Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cloud Silence by Graham Lindsay

There has always been

under this tree, looking up

the harbour valley
over rush-studded
paddocks glistening

after rain.
And I’m the first

                           you want to say
you saw the hills

                            it seemed like home
ladders of sunlight leaned
against clouds, then the clouds marched
seawards like ranks of ghost soldiers.
The point is

to stop writing. Stop
using language to protect
yourself from the full

implications of the world – the world says
Look at me, I dare you to
I dare you to see.
                            You tilt your head

back and look up
at the tree.
A ray peers

into the room
of your eye….


Why is our art so introverted?
It doesn’t mean a thing

to the seagull or sun
the clouds don’t understand
a word

their language is silence
and movement and colour.

Here on the face of it – there
behind a mask. This far
above ground

                          in 360o cinemas
as the present rolls

                                          Guest Editor: David Howard

Graham Lindsay 
Portrait by Keith Nicolson 
‘One of the themes is communication, so there's hope after all.’ – New Zealand poet Graham Lindsay, 27 June 2011

Poets don’t come from nowhere; sometimes they stay there. Whatever critics think, if they think, the best poets wear their origins like hand-me-down clothes, comfortably. Michele Leggott has Susan Howe. Graham Lindsay has George Oppen, who wrote in his notebook: ‘…meaning is the instant of meaning – and this means that we write to find what we believe.’ 

I read to find what (but also who) I believe. My admiring reservations about ‘Cloud silence’ hold me in a vital dialogue with it. I still argue with the predictable if precise ringing of the pastoral Angelus (‘looking up/ the harbour valley/ over rush-studded/ paddocks glistening/ after rain’) and with the stand-up personification of ‘the world [that] says Look at me, I dare you to/ I dare you to see.’ 
I’ve heard these lines out loud. They take a leap of faith off the page. The audience doubles up as Graham foregrounds the implications of what is, after all, a wilful world before enquiring: ‘Why is our art so introverted?’ 

published by AUP
I’m grateful that he is not afraid to move through the register of a preacher – one with that childlike amalgam of curiosity and humour we usually call wonder. I suspect writers are either faint-hearted or excessively ironic, and possibly both, if they believe that readers don’t want to be preached to. Readers demonstrably want to be preached to; they don’t only want to be preached to. 

In an interview with Jack Ross (February 1998), Graham acknowledges: ‘I have this sense of people, and things generally, being manifestations of an eternal upwelling – and of writing as well being a manifestation of it. And I feel that if you are able to be in a place where you can achieve this coincidence between your self and that place, you can almost have something spoken through you. I don’t mean that literally; I mean it figuratively.’ 

When I hear this latter-day Alberto Caiero then I feel that his close reading of the world out there animates the world in here by means of a descriptive language so particular (‘rush-studded’) it seems antipathetic to rhetoric yet audaciously rehabilitates it. Juxtaposed, his fragments of apprehension generate

Still glowing twenty years after it was started, The Subject is one of the most charged poetry collections to appear in New Zealand; it holds bright sparks like ‘Context of words’, ‘’Voyeurs’, ‘Wave to the Image’, ‘Picnic on a clifftop’, ‘Backwater’ and ‘Cloud silence’. This far.

More on Graham Lindsay here

Born in Christchurch (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 was subsequently collected in The Incomplete Poems (Cold Hub Press, 2011). His poetry has been translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Slovene and Spanish.

Tuesday Poem thanks David Howard for his contribution as guest editor. After you've read Cloud Silence, enter the right sidebar for more Tuesday Poems written and selected by poets from NZ, Australia, UK and US. Nau mai haere mai! Welcome!


Helen Lowe said...

Oh, yes! Superb.

Harvey Molloy said...

Many thanks for your detailed introduction. This is quite simply an astounding poem. I want to read more.

Claire Beynon said...

David, thank you for Graham's poem, (ah, his admirable 'room of your eye. . .)"

and this,

'. . . his close reading of the world out there animates the world in here by means of a descriptive language so particular (‘rush-studded’) it seems antipathetic to rhetoric yet audaciously rehabilitates it. Juxtaposed, his fragments of apprehension generate. . . "

Inimitable DH. Great to have you as this week's editor.

lillyanne said...

I think this is a truly great poem. Thanks for posting it.