Monday, September 15, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Planet Earth, by P K Page

I was cleaning up the desk top on my computer, and came across a poem I had saved, and forgotten about, Planet Earth by Canadian poet P K Page. I hope you will find it worthwhile to click on the link, which I have included, lacking permission to post the poem here.

Page's poem is in a traditional form, the glosa, which takes a quatrain from another poet, and uses each of the four lines as the last line of each of four successive stanzas. The quatrain used is from Neruda's ode In Praise of Ironing

It has to be spread out, the skin of this planet,
has to be ironed, the sea in its whiteness;
and the hands keep on moving,
smoothing the holy surfaces.

I loved the way in which she expanded - or glossed on - this quatrain, with detailed descriptions of the earth as cloth, as embroidery, a sort of folk art with flowers and birds and two joined hearts upon it, along with slightly archaic language pertaining to laundry, such as pleated and goffered.

I also found an interesting online article on Page and the glosa form: How to Honour Dead Poets.

If those links are not sufficient to satisfy your poetry appetite, more Tuesday Poems can be found at the main hub site, and in the links on the sidebar there.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Yesterday it rained. Today was fine and sunny, though not without cloud. Since moving to the hill nearly a year ago, after more than thirty years on the flat, I haven't yet tired of the view from the window.

The kowhai tree is flowering. I had left the wheelbarrow underneath it. A host of blossoms had dropped off and were floating in the rainwater.

Sunlight reflecting off the neighbour's attic window onto their roof.

The poetry I am writing this year seems much more focussed on observations of the world around me, than poems I have written previously. Taking photographs is another way of observing my surroundings, details stored up for later.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Tuesday Poem: To Waitemata Harbour, by Sarah Quigley

To Waitemata Harbour

You have such
clever hands.

You hold the islands
on the tips of your
fingers, lightly so

you never submerge
them. Firmly enough that
they don't float away.

If a person could hold
another person like that -
well, then

there would only be

- Sarah Quigley


Some of the best events at the Word Christchurch Writers Festival were the free ones. For instance, on Friday evening there was a launch of three poetry books: Hinemoana Baker's Waha (Mouth), Kerrin P Sharpe's There is a medical name for this, and Essential New Zealand Poems. (Not so much the launch, as a launch, as there have been launches of the latter book around the country).

The one drawback was trying to fit a celebration of all three books into the space of an hour.Nevertheless, I enjoyed the readings and was happy to purchase all three books.

Sarah Quigley's poem is included in Essential New Zealand Poems. It is one I have loved since I first came across it in AUP New Poets I published by Auckland University Press in 1999.

Sarah is a novelist, critic and columnist as well as having published two poetry collections. She was born and grew up in Christchurch, obtained a D Phil in Literature from Oxford University, and returned to Christchurch where,among other things, she taught for a time at the School for Young Writers - two of my daughters were among the young people who benefitted from her tuition. She was the inaugural winner of the Creative New Zealand Berlin Writers' Residency in 2000, and has since lived and worked in Berlin. Her 2011 novel The Conductor was the number one bestselling fiction title in New Zealand for 21 weeks.

Thanks to Sarah for permission to post her poem here.
For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.

Te Puna Quarry Park

These are a selection of photos taken at Te Puna quarry park on our recent trip north. It is a park which climbs the very steep sides of an old quarry. I have focussed here mainly on the plants, there are also some interesting sculptures (and an amazing view).

For Carmi's Thematic Photographic: Vegetation.

Monday, September 01, 2014

From Above

I spent the weekend attending a number of sessions at the Word Christchurch Writers' Festival. The "fringe" events on the Sunday took place at the Physics Room, a gallery and exhibition space on the fourth floor of the old High Street Post Office building which now houses C1 Expresso and Alice in Videoland. So I clambered up the four flights of stairs, stepped inside the gallery and was mesmerised by this view. It occurred to me that I hadn't been this high up since the earthquakes. In fact there are not many functioning tall buildings left in the city.

The wooden trees that echo the forms of the cabbage palms in the foreground are a recent sculpture installation. On the left, the empty area where there is a mini golf course was once an area of narrow lanes with quirky shops. Just out of view, behind temporary fencing is the damaged building that housed the Twisted Hop, the scene of a poetry book launch I attended a few years back. So much of the city is now just a memory.

Elizabeth Knox apparently described Christchurch as "a city living in memory and expectation, with ghost streets and dream buildings". It seemed an apt description.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Birds of a Feather

As a would-be wildlife photographer, I am not very successful. My photo files reveal plenty of attempts to photograph birds, but mostly they come out blurred, tiny dots in the distance in the middle of the photo, seriously backlit, or just plain boring (endless photographs of gulls, which at least tend to stand still and not fly away until you come really close).

I recently visited an exhibition from the New Zealand Society of Nature Photographers at the Canterbury Museum, and the stunning photos there reminded me just how far I have to go to match their skill level.

Nevertheless, here are a few bird photos for Carmi's theme of the week.

I captured the pied stilt while having a lakeside rest break on our recent trip to the North Island.

The rest of the photos were taken around Christchurch:

The gulls were bathing in a rainwater puddle in our rather earthquake damaged central business district.

A kereru (New Zealand wood pigeon) enjoying a berry feast in Victoria Park, a local park popular with hill walkers and mountain bikers.

There are some rather swampy paddocks at the foot of the hill where we live. It's a popular hang out for pukeko (also known as "swamp hens", although this name is being used less often these days).

And lastly, gulls and ducks on the golf course in Hagley Park. This one makes me smile, because they didn't want to move, despite the best efforts of the man with the golf club. I guess they are very used to golfers, and rate the chance of being hit by a golf ball too low to make the effort to move out of the way.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Morning Glory, by Siobhan Harvey

Morning Glory

These final moments of sleeping
cradle something which can never be

reclaimed. Like land and water, we
have shared the space, the companionship

of mother and child. Now posed in simple relief,
your marble body, your eyes closed appear, like a statue,

imagined of substance which might simply break.
Soon, you’ll wake up anew

to friends, books and independence strangers will measure
out with their invisible, impartial scales. In metamorphosis

quick as an intake of my breath, you’ll be dressed
in your first uniform. As swiftly, I’ll see you own it

and so will attempt to still a need to cry.
For all the years I’ve held back the stirring

of these things with a sentinel’s weakness, I break
the slumber of our moment by calling our your name.


"Morning Glory: is taken from Siobhan Harvey's recent collection, Cloudboy which won the 2013 Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award.

Some poetry books can be dipped into here and there. This is one I read straight through from beginning to end. It gains power as it goes, being an account of the author's relationship with her autistic son, and his difficulties entering school. The poem above is a lovely example of the sensitivity expressed in the collection.

Another poem from the collection, Cloudmother was earlier posted on the Tuesday Poem main hub site, with a commentary by the hub editor, Helen McKinlay, and Siobhan's own comments on the collection. To these, I have little to add, and recommend clicking through to read those comments, if you haven't already done so.

Thanks to Siobhan for permission to post "Morning Glory" here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Christian Milne (1773 - ?)

On a Lady
Who Spoke with Some Ill-Nature of the Advertisement of
My Little Work in the
Aberdeen Journal

Says pert Miss Prue,
"There's something new
In Chalmers' weekly papers -
A shipwright's wife,
In humble life,
Writes rhyme by nightly tapers!

"That folks of taste
Their time should waste
To read them, makes me wonder!
A lowborn fool
Ne'er bred at school,
What can she do but blunder?

"Write rhyme, forsooth!
Upon my truth,
"Twill put it out of fashion;
She can but paint
In colors faint
Rude nature's lowest passion.

"A wife so mean
Should nurse and clean
And mend her husband's jacket,
Not spend her time
In writing rhyme
And raising such a racket!"


While on holiday it was a delight to discover several excellent second hand bookshops, at one of which I picked up a fat volume "British Women Poets of the 19th Century". There were a few I had heard of, such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Christina Rossetti, and many many more that I hadn't. Perhaps sentiments such as those expressed in the poem above - women should stick to domestic business - explain why so many female poets didn't receive greater recognition.

I enjoyed the humour of this poem, and was interested to read about the author, who was the child of a carpenter. Her mother died soon after her birth, and her stepmother tried to prevent her learning to read and write. She married a ship's carpenter, and they had eight children. I was intrigued to read that she received 100 pounds for her only volume of poems, and that she invested it in a sixteenth share of a ship. So her poems must have been quite well received, as it seems unlikely that publication of a book of verse today would earn sufficient funds to buy one sixteenth of a ship, even a small one!

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.

Strangers from Afar

Carmi's Thematic Photographic theme for the week is strangers from afar. Looking into my photo files, I find I don't do that very much. I did, however, find the above photo that I took a couple of months back, outside Christchurch's transitional cathedral. Something about the electrician's kneeling figure intrigued me. Perhaps it is to do with the motto "laborare est orare" (to work is to pray). (Which reminds me, I intended to write a poem based on the scene).

To find more, I had to go back much further in my files. It turns out I'm less shy of taking photos of strangers when I travel overseas (which is not very often).

The modern centurion in the photo above seemed to have echoes of the fellow in the photo below:

The last of my selection was taken in Singapore.