Tuesday, November 27, 2012

"Pandora" by Rhydian W. Thomas

© Rhydian W. Thomas, 2011. The poem first appeared in Hue & Cry Issue No. 5, and is reproduced with permission of the author.

                                                         Editor: Sarah Jane Barnett

Ever since reading "Pandora" the poem has stayed with me. I thought it would make an interesting Tuesday Poem as it's quite unusual. For me, I can't think of another poem that has managed to create such a feeling of genuine repulsion and disgust.

In "Pandora" my repulsion comes not only from the man who abuses the dog, but from the other man who runs from the scene. The line "as his stonepath ceased to mess itself under me" and its allusion to soiling oneself, seems to capture the speaker's cowardly nature. The poem also works against the traditional lyric form and transformational moment, which I applaud. It certainly made me think about the purpose of poetry, and I still shudder with every reading.

Rhydian Thomas was born in Wales and moved to New Zealand at the age of thirteen. He is a writer and musician based in Wellington, working a range of oddball jobs to support his art-making problem. His poetry has appeared in Sport, Hue & Cry, and Turbine, and he makes music under the name The Body LyreHe has an MA from the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University and he occasionally writes for martial arts website NZFighters.comHe has won a grand total of zero Poetry Awards and zero Scholar Dollars but has been the deserving recipient of several prestigious rejection letters. He is currently working on a novel.

This week's editor Sarah Jane Barnett is a writer and reviewer who lives in Wellington. Her first collection of poems, A Man Runs into a Woman, was published by Hue & Cry Press in 2012. She blogs at theredroom.org.

After you're enjoyed the poem here at the hub, do check out the Tuesday Poets in the sidebar - each has selected a poem by themselves or another poet. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

So There by Robert Creeley

for Penelope Highton

 Da. Da. Da da. 
       Where is the song. 

from Hello by Robert Creeley (1926 - 2005) . Hawk Press: Taylors Mistake, 1976

Click here to hear it read by Robert Creeley at the NZ Electronic Poetry Centre and read it yourself here

Editor: Madeleine Slavick 

I found Hello on my third visit to New Zealand. A small, worn book, at 28 pages, beautifully handset and with handsewn bindings, part of me never wanted to return it to the public library. I did.

Hello can read like a single poem that begins again and again, at various points across the country: Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington.  Several words repeat. If.  World.  Born.  River.  Lovely.  People also reappear.  The mind is not a single place. 

One of the most influential poets in the United States, Robert Creeley was almost fifty years old when he wrote Hello, and he says, “I knew, intuitively, a time in myself had come for change. I don’t mean simply clothes, or houses, or even cities or countries or habits. I mean, all of it – what it ever is or can be.” [Creeley’s emphasis]

The year was 1976, and the transitions were many in his life: the publication of five books, his first visit to this country, the end of a long relationship, and the beginning of an even longer one, with Penelope Highton of New Zealand. 

They would live together until Creeley’s death in 2005, and the last pages of Hello are dedicated to her: “So There”.

In the introductory note to Hello, Creeley writes of New Zealand poets, clouds, wind, light, islands, water, mountains, people, and a certain pub – in that sequence – and what stays with me is the word “particularizing” which I had not yet seen in my reading, and I have not yet used in my writing. I want to.

 “Then there’s New Zealand light – intense, clear, particularizing, ruthless.”

I hear fact, clarity, change, and Creeley continues, “Coming from a mainland, with three thousand miles between its eastern and western coasts, your two islands seemed fragile and vulnerable… Thus you are out there, humanly, in the vastness...”

In 2002, Creeley called the poem “that place we are finally safe in”.


The NZEPC has more on Robert Creeley (1926-2005) and New Zealand. 

After you've read up on Creeley and enjoyed hearing his poem, check out the sidebar for a whole host of other Tuesday Poems posted by 30 poets. 

This week's editor and author of several books of poetry, non-fiction and photography, Madeleine Slavick also says ‘Hello’ to New Zealand. A resident of Hong Kong for almost 25 years after a childhood in New England, she now works as a freelance writer/editor in the Wairarapa. For more go to her blog Touching What I Love

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Transport, by Riemke Ensing


Top of Form
Bottom of Form

(photographs from the past)
for James

The edge is important
and the focus. Where
to lead the eye
without blurring
the terror of passing trains,
the ground all wasteland and boots,
fear splintered like glass.

Years fold in
and the track runs on
beyond reason.

In the dark room
wounds are developed.
Chaos is exposed
and fixed. The pictures
are silent and speak of winter.
too dark to resolve.

Negatives disintegrate
old and weary
with too much sight.

A shatter of dust.


(photo credit: James Ensing-Trussell)

I first met Riemke Ensing, I think, at a poetry reading.  I remember being amazed when she came over to talk to me.  We’d studied her poetry at school, I’d seen her name in anthologies, I knew her as a prominent Kiwi writer. Why would she be interested in a baby poet like me?  

But that was before I knew Riemke as a generous friend and mentor, as she is to many. I’ve been welcomed into her home and had the pleasure of long lunches chatting about writing, poetry and the NZ literary landscape. (Riemke is an excellent cook.) I’ve learnt, too, to be wary of the wicked glint in her eye – she says what she thinks and loves to get a reaction. But the intent is always kind.

‘Transport’ is a visceral poem, touching on the nerve endings many of us have as migrants or the children of migrants. It superimposes the clinical process of taking a photograph (“where/to lead the eye”) over the raw wounds of forced exit from a homeland (“fear splintered like glass.”). Short though the poem is, it spans more than a generation. It says just enough to suggest the hidden pain that survivors of war must live with and try not to pass down to their children.  It also offers commentary on how photographs perpetuate, but inadequately describe, the horrors of conflict (“Shadows/too dark to resolve.”)

I feel Riemke’s poetry has such immediacy. There is the sense of the person behind it. Even where the subject matter is dark, as in this poem, there is also a feeling of life, of the importance of being alive to feel, to sense, to think.  Whether she’s describing the events of history or a morning shower, she has the ability to pull the reader in, to include them in the frame.

Riemke has been very busy in the past few years, writing and keeping up a busy timetable of poetry readings and writer’s talks. She was recently honoured for her lifelong work as a writer, editor and mentor by being given the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for Poetry.  This year she also won the NZ Society of Authors Kevin Ireland Poetry Competition, coming top of the field over more than a hundred entries.  Her work has been included in the UK-based Poetry Archive, a repository of some of the most significant works in poetry. In between running around fulfilling all her obligations Riemke also found the time to answer some questions from me for this week’s post.

When did you first realise you were a poet?

I always feel reluctant and even somewhat embarrassed to think of myself as a 'poet'. I write, and some of my output is poetry, but if I compare myself to Yeats or Eliot , Wallace Stevens, Lorca -  in fact any of the myriad of wonderful poets all over the world over the many centuries, my attempts are pretty minimal and insignificant.

I started writing 'poetry' when I first came to NZ at the age of about twelve. I had no models at that stage, other than church hymns, so you can imagine the rather dismal attempts to improve on Wesley and Co. 
All rhyme, of course, and written in red ink. 
Our Presbyterian minister wouldn't have a bar of them and declined my suggestion he put them to music and have them sung in church. I couldn't see why he was so unsupportive, but it took the gloss off it for a while and I concentrated on painting instead. 

I started writing again at Ardmore Teachers' Training College  and continued through 'varsity  as a student. By then I suppose it had become a 'habit'. I had a few poems published now and then but was never very avid about sending things away. 
Ian Wedde used a couple in the New Zealand Universities Arts Festival Yearbook 1968  and that was a thrill, and Karl Stead sent me a congratulatory 'cheering on' note when I had some poems published in Arena, which was then a handset and printed labour of love and dedication by Noel Hoggard at The Handcraft Press. When I think of all the work and time that went into that publication it was astonishing, really. 

What is your favourite place and time of day for writing?

I am not at all systematic or organized or 'timetabled'. I note things down and keep a notebook handy. Sometimes the scraps become poems. It depends. If I feel a particular idea or concept is worth pursuing, I keep at it, but I'm just as likely to leave it as a note to myself.  Sometimes I write for particular occasions or people, and that is usually an impetus to put something together and mostly works quite well for me. 

People have written of the visual, focussed nature of your poems. For you, is writing a poem like taking a photograph?

For me, a poem is not at all like taking a photograph. Not 'taking a photograph' as I know it, which is taking a sight and clicking a button. The writing of a poem for me is very exacting and exhausting. That's probably why I don't write a lot. 
When I finish a poem, I'm usually 'washed out'. I don't know why that should be. Some poets speak of the thrill, the excitement and joy of writing, but for me it is mostly the opposite. I do at times have a sense of achievement or accomplishment, but it seems to come at a price.

‘Transport’ reads like a very intimate, personal poem, and you dedicate it to your son James. Did you ever experience the displacement voiced in the poem?

I dedicated 'Transport' to James because he was (if I remember correctly) just starting his career as a photographer, having been a teacher of the violin for many years. He of course, thinks the poem is 'very dark'. 
In fact, like my mother, who would have preferred poems about flowers and the more lighthearted aspects of life, he think most of my poems are rather too sombre.  And I suppose it has to do with the age. I was born just before the war in Europe began.
My parents had experienced the First World War and the Depression of the thirties. My first years were war and all the anxieties afterwards. Then there was the migration to NZ and the subsequent sense of being other and different - but no, the 'displacement' I write of in the poem is not something I personally experienced other than through other people's stories, books, films, etc. One lives in the imagination and in that sense the 'experience' can be as 'real' as the actual.  

What are you working on at the moment?

Presently I am still trying to come to terms with ongoing 'presence' of death. Bill died 3 and a half years ago and although he was considerably older than myself, I still can't quite reconcile myself to the idea of his no longer being here. 
My brother died a short while ago, as did a cousin of my age, and there seem to be constant, almost daily reminders, of mortality. So my present work concerns itself primarily with loss. Perhaps that's somewhat depressing, but I think it has produced some good poems - one of which won the recent 2012 NZSA Kevin Ireland Poetry Competition. 

This week's editor is Renee Liang,usually from Auckland, NZ, although this week she is posting from Kalgoorlie, Western Australia where she is doing a paediatric locum. Renee writes poetry, plays, fiction and non-fiction, blogs for The Big Idea, and organises community arts initiatives.  In her spare time she works as a doctor and is mum to Sofia (nearly 4 months.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

March 6, 1890: Eugene Schieffelin Releases 80 Starlings in Central Park, by Holly J. Hughes

I’ll have a starling shall be taught 
To speak nothing but "Mortimer" and give it him 
To keep his anger still in motion. 
               Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1 

Snow has shaken loose all morning, 
nesting in the crotch of the ailanthus
streaking the black trunks of the locust. 

Upstate, currant farmers worry about the freeze. 
In the city, fathers hitch horses to sleighs. 
He hugs his wool coat tighter, 

spirals his muffler, lurches along, 
cobblestones slick under four inches of snow; 
in each hand a cage, balanced, a scale of justice. 

Behind him a kite-tail of servants carry 
eighty starlings -- imported from England 
to improve the landscape -- stuttering in protest. 

At last he stops, lowers each cage, lifts each latch. 
The starlings step out, blinking, 
each clawed foot unscrolling into the snow. 

Dazed from months aboard ship and carriage, 
they linger near the cages, flex their wings, 
a spatter of white on black 

like puddingstone, lower their tails, 
cock their heads, preen, 
eyes bright like honey. 

At 4:30 clouds cut away, 
clear sky thickens into evening. 
Still they stay close to their cages. 

Finally, growing cold, he rushes at the birds, 
scarecrowing his arms: Go, go, go. 
At first one, then another, and another,

until the whole murmeration lifts 
and spirals, a spidery helix 
against a darkening sky. 

                     Editor, T. Clear

This poem has previously been published in Pontoon #3: an anthology of Washington State Poets by Floating Bridge Press and in The Poet’s Guide to Birds, edited by Judith Kitchen and Ted Kooser by Anhinga Press, 2009. Published with the permission of Holly J. Hughes.

A few weeks ago, while contemplating which poem to post here, I heard a ruckus of birds in my back yard, and stepped outside in the rain to investigate. I should have known: starlings, feasting on my very ripe Interlaken grapes. Starlings are more often reviled than wondered-at, but every time I hear the singing from their assembled masses, I can't help but think that I'm hearing every language ever spoken, at once: sung, shouted, screeched, cackled, chortled, crowed, tittled, trilled, crooned. And I knew immediately which poem I'd choose, the poem I think of every time I see starlings. 

I plucked this murmuration from YouTube, worth watching —

Holly J. Hughes is co-author of The Pen and The Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World (Skinner House Press, 2012), editor of the award-winning anthology, Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease (Kent State University Press, 2009) and author of the prize-winning chapbook Boxing the Compass (Floating Bridge Press, 2007).  A recipient of an Artist Trust Fellowship, her poems and essays have appeared in a variety of anthologies and literary magazines and have been nominated for a Pushcart prize.

In addition to teaching writing at Edmonds Community College, where she co-directs the Sustainability Initiative, she also teaches writing workshops at Edmonds Write on the Sound Conference, the North Cascades Institute and Field’s End.  She has spent over thirty summers working on the water in Alaska in a variety of roles, including commercial fishing for salmon, skippering a 65-foot schooner, and most recently, working as a naturalist on ships. 

This week's editor T. Clear, of Seattle, is a founder of Floating Bridge Press. Her work has appeared in many journals and magazines, and is forthcoming in Alive at the Center, an anthology of poems from the Pacific Northwest. She can be found blogging here.

Please take the time to explore our marvelous selection of Tuesday Poems from around the globe, by clicking on any of the links on our sidebar. If you haven't had enough of starlings yet, Tim Upperton's The Starlings was featured last week on one of the Tuesday Poem blogs