with me the conductor. Now one – ah there – and now
Monday, April 7, 2014
with me the conductor. Now one – ah there – and now
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
lavender, poured glass bowls pinched
to look like small boats brimming with water.
Inside, incised: the letters and lines of a
chemical formula. The white card says
I wait for the woman
to finish with the customer who’s asked for
a piece of art small enough to carry in a
pocket. As I wait, I decide she doesn’t love
her job. She wears her unhappiness like
a white card. The way
she chinks the keys
for the cupboard that has glass pieces fit
for a pocket, holds the cupboard door as if
she wants to shut it on a hand. The customer
looks and looks and shakes his head. He leaves,
hand in his pocket. Please,
I say, what is this
written in the Happiness Bowls? Seratonin,
she says, but it sounds like Sarah Tone.
She’s back at the table where she can
watch people enter the shop. It’s the
chemical equation, she says.
Oh, I say. I didn’t know
it was like that. I stare at the hexagon, the
pentagon, lines and letters, NH2–HO–HN,
inside the pale, poured bowls. He’s done
more serious work, she says, I’ll get it, and
she walks up the stairs –
brings down a bowl like
the Happiness Bowls but this one needs two
arms to hold it and it’s the colours of fire.
Angular, brimming, but no equation this time.
It looks primordial, like a wedge of something
cut from a rock
and polished. She places it in the natural light
by the window and the colours lighten and
redden, rise and fall, burn like a brazier. I am
enthralled. She says the artist makes a wax
shape and, from that,
a mould, pours molten
glass into it. He fires it, cools it, uses acid
to make the outside opaque. Against artificial
light, the red flares, she says. The word
‘flare’ sounds like it’s flaring in her mouth.
Even the word ‘light’ has lightness.
the merest tip of something. I imagine
her upstairs on her own under the lights
watching it flare. Yes, it’s cool to the touch,
she says, but there’s a warm current too like
the sea in summer. Then – No!
she says, fingermarks!
Picks up the bowl and takes it to her table.
I go back to the Happiness Bowls. They are less
serious now: pastel, talky, glib. Something to
carry in a pocket, to bring out when confidence
flags. Why are they here:
to give happiness or to
hold happiness? Or perhaps, and I feel this
might be it: the bowls are happy. And what is
that when it is so small an equation, so easily
etched? I nod goodbye to the woman, behind
her table again. She is
polishing the red bowl
with a soft blue cloth, her whole attention on it.
It's the fourth birthday of Tuesday Poem. I can hardly believe it's gone on so long! Inspired by all the fun Michelle Elvy (our precious hub-subbie) has been having with our usual birthday collaboration (okay - fun and HARD work), I decided to write a poem - and then got side-tracked on a old poem which had never felt quite right in language and form. So here it is again, streamlined ... hopefully better. And a HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US!
I have to say I am deeply indebted to the wonderful Michelle Elvy for taking on the job of sub for our Tuesday Poem hub, relieving me of my weekly duties overseeing the posts there. After Michelle finishes her stint, there's another hub-subbie lined up and so it goes. And I will try and write more poems :) with the space these lovely poets have given me. And thanks as always to the wonderful Claire Beynon my co-curator.
So, please check out our hub now -- take a squizz at the fourth birthday poem, and then read some of our poets in the sidebar.
Go HERE to the hub ...
Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Mary Oliver reads a poem from Dog Songs from The Penguin Press on Vimeo.
Oh this is just perfect. I am working on a poetry book at the moment with dog poems in it (that's as a publisher not a poet), and the poet sent me a link to Mary Oliver's new book called DOG SONGS (The Penguin Press 2013). I love Mary Oliver's work already -- and now I love it doubly. Such perfect lines...
Could there be a sweeter arrangement? Over and overhe gets to ask.I get to tell.Do go to the Tuesday Poem hub for a fire cracker of a post on Les Murray, by Zireaux, and to see the other TP poets there.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Friday, October 11, 2013
Alice Munro wins the Nobel Prize in Literature! Brilliant. The tag line on the Nobel website is 'master of the contemporary short story'. Canadians have been known to call her their Chekhov.
A short article here articulates the beauty of this win - the way we struggle to say exactly what it is that makes Alice Munro so great and how she's credited with doing the 'woman writer thing' exceptionally well: making the small things of life some how big with the attention she pays - but then the article lands on 'some kind of alchemy of form and content' as the only way of understanding Munro's greatness, before throwing up its hands and saying - in effect - just read her! Do please, yes.
I tried to discuss Munro's genius in a blog post five years ago and talked about the time Munro spent looking out of windows. Yes, not looking inside at her own life and her own angst but outside, at people passing by, and what they do. In her words,
I want the reader to feel something is astonishing. Not the 'what happens', but the way everything happens.How she wrote short stories because she was a wife and mother and busy thinking always about others needs, so there was time for little recreation except looking through windows, and writing short fiction. Her first collection of stories was published in 1968 when she was 37. I talked in the blog post about reading one of Munro's stories in her collection Runaway while I was working hard on my 2007 novel The Blue - and how it showed me 'suddenly and simply how to write about love in a way that was unsentimental, visceral, raw, astonishing'. And I quoted Munro...
I want the reader to feel something is astonishing. Not the 'what happens,' but the way everything happens.... And then I found a perspicacious review in the International Herald Tribune:
The distinctions that Munro has been elaborating on for years along the prairies, small towns, and modest lives of Canada operate upon the heart. They are particle metaphysics, and their collisions release an energy that all but mutates the reader's mental and emotional genes.
Afterward, we glow faintly in the dark.
Heart is a word dangerously subject to sentimental abuse; even worse is heartstrings. Useful, though, in attempting to suggest the nature of Munro's art. She moves on a fine workaday surface; then, unsignaled, reaches deep with delicate and knowing fingers to tug the filament of a brainily targeted emotion. Her unremarkable landscapes are dotted with rabbit holes; falling in, we grow, we shrink, we are at a loss, and then unexpectedly found.
Congratulations Alice Munro. And Canada (love that country and its writers). Thanks Bookman Beattie who shared the news with me first thing this morning.
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Ted Hughes reads. And, yes, this is the poem coming - a shadow lagging - a creature about its own business - the widening, deepening greenness - then - yes! - it enters the hole of the head. Printed. Genius.
Please take time to enter the poem at the Tuesday Poem hub this week. It is an anti-war poem by a father to a son written by Jamaican poet Geoffrey Philp, editor Rethabile Masilo in Paris. A marvellous poem an commentary. Here.
And congratulations to New Zealand author Eleanor Catton for being short-listed for the Booker Award with her novel The Luminaries. The third kiwi ever to do it, I believe. Proud.
Monday, August 12, 2013
We've had a big earthquake since but we're still fixing things up from a massive storm that hit us some weeks back. The asphalt is still jig-saw-like in parts and sand is over the footpath and rubbish bins are wrenched from the ground. We were lucky really... just a fence down. That bit of the poem is me. The rest is true of other people I know. How helpless storms make you feel and 'in pieces'. Enjoy Tuesday Poem this week both here and at the hub where Australian poet and author Catherine Bateson unfolds a gem for us... Go here.
Sunday, July 28, 2013
I'm not surprised to hear of Eleanor Catton's success. She is a singular talent. Four years ago I reviewed her first novel The Rehearsal in a blog post entitled Catton among the pigeons and, lost in a strange metaphor of my own making, said:
"This terribly-young author is already a cat-like phenomenon in the Big Book Square of the World with its greening statues of the famous and host of perching pigeons. She's won Best First Novel here and a similar award in the UK, and is lined up for more. The book reviewers and writers' festivals love her. One UK reviewer picked The Rehearsal as the future face of the novel."
There's a great write-up of Eleanor Catton's recent success by Robert Sullivan on the MIT website here where she teaches and a brief TV interview here. I'm looking forward to reading The Luminaries - at 800+ pages I will need to put some significant time aside.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Camel has two humps. It's an action song.
Short and sweet today - one of the gems from The Continuing Adventures of Alice Spider by Janis Freegard, another Tuesday Poet. The chapbook is published by Anomalous Press in the US, and I have one, and I treasure it. It's the size of a hand and the prose poems are long and short and will make you smile and nod and shake your head a lot. Janis is launching it in NZ soon. Watch this space. Do head over to the TP hub where there's a wonderful wonderful poem A GARAGE by an Australian poet called Robert Gray.
Tuesday, June 25, 2013
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
More here at the Tuesday Poem hub.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Andrew is pissing on the wall now and Colin’s
following in his shark tooth hat. He tells a story
about living on Long Island and how, walking
with his bulldog, he was sometimes mistaken
for Truman Capote. Justine is blonde and pregnant
says, 'Ruby, I think,' then louder, 'Ruby’ –
stop and wait. The wind
lifting a pram cover and peering in. ‘Now ask me,’
Billy like a tiger, and the gulls ratchet it down to a mew
This poem was written very long time ago. Nine years. But I've been redrafting it over the past two months.
Ed doesn't walk Billy now because he isn't well enough so his wife Patricia does it instead. We always stop and chat when we see them, but Billy and Ruby are older and greyer and only sniff each other now - no churning. Colin passed away five years ago and his beloved Andrew followed. Garwain, if that was his name, moved away with Charlie. So, I think, did Justine and her dogs and her Ruby - but I'm not sure about that. I just haven't seen them in a while. I still enjoy my daily walks with my Ruby but it's been a while since it was quite so social and quite so much fun.