poem because I have a personal connection to the house at 128 Abel Smith St - a friend used to live there years ago, before it became an anarchist/community house. It's a lovely old place and I'm pleased to see it's still being used and appreciated.

Janis Freegard is this week's TP editor. Based in Wellington, New Zealand, her poetry is widely published including at the Tuesday Poem hub and the US-based Anomalous Press. Her collection Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus (Auckland University Press) was released earlier this year.
For more Tuesday Poems, please follow the links in the side-bar to the right.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Curtains by Aileen Kelly

i could be Mother
Christmas i could slide easing
down your chimney be your pleasant
present dropping on your hearth gift-
wrapped to your order in my sad sack and
ashes and You'd only think You'd
barely got your own back

i could crouch in my box You'd
scratch at my windows and i'd close
the curtains i'd phone out for life
and You'd come as
the van-man plumbers gasman police
ambulance all badges and your fists
and if the door didn't
open You'd be sure
i still wasn't small enough

Well I could ride a new broom
through the night streets
mash a toad in your mailbox
put a pox on your willy
take a hard fingernail and carve
on your door Mind
your own
and cutting me down
and boxing me in
and cutting me up
would still be your business

from Aileen Kelly, The Passion Paintings, Poems 1983 - 2006, John Leonard Press, 2006.

                                                            Editor: Catherine Bateson 

Aileen Kelly was born in England and graduated from Cambridge. She has lived in Melbourne since 1962 where she has worked as an adult educator. Her first collection, Coming Up for Light, 1994, won the Mary Gilmore Award for best Australian first book of poetry and was shortlisted for both the Anne Elder and Victorian Premier's awards.

I've posted about Aileen Kelly's work and my personal and professional friendship with Aileen before on my own blog, so I won't repeat what I wrote there.  I do want to say that I believe Aileen Kelly to be an excellent poet whose work has sadly been under-valued in Australia. I have some theories about this, but I'm more interested in hearing what people think of this poem.

What I love: the rhythms of the poem which create the dialogue between the speaker and the silent 'You', the ambiguity of the 'You' to whom the poem is addressed, the pungent vernacular and the tension this creates with the poem's content. There's nothing predictable about this poem. Over to you - what do you think?

This week's editor Catherine Bateson is a poet and children's writer who lives in the hills outside Melbourne. You can find more information about her on her webpage.

For more Tuesday Poems, please follow the links in the side-bar to the right of this page.

Crossed Cultures by Renee Liang x Dylan Horrocks + Allan Xia

Due to sickness in our ranks (and a server issue), there was no official Tuesday Poem this week - at first - so I posted a link to something in our sidebar: a dynamic, thought-provoking, 'webcomic' of a poem by one of our Tuesday Poets - Renee Liang - blended with the work of comic artist Dylan Horrocks. The remix is by Allan Xia, and it won the literature award in the just-announced mix and mash competition.

This week's editor Catherine Bateson managed to post 'Curtains' after all but you may as well check out 'Crossed Cultures' anyway, it's rather good. 

HERE it is. 

Curator: Mary McCallum

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Miner's Cook by Meliors Simms

Flying in, the sea is dark and demanding.
Our island appears like a jewel and grows
green until we circle to land, 
then I see the red sore gouged at its centre
and my bile rises as the plane drops.
On the ground I am lost in the chaos
of unloading in a sudden dark that hides everything
beyond our beams. I’m looking for the bread,
fresh bread brought to last this first week
but by the time I’ve found it the loaves are gnawed to stale crusts
and I’m in despair with a hungry crew to feed.
I must push my fear and sorrow
out into the dark and be grateful when our neighbours,
the whalers, come over the hill with roast meat.
I stumble asleep among crates of food
and dream of home but when I wake up I’m still here
and a relentless dawn calls me to breakfast for thirty. 
For days of sorting supplies and learning a new kitchen,
fuelling men between their shifts,
all I ever see is the grassy slope sheltering our camp,
a wink of water behind us and a sky full of strange stars.
Finally there is time for a walk, up the hill
I see again the bleeding gash I am feeding,
and vomit into the grass.

Meliors Simms

No Mine is an Island - Meliors Simms 
Blanket-stitched, needle-felted recycled wool blankets 2011

                                                               Editor: Claire Beynon

Meliors Simms (NZ) is a woman of diverse talents; a 'radical crafter'*, environmental custodian, creator of exquisite hand-made and altered books, poet and fine artist of high integrity. 

I first encountered Meliors's books and meticulous needle-felted artworks about two years ago when a friend, knowing my passion for Antarctica, directed to me to Meliors's blog, Bibliophilia; I was awed and delighted by the familiar yet entirely 'other' world I encountered there. Crocheted coral reefs, embossed paper fossils, blanket-stitched oceans contaminated by woollen droplets of rust-coloured oil; a finely-contoured relief of a pristine Ross Island. . . I felt an immediate resonance with Meliors's work and with the ethos underpinning it.

In her artist's statement for You are an agent of change, Meliors explains her process in the following words - "The slow, accretive nature of my artistic practice is an analogy for both the natural world and human society. . . These ‘domestic arts’ also signify apparently unrelated individual human choices regarding food, housing, transport and energy; and their cumulative environmental impact. . ."

I chose Meliors's poem Miner's Cook for this week's Tuesday Poem for the way it exemplifies so much of what I understand her creative process to be about - namely, a call to re-establish the right relationship with our earth; a plea to wake up to the many covert and overt ways in which we cause our planet harm; in this poem and the accompanying artwork, No Mine is an Island, Meliors quite literally stitches into relief our blind disregard and wilful mismanagement of our natural resources. 

Miner's Cook - an image that might or might not have appeared to her in a dream - is a no-holds-barred poem of protest, lament and advocacy. This is work that is at once subtle and provocative, lyrical and confrontational. It serves as archive of our times.

"Look across the surface and down a mine that bleeds toxic tailings into the sea. Look within, beyond the obvious, behind the scenes. There is a complicated story underlying every thing we buy and all that we reject. The consequences of our consumption extend far, and sustain long, beyond our individual use. We cannot fence off ourselves from each other, or from the air, the earth, the waters of our world. Whether careless or deliberate in our choices, whether in denial or awareness, we do not stand alone. Let there be no mistaking: each imperfect stitch of cotton thread was made by hand, every layer slowly needle-felted from recycled blankets and un-spun wool. My materials are plants and animals but my finger tips became calloused from hundreds of hours pushing needles of steel, tempered from iron, mined from an earth left as scarred as my skin. . . " Meliors Simms

*Fellow blogger and Tuesday Poet Tim Jones posted an in-depth interview with Meliors in August. 

Claire Beynon is this week's TP editor. An artist, writer and novice filmmaker, Claire's blog - www.icelines.blogspot.com - is about to turn three; her first entry was written in October 2008 en-route to a field camp in Antarctica. 

For more Tuesday Poems, please follow the links in the side-bar to the right of this page.


Tuesday Poem now has 100 followers!
The 100th person to join our TP community is Salaq
 We will be sending Salaq a package of poetry books in celebration. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rives controls the internet by Rives

                                                       Editor: Sarah Jane Barnett

Apparently the words woot, sexting and textspeak have been added to the latest edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary. Personally, I try to slip woot into casual conversation. It is up there with squeegee in terms of pleasurable language. It's commendable (essential!) that the Concise OED keeps up with new words, because that's the great thing about language, it changes as we do. I am sure that someone said reading old English is a form of linguistic archeology.

For my turn editing the Tuesday Poem hub I wanted to feature a poet who makes everyday, or even ugly, language beautiful. Why? My high school photography teacher once said to me that it was easy to make a beautiful image of a beautiful object, but hard to make a beautiful image of an ugly object. That conversation stuck with me, and it's been my creative philosophy ever since. This is why I've posted a poem by Rives.

So, who is this Rives guy? John G., to be precise, is an American performance poet and children's author. He is a whizz at pop-up books, has been the US National Poetry Slam champ, and holds a patent for paper engineering. I first discovered him through TED where he performed the poem, "Rives controls the internet." He also appeared at the Auckland Readers and Writers Festival this year, so some of you might have seen him.

You can find out more about Rives on his website: http://shopliftwindchimes.com/

Sarah Jane Barnett is this week's Tuesday Poem editor and a regular contributor to the Tuesday Poem community. She is a writer and reviewer who lives in Wellington, New Zealand. At the moment Sarah is halfway through a PhD in Creative writing, with a focus on ecopoetics.

Once you have enjoyed "Rives controls the internet", take some time to enjoy the other poems posted this week by members of the Tuesday Poem community. You will find them all listed in the right-hand sidebar.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Four New York Poems by Deborah Garrison

I saw you walking through Newark Penn Station
in your shoes of white ash....
                                               [extract from 'I Saw You Walking', Deborah Garrison]
Editor Mary McCallum

In recognition of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 this week, I am posting a 2008 film of New Jersey poet Deborah Garrison reading four poems related to the attacks, from her second collection The Second Child (Random House, USA, 2007; Bloodaxe Books, 2008).

The first poem in the film is 'Goodbye, New York' - a pretty enough if familiar sort of ditty about a beloved city, but if you're in a hurry skip to 'I Saw You Walking' at the 1'30 mark on the timer - a poem written from the appalling events of 9/11, followed by 'September Poem', written a year later, after the birth of a child. Lastly, 'Into the Lincoln Tunnel' describes how a daily commute is still shadowed by thoughts of what happened in New York in 2001.

Garrison's poetry is new to me and on first listening, it feels wildly uneven, one minute using language squarely anchored in the ordinary and domestic and such frank and unexpected juxtapositions that they can feel like collisions, and the next moment falling back on tired abstractions and trite rhymes. But somehow, of all the 9/11 poetry I've trawled through to find something to post here, her poetry seems to me among the more interesting for its unevenness, for its frankness and willingness to speak up, for its reminders that humanity is something hauled from blood and guts. She makes me think of a woman in a Greek legend wailing from the wall after the invaders have left.

'I Saw You Walking' can be read here with the other poems that appeared in the New Yorker in the months following the attacks, including Polish poet Adam Zagajewski's 'Try to praise the mutilated world' which appeared on September 24, 2001, and while not about 9/11, expressed for many Americans what had happened to them, and is discussed further here: 'Can Poetry Save the World? Zagajewski, Auden: the poets of 9/11'. W H Auden's poem - 1 September, 1939 - was also 'an affirming flame' for the Americans in 2001, along with Poet Laureate Billy Collins' commissioned poem The Names. Garrison's I Saw You Walking was published in the New Yorker on October 22, 2001.

Deborah Garrison worked on the editorial staff of The New Yorker for 15 years, and is now the poetry editor at Alfred A. Knopf and a senior editor at Pantheon. Her poetry has been both criticised and praised as being hip and accessible - her first collection The Working Girl sold an astonishing 30,000 copies -- and then, as the New York Times said, "just as she was being lauded as one of those hip young postfeminist urban women portrayed in “Ally McBeal” and “Sex and the City,” Ms. Garrison gave birth to her first child and moved to New Jersey. For several years, she did not write a poem." Then along came her collection The Second Child.

The publisher blurb says of it: "Her recent poems explore many facets of motherhood - ambivalence, trepidation and joy - coming to terms with the seismic shift in her outlook and in the world around her. She confronts her post-9/11 fears as she commutes daily from New Jersey into New York City, continuing to seek passion in her marriage and wrestling with her feelings about faith and the mysterious gift of happiness."

More on Deborah Garrison here. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed this reading in New York on 11 September 2008.

Once you're heard what Deborah Garrison has to say, enter the world of the sidebar and find up to 30 Tuesday Poets from the US, the UK, Australia and NZ with poems they've written or by others they like, all posted on a Tuesday.

Mary McCallum is curator of the Tuesday Poem, assisted in this by Claire Beynon. She is an author and poet, freelance writer, teacher and bookseller who lives in Wellington, NZ. She also likes to blog at O Audacious Book. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Where thought goes by Helen Lehndorf

'Now, lift the heart' my yoga teacher always says.

I envision my heart levitating outside my body,
at eye level. Its heavy pulsing, a slight squelch
as I cup my hands under it, and guide it upwards,
trying not to recoil from the very meat of it, the
shudder of it as the aorta gapes air like a tiny mouth.

My yoga teacher tells us to imagine we have strings
attached to the tops of our heads. 'Imagine I am pulling
your string', she says. I imagine I am a flabby puppet
and she is trying to get a taut line so she can make me
jump and dance. She mimics string-pulling and I yank myself taller.

My yoga teacher says 'You are a baby, you are a flower,
you are stirring a giant pot.' I am a woman in a yoga studio
trying to remember I have a body. She says
'Where thought goes, energy flows'.
She is dying of cancer. Where does that leave us?
Maybe we will donate her to science.

Science will play her body like an instrument, strumming her veins,
blowing air between dermis and muscle. They will lift her heart,
gently, with surgical tools which look like two giant spoons.
But look at that, she is not dead yet. She is right here, in triangle
pose. My thoughts go west, go wayward. My thoughts are cul-de-
sacs. Dead ends. I am a sick baby, a cut flower. I am not safe
around a visual metaphor.

Editor: Emma McCleary

I met Helen Lehndorf on the internet. She was on Flickr, I liked her photos, she liked my blog, I liked her blog – it was all very 2008. Ignoring the first rule of meeting people from the internet (aka potential serial killers) in real life, I happily trotted around to Helen’s back yard where we ate chocolate cupcakes on a rug in the sun. We’ve been firm friends ever since.

Therefore, when it came to my Tuesday Poem editorship I knew I wanted a poem by Helen. I’m not very objective – I think everything she writes is fantastic and it thrills me no end that she’ll soon have her own book of poems. The Comforter is being published by Seraph Press later this year.

I asked Helen to send me three poems to choose from and this was my standout favourite. I always have a weakness for death references and I love the language and the imagery. For me this poem is strong, cheeky and relatable (and that last line sounds like a bad wine review).

I’m not a poet – I get to do this because I’m the Web Editor at Booksellers NZ and happen to like poetry, so we contribute to the Tuesday Poem every week. I’m really keen to hear what others – readers and poets - think too.

When you've read Helen's poem, try the other Tuesday Poems which pop up every week in the sidebar, including the Booksellers' Tuesday Poem.

This week's editor, Emma McCleary, is not only Web Editor at Booksellers New Zealand, she also blogs about her life in Featherston, runs her craft empire Emma Makes and is a printmaker.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Song by Peter Bland

The old Chinese lady
who lives next door
lays out her washing
on a red-tiled roof
as if she were back
in her childhood home.

She sings to herself
a song with long pauses,
a song passed on
full of comings and goings
like the sea on
a calm day when
it drifts in exhausted.

It's a song with no real
end or beginning. One
we still hear
even in the pauses
as she stoops
to water her money-tree
or reaches heavenwards
to collect her washing.


                                                   Editor Jeffrey Paparoa Holman

Yorkshire Godwit
Peter Bland at the launch of Coming Ashore  August 2011

We don’t have many godwits homing to New Zealand from Yorkshire, except for Peter Bland, a bird of poetic passage and many migrations between here and there since his first long journey south on an immigrant ship in 1954, bearing his precious copy of T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock.

Peter Bland has been fattening himself on these feeding grounds ever since, and enriching us with eleven collections of poetry on the way, as well as co-founding Downstage Theatre and acting in local film. Now 77 years old and a widower mourning his lost love, Beryl, he is back amongst us, living in Auckland and our most recent recipient of the NZ$60,000 Prime Minister’s Award for Poetry.

He deserves it, richly: and to celebrate, we have his latest collection, Coming Ashore, launched last week in Wellington by Steele Roberts. I was asked to speak to the book on the night: a rich collection of elegy and history, and sharply-observed images of the inner and outer life of the poet through his bicultural world views.

This poem, “Song”, is one of my favourites, of many choice pieces here: the viewing persona observes a next door neighbour, a Chinese woman, quite elderly it seems, singing as she hangs out her washing. In 21 carefully crafted and understated lines, Peter Bland brings her to life: the song, the strange quality of otherness and the keening for home its sounds evoke, “full of comings and goings/like the sea on/a calm day when/it drifts in exhausted”.

She sings as she waters her money tree, she sings as she looks up to heaven hanging the washing: here is an immigrant captured in print, somewhere between life and death: “It's a song with no real/end or beginning. One/we still hear/even in the pauses/as she stoops/to water her money-tree/or reaches heavenwards/to collect her washing.”

There is no moral, nor strain: simply the pellucid poise of the best of the ancient Chinese poets he so admires, the emotional ache that we can feel in the final lines of Ezra Pound’s “The River Merchant’s Wife”: “If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,/Please let me know beforehand,/ And I will come out to meet you /As far as Cho-fu-Sa.”

Bland is at one with his subject here because he has stood on similar ground: the immigrant, the man of two worlds with two sets of voices in his head, those from a childhood home, and those from New Zealand streets. This is why he can give her back to us with such simplicity and depth – but only a life of dedication to his craft can help us a little way in explaining the power of his art.

This poem is published with the permission of Steele Roberts and you can find Coming Ashore here. When you've absorbed "Song", take yourself into the right hand sidebar and discover up to 30 poems from the Tuesday Poets linked to this blog.

This week's editor Jeffrey Paparoa Holman is currently on leave from Tuesday Poem while he is writer in residence at Hamilton University in NZ's central North Island. Our thanks to him for his post on Peter Bland. Jeffrey is a poet and academic who normally resides in Christchurch and blogs here. His last post was an earthquake poem.