Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tuesday Poem - Coburg by Amelia Walker


The old man hung stuffed animals
from the trellis in his front yard.
Sometimes he'd hobble out to water the tomatoes.
If he spoke English, it was a secret.

When it rained, the corpses swelled
and the framework creaked as if to sigh.
The tomatoes were red and round as valentines.
I don’t know who ate them.

I came upon this poem in an anthology called Reflecting On Melbourne and took to it straight away. Such a little charmer of a poem, with its own weird energy. I don't know Coburg, which is on the Upfield line, very well yet, but this poem gives me a way of seeing it. An entree into its mystery. Amelia is a friend. When she lived in Melbourne we boarded together for a bit and she ran me to the doctor and made me mushroom soup when I was very very sick. So she's nice with it. We also toured Frankston together with the Melbourne Poets Union and I miss her very much now she has gone away. She is a seriously committed poet but she has a light, fresh touch which is very appealing to me. I always thought she would go far, and of course she has. She's gone to The Netherlands.

Amelia Walker is an Australian poet currently based in the Netherlands. She has published two collections of her poetry and three primary school poetry books in Macmillan's 'All You Need To Teach...' series.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Tuesday Poem - The Winding Stair by Robert Sullivan

I had rented a little car to Boyle
where my grandfather’s birth was registered,
was returning when I saw Yeats’ Tower,
turned off the country highway with its sheep
reminding me of New Zealand—went in
to the cottage shop, paid the price, and sat
through the presentation. Then up I climbed
wagging my tail as I went. The stone steps
were narrow, windows were slits in darkness,
each chamber was a stanza of the great
man’s dreams. The sedge and slate were repaired
for visitors like me. I recommend
one takes a drive to Coole Park too as I
missed out—fear the rental company might
charge late fees prevented that. The visit
astonished me: a cosmic accident
to stand atop the tower and gaze out
as Yeats once did, and to imagine stars
placed there, to feel his intellectual fire.
Ten years after I climb and climb the stair.

This elegant poem of homage and a kind of home-coming was published in Robert Sullivan's recent book – Shout Ha! To The Sky. Reading it enticed me to go away and reread The Wild Swans At Coole. I haven't met Robert Sullivan, or read much of his work (yet), or ever heard him read, but I hope all these things will happen in good time. It is a very attractive poem, with a gentle charisma and that touch of magic that makes a poem keep on working as the days go past.

Robert Sullivan (Nga Puhi, Kai Tahu, Galway Irish) has published five collections of poetry with Auckland University Press. His most recent collections are Shout Ha! to the Sky (Bloomsbury: Salt Publishing, 2010) and Cassino City of Martyrs (Wellington: Huia, 2010). Also this year, he coedited with Albert Wendt and Reina Whaitiri Mauri Ola: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English (AUP and University of Hawaii Press). He is Head of Creative Writing at Manukau Institute of Technology, having recently returned from the University of Hawaii at Manoa where for a time he directed the creative writing programme.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tuesday Poem - Quasimodo by Andy Jackson


I am twelve when they tease you into me, name-first.
With your fist around my spine as I try to grow up
into my own upright self, I am quiet, think you small,
like you might climb out while I yawn or piss or sleep.

Your nest of collected sticks grows in this belfry chest.
Afraid and facing away, I blur mirrors with spit and hide
behind excuses to not take off my shirt at the beach.
The thin white frames of schoolgirls rise like lighthouses.

They call out my name in voices I have thrown.
No-one is saved. Through my eyes, the flickering
fires you fuel are signs. Men begin to close in,
waving their torches of word and fist. I fix a rope

to my mouth and lower myself down inside.
These bones enclose a flapping of echoes, what darkness
can't silence. Tendrils reach for my legs, memories
begging to be fed. But at last I clutch your throat

and haul you out. Your face is white and wet,
your bottom lip trembling with the weight of our shape.
You smell of the filth and luck of cul-de-sacs, your home,
my flesh. My arms reach around your swollen bulk

before I can think or flinch. We are two halves
of a heart stitched together with myth. Over my shoulder
you stare out to where the sun re-enacts its death.
Against your hump, my soft skin sweats and breathes.

Andy Jackson
from “Among the Regulars”
papertiger media, SOI3, 2010.

Andy Jackson lives in Melbourne and I think it would be fair to say he is part of the scene. This poem was the runner-up in the MPU prize a few years back and since then he has won the Rosemary Dobson Prize. And next year he is off to Chennai with an Asialink residency. He has won and done all sorts of other stuff, including the most intriguing and poignant puppetry collaborations with his partner Rachael Guy, which have been performed at the Overload Festival in Melbourne and at the Queensland Poetry Festival. Andy was born in 1971 and lives with Marfan Syndrome.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hello Testing

This City

I am travelling away from my life, towards my life.

This city knows all my secrets.

And that tram, lit from within, waiting at the end of the line.

This city, which is nowhere else.


When Mary McCallum got the Tuesday Poetry thing going I was a bit choked because I didn't have a blog, and didn't know how to go about getting a blog. But I think I have a blog now. So now I can join in. And I start the easy way by posting the title poem of my next book to be published by Otago University Press next year.