Tuesday Poem: Two triolets by Janis Freegard


The sound of dropped silverware is, like, really loud.
I think I’ll do that gamelan course
next semester. When there’s no crowd,
the sound of dropped silverware is, like, really loud.
I’ve uploaded all my tunes to the cloud.
Did I tell you my parents are getting divorced?
The sound of dropped silverware is, like, really loud.
I think I’ll do that gamelan course.

The Alpine Zone

We rose up into the alpine zone
taking the path of least resistance.
Gliding where harrier hawks have flown,
we rose up into the alpine zone.
The landscape dwindled, bare as bone.
Perspective always comes with distance.
Rising into the alpine zone,
we took the path of least resistance.

I heard Janis read some of these triolets (a French poetic form with repeated lines) on National Poetry Day. They are from her new collection The Glass Rooster (AUP) and appear at the start of each of the eight sections (or ‘echo-systems’) – The Damp Places, Forest, Cityscape, The Alpine Zone, Space, Home & Garden, Underground and In the Desert. There is so much curiosity in this collection, wielded by Janis’s sharp intellect.

Janis Freegard lives in Wellington, with an historian and a cat, and works in the public service. Her first full-length poetry collection, Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus, was published by Auckland University Press in 2011. She is also the author of a chapbook, The Continuing Adventures of Alice Spider (Anomalous Press, 2013), and co-author of AUP New Poets 3 (AUP, 2008). Her poetry has appeared in a wide range of journals and anthologies in New Zealand and overseas, including Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page (Random House, 2014), Best NZ Poems 2012 and Landfall. In 2014 she held the inaugural Ema Saikō Poetry Fellowship at New Pacific Studio in the Wairarapa. She also writes fiction, is a past winner of the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Award. Her first novel was published with Mākaro Press in 2015. She blogs at http://janisfreegard.com.

Tuesday Poem: ‘The fallings’ by Morgan Bach

The fallings

I wake and watch the planes
from my bed — each one an uncalled
number. An unspilled cup of tea,
covers still clean, hands
unscalded and reaching
under the sheets to the cool patch
on the other side where you were,
and you were and you
and you too, though none
of you now. Out my window
the planes take off at different angles,
some keep low and rise slowly
but others are full-tilt
to the heavens
hoping the weather
is better there, with clouds below
to give the illusion of being pillowed
should they find themselves
alone, so suddenly,
in the cool patches.

In 2013 Morgan Bach undertook an MA in Creative Writing at the IIML. She was the recipient of the Biggs Family Prize in Poetry, co-editor of Turbine 2013, and has had work published in Sport, Landfall, and Hue & Cry. ‘The fallings’ is from her debut collection Some of Us Eat the Seeds (VUP). There are some photos of the book launch on the Unity Books website.

I heard Morgan read this poem on Radio New Zealand in her calm and self-assured way. During the show, Greg O’Brien called her a ‘good, strong, mature, independant poet’ and stated that her collection is ‘an amazing book.’ He’s right — I couldn’t stop thinking about ‘The fallings,’ especially the lines, ‘on the other side where you were, / and you were and you / and you too, though none / of you now.’ I felt the disappointment that came with each ‘you,’ but also the sadness that is part of the speaker’s quiet acceptance (an experience of many women in their 30s, maybe, myself included), that they’ve again found themselves alone in their bed, watching someone fly away.

Tuesday Poem: ‘Addis Ababa’ from WORK


This excerpt is from ‘Addis Ababa,’ which is one of six long poems in my forthcoming collection, WORK. The poem is about a man who is trying to rebuild his life after his wife dies in the final skirmish of the Ethiopian Civil War. It first appeared in Sport 43, and on RNZ reviewer Harry Ricketts called it the standout poem of the issue.’ I actually made one of those excited half-squeals, the embarrassing kind you can’t keep in. Anyway, another excerpt from WORK was on Up Country last week (along with a little piece I wrote about Canadian moose being released in Fiordland in the early 1900s).

WORK will be released on Thursday 22 October. EXCITING launch details to come!

Tuesday Poem: ‘Mason’ by Scott Lindsay


I like to walk in these hills.
I enjoy the sense of isolation,
as if I really could be
the only person
for miles around.

The landscape is rugged here,
tufts of thin grass clumped around
rocks, stones, boulders.
Red flowers bloom in stark contrast
to the browns and muted greens of
the other alpine plants.

Should they make me less lonely?
These flowers, these symbols
of life, and continuity?
Should they make me rejoice
in the beauty of life,
and of nature?

I held you for a brief moment.
You were limp in my hands,
your arms and legs splayed wide
like a living rag-doll.
Ragged breathing.
Tiny gasps of air.

The labour had taken days,
my wife was exhausted,
and I couldn’t stay awake for long.
And when my eyes opened once more
you were gone.

I look from the blooms to the town below,
curls of smoke rising skyward from chimneys,
warm golden light
shining from windows, my heart
across gardens now turning deep blue,
the fading light of day.

I was so moved when I read Scott’s poem, and spent some extra time writing my feedback to him, basically because I couldn’t help myself. There’s a weight that comes when responding to very personal poems – those of love and grief, or most often both. How do I tell someone to cut lines about their loss because they’re too clunky or abstract? I didn’t have to do much of that with ‘Mason’ and reading it out loud to a friend last night, it still affects me. It makes me sad and thankful, and it also makes think, this is why I teach creative writing.

This is what Scott sent me for his bio: Scott has a wonderful wife and three amazing daughters. He also had a son briefly, and this event served as the inspiration for his poem ‘Mason’. Even though this was a traumatic time, he learned a lot about love and family. If you, or someone you love, ever have to face similar adversity in your life, please reach out for help as soon as you can. The pain is real and you don’t have to suffer by yourself. No one is alone in dark times like these, even though it certainly feels like you might be.

I’ve posted two other poems by 2015 students: ‘Jam Jar’ by Mary Fisher, and ‘My Mother in the Kitchen’ by Joel Pearson.

Tuesday Poem: ‘My Mother in the Kitchen’ by Joel Pearson

My Mother in the Kitchen

My mother is
banging and making noise
in the kitchen.
With bowls and cutlery,
searching with
needless clatter.
Her handkerchief
tucked at the ready
up the cuff
of her best black suit.

In the newspaper
there are two women–
twice my mother’s age–
campaigning to have
headstones propped back up
after they toppled over
in the earthquake.

are the afterlife’s kitchens.
The women are
banging around in it.
Making the bed.
Deadheading the roses.
My mother searches
for something real
amongst the tupperware.
Trying to rip back up
that the earth lulled
into lying down.

Joel Pearson is a Massey University student living in Christchurch. His major is English and he hopes to continue studying creative writing. One of his short stories appeared in Takahe 81, but he also writes poetry. This poem was written for Creative Writing 139.123and came together after Joel read an article in the newspaper about the earthquakes, and also from being annoyed by his mother banging around in the kitchen.

This is a marvelous poem about the way we distract ourselves from grief. I admire Joel’s ability to balance humour with simple and poignant imagery such as the mother’s ‘handkerchief / tucked at the ready / up the cuff / of her best black suit’. If you want to read more poems by Massey students I posted one last week.

Tuesday Poem: ‘Jam Jar’ by Mary Fisher

Jam Jar

I’m wilting in the darkening kitchen
When my younger brother
Arrives to my grappling,
Ridges of agar jar rubbing
Fingerprints from my skin.

I’ve poured hot water around the rim,
Metal bands expand, steam melting upwards.
I’ve tried the tea towel grip.
My hands simply slide, leaving
Squeaking glass and solid lid.

As he slips in, pale-faced from the cold
I stand straight and sweep rogue,
Sticky stripes of hair aside.
His squint rakes my crumbling attempt
To keep the jar behind, benched.

Floppy curls, beginnings of whiskers.
When did he become the taller one?
I say, ‘Don’t worry’.
But his long arms already loop around
My torso, a slow warming like rays of morning sun.

And while I sink into his limby cocoon,
His fingers find the flaws
In the jar I’ve been wrestling over,
Longer than a fearless sister should.

He pops the cap with slender hands.

Over the next few weeks I’m going to post poems by my students. Massey University doesn’t (yet) have an online journal like Turbine or 4th Floor, and it seems unfair that these poems are not read beyond my dining room table. These poems are the ones that make me think it’s a blurry line between student and teacher.

The first poem is by Mary Fisher, a part-time Massey student studying towards a BA in psychology alongside representing New Zealand in swimming. She enjoyed creative writing at high school and wrote this poem as part of 139.123, which for her was an elective paper. Mary likes cooking and says there is a parallel between her and literal jam jars as well as an object which could represent aspects of identity.

Tuesday Poem: ‘Meditations’ by Maria McMillan


All loss is about imagination,
or did I make that up? That
strands of grief, hung in a room
like streamers, are not so awful
in themselves but awful
because they are always there.
That sunny flat in Palmerston
North with the abundant grapefruit
tree and the men who would smoke
dope and play chess all day.
They were so gentle treading
around each other’s sadness
like it was a bluebottle. It was slow
but I was an urgent sort of person
and found even this thrilling.
I fell in love and from that man’s
bed only remember the sun
coming in at the oblique
angle of early morning. After
a while I didn’t know which
was real the staggering pace
of this place or the rest of my life
where actual things happened.
They taught me chords
and once for a full half hour
I had them before that too got lost.

A month or so ago I stayed at a bach in Raumati with twelve other poets. We brought our favourite poetry books, did exercises, and walked on the beach. We drank wine, ate watermelon, and took turns to read and talk about other people’s poems. The first poem I read to the group was ‘Meditation at Lagunitas’, which even after writing an entire and fraught thesis chapter about the poem, is still my favourite. It appears to be a favourite of others too, and Maria McMillan – a wonderful writer and social justice activist who has published two collections of poetry: The Rope Walk (Seraph Press, 2013) and Tree Space (VUP, 2014) – showed me her poem ‘Meditations’ which she’d written in response to Hass’s. The poem summarised the Raumati weekend for me, and the way writers inspire each other.

Read ‘Ghosts’ by Maria McMillan on Tim Jones’ blog
Read Paula Green’s review of Tree Space on Poetry Shelf

For more Tuesday Poems check out the hub.