Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "My Mother's Eyes" by Andrew M. Bell



My mother’s eyes are castles in Ireland:
grey slate and green grass.
The spirit of the Celts lives in her eyes,
laughing, brimming kindness cups.
Time has blown her auburn flame to ash,
but her eyes are those
of a rare and fair “colleen”.
My mother’s eyes say:
“Take care.”
“Respect yourself.”
“Be vigilant.”
“Do what you know is right.”



Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "The Carnival" by William Esther Williams (aka John Clarke, 29 July 1948-9 April 2017)


Williams was a doctor whose interest in Imagist poetry helped him greatly in his work. Very interested in nature, especially, like Marianne More, in the pantheistic resonance of great big animals.

THE CARNIVAL

Why is it that every year
On remote coastlines
Labour leaders 
Beach themselves?
Whole schools of them,
Apparently healthy Labour leaders
Thousands of miles off course and stranded,
Spume drifting from their tragic holes.

Why do they do it?
Is it not knowing where they are going?
Or is it guilt over where they have been?
There is no more futile prospect in nature
Than ordinary folk with flippers and buckets
Working urgently in the deepness of the shore
To turn the stricken Labour leaders around
Before nightfall.

From The Even More Complete Book of Australian Verse by John Clarke

Photo Credit: The Courier (photographer unknown)

RIP John Clarke, a good man gone too soon. You will be sorely missed. Thanks for making our lives happier, funnier and richer with your humour, your charisma and your good heart.

Photo Credit: Photographer unknown

Goodbye to your wonderful alter-ego, Fred Dagg. We DID know how lucky we are. And, sadly, now we know how lucky we were.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Now the Lifeguards Have All Gone Home" by Yehuda Amichai


Now the lifeguards have all gone home. The bay
is closed and what’s left of the sunlight
is reflected in a piece of broken glass,
as an entire life in the shattered eye of the dying.

A board licked clean is saved from the fate
of becoming furniture.
Half an apple and half a footprint in the sand
are trying to be some whole new thing together
and a box turning black
resembles a man who’s asleep or dead.
Even God stopped here and didn’t come closer
to the truth. The mistake that occurs once only
and the single right action
both bring a man peace of mind.
The balance pans have been overturned: now good and evil
are pouring out slowly into a tranquil world.

In the last light, near the rock pool, a few young people
are still warming themselves with the feelings
I once had in this place. A green stone in the water
seems to be dancing in the ripples with a dead fish,
and a girl’s face emerges from diving,
her wet eyelashes
like the rays of a sun resurrected for the night.


by Yehuda Amichai (translated from the Hebrew by Chana Bloch)


NOTE: This is how it feels now Summer is waning into Autumn in the Southern Hemisphere. While readers in the Northern Hemisphere are watching blossoms and feeling the warming days of Spring with its anticipation of Summer, we are watching the leaves drop off the trees (although most of our native trees in Aotearoa are evergreen) and  witnessing the days growing shorter.

I had a lovely surf at dawn before work today, but I know that will be a fading opportunity until Spring and Summer return.

However, it's a cliché, but life is about the changing seasons and all seasons have their appeals and their downsides.


Image result

For more about the poet, Yehuda Amichai, see:


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "The Hand That Signed the Paper" by Dylan Thomas

The hand that signed the paper felled a city;
Five sovereign fingers taxed the breath,
Doubled the globe of dead and halved a country;
These five kings did a king to death.

The mighty hand leads to a sloping shoulder,
The finger joints are cramped with chalk;
A goose's quill has put an end to murder
That put an end to talk.

The hand that signed the treaty bred a fever,
And famine grew, and locusts came;
Great is the hand that holds dominion over
Man by a scribbled name.

The five kings count the dead but do not soften
The crusted wound nor stroke the brow;
A hand rules pity as a hand rules heaven;
Hands have no tears to flow.

by Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)

Image: Hulton Archive/Getty. Tinting by Dan Murrell

NOTE: When I was a callow youth of 15, I was a boarder at Sacred Heart College in Auckland. My fifth-form English teacher was a man named Brother Roger, a big, solid man with no-nonsense black-rimmed spectacles and a purplish hue to his chin and cheeks because he was rumoured to shave twice a day. Brother Roger loved his subject and he loved the beauty and power of language and he ignited my life-long love of poetry by introducing our class to some wonderful poets. Through him, I discovered the Romantic poets, the War poets, modern American poets and many of the luminaries of twentieth-century poetry.

The poem above by Dylan Thomas, published in 1936, (here reproduced from The Norton Anthology of Poetry, 3rd Edition) has stayed with me since the day Brother Roger brought it to my attention. It illustrated to me that poetry can make profound statements about life and the human condition with brevity and conciseness. Poetry can make us think and perhaps lead us to new insights.

I believe there has never been a time in human history when there was no conflict occurring somewhere in the world. Dylan Thomas wrote this with the Nazi spectre growing in Europe, but its subject will, sadly, be ever pertinent. The documentary maker, Michael Moore, asked US Congressmen if they had sons fighting in Iraq. None of them did. Theirs were the "hands" that signed the paper that sent many young, poor, uneducated, black, white and Hispanic men to their deaths.

"The Hand That Signed the Paper" is once again rising within my consciousness when I read in the newspaper that the bellicose President of the USA, Donald Trump, wants Congress to increase the military budget by $US54 Billion. He can only achieve this by cancelling many government-funded programmes that focus on the arts, health, disadvantaged minorities and, ironically, wounded and traumatised American war veterans.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Poem in honour of the victims from London's recent terrorist attack: Composed upon Westminster Bridge, September 3, 1802 by William Wordsworth


Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!


by William Wordsworth


For more information about the poet, William Wordsworth, please see:


I offer this beautiful poem by William Wordsworth in honour of the victims from London's recent terrorist attack.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Anthem' by Leonard Cohen


The birds they sang at the break of day
Start again I heard them say
Don't dwell on what has passed away
or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will be fought again
The holy dove She will be caught again
bought and sold and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring…

You can add up the parts but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march, there is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

by Leonard Cohen

NOTE: This is a song, obviously, and if you look up this song in the form of lyrics, it will probably be laid out differently. I have chosen to lay it out as above to serve the rhyming scheme and bring the poetic quality out from the song, once stripped of its music.
Let us not forget that Leonard Cohen started his creative journey as a poet and a novelist and published several critically well-received volumes of poetry before he ever set foot in a recording studio.
In these Trump-afflicted times, I, for one, really miss Cohen's celebration of the human spirit and his humility and compassion, both as a man and an artist.
RIP Leonard Norman Cohen September 21, 1934-November 7, 2016


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "What Kind of Times Are These" by Adrienne Rich


There's a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.

I've walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don't be fooled
this isn't a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.

I won't tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.

And I won't tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it's necessary
to talk about trees.


by Adrienne Rich


For more information about poet, Adrienne Rich, see:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/adrienne-rich

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Begin" by Brendan Kennelly


Begin again to the summoning birds
to the sight of the light at the window,

begin to the roar of morning traffic

all along Pembroke Road.

Every beginning is a promise

born in light and dying in dark

determination and exaltation of springtime

flowering the way to work.

Begin to the pageant of queuing girls

the arrogant loneliness of swans in the canal

bridges linking the past and future

old friends passing though with us still.

Begin to the loneliness that cannot end

since it perhaps is what makes us begin,

begin to wonder at unknown faces

at crying birds in the sudden rain

at branches stark in the willing sunlight

at seagulls foraging for bread

at couples sharing a sunny secret

alone together while making good.

Though we live in a world that dreams of ending

that always seems about to give in

something that will not acknowledge conclusion

insists that we forever begin.

by Brendan Kennelly





For more information about the poet, Brendan Kennelly, see:


Brendan Kennelly is referring to Pembroke Road in Dublin, not the one in Wellington. 
 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "If You Knew" by Ellen Bass


What if you knew you’d be the last
to touch someone?
If you were taking tickets, for example,
at the theater, tearing them,
giving back the ragged stubs,
you might take care to touch that palm,
brush your fingertips
along the lifeline’s crease.

When a man pulls his wheeled suitcase
too slowly through the airport, when
the car in front of me doesn’t signal,
when the clerk at the pharmacy
won’t say Thank you, I don’t remember
they’re going to die.

A friend told me she’d been with her aunt.
They’d just had lunch and the waiter,
a young gay man with plum black eyes,
joked as he served the coffee, kissed
her aunt’s powdered cheek when they left.
Then they walked half a block and her aunt
dropped dead on the sidewalk.

How close does the dragon’s spume
have to come? How wide does the crack
in heaven have to split?
What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?

by Ellen Bass


For more information about poet, Ellen Bass, and to view her read this poem, please go to:


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Blackberry Eating" by Galway Kinnell


I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry-eating in late September.

 
by Galway Kinnell
 
 
For more information about poet, Galway Kinnell, see:

 
Image result for eating blackberries
 
 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "The Sofas, Fogs, and Cinemas" by Rosemary Tonks



I have lived it, and lived it,
My nervous, luxury civilisation,

My sugar-loving nerves have battered me to pieces.


... Their idea of literature is hopeless.

Make them drink their own poetry!

Let them eat their gross novel, full of mud.


It’s quiet; just the fresh, chilly weather ... and he

Gets up from his dead bedroom, and comes in here

And digs himself into the sofa.

He stays there up to two hours in the hole – and talks

– Straight into the large subjects, he faces up to
everything
It’s ...... damnably depressing.

(That great lavatory coat...the cigarillo burning

In the little dish... And when he calls out: ‘Ha!’

Madness! – you no longer possess your own furniture.)


On my bad days (and I’m being broken

At this very moment) I speak of my ambitions ... and he

Becomes intensely gloomy, with the look of something jugged,

Morose, sour, mouldering away, with lockjaw ....


I grow coarser; and more modern (I, who am driven mad

By my ideas; who go nowhere;

Who dare not leave my frontdoor, lest an idea ...)

All right. I admit everything, everything!


Oh yes, the opera (Ah, but the cinema)

He particularly enjoys it, enjoys it
horribly, when someone’s ill
At the last minute; and they specially fly in

A new, gigantic, Dutch soprano. He wants to help her

With her arias.           Old goat! Blasphemer!

He wants to help her with her arias!


No, I ... go to the cinema,

I particularly like it when the fog is thick, the street

Is like a hole in an old coat, and the light is brown as laudanum.

... the fogs! the fogs! The cinemas

Where the criminal shadow-literature flickers over our faces,

The screen is spread out like a thundercloud – that bangs

And splashes you with acid...or lies derelict, with lighted

              waters in it,

And in the silence, drips and crackles – taciturn, luxurious.

... The drugged and battered Philistines

Are all around you in the auditorium ...


And he ... is somewhere else, in his dead bedroom clothes,

He wants to make me think his thoughts

And they will be
enormous, dull – (just the sort
To keep away from).

... when I see that cigarillo, when I see it ... smoking

And he wants to face the international situation ...

Lunatic rages! Blackness! Suffocation!


– All this sitting about in cafés to calm down

Simply wears me out. And their idea of literature!

The idiotic cut of the stanzas; the novels, full up, gross.


I have lived it, and I know too much.

My café-nerves are breaking me

With black, exhausting information.



by Rosemary Tonks




For more information about poet, Rosemary Tonks, see:


https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/rosemary-tonks



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "The Track Less Thrashed" by Alain Frost (alias John Clarke)




Two tracks leading nowhere in the bush

Miles from anywhere, I rolled the window

Down and had a look up the first one, 

Considered the position briefly and 

Said I preferred the other one. My father

Looked up from his form guide and asked me why, 

I said because it's not this one. You talk

To him, mother, he said. I can't deal

With him, the boy's a bloody idiot.

There's no need for language said my mother. 

 

While the matter was discussed I climbed

A very large redgum out over the river

And in a sense I never quite came down. 

The great thing about being up a tree

Is that you're not going along a track.


by Alain Frost


Photo Courtesy of The Lumiere Reader

For more information on satirist, John Clarke, see:


http://mrjohnclarke.com/

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Good Bones" by Maggie Smith


Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

 
by Maggie Smith


Photo Credit: Studio127 Photography

For more information on poet, Maggie Smith, see:


https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/maggie-smith


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Five Ways to Kill a Man" by Edwin Brock

 
There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.
You can make him carry a plank of wood
to the top of a hill and nail him to it.
To do this properly you require a crowd of people
wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak
to dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one
man to hammer the nails home.
 
Or you can take a length of steel,
shaped and chased in a traditional way,
and attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears.
But for this you need white horses,
English trees, men with bows and arrows,
at least two flags, a prince, and a
castle to hold your banquet in.
 
Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind
allows, blow gas at him. But then you need
a mile of mud sliced through with ditches,
not to mention black boots, bomb craters,
more mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs
and some round hats made of steel.
 
In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly
miles above your victim and dispose of him by
pressing one small switch. All you then
require is an ocean to separate you, two
systems of government, a nation's scientists,
several factories, a psychopath and
land that no-one needs for several years.
 
These are, as I began, cumbersome ways to kill a man.
Simpler, direct, and much more neat is to see
that he is living somewhere in the middle
of the twentieth century, and leave him there.
 
by Edwin Brock
 
Photo Credit: Chris Skilton Smith

 
For more information about poet, Edwin Brock, see:
 
 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "The More Loving One" by W. H. Auden


Moon over Burwood Copyright: Andrew M. Bell

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

by W. H. Auden

Credit: www.todayinliterature.com

For more information about the poet, W.H. Auden, see:


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Master Chef on Sealy Range" by Stephanie Hacksley


Silver upon silver
Low cloud teases the tired eyebrows
of the Tasman glacier
Icy blue Frozen Time
grits its teeth
Grinding
Groaning
Down
Down
into inevitable oblivion

Silver too
the great icy bath water
roaring unplugged over fallen boulders
Tumbling ever on
Adding murky milk
to turquoise lake Pukaki

And now
Light beings to dance
behind the low hanging cloud
Beyond the veil
the gods are preparing a feast

The kitchen is still closed
but the energy
is in the wind
in the mist
tucked tight under the wings
of tiny white-breasted birds
free diving to valley below

They already know
what lies behind the curtain
but we
the trail of human ants
snaking up the Sealy range
only Gasp
Whoop with wonder
as a thousand stories high
the master chef
throws Open the doors!
and with a cloud napkin lingering on his outstretched arm
and dustings of flour hanging in the midmorning air

presents

Magnificence

Majesty

Aoraki Mount Cook

A wry smile tugs at the corner of my mouth
as I wonder what the gods are preparing next

From A Necklace of Moments – Poems by Stephanie Hacksley


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tuesday Poem: "Broadcaster's Poem" by Alden Nowlan


I used to broadcast at night
alone in a radio station
but I was never good at it
partly because my voice wasn't right
but mostly because my peculiar
metaphysical stupidity
made it impossible
for me to keep believing
there was somebody listening
when it seemed I was talking
only to myself in a room no bigger
than an ordinary bathroom
I could believe it for a while
and then I'd get somewhat
the same feeling as when you
start to suspect you're the victim
of a practical joke
So one part of me
was afraid another part
might blurt out something
about myself so terrible
that even I had never until
that moment suspected it

This was like the fear
of bridges and other
high places: Will I take off my glasses
and throw them
into the water, although I'm
half blind without them?
Will I sneak up behind
myself and push?

Another thing:
As a reporter
I covered an accident in which a train
ran into a car, killing
three young men, one of whom
was beheaded. The bodies looked
boneless, as such bodies do
More like mounds of rags
and inside the wreckage
where nobody could get at it
the car radio
was still playing

I thought about places
the disc jockey's voice goes
and the things that happen there
and of how impossible it would be for him
to continue if he really knew. 


by Alden Nowlan


For more information about the poet, Alden Nowlan, see:


And this was always a good song by the late, great David Bowie: