Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Monday, March 19, 2018

Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; - on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanch'd land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Aegean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.




Every now and then I reach back to a poem which inspires me. Dover Beach is one of these.  Its haunting lyrics link sounds of tide and sea from an English beach scene on a moonlit night to a crisis of faith which Matthew Arnold was experiencing at the time. There are more than one or two lines that are still quoted today, though it was written in 1851. Matthew Arnold was a son of Thomas Arnold, who while headmaster of Rugby School, is credited with having a lasting effect on the development of public school education in England. (I bet you thought I was also going to say something about a certain oval ball game’s birthplace.)


News of No One Home’s book launch - it is set for Thursday 26 April at Unity Books, Wellington from 6.00 - 7.30 pm. A Facebook event page will be set up soon (where you can indicate whether you are coming) and email invitations will also be sent out.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Town Hall Dance

I only went the once –
          an expat's visit,
claiming a rite of passage
          I thought was owed.

Nineteen sixty four, sixteen
          kitted out
in all the right gear –
          stove-pipe trou,

winkle pickers, car coat
          (collar up), white shirt,
thin black tie, Brylcreem
          Old Spice.

Hoping a girl from my past
          remembered me,
liked me enough to dance –
          no such luck.

So I joined the bunch
          of wallflower boys,
caught up on goings-on –
          who was seeing whom,

watched the rock'n roll
          extroverts perform,
realised my chances
          of emulating them

were hostage to Peter Posa,
          'She's a Mod',
and a faded avatar of
          my Papatoetoe past.


While I was sourcing images for ‘No One Home’, I reconnected with Jenny Clark – we were classmates at primary and intermediate school. Jenny is now a mainstay of the Papatoetoe Historical Society, who provided me with images of the old St Georges Anglican church and the Wyliie Road orphanage, which I converted to sketches for my book:


At the same time, the Historical Society was putting together a display of memorabilia relevant to the Papatoetoe Town Hall, which is celebrating its centenary. I wrote the 'Town Hall Dance' poem for inclusion in the display, which the Society then photographed and produced a set of four postcards from – see the post card with the poem in it below. if you would like to order a pack (or more) of the postcards at $5 a pack, contact Jenny at jennya.clark@xtra.co.nz


















Monday, March 5, 2018

'No One Home' in its bundling box


There’s nothing quite like seeing a collection of poetry in its new-born published glory. What were once promising images and text on screen can now be cradled carefully, cooed over, and have its cover and pages, if not quite caressed, at least given ‘Oh, wow!’ compliments.

This happened last week for me with the delivery of my latest work, No One Home see sidebar – from the printer (Wakefields Digital) to the publisher (Mākaro Press).

Once the distributors have had a chance to get the book ‘out there’ over the next two or three weeks, we will have a proper christening. At the moment this is looking like it will be in the second week of April, but I will post the details as soon as they firm up.


Saturday, February 24, 2018

Learning to ride

Not long after my complaints
about the long walk to school

how everyone had one
so why couldn't I

you came home one night
with a two-wheeler bike -

a Monarch (boy's, second-hand)
front handbrake, rear pedal -

no bell, chain-guard or gears.
You bought it, no doubt

off a 'for sale' ad in the local rag
painted it fire-engine red

showed me how to use the pump
oil the chain, crank and hubs

told me to level the pedals
before I stood on one

straddled the cross bar
sat on the black saddle seat

while you palmed my back
steadied the handle bars

said to push with my feet -
one then the other - coaxed me

to steer straight, keep upright
as we practised setting off.

When I came a cropper
skinned my arms or knees

you painted them orange
set me up for another go

until I was able to wobble solo
up and down life's street.

If only that were so.


This is another boyhood memoir poem from No One Home (which went to the printers late last week, so birth is imminent). I will keep you up to date with when the book is available and when and where it will be launched.

I previously posted on this blog versions of two other poems which are in the collection. They are Three Memoir Haiku and Sticks, trees.


Sunday, February 18, 2018

Beaches

What do you seek?
asks Waipū Cove.
What's not in this
beach-outing snap –
rock pools
a plastic ship
wind in our hair.

What brought you here?
asks Martins Bay.
The picnics we had
on your shore –
races in sacks
egg-and-spoon
three legs made from four.

What do you recall?
asks Mangawhai.
A badjelly sand dune
that ate kids alive –
the pipis we dug at low tide
a Tilley lamp, Primus
and tent.

Why do you still dig?
they all inquire.
To find what I lost
when I had –
     a mother and father,
a bucket
and spade.



This poem forms part of my next collection, No One Home (Mākaro Press), a boyhood memoir in poems and letters. 


Sunday, February 11, 2018

The new Minister's brief to the Head of Department

No leaping out
from behind hidden agendas,
no lining lame ducks up
for media pot shots,
no scaring the crap out of me
with revelations or defamations
and definitely no defecations
in my corner.

Hire the best spin doctor going -
one that will guild
your OIA gnome droppings
so they look like
unvarnished truth lollies.

Send your top policy wonk
to work in my office -
they can rewrite
your dreary drivel
to better reflect
what I told you to say
in the first place.

Absolutely NO surprises
or I will make sure you slide down
the gnome stud book
faster than Jack abseiled
the beanstalk when the giant
started fee-fi-fo-ing.

That's all for now -
drop by next week
and brief me on the cock-ups
you've had to cover up.


My apologies to anyone who has visited this blog during the last 18 months in the hope of finding a new post. I took a long break that was neither planned nor caused by physical ailment, nor did it result from anything as mundane as writer’s block – in fact, I have put together another collection of writing over that time. More about that in the next post (which I promise will follow soon after this one).

During the ‘between posts’ interregnum, I also had a poem published in an anthology of political poetry, ‘Manifesto Aotearoa: 101political poems’ (Otago University Press, Edited by Philip Temple and Emma Neale, 2017). The poem was ‘The Head of Department’s Prayer on a change of Government’. I wrote it several years ago and only sent it to the anthology to make up my submission’s numbers. The poem is a parody on the Lord’s Prayer and my thinking was that such writing is a bit naff these days, but what did I know. I had also previously posted it on this blog here, but if you like political poetry, I strongly recommend you take a look at Manifesto Aotearoa, available online at Unity Books and other good booksellers.

The reception the Head of Department poem received was very positive, so I have decided to develop a series of poems based on the departmental and political context that the Head of Department works in. The poem above is one of these. I will post more as they take shape. (An 'OIA' is an Official Information Act request, which anybody can submit to a department in order to gain access to specific information.)

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