Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Missing Hat

                  for Harriet  26 8 93–7 5 14

Audacious to think I taste that kind of sorrow. My missing
of you is simply on our steps in Ghuznee Street: you in a shiny, 
red coat, wanting to know where to go to get a hook-and-eye 
 fixed on your dress, delighted to be 
taken up Cuba to the small shop that’s shut now, the one with 
the blackboard and the mysterious seamstress. I'd have done 
it for you if I’d had needle and thread, but instead I left you 
                                     by the blackboard – and we hugged 
and your coat squeaked, your skin up close impossibly creamy. 
I think too of watching you talk that day, when you gave time 
without weighing it, the tracings your fingers made, mouth
                         so mobile, your face a place people
lingered. The way you said to a wedge of brownie on a plate: 
‘Perfect!’ and regarded it with such plain affection. Small ruins 
for me. For the brother they call Gramps, the weeping father, 
                                     the stoic mother, Grandma Jo, the rest –
Mac in his kilt, girls in scarlet lippy and pineapple pants, boys 
with three-day beards and skinny ties – for them this missing 
is a shattered city: lost spires, gutted high-rises, lights stuck 
                                    on amber, paper caught in chicken-
wire, the howl as wind claws the perimeter fence. 

Mary McCallum

Hat and puppy.
Photo credit: Rebekah Dorman
Harriet Rowland would have been 21 today. The lively, gorgeous Wellington student passed away on 7 March this year.

We at Mākaro Press published the blogs she wrote over the nearly three years she lived with cancer – it's called The Book of Hat and it's been a surprise hit: on bestseller lists, bought by students and grandparents, by bookclubs and classrooms, and runner-up in the Ashton Wylie award between Lloyd Geering and Joy Cowley. 

So many people have responded to Harriet's vivid, upbeat and compassionate voice. It's been called 'the real The Fault in Our Stars' but it's more than that... there's something singularly Hattie about the book, that spills out in the reading, and doesn't leave you. Peter Jackson's called it, 'truthful, funny and wise'. All of that. Just – Hat. 

And now it's going global! The Book of Hat is an ebook -- launched today, something we've achieved working with Rosa Mira Books in Dunedin. And we're also off today on our third roadshow around Wellington secondary schools distributing Hat's book – donations from generous reader Bridget Percy, who reckoned every school should have a copy. 

All great ways to celebrate the wonderful woman Harriet Rowland was, on what would have been her 21st birthday. And goodness would she have partied! 

Do check out the Tuesday poem for a host of other poems. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tuesday Poem: It's got a leaf

true I
didn’t eat
pears for years
unaware they ripen
from  the  inside  out,
despite Dad who worked
with apples and pears, sold
them in  Europe,  took us on
holidays to orchards and packing
sheds, ordered them, tissue-cupped,
by the wooden box. Now I try to buy 
my pears from Tom or Richard or Sandra:
Winter Nelis – which looks like Nellie but
isn’t – the round hard-looking ones that feel
just picked, and pile them on the spotted plate,
slice them one by one to eat. Winter Nelis – the
one Annie painted for me: a rich red wall behind
the freckled face of it, a goldenish shine to the
skin – the one Tom or Richard or Sandra
rushed over to her from the fruit shop
next door: Look, it’s got a leaf!

Mary McCallum

Such a winter poem! Enjoy (best enjoyed eating a pear). And do check out the Tuesday Poem at the hub – it's by best first book of poetry winner 2014, Marty Smith, and is stunning: Agnus Dei. There are stacks of other Tuesday Poems in the sidebar there too. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The feijoas are falling from the trees by Louise Wallace

The feijoas are falling from the trees –
a fresh bag-load every day.

Winter is on its way.
I am in the kitchen
shucking feijoas like oysters –
filling ice-cream containers to freeze.

Won't it be nice to eat them in July?
Rory is a good man, who hates feijoas.

I see a strong gust outside
and I imagine the sound of a feijoa falling.
Crashing into branches on its way down,
waiting to be plucked
from the leaves and soil.

Winter is on its way.
I try to think of how I could earn
more money; work harder, get ahead.
There is never enough
and it would be nice to get ahead.

I write a list of all the things
I need to make –
stewed feijoas, feijoa crumble –
another gust; feijoa cake. 


Louise says this poem is a clear favourite at readings she's given from her second collection Enough (VUP). It certainly scored high at a reading I was part of at Petone library recently. She was one of three 'young and hungry writers' appearing there – the others were Caolinn Hughes (VUP) and Stefanie Lash (one of my authors at Mākaro Press).

There's something about feijoas. I should know - I once posted a feijoa chutney recipe on this blog and it was a favourite post for months and months.  This poem of Louise's nails the business of having a feijoa tree in your life: from the excess to all the recipes ... no chutney, however...

Louise's poems walk with light feet, but carry so much. She thinks they're not all that interesting, but she's wrong. There's something beguiling about them that I can't quite explain. It's the Jenny Bornholdt effect – an honesty and quickness and quirkiness – and always the sideways glance at the place where vulnerability lies.

I'm talking about Louise and Enough on National Radio this afternoon with Simon Mercep - 1.30 pm.

Posted here with the poet's permission. Do check out the Tuesday Poem hub and a wonderful poem by Riemke Ensing about KM. A treat.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Chemotherapy - it's on the hub!

My poem 'Chemotherapy' - a tribute to the courage and constancy of The Book of Hat author Harriet Rowland's mum Jan Kelly - is on the Tuesday Poem hub this week with a poem by Frankie McMillan. We've both just judged the National Flash Fiction Day NZ competition and so we're paired up here by NFFD powerhouse Michelle Elvy.  Very cool. Thanks Michelle!

The Book of Hat is published by my Mākaro Press. It is Harriet's story of living with terminal cancer based on her vivid, upbeat blog posts and has been a hit with young adult and adult readers around the country, and elsewhere. The Auckland Libraries blog reviewer says:

                                      The Book of Hat is the real The Fault in Our Stars

The poem is here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Alienation by Siobhan Harvey

is the march of students into class,
      the closing of space around them
  like a retracted wing.

is ornithology for beginners:
      Today’s lesson is birds, the teacher says;
           and how the children squawk.

is uncertainty:
      What birds do we know? the teacher says;
            and how words and ideas flock
   hungrily into Cloudboy’s mind.

is eagerness to impress:
           Geese, Miss, cries Cloudboy;
    and how he goes on, In Historia Animalium, Aristotle said
           Barnacle Geese emerged from shellfish like phoenixes
    from fires.

is the mouth of a river:
     No, New Zealand birds! the teacher remonstrates:
         and the liquid bubbling cry of it.
the call of a bittern, the cry of a tern …  

is the unwillingness to give in:
     Moa, miss, Cloudboy perseveres.

is cultural confusion:
     What's a Moa? the teacher asks.

is an argument which can't be won:
     It lived long ago, Miss, Cloudboy says, like the dinosaurs;
                 and the teacher's reply, Not dinosaurs! New Zealand birds!

is an arm small as a wing:
     how a girl raises her hand; 
                   and how the teacher nods
                                    at the child's answer, Blackbird, Miss. 

is an open window:
     how Cloudboy turns towards it, the freedom
                    beyond glass, the knowledge
                                     of air, the gravity birds defy. 


A stunning poem from Siobhan Harvey's powerful new collection Cloudboy about her son who is diagnosed with autism. She writes from the point of view of Cloudmother. I review it on Beattie's bookblog.

Here's a quote from the review:
....  the character of Cloudboy snuck up on me. With him came his abiding curiosity for how things work, his passion for finding out, his genius for understanding (his subjects: Nephology, Astronomy, Ornithology and goodness knows what else at the age many are learning to write their names) and his perceptive mother. And we see this wisp of a boy go to school, and watch aghast at the way school tries to make him more boy than cloud, and in so doing breaks the heart they don’t seem to know is there (‘such softness’) ....
Siobhan's poem posted here with permission. 
Do check out Tuesday Poem hub with a wonderful poem by Emma Neale. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Song

The minim leap of dog
behind, and in front, the hemidemisemiquavers
of rabbit.
Oblivious, both. I think of Mary
Oliver and her unleashed dogs
      ‘stay’ to Ben
      ‘run’ to the raccoon.
On Pirinoa Road, we’re still
a strange kind of musical interlude
with me the conductor. Now one – ah there – and now
the other. The grace of both. No need to say a thing. 
Bow, my loves. 

Mary McCallum

Mary Oliver's lovely book Dog Poems inspired this poem, written at a place of rabbits and one dog. 

I am also the editor at the Tuesday Poem hub this week and have posted a wonderful poem by Helen Rickerby who is one of the first poets to be published as part of my new Hoopla series. Her book is Cinema

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Happiness Bowls

                                 Pink and blue and
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
‘Happiness Bowls’.
                                 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 ‘t’,
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.

                                            Mary McCallum

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 Poem: Chemotherapy

who knew she was there
hidden inside that thing that turns
her girl upside down and inside out
(poison, really, a small inefficient
killing field) let loose in a body still
young enough to smell of milk
in the morning, one the mother must
return to sit beside and stand over    
to stroke the soft cheek, catch the soft
vomit, be steel to all that softness — a shield —
and, when called upon, to scream
like a banshee      yet, for the most part,
sits beside is all she can do, hands in lap

but running the spellcheck just now
over the girl’s story — all those
words, sharp teeth biting at the last
of life’s full belly — there she is! mother
over and over:  the unexpected heart
of the matter, with key on one side,
and happy on the other

Mary McCallum

This poem is for my friend Jan. Do check out other Tuesday Poems  - there's the magnificent Bogong Moth on the hub and then in the sidebar you can find 30 poets with poems they've posted especially for today. Enjoy!