Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Epiglottitis

who swallowed a cherry, my
pretty, who swallowed a cherry?

all night
they watched her
while her throat narrowed
to the size of a bullet.

the tongue of the clock
was pulled out by time.
the hands slid to the ground
and lay there, exhausted.

the silken arytenoids
in the forbidden castle
were drawn closed,
a curtain.

in the dimmed drawn breath
of the hospital room,
the flower children watched
their garlands wither.

four men came to see
the golden-haired princess.
they knelt down on top of her
and fed her life through a tiny tube.

they plucked her cherry
out by the pip
and pipped death
at the post,

they gave her the kiss of life,
and the princess awoke.

In one of the stranger reversals of my writing career so far, the above poem was recently published as a case report in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, complete with a picture and commentary by a distinguished infectious diseases expert. I wrote the poem a few years ago after seeing a real case.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tuesday poem

I'm the editor of the TP hub this week, so no poem from me - but please enjoy Doug's!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Mark


some days
she’d get lost
in the twists
of his gyri

other days
she’d direct
and he’d refuse
to follow

navigation was never
her strong point anyway

but it was worth it
for the days
they both went
in the same direction.


once he could run
for hours
beyond the streets
of Blockhouse Bay

breath rolling
in and out
of the bellows
knees like pistons

but these days he’s
feeling his advanced age

of thirty three
says he’ll marry her
since he can’t run
any more.


in his
there are
four rooms

one for sitting still
one for walking
one for sleeping
one for standing

the pigeons throw
shadows on the walls

he sees the wallpaper
is faded
knows it’s time
to change it


he likes watching
new shoots
unfurl from the earth
feels them moving

spring kicking
as he runs
through puddles

feels as if he holds
the earth in his arms

knows he’ll fight
with his life
to watch her

their new house
there’s a puriri tree
with a broken swing

a letterbox
and two ducks
who may one day
make ducklings

his mother approves
of all these details

he wonders
whether a bunny
would fit
on the lawn.

they don’t agree
about the dog
or the tiles
in their kitchen

he doesn’t agree
with her taste
for the wedding
but he doesn’t say

what matters is the way
she moves her mouth

on his lips
the pigeons perve
through the window
as they strip.

This is one of the sets of sonnets for my project with artist Paul Woodruffe, selected for Metonymy 2010. Our project, called Human Archaeology, investigates the layers of history around each individual, and the stories they tell about themselves and the people close to them. There are ten slipcast ceramic figures in all - two representing myself and Paul, and the rest representing people dear to us - "companion figures", if you like. Mark is my fiance.
People are encouraged to "excavate" the mummies, delving past the surface and into their cavities where they will find these poems. If you're in Auckland, please visit the exhibition at Corban Estate Arts Centre in Henderson - there are 25 works where an artist has worked with a poet or writer to produce a completely new piece - all very different and surprising! And 56 pairs worked together in total - some of the pairs also produced performances which will be showcased in their lovely ex-church, on Saturday 16th Oct.
Please go to Tuesday Poem for more poetic goodness!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thanks Tim!!

The wonderful Tim Jones, a great poet, writer and community enabler (even if he is from Wellington!) has published an interview with me. He was incredibly patient - waited a whole 6 months for my answers - but thanks to his persistence, I had to think very hard about my writing and direction. Thanks Tim! His blog is here - a very interesting collection of articles about writing, science fiction, and the environment.

that old Asian-Western dichotomy

Been reading a beautifully written article by Vietnamese-American writer Andrew Lam (thanks Karlo Mila for bringing it to my attention!) I think a lot of what he says about Asian parents pushing their children towards a more professionally "secure" future is true - to an extent. Last week kiwi novellist and poet Alison Wong, in her acceptance speech for the NZ Post Book Award for Fiction, said that she initially disappointed her parents by becoming a writer (although no doubt they are very proud now). As I've found with my parents, they worry, not because they are ashamed of having an artist in the family (I'm definitely not the first), but because they come from a background of having lost everything and knowing the value of a professional degree.

The reason I quibble is that I think we are moving out of that generation now. I mix with a lot of fresh, joyously vibrant 20-somethings (and feel old and somewhat like I'm hiding my true age sometimes). Many of them are doing arts as their first career choice and have supportive, proud parents.

My parents are supportive too - in a slightly confused way - they're still not too sure about the path I'm taking, but they see that it makes me happy. I'm also different to Andrew and Alison in that I did actually take the professional path first. And that wasn't due to goading from my parents (although people assume that all the time). I really wanted to be a paediatrician, I chased the dream and enjoyed it, and it was only after I knew I'd get there that I realised I needed something else too.

So... are Asian artists more tortured than Western artists on this? I don't really think so, particularly not today. We're still underepresented in the NZ arts community, but rapidly growing as a group, and in a diverse range of fields. Yay!