Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"All my life" by Sarah Broom

So we sat, and the waves
crashed in like gifts, or insults,
and the children played,
digging trenches to defend
against the sea, and then a head
bobbed up and down
in the waves, a bit too far out,
and an arm waved, and again,
and a friend walked the beach,
waving the head in, and we sat
and said to each other
do you know that Stevie Smith
poem, not waving but drowning –
yes, and why is it still so hard to tell,
and then we stood and watched
as the inscrutable head bobbed up
and down and the arm still waved
and the children still dug, bodies
roughcast with sunscreen and sand,
and we thought about getting the
lifeguards, but surely the friend
should know, and we thought
about how there should be a sign,
you know, two punches in the air,
or something like that, yes,
then a surfer came and paddled
him in on his board, and the friend
helped him walk, and yes he was
drowning, not waving, now we know,
and isn’t it hard to tell?

© Sarah Broom, 2010

From: Tigers at Awhitu by Sarah Broom, Auckland University Press, 2010
Reproduced on The Tuesday Poem Hub with permission.
Every year or so I encounter a few "standout" poetry collections, and Tigers at Awhitu was one of my personal favourites of 2010—because of the subtlety and keen-ness of the poetic observation, and the beauty and delight of the language employed, for example in lines like:

"So we sat, and the waves
crashed in like gifts, or insults..."

I found the collection both powerful and moving; it is also one that has "stayed with me" since that first reading.

Emma Neale described the poems as "sophisticated and intelligent … full of bittersweet, piercingly true contradictions" and I feel her words encapsulate today's poem, "All my life". The power of the poem creeps up on you, as the reader, because it is deceptive, disguised in the almost inconsequential conversation of the "we" on the beach, observing the "head//that bobbed up and down//in the waves, a bit too far out." The same "we" that continues to stand and watch and discuss until it becomes clear that the swimmer is in difficulty—and together, we are brought to the final realization:

"…and yes he was
drowning, not waving, now we know,
and isn’t it hard to tell?"

The "voice" remains conversational, but the ending on that final question works at several levels. There is the simple, surface understanding that "we" could have stood watching and speculating until the swimmer drowned.

But I feel the poem also picks up on that uncertainty we feel, an unease even, when something may be a-miss, but because we are unsure we hesitate to take action, to step into what may be deep water. "But surely," we tell ourselves, exactly like the "we" at the heart of the poem, "the friend should know." Someone better fitted than ourselves should know, should act…

Yet I also feel there is another layer again to this poem, one hinted at by the title, "All my life." It points to the poem as an extended metaphor for life itself, in which we are all both the head bobbing up and down in the waves, and the watchers on the shore; always caught up in that duality of drowning and waving, in which often "we know" too late—and isn't it always so hard to tell?

Sarah Broom’s first poetry collection, Tigers at Awhitu, was published by Auckland University Press (AUP) in 2010, and simultaneously by Carcanet Press in the UK.  She has also written Contemporary British and Irish Poetry: An Introduction, which was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2006. Her second collection, Gleam, will be published by AUP in July next year.  She lives in Auckland with her husband and three children.

To hear Sarah read from and discuss Tigers at Awhitu, click on the following Scottish Poetry Library podcast interview: Sarah Broom

This week's editor, Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer, and a 2012 Ursula Bethell Writer-in-Residence at the University of Canterbury. She emerged onto the NZ poetry scene in 2003 as an inaugural Robbie Burns Award winner and has since had over fifty poems published and anthologized, both in NZ and overseas. The Gathering of the Lost, the second novel in her The Wall of Night series, was published internationally in April, and she recently won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012 for the first-in-series, The Heir of Night. Helen posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog and is a regular Tuesday Poem contributor. You can also follow her on Twitter: @helenl0we

Enjoy more wonderful poems from our Tuesday Poem contributors by navigating the left side bar.

A message from co-curators Mary McCallum and Claire Beynon: Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year to everyone who contributes to Tuesday Poem and everyone who supports and comes to visit,  especially our regulars. We are grateful to you all for helping keep this wonderful poetry community vigorous, challenging and satisfying. What treats we've had this year - poems from all over and insightful personal commentaries that have shed new light on them. Based in New Zealand as we are, we are taking a summer holiday break until Tuesday January 22.  See you then!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Lines for a New Year by Sam Hunt

I like the branch
I find myself on

a view over the garden
all the way down to the beach

the family below me
gathered in the garden

debating where I’ve gone.
My father’s got a theory.

I like the branch
I find myself on.


You know how it is

to give up the piss
a week to the

day before Christmas

you know how it is

to fall over sober
safe in some spot,

come to later
remembering the lot.

the rugby ball kicked
far as the far paddock
where an apple tree caught it.
Was agreed among folk

they'd never seen such a catch,
such a kick, such a match.


I gave it away lately
I had no choice,
no need pump the brakes 
they'd already seized.

I like your poison, lady,
I like it too much:
which is why I am
        where I am today
outside of thought, beyond your touch.

I said I'll be seeing you.
You knew what I meant,
at least you seemed to.
Was the message you got
the same one I sent?


It's a love song
between a mother and son.

The son plays the drums
and wrote the song.

On the recording
mother sings the song

like mothers do. And the
son plays the drums

like a good boy. It's a
love song.


A friend used to say
my dog and I
had the same way of walking,

especially walking away.
Which was
often the case.

These days there's
not much happening.
It's people walking toward me

asking, where's the dog,
the dog? And they're
right. Where is he?


You live in this world
you have no choice.
Silence would be fine.
But you give it voice 

you have to, you cannot
help yourself.
Your mother says you never knew
when enough was enough.


Dreamt I met Thomas Hardy
walking a local back road.
He was an old man
but coped okay with his cane.

He said he was looking for
a woman called Lizbie Brown.
I said I knew her name 
but only from his poem.


Sitting on a clifftop
was always a dream
that more or less came true.
Just the words dried up.


Friends disappear
off the face of the earth.
For what it's worth
I loved you.
But you can't hear.


Is  said (what few
elders we have left)
anyone for whom birds sing
all night through to dawn

are themselves
close to eternal bird-song:
their time, among these branches,
that of the elders  – not long.


If this were the view
I got all year through 
a branch of a tree at the window 

I would become that
branch of tree and with it

The nurses agree
I never complain
about the rain, or pain.

Easy, when you know
you're a tree
at the window.


When I poured her a cup of tea
and asked her, strong or weak?
she held out a dark wrist:
same colour as this.


I'm off to look at angels.
And toetoe if I see it.

The family move in close.
No way out but

close my eyes to see

if anything's left of the toetoe,
and the angels.


© Sam Hunt. Posted with Sam Hunt's permission.
Sam Hunt
                                 Editor: Helen McKinlay.

Lines for a New Year is from Sam Hunt's latest collection, Knucklebones: Poems 1962-2012 (Craig Potton 2012).  I think there are few New Zealanders who have not heard of this poet, but just in case here is his bio courtesy of Craig Potton Publishers. [Go here to view the poet's website, read more poetry and/or purchase a book.]

Sam Hunt was born in 1946 at Castor Bay, Auckland. As a child, he was surrounded by poetry and performance: his mother, father and grandfather regularly read poems out loud or recited from memory; and his father was a somewhat eccentric barrister who came from a family of actors, troupers and musicians.

From a young age Sam wrote poetry, and has since become one of New Zealand's best-known and best-loved poets, touring the length and breadth of the country for over 40 years, performing his poems in pubs, theatres, schools and countless other venues. Fuelled always by his lifelong commitment to 'lifting the words off the page and giving them a good listen to,' he has introduced poetry to generations of New Zealanders.

In 1985, Sam Hunt was awarded a QSM for his contribution to New Zealand literature, and in 2010 he was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM) for services to poetry.

As well as these well-deserved accolades, congratulations are due to Sam for being the 2012 recipient of the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. He lives with his son on the Kaipara Harbour in Northland, New Zealand.

Along with his permission to publish 'Lines for a New Year', Sam very generously sent me a new unpublished poem (below). I was a fan before .... have seen him perform and admired his lack of pretentiousness, amazing memory and wonderful inclusiveness .... and I am even more of a fan now, and finding Knucklebones hard to put down.So many delicious lines. It's hard to choose any poems let alone just one.

Tell me what

Tell me what I don’t know –
not what I know now

or what I’ll know tomorrow.
Tell me something new,

a story that will blow
this steady head apart.

Maybe that’s about where
the best stories start:

or you could go on, and on,
talking of the morning after:

the storm, the break up at sea.
And all of it gone,

gone down deep
where no one should go –

gone as that! . . Tell me
what I won’t know tomorrow.

©  Sam Hunt 2012

This week's editor Helen McKinlay is a published children's author and poet who lives in the South Island of New Zealand. To read about her and her writing visit her blog here.

After you've read Sam Hunt's poems check out the poems posted in the left-hand sidebar chosen or written by our thirty Tuesday Poets.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Nature Writing 101 by Catherine Owen

Our minds can turn anything romantic.
Is the problem.
The sewagy mud of the Fraser a quaint muslin & the spumes

    pulsing out of chimneys at the Lafarge cement plant look,
    at night, like two of Isadora Duncan’s scarves, pale, insouciant veils,
    harmless. The trees are all gone but then aren’t our hearts

more similar to wastelands.
We can make it kin, this pollution, children one is sad about yet still fond of, their
delinquency linked to our own, irreparable with familiarity, a lineage of stench &

    forgiveness. Our minds can assimilate all horrors.
    Is the problem.
    The animals will disappear and those small, strange invertebrates,

the bees will vanish & in the well-oiled waters, fish
will surge their deaths over the sand bags.
But then we keep saying, ‘Let’s construct another narrative.’

    The nightmares must simply be called reality.
    And after this you see,
    it is possible to carry on.

© Catherine Owen (posted with permission of the author)

Editor:  Kathleen Jones

It’s always a delight to take a turn as editor of the TP hub and share poets or poetry others might not have discovered yet. This time I’ve chosen a Canadian poet - Catherine Owen is a Vancouver writer, the author of nine collections of poetry and one of prose, the most recent being Trobairitz (Anvil Press 2012), Seeing Lessons (Wolsak & Wynn 2010) Frenzy (Anvil Press 2009), and the chapbook Steve Kulash & other Autopsies (Angelhousepress 2012). 

Her collection of memoirs and essays is called Catalysts: Confrontations with the muse (W & W, 2012). Her work has won awards, been translated & published in North America, England, Italy, Turkey, Australia Germany and Korea. Frenzy won the Alberta Book Prize and other collections have been nominated for the BC Book Prize, the Re-lit, the CBC Prize, & the George Ryga Award.

Catherine is one of the  - newly categorised - Eco-poets and wrote her Master’s thesis, in 2001, on the ecological poetry of Robinson Jeffers.  This year she will be the narrator for a Canadian eco-musical called ‘Awakening the Green Man’, for which she wrote five songs. This poem is from a new manuscript titled The River Sequence, lyrics on the Fraser River, and it first appeared (with two others from the sequence) in an anthology of Eco-poetry called ‘Entanglements’ published by Two Ravens Press.  Catherine is also an art model for Paul Saturley and blogs at blackcrow2.wordpress.com  Her website is www.catherineowen.org
What I love about 'Nature Writing 101' is the way it homes in on the real problem for the environment - Us, and the way we relate to it;  ‘our minds can turn anything romantic. Is the problem.... Our minds can assimilate all horrors’.  Human beings can turn anything into a narrative in order to live with it and the problems never get solved, we just find more and more ways of spinning the story. 

The whole fabric of the poem is constructed from the knowledge that the way human beings relate to their environment is through story - we try to make sense of the senseless by creating myths - we tame savage landscapes by romanticising them in poetry and prose.  Word webs become our maps of an unknown universe.  However big it is, however mysterious, we can contain it in a narrative, a verse, a metaphor. We reduce things to the size of our imaginations and in doing so lose all sense of the fact that we’re barely a comma in a plot more complex and gigantic than we can ever conceive. 

Catherine’s poems reveal a hard truth, that our pride, greed and lack of self-knowledge will do for us. In another poem she says ‘it is not enough/to have everything – nothing will soon be ours’.  Unless we realise that our nightmares are reality, someone else is going to be telling the story of our extinction.  The irony is that Catherine, in writing the poem, has also turned this ugly prognostication into something beautiful.

Please take a look at the sidebar and read what individual Tuesday Poets are posting on their blogs, and if you like our contributions, we would love it if you could share them with your friends on Twitter and Facebook! 

This week's editor, Kathleen Jones, is an English writer who lives in Italy.  Most recent work;  a biography 'Katherine Mansfield: The Storyteller',  a novel  'The Sun's Companion' and a collection of poetry 'Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21'.  She blogs at http://www.kathleenjonesauthor.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Pandora" by Rhydian W. Thomas

© Rhydian W. Thomas, 2011. The poem first appeared in Hue & Cry Issue No. 5, and is reproduced with permission of the author.

                                                         Editor: Sarah Jane Barnett

Ever since reading "Pandora" the poem has stayed with me. I thought it would make an interesting Tuesday Poem as it's quite unusual. For me, I can't think of another poem that has managed to create such a feeling of genuine repulsion and disgust.

In "Pandora" my repulsion comes not only from the man who abuses the dog, but from the other man who runs from the scene. The line "as his stonepath ceased to mess itself under me" and its allusion to soiling oneself, seems to capture the speaker's cowardly nature. The poem also works against the traditional lyric form and transformational moment, which I applaud. It certainly made me think about the purpose of poetry, and I still shudder with every reading.

Rhydian Thomas was born in Wales and moved to New Zealand at the age of thirteen. He is a writer and musician based in Wellington, working a range of oddball jobs to support his art-making problem. His poetry has appeared in Sport, Hue & Cry, and Turbine, and he makes music under the name The Body LyreHe has an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University and he occasionally writes for martial arts website NZFighters.comHe has won a grand total of zero Poetry Awards and zero Scholar Dollars but has been the deserving recipient of several prestigious rejection letters. He is currently working on a novel.

This week's editor Sarah Jane Barnett is a writer and reviewer who lives in Wellington. Her first collection of poems, A Man Runs into a Woman, was published by Hue & Cry Press in 2012. She blogs at theredroom.org.

After you're enjoyed the poem here at the hub, do check out the Tuesday Poets in the sidebar - each has selected a poem by themselves or another poet. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

So There by Robert Creeley

for Penelope Highton

 Da. Da. Da da. 
       Where is the song. 

from Hello by Robert Creeley (1926 - 2005) . Hawk Press: Taylors Mistake, 1976

Click here to hear it read by Robert Creeley at the NZ Electronic Poetry Centre and read it yourself here

Editor: Madeleine Slavick 

I found Hello on my third visit to New Zealand. A small, worn book, at 28 pages, beautifully handset and with handsewn bindings, part of me never wanted to return it to the public library. I did.

Hello can read like a single poem that begins again and again, at various points across the country: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington.  Several words repeat. If.  World.  Born.  River.  Lovely.  People also reappear.  The mind is not a single place. 

One of the most influential poets in the United States, Robert Creeley was almost fifty years old when he wrote Hello, and he says, “I knew, intuitively, a time in myself had come for change. I don’t mean simply clothes, or houses, or even cities or countries or habits. I mean, all of it – what it ever is or can be.” [Creeley’s emphasis]

The year was 1976, and the transitions were many in his life: the publication of five books, his first visit to this country, the end of a long relationship, and the beginning of an even longer one, with Penelope Highton of New Zealand. 

They would live together until Creeley’s death in 2005, and the last pages of Hello are dedicated to her: “So There”.

In the introductory note to Hello, Creeley writes of New Zealand poets, clouds, wind, light, islands, water, mountains, people, and a certain pub – in that sequence – and what stays with me is the word “particularizing” which I had not yet seen in my reading, and I have not yet used in my writing. I want to.

 “Then there’s New Zealand light – intense, clear, particularizing, ruthless.”

I hear fact, clarity, change, and Creeley continues, “Coming from a mainland, with three thousand miles between its eastern and western coasts, your two islands seemed fragile and vulnerable… Thus you are out there, humanly, in the vastness...”

In 2002, Creeley called the poem “that place we are finally safe in”.


The NZEPC has more on Robert Creeley (1926-2005) and New Zealand. 

After you've read up on Creeley and enjoyed hearing his poem, check out the sidebar for a whole host of other Tuesday Poems posted by 30 poets. 

This week's editor and author of several books of poetry, non-fiction and photography, Madeleine Slavick also says ‘Hello’ to New Zealand. A resident of Hong Kong for almost 25 years after a childhood in New England, she now works as a freelance writer/editor in the Wairarapa. For more go to her blog Touching What I Love

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Transport, by Riemke Ensing


Top of Form
Bottom of Form

(photographs from the past)
for James

The edge is important
and the focus. Where
to lead the eye
without blurring
the terror of passing trains,
the ground all wasteland and boots,
fear splintered like glass.

Years fold in
and the track runs on
beyond reason.

In the dark room
wounds are developed.
Chaos is exposed
and fixed. The pictures
are silent and speak of winter.
too dark to resolve.

Negatives disintegrate
old and weary
with too much sight.

A shatter of dust.


(photo credit: James Ensing-Trussell)

I first met Riemke Ensing, I think, at a poetry reading.  I remember being amazed when she came over to talk to me.  We’d studied her poetry at school, I’d seen her name in anthologies, I knew her as a prominent Kiwi writer. Why would she be interested in a baby poet like me?  

But that was before I knew Riemke as a generous friend and mentor, as she is to many. I’ve been welcomed into her home and had the pleasure of long lunches chatting about writing, poetry and the NZ literary landscape. (Riemke is an excellent cook.) I’ve learnt, too, to be wary of the wicked glint in her eye – she says what she thinks and loves to get a reaction. But the intent is always kind.

‘Transport’ is a visceral poem, touching on the nerve endings many of us have as migrants or the children of migrants. It superimposes the clinical process of taking a photograph (“where/to lead the eye”) over the raw wounds of forced exit from a homeland (“fear splintered like glass.”). Short though the poem is, it spans more than a generation. It says just enough to suggest the hidden pain that survivors of war must live with and try not to pass down to their children.  It also offers commentary on how photographs perpetuate, but inadequately describe, the horrors of conflict (“Shadows/too dark to resolve.”)

I feel Riemke’s poetry has such immediacy. There is the sense of the person behind it. Even where the subject matter is dark, as in this poem, there is also a feeling of life, of the importance of being alive to feel, to sense, to think.  Whether she’s describing the events of history or a morning shower, she has the ability to pull the reader in, to include them in the frame.

Riemke has been very busy in the past few years, writing and keeping up a busy timetable of poetry readings and writer’s talks. She was recently honoured for her lifelong work as a writer, editor and mentor by being given the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for Poetry.  This year she also won the NZ Society of Authors Kevin Ireland Poetry Competition, coming top of the field over more than a hundred entries.  Her work has been included in the UK-based Poetry Archive, a repository of some of the most significant works in poetry. In between running around fulfilling all her obligations Riemke also found the time to answer some questions from me for this week’s post.

When did you first realise you were a poet?

I always feel reluctant and even somewhat embarrassed to think of myself as a 'poet'. I write, and some of my output is poetry, but if I compare myself to Yeats or Eliot , Wallace Stevens, Lorca -  in fact any of the myriad of wonderful poets all over the world over the many centuries, my attempts are pretty minimal and insignificant.

I started writing 'poetry' when I first came to NZ at the age of about twelve. I had no models at that stage, other than church hymns, so you can imagine the rather dismal attempts to improve on Wesley and Co. 
All rhyme, of course, and written in red ink. 
Our Presbyterian minister wouldn't have a bar of them and declined my suggestion he put them to music and have them sung in church. I couldn't see why he was so unsupportive, but it took the gloss off it for a while and I concentrated on painting instead. 

I started writing again at Ardmore Teachers' Training College  and continued through 'varsity  as a student. By then I suppose it had become a 'habit'. I had a few poems published now and then but was never very avid about sending things away. 
Ian Wedde used a couple in the New Zealand Universities Arts Festival Yearbook 1968  and that was a thrill, and Karl Stead sent me a congratulatory 'cheering on' note when I had some poems published in Arena, which was then a handset and printed labour of love and dedication by Noel Hoggard at The Handcraft Press. When I think of all the work and time that went into that publication it was astonishing, really. 

What is your favourite place and time of day for writing?

I am not at all systematic or organized or 'timetabled'. I note things down and keep a notebook handy. Sometimes the scraps become poems. It depends. If I feel a particular idea or concept is worth pursuing, I keep at it, but I'm just as likely to leave it as a note to myself.  Sometimes I write for particular occasions or people, and that is usually an impetus to put something together and mostly works quite well for me. 

People have written of the visual, focussed nature of your poems. For you, is writing a poem like taking a photograph?

For me, a poem is not at all like taking a photograph. Not 'taking a photograph' as I know it, which is taking a sight and clicking a button. The writing of a poem for me is very exacting and exhausting. That's probably why I don't write a lot. 
When I finish a poem, I'm usually 'washed out'. I don't know why that should be. Some poets speak of the thrill, the excitement and joy of writing, but for me it is mostly the opposite. I do at times have a sense of achievement or accomplishment, but it seems to come at a price.

‘Transport’ reads like a very intimate, personal poem, and you dedicate it to your son James. Did you ever experience the displacement voiced in the poem?

I dedicated 'Transport' to James because he was (if I remember correctly) just starting his career as a photographer, having been a teacher of the violin for many years. He of course, thinks the poem is 'very dark'. 
In fact, like my mother, who would have preferred poems about flowers and the more lighthearted aspects of life, he think most of my poems are rather too sombre.  And I suppose it has to do with the age. I was born just before the war in Europe began.
My parents had experienced the First World War and the Depression of the thirties. My first years were war and all the anxieties afterwards. Then there was the migration to NZ and the subsequent sense of being other and different - but no, the 'displacement' I write of in the poem is not something I personally experienced other than through other people's stories, books, films, etc. One lives in the imagination and in that sense the 'experience' can be as 'real' as the actual.  

What are you working on at the moment?

Presently I am still trying to come to terms with ongoing 'presence' of death. Bill died 3 and a half years ago and although he was considerably older than myself, I still can't quite reconcile myself to the idea of his no longer being here. 
My brother died a short while ago, as did a cousin of my age, and there seem to be constant, almost daily reminders, of mortality. So my present work concerns itself primarily with loss. Perhaps that's somewhat depressing, but I think it has produced some good poems - one of which won the recent 2012 NZSA Kevin Ireland Poetry Competition. 

This week's editor is Renee Liang,usually from Auckland, NZ, although this week she is posting from Kalgoorlie, Western Australia where she is doing a paediatric locum. Renee writes poetry, plays, fiction and non-fiction, blogs for The Big Idea, and organises community arts initiatives.  In her spare time she works as a doctor and is mum to Sofia (nearly 4 months.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

March 6, 1890: Eugene Schieffelin Releases 80 Starlings in Central Park, by Holly J. Hughes

I’ll have a starling shall be taught 
To speak nothing but "Mortimer" and give it him 
To keep his anger still in motion. 
               Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1 

Snow has shaken loose all morning, 
nesting in the crotch of the ailanthus
streaking the black trunks of the locust. 

Upstate, currant farmers worry about the freeze. 
In the city, fathers hitch horses to sleighs. 
He hugs his wool coat tighter, 

spirals his muffler, lurches along, 
cobblestones slick under four inches of snow; 
in each hand a cage, balanced, a scale of justice. 

Behind him a kite-tail of servants carry 
eighty starlings -- imported from England 
to improve the landscape -- stuttering in protest. 

At last he stops, lowers each cage, lifts each latch. 
The starlings step out, blinking, 
each clawed foot unscrolling into the snow. 

Dazed from months aboard ship and carriage, 
they linger near the cages, flex their wings, 
a spatter of white on black 

like puddingstone, lower their tails, 
cock their heads, preen, 
eyes bright like honey. 

At 4:30 clouds cut away, 
clear sky thickens into evening. 
Still they stay close to their cages. 

Finally, growing cold, he rushes at the birds, 
scarecrowing his arms: Go, go, go. 
At first one, then another, and another,

until the whole murmeration lifts 
and spirals, a spidery helix 
against a darkening sky. 

                     Editor, T. Clear

This poem has previously been published in Pontoon #3: an anthology of Washington State Poets by Floating Bridge Press and in The Poet’s Guide to Birds, edited by Judith Kitchen and Ted Kooser by Anhinga Press, 2009. Published with the permission of Holly J. Hughes.

A few weeks ago, while contemplating which poem to post here, I heard a ruckus of birds in my back yard, and stepped outside in the rain to investigate. I should have known: starlings, feasting on my very ripe Interlaken grapes. Starlings are more often reviled than wondered-at, but every time I hear the singing from their assembled masses, I can't help but think that I'm hearing every language ever spoken, at once: sung, shouted, screeched, cackled, chortled, crowed, tittled, trilled, crooned. And I knew immediately which poem I'd choose, the poem I think of every time I see starlings. 

I plucked this murmuration from YouTube, worth watching —

Holly J. Hughes is co-author of The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World (Skinner House Press, 2012), editor of the award-winning anthology, Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease (Kent State University Press, 2009) and author of the prize-winning chapbook Boxing the Compass (Floating Bridge Press, 2007).  A recipient of an Artist Trust Fellowship, her poems and essays have appeared in a variety of anthologies and literary magazines and have been nominated for a Pushcart prize.

In addition to teaching writing at Edmonds Community College, where she co-directs the Sustainability Initiative, she also teaches writing workshops at Edmonds Write on the Sound Conference, the North Cascades Institute and Field’s End.  She has spent over thirty summers working on the water in Alaska in a variety of roles, including commercial fishing for salmon, skippering a 65-foot schooner, and most recently, working as a naturalist on ships. 

This week's editor T. Clear, of Seattle, is a founder of Floating Bridge Press. Her work has appeared in many journals and magazines, and is forthcoming in Alive at the Center, an anthology of poems from the Pacific Northwest. She can be found blogging here.

Please take the time to explore our marvelous selection of Tuesday Poems from around the globe, by clicking on any of the links on our sidebar. If you haven't had enough of starlings yet, Tim Upperton's The Starlings was featured last week on one of the Tuesday Poem blogs

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

When we watched movies by Tim Upperton

I want to watch one bad movie
after another, and when I’ve seen them all
I will read all the bad books, 
the bad, rubbishy 
books with their stock characters and ridiculous plots,
and then I will listen to Europop—
no, country music, 
I’ll listen to Europop and country music
and the entire back-catalogue of Celine Dion while I eat 
triple cheeseburgers, grease running down my chin.
I want to grow fat and to start smoking.
I want to stub out my cigarette 
in a fried egg, 
I want to live in that Hitchcock movie,
which isn’t a bad movie at all, but more like the ones 
we watched when we watched movies,
not art-house exactly, but VistaVision kitsch—
how we loved the beautiful actors, their quick, 
brittle voices, their antique brio. We grasped 
their warm hands. The room filled with snow.

                                    Editor: Harvey Molloy

I find Tim’s poetry especially interesting because it continues to change and evolve.  If you’ve read his book House on Fire you’ll be familiar with poems such as the incredibly controlled ‘The Starlings’ which begins:

Anger sang in that house until the scrim walls thrummed.
The clamour rang the window panes, dizzying up chimneys.
Get on, get on, the wide rooms cried, until it seemed our unease
as we passed on the stairs or chewed our meals in dimmed

light were all an attending to that voice. And so we got on,
and to muffle that sound we gibbed and plastered, built
shelves for all our good books. What we sometimes felt
is hard to say. We replaced what we thought was rotten.

Tim’s work has a strong musical quality.  Sometime during the writing of House on Fire Tim started to read the poems of Frederick Seidel and the music of his poetry changed  – the effect on Tim’s work was akin to the effect The Sex Pistols performance at Manchester Free Trade Hall in June 1976 had on northern music: a new brash broom sweeps clean.  However, as you can see, in Tim’s case the musician is classically trained and capable of virtuoso performances.  

This poem by Tim first appeared in Turbine 2011 and won the Bronwyn Tate Memorial International Poetry Competition that year. Tim is writing his PhD thesis on the poetry of Frederick Seidel. His poems have been published widely in literary journals and mainstream magazines in NZ and the US, and recently in anthologies such as Turbine, Best NZ Poems (VUP) and Villanelles (Everyman). He reviews books, and blogs at A Spurred Word. 

When we watched movies is posted here with permission.

There are more poems in the sidebar with our poets from NZ, Australia, the UK and US. Thirty in all.

This week's editor, Harvey Molloy is a Wellington teacher who has published poems in a number of journals including Enamel, International Literary Quarterly, Landfall, NZ Listener, and Poetry New Zealand. His first book of poems, Moonshot, was published by Steele Roberts in 2008. He is the co-author of the book Asperger Syndrome, Adolescence, and Identity: Looking Beyond the Label, and is working on a second book of poems. He blogs here

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

On small planes by Fiona Kidman

It’s the same again this weekend, wild weather,
rain and delays, and a long way south, suspension
on a cloud, books take you everywhere.

My epitaph may be that she was a small woman
who spent her days in small airports flying
on very small aeroplanes to middle-sized towns.

                                 Editor: Jennifer Compton

I was thrilled to bits to find copies of Fiona’s book of poetry – Where Your Left Hand Rests (Godwit, Random House) – in several bookshops while I was in Wellington. It is such a beautiful book. Kudos to the designer and the press. This is the poem I found when I opened the book at random. At random, just like the press. The book was published in celebration of Fiona’s 70th birthday. It’s selling really well, in fact there has been a reprint. Wonderful for poetry, wonderful for Fiona, and wonderful for us.

New Zealander Fiona Kidman is a leading contemporary novelist, short story writer and poet. Much of her fiction is focused on how outsiders navigate their way in narrowly conformist society. She has published a large and exciting range of fiction and poetry, and has worked as a librarian, producer and critic. Fiona has won numerous awards and been the recipient of fellowships, grants and other significant honours, as well as being a consistent advocate for New Zealand writers and literature. She is the President of Honour for the New Zealand Book Council, has been awarded an OBE and is a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to literature. The French Government has made her a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and a Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour.

'On small planes' is published with permission, when you've read it - try more Tuesday Poems out in our sidebar (to the left.)

This week's editor, Jennifer Compton, was born in Wellington, emigrated to Australia in the early 70s and lives now in Melbourne. She is an award-winning playwright and poet, with 'Barefoot' shortlisted for the John Bray Poetry Award in 2012 and 'This City' (Otago University Press 2011) the winner of the Kathleen Grattan Award in NZ.  She has also been awarded a number of residencies including one at the Randell Cottage in Wellington, and blogs here. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

'Listening to Glenn Gould on Orton Scar' by Kathleen Jones

From Ravenstonedale
driving north on unfenced roads,
moonlight reflects the tarmac’s

frozen wake across the moor —
a snail's trail  in my rear-view mirror.

Bach unwinds from the c.d.
a landscape of variations
into this zero night.

The grass is white; trees black.
The walls run off like staves.

The moon fingers each stone
separately, in unexpected harmonies
and structures, endlessly practising —

compelling me to stop.  Listen
to the quiet significance of the moment.

Across the counterpoint
I hear the chill cry of a predatory bird.
Single notes glitter like frost.

©  Kathleen Jones 2011
From: Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21 by Kathleen Jones, Templar Poetry, 2011.
Reproduced on The Tuesday Poem Hub with permission.

Kathleen Jones is a fellow Tuesday Poet so it was a great thrill when her collection, Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21 won the Straid Collection Award in 2010 and was subsequently published by Templar Poetry in 2011. The collection comprises a number of themes, including family relationship particularly those between mothers and daughtersboth history and natural history, as well as a strong sense of place. Every book of poetry will have some standout poems and usually many more again that I will enjoy reading. But to work as a collection, the sum of the poems must comprise a greater whole, so that when the final line is reached one may say:  yes, this is a book. For me, Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21 met that test.

Nonetheless, in every collection there will still be standout poems, and Listening to Glenn Gould on Orton Scar is one of those poems for me. It is both a poem of nature—the moonlight, the trees, the moor—but also of place. Although I have never been there, as a reader I get so strong a sense of Ravenstonedale and the unfenced roads to the north that I feel I have stood there and seen the "tarmac's frozen wake across the moor." Yet there is more to the poem than this: as a poet I admire both the strength and precision of the language, and the way music itself—as the poet listens to Glenn Gould—is used to encapsulate both the moment and the landscape:

  Bach unwinds from the cd
  a landscape of variations
  into this zero night.

I feel that Listening to Glenn Gould on Orton Scar achieves, in a larger form, exactly what the Japanese haiku form is intended to do:  the poem captures the experience of an "ah-ha" moment in language, lifting the discreet elements of the moment to a sense of something larger. Again as with haiku, I get the sense that no one word has gone unconsidered; every word has earned its place in the poem.

And so we end with:

Across the counterpoint
I hear the shrill cry of a predatory bird.
Single notes glitter like frost.

Chilling. Austere. Perfect.

Kathleen Jones’ first solo pamphlet of poetry,  Unwritten Lives, won the Redbeck Press pamphlet award and her first full collection,  Not Saying Goodbye at Gate 21, was joint winner of the Straid Collection award, and published by Templar Poetry in November 2011. 

Kathleen is also a biographer, author of a life of Christina Rossetti, Learning not to be First [OUP] and A Passionate Sisterhood [Virago], a group biography of the sisters, wives and daughters of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey.  Her most recent biography, Katherine Mansfield: The Story-Teller, was published by Penguin NZ and EUP in 2011. 

Kathleen Jones’ home is in Cumbria, but as her partner is a sculptor working in Italy she lives there some of the time too. She has taught creative writing in a number of universities and is currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow.  

Website:  www.kathleenjones.co.uk
Blog: www.kathleenjonesauthor.blogspot.com

This week's editor, Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet, interviewer, and a 2012 Ursula Bethell Writer-in-Residence at the University of Canterbury. She emerged onto the NZ poetry scene in 2003 as an inaugural Robbie Burns Award winner and has since had over fifty poems published and anthologized, both in NZ and overseas. The Gathering of the Lost, the second novel in her The Wall of Night series, was published internationally in April, and she recently won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012 for the first-in-series, The Heir of Night. Helen posts every day on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog and is a regular Tuesday Poem contributor. You can also follow her on Twitter: @helenl0we


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