28 November 2011

Tuesday poem: 'Return to Nussbaum Riegel' by Tim Jones

Return to Nussbaum Riegel

This is a tent.
This is another tent, next to the first tent.
This is a bag full of urine.
This is the vast inconceivable.

This is a rock.
This is another rock
These are the deposits of a long-vanished glacier.
The frigid wind, whistling over the frigid ice, passing over long
generations of mummified seals making their stealthy way from the sea,
has formed these rocks into the unearthly shapes we call "ventifacts",
photographs of which form the bulk of my presentation today.

This is me.
This is Guido.
This is Guido, Nails and Barry.
Guido, Nails and Barry
are men with whom I will always share a special

This is Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
He wrote his famous poem "Ulysses" while visiting Antarctica
on the first "Artists in Antarctica" programme
with Bill Manhire, Chris Orsman and Nigel Brown.
(This is Bill Manhire, Chris Orsman and Nigel Brown.)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson inscribed his famous poem "Ulysses" on a cross
placed on Observation Hill by the survivors of Scott's Polar Expedition of 1910-1912.
To read it, you need a magnifying glass
and an iron constitution.

This is the Polar Party.
These are the Polar Party's drinks and nibbles.
The Polar Party went on till 5 a.m.,
then made camp. Scott opened his diary,
wishing, not for the first time,
that he had brought a pen.

Note: Nussbaum Riegel is a rocky transverse ridge in the centre of the Taylor Valley, one of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. The Dry Valleys have been among the main subjects of the New Zealand Antarctic research programme.

Tim Jones is the author of a whole bunch of books across a range of forms - poetry, short stories and a novel, embracing and combining both literary fiction and speculative fiction. He was awarded the NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010. He co-edited (with Mark Pirie) the anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (Interactive Press, 2009), which won the Best Collected Work category in the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

'Return to Nussbaum Riegel' is from Tim's latest book, Men Briefly Explained, his third collection of poetry. It's published by Brisbane-based publisher IP Australia, and is available not only as a printed book, but in various electronic formats also. You'll find various ways to get your paws on a copy here: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/p/men-briefly-explained.html.

I wanted to share this poem in particular because I love the way it deftly glides between epic seriousness and humour. I'm particularly amused by Alfred Lord Tennyson in Antarctica as part of the Artists in Antarctica programme, and also by the 'polar party' ('These are the Polar Party's drinks and nibbles'). It becomes apparent part way through that this is the narration of a slide show or perhaps a Powerpoint presentation - can't you just imagine the presenter - standing there perhaps with his laser pointer. He'd be a gruff sort, I think. Ruddy faced.

I love the rhythm of the poem - each stanza beginning staccato, working its way up to a longer phrase - and then a joke. There are some gorgeous images in here too. How about: 'the frigid wind, whistling over the frigid ice, passing over long / generations of mummified seals making their stealthy way from the sea...' Lovely!

I'm going to be interviewing Tim on this blog soon, as part of a blog tour he's doing. And you can read lots more Tuesday Poems via the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/


Tim Jones said...

Thanks, Helen! I read this poem a couple of times on the recent book tour, but those (deliberately) long lines in the middle are surprisingly difficult to get out live! Your post has given me an idea, though - I might trying turning this into a Powerpoint and presenting it that way in future.

Helen Rickerby said...

I heard you read this at The Ballroom (I think that was the first time I'd come across it) and you read it very well! Your Powerpoint idea is interesting - I hope it wouldn't take away from the poetry of it...

Tim Jones said...

Oh, I'm pretty sure it would. I would add several graphs and pie charts, because every Powerpoint presentation should have a pie chart or two. And I would read it faster and faster towards the end, and start skipping slides because I was running out of time, and ... maybe I won't do it as a Powerpoint after all ...

Helen Lowe said...

What a great array of poems there are in "Men Briefly Explained"--great to see another one here!