Tuesday, November 29, 2011
of the boat, the best fish is fried, bones and
all, and eaten in a sun so bright it’s white,
snapping off the ends of beans is like lips
popping, a pork cookbook is the best place
to find that picture of you and your mum
at Taupo in summer, a turkey too late
into the oven can make a grandmother
cry with hunger, come Easter in Crete
lambs are bloody sacks, here, their milky
mouths butt your hip, eggplant is purpler
when you call it aubergine, aubergine
is purpler when you call it melitzane, another
thing again when you call it Mellie-Jane, crack-
ing eggs is an act of belief whichever way
you look at it - each time the epiphany, there’s
no better breakfast than a three-dollar special
in a New York diner, watching her swallow
every shred of yellow from the yolk - every
lick of milk - every crumb, fasting is not all
its cracked up to be unless it’s in a monastery
in Stokes Valley under a gold stupa and dawn
brings porridge and bells, at the end of a long
day in the city there’s nothing better than
meat and tomato and oregano walking you
up the path and the eldest son at the kitchen
bench grating cheese, no better rice than his
brother’s unmoulded from a bowl to a white
plate, risotto is best measured in handfuls by
Marielle - uno due tre cuatro, zucchini flowers
must be carried in two palms like a prayer,
father and feta are from the same family of
words, you cannot make yorkshire puds as
good as your gran’s no matter how hot the oil,
an apple is sweetest from a tree, and if not that
then untucked from its tissue, its wooden box,
oysters are sweetest swallowed like shots
of seawater, beef is best on charcoal tended
by laughing men, ginger needs to be grated
in finger not thumb lengths, crushed olives
are the smell of the earth – all that history
of heating cooling burying spitting up, oil
rising of its own accord from the purple crush
is named after the yolk of the egg, asparagus
is just what asparagus is, those apricots she
makes every summer are apricots blooming
in a bowl, and spooning yoghurt and honey
into a mouth on white-washed steps with
a turquoise sea and a donkey crowing and
someone calling kali mera into the bleaching
light, is like scooping up the sun and eating it
I've been wanting to write a list poem ever since I set it as an assignment for my creative writing students at Massey University. I got the idea at one of our first Tuesday Poet drinks at the Library Bar. Helen Rickerby - poet and publisher of poets - had been talking there about a successful workshop she'd had with the students of Harvey Molloy's (also a Tuesday Poet) at Newlands College. She'd read the kids a list poem by Helen Lehndorf called Poem without the L Word and got them to write list poems of their own.
I asked Helen to promise to send me the poem as soon as she got home (she's publishing it in Helen L's out-this-week collection The Comforter), and the next day, I set my students the list poem to do and got some lovely stuff.
So last week, with uni over, I started up an adult writing workshop here in Eastbourne. The first assignment: the list poem. This is mine. There were seven others, every one different and astonishing in its own way. What impressed us all was the way the power of each poem grew with each listed thing, and the real subject of the poem elbowed its way through. It is what poetry's all about, really.
What's this poem really about then? Food and family - how they feed and make each other. How simple both can be, how complicated. It's about my family history too, how it spreads itself across many countries and generations, and how food in all those places and times is both different and the same.
Do check out the hub poem on Tuesday Poem. It's by Wellington poet Harry Ricketts.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
In Auckland and in Sydney, in March and September last year, there were two poetry symposiums, and up online the nzepc (NZ Electronic Poetry Centre) built a DIGITAL BRIDGE between the two.
The site is PACKED WITH POEMS: text, video and audio from a stunning array of poets, and includes images and writings from the two meetings on either side of the Tasman.
The builders of this bridge appear to be NZEPC editors Michele Leggott and Brian Flaherty, Pam Brown and Martin Edmond. As they say on X-Factor - 'props' to you four. It's a stunning achievement. And what I love best is the fun everyone seems to be having!
I am especially in love with the poetry videos -- I was just thinking this week how we have too few of our NZ poets on film. Well here they are in full and glorious flight with the Aussies.
HERE it is. The videos here. Enjoy.
And another must-see Australian poet video is linked to from the Tuesday Poem hub - this time a performance poet posted by Australian Janet Jackson. This is poetry as you might not imagine it to be. Go and see.
Saturday, November 12, 2011
'Let my mouth be ever fresh with praise.'
'Each morning new/each day shot through...'
'We inhale the frozen air/Lord send me a mechanic/ if I'm not beyond repair...'
I've had churches on my mind this week -- human mortality -- illness -- loss, so this song is a natural one to hunt for on youtube. Love those lyrics, the raw screamy way John Darnielle delivers them into corners of this beautiful church.
I was at a funeral at the local Presbyterian church for a woman called Nell Manchester who died aged 87 - hence the church thing. An autodidact and writer who always looked a million dollars and whose mind was crisp and curious until the moment she died, Nell went into the hospice with her favourite volume of Keats and the new Peter Bland collection 'Coming Ashore'. The last thing we talked about was the latest Woody Allen movie, and she told me how much she'd laughed at the first Woody Allen movies all those years ago (remember, before cell phones?). Manhattan was on Sky last week, so I watched it for Nell.
It was a lovely send-off at the local church masterminded by her daughters Anne and Catherine. I sat by the stained glass windows beside the woman from the 4-Square supermarket who'd dashed in in her 4-Square shirt. She said Nell had given her the famous Raleigh bicycle with a basket on the front she used to ride around Eastbourne. I like sitting in pews - they remind me of all the churches I've ever been in. The smell of wood, the stained-glass light, the organ wheezing, the sense of being made to sit still for a moment and listen. There were readings from Nell's books, some Shakespeare, a sing-along to Blue Moon and an older Judy Garland singing Somewhere over the Rainbow in a crackle of a voice that John Darnielle would have approved of (Nell loved Judy and loved movies). We also sang the hymn Jerusalem - now that's a song to belt out. Afterwards we ate tiny delicious sandwiches and cake. Go well, Nell. We'll miss you.
Human mortality -- I haven't just been thinking about this because of Nell. This cancer thing is everywhere. Women and men I know and love of all ages are fighting it courageously. One of them Harriet or Hat as she's known, is only 18. Her blog posts are monumental feats of courage. Yesterday's is no exception. It's titled 'The Fight' and here's an extract:
It's hard. I will never be able to say it isn't. This week is testament to that. It was supposed to be my easy week and just no. It was not, at all. I wish I could just fast forward the next year but hey! Life isn't like that.
You get your ups, you get your downs. My life has been pretty easy. I can't believe the things I used to complain about. They seem so silly. So pathetic. Even now there are so many people who have it so much harder than me.
I tried to make a wish today as it was 11:11 on the 11/11/11. I ended up just being thankful for all the things that I have in my life. I can't tell you my wish but it wasn't for me. It never will be.
The Mountain Goats song - for you, Harriet.
Tuesday, November 8, 2011
water, the young man, really a boy, had
probably already fallen from the kayak,
and was struggling to keep his head up,
the salt water thicker with each pull of his
arms, the ragged bulk of the island dragging
behind – houses with windows flaring,
This poem. It's finished at last. It began with the death of a young man by drowning - in the part of the harbour we look out onto from our house. That day, my sons were in the kitchen. I was there, too. We weren't aware what was happening until later in the week, but that evening, we remember the helicopters and wondered if someone was stuck in the bush up behind us. They were looking for him. We didn't know.