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.