Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Waves by Katherine Mansfield

I saw a tiny God
Under a bright blue umbrella
That had white tassels
And forked ribs of gold.
Below him His little world
Lay open to the sun.
The shadow of His hat
Lay upon a city.
When he stretched forth His hand
A lake became a dark tremble.
When he kicked up His foot
It became night in the mountain passes.

But thou art small!
There are gods far greater than thou.
They rise and fall,
The tumbling gods of the sea.
Can thy heart heave such sighs,
Such hollow savage cries,
Such windy breath,
Such groaning death?
And can thy arm enfold
The old,
The cold,
The changeless dreadful places
Where the herds
Of horned sea-monsters
And the screaming birds
Gather together?
From those silent men
That lie in the pen
Of our pearly prisons,
Canst thou hunt thy prey?
Like us canst thou stay
Awaiting thine hour,
And then rise like a tower
And crash and shatter?

There are neither trees nor bushes
In my country,
Said the tiny God.
But there are streams
And waterfalls
And mountain-peaks
Covered with lovely weed.
There are little shores and safe harbours,
Caves for cool and plains for sun and wind.
Lovely is the sound of the rivers,
Lovely the flashing brightness
Of the lovely peaks.
I am content.

But Thy kingdom is small,
Said the God of the Sea.
Thy kingdom shall fall;
I shall not let thee be.
Thou art proud!
With a loud
Pealing of laughter,
He rose and covered
The tiny God's land
With the tip of his hand,
With the curl of his fingers:
And after--

The tiny God
Began to cry 

____________________ I don't know much about KM's poetry - it's a revelation to me. This feels more fable than poem, really, although the rhythms and the excellent language are the stuff of poems. These lines will send me off now into Xmas and Summer Holidays - a time of family and food and countryside and reading and writing and relaxation: Lovely is the sound of the rivers,/Lovely the flashing brightness/Of the lovely peaks./I am content.

Merry Christmas to all the talented and generous Tuesday Poets who continue to amaze me each week - especially my kind and creative co-curator Claire Beynon - and to all my wider group of blog-readers who visit here. 

I have been so lucky to have been part of a longstanding book club and a brand new writing group this year (both of which I find necessary and stimulating), and to have met with many wonderful writers via Randell Cottage (of which I'm a trustee), Massey University (where I teach) and other writer events, and  to have taught/mentored some talented up-and-coming writers - one of whom is only 16. I have published a chapbook of poems (and been part of an art exhibition) and am looking at publishing other writers; I have finished my children's book and am awaiting publisher feedback, and I continue to work on my adult novel This Seagull Heart of Mine. 

I also continue to ponder a possible poetry collection and work as an anthologist on a collection of Eastbourne writing. I work every Friday at the local bookshop and next year I'm the NZ Post Book Awards Festival Co-ordinator. 

I'm also a wife and mother, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, friend, neighbour, and dog-owner, and I live by the sea and walk in the bush, and sometimes I go inland to sit under olive trees. Nga Mihi Nui.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Supplication to Our Lady of the Dumpster by T Clear

~ for Rachael Maxi

O lid of clang & wheels of clatter,
O collector of rubbish & swill, O Holy Mother
of great pickings, of dreck & slop: Hear our prayer.

O saint of litter & scrap, protect us
from the banana peel, the Styrofoam chunk,
from all that defies reduce/reuse/recycle.

O divine casting off, O sacred decay!
Hallelujah to the Hefty Ultra-Flex 33 Gallon,
the drawstring, the twist-tie.

You hold dear everything
everyone never wanted or wanted once,
a sack or a heap tossed & tumbled.

Praise to those who dive into the belly
of your dump — the urban foragers, the hungry,
scraping a meal of crust & bone.

Consecrate them, O Queen of rubble
robed in graffiti. Watch over them,
that they may not themselves become waste

to be managed, a cubic yard of flesh
primed for front-loading. Now,
and at the hour of our death.


© T. Clear 2010 

Big White Rusty, by Rachel Maxi © 
This poem is by fellow Tuesday Poet T Clear who lives in Seattle and who blogs here.  She's an Irish-Catholic American who works with glass and who has a fine eye for the glory in the ordinary. This poem is published with her permission. One day I plan to go to Seattle and say kia ora to this amazing woman. 

I've had another dumpster poem on this blog - NZ poet Airini Beautrais'  poem called A Good Story which starts: 'My friend likes to find things in skip bins...'  

After reading these two fine poems please pop to the Tuesday Poem hub for a wonderful Sam Hunt poem - thrilled to have him there. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tuesday Poem: The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem

Electronic Bard.output

I'm up and off to Auckland tomorrow - so my Tuesday Poem post is up early. Click on the link above to hear it. 

I have just discovered a stack of poems on Soundcloud via a Twitter Poetry Night - and it says this one is the first poem composed by Trurl's Electronic Bard. So, not human? It's posted by a human though - Travis Cottreau. Now I'm intrigued....

UPDATE....Okay, this is what I found online - Trurl and his inventions including a poetry machine that writes poems

Meanwhile check out the Tuesday Poem hub where you'll find 30 poets in the sidebar posting poems written by themselves or others - all to date, as far as I know, human. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Afterwards by Thomas Hardy

When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay,
And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings,
Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say,
"He was a man who used to notice such things"? 
If it be in the dusk when, like an eyelid's soundless blink,
The dewfall-hawk comes crossing the shades to alight
Upon the wind-warped upland thorn, a gazer may think,
"To him this must have been a familiar sight." 
If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm,
When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn,
One may say, "He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm,
But he could do little for them; and now he is gone." 
If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last, they stand at the door,
Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees,
Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more,
"He was one who had an eye for such mysteries"? 
And will any say when my bell of quittance is heard in the gloom,
And a crossing breeze cuts a pause in its outrollings,
Till they rise again, as they were a new bell's boom,
"He hears it not now, but used to notice such things"?

How perfect this, from Thomas Hardy, gifted to me this week by Facebook friend Jeanne Walker after she read my poem The Landscape. The Landscape was chosen by Jen Compton for her Tuesday Poem blog last week, and here's what Jeanne said:
It is amazing how much detail we notice and savour when we realise how temporary everything is, when we see how the encoded shadows of ultrasounds, cat scans and x ray have real implications. You might enjoy Thomas Hardy's poem Afterwards - your leaves & observations reminded me of Hardy's May month leaves & observations.
So thanks Jeanne and Thomas! And here's Jeremy Irons reading the poem....  

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tuesday Poem: W B Yeats reading his poems and talking about them - a recording

Ever wondered why it is a 'purple glow'? Hear Yeats reading and talking about Lake Isle of Innisfree and other poems in this wonderful recording.

What amazes me is that he wrote Innisfree when he was 23 and living in London. He was walking along the Strand and was inspired by something to write about his home (listen to the recording to hear what the inspiration was....).

Well, I was living in London when I was 23, working on Shoe Lane off Fleet Street not too far from the Strand, and writing poems about New Zealand. I was a bit homesick, most especially for the sea. And I was reading Yeats - a favourite at university. I somehow thought he would have been older than me writing one of his great poems, though. I don't know why.

After you've had a listen, pop along to Tuesday Poem for Robert Creeley and poems he wrote about New Zealand.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Soaring like a great whale: the stuff of creativity

Some days I'm watching people and it's as if my skin is looser, the bones softer, my eyes more elastic. The man with the limp, the chubby girl with the pink stained t-shirt saying 'Pretty', the enormous pale woman with the enormous pale muffin, the girl with freckles and the staccato way of being helpful without being too helpful because she doesn't know where to stop -- I watch and in watching I lose the edges of me and start to absorb the edges of them. I feel a feeling close to love for them for all their differences and oddities, their disabilities and abilities, their joys and miseries. Like the girl with freckles, I get a sense that if I keep going I might not stop, I might start to absorb all the other people on the street, in the town, the city, the country. Love the world, the universe.

These sorts of moments I think of as deeply creative ones, because they are about empathy, climbing into other skin and eyes and brains and ways of being, and understanding what's there, writing it.

It reminds me of the way Jill Bolte Taylor described the stroke she had in the left side of her brain, and how, left with only the right ('creative') side of the brain functioning properly, she felt unmoored, without the usual sense of the limits of self. Her spirit soared like a great whale, she said, in a sea of euphoria.

So creativity -- the ordinary stuff without the left-brain stroke -- is, surely, a version of that cosmic thing Bolte Taylor experienced. The soaring, the openness to all, the euphoria. Groovy.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Starlings by Tim Upperton

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.

I remember the starlings, the pair that returned to that gap
above the purple hydrangeas, between weatherboard and eaves.
The same birds, we thought, not knowing how long a starling lives.
For twenty years they came and went, flit and pause and up

into that hidden place. A dry rustle at night, fidgeting, calling,
a murmuration: bird business. The vastness and splendour
of their piecemeal activity, their lives' long labour,
we discovered at last; blinking, in the murk of the ceiling,

at that whole cavernous space filled, stuffed like a haybarn.
It was like gold, except it was more like shit and straw,
jumbled with their own young, dead, desiccated, sinew
and bone, fledgling and newborn. Starlings only learn

a little thing, made big from not knowing when to leave off:
gone past all need except need, enough never enough.

This is a favourite poem of mine by Palmerston North poet, Tim Upperton, who is also at the Tuesday Poem hub this week. It is from his collection A House on Fire. I love the craftedness of it, the sounds of birds and people - soft and maddening at once - evoked with words like 'thrummed' 'chimneys' 'dimmed' and the blissful 'murmuration', the secrets in rooms and eaves and hearts, the gold and the murk, the unwinding emotional centre. Fabulously fairytale and sadly real at once. Thanks Tim for letting me use your poem here.

You can hear it read. 

The Starlings was selected for the Best NZ Poems 2009 and Tim explained it there:"The starlings" was originally an informal epithalamion, a poem to commemorate the wedding of my sister, Katrina, and her husband, Steve. That version was, appropriately enough, a lot more celebratory than the final version you see here. The poem includes details my sister would remember, such as the immense starlings' nest in the ceiling of our family home.

I kept revisiting and revising this poem following its first publication in the NZ Poetry Society's anthology, tiny gaps (2006), and each time it got a little darker than before – notes of elegy seeped in. A last-minute change before my first book of poems, A House on Fire, went to print last year was the addition of the word 'murmuration' – a lovely old collective noun for starlings.'

Now see Tim's poem at the Tuesday Poem hub. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Wind by Madeleine Slavick

all night the wind
changes its mind


This delicious snippet of a poem was dropped around Greytown by 'guerrilla' poet Madeleine Slavick as part of the Greytown Arts Festival over the weekend -- and she persuaded a bunch of other poets, including myself, to do the same. She's like that: likes poetry to walk around on legs rather than let it quietly sit in the corner embroidering. Madeleine's from the States but has lived in Hong Kong for some time; now she lives near Masterton.

So we poets walked the streets rolling poems like cigarettes and sliding them into hedges, slipping them flat and upright between bottles on shop shelves, sticking them with cellotape to maps and onto shop signs.  Madeleine's best 'drop' was down the front of poet Pat White's artist wife Catherine Day. It was this very poem on a small square of blue paper and it sat there on Catherine's chest for the rest of the afternoon.

Madeleine took delight in saying to the locals gathered at cafes, 'Short blue or long white?' And they chose either this little wind poem on blue or a longer poem on white. Sometimes she started reciting. I think Featherston-poet-formerly-of-Belfast Simon Fleck might have recited some too.

I was proud of my 'drops' -- especially the one between the feathers of a metal moa (following Madeleine's lead) and one slid into a summer top on a posh shop mannequin. The shop owner looked a little startled but said it would be fine for now. When I passed by five minutes later, it had gone. Taken or binned? I only posted one poem all over the place - Translucent which is about crossing the Rimutakas - you can see it in the post before this one. But I made it nice - used an old tin box of paints and painted white lightly over the poem (for the clouds) with a dash of blue where it talks about the blue sheep truck. Very, um playcentre.

John Horrocks didn't print off his poems off like the rest of us, let alone apply paint, he simply took a pair of scissors to one of his books of poetry. Very Dada. Madeleine was disappointed he didn't do it in front of people on the Main Street of Greytown. There's a poem -- hack! -- and there's another one -- snip! What he did do was stick a poem about slaughtering a pig onto the butcher's sign, which made Madeleine laugh a lot.

Saradha Koirala slipped a poem called Amsterdam, printed on white, into a hedge -- and a mother with a pram stopped, read it, and carefully put it back. I saw and said, 'take it!' She said, 'Oh it's so Amsterdam' and took it. The poems in the hedge went quickly. Somewhere I have a picture of them that I'll post here. Tim Jones marched manfully around Greytown distributing what looked like over 100 poems. He seemed more proactive about pushing them into people's hands. It must be the way he does it, he's got a large and friendly smile, I didn't see any being binned.

After we'd been guerrilla poets for an afternoon, we gathered at the Town Hall with other poets and did what poets normally do: read poems.

I love to think about where our 'guerrilla' poems have gone. I'm guessing some are still sitting there, on maps or statues or between bottles of chutney in the deli. Others might be on people's fridges at home or tucked inside a baby's pram. I'm not sure if Catherine's still wearing hers. I'll have to ask.

Madeleine Slavick's poem is published in Something Beautiful Might Happen ~ poetry by Madeleine Slavick, photography by Shimao Shinzo (Tokyon: Ushimaoda 2010)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Translucent

Crossing the Rimutakas, going home,
and the scraped landscape is in the thick
of it – although thick isn’t the word, really
– tender the cloud stroking the cut earth,
tender the light as it feels its way through.
All is gauzy. Filtered. The blue
of the sheep truck we lose on the bends
the only colour. See, Helen, you can
touch clouds. Live in them, even. Tenderly,
we make our way up and over. So
light, so lit, we’re luminous. It’s like flying,
and all we talk about on the way down. 

Mary McCallum

Yes I have posted this poem before but I am doing it again because I'll be going over the Rimutakas this Saturday with fellow poet John Horrocks in my speedy Suzuki Swift to take part in the Greytown Arts Festival.

When we get there, I'll be leaving this poem in unexpected places as part of a groovy little event called Free Delivery. John and Saradha and Pat and Madeleine and a bunch of other poets will join me. A great idea by Wairarapa local Madeleine Slavick who has also organised a poetry reading at 5 pm on Saturday in the Village Art Shop for us all. Believe me, it will be fun. Wairarapa poetry gigs always are. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Dance ti thy daddy

 A song this week, not a poem.

"Dance Ti Thy Daddy" or "When the Boat Comes In" is a traditional English folk song, originating in Northumberland - the part of the world where my mother and our friend Eni come from.

Eni - Ena Brown-Edwards - died this week aged 84.

Once upon a time she lived nearby, and came in the middle of the night to look after our small sons when our daughter was born. She came to Issy's six-month birthday party, sat in the sunshine in the garden with us and laughed with our plump baby. When she babysat, she brought lollies. The kids loved her.

She's godmother to our middle child Adam; one day when she stood up, he looked up the full length of her and said, 'Eni, why are you so short?' She loved that! Laughed and laughed and told the story many times over. Eni had a great laugh and beautiful skin and was indeed very short. She loved lovely clothes, painting watercolours and going to garage sales.

We knew Eni's daughter, Gillian, first, and then we knew Eni and then when my daughter was born, Eni was there. When Eni moved up the coast to live near my mother, they became friends. So there's a kind of circle here of daughter to mother to daughter to mother. My heart goes out to Eni's family, including her second husband Walter, and to my Mum and Dad who are missing her.

We didn't see her much these recent years, but we knew what Eni was up to, and when we saw her, it was always good. She came to my 50th birthday last year, but sadly didn't get to her godson's 21st this year. She wasn't well enough for that, but she sent a card and some money. She never forgot any of our children's birthdays.

'Dance ti thy daddy' is for Eni and for my mother -- not for what the words say, but for what it is -- a song from the place where they first put their feet. I am compelled now to learn to sing this song too, and accompany it on the ukulele. It's coming along quite well, actually.

Rest in Peace, Eni.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Graffiti by Mary McCallum

Pencilled deep on driftwood
down where the tide
draws a line, as stencils
on sheep pens, as vegetables
on blackboards, as spelling lists
on cardboard in blue  felt   tip.

My.    Like.     Can.    Mary.
Each word its own laboured tick
and under and small: Noah 6.

and where will you go with
these beauties, child,
these restless arks, these rocket

How will my 
possess you? How many likes
will you favour? And can,
will it do? What aspect of Mary 
will there be in your nature, too,
not yet adrift on that splashing water, but
attached by paper and pencil, by finger
and thumb, by wrist and elbow, by
shoulder and head, by head and brain,
by lung and leg and ankle and shoe, to
words of one syllable, and other
simplicities like bikes and pets. Except

for Mary, of all names.
Strange to see it keeping company
here, more adjective than noun.

The things you find on the beach that get you thinking... Tuesday Poem hub this week hosts Dinah Hawken's Hope selected by Keith Westwater. Do click on the quill in the sidebar to visit or click here www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tuesday Poem: This Lime-tree Bower my Prison by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

[Addressed to Charles Lamb, of the India House, London]
Well, they are gone, and here must I remain,
This lime-tree bower my prison! I have lost
Beauties and feelings, such as would have been
Most sweet to my remembrance even when age
Had dimm'd mine eyes to blindness! They, meanwhile,
Friends, whom I never more may meet again,
On springy heath, along the hill-top edge,
Wander in gladness, and wind down, perchance,
To that still roaring dell, of which I told;
The roaring dell, o'erwooded, narrow, deep,
And only speckled by the mid-day sun;
Where its slim trunk the ash from rock to rock
Flings arching like a bridge;—that branchless ash,
Unsunn'd and damp, whose few poor yellow leaves
Ne'er tremble in the gale, yet tremble still,
Fann'd by the water-fall! and there my friends
Behold the dark green file of long lank weeds,
That all at once (a most fantastic sight!)
Still nod and drip beneath the dripping edge
Of the blue clay-stone.

                        Now, my friends emerge
Beneath the wide wide Heaven—and view again
The many-steepled tract magnificent
Of hilly fields and meadows, and the sea,
With some fair bark, perhaps, whose sails light up
The slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two Isles
Of purple shadow! Yes! they wander on
In gladness all; but thou, methinks, most glad,
My gentle-hearted Charles! for thou hast pined
And hunger'd after Nature, many a year,
In the great City pent, winning thy way
With sad yet patient soul, through evil and pain
And strange calamity! Ah! slowly sink
Behind the western ridge, thou glorious Sun!
Shine in the slant beams of the sinking orb,
Ye purple heath-flowers! richlier burn, ye clouds!
Live in the yellow light, ye distant groves!
And kindle, thou blue Ocean! So my friend
Struck with deep joy may stand, as I have stood,
Silent with swimming sense; yea, gazing round
On the wide landscape, gaze till all doth seem
Less gross than bodily; and of such hues
As veil the Almighty Spirit, when yet he makes
Spirits perceive his presence.

                        A delight
Comes sudden on my heart, and I am glad
As I myself were there! Nor in this bower,
This little lime-tree bower, have I not mark'd
Much that has sooth'd me. Pale beneath the blaze
Hung the transparent foliage; and I watch'd
Some broad and sunny leaf, and lov'd to see
The shadow of the leaf and stem above
Dappling its sunshine! And that walnut-tree
Was richly ting'd, and a deep radiance lay
Full on the ancient ivy, which usurps
Those fronting elms, and now, with blackest mass
Makes their dark branches gleam a lighter hue
Through the late twilight: and though now the bat
Wheels silent by, and not a swallow twitters,
Yet still the solitary humble-bee
Sings in the bean-flower! Henceforth I shall know
That Nature ne'er deserts the wise and pure;
No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
No waste so vacant, but may well employ
Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
Awake to Love and Beauty! and sometimes
'Tis well to be bereft of promis'd good,
That we may lift the soul, and contemplate
With lively joy the joys we cannot share.
My gentle-hearted Charles! when the last rook
Beat its straight path along the dusky air
Homewards, I blest it! deeming its black wing
(Now a dim speck, now vanishing in light)
Had cross'd the mighty Orb's dilated glory,
While thou stood'st gazing; or, when all was still,
Flew creeking o'er thy head, and had a charm
For thee, my gentle-hearted Charles, to whom
No sound is dissonant which tells of Life.

I've been thinking of this poem recently - not sure why. That second line hangs out in my head along with many other wonderful lines from university study-the-Romantics days. I remember going to a the garden of a friend of a friend outside London a few years after university finished. He was a retired maker of shoes and talked about 'lasts' etc and had a lovely drooping lime tree which we stood under (inside, really) into the twilight ... 'a delight' no less. 

Don't you love this passage? 

Now, my friends emerge
Beneath the wide wide Heaven—and view again
The many-steepled tract magnificent
Of hilly fields and meadows, and the sea,
With some fair bark, perhaps, whose sails light up
The slip of smooth clear blue betwixt two Isles
Of purple shadow!

So much compressed into there, such a hugeness of vision and yet caught inside those controlled and perfect words. The third line, hear those sounds... 

Now do go to the Tuesday Poem hub by clicking on the quill in the sidebar for a poem translated from the Russian, and the original Russian is there too, thanks to Orchid Tierney. Lovely. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Where the Sister Walks by Sarah Jane Barnett

 I am editor at the hub again! And this time I've chosen Sarah Jane Barnett's Where the Sister Walks from her collection A Man Runs into A Woman (Hue & Cry 2012). Do take a moment to check it out. http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/2012/09/when-sister-walks-by-sarah-jane-barnett.html

Anyone else having blogger issues today and yesterday? I can't link or put up photographs. The toolbar for composing posts looks weird and won't work. Anyone any idea why?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Kelburn Park by Harry Ricketts

The grass shaggy already,
white lines partitioning the field
to other codes, enigmas.

The square is invisible.
A huddle of grey-backed gulls,
a hunch of slips and short legs.

The nets look deserted, but if you squint
there's Hamish just taking guard,
Tony sidling up to bowl.

posted with permission 

Harry Ricketts is so many things - English Professor and poet and anthologist and biographer and cricket lover. Born in England, a student at Oxford University, he moved to NZ via Hong Kong and teaches up at Victoria University which is within spitting distance of Kelburn Park.

I studied English Lit at Victoria University when Harry was young and blonde and carried his small children on his shoulders. Now one of them is a drummer for the Phoenix Foundation and Harry, as of this year I think, is a Professor.

Just Then (VUP 2012)  is his latest poetry book -- full of poems that are playful, fun, nostalgic -- about his family, poets he knows,  other friends, places, poems, paintings, cricket.

Here are some of the other poems from the collection: El Prado, Phoenix Foundation and Polonius:Old Poet - all, I am proud to say, posted on Tuesday Poem blogs. And here's another cricket poem by Harry on Mark Pirie's fabulous Tingling Catch blog.

This poem, ah, well it's very Harry Ricketts -- the lovely playfulness of 'codes, enigmas', the yummy mouthful of language in the huddle of gulls and the 'hunch of slips and short legs', then there's that thing he has for cricket -- and memory -- and then, for me, there's the way the poem evokes so wonderfully one part of my memory about my time at Victoria University. The shaggy grass, the gulls, the deserted feel - like Narnia, my memories of Vic are (in the nicest way) always winter.

After the post went up here this morning, Harry emailed me with the background to 'Kelburn Park':
In case it's of interest, I made up 'Kelburn Park' while walking back up to Vic from the Terrace and past Kelburn Park, after reviewing Bill Manhire's collection "The Victims of Lightning" on National Radio's Nine-to-Noon programme. My head was full of Bill's poems and winter.
Which seems perfectly apposite. Thanks so much Harry for the email and for the poem.

Now poetry readers, do head to the Tuesday Poem hub asap to read terrific Australian poet Sarah Rice.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not what Lloyd says, or the art of extraction

photo by Annie Hayward 
Against Lloyd Jones' advice to keep my novel close to my chest -- here is an extract from it. Fresh out of the Dropbox where I've popped it to share with my writing group. Why share it? I guess I'm excited to be back in the project - properly inside it -- and writing writing writing, not self-censoring and obsessively pruning and barely moving forward.

I've decided my style isn't pared back. It's busy and loud and full of cultural and contemporary references - especially, in this case, music and fashion. Different from The Blue -- so maybe it's just this book that's like that? The next will be different? Oh I don't know. But I spend too much time discussing these things with myself.

Must. Keep. Writing.

And I'm trying to follow Henry Miller's maxims which include this: 'Don't be nervous. Work calmly. joyously, recklessly ...' I like that last one particularly. I guess blogging an extract is a bit reckless.

Okay the extract from 'This Seagull Heart of Mine'  ... 

First of all, picture Jackson St, Petone, and the protagonist (who owns a second hand clothes shop on Jackson)  is looking for a particular tartan skirt, or rather she's looking for a person wearing a particular skirt  ...  the clothes shop Beauty is, she's decided, a good place to start. She's just spotted a woman on the street wearing tangerine (the colour) and both are walking into the shop....


She was ahead of me through the door into Beauty. Both of us billowed momentarily on the scented air: something rosy but chemical with an undertow of chrome polish, and that smell along with the shiny white minimalism of the walls and furnishings gave the impression of stepping into a mirror. The girl behind the counter was shiny and featureless, too, with bleached hair, no eyelashes, a white singlet. She was listening to Paramore on her laptop. She lifted her head from buffing her nails and watched us walk in.  

I didn’t know her name and I didn’t care; it wasn’t worth finding out even though we were in the same business and the same street. Any day now she would slide her skinny, bleached self through the door and onto a bus to go and work in a larger version of this shop somewhere in Lambton Quay. And from there where?                        

I scanned the shop. Tangerine was at the shoe table. The closest rack to me was cotton shirts, bright, crisp, chemical. Brights predominated – shades of purples and maroons. Black and grey tights. Loose tops. Nothing here had seams which ached from the movement of a body, or buttons hanging from thread pulled thin by fingers, or hems and cuffs which smiled at the secret and not-so-secret adjustments made to make them fit. ‘Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after’ – it was something Brian said cynically now and then about his colleagues. Yeats I think it was. It seemed to me that’s what people thought clothes shops offered them – a kind of perfection. A size not a shape. A look not a person. A way to smooth out the irregularities of the body. 

My shop offered that as much as the next one, but in a way that was less of a violation I suppose. They were not aloof, my clothes, and already well used to a body or three - bodies they brought with them. The short-armed woman from Naenae, the 80s freak from Wellington with the shoulder pads and the bouffant hair, the nervous girl from up the road who embroidered everything she owned with the tiniest stitches and seed pearls.                                                 

The assistant was standing now, as thin as a pencil, eyes heavier than the weight of her bones, moving so slowly around the large glass table I knew I had time to sprint to the skirts. 

From This Seagull Heart of Mine by Mary McCallum copyright 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Useful blogging tips

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Hotel Emergencies by Bill Manhire

I'm the hub editor this week - and I've chosen a chilling, thrilling recording of Bill Manhire reading Hotel Emergencies. Go here to hear... and find more wonderful poems in the sidebar chosen by Tuesday Poets.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Daughter

For F

How fraught this word with its 'gh' 
appearing to snag like a 'g' should
then at the last minute letting the air
through like the 
to the gate left open when she 
should be inside on her bed listening
to Axel Rose and doing her science
homework or
like a window left open for cigarette smoke –  
see! there's a 'g' right there doing what
a 'g' ought to – jagged little thing –
catching at the throat
like smoke does when you're not used to it,
in no time at all
our smooth babies chuckling
like eggs on the boil 
are snagging on all sorts of things
that ‘g’ getting in the way again when they
ought to 
surely, be able to find their way through
and around obstacles like water does,
but no, there they are: words
like prickles, like bruises and cuts,
more than we could never imagine, or,
worse, a ravaged interior –
that 'g' again of a different sort
jagged like a knife this time, like an 
fighting its way into the soil, like a breath taken
when breath is hard to take,
no, stand aside, we cannot go there
not on our own, not like this for we mothers
will always be new mothers on hard sheets 
babies at our breasts squeaky as silk
our bodies pouring forth
in a way that speaks of libation and sacrifice
which brings up that word at last:
But it’s no good. I can't
do anything with it, can’t foretell how
it will be for us or for them, but particularly for her.
All we can wish for is that this daughter
is safe in her bed, the one
with tie-dyed pillows and cinnamony sheets
and posters of Marilyn – or better
the one with the pink and orange satin
heart pillow and Little Mermaid book
and the door open a crack, just a crack,
so we can stand there and simply
adore her.                                    

By Mary McCallum 

And do check out the fabulous Tuesday Poem at the hub - by a UK poet this week - selected by Janis Freegard. And a raft of fab poems can be found in the TP sidebar too. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Margaret Mahy Nationwide Read a blast - could it be an annual event?

Posted this morning on Beattie's bookblog

blowing bubbles to Bubble Trouble outside Rona Gallery
 I am completely exhausted but thrilled to bits with our wonderful community event remembering a writing hero. Families packed into Eastbourne library to hear authors Jenny Hessell, Jill Harris, Maggie Rainey-Smith, Manny Garcia and me read our fave Margaret Mahy stories -- the children were transfixed -- adults too! One high point: the gathered children purring like a giant three-legged cat and another: when Manny read the first line of A Lion in the Meadow and a little boy jumped up excitedly and yelled 'I know this book!' But how many times did we 'ooh' a rhyme or 'ah' a fabulous word or grin at something marvellously ridiculous? 

There was an emotional moment too at the end when we stopped laughing and clapping and listening and acknowledged one of NZ's greatest writers ever. 
my prototype of the famous Fifi Colston chair 

Then we were off - a crocodile of kids in sports gear and parents with shopping following orange-bewigged librarian Sabine down sunshiny Rimu Street to Rona Gallery bookshop. There we stood in the sunshine blowing bubbles while Bubble Trouble was read out loud by Joanna Ponder and after that it was all on for Fifi Colston's Down the Back of the Chair egg carton treasure box chairs. We had so many takers we were quite overwhelmed, but somehow they all managed to make one, especially Yoshi with his chair painted orange in and out, and Sienna with her pink and blue chair and a huge blue splotch on her pink cardy (oh dear forgot about the aprons.) 

kids (and adults) making the Down the Back of the Chair
treasure boxes at Rona Gallery (me in the pink wig)
So lovely for the late finishers to have Fifi Colston Creative turn up and show them her yellow chair and lovely treasures inside .... 

Limping home in three-legged cat style, I opened up Facebook to find reports on Mahy readings flooding in from all over the country. Such colour and optimism and fun! There was Fifi Colston talking about reading to an enthusiastic group of littlies and their parents at Wellington Central library. She reported that while her group didn't make the famous treasure box chair, they went away well-armed to do so, and with handfuls of cut-out cats. Queenstown Library's Jane Bloomfield reported that Gillian Sullivan read her own copy of 'Lion in the Meadow' (signed by Margaret last year) and recounted stories of Margaret helping her as a young writer. Jane also said that the bubbles were a hit with young and old and the event created a whole bunch of new fans. 

Marlena Davis confirmed this with her post: 'My 13 month old and I had a wonderful time at Takapuna library. Thank you so much for organising this special way for people to celebrate a beloved author. RIP Margaret Mahy your legacy will live on in those of us who loved your stories and be continued as we share them with our children.'

The 'old fans' were definitely in evidence everywhere too -- with people of all ages reported at the gatherings. Here's one reader's comment on the Facebook page: 'I remember reading The Changeover in my teens at the local library. The exciting part is that given time, I can do that all over again:). Thank-you Margaret Mahy for making ME feel special. Te-Rau Huia Te Ngore-King 

display at Queenstown library
Clare Scott's report went like this: "Back from Papakura where a small and intitially bemused group (I'm good at scaring small children sometimes!) became an enthusiastic, interactive 'bubble brigade'. RIP Margaret - you would have loved the sharing of magical words throughout New Zealand today!" Auckland Central had fun too: 'Thank you Melinda Szymanik for being our extra-special author guest at the Central City Library, Auckland, Margaret Mahy storytime this morning! Thanks for being such a fun participant... and taking part in the singing and dancing!'
Hillcrest Pirate librarian Rebecca
and Nicola Daly 

Barbara Murison's morning at Cummings Park Library, Ngaio, was especially poignant. 'Linda Forbes (National Library Adviser) had found an old (very old) copy of the School Journal that prompted publication of the very first book - The Lion in the Meadow - when the journal was on display in the New York Public Library. It was a wonderful morning full of nostalgia and even if we ran out of time for making the Treasure Chair (thank you again Fifi) the library had most fortuitously prepared handout instruction sheets for the children to take home.'

Posted by Hillcrest library is a photo of Pirate Librarian Rebecca helping Nicola Daly read The Man Whose Mother was a Pirate. Sharon Holt's report of the event concluded: 'As Nicola read Margaret's description of the sea near the end of the story I was reminded of the amazing talent that we have lost. However, as one of the people wrote in our memorial book today "A great storyteller gone forever, but alive on our book shelves". ' So true. 

Dargaville library
Reports are still rolling on Facebook and elsewhere - no doubt we'll be hearing soon about the Auckland Town Hall event on at 2.30 pm. It was, I am sure, joyous. 

Thanks a thousand times over to the organisers of the Nationwide Read:Maria Gill and Johanna Knox - it was a brilliant idea, wonderfully executed. Could it be an annual event? Margaret Mahy Read Aloud Day - a day to remember a great writer and the joys of reading loud and having fun with books. Sounds good to me.