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Short Poems of New Zealand

So I arrived back from a holiday in Hawai’i to find this wee beauty waiting – a collection of small (9 lines or fewer) New Zealand poems, edited by Jenny Bornholdt and published by Victoria University Press. A wide range of poets are represented, from the greats who are no longer with us, like Ursula Bethell and Hone Tuwhare, to newer poets like Sam Duckor-Jones. I’m still looking through, but it’s great to see so many old favourites in here (like Allen Curnow’s ‘Wild Iron’, James K Baxter’s ‘High Country Weather’,  Greg O’Brien’s ‘A Visiting Card’, Hinemoana Baker’s ‘Referee’ and Bill Manhire’s ‘My World War I Poem’) and meet many others I’m not so familiar with. As an object, too, it is a thing of beauty – hard-backed and featuring Greg O’Brien’s lovely illustrations. Thanks Jenny, and thanks VUP.

I’m delighted to have my poem ‘Forest Song’ (first published in ‘The Glass Rooster‘, AUP)  included in this anthology. As a lapsed botanist, I often find myself mentally reciting the names of the plants I see as I walk through native bush, greeting old friends. ‘Forest Song’ is a list of native New Zealand species in a (broadly) four-beats-to-the-line chant.

Hawai’i was terrific and a revelation in many ways. We were struck, for example by the many similarities between te reo Maori and the Hawaiian language (te one roa – the long beach – becoming ke one loa, for example). And some of the same species were there too, like akeake (Dodonaea viscosa) or in Hawai’i, ‘a’ali’i. There were common genera too, like Metrosideros – we have Metrosoderos excelsa (pōhutukawa) and M. robusta (rātā); Hawai’i has M. polymorpha, ‘ohi’a lehua, with a very similar flower.

2018-11-25-13-42-36-e1544301027795.jpg

‘Ohi’a lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha) on Kaua’i

We are less well supplied with green sea turtles (honu) here in Aotearoa, and for me, they were a highlight of the trip, especially on Kaua’i, where we spent most of our time, staying with our friends Chuck and Carolyn. We could see the turtles in the sea from our bedroom window and most days, we walked to the rocks a couple of minutes from where we were staying to watch them feeding in the waves and periodically waving a flipper or poking their head above the water. At another beach, we saw turtles basking while people swam and children played close by.

Green turtle (honu) on Kaua'i

Green turtle (honu) on Kaua’i

It was the perfect chill-out, wind-down, hanging-out-in-nature holiday after what has been a pretty intense and challenging year. I loved it and recommend it.

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Fancy some Brooklyn-inspired writing? Next Friday 25th November 2016, I will be reading from ‘The Year of Falling’ along with the excellent Maggie Rainey-Smith and the fantastic Jenny Bornholdt at the Brooklyn Deli (199-201 Ohiro Rd, Brooklyn, Wellington, NZ). There will be music from Wellington band The Brooklyns and wine & food from the Deli. Hope to see you there!

 

On the international front recently, we’ve had Clive James refusing to take part in the “sad little contest” for Oxford poetry professor and female Saudi poet Hissa Hilal coming third in the Arab world’s largest poetry competition, the “Million’s Poet contest“.  Her success was notable because she was the first woman to reach the finals (since the annual competition started in 2006) and because her poetry spoke out against extreme religious laws that discriminate against women.  Well done Hissa Hilal!  She took home $800,000 for her prize.  Perhaps TVNZ would like to follow suit – surely it’s time for “NZ Poetry Idol”?

While Auckland is getting ready to enjoy their writers & readers festival, coming events in Wellington include:

Jenny Bornholdt at Massey’s Writers Read Series 2010

Thursday 13 May, 6pm
Theatrette (10A02) Museum Building, Massey University, Buckle Street; Entrance D, (access Theatrette from East side of Building).

Jenny Bornholdt (current writer in residence at Victoria University) will be reading and discussing her creative work, followed by Q & A and refreshments. All welcome, entry is free. Poet Bryan Walpert will chair.

PLEASE RSVP to S.Caris@massey.ac.nz by Tuesday 11 May.

Poetry @ The Ballroom Cafe, Wellington

Sunday 16 May, 4pm-6pm
Ballroom Cafe, junction of Adelaide Rd and Riddiford St (upstairs, next to the 4 Square)

Guest poets: Gerald Melling & Geoff Cochrane, with music from Terry Shore.

NZ Poetry Society May meeting

Monday 17 May, 7.30pm
The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St

Open mic to start, followed by guest poet: Pat White (Wairarapa), current Writer-in-Residence, Randell Cottage. Entry: $5 (NZPS members $3).

I’ve read a lot of poetry over 2009.  Here are some of the books that have made their way into my collection and enriched my year (in no particular order): 

‘Africa: Kabbo, Mantis and the Porcupine’s Daughter’ by Alistair Paterson (Puriri Press) – a long poem that explores humanity’s African origins.  Click here for a useful review by Terry Locke). 

Here’s an extract from ‘Africa’: 

*
They’re alive
            our ancestors are alive 

they live through us & yet
         there’s a sense in which 

what’s happened seems
         never to have happened 

in which thinking about it
          what’s gone, what’s over
is like looking at a church
        examining it (the church) 

from a distance, admiring
        the lift & luft of the spire…” 

‘The Rocky  Shore’ by Jenny Bornholdt (Victoria University Press) – long autobiographical poems, which sparked an interesting discussion about what constitutes poetry between Iain Sharp (writing in Landfall) and Joanna Preston (on her blog).  Personally, I take a pretty liberal view regarding what is and isn’t poetry.  (I wrote about this last year. https://janisfreegard.wordpress.com/2008/11/30/poem-is-a-poem-is-a-poem/ )   I’m more interested in whether it’s writing that I enjoy (and I always enjoy Jenny Bornholdt’s).  

‘Moose Beetle Swallow’ by Estonian surrealist poet Andres Ehin (Southword Editions) – beautifully translated by Irish poet Patrick Cotter (see Patrick Cotter’s website).  There’s a review here from Penniless Press.  One thing I found very interesting about this collection was how the translations differ from other translations of the same poems.  Consider this opening extract of ‘To be a Dog Apartment’ http://elm.einst.ee/issue/17/poetry-andres-ehin/ 

“to be a dog-apartment with three barking rooms
with a snout-bathroom
where one tap dribbles cold
and the other hot slobber” 

and Patrick Cotter’s version: 

Imagine an apartment made of dog
three rooms of bark, a bathroom of snout

 the cold tap dribbles, the hot tap slobbers” 

Both are great, but each paints a very different picture. 
 

 ‘Making Music’ by Patrick Cotter (Three Spires Press).  Quirky, fun in that dark way, full of angels. 

‘Nearest and Dearest’ by Mary Cresswell (Steele Roberts) – poems full of satire and humour. (I interviewed Mary on this blog). 

‘My Iron Spine’ by Helen Rickerby (Headworx).  Includes very entertaining poems about Katherine Mansfield, Joan of Arc, Emily Dickinson and other famous women. 

‘through windows’ by Susana Lei’ataua (Steele Roberts).  I saw Susana perform this as a one-woman show at Bats a few years ago.  It’s based on her time in New York and has the sounds of the subway running through it: 

                                    “I am a train 

tearing through neighbourhoods 

this and that 

this and that 

this and that 

side of the state line.” 

(to be continued…and apologies for the spacing – I just can’t get it to work) 

Wordle

Wordle: janisfreegard.com

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