Sunday, 27 July 2008

colouring in black and white

dim-blue Skoda

Maybe 1967. My little sister’s tanned legs
and face tell me summer. And Uncle Reg
down from Wellington always around Christmas.
A Sunday drive then, in from Gore, Grandad driving,
seen from the back his hat giving him the silhouette
of a sunflower. A bit of a breeze parts Nana’s perm,
rolls the background clouds east from south. 
Cardigans on means it isn’t warm. Shadows 
under chins and eyes means an overhead, 
mid-day sun. Nana is steady with her usual 
cautious calm. She folds her hands and above 
a neatly rolled cuff, her mother-of-pearl 
watch-face catches the sun. Grandad's 
Maori nose beams in the sun, his worker’s hands 
lie relaxed over the roof and windscreen 
to take ownership of his clean car. 
Uncle Reg, the tricker, tickles my grinning sister’s head.
The youngest of seven, at five years old, she knows how 
to be cute on the gleaming bonnet of the dim-blue Skoda. 
The four of them (my uncle and grandparents now dead)
caught in black-and-white by me aged fourteen when 
with a pronounced click I press the slow shutter 
of my Brownie box camera. A moment ago.

Poems in Canopic Jar

I now have three poems in Canopic Jar - follow the link to read more from this classy publication And I'm not just saying that cos I'm in it! No. It's because Rethabile is the class act behind this on-line poetry journal. 

Thursday, 24 July 2008

samosa, coffee machine and drizzle

The Otago Collective poetry reading nights have started up again. The readings are fortnightly - which means two weekly, American readers :) and held in Dunedin through the winter and into spring at the Circadian Rhythm restaurant in St Andrew Street. The format is an open mike session followed by the night’s featured poet.

Here is the line-up:

Location: Circadian Rhythm Cafe, 72 St Andrew Street, Dunedin ~ fabulous organic, vegan and gluten free food, local beer, and fair-trade coffee.
Time: 7.30pm (for 7.45pm start)
The following readings will be on:
August 6 - Reader: Diane Brown (Compere: Emma Neale)
August 20 - Reader: Bill Direen (Compere: Richard Reeve)
September 3 - Reader: Sue Wootton (Compere: Poppy Haynes)
September 17 - Reader: Jenny Powell (Compere: Kay McKenzie Cooke)
October 1 - Reader: John Hale (Compere: Cy Mathews)

Last night was the second of the readings, and a cold drizzly night. Robert and I toddled along to arrive a little before the proceedings started, and ordered a meal from the selection of yummy Indian food. (I highly recommend the samosas.)

Poppy Haynes was the featured poet for the night. Her satisfying, lithe, well-worked poetry was delivered supremely well. Clarity of form, substance, style and delivery were the hallmarks of her fine poetry, as well as an attractive lingering on details and mood. Quality stuff.

Dunedin benefits from being a University city. In the dozen or so years that I have been part of its poetry scene, I have seen some incredible young poets come and go (thankfully some have stayed to add new blood to the base.) There is always a mixture of young and old(er) at the poetry readings, which makes for an interesting smorgasbord. I am always inspired, despite myself. 

Last night the mood I was in that needed spiting, was that of a dried-up, deadbeat poet (that is not to say a dead Beat poet) without substance and no well of inspiration to plunge into.

I talked to T and she reminded me that last time we talked, I was working out at the Albatross Centre and writing a novel. Six months later I am working at a childcare centre, writing almost no poetry and with the so-called novel on hold, probably until I retire. How things can change.

An impression I got from last night is that the poets from the university are fresh, confident, self-assured and like policemen and pilots, incredibly young. Also not nearly as grunge-y as university poets used to be ... Even a poet that verged a little on the grunge side, really wasn’t - sharp in his black-and-white chequered scarf, long black coat and with a Byronic, piercing look. He delivered a memorised twenty-something-versed rhyming poem all about the night before Yule. He said he’d also performed the poem at a recent mid-winter, medieval festival. (I seem to recall there being some mention in the poem of a pig being stuck with a knife, but the most memorable thing about it, apart from the awesome, flawless delivery, had to be the excess of alliteration.)

I spoke a little with S. We seem to share the common ailment of scattered writing at the moment, but reassured each other that at least we were writing. Janet Frame’s goosebath method is serving us both well just now.

Even though the civilised pleasantness of last night (ably run by Jacob Edmond) was enjoyable, partway through the night I couldn’t help remembering the more weird, crazy days with (alternatively) Nick Ascroft, James Saville-Smith, Richard Reeve et al as mcs, and when the readings were held in dark and dimly-lit side-or-back-rooms, as opposed to a cheery, warm, brightly-lit restaurant with a fitful coffee machine. They were days of mad, raw poetry by alternative, edgy, grunge and/or punk poets. I even miss the dictionary man (who used to open a dictionary at random and begin a truly awful ad-lib spiel on whichever word his eye fell upon.) And that is saying something. But maybe now it's the turn of the aesthetes. Which is fair enough. It's all interesting. It's all good.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Bad Poet

This is a shot of the sky at one point last weekend. I noticed it as I was getting ready for the friendly invasion of family for dinner, and took a quick minute to point the camera in the general direction. I was rather pleased with the result. 

This weekend though, the sky has not been as dramatic, just low, impenetrable and grey. With the sun effectively cut out of the picture, it's been chilly-cold. We have been keeping the fire stoked.

Writing-wise, today I wrote a poem about our trip to Haast in April. (All that dark green left an impression.) It took me six hours. Of course it won't be the end of it. For me seldom is a poem finished on the first day. It can go on and on. However, as it stands at the moment I am pleased with it. Maybe it's a sign that at last this seemingly-interminable poem-drought is over. It's been a year since 'Made For Weather' was launched last 'NZ Poetry Day'. This year I was too tired after a week of work and visitors to attend the readings. Instead I blobbed in front of the fire and watched 'America's Next Top Model', 'Gavin ad Stacey' and the final of 'Project Runway'. Was that bad of me? I felt a little rebellious, but mostly just emotionaly drained and physically exhausted.

And now the weekend is over

Friday, 11 July 2008

Introducing ....

Please go on over to my friend Katherine Liddy's blog which features this book, hot off Auckland University's press. The book contains Katherine's poetry, as well as two other women poets, Janis Freegard and Reihana Robinson. These '3 new poets' AUP publications have the reputation of discovering and showcasing young poets that more often than not go on to become fine, established New Zealand poets. I look forward to getting to know the work of Freegard or Robinson, but have already had the pleasure of reading a lot of Katherine's work. Katherine is a former Otago girl and I knew her as part of the Dunedin poetry scene. (And I miss her very much, as she now lives with her husband John Dolan way, way over in Vancouver, Canada.) However, this is the first opportunity I have had to see her poetry housed in a book of her own (albeit shared accommodation) which needless to say, is very exciting indeed.
Katherine is a writer to watch. She has huge talent and writes with quiet, understated power. A wordsmith in the truest sense, she has a sound knowledge of words; their ins and outs; and deftly fits them together (often with subtle, crafted rhyming) to tell a story ... or describe an event; an animal, an incident, a landscape, a bird, an insect ... Katherine writes about wide and varied subjects - from a day in an Auckland office, to the boundless imagined landscapes of the Greek classics. Whether describing the pathos of road kill or the dislocation of running along the Karitane beach at night, Katherine brings to each subject, a gimlet-eyed viewpoint and unique, fresh descriptions. Reading her work I sometimes have to stop, as if to catch my breath. This is otherwise known as pure astonishment. 
Her intelligent, yet nicely restrained, approach to language and to the wide (you could even say global) subject areas that she tackles (Katherine knows her stuff, but never strays into showmanship) produces attractive, satisfying poetry. Her judgement is faultless and she executes it all with an expertise that is way beyond her years. I am a huge fan of Katherine's work; both prose and poetry; and very excited about her launch into the world with this, her first poetry book. 

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Sea Level Dispatches

I got a laptop for my birthday and this is my first post from it. I chose this sparrow from my library of pics because last night after googling my name (yes! I do!) I found that someone had swiped this photo for (of all things) a fencing website in order to demonstrate how a fence-post was made, which I think is very funny.  
The photo is fitting because it reminds me of the weekend we spent last year at my brother's farm in winter with feeding out, a walk in the turnips to shift a mob of sheep ... and mud! A taste of country in winter is always a bracing experience.
Snow is all around the city on the hill suburbs, but nowhere near us in our sea-level suburb. The other day I heard someone say proudly, "We're 400," meaning that where they live is 400 meters above sea level (which is usually as far down as the snow lies.) I wasn't aware until then that your height above sea-level is actually a bit of a status symbol! (I guess sea-level is way down in the stakes ... well, when it comes to snowfalls anyway.)

In between the sleety showers, we scampered into a curtain shop and bought some new curtains for the spare room 

that I have now finished painting (apart from one more coat on the wardrobe doors.) And for my office.

A poem:

bad mother

She texts my sister, the youngest
and the one she's always been 
the most free with, 'I'm naked
and happy what r u going to do about it.'
To which my sister between gasps
could only reply, 'bad mother'
and with some glee, spread the word 
among the family who are aghast
and stunned and can't help but wonder 
if this means a Bowling Ladies calendar 
is in the offing or if at 77 
she's simply just finally gone 
mad and free?

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Clocking Out

 I have been neglecting this blog for some months. I think perhaps I should face facts and accept that it is indeed time to retire this blog...