21 December 2010

Tuesday Poem, Secret Santa edition: 'Christmastide' by Helen Lowe


Christmas—and we
like so many others
are washed north
on a tide of summer,
our route signposted
by pohutukawa,
all flowering late
against a mirage
of cabbage trees,
dusty in the heat
that shimmers
above melting tar—
the whole country baking
as the nation makes
its annual pilgrimage
of Christmas and New Year:
Good to see ya, we say,
or simply mate, pouring out
a cool one before we sit
down together, buoyant
with the sunshine
and the colour,
the high tide of summer.

by Helen Lowe

Helen Lowe is a novelist, poet and broadcaster. She won a Robbie Burns Poetry Prize (NZ) in 2003 and the A2O Prize (Australia) in 2007 and has been published and anthologised in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. Her first novel, Thornspell (Knopf, 2008), won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Novel: Young Adult in 2009 and her second, The Heir of Night (Eos, USA; Orbit, UK) has just been published. Helen hosts a monthly poetry programme on Women on Air, Plains 96.9 FM.

This week, because it's almost Christmas, we Tuesday Poets have paired up and are posting each other's poems on our blogs. I was very happy to be paired with Helen Lowe (I am developing a belief that there are a disproportionate number of poets called Helen), who I have come to know through her work in JAAM (I've just published a couple of her poems in JAAM 28), through her blog (http://helenlowe.info/blog/) and who I have even met in real life, at a Poetry Society anthology launch.

We decided on a summer/Christmas theme, and sent each other a few poems to chose from. I decided on this one, because it seems to glow with yellow sun and blue water. Can't you just feel the heat and smell the barbeque? We New Zealanders seem to hold two images of Christmas in our heads - the one with snow and robins, and our actual summer Christmas; and I love that this poem celebrates the summer Christmas.

So, over on Helen Lowe's blog you'll find my summer poem: 'Burning with Joan of Arc' (it may not sound like a summer poem, but just trust me).

And over on the Tuesday Poem blog you'll find other secret Santa poems. And have a good Christmas!

14 December 2010

Tuesday poem: 'Going Back' by Tim Jones

Going Back

My mother is the gap in the windbreak
the fallen macrocarpa
the flooded river and the flooded plain.

The radio, not tuned to any station
the rails removed from a siding
the gash in the mountain's side.

My mother is the doorway
and the grip of my father's hand
and the stubble of his cheek on mine.

The missing face in the kitchen
the absent chair at the table
the silence under all we say.

Remembering, unforgetting,
on the edge of sleep in the darkness
my mother is each toss and turn.

The need to leave in the morning
the long goodbye to my father
the driveway and the car I drive.

My mother is the corner
the anxious overtaking
the yellow lines that double in my eyes.

The last lap of the journey
the final tick of the engine
my mother is the road I travel home.

by Tim Jones

I chose this poem because I love it. Every time I read it I get shivery. I feel that to analyse it too much would be to flatten it, and what I love about it is its subtlety - the subtle way it deals with grief.

'Going Back' was in Tim's second poetry book, All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens (HeadworX, 2007).

As well as being a poet, Tim Jones writes short stories and novels, both 'literary' and 'speculative', manages a day job, and is a husband and father. He blogs here: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/.

Check out other Tuesday poems via the hub blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

13 December 2010

Me on JAAM 28

Helen Lowe was kind enough to ask me to write a guest post on her blog about JAAM 28. In it I write about the genesis of this issue and how it all came together. I also include a poem from the issue: 'Siegfried' by Hera Bird. You'll find it here: http://helenlowe.info/blog/2010/12/13/guest-post-helen-rickerby-jaam-28-dance-dance-dance/

06 December 2010

Tuesday poem: 'Forty-League Boots', by Vivienne Plumb

Forty-League Boots

Everything about the day feels massive –
at the beginning I am careful to make sure
I am wearing my forty-league boots.

At Bidwell Street the plaster Madonna
stands on the mantelpiece and rattles
whenever a visitor shuts the bedroom door.
She lies at rest in her wooden casket.

Such a strange late afternoon light
during our pre-funeral picnic.
We drink with parched gusto
and laugh so hard that
the winking knives and forks laugh with us.

My dusty boots are leaden feet
on the plaid picnic blanket.
Above the city in shivering paspalum
and talking trees
the invisible ones are with us,
kissing our foreheads.
The vaporous fog draws in closer
off the tongue-shaped hills.
The words are pearls in our hands,
running, running away through our fingers.

Best not to endure life
in the shallows, better to dive deep –
a pure white sheet, a kiss between
the thighs, and cachinnations not sighs.

By Vivienne Plumb

I'm afraid there's been a bit of a dearth of Tuesday poems from me lately, though today there is not just this one, but I'm also the editor of the Tuesday Poem hub blog today, and you'll find another poem selected by me over there - that one is 'Hunt the slipper: a romantic divertissement' by Jo Thorpe, which is from the recently published JAAM 28.

Here, I've chosen 'Forty-League Boots' this week to celebrate all the busyness that has been keeping me from such things as Tuesday poeming (and almost, I sometimes feel, from breathing): publishing stuff - both JAAM and Crumple recently.

I'm still buzzing from the two launches we had for Crumple: one in Wellington - my home turf, and Vivienne's home for years and years; and in Auckland, which is where Vivienne is living now. The Wellington launch was in my neighbourhood - at the Aro Valley Community Centre hall, just down the hill from where I live (possibly I can see it from my lounge window, but its too dark to check), and only about 25 steps from where Vivienne lived for a couple of years. It was a perfect venue: cosy and welcoming - there were even couches - with large windows and doors and a playground next door for the many younger launch attendees. It was great having our friends and family around. It was a great pity that Kate Camp couldn't make it at the last minute, but I read her launch speech in her stead.

Because Vivienne is living in Auckland now, and has so many important people there, we decided to have a second launch. This one was at The Women's Bookshop, which was so appropriate as they are really supportive of independent publishers, they're Viv's new local bookshop, and she and Carole, the manager of the shop, go a long way back to when they were both acting in Wellington. Crumple was launched with aplomb by Janet Charman. I was blown away by the support everyone gave Vivienne and the book, and how many poets turned up. I had such a wonderful time meeting people I'd communicated with in various ways over the years, meeting other people I knew only by reputation, and getting to see some of the friends I have in Auckland. It was also a good opportunity to introduce myself and Seraph Press. I realised that I have always had really great experiences at poetry events in Auckland – though admittedly not have that many, but three out of three isn't bad.

Back to 'Forty-League Boots' though, it's my favourite poem in a book full of favourite poems. It's the final poem in the collection, and seems to me to be really key. It's also a poem that never fails to make me emotional. There is a lot of travelling around and rootlessness in Crumple - a lot of homelessness. In 'Forty-League Boots' home is in people, both here and gone. But the bit of the poem I love the most, which always gets me, is the final stanza - it's a call to life and really living. When I first read this poem, I typed up the final stanza and sent it to several of my friends (also with the explanation that cacachinnations means laughter, more or less) because it touched me so deeply.

After you've checked out my other Tuesday poem selection over at the Tuesday Poem blog, you can have a look at the many other Tuesday poems in the sidebar on the left.