Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tuesday Poem: Leaving by Andrew Johnston

Taupata scrapes the house all night,
a madman brushing off spiders. You try

to fold the map small enough
to find a place to live, but

the wind prevails, fraying the sky,
making it hard to

read the directions. Outside
the day is ceramic, brittle --

a bright hood: its
crumbs of light.


Your belongings --
as if you belonged to them --

vanish as the funnel narrows:
you want to weigh down

a few precious things,
open the doors,

let the wind take the rest.
Days of boxes, allegorical days:

the sky turns its huge puzzled face towards you,
and then it turns away.

from Birds of Europe (VUP, 2000). Posted with permission.

Andrew's poem looks simple on the face of it -- in shape and message (couplets, another leaving poem), but in fact it's packed with arresting images -- aural and visual -- that wrestle with each other as the speaker of the poem wrestles to understand, or live with, what is happening.

The taupata (a plant also known as the mirror plant for its shiny leaves) scraping the house like a madman brushing off spiders is an image of irritation that morphs into nightmare. The folding and folding to get a map small enough, the wind, the belongings vanishing, the boxes - all evoke the internal mayhem in the poem. The final puzzled face of the sky is like the speaker of the poem - a still sad image.

For some reason I keep thinking of songs by the Mountain Goats like Belgian Things and Woke up New which have that same surface lightness and underlying deep sadness of parting. On first reading, I took the poem to be about a departing lover, but now - and after a brief communication with Andrew on Facebook - I think it is about someone who is leaving what he knows.

I am a big fan of Andrew's work and have posted it before - not least his brilliant double sestina The Sunflower - but this past week saw me run into his work again. Propitiously, I think. You see, I have started a new job working as a new publisher in association with another established publisher who just happens to have his office right near the wonderful secondhand bookshop Pegasus Books in Cuba Street's The Left Bank. On my first lunch hour I popped in and bought Andrew's Birds of Europe - a very nice copy that was handed to me in a brown paper bag (I think the best things come in brown paper bags) - and I glanced through it back at the office, then spent the evening reading it from cover to cover. A thoughtful and sensual collection - including a captivating series of poems about the French tightrope walker who walked between the twin towers in NY which I'd love to post another time.

Andrew lives in Paris and we communicate via Facebook, so I asked him via message if I could post Leaving and he said, yes I could. So I did. Lovely.

Now please please please click HERE to go to Tuesday Poem's communal birthday poem - 18 stanzas posted by 18 different poets around the world over three weeks, and it's finished!! It is quite astonishing - clever, jazzy, fun. Hard to believe it's not all from the same brain. Such a blast. Happy Birthday to us. Happy Birthday to us...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Tuesday Poem: Cloud walking

across the harbour
the city melts into the morning 

over it a sky the pale end of blue
and improbable clouds all hues

of white and grey heaped
in heavy shapes

a hat   a dog   a bird in flight

on the Promenade
a woman hoves 

into view    blue shirt strains
over an improbable bosom

hair springs from 
an improbable white hat

who would have thought it?
the sky down here to say


Mary McCallum

This is fun and from a long time ago (10 years?) when I was getting back into my poetry again. My subject became what was outside my door and where I walked. I've polished this poem up, though, in the past week, because I'm working as co-editor on an Eastbourne Anthology of writing and thought I should go back to some of my Eastbourne poems and pop them into the mix for consideration. Why not? 

Please check out the Tuesday Poem Third Birthday Poem which is in its third week now - 11 poets have posted 11 stanzas and there are more to come. I love the way it's going... 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday Poem: my stanza's up for the 3rd birthday poem

I've just added my stanza to the Tuesday Poem communal birthday poem - am rather pleased I am number 7. We're doing a kind of jazzy thing there ... so I've picked up sounds and stretched and repeated them - tried some syncopation. Before me is Keith Westwater of Lower Hutt and after me is T Clear of Seattle Washington. How cool is that?

here's my verse...

catch the
it's time to
(latch the window)
catch the 
      grab it! the tail     oh boy

find the rest here. 

And here's a fabulous poem Death of a Bee  by Tuesday Poet Kathleen Jones.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tuesday Poem: Curtains by Helen Rickerby

I believe my parents are immortal
They will live forever
in the same house
they have lived in
for the whole of my life
they will stay
at the end
of a phoneline
answer when I call
to ask them questions
to which they will always
know the answers

I believe my parents will never get sick
I mean of course
that they might get
the odd cold maybe
a stomach bug once
in a while but they will always
be able to walk further
and faster
than I can
they'll never be slowed
or stymied by dodgy
hips or feet or hearts

I believe my parents will always be able to look after themselves
They'll stay in the house
up the long steep driveway
with their lifetime of treasures
they'll eat what they like
go to sleep and wake up
as late as they want

I believe my parents will always be together
like a pair of curtains
that overlap
at their edges

First of all - it's the 3rd birthday of the Tuesday Poem! Three years we've been going with Claire Beynon (Dunedin) and me curating. What a ride it's been! So many many poems, so many many poets. As with other years we're celebrating with a communal poem which has already started and goes over three weeks. Do check it out.

Now, I promised my blog readers Curtains last week when I posted Just Fine to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary. I explained I'd been casting around for the ideal poem and that Curtains leapt into view - or rather, opened in front of me. But then I found my way into an old file of poems and there it was:  Just Fine. A low-key poem about an ordinary family Saturday, my ordinary family Saturday, and it did the job, and I posted it.

I saved Curtains (My Iron Spine, Headworx 2008) for this week, and people have been asking...

Curtains is a poem about the everydayness and longevity of love -- love in a relationship (of 25 years or more or less), love we have for our parents, and they for each other. There is the feel of a fairytale about it. The house with the steep driveway and treasures evokes a castle to me - and there is immortality here and a type of perfection and an absence of rules. But the curtains are vintage rule-bound time-locked imperfect suburbia!

I love the line: 'like a pair of curtains that overlap at their edges.' It evokes the way people who are together for a while lose their edges, and how they hang out day and night (what better than curtains to show clearly when it's night and day). 'Overlap at their edges' also brings to my mind lapping in a running race and water lapping, both of which feel like the stuff of long term relationships.

Now my silver wedding has come and gone, I dedicate this poem to my parents, of whom I believe the same.

Curtains is published with permission (thanks Helen!)

Helen Rickerby is a Tuesday Poet, publisher at Seraph Press, and co-managing editor of the JAAM literary journal. She also has a cool day job working on the Encyclopaedia of NZ Te Ara. Abstract Internal Furniture, was published by HeadworX in 2001 and her second collection, My Iron Spine, followed in 2008. More on Helen  on last week's blog and another poem from My Iron Spine, here