Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Physiotherapist's Piano - by Jenny Powell

The bones of his piano
have fallen out of a tune,
their shape stacked in loose
arrangements of body parts.

He has spaced the ivory keys
across the floor with spinal
precision as if each gap was
linked by the nerve of a note.

Felt hammers lean in towers
of hollow bones, air slipping
through every crevice, the air
breathing a scale of ascent.

The physiotherapist hums
with his hands, coaxes the hinges
and pins, copper strings, backposts
and pedals, bridges and board
into an upright frame,
a skeletal dream,
a silent machine.

The physiotherapist turns
the piano to face the moon
limping across the sky, stars weeping
behind a veil of cloud, scent of loss
shiver of dark, the mouth
of night calling, urgent
and angry.

The piano begins
to remember the tune.

Copyright Jenny Powell - 2011 
Reproduced for Tuesday Poem with permission from the poet. 

"Of course a physiotherapist would reconstruct an ailing piano just as he tends to the human body. As it finds itself, the piano remembers how to play the blues. . . " (Jenny Powell in an email conversation with Claire Beynon - 24 January 2010

Even if I didn't know she plays the French Horn, I think I'd find it difficult not to imagine Jenny Powell as a musician as well as a poet. Her poems do more than carry sound, suggest sound, express sound. They themselves sound. Her language and landscapes thunder and tinkle; they hum and blast and roar. Structurally and rhythmically, too, they seem to me like musical compositions. 

No sooner had I read The Physiotherapist's Piano than I felt compelled to read it again. And then again. For me, this has something to do with the poet's observations of what might initially seem to be a quite ordinary moment of maintenance and repair and yet has all the hush and intimacy of a vigil. The poet seems to me to be speaking as much of the relationship between a specific physiotherapist and his damaged piano/patient, as she is evoking that between universal healer/shaman and everywoman or man; our common, uncommon journey. 

I appreciate the way Jenny invites us into the space of the poem, calling on us not only to witness the repair process but somehow also to participate in it. There is darkness here; delicacy and weeping. The process is not simple, straightforward; not all light. 

Can one speak of a poem as 'patient'? I'm not sure - if not, may I at least suggest it has a quality of patience? 


Jenny Powell is a Dunedin poet and secondary school literacy coordinator. She has written four individual collections of poetry Sweet Banana Wax Peppers (HeadworX, 1998), Hats (HeadworX, 2000), Four French Horns (HeadworX, 2004) and Viet Nam - a poem journey (HeadworX, 2010). Helen Rickerby - one of our Tuesday Poets - introduced Jenny's latest collection on her blog Winged Ink a couple of months ago, shortly after the launch of Viet Nam - a poem journey

As an artist interested in collaborative work, Jenny Powell initiated the collection Double Jointed (Inkweed, 2003) with ten poets of her choice, and in 2004 published Locating the Madonna with North Island poet Anna Jackson (Seraph Press).

Jenny features on the CD and book New New Zealand Poets. She was a finalist in the 2008 and 2009 Great Britain Aesthetica Creative Works Competition, short-listed for the 2009 UK Plough Poetry Prize and was a runner up in the 2010 UK Myslexia Poetry CompetitionHer work can be found in a variety of international publications.


This week's editor is NZ artist & writer, Claire Beynon.  

Remember to click your way down the side bar for more Tuesday Poems.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Last Rescued Bird by T.Clear

Enough. Take your feathers
dead or alive and flutter into oblivion.
I'm done with the fractured wing,
the punctured lung, severed spine.
I will not weigh your soul
and account for all its cherished works.
Though your nest lies ruptured,
and broken at my feet, all my remedies
are used up, finished, expired.
Mud no more, dear downy love.
Burn the twigs, the riff-raff rags.
Let the cats loose.
Fetch the axe.
I'm cutting down the tree.

originally appeared in Crab Creek Review

My PhotoT. Clear is a Tuesday Poet of Irish descent who lives in Seattle, U.S. She has been publishing her award-winning work for more than thirty years. She is a founder of Floating Bridge Pressand works as a production and shipping manager for a Seattle-based glass artist. Her poetry, photography and stimulating posts can be found on her blog Premium T (in our sidebar). Links to her published work can be found there too.   

Tuesday Poem first discovered T. Clear - christened Therese, she's known as T - via TP co-curator Claire Beynon's blog. As happens in the blogosphere, these two very similar thinkers/writers had connected, and Claire approached T. to join us in posting poems every Tuesday.  We were delighted when she came on board. One of her first Tuesday Poems was Last Rescued Bird which blew me out of the water.

T. Clear's poetry is powerful and clear-eyed. It ranges from the warm, funny and quirky to the unsentimental and uncompromising. Its foundations are strong, playful language. Last Rescued Bird impresses me because it is subversive, using the imperative mood and uncompromising language to attempt to silence the myth of woman as the unquestioning nurturer.

Against the thrust of society, history and literature, where the 'womanly art of caring' is apotheosised, the woman in this poem - for woman it must be - puts herself first, and cries 'enough'.

It reminds me of Australian author Helen Garner's The Spare Room which unsettled many readers for its portrayal of a relationship where a woman cares for a dying friend in her home, but also says, eventually, 'enough'. Author Kirsty Gunn in her review of The Spare Room says it's 'an exposé of the huge distance and moral hypocrisy that exists (particularly, I think this book is saying) in female friendship.' I like this poem for similar reasons.

As with any good poem, I like it, too, for how it sounds in the mouth. The 'f' and 'u' and hard 'c' sounds echo between the lines to evoke the 'rupture', the 'fracture', the exhaustion, the strength of purpose. No accident that together they form a word that's felt but not said.

'Mud no more, my dear downy love,' is wonderful for the softer sounds of 'o' and 'm' and 'u' which, with the phrase 'dear downy love', evoke earlier more tender feelings. 'Burn the twigs, the riff-raff rags,' is tough again - spitting. This is a woman who is uncompromising in her decision. And the poem finishes with three powerful statements that gather momentum to the final violent act of sundering.

Do visit T. Clear's blog for more wonderful revelations. Last Rescued Bird is published with permission and can be found on T's blog here.

This week's editor is the co-curator of Tuesday Poem, Mary McCallum. An author and poet, who also teaches creative writing, reviews books and works as a bookseller, she lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Her blog is O Audacious Book. Check out her poem this week After Reading Auden, and the blogs by the other Tuesday Poets, in the sidebar.  

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Reading Janet Frame by Harvey McQueen. A Tribute.

Where the first pear slug hasn’t won,
the first frost has. Gaunt
the hawthorn’s lichened boughs
rise to cloudless skies and
for once no mower clamours loud.
Day? It’s a cracker. Just right
for worship, celebration, carousel
and the planting of jonquils.

Reading Janet’s poems…
the pocket mirror shows jaw
and bone under a Sunday stubble.
Next spring the bare hedge will bloom again;
but at present all too clear is its gaunt frame.

'Reading Janet Frame' is from Pingandy: New and Selected Poems, HeadworX, 1999

Harvey McQueen
13 September 1934 - 25 December 2010
Tribute by Tuesday Poem curator, Mary McCallum.
Tuesday Poet, Harvey McQueen died on Christmas Day aged 76. He was the oldest poet in this community of 30 poets from four countries we call Tuesday Poem. The posts on Harvey’s blog stoatspring, and the comments he made on other poets’ blogs, resonated with the wisdom, insight and honesty of a long life well lived, and were underpinned with a restless intelligence and curiosity that seemed to increase rather than diminish with age.

And Harvey’s blog posts weren’t your average ‘tossed off’ sort of posts – for he was a skilled writer. As one blog visitor, 'Dragonfly', said, s/he was drawn to Harvey's blog by his love of  language. The language was certainly as important as the message, and each post had structure and intent. As well as his seven volumes of poetry, Harvey edited as many anthologies, wrote books on educational issues, and published two memoirs including This Piece of Earth (Awa Press), based around his passion for gardening.

Harvey’s blog was a ‘live’ memoir – full of recollections and peregrinations, poems written by himself and others he admired, book reviews and political commentary. His posts were always thoughtful and wide-ranging. Stoatspring had a number of keen visitors on an almost daily basis, and most certainly on a Tuesday when it was time for a poem.

The poem posted here, with permission from Harvey's wife Anne, was written in the late 1960s and posted on stoatspring on October 18, 2010, He was quietly pleased because fellow writer Dame Fiona Kidman had declared it a favourite, and he explains how it sprung from reading Janet Frame's poetry collection The Pocket Mirror.

Harvey joined Tuesday Poem near the beginning of its life in April last year. He was uncertain at first, as he was relatively new to blogging, but quickly caught on, embracing the concept of a loose community of poets linked to at a common hub. Wheelchair-bound due to a muscular degenerative disease, Harvey found Tuesday became the day of the week when he would ‘socialise’ with poets around NZ, and in the US, UK and Australia. His blog followers grew exponentially.

In July, Harvey wrote Poet's (Wander)land : a post on the delights of the Tuesday Poem. He said, 'After the bluster, bombast and backbiting of much that is on the internet it was a relief to be in a gentler arena, a topsy-turvy world where blue may not be a favourite colour but can be a favourite word. Or a place where a fox is a wolf bearing a flower.'

I remember the palpable thrill Harvey had discovering a new poet or poem on the other side of the world or over the hill  (as he does here with US Tuesday Poet Melissa Shook), the astonishment when writers commented on a post of his seconds after it went up, and the particular delight he had one week when he managed to track down - via another blog reader - a poem Tuesday Poet Belinda Hollyer of the UK was seeking. She'd given him one line to go on: ‘I was nine at the time and a coward by fate’.

What continued to delight and surprise Harvey, was the ready communication and warmth of people a generation or a world apart linked by their shared interests via the internet. And he certainly added to that with his own generous posts and comments about poets and their work. I was always particularly pleased to have Harvey comment positively on a poem of mine.

Harvey’s posts also gave his own poems the context of his life and the passion he held for nature, with commentaries that were, at times, intensely moving. There will be Tuesday Poets who will remember Harvey’s post Patrick, the poem he wrote on the death of his stepson, or the last poem of his own he posted:

Despite memory -
'tiny, native narcissi
midst distant massif
verge & meadows' -
my cruel malady
spurs me to confess
increasingly, I
long for oblivion.

Harvey McQueen

I was also affected by Harvey’s posting of G.K. Chesterton's The Donkey -  because, like Harvey, my father had learnt it at school and quoted it often. The commentary is pure Harvey: ' Chesterton’s rollicking rhyme entered my literary midden. Also, obnoxious child I must have been, I pointed out that the animal could not be dumb if it had a sickening cry.'

And then there were the posts that rekindled my love of the work of Thomas Hardy, and opened up the poems of NZ nature poet Ursula Bethell. It was Bethell's poem Time Harvey chose when he was editor of the Tuesday Poem hub. He said of it, 'it still rings bells in my soul.'

Any post by Harvey was worth a visit, not just the poetry postings on a Tuesday. I loved the way the world still excited him, literature and the stuff of the mind pulled him in multiple directions, and that he always saw potential for change. His recent posts on Katherine Mansfield demonstrate this. After devouring the latest biography by Tuesday Poet Kathleen Jones – and posting on it, Harvey felt he had to re-read a small book by KM’s friend Ida Baker and post on that too.

And then he began to reread Mansfield's short stories.The last post he wrote himself, three days before he died, was on this topic. He said, 'This present slow read is an re-exploration of a tourist spot once enjoyed with enthusiasm and vigour.'

I liked seeing the number of Harvey’s blog readers increasing via Tuesday Poem, and especially enjoyed seeing the younger poets discover him. One of the highlights of Tuesday Poem so far for me was when three of us – Tim Jones, Saradha Koirala (one of our youngest poets) and myself - attended the launch of Harvey’s inspiring collection of 100 NZ poems: These I Have Loved. I must have met Harvey when I was an education reporter in another life, but this is the first time I remember meeting Harvey the poet.

He talked at the launch about his life as a teacher instilling a love of poetry, and how a bunch a rural kids couldn’t warm to Wordsworth but lit up when he read them Ruth Dallas’ Milking Before Dawn. That poem kicked off Harvey’s passion for teaching NZ poetry in schools, which in turn led to his work as an anthologist. Tuesday Poet Jeffrey Paparoa Holman pays tribute to Harvey's ground-breaking work in this sphere.

Harvey was born in the rural community of Little River in NZ's South Island and died in Wellington. He was supported until the end by his wife, Anne Else, a writer, reviewer and blogger. A secondary school teacher, Harvey went on to be a school inspector and an educational advisor to Education Minister and Prime Minister David Lange at a time of tremendous upheaval in schools. In 2002, he was made an officer of the NZ Order of Merit.

The following is written up more fully in my blog tribute to Harvey:

'The first book on my list of hammock reading over summer was This Piece of Earth.I started it on Boxing Day, without knowing Harvey had died on Christmas Day, and finished it three days later drunk on its lovely words.

It’s a book that begs you to take the time to reconnect physically with the planet: listen to the song of the tui, appreciate the chutzpah of the self-sown seedling, observe the wings of the housefly, delight in the brief scent of the violet, share a green herb soup. It is written in a way that slows you down, calms you, makes you think again...

A day after finishing the book, I heard Harvey had died. I was devastated. It seemed so incredibly strange to have my head full to brimming with his voice and his words, when he was no longer on this earth to say them. And yet, I guess… how it should be for a writer, how he’d want it to be.'

Tuesday Poem has been very lucky to have had Harvey McQueen as a member and we will miss him. Some of the tributes by Tuesday Poets are below.

Tuesday Poem hub
Helen Lowe
Saradha Koirala
Helen Rickerby
Harvey Molloy
Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
Andrew Bell
Mary McCallum
Claire Beynon

Anne Else has written the Last Post on Harvey's blog, and other tributes can be found on Bookman Beattie and his poetry publisher Mark Pirie's blogs.

Our condolences to Anne, his family and friends. A Memorial Service will be held at Old St Paul’s, Wellington, on January 28 at 11 am.  

Harvey: Rest in Peace.

E te rangatira, e te kaituhituhi, kua wheturangitia i te rangi, haere ki to atua, moe mai, moe mai, moe mai ra! Chief, writer, a star shining in the heavens, go to your god, sleep, rest, sleep!

This week's editor is Mary McCallum. Thanks to Anne Else for permission to run 'Reading Janet Frame' and to Jeffrey Paparoa Holman for the Maori phrase which he used in his tribute to Harvey.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuesday Poet: Harvey McQueen, 13 September 1934 - 25 December 2010

Te hinganga o te Totara haemata o te waotapunui a Tanea mighty tree has fallen in the forest of Tane.

One of our Tuesday Poets, Harvey McQueen, died early on Christmas Day and will be greatly missed by us all.

To read 'The Last Post' by Harvey's wife, Anne, please click here.

You will also see commemorative posts by Tuesday Poets on the blogs listed in the side bar (or use our search tool in the sidebar - enter: Harvey McQueen).

The Tuesday Poem Hub curator, Mary McCallum, will be posting a formal tribute for Harvey here next Tuesday January 11.

 Helen Lowe