Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Shooting Star, by Greg O'Connell

Shooting Star

It starts with the ocean in the sky, that sea
in outer space, dense shoals of debris

comet-fragments, asteroid-remnants, swimming
blindly into the Earth’s gaseous net. Each meteor

is finned flesh: silver scales, a gaping mouth,
a luminous flash. And we are the night anglers

who would hook each blazing fish. All our lives
we’ve known how to wish.

© Greg O'Connell

It has been a privilege over the past year to take part in a small poetry workshop group in which Greg O'Connell is one of the members. Greg has a background of writing children's poetry. From there he has expanded into writing poetry for adults also. His sense of word play and musicality extends into his adult poems, making them a joy to listen to. He is also a supportive and perceptive commenter on other people's poems, and his suggestions are always pertinent.

I am grateful to Greg for permission to republish this poem, which originally appeared in the Christchurch Press, as my Tuesday Poem this week.

Greg was born in Oamaru and has lived in Christchurch and the West Coast. A number of his poems have been published in the School Journal, and also in A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children, edited by Paula Green. He also travels to schools to present interactive performance poetry shows and workshops. There is a very full and interesting biography on Greg's website.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.

Thematic Photographic: Animal Planet




My favourite road trip stop is just north of Kaikoura, where you can stand on the road verge - State Highway 1, the main route from the bottom of the South Island to the top of the North Island - and look down on the beach just a few feet below, at the seal colony where these cute pups were lounging. It is the most accessible mainland seal colony in New Zealand, and perhaps in the world. You can also walk up a short track on the other side of the road to a waterfall, where the pups play while their mums are at sea. They swim up the creek to the pool below the waterfall.

Unfortunately for the seals, some people will try and spoil things. We observed one foolhardy pair walking between the seals and the water, flapping their arms and rushing them in an attempt to get a more lively looking photo. It's a pity they didn't get more than they bargained for. These are wild animals after all, and can definitely injure if they decide to attack. Looking down from the top of the low cliff is plenty close enough for good photos.

Thematic Photographic this week is celebrating animal planet. For more creatures, head over here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thematic Photographic: Rows and Columns

Carmi's theme this week for Thematic Photographic is rows and columns - so I went back through a year's worth of photos to see what I could find. First there was my quilt in progress, but I've posted that before..


so instead, I got my "ducks in a row"


and then there was the wonderful Pegasus bookstore in Wellington with its rows and rows of second hand books, with other quirky odds and ends scattered around..



a garden theme crept in - plants at the local garden centre


and colourful pots waiting to be reused at the nearby community gardens


and rural letterboxes are always good for a "row" photo.

For more rows and columns, visit Carmi here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Revision

I used to think I was a fast writer, but I've realised that only applies to a small percentage of my poetry, and I have a large collection of failed attempts. A good deal of the writing I have been doing lately involves going back to my files and revising the old poems, the ones where I feel there is a spark that I really want to turn into a successful poem, even if the first attempt was pretty dire.

The worst advice I ever read was not to revise. Granted, this was in a book which was more about writing poetry as self expression/therapy than about writing as literature. Even so, I can't agree. The author seemed to think that to revise was to deny the initial emotion that led to the poem. In my experience, the opposite is true. I remember an occasion when I took a poem to my small workshop group and was met with somewhat blank looks. "What are you trying to say?" one group member asked. I launched into an impassioned defence/explanation of the poem, and she replied "well, why didn't you say so?" And so, I revised the poem so that it did say what I intended to say in the first place.

And that, in my view, is what revision is all about. To make the poem more of what it set out to be.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Changing City

Sometimes it feels as if we haven't just moved house, but moved to an entirely new city. I spotted this building while out to a poetry reading the other night.


I thought it was an old building that I hadn't noticed before, newly refurbished, although I was a bit surprised at its unfamiliarity. It turns out that it is a brand new building, a refreshing change from all the steel and glass going up around the city. It is an Indian restaurant, with a lovely wide open verandah in front, with murals at either end.



And then on the other side of the road I spotted this:


Somewhere to sit and watch the changing panorama of the sky?

Getting round the city can be challenging with constant road works. My daughter tells me that her bus route changes almost daily. I took her home last night after a family dinner. Towards the end of our route, we had to detour as the road I wanted to take (Ensors Road) was blocked by police cars with flashing lights after an incident of "car versus tree". It was quite a long detour, which would have been much shorter if I had known a block earlier that I needed to take a different route. I thought of a different route to take home, along Ferry Road, but heading back from the detour towards my daughter's house, there was a big sign up saying "Moorhouse - Ferry closed, take "Ensors-Brougham". Fortunately it turned out one lane was still open westbound, back past the accident scene.

I need to remember to leave for work early tomorrow, as there is a new road closure which will spill a lot of traffic into one particular intersection on my route. According to the SCIRT website 437,353 km of road has been repaired or replaced. This is 33% of the total that needs to be done. So we will be going for quite a while yet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thematic Photographic: Vehicular, Etc


I took a lot of photos in October, when I was attempting to post a photo a day, so I hunted through them for "extras" for this week's theme. The vintage Harley Davidson was on display in New Regent Street, a Spanish Mission style street of shops in the centre of Christchurch, during Heritage Week.


The tram does a regular tourist circuit around the centre of Christchurch. Seen here in front of the Old Government Buildings, now converted into the Heritage Hotel. Ironically, this wing, the old wing of the hotel, survived the earthquakes due to strengthening work in the 1990s, but the new wing is still closed due to earthquake damaged, and I believe is likely to be demolished.


Finally, this shot because in Christchurch you are never very far from heavy earth moving machinery. (One day, all the road and sewer repairs will be finished, but not just yet...)

For more vehicular photos, visit Carmi's blog here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tuesday Poem: The Will

The Will

My father left me a boat:
The old red dinghy, slab-sided,
paint peeling, barely afloat.

Summers in the harbour
we sat, three small children
across the stern, one in the bow.
Older, we swam from bay to bay
in deep water, knowing
ourselves to be safe, my father
alongside in the dinghy, rowing.

My father left me a boat.
Sometimes when I falter,
reach for solid ground,
I think I hear his voice -
"Nearly there. Keep going!"
My father nearby
in his coffin boat, rowing,
rowing.

- Catherine Fitchett

In the early twentieth century, and before that, it was common in wills for specific objects to be listed and bequeathed - a famous example being Shakespeare's second best bed which he left to his wife, Anne Hathaway. This poem was written prompted by an exercise in which we were to imagine something that might have been left to us. In fact, the family dinghy had rotted away and been dumped long before my father died, but the prompt allowed me another (much more concise) way to explore material that I had long ago attempted, and failed, to explore poetically.

"The Will" is included in the 2014 New Zealand Poetry Society Anthology "Take Back Our Sky" which launched recently.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Birds' Nests, by John Clare


Birds' Nests

How fresh the air the birds how busy now
In every walk if I but peep I find
Nests newly made or finished all and lined
With hair and thistle down and in the bough
Of little awthorn huddled up in green
The leaves still thickening as the spring gets age
The Pinks quite round and snug and closely laid
And linnets of materials loose and rough
And still hedge sparrow moping in the shade
Near the hedge bottom weaves of homely stuff
Dead grass and mosses green an hermitage
For secresy and shelter rightly made
And beautiful it is to walk beside
The lanes and hedges where their homes abide.

John Clare (1793-1864)

I've been intrigued with John Clare since reading Adam Foulds' Booker nominated novel, The Quickening Maze which includes Clare, along with Alfred, Lord Tennyson, among its protagonists. John Clare was born in Northamptonshire and was an agricultural labourer, but also a very prolific nature poet. I have taken the above poem from a recently acquired volume, "The Poetry of Birds" edited by Simon Armitage and Tim Dee. They note in the foreword that Clare wrote about 147 different species of birds. Quite an accomplishment. Sadly, he ended his days in a lunatic asylum.

I copied the poem quite carefully, so the odd spellings "awthorn" and "secresy" as far as I can tell are the original spellings used by the poet.

I took the photo at the head of the post a month or two back, I loved the way that the elongated leaf hangs delicately by a thread from this nest that I found in our yard. So I decided that this poem was a great excuse to use the photo.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site