25 February 2013

Tuesday Poem: 'Incident' by Fleur Adcock


When you were lying on the white sand,
A rock under your head, and smiling,
(Circled by dead shells), I came to you
And you said, reaching to take my hand,
‘Lie down.’ So for a time we lay
Warm on the sand, talking and smoking,
Easy; while the grovelling sea behind
Sucked at the rocks and measured the day.
Lightly I fell asleep then, and fell
Into a cavernous dream of falling.
It was all the cave-myths, it was all
The myths of tunnel or tower or well—
Alice’s rabbit-hole into the ground,
Or the path of Orpheus: a spiral suitcase 
To hell, furnished with danger and doubt.
Stumbling, I suddenly woke; and found
Water about me. My hair was wet,
And you were sitting on the grey sand,
Waiting for the lapping tide to take me:
Watching, and lighting a cigarette.

Fleur Adcock

I’m the editor of the Tuesday Poem blog this week, and I’m excited to have been able to share ‘Crayfish’, a new poem by Fleur Adcock – one of my poetic heroes. As I say over there, I was lucky enough to have read with her and Anna Jackson in London last year. Hearing her new poems sent me back to her old poems, and I recently re-read Tigers (Oxford University Press, 1967), which was Fleur’s second poetry collection.

I first discovered Fleur’s poetry in the later years of high school, and this was one of the collections I read and reread. Reading it again now, I can very much see why it appealed to me. I was a somewhat melancholy and romantic child, and I adored myth and surrealism (still do, though I’ve ditched most of the romanticism and quite a lot of the melancholy) and this book has those in spades, as does ‘Incident’, which is probably my favourite poem in this collection. In this, and in many of the other poems, there’s an underlying darkness. Other people aren’t to be trusted. Don’t close your eyes, or there’ll be nightmares, and when you wake someone might be watching you with mild interest, waiting for you to drown.

Do go check out the brand new poem by Fleur at the hub blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/, and there you’ll also find lots more Tuesday Poems in the sidebar.

20 February 2013

Wednesday Poem: 'The Summer Day' by Mary Oliver

I'm a bit late for the Tuesday poem, but never mind. And I'm not going to post the poem here (not having permission and all), but I am going to link to it: http://www.loc.gov/poetry/180/133.html. I recommend you go read it now, before popping back to read this.

I'm not really familiar with Mary Oliver's poetry, though her name keeps coming up. I discovered this poem yesterday via a post by Helen Lehndorf. Helen had 'written' words from the last line on an apple pie (it's really worth a look), and linked to the poem. It's quite short, so I thought I'd read it.

For me, it didn't start out all that promising. It reminds me at first of a children's prayer or something, and nature poetry - oh nature poetry, I must confess you almost always bore me. But I kept going - it's just a short poem - and then it started picking up for me here:
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
And then it quietly and simply, with this kicker ending, becomes one of my favourite poems ever:
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

It's an end that could have very easily been a bit twee, and probably would be if it wasn't for that pairing of words from the top of the pie: 'wild and precious', which together in that context are a bit of a surprise, and delightful. They make me feel I could live wildly and preciously, just as she says (and I hope I do). I guess perhaps I should check out more of Mary Oliver's poetry then...

Head on over to the Tuesday Poem blog, where this week's editor Catherine Fitchett shares 'Fault' a poem by Christchurch poet Joanna Preston. It's a really restrained, powerful and very very good poem about the Canterbury Earthquakes: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/2013/02/fault-by-joanna-preston.html.

12 February 2013

Tuesday Poem: 'Partying with Katherine Mansfield'

You can listen to me read it by clicking the play button above, and you can follow along with the text below...

Partying with Katherine Mansfield

‘Don’t be a bore,’ says Katie
as she pulls me up by my arm
to the dance floor

She was proud to be the first woman
in the whole of London to wear purple stockings
She shows them off as she shimmies
her skirt above her knees

I teach her the twist and she spirals off
towards D H who has found
an ironing board from somewhere and
they take turns at sliding down, shrieking with laughter

She’s smiling and kissing
everyone in the room, sipping punch
now joining me at the open window
breathing in the cool night air

‘Today is a new day, a new year, a new age
It’s a new world,’ she says
‘We mustn’t live as if it isn’t’

I've shared this poem by me previously (though quite a while ago), but it seemed appropriate to share it again as this weekend there was a big Katherine Mansfield conference in Wellington. I didn't go along, but several of my friends did and it gave me a good opportunity to meet another of our Tuesday Poets Kathleen Jones and her husband. Kathleen is the author of the the most recent (and, in my opinion) best biography of KM.

I recorded the poem in the very high-tech studio of my bedroom with my phone. If you listen hard around the 40-second mark and a couple of times after, you'll hear a screeching which was one of the neighbour kaka screaming around nearby. It was a bit of an experiment, but I'd first done this fairly successfully when we had Twitter Poetry Night a few months ago.

There are lots more Tuesday Poems, which you can reach from the hub blog, and at the hub blog you'll find a poem by C. K. Stead from his new book, with an introduction (or postroduction?) from by Mary McCallum: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz.

10 February 2013

Ballroom Poetry becomes Meow Poetry

And Helen Heath and Lynn Davidson are the first guest readers. There's a Facebook event for it here, if you like that sort of thing: http://www.facebook.com/events/208400982636949/
Here's what they say: 
Poetry at Meow Cafe
Yes, we're back - Poetry at The Ballroom Cafe has found a new home at Meow
Cafe. New surroundings, but same wonderful mix of poetry and music, open
mic and guest performances.

Our first programme at Meow Cafe will include a special tribute to Kathy
and The Ballroom Cafe, so I hope you can join us.

Guest Poets: Helen Heath & Lynn Davidson
Guest Musicians: Ramon Oza & Susie Colien-Reid of Black Eyed Susie
Plus open mic, starting at 4pm
Time: Sunday 17 February, 4 - 6pm
Place: Meow Café, 9 Edward Street, Wellington City