05 December 2011

Tuesday Poem: 'Wabi-sabi' by Helen Lehndorf


I was thirty-three before I learned
people stuck in snow
can die from dehydration.
I would melt icicles
on my tongue for you, resist
the drinking down, drip it
into you. Then repeat, repeat
until my lips were raw.

Deep snow squeaks. We
stop on the Desert Road
because of the snow. You
throw snowballs at the
‘Warning: Army Training Area’ sign.
I take macro-photographs of
icicles on tussock.

When we drive up the Desert Road
we lose National Radio, we lose
cellphone reception, we lose
all hope. I was thirty-seven before
I considered not trying to always fix
things. I read an article in the New Yorker
about wabi-sabi – the beauty in the
broken and the worn. The integrity
of the much-used utilitarian object.

But then there was another article
about a woman flying to Mexico
to be put in a coma
so she can wake up mended. It is
like rebooting a computer, said the doctor.

Despite wabi-sabi, I want that.
To live in snow and not be thirsty.
I want good reception all the way
up the country. I want a shiny, clean
version of myself. Closedown,
hibernate, restart.

Helen Lehndorf is the author of the latest Seraph Press book, The Comforter, which I'm very proud to have published. We had two launches for it this weekend, one in Palmerston North (where Helen lives) and one one in Wellington. I've written briefly about them over on the Seraph Press site, but basically they were wonderful and magical launches. As part of her launch speech, she talked about how she had been writing this book for more than a decade - though the poems in it must have changed a lot, as many of them are about things that have happened within that decade. But basically, this has been a book that has been a long time coming for Helen, and one which is the realisation of a dream and the product of a lot of grit, hard work and determination.

Helen has also taught creative writing through Massey University, and so I'm sure she's helped other people along with their dreams.

'Wabi-sabi' is the opening poem in the book - partly because it's one of my favourites in the book (possibly my absolute favourite? But I have other favourites too), and also because it seemed to me to be an anchor of the collection. We begin here in the depths of winter, and we more towards warmer seasons, and back again.

This poem also, as people at the launches will have heard me say, epitomises what I love so much about Helen's poetry. It is sharp-eyed and specific. It introduces a number of interesting ideas and has more than one thing going on at once. When it talks about life and love, it's authentic and fierce, not clichéd. And it is impossible not to be moved by it.

For more about The Comforter, visit: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/the-comforter.html

And to check out more Tuesday poems, visit the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/


Elizabeth Welsh said...

What a visually beautiful book to match such a carefully observant poem. I can almost see her mind ticking in this. Thanks for posting and congrats to Helen!

Kathleen Jones said...

Hope the launches went really well. A lovely poem.

Helen Lowe said...

Oh, yes.

I'm not sure whether I like this "as much as" or "more than" 'Garlic Planting Time' over on the Booksellers' blog. But I definitely need to get a copy of this collection.

Helen Rickerby said...

Thanks everyone! Helen L, I can sort you out with a copy if you like. Shall I email you about it?

Helen Rickerby said...

Oh, also. This is the opening poem of the book, and the closing poem, 'Garlic-planting time' is up on the Booksellers blog today: http://booksellersnz.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/tuesday-poem-garlic-planting-time-by-helen-lehndorf/.