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Memory of sun ebbs from the heart.
Memory of sun ebbs from the heart.
Grass fades early.
Wind blows the first snowflakes
Freezing water can’t flow
Along these narrow channels.
Nothing happens here, oh
Nothing can happen.
A willow against the sky
Spreads its transparent fan.
Better perhaps, if I
Hadn’t accepted your hand.
Memory of sunlight ebbs from the heart.
What’s this? Darkness? Perhaps! …
In the night
Winter has overcome us.
Translated by A. S. Kline © 2005, 2012
Anna Akhmatova (the pen name of Anna Andreyevna Gorenko, 1889 – 1966) was a Russian modernist poet. Her work often dealt with the difficulties of living under Stalinism, during which two of her husbands were killed and her son jailed. Her poetry was banned by Stalinist authorities for decades.
There are more Tuesday Poems here.
CHANT FOR THE RETURN HOME
The seven seas aren’t what we thought they would be
packed to the gunnels with rum and rebellion.
Our tall ships fly home, flat tack in the wind.
We’ll alight and seek life in the tussocky rocks,
seek fewmets and footprints and niblets of spoor.
With no forest for shelter we’ll bivouac in the wind.
Tough trees lie flat; they clutch at the cliffs,
the grasses grow grasping and desperate —
nothing withstands the impact of the wind.
We grab hands and race for the deepest cave
hoping to lie in the light of our warmth
with the ghost of our hope left intact by the wind.
But gone means gone — we can’t sail back on the wind.
The black dog’s ears go flat in the wind.
[First published in The Ghazal Page, 2012(1).]
Mary Cresswell is a poet and science editor who lives on New Zealand’s Kapiti Coast. Originally from Los Angeles, her writing has been published widely in New Zealand, Australian, Canadian, US and UK literary journals. Her poetry collection Trace Fossils (first runner-up for the inaugural 2008 Kathleen Grattan award) was published by Steele Roberts in 2011 and her collection of satiric verse, Nearest and Dearest, in 2009. Mary was also one of four poets who co-authored Millionaire’s Shortbread (University of Otago, 2003).
This week’s poem is a ghazal (sounds like guzzle) – originally an ancient Persian form.
The Guardian has this to say:
“The strict ghazal is composed of five or more regular couplets. The couplet is called a sher, and must be self-contained. The second line of each ends with a refrain of one or a few words, known as the radif. This is preceded by the rhyme, the qaafiya. In the first couplet both lines end in the rhyme and refrain, so the rhyme scheme is AA BA CA, etc. The last sher contains the poet’s signature, his name or a variant thereof.”
Modern poets writing in English have experimented with the form (Mary’s is a tercet ghazal with a deliberately empty line in the last stanza) but it’s probably fair to say that most consist of self-contained couplets, often exploring themes of love and mysticism.
More Tuesday poems here, where you can also watch the jointly written third birthday poem unfolding.
Safe at Home
Night, and there is nothing outside my bedroom window
No red corrugated iron shed, by day ringing with the sound of Dad’s tools
No aviary of zebra finches peeping into the kitchen window below
No fairy flowers on the fuchsia, no posies on the hydrangea
No washing line to swing from, kicking the top of Dad’s birthday kowhai
No swing of thick grey pipes from the council tip, carrying me high enough to reach the wash-house roof
No square of lawn piled high with leftover wood, sometimes a princess’s castle, sometimes a pirate ship
No outside toilet populated by whirling dervish daddy-long-legses
No hole in the side fence where I slip past the leathery taupata to visit Jeannie, who feeds me chocolate cup cakes and Robinson’s lime cordial when Mum is in hospital
No hill where the Governor-General lives surrounded by pine trees; where a Bad Thing happened to a lady so we are forbidden to play in the spicy darkness with the cushioned floor; where the policemen check up on you if you do
It is night so there is nothing outside my bedroom window.
Except, of course, for passing spaceships flashing their comforting red and green lights.
Welcome to the first Tuesday poem of 2013! This week’s poem is from the recently launched collection ‘My Family and Other Strangers’ by Laurice Gilbert. Laurice says:
“The poem is based on a memory I have of a childhood night when I couldn’t sleep and I got up and played with my paper dolls (I’d have been about 7 or 8). In those days there wasn’t much light pollution, and it was very dark outside. I saw the flashing lights off in the distance just before Mum came in and told me to go back to bed.”
I enjoy the way this poem evokes childhood memories and preoccupations, and I especially like the comforting spaceships.
Laurice Gilbert is President of the New Zealand Poetry Society, and has had poems published in many journals and anthologies such as Island (Australia), The Book of Ten (UK), Shot Glass Journal and Fib Review. ‘My Family and Other Strangers’, Laurice’s first collection, is available from: http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/mf%2526os As well as reflecting on childhood, family and parenting, Laurice’s collection includes a section on Vincent van Gogh.
Rona remembers sorrow
He covers my eyes with his downy pelt,
he rolls me into his marsupial pouch.
I taste the dirt and tang of earth and sex.
My heart lies thumping in its cage.
Now and then I stick my neck out
and deflect my lover’s prowess.
He shudders his love into me, knowing
I am absent.
He strokes me as if I were made of feathers
and hollow bones, as if I were the only
We both know there is nothing to be done.
In a swivel of space I see
half of earth.
She moves in a daze, understanding
only the animals.
She is wondering if she will make it to the
like in the old days.
For this I stick my neck out.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Skyline in Wellington (top of the cable car, stunning views of the harbour) for the launch of Reihana Robinson’s new poetry book, Auē Rona, published by Steele Roberts. There was wonderful poetry, delicious food, fine company and a most entertaining speech by Roger Steele who pointed out that all three winners of the PM’s literary awards this year (Sam Hunt, Greg O’Brien and Albert Wendt) are poets. There was even the chance to buy one of Noa Noa von Bassewitz’s woodcut prints, which feature in the book (and yes, there’s now one on our wall). It was lovely to meet Reihana, finally. We featured together in AUP New Poets 3 in 2008, but had never actually met.
Auē Rona is a re-telling of the legend of Rona and the moon, but it’s also more than that. These are poems of love, grief and defiance, poems that move from the moon to Cape Reinga, to the wider Pacific. In her notes to the collection, Reihana writes:
“The traditional story of Rona and the moon opens as she is collecting water for her children. A cloud covers the moon; she falls, spilling the water, and she curses. As punishment she is torn from earth and taken to the moon, still clutching her calabash and holding a ngaio tree. Auē Rona. Oh Rona. Oh grief. Oh sorrow.”
Reihana Robinson’s writing has also been published in a number of journals including Landfall, Cutthroat, Hawai’i Review, Trout, Melusine, JAAM, Takahe, Cezanne’s Carrot and Blackmail Press. She lives in the Coromandel. You can listen to a Radio NZ podcast featuring Reihana here and visit her website here.
you can see they belong together:
the upthrust floral tube
clearly shaped to fit a bill
tantalising on slender filaments
the stem yields under the weight
as she lands with a fluster
white bow-tie shining against her breast
she plunges into the burnt orange
takes her fill
I spent last weekend at a highly enjoyable and productive poetry workshop led by Vivienne Plumb and attended by a lovely group of fellow poets. This is what I wrote after our nature walk exercise.
Don’t forget to check out the other Tuesday poems.
Where do you think you’re going?
Your smile has many teeth.
Who do you think I look like?
He wondered if he would ever make it home.
How could you do that to me?
I hide my frown in my drink, but no-one notices.
What month were you born?
The sun is hot and my skin sighs.
Why did she wave to him?
The smudge of fingerprints on glass.
What’s your favourite type of weather?
The shadows on the ceiling look like owls’ eyes.
What kind of animal do you like best?
Blue stars twinkle in the vase.
Are we nearly there yet?
I am in love with someone, but I do not know what will happen.
An hour passed,
but which way?
‘Which Way?’ is a group poem written by Sarah, Jen and Mark from one of the writing groups I belong to. Usually in this group we write fiction or non-fiction, but this month, we decided to try something different. The exercise was based on one I did with Bill Manhire when he stood in for Greg O’Brien once, in a poetry workshop I attended. The idea is for each member of the group to write a couple of questions and a couple of statements on separate pieces of paper, after which the questions and answers are matched at random. I stuffed up the order a bit when I was assembling our poem, which is why it ends in a question. But I think that works.
Exercises like this can be a great way to get the ideas flowing. By juxtaposing things which weren’t originally intended to be together, you can find some unexpected connections and tangents to follow.
(People familiar with Bill Manhire’s poetry may notice that the horse in the photograph is naked.)
Though Frosts Come Down
Though frosts come down
night after night,
what does it matter?
they melt in the morning sun.
Though the snow falls
each passing year,
what does it matter?
with spring days it thaws.
Yet once let them settle
on a man’s head,
fall and pile up,
go on piling up –
then the new year
may come and go,
but never you’ll see them fade away
translated by Burton Watson
Taigu Ryokan(1758-1831) was a Japanese poet in a tradition of radical Zen poets or “great fools”. Ryokan had no disciples and ran no temple, preferring a penniless life as a monk. [Source: http://www.poetseers.org/spiritual-and-devotional-poets/buddhist/ryokan/ryokanp/ryokan/]
You can read more Tuesday poems at the Tuesday Poem hub.
This is a poem of mine that was originally published in the wonderful Blackmail Press. I wrote it after a visit to Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin. Joseph Plunkett, one of the Irish rebels who took part in the 1916 rebellion (or “Easter Rising”), was executed hours after marrying his sweetheart, Grace Gifford.
Easter Rising (Joseph Plunkett, 1916), by Janis Freegard
Crawling out of their green shirts…
Coughing a little in the dawn…
And the church…
There is always a church
With its natty spire
And the vestibule–
That’s where they whisper:
Tzz-tzz… tzz-tzz… tzz-tzz…
How many codes for a wireless whisper–
And corn flatter than it should be
And those chits of leaves
Gadding with every wind?
From Connecticut to Maine:
Lola Ridge (Rose Emily Ridge, 1873 – 1941) was an anarchist poet and political activist. She was born in Dublin and lived in Australia and New Zealand before moving to the United States. She was well known in her day as an advocate for immigrants and the working class, as well as for her poetry. She wrote five books of poetry and edited for avant-garde magazines Others and Broom.