Thursday, 29 July 2010

Poetry Day NZ 'in my reply'

I thought why should the overseas poets have all the fun? So for NZ's Poetry Day, have opted to write about Poetry rather than about NZ . (Although I guess in the end, it is about both).

This is a photo I took three years ago of a Viking boat (novelty) that appeared in Dunedin Harbour ... don't know if it's still around or not. There's an odd, out-of-context quality about it that I thought made it an appropriate companion for the poem below.

in my reply

Reading between the lines I infer your email
elicits a reply of some kind.
The one I post off is polite enough.
I’ve used the revised version,
the second draft,
the one that doesn’t mention
how you live in Auckland.
In my reply I give you
my low-brow opinion

on your more loftier thoughts.
In my reply I lied a bit
and said I did not know.
You say you prefer restraint that leans
to the abstract; poetry that’s like gruyere
and allows for gaps. Poetry
that bubbles up
from the subconscious.
If I understand you correctly,

you say that poetry is taking off
in new, post-postmodern
directions and is modelled
not on Aristotle so much
as an axolotl
walking away from me
wearing nothing
but an oblique smile
and a funny hat.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

The title of this poem and the words,
In my reply I lied a bit
and said I did not know'
are taken from the song ‘In My Reply’ written by Livingston Taylor and sung by Linda Ronstadt.

I wrote this quite a few years ago now, and yes it was in a fit of pique after a rejection. I hate rejections. So much so, I seldom submit anything anywhere … whether that be for residencies, magazines, competitions … whatever. It's a fear of rejection as deep-seated as any childhood fear can be. Hey, it's not so bad – just makes me a people-pleaser, which other people don't seem to mind.
I can read this poem now with some amusement, all rancour removed. When I first read it at a poetry reading years ago, a number of other poets knew exactly who I was talking about … which was interesting, as I thought I was being fairly subtle. I also enjoyed the opportunity of using a line of a Livingston Taylor / Linda Ronstadt song I love.

For more NZ Poetry Day poetry go here.


Unknown said...

Wonderful! I love
..not on Aristotle so much
as on an axylotyl
walking away from me
wearing nothing...
brilliant! That should have fixed the rejectoree...

Catherine said...

Well, I see the post has appeared here after all! (And not just on my google reader).
I believe it is the certain editor who told me I 'relied too much on metaphor". In that case, he might not like "poetry that's gruyere/and allows for gaps", but I think it's brilliant!

Helen Lowe said...

Definitely a 'poem a clef' Kay--and like all such poems, the subject recognizable!

I also very much like the Viking ship--only in Dunedin! :-)

Kay Cooke said...

Joan - Thanks. Not sure if it worked or not - this is a poem made from the email I didn't send!

Catherine - Thanks. I would guess same one. Yep.

Helen - Only in Dunedin you're right. A 'poem a clef'- I like that!

Leonie wise said...

Your clever use of words (gruyere!) is a constant amazement!!

Kay Cooke said...

Leonie - You're sweet - thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

Powerful post.

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