I don’t think I’ll enter anything this year, but I wanted to post the details here to encourage everyone – even non-writers – to give it a try.
There is no easy way
This is the way you will travel through the world
on feet, on arrangements of bones and body parts.
You will be standing on top of your shoes.
You will be walking inside the lining of your coat
and your finges will poke through the frayed pocket lining.
Around the islands of your back teeth, rich with metals,
will be the liquids that you drink, disappearing down your throat.
There will be air inside you, an egg of it
inside your mouth, and a clam of it.
When you lie in the dark you will be nothing but a clock
spending your limited supply of minutes on minutes.
You will always be inside things, be they rooms, buildings,
or atmospheres, because there is no outside.
And I will tell you something, you will have animals inside you.
Two dark, dark bears, sleeping in a reek of their own urine.
Swans caught with their wings open like fountains.
And there will be raccoons, black eyes full of night time.
They feed on rubbish when they can’t find a home in the woods.
This poem is from Kate Camp’s new book, Snow White’s Coffin (VUP), which I recently reviewed over on the Booksellers blog. This is my favourite poem of the collection; I loved it immediately. I think this is because it does what poetry is meant to do so well, and that is to show you ordinary things in an extraordinary way.
For other Tuesday Poems, check out the hub.
While writing my PhD I’ve found it hard to do any extra reading. By the end of the day all I want to do is watch a predictable crime show and go to bed. I was starting to feel guilty about all the great books that were dusting away on my shelf (and I can’t buy any more until I’ve read these!) so I’ve started to read a little bit each evening. I find once I get into a book then I don’t have a problem picking it up at night.
The book I’ve just finished is A Wife on Gorge River by Catherine Stewart. It is the story of Catherine’s life living in an old DOC hut on the remote Gorge River in South Westland, and bringing up her two children — Christian and Robin — with her husband Robert ‘Beansprout’ Long. Their home is two days tramp from the nearest road. Catherine’s story is one of how to live with little (with a small income from Robert’s art they grew most of their own food, and for many years didn’t have power!), while feeling like they had a lot. It’s also a powerful story about how to creatively parent children. Personally I have to fight the desire for constant improvement (I’m much happier when I want what I have, which really is quite a lot), so I found Catherine’s story inspiring.
Here are a few things Catherine says: “At the worst times I’d look up at the dead rata tree on the top of the hill across the river as it held its last branches up in the air, defying the sou’west wind. I always took strength from the sight and promised myself that I, too, could do whatever I had to. So far, I haven’t found anything I’d prefer to be doing.”
And, ”I may not earn much, but I figure I’m richer than anyone with a mortgage and an outstanding credit-card bill … I treasure the serenity I find when I am surrounded by the beautiful, untouched, sub-tropical rainforest that clothes much of the west coast of the South Island.”
Inspired by Catherine we went on a little family holiday to Aotea Cottage (a tiny cottage built in the 1880s) on Ngaipui Station in the Wairarapa. It was the first time that Sam had been on a farm (or seen farm animals), sat by an open fire, spiked himself on barbed wire, and tried to skip stones along river. Here are a few pictures:
Last week the Hue & Cry Public / Collisions issue, Against the Prevailing Winds, went up in the Courtney Place Park. Today my son and I went to check it out. It is impressive: bold, gutsy, intriguing, and like all H&C publications, beautifully produced. I especially like the way a phrase from each piece has been enlarged at the top of the light box. It means that, even from across the road, people are drawn into the work. The official launch is 6pm, Friday 19 April at the light boxes. As the invite says, if it’s raining wear a raincoat!
On Friday night I made a rabbit softie from a free tutorial and pattern on larkcrafts.com. I haven’t done much sewing this year since I’ve been saving my energy for the PhD. I think the rabbit (originally called ‘hoppy’) would make a nice gift for both kids and adults. I know I’d like my own hoppy (I intend to make one with a little shirt pocket on the front, one with buttons, and one with a flower!). The tutorial recommends using an old scarf with interfacing, but I want to use up some of my fabric stash so used some leftover linen. In the end I didn’t really need to use interfacing as he came out a bit stiff, but Sam doesn’t seem to mind. When I asked Sam what his name was he said, “Woof,” and then carried him around all day. He’s the perfect size for tucking under a toddler arm.
Morning with my grandmother
She sat at the foldout table
on the back deck
with whisky on ice.
Late morning she walked
down the grassy lakefront
with prickles, and, at a distance,
lit a sly cigarette.
She hardly used the car
or went far from the house,
but I’d heard
that my grandmother learnt to drive
from an American Marine:
she danced all night, then
borrowed a car to get her sailor
back to port, letting him guide her hands.
Together they turned and swung.
Later she drove alone,
pressing the accelerator with
wonder, careering magnificently
along the harbour’s edge
under the stars.
The Official Version
Once, one of the Marines
your Gran knew
during the War
There was a fat woman
in the lift whom
your grandfather joked
he’d introduce in her place.
she rode the lift to meet him,
part of a phalanx -
husband, son, and grandson
at the points.
She straightened her slacks,
touched her newly-set hair,
stroked her husband’s arm
and took his hand.
Together, all four stepped
into the lobby to meet
her old driving instructor,
she saw only a stranger -
thick-necked, thin-haired, in a dark suit
that spoke success while he talked
too loudly for the room.
But then, the way his blue eyes drove
over her searching for the girl
she’d been. Even now, she saw
how easy desertion would be.
in that instand my grandfather
moved forward to shake
the hand of the man who had
known his wife in the war.
He didn’t thank the visitor
for the silk stockings.
Once he wouldn’t
have thanked this man for anything,
except, perhaps, in exchange
for the intrigue in his wife’s eyes
when he arrived home with photos
- in uniform, a girl on each arm in Trieste.
And just possibly
as the American reached out,
ruffled the grandson’s black hair,
and said, ‘Here’s a little Marine,’
my grandfather was hit
retreating into his father’s laugh
could have been anyone’s
till he reached up to take
my grandfather’s dry hand,
as if to say, I am
here, ours, us, yours, hers.
for just long enough she too turned
from the man who had taught her to drive,
from the husband who left and returned,
to the waiting boy
who would one day be twenty-one.
“Morning with my grandmother” is from Ingrid Horrocks’ book, Mapping the Distance (VUP). I wanted to share the poem because, for me, it captures the complexity of wartime relationships. The poet’s story remindes me of stories that I heard about my own grandparents. I especially enjoy the way the poem jumps through time, and the idea that the grandson will “one day be twenty-one,” which makes me think about the universal experience of young love.
Ingrid Horrocks has has also written a chapbook of poems, Natsukaashi (1998) and Travelling With Augusta (2003), which brings together research and personal writing. She has a PhD from Princeton University, and lives in Wellington where she writes and teaches at Massey University.
For other Tuesday Poems check out the hub.
Bill Nelson won the Biggs Poetry prize for best poetry portfolio at the IIML in 2009. His writing has appeared in Hue & Cry, Sport, The Lumière Reader, Blackmail Press, 4th Floor, and Swamp. He has also guest edited at Turbine and Blackmail Press.
Bill’s poetry has featured as the Tuesday Poem on my blog twice before with “Vocal” and “Against Boredom”. As you may be able to guess, I’m a fan of his work. A thread I notice running through Bill’s work – which can also be said for “all the love poems” – is the way he makes the reader question something they take for granted. Even though “all the love poems” seems to make fun of other love poems, the final image where the speaker leaves the “love poem \ outside \ for the rain to clothe” suggests that the poet also feels sentimental. The poet won’t rest in the image too long, though, and immediately undercuts it with the instruction about strawberries. For me, I end up thinking about whether my own offerings of love are boring and cliche, or as clever as Bill’s poem.
For more Tuesday poems check out the hub.
I have to hold my fists loose
like I’m holding a telescope
and peer down the tunnel
of my hands
to the tiny crooked shape at the end
This is the only way I can tell ‘colour’
I have to really think about it and then
through the invisible cables that connect me
to my friend who lives far away
I say, yes, at this moment
the sea is blue
In your kitchen, through one window a row of mountains
and turning to look out the opposite window
sheep, paddock and forest beyond
This is where you live now and there is something
of the Rapunzel in it except that you can not be saved
because there’s nothing wrong
Until I visited you I had never fed a sheep from my hands before
That sheep with her crazy yellow eyes
glaring in ancestral suspicion
snuffled up my handful of biscuits
with her tiny child sized teeth
and as a reward, let me touch her dirty wool
The warmth from her mouth
and the nervy movement of her lips
merely effects produced by my pineal gland
perhaps, and the crusted dirt on her wool
may have been velvet or silk under someone else’s hand
This is what happens when we touch
a series of synaptic transmissions that produce
action/s and emotion/s
We construct our worlds in this way
make them up continuously, piece by piece
putting them together to suit our needs
And now after all this time
we say, yes, we have developed
Therese Lloyd lives in Paekakariki with her husband, poet Lee Posna. Her first full length poetry book Other Animals is due out with VUP in March 2013.