Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tuesday Poem - Hound by Emma Neale


                 The heart's a bitch. 

                 It's caught the scent of your coat hem,    
                 the tang of leather and metal on your wrists,
                 the soft skin at your neck
                 where the blood's cursor flashes.

                 You've gone
                 leaving no clear sign -
                 but still the heart strains and whines
                 wants off the leash,
                 snout like a cool, black magnet
                 clinched to the invisible print
                 of where you passed

                 as if it would track you
                 bring you to ground
                 stunned but unbloodied
                 the light on your face 
                 the sheen of wet freesias
                 as the warm jaws lie you
                 like long, green stems 
                 at my feet.

                 Emma Neale 
                    (first published in The Red Wheelbarrow - Issue 17 November 2008) 


Emma Neale is an award-winning Dunedin-based poet, novelist, essayist, teacher, editor of our local newspaper's Monday's Poem, mother of two sons and friend. Emma is this year's Burn's fellow. She and her work will already be known to many of you; her latest novel Fosterling is a must-read and was recently short-listed in the Youth Fiction category of the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy. I urge you to read it - you will find yourselves immediately, deeply engaged and transported by this beautifully honed, transformative story. To listen in to Emma's conversation with Lynn Freeman on NZ's National Radio, scroll down the radio's page till you reach Emma's name.

A paragraph from one of Emma's recent(ish) blog entries, The Press of Language -   

". . . I love the way, with my battered old Shorter Oxford English Dictionary – a gift from my parents when I was a teenager – I can plunge in, riffling through to look for, say, ciborium (which proves my lack of formal religious instruction), and get waylaid by clingstone, clinchpoop, clergess, churr-worm, chumship. By that sweetly circuitous route I taste peach; make company laugh as we toss the insult about; imagine another life as a mediaeval scholar; hear crickets creak, and feel the presence of my paternal grandfather, Hamish, whose nickname was Chum. A printed dictionary brings about happy little shocks of happenstance: words feel like happenings, events. It’s like walking around a corner, to see an empty music stand set in the middle of someone’s front garden, and a tui perched on it, singing, ‘without notes’. Or in the bustle of the marketplace at the end of winter, turning your head to catch sight of a young woman who has cleared a small space to dance, the competition ribbons pinned to her suitcase fluttering as if they’ve barely overcome stage fright themselves; and as you glance away, you see three Buddhist monks walk past, in companionable, silent single file, alms bowls clutched under their arms, so on the page in your mind, you see arms bowls…"

Visit Emma's blog to continue reading The Press of Language.  

Emma's new collection of poems - The Truth Garden - will be launched at Dunedin's University Book Shop this Friday, 27 July. 


Friday 27th is New Zealand's National Poetry Day. To celebrate, this week's TP editor Andrew M. Bell has selected a poem from each of the three Poetry finalists for this year's NZ Post Book Awards - Anna Jackson (with her collection Thicket, Rhian Gallagher with Shift and Diana Hawken with her latest collection The Leaf-note). To visit the hub, please click on the quill. Poetry events will be held across the country on Friday, several of which will involve Tuesday Poets. Emma Neale's eagerly-awaited new collection The Truth Garden (OUP) will be launched at Dunedin's University Book Shop on Friday. Up on the North Island, curator Mary McCallum will be one of five 'peripatetic poets. . . brandishing poems that are lyrical and liturgical - bucolic & balletic - rhyming & free. . . ' And who said poetry can't be fun?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

'If art's acceptable evidence, mustn't what lies behind the world be at least as beautiful as the human voice?' - Mark Doty

". . . Here were people I saw every week at the post office, or the grocery store going about heir daily tasks and suddenly there they were in a different space in a new role and they opened their mouths and out poured all this glory. . . 

There's something about this experience, collectively, that makes it more powerful. We understand that we're not just by ourselves experiencing this sense of being uplifted but that we do that communally and that our fellows' voices do that for us. We are citizens together in that moment - a moment of a kind of rapture. . . " Mark Doty

MESSIAH (Christmas Portions)

   A little heat caught
in gleaming rags,
in shrouds of veil,
   torn and sun-shot swaddlings:

   over the Methodist roof,
two clouds propose a Zion
of their own, blazing
   (colors of tarnish on copper)

   against the steely close
of a coastal afternoon, December,
while under the steeple
   the Choral Society

   prepares to perform
Messiah, pouring, in their best
blacks and whites, onto the raked stage.
   Not steep, really,

   but from here,
the first pew, they’re a looming
cloudbank of familiar angels:
   that neighbor who

   fights operatically
with her girlfriend, for one,
and the friendly bearded clerk
   from the post office

   —tenor trapped
in the body of a baritone? Altos
from the A&P, soprano
   from the T-shirt shop:

   today they’re all poise,
costume and purpose
conveying the right note
   of distance and formality.

   Silence in the hall,
anticipatory, as if we’re all
about to open a gift we’re not sure
   we’ll like;

   how could they
compete with sunset’s burnished
oratorio? Thoughts which vanish,
   when the violins begin.

   Who’d have thought
they’d be so good? Every valley,
proclaims the solo tenor,
   (a sleek blonde

   I’ve seen somewhere before
—the liquor store?) shall be exalted,
and in his handsome mouth the word
   is lifted and opened

   into more syllables
than we could count, central ah
dilated in a baroque melisma,
   liquefied; the pour

   of voice seems
to make the unplaned landscape
the text predicts the Lord
   will heighten and tame.

   This music
demonstrates what it claims:
glory shall be revealed. If art’s
   acceptable evidence,

   mustn’t what lies
behind the world be at least
as beautiful as the human voice?
   The tenors lack confidence,

   and the soloists,
half of them anyway, don’t
have the strength to found
   the mighty kingdoms

   these passages propose
—but the chorus, all together,
equals my burning clouds,
   and seems itself to burn,

   commingled powers
deeded to a larger, centering claim.
These aren’t anyone we know;
   choiring dissolves

   familiarity in an up-
pouring rush which will not
rest, will not, for a moment,
   be still.

   Aren’t we enlarged
by the scale of what we’re able
to desire? Everything,
   the choir insists,

   might flame;
inside these wrappings
burns another, brighter life,
   quickened, now,

   by song: hear how
it cascades, in overlapping,
lapidary waves of praise? Still time.
   Still time to change.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Tuesday Poem - The Fish by Jane Hirshfield


                                    THE FISH

There is a fish
that stitches
the inner water
and the outer water together.

Bastes them
with its gold body’s flowing.

A heavy thread
follows that transparent river,
secures it –
the broad world we make daily,
daily give ourselves to.

Neither imagined
nor unimagined,
neither winged nor finned,
we walk the luminous seam.
Knot it.
Flow back into the open gills.

This week's Tuesday Poem editor is Elizabeth Welsh with Wellington poet Mary Creswell'Gigabyte  -  

'. . . How much memory can you sell me? I want it all, asleep and awake, at the light
                    touch of a finger. . . '

For Mary's poem and to connect to the work of our many other Tuesday Poets, please click on the quill. 

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Things that move me I

I've been feeling a bit  #~*^>\?^*#~ lately and know some of you have been feeling this way, too. Rather than attempt to explain (as if I/we could?) all that might be contained in  #~*^>\?^*#~ let me suggest it translates to something like COMPOST. I've been burrowing, yes (feeling more like an old crow dressed in mining gear and clasping a torch on a Hopeful Hunt For Things That Glint Or Shimmer In The Dark, than an earthworm luxuriating in its native soil). So saying, I am sloooooowly finding my way into a series of new projects. Part of this process inevitably involves revisiting old notebooks, emptying out drawers and doing a major studio-cleansing blitz. I've unearthed a good many abandoned and forgotten things that are not only proving to be useful digging tools but also becoming the ladder that's bringing me back up to the surface. The journey we're all on sometimes feels like a massive bridge-building process in which we're invited to blend grit with shimmer, steel with mist, lead with glass with gold. 

As of this Thursday, the sun's been eying the studio from a new angle as if tipping its hat at whatever wants to happen next. The day is bright, our patient harbour offering up the softest light. The tuis and bellbirds are all ebullient, harmonious song and I feel gratitude for mud and mirth. Both. 

Here are some of the things I've appreciated digging up - or simply noticing again. . . 



(In a recent collaborative project with my friend Rupert in Australia, he transcribed the DNA sequence of this tiny unicellular creature into Japanese musical notation then played it on his shakuhachi; one of my silent films provided the backdrop for his performance. I cried when he sent me this musical interpretation of a creature I've been enchanted by ever since I first encountered it in Antarctica in 2005. Gromia are members of a group of protists that form the base of our evolutionary pyramid.)

(Discarded page from my 2007 poetry collection, Open Book. 2007 seems like a hundred years ago.)

One of those images that just 'appeared' 
(The present making peace with the past? I wonder. Either way, Kotuku is our sacred heron)

Wax & glass - each circle a perfect promise

Edges. Perforations
Imperfect. Perfect. 

Blessings, friends. 


Porcelain pieces by Christina Bryer (SA) 

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Tuesday Poem - It Is All One Water

During this morning's routine browse around the internet I read a sobering and deeply moving article on Japan's Hydrangea Revolution some of which I'm copy-pasting here. . . 

". . . If Fukushima reactor unit 4 collapses, the catastrophe would degrade the lives of our descendants for hundreds or thousands of years. If we have nothing to explain to these girls* now, how will we explain the cause and efforts of an even larger catastrophe later?

The girl's perspective of life and nature has changed. 'Mountain, Forest, River, Sea. . .' these words now bring to mind radiation, not the dwelling place of any spirit or God. We live on a world of water. From space, our planet is blue with the oceans that cover 70 percent of its surface. As life on our planet comes from water, we too are formed from a single cell in the small sea of our mother's womb. Like the earth, we are 70 percent water. But something is terribly wrong when water, the worldwide symbol of purity, becomes polluted. The natural order is upside down when a drink of water brings disease instead of relief. When a heavy rain kills trees and lakes. When the source of life is poisoned as it flows from the ground. We are a tenant of the planet. We have no right to change the planet.

I like to suggest that our policy makers, nuclear power plant companies and nuclear scientists step back for a moment and think over as an individual, not an associate of any group, what our responsibility is for our children, grandchildren and our descendants for years to come. The Hydrangea Revolution is a push for true democracy in Japan. A free press is a critical pillar of any democracy. It is time for each member of the media to ask basic questions of the Japanese government and its companies and shed light on the true situation there. . . "

* Three girls from the Suma High School in the Fukushima prefecture who recently staged a theatre performance titled 'Unheard Voices'. Akio Matsumura, author of this article, wrote 'I was moved by their courage but found myself in despair over their grief and worries.'  (To read Matsumura's full article, please click here.)

It goes without saying that every one of us is (t)asked to 'step back for a moment' and contemplate our individual and collective responsibility towards our planet, 'our children, grandchildren and descendants for years to come. . . ' After all, what happens to one of us happens to us all - the Butterfly Effect - or, to quote 'our own' Marylinn Kelly (whose words are the title of this week's piece) -

 It is all one water - a finger in a tide pool brings our shores together.


I had intended to post another poem today but in light of this morning's reading, felt prompted to change tracks and post this 2011 prayer/meditation for Fukushima and our world's oceans instead. . . Some of you may remember this from around this time last year. I have created several versions; this one I submitted to the Pachamama Alliance for their 2011 Future Possibilities event. I find Kate's hand-dancing soothing and especially love that the narration for this short vid. is collaborative, with lines contributed by poet friends here and abroad, including several of you - Marylinn Kelly (USA - who blogs here), Pam Morrison (NZ - Cadence), Therese Clear (USA - Premium T), Scott Odom (USA - The Dishwasher's Tears), Kay Mackenzie-Cooke (NZ - Born To A Red-Headed Woman), Elisabeth Hanscombe (Australia - Sixth In Line) and moi. 

               IT IS ALL ONE WATER

              In the wide sound of the sea
                  the song of a vast adventure,
                  a music that follows flight
                  paths of blood rushing
                  through veins. And the roar
                  of the sea is the roar of our planet.

                  Salt. Spray. Ice. Sand.
                  Each wave a limb of the earth.
                  The oceans are hoarders
                  of holy mysteries, generous
                  to a fault; all heaving movement,
                  energy and gorgeousness, life
                  packed into every inch and drop of it.

                              Its drama! 
                              Its secrecy.

                  The way it carries the past
                  future and present in it.

                  Dream of the sea
                  and from its edge, gaze out
                  to the pencil-thin line of the horizon
                  where sky and water are one.

                  And the sea?

                            How it murmurs. 
                            How it murmurs.
                  It is all one water.

                  A finger in a tide pool
                  brings our shores together.


This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is Wellington-based writer Tim Jones with the exquisite Why Don't You Talk To Me? by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell.  Please click on the quill to get to the hub and once there, explore the long list of poets who dedicatedly post a poem each Tuesday.