Sunday, July 26, 2009

Poetry Day!

Unthinkably good music right here:

Friday was Montana Poetry Day here in NZ, and in its honour, let me wax a little lyrical about poetry itself.  I never really caught the poetry bug until after I left school, when I started haunting book stores and flicking through their poetry sections.  I found a poetry book by Jewel (the singer) and her voice really captured my attention.  Here was poetry that didn't need translation, it spoke my language.  My own writing started to take off to, when I left behind the irritations of structure and rhyme and instead focussed on writing straight from my experiance, trying to write the truth.  

My poetry tastes have matured since then, and the last few years I have become totally enamored with New Zealand poetry, particularly poetry about the New Zealand landscape.

I don't for sure know why I love poetry so much, what it is about poetry that so captures my attention, but I find it so perfect and so truthful.  I am a very sensory person, and I think poetry is a artform that brings together sensory information.  I love to hear people's voices, and poetry has a capacity to allow a person's voice to speak in a way that is at once personal and public.

On Friday I went along to hear some poets read their own work and a favourite of someone elses.  If I had been asked, here is the poem I would have read of my own:

Listen:  here

An Ode to the Botanic Gardens

That time of the year again, the ever-greens are ever green as ever
but those insufferable deciduous models,
are pulling on their showy coats, all reds and yellows,
All, "look at me!  I'm on fire! I glow like incadence! I light up the world with my impossibly beautiful leaves, each impossibly unique!
Look at me!  Slowly, letting it fall, slowly showing you my 
my arms slow dancing, my discarded garments scrambling for cover on
an Autumn wind"

The favourite poem I would have chosen to share, much harder to choose, but I think I'd go with this one, a recent favourite, combining my love of NZ poetry with my love for the Peninsula:

Listen (to me read it, she's dead!): here

The Long Harbour

There are three valleys where the warm sun lingers, 
gathered to a green hill girt-about anchorage, 
and gently, gently, at the cobbled margin 
of fire-formed, time-smoothed, ocean-moulded curvature, 
a spent tide fingers the graven boulders, 
the black, sea-bevelled stones.

The fugitive hours, in those sun-loved valleys, 
Implacable hours, their golden-wheeled chariots’ 
inaudible passage check, and slacken 
their restless teams’ perpetual galloping; 
and browsing, peaceable sheep and cattle 
gaze as they pause by the way.

Grass springs sweet where once thick forest 
gripped vales by fire and axe freed to pasturage; 
but flame and blade have spared the folding gullies, 
and there, still, the shade-flitting, honey-sipping lutanists 
copy the dropping of tree-cool waters 
dripping from stone to stone.

White hawthorn hedge from old, remembered England, 
and orchard white, and whiter bridal clematis 
the bush-bequeathed, conspire to strew the valleys 
in tender spring, and blackbird, happy colonist, 
and blacker, sweeter-fluted tui echo 
either the other’s song.

From far, palm-feathery, ocean-spattered islands 
there rowed hither dark and daring voyagers; 
and Norseman, Gaul, the Briton and the German 
sailed hither singing; all these hardy venturers 
they desired a home, and have taken their rest there, 
and their songs are lost on the wind.

I have walked here with my love in the early spring-time, 
and under the summer-dark walnut-avenues, 
and played with the children, and waited with the aged 
by the quayside, and listened alone where manukas 
sighing, windswept, and sea-answering pine-groves 
garrison the burial-ground.

It should be very easy to lie down and sleep there 
in that sequestered hillside ossuary, 
underneath a billowy, sun-caressed grass-knoll, 
beside those dauntless, tempest-braving ancestresses 
who pillowed there so gladly, gnarled hands folded, 
their tired, afore-translated bones.

It would not be a hard thing to wake up one morning 
to the sound of bird-song in scarce-stirring willow-trees, 
waves lapping, oars plashing, chains running slowly, 
and faint voices calling across the harbour; 
to embark at dawn, following the old forefathers, 
to put forth at daybreak for some lovelier, 
still undiscovered shore.

Why do I love this poem so?  It's fabulous....

PS: forgive me, I can't pronounce "ossuary"

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