Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ngawhatu by Maggie Rainey-Smith

On the Richmond bus to Nelson passing Polstead Road
you only had to say it, and everyone knew, unspoken
we almost dared not look, it stirred such potent thoughts
caused laughter, mocking, and a deeply seated superstition
innuendo out the window, the road that leads to there
To where? You ask?  But we all knew, we knew for sure

that’s where the loonies go and you’ll go there for sure
we’d tell each other, laughing, pointing, up that road
if you’re not careful, shit a brick, you’ll end up there
What’s up there?  But no one speaks, it’s all unspoken
get off the grass and up your arse with superstition
hoodackie, thingummybob, bite your bum thoughts

no cock crowed thrice as I denied , but in my thoughts
were you and him but tightly kept, ashamed for sure
of knowing what was up that road, alas not superstition
the halfway mark en route, bus stop Polstead Road
get off the grass, half pie inside I laughed, my shame unspoken
the loony bin we shouted up the boohai pointing there.

I daren’t admit in public on the bus that I’d been there
in Aunty’s Morris Minor up that road;  my thoughts
I kept inside, our weekend visits left unspoken
the loony bin they shouted but none of them so sure
not the way that I was, not exactly what was up that road
yes  I knew just how to thwart suspicion, superstition

Scottish names they gave the villas, avoiding superstition
Stirling at the top was called the lock-up, dangerous to be there
but more benign was Kinross halfway up a landscaped road
among ornamental conifers, the bowling lawn, some say their thoughts
still haunt the valley, patients weaving baskets, no one’s sure
just what they felt besides the shock of ECT, most of it unspoken

the loony bin, we shouted, yet kept the worst unspoken
for if we named or claimed this thing we fed our superstition
the potential that was lurking at this intersection meant for sure
a powerful sense of self protection; we were never going there
up Polstead Road, we mocked and scoffed … but in my thoughts
I knew the way by heart, each bend, and every valley of that road

nga’s not superstitious and whatu, is possibly an eye, or hailstone
(yes, I get that for sure) yet up that road my thoughts still go when
ngawhatu meant loony and both of you … but now it’s not unspoken.

© Maggie Rainey-Smith
Featured on The Tuesday Poem Hub with permission.

Editor: Jennifer Compton

I am more or less just back in Australia from an excellent trip to Wellington to take in the Poetry Conference and Litcrawl. Heavens, what a weekend. Now Maggie is someone I know, I always seem to bump into her when I am in town, she's quite a feature of my visits, so I wasn't a bit surprised to be rubbing shoulders with her. And then she stood up at the conference and hit us with this poem. What a stunner. I was very much taken with it. I loved the way Maggie used the old school vernacular, and the old school mindset. And of course, the poem meant just that little bit more to me because my husband's mother was the deputy matron of Ngawhatu for quite a long time. My husband spent his school holidays in her cottage on the grounds. (I remember thinking when I met him that we might have a chance because he was so cool about being around mad people.) Thanks Maggie, for this excellent piece of work, and for the dredging up of something that must be almost forgotten. AND I am thinking of you tonight, as your new book, Daughters Of Messene (Mākaro Press), is being launched in Wellington. More power to your writing elbow! 

Maggie Rainey-Smith is a novelist, poet, short story writer, essayist and book reviewer. She approaches her subject matter with fresh insight, extending the genre of women’s fiction in particular. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature as well as several other writing-based qualifications. Her first novel About Turns is set in Wellington and explores issues of class and relationships. Her second novel Turbulence is also published by Random House. Her third novel, Daughters of Messene, is published by Mākaro Press.

Maggie's blog -

Today's editor, Jennifer Compton, lives in Melbourne. Her poem, 'Now You Shall Know', won the Newcastle Poetry Prize in 2013, and the collection of the same name was published this year in Australia, while her verse novella, Mr Clean and The Junkie  was published in New Zealand as part of the Hoopla series 2015 (Mākaro Press). 

In addition to today's feature be sure to check out the wonderful poems featured by the other Tuesday Poets, using our blog roll to the left of this posting. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Abdullah, The Servant of God – by Wade Bishop

He was not a handsome man
not even in possession of a face that was easy to look into
it was journey twisted and wrinkled like a baby at birth
..............only his never smoothed
the folds filled with hopes and wonders, longing and dreams
lost in the creases
describing loyal lines in a resume of hard work

He laboured with energetic toil for the joy and happiness of strangers
… strangers like me that turned up at the hotel cairo
a mis-named rooftop respite from the surging life-affirming chaos that once was aleppo.

when you spoke with Him, He fixed you with a present, earnest eye
searching your face and body for the words that filled the spaces
of those He didn’t know
..............it was His right eye
because His left eye stared always left
and heavenward to some other place.

His name was Abdullah; Abdullah Abdullah
“The Servant of God The Servant of God”
His parents had made doubly sure that this should be so
and Abdullah Abdullah was true to His name
for He chose to open His heart, mind and smile wide
to those who came in to His hotel
in His city, in His beloved country
and welcome them as family

His country was full of Abdullahs – and Abdullah Abdullahs
both literally and figuratively

i met most of them on a bus along the euphrates to palmyra
… late i hadn’t paid the fare
i stepped on,
all places taken and the aisle long filled with people and piles of boxes of goods
eight Abdullahs stood to offer me their seats
..............and no-one would sit till i honoured one of them as their guest
shabbily dressed as i was compared to them

the “welcome to syria’s” like rain to desert sands
..............sso i sat as it rained

..............an Abdullah paid for my ticket
and five more passed it back to me so i could stay seated
then when we stopped for a rest yet another pressed food to my hand
to ensure i’d eaten
and still another a cold cold coke …
because the sun was beating hard on our heads ...
..............they could tell the desert sweats were new to me

then when my destination became known
somehow it flowed like the euphrates to the ear of Abdullah the bus driver
He made sure i was first out the door;
bypassing the bus station as irrelevant for the history-made edge of palmyra
to the steps of my hotel,
a short walk to the great temple of baal
.............. – now gone.

just as all these Abdullahs may now also be gone.

They may all be dead now.

and if They are all dead now – and They were right about God
and i am not 
.............. then Allah will be smiling upon Them
for They were true to His Word: to welcome strangers as brothers until they proved otherwise.

in His eyes: Ambassadors of their Faith and of simple – selfless – human kindness
He will bless Them with His hand upon Their heads hung low
as Their tears flow for Their sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers – daughters & sons

... who still run ...

.........................who still run ...

who run
from the missiles,
the bombs
and the guns

.............. who still run with the hope that we too will welcome them
as some of us were once welcomed
by their now dead fathers and brothers
...................and now dead sons.


© Wade Bishop

Reproduced on The Tuesday Poem with permission.

Editor: Helen Lowe 

For this week's feature, I asked Wade to share the background to his poem, Abdullah, The Servant of God, and he kindly provided the following:

"Syria was never on my "must see" list when I was traveling, but just happened to be "on the way" when I planned an overland trip from Turkey to Egypt in 1997. It was one of those rare quiet periods in the Middle East (shattered by the murder of 70 odd Scandinavian tourists at the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut in Egypt at the end of it, by a jihadist group based in Middle Egypt). Syria has always been sold as the "hotbed of terrorism", the home of "tea towel wearing extremists" ... I wasn't sure what to expect.

What I did find was a country more welcoming, friendly and generous than any of the 40 or so I have been fortunate to visit. This poem is based upon the absolute truth of my bus ride from Aleppo to Palmyra, which epitomised my experience there ... I have therefore found myself in tears whenever I hear the "news" about what is happening there right now. In this poem I give some small voice to the story that is rarely told of the real people who live there."

– Wade Bishop

Editor's Commentary:
I have always believed that it is not enough for poetry to be technically accomplished, it must also have "heart." Part of what it means to have "heart", in my lexicon, is that the poem will in some way illuminate an aspect of the human condition, whether at the personal or societal level. And if the art of poetry is to remain relevant, then we must have poets, and poems, that address themselves directly to the issues of the day – not in the manner of a pamphlet or a letter to the editor, but as powerful and compelling poetry. 

When I first heard Wade read Abdullah, The Servant of God at the Canterbury Poets' Collective* several weeks ago, I was struck by the extent to which the poem not only addressed a real and pressing international issue, but did so out of direct experience. The authenticity of that experience speaks from every line of the poem, from the first introduction of Abdullah, who is "not a handsome man" to the wonderful account of the bus ride from Aleppo to Palmyra where the stranger is treated as an honoured guest.

From the past, we come forward to the stark present and the poem's painful but also profound conclusion. A powerful poem, I thought, listening to it for the first time, and one that it is important to share – an opinion that did not alter when I read the poem on the page. So I asked Wade if I could feature it on The Tuesday Poem today and was delighted when he agreed.

Since then, we have been overtaken by the events of the weekend in Paris, and the bombs of the previous week in Beirut. To be honest, for a moment I wondered if this was the best time to feature Abdullah, Servant of God. Only to almost immediately realise that if I believed in the poem, in its authenticity and honesty, then there could be no better time to publish it.

In my view, Abdullah, Servant of God speaks to the heart of the times. I hope it also does the work of poetry and speaks to our hearts today. – Helen Lowe

* Abdullah, Servant of God was an Open Mic winner in the Canterbury Poets' Spring Season, which concludes tomorrow, Wednesday 18 November.

Wade Bishop: Born too late to see the Moon Landing for himself at the time, Wade made up for it by staying up too late and getting up too early until at last he was able to watch the Space Shuttle Colombia take off for the first time ever! ... And even now he is continually in awe of the vastness of space and our very small lonely place in it  –  and it is in this that he finds perspective. Wade has travelled a great deal, worked in advertising, radio, the internet, repairing earthquake damaged homes  – but returned to writing poetry and prose more seriously in the last year and is working towards his first "collection". Wade has a website for his visual and written musings at www.iammenotyou.com (Not all musings reflect the author's actual points of view though!)

Today's editor, Helen Lowe, is a novelist, poet and interviewer whose work has been published, broadcast and anthologized in New Zealand and internationally. Her first novel, Thornspell, was published to critical praise in 2008, and her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Helen's fourth novel, Daughter Of Blood, (The Wall Of Night Series, Book Three) is forthcoming in January 2016. She posts regularly on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog and is also active on Twitter: @helenl0we

In addition to today's feature be sure to check out the wonderful poems featured by the other Tuesday Poets, using our blog roll to the left of this posting. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

That girl, by Heidi North-Bailey

She rides side-saddle
into her own cliché
her heart is pumping smoke
boots heavy with things unsaid
sunset flecked with mud

she’s breathing fire
flames curl from her lips
slow-dancing lovers
with cigarette smiles

slink and hips
turn on the clock 

and still

after all this time
after so many battered
leather jackets
crumpled sleeps
on strangers’ couches

cups of tea
from chipped mugs
frosty morning mouths

exits in the blue-grey dawn
thumb out
a hook to hang
that burnt ribbon of highway

she knows
she knows
she knows

she will never
be that girl
who knows the names
of roses

(Published with the permission of the poet and the publisher)

I met up again with Heidi North-Bailey only a few months ago, when Makaro Press suggested launching Heidi's first collection, Possibility of flight, in tandem with a new collection of my own (see Some place else). Heidi and I first met in 2003 when we were in a writing class together at Victoria University. The class was tutored by Dinah Hawken, who has kindly agreed to launch both our collections during the New Zealand Poetry Society's conference on Sunday 15 November. Since our first meeting, Heidi and I have bumped into one another a few times, but not recently. I think the reasons why not are revealed in the poems in Possibility of flight.

According to the publisher, Possibility of flight "is a thoughtful and intimate first collection that ends unexpectedly with fireworks." I think it is also a collection about distance and closeness, of connections and re-connections, of friendship and family, love and loss, reflection and growing.

The poem
That girl pithily catches a moment of self-awareness from someone who is constantly edgy, who thumbs her nose at the careful and conventional path.

Heidi describes the poem as being 'inspired by a conversation with a fellow poet friend who said she'd finally come to the acceptance that she was never going to be the sort of girl who settled down into life and knew the names of roses. It struck me as a wonderful metaphor for those who are running headlong through life searching out adventures, rather than the safety of domestic bliss'.

I agree with Heidi's assessment of the roses metaphor and am also impressed by her own use of metaphor in the poem - 'she rides side-saddle/into her cliché', 'boots heavy with things unsaid', and 'sunset flecked with mud'. The poem skillfully uses language to sketch someone you can see leaping off the page.

The poet

Heidi writes poems, short stories and screenplays, and was recently accepted into a University of Iowa distance writing programme. She won first place in the Irish Feile Filiochta International Poetry Competition in 2007 with her poem ‘The Women’ and has won awards for her short stories.
Her work has appeared in New Zealand and international journals including Poetry NZ, Takahē and the 4th Floor Literary Journal. When not being kept busy with her one-year-old, she squirrels away time to write.

The book

Possibility of flight has just been released and will soon be able to be purchased at independent bookstores, and online at Makaro Press.

The Editor
This week's editor, Keith Westwater, lives in Lower Hutt, New Zealand. His debut collection, Tongues of Ash (IP, 2011), was awarded 'Best First Book' in the publisher's IP Picks competition. His latest collection, Felt intensity, has also just been released.

In addition to today's feature be sure to check out the wonderful poems featured by other Tuesday Poets, using our blog roll to the left of this posting.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Like a Reed Boat by William S. Rea

Like a reed boat that slipped its mooring
Set drifting on the current
Or the heaping up of ripened grain
In the time of harvest
He was farewelled
Gone, in the fullness of his time
But that final slipping away
Still came like something unexpected
Like an empty pier or a barren field
Which once brimmed with purpose
Bustled with life and vigour
Now there was silence
Except the quiet voice of the wind
We embraced to speak our pain
And breathe sweetness back into our lives

I have been a subscriber to Valley Micropress which has been lovingly edited by Tony Chad, poet, songwriter and musician, since its inception with its first issue covering November and December 1997.

I couldn't tell you how long William S. Rea has been a subscriber and contributor, but he has also been a stalwart for many years. I always read William's poems in the Valley Micropress because they tend to be lyrical and, sometimes, deceptively simple while packing a hefty imagistic punch. The fact that he also hails from Christchurch doesn't influence my decision at all, but, like all Christchurch poets, he has a few "earthquake poems" under his belt.

In a recent issue of Valley Micropress, William published the poem featured above. I thought it was a little gem and I loved it and I asked him if I could feature it on the Tuesday Poem website.

William was very modest when I asked him for a short bio to accompany this post so I'll leave you to read his bio in William's own words:

"About my writing, well, what can I say? I have been trying for rather more years than I care to remember. Mostly, I write for my own interest and enjoyment, but, occasionally, I get something I think is worth sending out to the rest of the world. Mostly editors disagree with me on that point. I've had more success with poetry than any other form of writing, having reached my first 100 poems published around the middle of last year. I have a particular interest in narrative poetry, poems which tell a story and sometimes run to thousands of verses, but so far none of those have ever passed an editor's watchful gaze and made it beyond a very tiny circle of readers."

In addition to today's feature be sure to check out the wonderful poems featured by other Tuesday Poets, using our blog roll to the left of this posting.