31 October 2011

Tuesday poem: 'bach cds' by Vivienne Plumb

Vivienne Plumb: With a New Zealand mother and an Australian father, Vivienne Plumb has one foot on either side of the ditch. One of literature’s all-rounders, as well as six previous collections of poetry, she has written plays, short fiction and a novel. She has been the recipient of several awards, including the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship, the Hubert Church Prose Award, and the Bruce Mason Playwrighting Award.

This poem is from a book I've just published (!!!!) (as Seraph Press): The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and other New Zealand Icons: Prose Poems. This book grew out of a series of prose poems that Vivienne was writing, mainly about iconic New Zealand things. Some of these poems made their way to the middle section of Crumple, which I published last year, but I felt these New Zealand icon poems deserved a book of their own.

In these poems, which are often hilarious and frequently have a tug of fond nostalgia, I find a New Zealand I recognise. One filled with our national cuisine (represented by such things as whitebait, crockpots and muttonbird), with sheds, dogs, tramping, birds, sly-grogging, The Warehouse, inter-island ferries, inter-city buses, motels, gambling and bad weather.

Because summer is on the way (I even got sunburnt yesterday!), I chose this poem from the collection. When I first came across it, I thought it was Bach CDs (as in Johann Sebastian), but very quickly realised my mistake. We never had a family bach, but I've stayed in other peoples, and they are so often filled with the stuff you almost discard, but not quite.

There are a few more sample poems from the book that you can download on the Seraph Press site: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/cheese-and-onion.html.

And, for even more poetry, check out the other Tuesday Poems: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/Link

24 October 2011

Tuesday poem: 'i carry your heart' by E E Cummings

Sean is reading this poem at his sister's wedding. It looked on paper like a difficult or awkward poem to read, so I went hunting on the internet to see if there were recordings of it being read, and there are quite a lot. I'm guessing it's a wedding favourite.

The different versions include this extract read by read by Heath Ledger, which I like better than the the previous entire version. I think he makes it sounds more natural, and meaningful. And, quite frankly, less sucky.

I'm not sure I'd come this poem before, but I am familiar with e e's work, and had been a bit of a fan ever since I read some of his work in the first-year English poetry anthology. But this poem, I really just don't know how I feel about it. I'm wondering whether he might have taken a bunch of lines from valentine's cards and made a poem out of them, except that root of the root, sky of the sky stuff - that's not really greeting-card material. Not that I'm quite sure what it means... But yeah, do you think it's a genuine love poem, or is a parody of love poems?

Speaking of love poems, sadly, once the manuscript got to the publishers, Paula Green had to cut some poems out of her anthology of love poems. So only one of my two poems is going to make it to print. It's this one here, which I've been thinking of a bit this week, as Sean spent a bit of time in hospital. He's all good now though, but must take care and wear warm coats and so forth.

There's lots more poems for you to enjoy via the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

10 October 2011

Tuesdsay poem: 'Finding Sepela: 22 February' by Tusiata Avia

Finding Sepela: 22 February

I am driving through the river/ that is my road/ to find my daughter/ there are black sea creatures/ eating white hippos/ big as cars/I drive on the footpath/ the drowning of wildebeasts/ whole herds of them in Breezes Rd

I get to the Aranui traffic lights and put my hand to my chest/ I swear to her/ drive with my hand on my heart/ look into the dust cloud/ blacken my eyes

there are giant worms/ under the ground/ as big as Cairo/ they eat the fish and chip shop/ I promise her/ her little ears/ so far away/ her heart/ the sacred dome/ the creamy marble/ the white antelopes

five days go by/ and still I drive/ all on the roadside age/ a woman pushes a pram/ a cat peers out/ a rabbit/ a bird/ I pass them/ all women wear bare feet and walk/ rhino/ elephants/ trains of them lie/ in Phillipstown/ where they fall/ it is catholic/ this dream/ it is total

the house of saints is not brick and mortar/ but still it falls/ everyone is leaving for their home/ in the sky/ Japanese/Chinese/ Kiwis/ and everyone/ see them flying home/ bright babies/ through concrete steel and glass

I promise my daughter/ and run to Barbadoes/ the holy sisters are fallen/ look up through the broken window/ god the mother has turned her back away/ she looks down on us/ she sends us white and blue

My daughter is three/ she shelters under the battle club/ she’s hides inside the ground/ the enemies of god/ circle on the backs of buzzards/ they rain bricks on the bus depot/ the primary school/ the preschool

I snatch her up/ like a football/ I sprint the slowest steps/ it is underwater/ this dream/ it is eternal

Tusiata Avia is a poet, performer and children’s writer. Of Samoan-Palagi heritage, she lives in Christchurch. Her first collection of poetry, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt was published in 2004. Her solo show of the same name premiered in 2002 and has toured nationally and internationally. Her second book, Bloodclot, was published in 2009. She held the CNZ–Fulbright Pacific Writer in Residence, University of Hawaii, 2005. She was the 2010 Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury.

'Finding Sepela: 22 February' is one of five poems by Tusiata in the latest issue of JAAM that all deal with different aspects of the Christchurch earthquakes. The others are great too, but this is the one that struck me the most. She makes the experience so immediate, but also so mythic. One of my favourite bits in the poem is: 'there are giant worms/ under the ground/ as big as Cairo/ they eat the fish and chip shop'. I can feel the unreality of the whole experience, and the desperate tug to get as fast as you can to the people you love. And then the relief, when she snatches up her daughter. It isn't all over, but that part of the quest is.

Along with Tusitala's poems, poems about the quake and its after effects by Fiona Farrell and Kerrin P. Sharpe open the issue. They are, as Anne says in the editorial, 'Christchurch writers who bear testament to the solidarity, bravery, and artistic spirit of the people of that city.' She also says: 'It is my hope that, once houses, streets and businesses have been re-established in Christchurch, there will be something - many things - to commemorate the collective grief and survival, such as the poetry wall the people of Sichuan province erected after their 2008 earthquake; and that forums such as JAAM will have been the places where writers first documented the earthquake, and that these documents will be some of their imaginative possessions.'

JAAM 29 has just been published and, with the help of other kind folks, I'm in the process of getting them to all the places they have to go. This issue was guest edited by Anne Kennedy, and you can read more about it here in this blog post I've just written: http://jaam.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/jaam-29-unleashed/.

And then you could pop over to the Tuesday Poem blog, and read some more Tuesday poems: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

04 October 2011

Tuesday poem: 'Lady Lazarus' by Sylvia Plath

(If you can't see the video embedded above, you can find it here on YouTube: http://youtu.be/esBLxyTFDxE

I love hearing recordings of Sylvia Plath reading her work. She has such a rich voice, and she brings out the rhythms and rhymes in her poems. I think the quality I like the most about her voice is that there's some kind of ironic edge to it - a wryness? Maybe it isn't an edge - perhaps it's a bubble of a laugh, just held in.

Anyway, 'Lady Lazarus' is one of the poems of Plath's that I especially loved when I studied her. I should read some more of her work again - I think I'd find I now connected with poems that I couldn't understand then.

More Tuesday Poems via the hub blog! http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/