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Gregory O'Brien
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Avoid for Ruth Life is not a dream. Careful! Careful! Careful! ‘The city that does not sleep’ New Age mystics. Wave-particle physics. Federico Garcia Lorca, that all-night talker. The law. The rot inside the apple core. All dawdlers. Power walkers. Tattoo parlours. Death metal concerts. Poetry readings that go on for hours. Cigarettes. White-singleted men in bedsits. Responsibilities. Provincial cities. Representation on committees. Bad sex. Rainforest decks. Sunday best. Other people’s crises. Lychees. Waste of breath. At all costs, avoid death. Too much sun. Too much of one thing. Wagner’s Ring. Paintings of cows at eventide. Cows in formaldehyde. Sentimentality... Continue reading
Posted Sep 28, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Four poems from 'Puna Wai Korero--an anthology of Maori poetry in English' The launching in Auckland this week of a major anthology of Maori poetry (in English) is cause for celebration and, hopefully, vigorous discussion. In their 400 page compendium, editors Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan have surveyed a rich, wide-ranging, lyrical, often politicised and much mythologised poetic landscape. Purposeful, sometimes argumentative, and nearly always bedrocked in immediate experience, Maori poetry--as portrayed here--keeps returning to fundamental relationships: between individuals, family, community, tribe and nation. The book contains laments and valedictions, ancestral meditations, conversations with mythical figures and, tellingly, a number... Continue reading
Posted Sep 21, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Seven short poems of landscape and love Homing In Here again. Dark’s falling. Stand on the corner of the verandah in the glass cold clear night, looking out to emerald and ruby harbour lights: too sharp to stay out long, enough just to greet the bones lying on the moon and two fishing boats homing in. Cilla McQueen (from Homing In, 1982; Axis,poems and drawings, 2001) ~ meditation on blue sudden spears of Agapanthus open blue on grey Pohutukawa with the violence of love in a quiet life Joanna Margaret Paul (from like love poems / selected poems, 2006) ~... Continue reading
Posted Sep 14, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Always on the cards I haven’t been to Karachi. I’ve imagined it though. I know they have problems there, and marriages arranged by dealers, much as cricket matches might be arranged. I know there are streets more colourful than I’m likely to comprehend. There are beautiful children with eyes no tourist’s camera could resist, beautiful hungry children. But that’s by the bye. I’m trying to find some way to think of being dead, and it seems not too absurd to consider it merely a place I’ve never arrived at, but when I’m there, all I’m used to goes on back... Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
slow reader the reports always said she was conscientious but must learn to work faster so she outran the reading laboratory got through tan to aqua and was safe at last from the speed tests it was a valuable lesson the letters dropped softly into place making voices sing or whisper there was so much to keep track of kerning Times Roman with a sable-haired brush serifs echoing celestial geometry hours of work for one or two words about time she learned space and what lies between compelling body and soul light and air song and dance big letters flying... Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
The Old Dog A slipping away on this still day. Autumn in the warmth that is the wood of things. A comfort in the old dog, like a rug. Spiders get busy in the sun, knitting a past. We write poems for dead fathers, for all that dies, for all that dies by our hand. A distant music, cars on the road. Even birdsong, interrupted, the eternal trump. The vein is open to the heart, unsuspecting as ever. A heaviness comes upon ... upon me. This heaviness, just wood to build the sky, just sky to mask our deceptions. I... Continue reading
Posted Aug 24, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
The Language of the Future For Catherine In the language of the future today will always be today and the moments will sparkle like bearings. There will always be enough time to get things done because there will always be enough hours in the day. Countries will be divided up into hexagons, and every hexagon will be occupied by a new idea. Everywhere will be connected directly with everywhere else by the infallible laws of perspective. Straight lines will flow into straight lines across the golden fields, across the golden fields melting into the golden cities. Gold will grow on... Continue reading
Posted Aug 17, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Since David Eggleton's 'Painting Mount Taranaki' first appeared in the The Penguin Book of New Zealand Poetry in 1985, it has been one of the most discussed and deconstructed poems in the country's literary history. The poem is a meditation on Mount Taranaki (formerly known as Mount Egmont)--a Mount Fuji-like pyramidal volcano in the North Island, popularised on teatowels, biscuit tins and postcards for well over a century. Eggleton's poem is revisionist in character and volcanic in its gusto; it takes the reader on a break-neck tour of the farming province that wraps around three sides of the iconic mountain.... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
miriama i. On crossing the border, I always change my name. A simple precaution & you to guard my back Maheno, Monte Cristo, Waianakarua, Mt Misery & all the wildflowers I am heavy with loot & disappointment, heading south again down the soft underbelly of the island, shedding skins like coke cans on the Kilmog & already the rain. ii. You are waiting, with or without my blessing, in a blue room of pictures torn from magazines: Mother Teresa, Athena's sandaled Victory, a sequoia forest, an avocado pear, gazelles, two babies in a bath with a chimp, Ayers Rock by... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Beginnings Guthrie-Smith in New Zealand 1885 Who am I? What am I doing here alone with 3000 sheep? I'm turning their bones into grass. Later I'll turn grass back into sheep. I buy only the old and the lame. They eat anything--bush, bracken, gorse. Dead, they melt into one green fleece. Who am I? I know the Lord's my shepherd as I am theirs--but this is the nineteenth century; Darwin is God's First Mate. I must keep my own log, full of facts if not love. I own 10,000 acres and one dark lake. On the seventh day those jaws... Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
The sea question The sea asks 'How is your life now?' It does so obliquely, changing colour. It is never the same on any two visits. It is never the same in any particular Only in generalities, tide and such matters Wave height and suction, pebbles that rattle. It doesn't presume to wear a white coat But it questions you like a psychologist As you walk beside it on its long couch. Elizabeth Smither New Zealand poetry has often engaged with the ocean--not surprisingly given that only one seventeenth of New Zealand is made up of dry land; the remainder... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Burial For Joe Now the grandsons have a job they can do. Are they paint or shadow? There is something of the swan about them. Are there birds on the horizon? Clouds of black rise from their shovels, perhaps believers, or sandflies or grains of sand. Clouds of alphabet, impossibly sad faces and someone struggling up out of them with a guitar. Perhaps this is Christ himself. There are black crowds and white crowds. A man with his ear pressed to a cold mirror. Are those squalls, or a cling of tiny black mussels on rock sharp little barnacles? In... Continue reading
Posted Jul 13, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Illustration (c) Sarah Maxey Juliet That's the boy, she'll say, that's the boy in you - sitting on some bench, or beach gazing into the same maddening distance. It's the boy in her, she says, that likes the girl in you. Ah, to be a person, that's hard enough. Sleep now. Get some sleep, that's the boy. -- Andrew Johnston 'Juliet' is from Andrew Johnston's most recent book, Do You Read Me? (2013), a collaboration with typographer/artist Sarah Maxey. Comprising 26 poems with accompanying pictures, one for each of the alphabet call signs, the collection offers an inventive and sonorous... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
A Life Blighted by Pythons waiting at the bus-stop all I can think about is how my hovercraft is full of eels but it’s not, of course it’s not my hovercraft is practically empty my eels are few in fact they’re not eels at all but a netload of whitebait and it isn’t even a hovercraft I've never owned a hovercraft in my life I wouldn’t know what to do with one it’s not even a dinghy it’s a reusable eco-friendly shopping bag and they’re definitely not eels and not even whitebait the truth is, I've never been whitebaiting they’re... Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
2008 (c) Ed Swinden Hotel Emergencies The fire alarm sound: is given as a howling sound. Do not use the lifts. The optimism sound: is given as the sound of a man brushing his teeth. Do not go to bed. The respectability sound: is given as a familiar honking sound. Do not run, do not sing. The dearly-departed sound: is given as a rumble in the bones. Do not enter the coffin. The afterlife sound: is given as the music of the spheres. It will not reconstruct. The bordello sound: is given as a small child screaming. Do not turn... Continue reading
Posted Jun 22, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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Jun 22, 2014