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The Old Man and the Sea
Sun, sea, salt, fish stink,
Blood, fish scales and petrol fumes,
“Sea’s like piss on a plate,
She’s fresh as a fart in springtime.”
We strain pulling nets into the boat,
Laden with green, red and orange weed,
Doggies, snapper and a stingray or two,
“Fishing’s not what it used to be.”
Probably never was,
The old man goes apeshit,
“Come on, pull, you useless bastard,
You’re like a one-armed paperhanger,
Useless as tits on a bull.”
Gleaming sky turns grey,
Tangaroa gets restless,
And Tawhirimatea a bit stroppy.
“She’s blowing like 40 bastards,
Sea’s coming up rough as guts,
Rain’s coming down as fast as whores’ drawers.”
The old man laughs at the waves,
And we’re off with a hiss and a roar,
Then it’s down the pub for a few quick ones,
“A few beers and a bit of a yarn.”
The old man at the bar,
A Pakeha Maui
In his plastic sandals,
A nylon net
For his grandmother’s jawbone,
A string of obscenities
For his Karakia.
by Peter Clayworth
from Otago University Students Literary Review Centenary Edition 1888-1988
Dr Peter Clayworth is a Nelson-born historian, researcher and writer who now lives in Wellington. Peter is also my partner. He wrote this poem – about fishing trips with his dad – many years ago. Last week he read it out at his dad’s funeral in Nelson. Peter’s father had died, suddenly and unexpectedly, while he was over in Golden Bay white-baiting – doing something he loved in a place he loved. He was 83. Rest in Peace, Henry Clayworth: mechanic, fisherman, whitebaiter, spinner of yarns.
Peter Clayworth, Ann-Marie Houng Lee & Redmer Yska with Robin Hyde
It was great day in Whanganui on Saturday (17th August, the day after National Poetry Day). The Sarjeant (which supported the event) was closed for earthquake checks but Element cafe kindly stepped in – very cool venue in an old bank building. Dr Mary Paul and Redmer Yska gave us some fascinating insights into Robin Hyde/Iris Wilkinson’s life and writing (including Redmer’s reading of her poem ‘The White Chair’), I read a few of her poems and a few of my own, and the legendary Glen Colquhoun rounded out the afternoon with a lively performance of poems dedicated to Iris. Despite all the shakiness of the day before, there was an impressive turnout of around 80 lovely people, some of whom had travelled from Palmerston North and Wellington to be there.
The event was the brain-child of Whanganui-based writer Ann-Marie Houng Lee who did a fantastic job of organising the event. She told me it was sparked by the Tuesday poem I posted (If you have linen women) a couple of months back. Worth checking out if you haven’t read it before.
(For My Father), by Keith Armstrong
You picked splinters
with a pin each day
from under blackened fingernails;
shreds of metal
from the shipyard grime,
minute memories of days swept by:
the dusty remnants of a life
spent in the shadow of the sea;
the tears in your shattered eyes
at the end of work.
And your hands were strong,
so sensitive and capable
of building boats
and nursing roses;
a kind and gentle man
who never hurt a soul,
the sort of quiet knackered man
who built a nation.
Dad, I watched your ashes float away
down to the ocean bed
and in each splinter
I saw your caring eyes
and gracious smile.
I think of your strong silence every day
and I am full of you,
the waves you scaled,
and all the sleeping Tyneside streets
you taught me to dance my fleeting feet along.
When I fly, you are with me.
I see your fine face
in sun-kissed clouds
and in the gold ring on my finger,
and in the heaving crowd on Saturday,
and in the lung of Grainger Market,
and in the ancient breath
of our own Newcastle.
Keith Armstrong was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, where he has worked as a community development worker, poet, librarian and publisher. He now lives in the seaside town of Whitley Bay and is coordinator of the Northern Voices creative writing and community publishing project which specialises in recording the experiences of people in the North East of England. He has organised several community arts festivals in the region and many literary events. He was founder of Ostrich poetry magazine, Poetry North East, Tyneside Writers’ Workshop, Tyneside Poets, East Durham Writers’ Workshop, Tyneside Trade Unionists for Socialist Arts, Tyneside Street Press and the Strong Words and Durham Voices community publishing series. He has compiled and edited books on the Durham Miners’ Gala and on the former mining communities of County Durham, the market town of Hexham and the heritage of North Tyneside. He completed a doctorate on Newcastle writer Jack Common at the University of Durham in 2007. His poetry has been extensively published in magazines such as New Statesman, Poetry Review, Dream Catcher, Other Poetry, Aesthetica, Iron, Salzburg Poetry Review and Poetry Scotland, as well as in the collections The Jingling Geordie, Dreaming North, Pains of Class and Imagined Corners, on cassette, LP & CD, and on radio & TV. He also has an extensive record of poetry performance throughout Europe and beyond.
We met Dr Armstrong on our recent visit to the UK, through another Tyneside-based poet, Dave Alton. Dave and Keith were kind enough to introduce us to local bars The Bridge and The Red House – recommended if you’re over that way.
This week’s poem is by Dr Peter Clayworth, who is an historian and my partner, as well as a fine poet. He wrote the poem after spending a night on Smoky Beach on Rakiura (Stewart Island). According to southern legends, Rakiura is the anchor stone of Aoraki’s canoe.
FULL MOON, SMOKY BEACH, LAKIULA,
Full Moon on Smoky Beach,
Rakiura, Lakiula, the Anchor Stone,
Coming up like they told us,
When we were kids,
They say it moves the tides,
And the salt sea within,
Seeing we are mostly water,
I could see the Moon there,
Marama letting down her lines,
Like Maui with his fish,
Dragging the ocean up,
Pulling it into the sky,
I felt that if I didn’t,
Have so much love for my mother,
And feel her loving hold on me,
That embrace Isaac Newton felt,
Sitting under the apple tree,
If not for that I’d join,
Old Rona up there,
Riding along watching the tides,
On this pebble way down here,
Anchor to Aoraki’s canoe,
Smoky Beach on Lakiula.
More Tuesday Poems here
There is a new book out, about New Zealanders who were involved in the Spanish Civil War. My personal knowledge of the Spanish Civil War begins and ends with The Clash’s Spanish Bombs – which is probably my all-time favourite Clash song (and that’s saying something). Personally, my main interest in war is to try to stop it, but I appreciate remembrances for those who fought/ died/ nursed etc. This is an important new work, telling the personal stories of New Zealanders who were involved. Mark Derby is the editor.
Peter Clayworth (my partner) has two articles in it and it will be launched in Wellington at Unity Books on 28 May (Budget Day)
…and I have a poem/prose poem/piece in the latest brief