Sunday, August 28, 2011

Magical ipods

"Art is the greatest deception of all"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Men are like pebbles (After Wendy Cope)

Men are like pebbles

you know the type
lying in wait
on the sand

winking at passing ladies
bodies glistening with salt.

You know you shouldn’t
(what would you do
with another pebble?
the last one turned out
to be useless)

but another beckons
and another
and before you know
you’re picking one up.

And this is where it gets
really difficult –

how do you choose
the perfect pebble?

Some come round
some cornered
one looks like a small mountain
another like swirled chocolate
this one’s shaped like a shark’s tooth
and this looks like moonlight in your palm

You hold them, feel the weight of them.
You can’t decide
yet to take all of them home
would be greedy at best.

You start to see their imperfections
blemishes and strange angles
realise they are not as rounded
as they claim
suspect their charms
are only surface.

You want to fling them away.
You want to fling away the whole damn beach.
But just as you’re about
to push away the last one
you take another look.

This one is speckled
nice curves but nothing special
you can’t even remember why you picked him up
but there’s a nice heft to him,
an answering weight. He’s solid
imperfect yes,
but then
so are you. His body feels warm and sleepy in your hand. Slowly

you slip him into your pocket
and keep walking.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday Poem: No ordinary son

For years now
the piwakawaka has laughed
in your gnarled branches,
and you, bro, have laughed right back
into its fanned arse
gone on circling the earth
with smoke rings,
fingers stained from a lifetime of
roll-your-own words.

I remember finding your old place. Didn't even know
what poetry was then,
only that I could break in through your back door
wobble along drunken fence posts, steal your milk.
You would have laughed eh
to see this skinny oriental kid
with flat black fringe swaying on a stage
in Devonport. A kid with the words
of an old Maori in her mouth.

Later you tried to
sow your words at my school
casting your voice over thick absorbent carpet,
harvesting a sparse crop
of blue and green tartan chests.
You looked like you thought
the ground was too hard
maybe it was. You didn't see me smuggle
the wriggling seedling back home with me.

When I won the world and lost it again
my sister found your words
growing wild through the house
posted me a piece
packaged with a beeswax candle
and a can of Watties' baked beans.
I remember washing the tears off my body
with your river water. I remember the cool feel
of your words in my crevices.

Last month, I finally
waved my thanks out the window
as the wind blew us
past Te Kaka Point.
I'm glad I had the chance to say thanks, bro.
A mighty tree has fallen,
his seedlings still stand tall.
Tihei mauri ora, tihei mauru ora.

I found this a few nights ago when I was looking for poems to read tonight - I am guest poet at Poetry Live - 8 pm, Thirsty Dog on K Rd, for those of you in Auckland. I'll be doing mostly 'unheard' pieces, including some from my upcoming chapbook-that's-been-a-year-in-the-publishing, Toward the Cyclone, poems I wrote while on a study tour of Fiji last year. My friend Andrew Correa is guest musician, and we'll be jamming together on some pieces.

I wrote this poem a few years ago when Hone Tuwhare died - every time I read his poetry I'm reminded of how much he has influenced the way I approach poetry. Hone was someone who went for the 'heart' of an idea - there was a bit of 'head' in there too, but never at the expense of connecting with the real feeling behind it, the 'why' of writing that poem in the first place. That's why most of his poetry doesn't feel 'academic' (a good thing in my opinion) - even though Hone's poetry is now very much studied at a scholarly level.

Poetry to me has always been about speaking my personal stories and viewpoints. Even the 'character' or 'story' poems are written by channeling someone else's viewpoint through my writerly alter ego - the words I choose are the ones which make me respond a certain way about that story.

Anyway, back to prepping for the reading - please visit Tuesday Poem for more awesome poetry!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Talkwrite - Starting with ABC

(crossposted from The Big Idea)
During the last six weeks, I’ve watched the skyline change as skyscrapers are gently, almost lovingly reduced to twisted piles of metal and rubble. I’ve listened as people passed their stories to me, over cups of tea or sitting side by side in a bus. I’ve walked around the streets, marvelling at snow, marvelling at mist. Mostly marvelling at how this city creeps up on your affections. I think I understand why against the advice of their ‘away’ friends, people are determined to stay here.

There’s no doubt that Christchurch is still hurting. At night, my apartment in the CBD becomes an island – there’s few shops within walking distance, and even fewer places to find food. Like a body whose heart has ceased to pump, the blood is pooling in the peripheries – places like Addington and Riccarton, formerly unknown for night life. Through a simple combination of geography and seismic luck, tiny office units, outdated buildings and cold garages in these areas have suddenly become the ultimate in real estate. There are stories of people putting down huge deposits, sight unseen, for 4-5 year business leases in buildings that previously would have stayed empty.

The squeeze on available buildings has meant even less space is available for those who can’t pay commercial rates. So theatre groups are finding it hard to get venues, poets have nowhere to hold readings as their favoured bookshop shuts down and artists can’t find cheap studios. But oddly enough, the destruction of traditional arts venues has allowed smaller spaces to flourish, and the cultural blossoming of the most unlikely suburbs.

Gaby Montejo has been my guide to the local visual arts scene. I met Gaby through Metonymy, a two month collaboration project in which artists and writers who don’t know each other are paired to work on a project. Over the last month, Gaby’s been guiding me around the city, enabling such finds as the local Buddhist vegetarian restaurant (super tasty) and street art flowering on walls beside demolished spaces. He’s also shown me two of the remaining ‘galleries’ in town: the working studio space in the School of Fine Arts at the University of Canterbury, and ABC gallery, a tiny gallery consisting of two rooms adjoining studio space in the industrial suburb of Addington.

more here

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday Poem: One night a leopard came for her

One night
a leopard came for her
spots soft over snow
singing rrrrr in her ear

She felt
the slow draw
of claw on her neck
sweet milk breath

her feet purling
the sheets
her heart drumming,
drumming the wall

In the morning
she shows her husband:
“See? there.”

In the mirror, a scratch
of blood. Red on snow.

It's true. One night last week, a leopard did come for me.