Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesday poem: Bouquet of Dead Flowers by David Eggleton

David Eggleton

Bouquet of Dead Flowers

Her body was braille, was scent bottles uncorked,
was the music score her breath hummed;
and beyond us the sun was the giggling Buddha,
robed in saffron, licking his finger
to tear months from the calendar.
The days withdrew from us like acupuncture needles
each morning when we woke up,
and slipped from the bedding seeking the promise
of orange juice you could take from the moment.
We sailed through seas of incense smoke together,
tranced by the gorgeous melodies of Indian-thighed summer,
by the gardens of wild poppies which grew all around us,
in the deserted volcanic quarries of the holiday season.
It seemed then that stereo speakers, always vibrating
their bongo heartbeat, busy bees in the calyx of a flower,
were the hypnotic metal portholes of our ship,
drumming its way through stormy passion.
Spiky juju crystals of the silence between us
were needed to calm that billowing passion,
and the dances we went to at night
only stirred it up, as the whole world duckwalked
with us, or were dirty dogs shaking down,
the brand-new leaves in that summer-of-love tree
fluttering on the breeze of yesterday’s sound.

David Eggleton is one of our finest poets and is the current editor of Landfall. I'm honoured to have one of his poems here on Notebook. Many thanks.

You can find more information about David over at the NZ Book Council.
More Tuesday poems at Tuesday Poem.

This year I've asked poets for submissions for the Tuesday Poem. I'd like to thank all who have generously given me their poems to publish. Next year, I'll either publish old poems by dead authors or link to poems by the living online on other sites. I'm also happy to consider any poems submitted by readers who would like to share their work on my humble blog. If you'd like to offer a poem please leave a message for me in the comments or send me a message via Facebook. (I don't know how many readers I have because I don't read the stats).

Now that poetry has fewer print publication outlets I think that blogs can play a vital role in bringing poetry to the people. I don't want to use this blog to publish my own poetry (unless asked to) because I think that editors are vital. Every week I publish a poem here because I do believe that this little blog can play a role in keeping poetry prominent in NZ.

I wish everyone a great New Year and happy holidays.


Monday, December 27, 2010


1962, Oldham, Lancs. The Kojak years. Who loves ya baby? My brother Kris does, that's who.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas poem! The Pohutakawa by Natasha Dennerstein

The Pohutukawa

We love the sound of your name, O thundering Pohutukawa and
we love the gnarled and twisted roots of you, your Katherine

Mansfield, Art Nouveau branches, you strange and foreign, silvery

tree. We love your immoderate, firework explosion of messy

haemoglobin and we love how you carpet the footpath with your

quickly spent effusions. How do you know when to do it? Is there

a Government Department – a sub-branch of Conservation – that

decides on the thirteenth of December or will it be the sixteenth next year?

Natasha Dennerstein is a Melbourne-born writer who is living and studying in Wellington. She had poetry published in Landfall last year and is currently writing a novel.

She has another poem this week over at Helen Heath's blog.

Thanks to Natasha for this poem.

And Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tuesday poem: Unnoticed by Harvey McQueen.


in love with Mary
led her unnoticed
through the streets
avoiding hawkers
the camel’s bite
the donkey’s kick

many brushed
the protruding
belly, priest
thief & child

within her the hands
& feet were forming
ready for the nails

When I heard that we were swapping poems for Christmas and I had been paired with Harvey McQueen, I knew I would chose ‘Unnoticed’ from his latest collection Goya Rules. The poem had an immediate power and appeal and is of course suited to the season.

The poem touches on what I find to be of most significance of the Christmas story. Joseph and Mary are common people—they are not people of great social status. They could be anyone; the sort of people who you pass by and fail to notice in the street. What is special is their love. Joseph loves and believes in Mary. He accepts her story on faith. Together they face a hostile city (the word ‘hawkers’, so close to ‘camel’ and ‘donkey’ carries the menace of a bird circling its prey). The assonance of ‘priest’ and ‘thief’ and the short single syllable words with great economy invoke how the unborn child is unnoticed to those who will later play a role in his crucifixion.

The poem ends with the dark aspect of Christmas. The child will die, will be sacrificed, will hurtle towards the nails on which he will hang. It’s a dark story. Placed in the context of the poems in Goya Rules, the nativity story is one of a number of poems that deal with mortality. The shock of the story is the shock of the simple, almost unbearable, fact of our own mortality: before we are born our hands and feet are forming ready for the nails on which we will hang. There’s a twist of dark humour in the play of the word ‘nails’ in the poem. Regardless of what faith—including atheist—we may profess, Bible stories are our cultural heritage and can be our own koans and mysteries if we read them the right way. The poem invites just this sort of reflection on the nativity.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Best reads 2010

Here's my list of all the books I've enjoyed this year. Some of these are re-reads. I recommend all of these books.

Everything We Hoped For. Pip Adams
Eunoia. Christian Bök
The Master and Margarita. Mikhail Bulgakov
Taking the Leap. Pema Chodron
The Hunger Games trilogy. Suzanne Collins
Barefoot. Jennifer Compton.
Another Green World
(33 1/3). Geeta Dayal
Dr. Bloodmoney. Philip K Dick
Ubix. Philip K Dick
Selected Poems. Rita Dove
Rapture. Carol Ann Duffy
The Pop-up Book of Invasions. Fiona Farrell
Time Traveller. Robin Fry
The Owl Service (audio book). Alan Garner (8th reading?)
The Fat Man. Maurice Gee
The Seven Ages. Louise Glück
Praise. Robert Hass
Forever Changes (33 1/3). Andrew Hultkrans
Uke'n Play Ukelele. Mike Johnson
Gifted and Talented: New Zealand Perspectives. McAlpine, D. and Moltzen, R. (eds)
The Last Avant-garde. David Lehman
The Moonmen. Anna Livesey.
The Dispossessed. Ursula K Le Guin
Jewels in the Water: Contemporary New Zealand Poetry for Young Readers. Terry Locke (ed).
Goya Rules. Harvey McQueen
Dream Work. Mary Oliver
Further Conviction Pending. Vincent O'Sullivan.
Pavane. Keith Roberts
Absence of Mind. Marilynne Robinson
Old English Verse. Tom Shippey.
Renegade: The lives and tales of Mark E. Smith
The Book of Questions. Gregory Stock
American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry. Cole Swensen, David St. John (eds)
Play Ukulele Today! Barrett Tagliarino
Grass. Sherri Tepper
The Exeter Book riddles.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday Poem: Renee Liang. 'Banana.' Video.

Renee Liang is a poet and playwright who blogs at Chinglish. Please check out her blog and while you're there read the fantastic poem by Rumi from the superb show Roundabout at Wellington City Art Galllery.

Thanks to Renee for the poem.

More Tuesday poems at Tuesday Poem.

Please contact me if you'd like to offer a poem for the Tuesday Poem slot here at Notebook.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Liu Xiaobo

Why do we do so much business with a government that will not release a pacifist from jail to receive a Nobel Peace Prize?

The only political farce is the hypocrisy of politicians.

What say you, John Key?

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Monday, December 06, 2010

Tuesday poem: Nocturne by Olivia Macassey


Our car travels along a faint vein of dust,
lights picking out hedges and fences
suddenly anonymous, on the bends;
the occasional punctuation of a white

and somewhere next to me in the darkness
you lean your forehead against the glass,
look out between the bones of trees, escape
into dark moulded landscapes.

This is no longer a question of symmetry
but I dream about you there sometimes, sitting
beneath that dark tree we glimpsed
during the long drive through the night,

in the sudden pool of light, your waiting
face upturned. The sound of leaves in
that windless plain so slight and serious,
and my sleeping feet in the long grass.

Olivia Livingston Macassey was born in Aotearoa New Zealand in 1975. She spent her childhood on the Coromandel Peninsula and moved to Auckland city in 1991 where she attended Epsom Girls'. She has recently completed a PhD at the University of Auckland, and currently lives in Wellington.

Her first book of poems, Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, was published by Titus in 2005.

Nocturne first appeared in Snorkel.
For more poems and information visit Olivia's website.

Thanks to Olivia for the poem.

More Tuesday poems at Tuesday Poem.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Saturday, December 04, 2010


Latika's story 'Postcard', read by Nick Blake, will be broadcast on Nine to Noon on Monday 6 Dec at 10.45 AM. I'll be at school but it's sports day and I'm sneaking in a radio to work so I can have a listen for a minute or two. We have the story on CD and it sounds great.