28 June 2010

Tuesday poem: Poem for lovers

This week's poem is dedicated to my sweetheart, who is having an operation this week.

Poem for lovers

Because you are loved
you must be careful
crossing the street
You must look both ways
before you step out, and
you must never dawdle

Because you are loved
you must eat vegetables
even on weekends
take vitamin C
avoid hospitals

Because you are loved
you must drive
at the speed limit, over-take
safely, watch out for drunks

Because you are loved
take a warm coat

Because you are loved
because you love

This was originally going to be in My Iron Spine, but I ended up taking it out, because I thought it sounded to schmaltzy. I did mean for it to be soppy, but it kind of is, despite it's dark undertones. But it's also true, for me anyway. I don't have any kids, but I imagine this the same experience. You just don't want anything bad to happen to people you love.

I always thought that this poem would be good in one of those poems-for-weddings books.

To get your fix of more Tuesday poems, visit the blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

21 June 2010

Tuesday Poem: The new church, by John O'Connor

The new church

we drove all the way to Lincoln
to admire the new church

& I recall wondering (&
enquiring) why they made everything

so unlovely. this latter
ignored by embarrassed adults as

my plea to be allowed to be a
little girl. they were treated more warmly

you understand. across
the plains a line of snowy foothills

where the wind comes from, &
sometimes we would visit

Aunt Mag in her cottage
on Brougham St, the front room so

musty & small,
& Mag rocking before a banked fire

draped in shawls
her voice & nose just like a witch’s

John O'Connor is a Christchurch poet. He's published eight books of poetry so far.

This poem is from his most-recent book Cornelius & Co: Collected Working-class Verse 1996–2009. I had a similar reaction to Tim’s in that I had some preconceptions about what the subtitle could mean. It made mbe a little nervous at first, and I was geared up for some worthy, possibly rhyming (not that I'm actually against rhyme, just nervous of it), poetry. Well, I haven't finished reading it yet, but as soon as I got past the introduction about the working-class Catholic Addington of John O'Connor's childhood (which was really interesting), and got into the poetry proper, my fears subsided.

What I found was finely crafted poetry. In fact this poem, 'The new church', which is the second in the collection, made me feel 'Oh, this one!', like I was meeting an old friend. And indeed I was. I knew I'd read it before, and had a strong feeling I'd published it in JAAM. It took me a wee while to track down which issue it was, because it didn't seem that long ago, and I started worrying that I might have read it as a submission and rejected it (oh, how could I have been so stupid! - though I'm sure I've rejected poems I'd totally change my mind about in hindsight). But, after a bit more hunting, I found it! I'd published it in JAAM 9, all the way back in 1998.

My favourite part of this poem is the surprising and authentic sentence: 'this latter / ignored by embarrassed adults as / my plea to be allowed to be a /little girl.' Adults have drawn all those lines that divide things from other things, but children haven't drawn them yet. Why not become a girl?

You can buy Cornelius & Co: Collected Working-class Verse 1996–2009 from Madras Books, its New Zealand distributor, for $25.

And, as ever, you'll find more Tuesday poems via the blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

20 June 2010

Poetry Society - five poems by five poets and an AGM

I was sorry to not make it to see/hear Jennifer Compton read today at the Ballroom in Newtown. She's always an excellent reader. I'm sure it was popular, and I imagine that, like every month I think, there was standing room only.

I'm afraid I'm probably not going to make it to the Poetry Society meeting this month either, but you can! It's tomorrow night (Monday 21) at 7.30, upstairs at the Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave Street.

It will begin with the AGM, and then will feature five poets, reading five poems each: Jack Duggan, Anne Harre, Tim Jones, Sugu Pillay, and Mercedes Webb-Pullman. Free entry.

14 June 2010

Tuesday Poem: Violet


The walls were a
the colour your eyes
never were we
used to talk
about eyes a lot you
really liked mine for some
reason cos my pupils were really
huge you said or maybe it was just
an excuse to shine torches in
my face but we wondered
whether violet eyes
really existed
or whether they were just a
of some collective literary
imagination or a symbol
of female physical perfection
but one day on the
cable car
I saw a girl
whose eyes were
violet I think they
were a deep dark impossible
blue and I stared and stared
at her and thought fervently
of you

My, how quickly Tuesday comes around again. I failed to organise anything else, so 'Violet' is one of mine. It's from Abstract Internal Furniture.

I have a whole list of blog posts I'm meaning to write, or finish, but they will have to wait.

Oops, forgot to say that of course there are lots more Tuesday Poems to read over at: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com

08 June 2010

Tuesday poem: 'Ghosts of Saint James' by Harvey Molloy

Ghosts of Saint James


I toured in the Ballet Russe
till I fell from the flies

now I slam doors
play havoc

with the electrics
race the stairs up to the gods.

We toured Paris
before the Saint James

my sharp-cut black suit
I stole from dear Coco.

I bring my own weather
an icy draft

rippling the border curtain
on a midsummer night

before the tumblers turn
in the main door lock

& I switch back on the lights
once the manager’s left.

I ignored politics but favoured
Bakunin over Trotsky

so take my current role
as a constant source of interruption

with good humour
trust me

I’d never mess with the flying system.

The woman in red

You don't want to meet me
I'm always returning

from my final
trip-filled performance

the boos of the audience —
my death sentence —

the dressing room's empty
but my mascara run face

stares back
from a grease streaked mirror.

I'm the cries you hear
from the mezzanine changing room

the lady in the red dress
at the end of a flooded corridor.

I'm not meant to be here
& I wanted to be gone for good

but some nights
I wake to find myself rising

from up under the boards
warping them just enough

for the bitch above to loose her step.

By Harvey Molloy

Note: These ghost stories are adapted from David McGill’s Full Circle –the History of the St James Theatre (1998).

Harvey Molloy is a Wellington poet and teacher. His first collection of poetry, Moonshot, was published by Steele Roberts in 2008. He blogs at http://harveymolloy.blogspot.com/.

I first heard Harvey read this poem at a Poetry Society meeting a couple of years ago, and was very taken with it. Soon after it was published in broadsheet 4. I think it's my favourite of Harvey's poems (though now that I've said that, 'Closer' and 'A walk on the moor' are vying with it for position).

Harvey and I are doing a bit of a poem swap this week - my 'Orpheus and Theodora Descend' is his Tuesday poem. And there are lots more Tuesday poems at the official blog: http://www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.

07 June 2010

JAAM 27 reviewed

I've just published a post over on the JAAM site about two reviews of JAAM 27, both beautifully positive. You can read my post here: http://jaam.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/jaam-27-reviewed/, or you can go straight to the reviews, because both are online.

The first was by Zarah Butcher-McGunnigle, in A Fine Line, the Poetry Society magazine: http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/aboutjaam27.

The second, which just came out last week, is by Julia Cooper and is on/in The Lumière Reader: http://lumiere.net.nz/index.php/jaam-27-wanderings/.

01 June 2010

Tuesday poem: Saint


I can see
right through her skin
and into her heart.
It glows blue
like a sapphire
like a large block of ice.
She is draped in blue
and stands in a saint pose.
She holds out her arms
to welcome me.

And as I run
a flurry of white pages with
small black type
fall from the ceiling
blocking my path.
There is no way around
and it’s too far to jump.
Though I know it’s forbidden
I take careful steps across
on my socked feet
and leave only a few creases
as evidence of my escape.

I'm a bit late with my Tuesday poem this week, because I am ill (sniff sniff) and my brain wasn't working.

This poem was in Abstract Internal Furniture. I've always quite liked it because it's opaque, but people seem to see all kinds of things in it. There's a lot more in it than just this, but two things that were kind of prompts for me were my flatmate at the time and the fact that I was in the final stages of my masters thesis.

Read more Tuesday poems here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/