Friday, 30 July 2010

NZ National Poetry Day - Aotearoa b/w Poetry's Hooks

Hello Poetry Lovers,

I got so excited about National Poetry Day that I'm posting not one but two poems! Kind of like the old vinyl 7" single, with one poem being the B-side.


Have you ever stood,
craning your neck to look up into the canopy
of the ancient kauri, Tane Mahuta,
while peace and birdsong permeate your soul?

Have you ever felt
the crusty spray and the satanic whiff
as the Pohutu geyser shoots aloft
while a dozen languages bubble through te reo?

Have you ever shivered
in the receding darkness,
standing in the china-white sand as you waited
for the first sunrise over Makorori Beach?

Have you ever sat
on the summit of Mt Taranaki
and eaten a well-deserved sandwich
while cows grazed far below on the lush, volcanic-rich pasture?

Have you ever experienced
that mixture of fear and awe
as an orca’s dorsal breached beside your too-fragile kayak
in the shining waters of the Abel Tasman?

Have you ever paused
atop a ski run on Coronet Peak
and reflected on the reflections
of sunlight dancing on snow and water? 

Have you ever felt sorry
for tourism chiefs and advertising creatives
trapped in offices in the Auckland CBD
dreaming up “100% Pure” and “Clean and Green”?

Ó Andrew M. Bell


It is an ancient Poet
and he stoppeth me.
“Beware of poetry, my son,
She’s a gold digger.
She’ll chew you up and spit you out,
leave you penniless and lying in a gutter,
drunk on absinthe,
while the rich novelists and scriptwriters
step over you, laughing.”

“Hold off! unhand me, greybeard loon!”
Unheeding, I slunk off to my garret
to compose a villanelle,
heavily derivative of Dylan Thomas.
I only wanted to get girls,
but before I knew it
I was roaming with the Romantics,
bopping with the Beats
and cruising with the Classicists.
Popping some Pope, shooting some Stevie Smith
or hitting up Heaney,
I was hopelessly addicted.
And I never did get the girl.

Ó Andrew M. Bell

For more poetry on National Poetry Day, visit:

Monday, 26 July 2010

TUESDAY POEM: "Afterlife Airlines" by Andrew M. Bell


Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard Afterlife Airlines.
I’m your pilot, Captain Meta Physics.
Please fasten your sleep belts
as we are about to leave the body.
Please direct your attention to your stewardess
while she demonstrates safety procedures.

In the event of a drastic reduction in karma,
a mask will fall down from above you.
Place it on and breathe deeply of pure love.
Should those passengers who are clinically dead
find themselves returned by a surgeon’s skill,
the life raft under your seat will inflate
with a new sense of purpose.

After take off the stewardesses will serve milk and honey.
For your entertainment, the movie is
anything with Shirley Maclaine in it
or there are seven channels of chi
on the chakra-phones being dispensed soon.
For those contemplating joining the Tantric Mile High club,
please be considerate of your fellow passengers.

We’re making good time because
the breath of God is always behind us.
Below us to the right is the Ocean of Ego
and to our left some passengers may glimpse
the chain of islands: Faith, Hope and Charity.

We’ve been advised that it’s a little busy on The Other Side
so we’ve been placed in a holding pattern
on the astral plane.
Passengers are reminded to retrieve all emotional baggage
for security reasons
and please help Customs
by declaring all religious preferences.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re cleared for landing now.
On behalf of the crew, I hope you enjoyed
your transdimensional flight with Afterlife Airlines
and we hope to see you aboard again soon.
Please fasten your sleep belts,
we’re coming in for reincarnation.

Copyright Andrew M. Bell

The poet would like to acknowledge The Press (Christchurch) who published an edited version of this poem.

Visit the Tuesday Poem blog for more -

Sunday, 25 July 2010

No More Rent Paid to the Electric Landlady

The other day I was listening to Kirsty MacColl's album, Electric Landlady, and I started thinking about her sad and untimely death.

For those who don't know about Kirsty MacColl, she was an English singer-songwriter who had made quite a few albums and had collaborated with many other musicians in her career. Kirsty is the female voice dueting with Shane Magowan on the Pogues' song, "Fairy Tale of New York".

Kirsty was on holiday in Mexico and enjoying a scuba dive with her children when she was run down by a careless powerboat driver and killed. The powerboat belonged to some rich guy who just paid off the local authorities and literally got away with murder. Her mother started up a website called: Justice for Kirsty. She campaigned for years, but gave up recently, exhausted.

RIP Kirsty, you have given me many happy hours of listening pleasure and you didn't deserve to go this way. Below is an excerpted piece from the website.

Campaign Logo -> home
Photo by Charles Dickins

Fast Facts

Kirsty was a 41 year old singer and songwriter.  She was born in Croydon, South London, the daughter of folk singer Ewan MacColl and choreographer Jean Newlove.  Kirsty married top producer Steve Lillywhite in August 1984 and had two children: Jamie was born on the 20 Feb 1985 and Louis was born on the 3rd Sept 1987.  She split up with Steve in 1994 but they remained friends.  In her latter days Kirsty was happily in a relationship with another musician, James Knight, who met her while teaching Louis to play saxophone. 
Kirsty was killed by a power boat whilst scuba diving with her sons in a restricted diving area off Cozumel, México. 
Note for researchers: Jean uses her maiden name of Newlove for her professional work in the theatre. Her married name is MacColl and she wishes to be called MacColl for the campaign, This is appropiate in her family role as mother and grandmother. The campaign is totally separate from her own professional career.

Here are the main points which were printed in the original "Mail on Sunday" article by Peter & Leni Gillman in 2004:
The powerboat (belonging to a the chairman of a large Méxican company) had apparently been travelling too fast in a National Park which bans such boats.  An inexperienced boathand (Cen Yam) was charged with causing her death and found guilty of negligent homicide (subject to confirmation by a judge), which carries a sentence of up to seven years.
The owner, Guillermo González Nova, and his family were on board, and claimed it was the boathand, Cen Yam, at the controls, and that they were outside the restricted area travelling at no more than one knot.  Witnesses said the boat was moving at high speed inside the National Park, its bow riding clear of the water. Kirsty would have died instantly. Jamie was struck on the head and side, without suffering serious injury.
The boathand's job was to carry out maintenance - he did not have a licence for such a powerful boat, and had never taken its helm before. Though he claimed to have taken a seaman's course he was unable to answer basic questions. The boat owner did not have the right powerboat licence either.
Port authority investigators found the dive boat had been flying a flag, but it did not conform to international regulations. It should also have had another crew member on board, and should have put out a marker buoy. However the ruling was that the powerboat had been in the prohibited area, the pilot had been negligent and violated navigation laws and the owner should not have let him take the controls.
Jean believes the person who carries the greatest culpability is the owner, who was not charged. She also questions who was actually at the helm, and plans to visit Cozumel soon to investigate further.
Initially "Justice For Kirsty" was financed from Kirsty's estate but Jean believed those bequests, which would mostly benefit her sons, should no longer be drained. She has been forced to draw on her savings but is also heavily reliant on donations. Many kind supporters have given to the campaign either through the campaign website or at fundraising events around the country, including the very popular Pogues tours which have taken place for the last three years. Other artists including Billy Bragg and Eddi Reader have been most helpful in raising funds and awareness.
'No one should be above the law,' she says. 'It's not a vendetta but I want the truth to come out. I am determined to see this through.'
Kisty's family
In happier days Jean, Kirsty, Jamie, Louis and a family friend, John Dalby (composer).
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Friday, 23 July 2010

Seeing (Odd) Spots Before your Eyes

Sometimes the mainstream news articles are just plain depressing, but newspapers invariably have small columns they call "Odd Spots" or something like that.

I always read these Odd Spots for they are invariably entertaining and often downright bizarre!

Like the one I read recently about a 50-year-old man in Holland who didn't want to be disturbed by his siblings and was found dead four years later. Apparently, this man lived with three other siblings, of which he was the oldest. He was described as a bossy, bad-tempered and overbearing individual and his siblings were all terrified of him.

One afternoon he declared that he wasn't feeling particularly good and he was retiring to his room. He stressed that he was not to be disturbed under any circumstances and his siblings, being in fear of his temper, took him very seriously indeed. I don't recall now how he was eventually discovered, but his siblings said things like: "We thought he was just asleep." For four years!

I find it almost impossible to believe that someone could intimidate his siblings so much that he could lie dead in a bedroom for four years. The love that flowed around that house must have been intense. Not!


Today I finished a new short story and sent it off as an entry in a very prestigious and lucrative short story competition.

There's something very satisfying about birthing a new story, nurturing it with rewrites, combing its hair, straightening its tie, spit-shining its shoes and sending it out in the world to make its own way.

If you see my story, stop and say hello, engage with it and give it a hug of encouragement. Remember, I wrote it for you, whoever you are.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Procrastination Stimulus

I have just embarked on writing a new short story. It never fails to surprise me how this is a great stimulus for procrastination.

I want to enter the story in a competition with quite big prizemoney. I convinced myself that during the two weeks of the school holidays I would not be able to give it my full focus. So I started on Monday which was yesterday and the deadline closes on Friday so I have a week or less than a week if I have to post it. The online conditions seem set up to be Anti-Mac, but that is another story.

But once I confront my fears and launch into writing, the story grows and grows in my mind and on the page. And I wonder, why did I put myself under this ridiculous pressure. Why aren't I more organised and give myself plenty of time to write and rewrite the stories before the deadline looms?

I promise myself to not do this again. But somehow I suspect this won't be the last time this happens.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Spies and Gardenias

Recently I read in the newspaper about the ring of Russian spies that were arrested in the U.S. It is curious what the media chooses to leave in or leave out. A female neighbour of one couple who were picked up as spies was quoted as saying: "They can't be spies. Look at those gardenias."

Quite how this makes any sense is beyond me. Does she imagine spies are too busy for gardening? Or that being an espionage agent precludes having any hobbies? Or did she imagine that, by their nature, spies are cruel people with no inherent sense of beauty?

I imagine the peaceful, meditative activity of gardening would be a welcome antidote from the stressful world of espionage. Can't you just see 007, after bedding several gorgeous fellow spies, killing several baddies and saving the world from annihilation one more time, coming home, shucking his Armani suit, slipping on his gumboots, torn Bermuda shorts and an old T-shirt and heading out to dead-head his roses. Nothing like stretching out on some garden furniture and sipping a Martini, shaken not stirred, while surrounded by the heady perfumed of flowers.

Friday, 2 July 2010

The South Will Rise Again (To the Occasion)

The surf was not epic or all-time, in fact it was 1-2 feet in height, but clean and glassy, but the vista was something else.

Picture this: an "alpine"-type day, crisp, clear, sunny winter's day and I am sitting out in the ocean on my surfboard. Arctic terns are diving for fish nearby and cormorants are swimming along bobbing for fish also. At one point, the small, black dorsal fin of a Hector's dolphin (the world's smallest dolphin) slices the surface only about ten metres ahead of me out to sea. Small, clean waves roll in from the Pacific on to a sandbar near a river mouth and if you look in towards shore, you see the sun sparkling on a lazy river meandering to the sea and in the distance, you can see the snow-laden peaks of the Southern Alps.

If you are an atheist, you're on your own here. But, for me, I feel that something bigger than humans is out there, call it The Great Spirit, Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah, Prana, Love, The Force or whatever takes your fancy, but when I am surrounded by this southern beauty, I thank the Big Guy/Gal for creating this wonderful, wonderful world.