Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Tuesday Poem: "We Two On The Still Strand" by Christian Matras

It was in a world of fair-weather fog
the islands out there had gone
and soft small waves came back and forth to shore,
they hardly wanted to break.
We two alone on the foreshore
waded quietly out
and began to play with the cool wavelets quietly, 
yes, with the whole unspoiled world
that God had made in the first days. 

     -- Christian Matras (translated from the Faroese by George Johnston)

To find out more about this poet:

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tuesday Poem: "Abd el-Hadi Fights a Superpower" by Taha Muhammad Ali

In his life
he neither wrote nor read.
In his life he
didn’t cut down a single tree,
didn’t slit the throat
of a single calf.
In his life he did not speak
of the New York Times
behind its back,
didn’t raise
his voice to a soul
except in his saying:
“Come in, please,
by God, you can’t refuse.”

his case is hopeless,
his situation
His God-given rights are a grain of salt
tossed into the sea.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury:
about his enemies
my client knows not a thing.
And I can assure you,
were he to encounter
the entire crew
of the aircraft carrier Enterprise,
he’d serve them eggs
sunny-side up,
and labneh
fresh from the bag.

by Taha Muhammad Ali 
(translated from the Arabic by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin)

Photo Credit: Nina Subin

For more about this poet, see:

If we take the time to study the modern history of the Middle East and not just see the region in terms of a simplistic Arab versus Jew dualism, we can see that colonial powers have meddled with the Middle Eastern countries and territories for reasons of power, influence, military posturing and exploitation of the area's resources, such as oil.

If you would like to have more in-depth knowledge of this Western interference, I highly recommend reading Robert Fisk's collection of columns for The Independent which is called Age of the Warrior:


I think this poem by Taha Muhammad Ali accurately portrays the plight of the average Palestinian, indeed the plight of many poor Arab people throughout the Arab region who have no thoughts of Jihad because they are too busy just getting by with the details of everyday life. This might seem like sacrilege to George W. Bush and Tony Blair, but the majority of Muslim Arabs, I suspect, want much the same as any citizen of this planet, to give their children better food, better housing, better education and generally better lives than they themselves have had.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

NEW ZEALAND ELECTION DAY POEM: "Looking Backwards" by Kendrick Smithyman

The first Labour Government was in office.
A fait accompli, without consulting us
Mother went into time payment, again we had
a radio. We were in touch,
                                         broadcasts from the House,
Eb and Zeb, Fred and Maggie, Father's good ear pressed
to the Speaker (this was better than Hansard)
and Gordon Hutter. Sense of purpose -
everything being built all over,
they hadn't yet started quite to fall apart?
On the horizon a shimmering like a pearl.

Au fond du temple saint:
soon I was getting into opera, would rather
had been girls but girls were difficult.
Even so after Evensong I ratted on Maury,
left him with both choirgirls on his hands,
scuttling home to hear the latest tenor,
Jussi Björling.
                      Mother closed her eyes, Father leaned
against E lucevan le stelle, to La donna è mobile.
How right. "As good as Caruso, or better,
when I heard him in Philadelphia."
"Like Melba," Mum declared, "you don't know
whether to laugh or cry." We'd missed
Uncle Scrim.

                         Along skies westward stars were
shining, a flickering like not so distant gunfire.

     -- Kendrick Smithyman

Photo Credit: www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz

For more on this often underrated New Zealand poet, see:

Friday, 19 September 2014


As you are all probably aware, the NO vote won and poor old Scotland is still tied to England...and so, for that matter, are our Gaelic cousins in Wales and Northern Ireland.

People (often English people and conservative Scots) were so horrified at the thought of an Independent Scotland, but how is it any different from an Independent France or Germany or Spain?

I'm disappointed, but that's democracy, I guess. You win some, you lose some.

Let's try again soon, Scotland! Don't give up, Glasgow, you wanted to go free and clear, but the rest of the country weren't with you this time.

Go Scottish Independence!!! - "It was a' for our Rightful King" by wee Robbie Burns

It was a' for our rightful king
         That we left fair Scotland's strand;
It was a' for our rightful king
         We e'er saw Irish land,
                My dear,
         We e'er saw Irish land.

Now a' is done that men can do,
         And a' is done in vain!
My love, and native land, fareweel!
         For I maun cross the main,
                My dear,
         For I maun cross the main.

He turn'd him right and round about,
         Upon the Irish shore,
He gave his bridle-reins a shake,
         With, Adieu for evermore,
                My dear!
         And adieu for evermore!

The soldier frae the war returns,
         And the merchant frae the main.
But I hae parted frae my love,
         Never to meet again,
                My dear,
         Never to meet again.

When day is gone and night is come,
         And a' folk bound to sleep,
I think on him that's far awa
         The lee-lang night, and weep,
                My dear,
         The lee-lang night, and weep.

by Robert Burns (unofficial Poet Laureate of Scotland)

I think wee Robbie will weep with joy in Heaven if the YES vote is successful today.

As a proud descendant of Scots on my paternal side, I hope all the English scaremongers are crestfallen today and that Scotland finally throws off the English yoke! When the Sassenachs were throwing my ancestors off their land, they never dreamed that one day we would rise up and throw them off! Emperor Hadrian built a wall because he couldn't conquer the fierce Picts and Gaels. May Scottish pride be restored by the YES vote today!

Shame, Bob Geldof, shame! Today Scotland, tomorrow a free, independent, united Ireland.

Raise the true flag of Scotland high!

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Tuesday Poem: "Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher" by Nissim Ezekiel

To force the pace and never to be still
Is not the way of those who study birds
Or women. The best poets wait for words.
The hunt is not an exercise of will
But patient love relaxing on a hill
To note the movement of a timid wing;
Until the one who knows that she is loved
No longer waits but risks surrendering -
In this the poet finds his moral proved
Who never spoke before his spirit moved.

The slow movement seems, somehow, to say much more.
To watch the rarer birds, you have to go
Along deserted lanes and where the rivers flow
In silence near the source, or by a shore
Remote and thorny like the heart's dark floor.
And there the women slowly turn around,
Not only flesh and bone but myths of light
With darkness at the core, and sense is found
By poets lost in crooked, restless flight,
The deaf can hear, the blind recover sight. 

by Nissim Ezekiel

I dedicate this poem to "twitcher", columnist, satirist and roving wit, Steve Braunias, whom I have never met, but whose book How to Watch a Bird I very much enjoyed even though I am not a birdwatcher.

For more information about  Nissim Ezekiel, see:

Friday, 12 September 2014

Poem: Hymn to the Disillusioned (1st Draft)

Days out from the Election,
all their venal qualities
and slimy patriotism to the fore,

promises bought with our own money
and they wonder why we think
they are interchangeable
as they lick the boots of
their capitalist masters.

POET'S NOTE: This cannot be construed as election material as they tried to say about Greenpeace's Climate Voter campaign and I believe the High Court has now ruled in Greenpeace's favour in the case brought before the High Court.

Please bear in mind that I wrote this first draft in a Japanese takeaway shop on the back of some advertising blurb after listening to Radio New Zealand's "Focus on Politics" programme. So it is rough but impassioned.

I have felt that this 2014 election campaign has been one of mostly trivial nonsense and the sort of exchanges that would seem puerile even in a Kindergarten playground.

And politicians wring their hands about how disengaged young voters are. Perhaps if they saw some honesty and dignity displayed by their politicians and so-called leaders, young voters might feel inspired to exercise their democratic right.

Photo credit: porcupinefarm.blogspot.co.nz

Photo Credit: Greg Presland/thedailyblog.co.nz

Photo Credit: thedailyblog.co.nz

Photo Credit: www.radiolive.co.nz


Photo Credit: www.history.com

Photo Credit: blog.bufferapp.com

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Tuesday Poem: "It Was All Very Tidy" by Robert Graves

When I reached his place,
The grass was smooth,
The wind was delicate,
The wit well timed,
The limbs well formed,
The pictures straight on the wall:
It was all very tidy.

He was cancelling out
The last row of figures,
He had his beard tied up in ribbons,
There was no dust on his shoe,
Everyone nodded:
It was all very tidy.

Music was not playing,
There were no sudden noises,
The sun shone blandly,
The clock ticked:
It was all very tidy.

‘Apart from and above all this,’
I reassured myself,
‘There is now myself.’
It was all very tidy.

Death did not address me,
He had nearly done:
It was all very tidy.
They asked, did I not think
It was all very tidy?

I could not bring myself
To laugh or untie
His beard’s neat ribbons,
Or jog his elbow,
Or whistle, or sing,

Or make disturbance,
I consented, frozenly,
He was unexceptionable:
It was all very tidy.

by Robert Graves

For more information about Robert Graves, see:

I would like to dedicate this poem to my mother, Joan, who was always very tidy, but no longer has much need for it since other people tidy up for her.

My mother, Joan, with my son and her grandson, Thomas, at Christmas in Oakura, Taranaki, home of the fabulous and much-admired surfer, Paige Hareb.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Tuesday Poem: "Wildpeace" by Yehuda Amichai

Not the peace of a cease-fire,
not even the vision of the wolf and the lamb,
but rather
as in the heart when the excitement is over
and you can talk only about a great weariness.
I know that I know how to kill,
that makes me an adult.
And my son plays with a toy gun that knows
how to open and close its eyes and say Mama.
A peace
without the big noise of beating swords into ploughshares,
without words, without
the thud of the heavy rubber stamp: let it be
light, floating, like lazy white foam.
A little rest for the wounds—
who speaks of healing?
(And the howl of the orphans is passed from one generation
to the next, as in a relay race:
the baton never falls.)

Let it come
like wildflowers,
suddenly, because the field
must have it: wildpeace.

by Yehuda Amichai 

Yehuda Amichai was an Israeli poet. Amichai is considered by many, both in Israel and internationally, as Israel's greatest modern poet. He was also one of the first to write in colloquial Hebrew. Amichai was born on May 3, 1924, in Wurzburg, Germany and died on September 22, 2000, in Israel. He was educated at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

For more about this poet, see:

This poem is dedicated to all the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a lasting peace with two separate free states living side-by-side in peace and harmony.

It is not dedicated to the Jews and Arabs who carry hatred in their hearts and do not know the meaning of reconciliation and forgiveness.