Tag Archives: New Zealand

Tuesday Poem: “A Troubled Hush”

'...that concrete flower / rose into a long-stemmed tower."

‘…that concrete flower / rose into a long-stemmed tower.”

‘You know, Arcady, what I most dreaded
— and most admired – those years ago
when I first came to Auckland? Below
a pink sky, our airport shuttle threaded
the rolling urban hills which lay
around the southern motorway.
Then as we neared the city, a weird
design appeared: A massive clam
with steely javelin spired – or speared;
or like those crowns of old Siam
that dancers wear, it seemed to us.
Then slowly, from our speeding bus,
with stamen stiff, that concrete flower
rose into a long-stemmed tower.

It rose! It rose! It drove its spike
into the sky. New Zealand, in
brochures we’d seen, had always been
an undeveloped place, less like
a country than some shrubbery
or parkland in the south-most sea;
a place unspoiled by vain ambitions.
But then — that high-rise bayonet!
I’m not a man of superstition,
Arcady, yet nor will I forget
how seeing heaven’s abdomen
impaled that way (a stab-omen,
your might say, or evil tropo-spear),
did prick and poison me with fear.

You ask: What prompted my foreboding?
Let me explain: Back during the Russian-
Afghani war, the sudden concussion
that followed screaming MiGs unloading
their half-ton vacuum bombs would cause
all time to stop. The birds would pause
in mid-air. The breeze would still. One’s mind
would marvel at this troubled hush.
The world would seem to stutter, rewind,
then try again; until the crush
of time became too much for it
and all Afghanistan would split
in half: the dead, the living – while you
remained compressed between the two.

It was within these sudden blinks
of mute eternity – these lulls,
these gaps, these eerie intervals —
that Noorya’s words grew most distinct.
And as the ripest fruits are lost
by misplaced snows or ill-timed frosts,
so too those unexpected calms,
in which my Noorya’s vocals filled
the shockwaves of those Russian bombs,
congealed my blood and froze — or chilled
at least – my loins. “What rises, falls,”
she’d sing. Gotmek the wyşka. For all
ambition ends in pain. Achievement
births its rhyming twin: Bereavement.’

He looked distressed, Sayeed, and spoke
no more than day. But when we awoke
the following morn, his mood was cheerful
his mouth revived, his words less fearful.
His song would prick the long cold hours.
You’ll hear it next: “The Song of the Towers.”

…tbc
___________________
More Tuesday Poems at Tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com.

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Tuesday Poem: “The World Inverted: A Prophecy” by Zireaux

Qutub Minar in Delhi: ‘…gotmek the wyşka – a phallic slur we / Turkmen know well. It means: “devour / the minaret,” or “fell the tower.”‘

Sayeed continues his story…

‘Of demons (dow) her lyrics spoke.
Of dark Aladdin’s cave from where
great sharks would fly, metallic Furies,
enormous monsters of the air
who’ll gotmek the wyşka – a phallic slur we
Turkmen know well. It means: “devour
the minaret,” or “fell the tower.”
Now, wait. I know what you’re thinking, Arcady.
The raving words of a mad slave-lady.

But no! She wasn’t mad. She’s not
mad now. My Noorya simply knew
the secrets of this world and through
her rants deciphered nature’s plot.
She sang of far-off islands, yes!
Demesnes where men in women’s dress
or male-resembling females reign.
A new – or tozey noohh (she mewed
the English, noohh) – unfairly gained,
noohh-land, noohh-world, with strange noohh food
which cooks so quickly when it’s set
in windowed cubes to pirouette
on lighted stages (yenil sahna);
noohh skies, noohh scapes, nooh flora and fauna.

And billboards tall as Qutub Minar
depicting woeful adolescents
in the nude; and incandescent
gambling parlors, closet-cars
that rise and fall a hundred meters
to eerie music; and groups of eaters
who dine with strange utensils, plates
of porcelain, daffodil wine, in seats
with sea-views, banquets that rotate
above the clouds! She sang of streets
athrong with teaming migrants, places
where every race of person races
from shop to shop – then stops, or stalls,
to pluck some money from the walls.

Of faces carved in filigreed
designs, she sang. Of men who feast
on men; and birds whose wings have ceased
to work for them. And sometimes she’d
divine a distant country cursed
with land that rumbles, boils and bursts
beneath a people so obsessed
with flashing totems, hand-held charms,
metallic idols which are pressed
against their ears, that no alarm
is felt; they do not hear the sounds
that boom and pulsate all around
just like – but far more dreadful, stronger –
a lover’s heart that beats no longer.

She spoke of desperate people throwing
themselves off precipices, diving
from highest bridges — yet surviving;
their downward progress somehow slowing,
stopping, even, Noorya claimed,
reversing direction, upward-aimed.
Bir dünýä tersi. “The world inverted.”
What could I make of her strange song?
All life bidüzgün, corrupted, perverted
by telbe myrat, desires gone wrong.

“Our lives,” she sang, “will be destroyed
by petty passions ill-employed.
By trash, by junk, by fleeting thrills
that over-cost and under-fill.”’

…tbc
___________________
More Tuesday Poems at Tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com.

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Protected: “The Prophecy” by Zireaux

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Shipwreck

The stricken cargo ship Rena, which ran aground of the coast of Tauranga.

The stricken cargo ship Rena, which ran aground off the coast of Tauranga.

Or whether a throbbing hull, or freighter’s
bulk, might somehow stimulate her,
and she might reach to stroke it -– and cause
a terrible wreck, a spillage of fuel
and flotsam on my ocean jewel?

— Stanzas 86 and 87, Res Publica

O stricken Rena! Over the last few days, several of my stanzas, written long ago — particularly about a sunk container ship’s debris washing up on a beach in New Zealand’s Mercury Bay — have apparently begun attracting a large number of visitors.

Life imitating art? I hope not. In fact, the stanzas explain that the washed-up items — a popcorn machine, a tennis net, shopping carts, fitness bikes, etc. — couldn’t possibly have been a “lost container ship’s debris” (because no ship was ever found).

But the image, or rather, the afterimage still glimmers on the back of our eyelids, giving those stanzas (particularly 3 to 5), a tincture of prophecy. Indeed, you’ll notice that when I published stanza 3, I mentioned the concept of prophecy and how important it is to Res Publica. I was referring then to the events of the Christchurch earthquake. Shipwrecks and earthquakes; these tragedies are a fact of New Zealand’s existence, and there’s nothing prophetic about including them in art.

Yet the tragedy, in life and art, is no less heartbreaking for the poet — see my poem “School Play (Post 4/20)“. In the language of the popular media, October 5th is New Zealand’s 4/20. Let us forever honor the many brave souls, everyone from beach-cleaners to school teachers, economists, people who conscientiously refuse to buy any Woolworth’s product with palm oil, all of those who are busy fighting the most noble of wars — that of protecting our environment against the forces of philistinism.

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The Taxi Driver’s Poem — Stanzas 109 to 116

Odysseus and Calypso in the caves of Ogygia. Painting by Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568–1625)

Odysseus and Calypso in the caves of Ogygia. Painting by Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568–1625)

Res Publica, Book One, Canto the Second

109.

Okay, my taxi bard, your time
has come to take my poem’s stage!
I’ll add a sample to this page
and let your poem play in mine:

The Taxi Driver’s Poem

Ogygia! [The island’s name
where poor Ulysses once became
the sex slave of that nymph, Calypso.]
How beautiful you are! And – ipso
facto – the lather of your shores
is Envy’s froth! The world adores
such thickly oozing golden light,
your sails and whales and sea birds in flight,

110.

your Wearable Arts64 and well-carved boats;
[Our taxi driver here, of course,
reveals New Zealand as his source]
and surely if we took a vote
why all the trees would love to wear
your bright red bows in their summer hair!
But O, sweet country! Give me a raft
to sail back home on, and what a draft
I’ll write for you! How much admired
you will be! How well-attired
in Kowhai trees; how clean and green
– and perfect for a dancing scene!65

111.

Not Hobbit caves;66 a Taj Mahal
you’ll have, my love –
[I can’t recall
his words precisely, but these ones fall
quite nicely on my page] – and all
your wondrous beauty, by all seen!
A Koh-i-Noor67 for you, my queen!
A dazzling pendant for your splendid
neck I’ll write, in rhymes resplendent!
Not ‘ice’ – as lesser bards68 now call it –
not some ‘piece’ to flaunt your wallet,
but rather such a rarity,
of so much carat, when you wear it we

Wearable Arts

A model at New Zealand's 'World of Wearable Arts'

112.

will stagger at your brilliance! Swoon
at so much splendor!
[You’ll note his use
of exclamation marks – effuse,
to say the least!] Why even the moon
in clearest, blackest night, will pale
– nay, disappear behind a veil
of blazing brilliance when my readers
sing of you! What says my meter?
It says: Please pay my passage home!
And I will write you such a tome
that all the world will be smitten
by your stardom . . . especially Britain!

113.

Okay – that last rhyme might seem odd.
Most likely I emended it.
It’s doubtful he’d have ended it
with such a perfect British nod.
But never mind. His point is clear.
And I agree. You are, my dear,
a country of such rare device;
the closest thing to paradise
I’ve ever seen. Refined, demurring,
well-built (attractively contouring),
a mix of prowess and of grace.
Your tallest tower like the mace

114.

of Hanuman (that Monkey god;
who holds a rattle to your club)
You are the South Pacific’s hub,
a single triple-seeded pod
of land in fruitless, boundless blue.
You don’t do what the others do.
You’re young; and thus a leader of
our hearts. It is this spirit we love
– the way you shrewdly shirk the ships
who lewdly whisper, ‘Apocalypse’,
into your pretty ear.69 You set
the world’s best example – and yet

115.

a side of you (all sheep and farm)
could use a lyric ornament
to earn the long-due compliment
of English patrons. (How fast such charm
transforms a debt-extractor
into an instant benefactor.)
Despite your beauty, it takes a jewel
to end a creditor’s pursual.
Now here’s my point (for too much drivel
will make narration’s compass swivel):
As unadorned as you appear,
your jewels might exist right here.

'Your tallest tower like the mace / of Hanuman'

'Your tallest tower like the mace / of Hanuman'

116.

Right here, in our own hemisphere,
a Nobel Laureate could in fact be
sitting in an Auckland taxi!
Right here, a modern day Kabir70
could well be writing you a Wonder
of the World! And what a blunder
it would be –

                          (What’s that? A knock
so late an hour? I’m sure I locked
the door)

                          – and what a blunder we’d
commit to let it go to seed
without its fruit appreciated.
For beauty unseen is uncreated.


64 Part fashion show, part creative dress-up competition, Wearable Arts began in 1987, in the South Island city of Nelson. Today it’s recognized as an international art event.

65 More than 100 Bollywood movies have been shot in New Zealand, which is considered an ideal location for the romantic backgrounds common in Hindi song and dance scenes.

66 The Hobbit dwellings depicted in Peter Jackson’s movie trilogy, Lord of the Rings, were constructed on a sheep farm near Matamata, a town close to Hamilton on New Zealand’s North Island. This region is known for its beautiful limestone formations. The owners of the property negotiated with New Line Cinema, producers of Lord of the Rings, to allow tourists to see the film set. Cost: NZ$50 for a two hour tour.

67 In Persian, Koh-i-Noor means ‘Mountain of Light’. The Koh-i-Noor is a 108 carat (21.6 g) diamond which originated in the Indian subcontinent and is now in a crown owned by the British royal family. Legend has it, the remarkable diamond is worth all the wealth the world can create in seven days.

68 This editor guesses ‘lesser bards’ is a reference to rap singers. If so then I imagine this term belongs as much to the ‘Taxi Driver’ as to Zireaux himself. Interestingly, as a performing poet, Zireaux seems to consider himself both part of the rap genre and aloof from it. In Kamal, the narrator writes about the rapper Eminem flatteringly, as a ‘fellow’ Walt Whitman (or White-man) – but he also suggests the rapper ‘mashes’ metaphors and courts his fame by flashing his buttocks on stage: ‘And you, Vulgarity . . . ! / . . . rate dear Eminem on what his ass is! / (How well my fellow Whit’man’s self’s expressed. / The metaphors which others mix, he mashes!)’.

69 On June 8, 1987, New Zealand’s parliament enacted a law designed to keep the country free of nuclear weapons. Operation Satanic, referring to the sinking of Greenpeace’s flagship boat, the ‘Rainbow Warrior’, proved a major boost to the proponents of a nuclear free policy. Such was the importance of this event that even intense American pressure could not deter New Zealand from carving out its independent nuclear policy.

The Indian poet, Kabir (1440–1518)

The Indian poet, Kabir (1440–1518)

70 Fifteenth century Indian spiritual philosopher and writer, famous for his pithy, poetic epigrams about the beauty in a simple life. An example of his work (from the translation by Robert Bly,
Kabir: Ecstatic Poems, Beacon Press):

There is nothing but water in the holy pools.
I know, I have been swimming in them.
All the gods sculpted of wood or ivory can’t say a word.
I know, I have been crying out to them.
The sacred Books of the East are nothing but words.
I looked through their covers one day sideways.
What Kabir talks of is only what he has lived through.
If you have not lived through something it is not true.

__________

Zireaux’s comments on these stanzas
What is religion but communal poetry? A cathedral, a holy book, a monkey god — poems of the crowd. And then there is Kabir, less poet than a poetic creation. More Mystic than musician. Saints are the masterpieces of their disciples. And no country shows greater proficiency in the mass production of disciples than India.

“If you have not lived through something it is not true,” writes Kabir, a quarter of a millennium before Voltaire, five hundred years before the founding of the Skeptics Society. Scientific enlightenment needed another step, of course: Truth beyond sensation, beyond one’s own interpretation of it. What endures from Kabir, however, if not the stirrings of a Renaissance, is the independence of spirit surpassed only by the likes of Byron and Beethoven (to affirm the sentiments of the great historian, Kenneth Clark).

Was Kabir’s poetry any good? I have no idea and don’t plan to formulate one. My Hindi is very poor; it would take years to achieve the level of lyricism required. I can say that quoting Kabir in English is unlikely to produce a poetic result. Despite the sententious reading of epigrams that always makes an audience go “ah,” there’s very little poetry in meaning.

 

Read from the beginning of Res Publica | Listen to the audio version (read by Stuart Devenie) | Buy a signed copy of the book

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Amends to the Albatross — Episode Ten, Res Publica, Live on Radio NZ

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand Nine-to-Noon

Listen now.

You can read notes on the previous episode here.

In this Episode Ten, Arcady sets sail to his island in an old Purse-Seiner he’s packed with supplies and named Tug of War (the boat purchased with the money invested by his wife).

Upon reaching the island, however, the sea is much rougher than during either of his two previous visits. Arcady sees that it’s impossible to safely land the boat, and, frustrated by this unexpected turn of events, decides to crash the boat straight into the island.

Having crashed the boat, he awakes on the island and celebrates his survival. He thinks he hears a voice in his head uttering strange words and he wonders if he’s going mad; but he soon discovers its source.

This is where the Book One of Res Publica ends, marking half the story. The second half — about what happens on the island — is told in Book Two.

The final episode will be broadcast at 10:45am, tomorrow, on Radio NZ’s Nine-to-Noon program.

A note about the stanza form:

The verse is now structured in 14-line stanzas, with a rhyme scheme of abbaccdedeffgg. Some lines, of course — even entire stanzas here and there — were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Ten:

The wind tried hard to hold me back; it
madly wiped my tears and filled
my ears with caution – “You’ll be killed!” –
and made a mainsail of my jacket,
which spasmed, crackled, slapped my face
with its loose collar. That airy embrace
was steady, strong, but lacked the muscular
pluck of swarthy Tug, who rammed
me through each wave in that crepuscular
spread of sparkling violet jam.
How thick a sea can seem to one
whose journey – whose life – is almost done;
how far each wave, how long each second,
when one’s demise is finally reckoned.

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Goodbye to Father — Episode Nine, Res Publica, Live on Radio NZ

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand Nine-to-Noon

Listen now.
You can read notes on the previous episode here.

In this Episode Nine, Arcady has received the $500,000 investment from his wife’s accountant and is ready to set sail to his island. The night before he departs, he decides to visit his (adopted) parents’ house on Auckland’s North Shore.

He recalls how he drove his Jaguar to the house and parked across the street. He recalls how, since the time he learned of his adoption, he’d only seen his parents once — sitting in a food court at Westfield Mall. This memory of the food court’s granite tabletops conjures another memory, a more recent memory, of a tombstone in a graveyard.

Suddenly his father emerges from the house. It begins to rain. Arcady drives away. He wonders whether or not his father ever saw him there, sitting in the car.

Episode Nine ends with Arcady’s new housemate, his voluptuous Muse, commenting on the memory, and insisting Arcady finish the episode before they can make love. He abruptly does so, choosing lovemaking over storytelling.

Episode Ten, in which Arcady sails to his island, will be broadcast tomorrow at 10:45am, Radio NZ “Nine-to-Noon”.

A note about the stanza form:

The verse is now structured in 14-line stanzas, with a rhyme scheme of abbaccdedeffgg. Some lines, of course — even entire stanzas here and there — were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Nine:

How frail we are! How tender
is the human! Each of us
a pod of dreams we can’t discuss;
yet must, with death, these seeds surrender!
I often wonder, do they breed,
these planted dreams, in those who read
the chiseled name and numbered measure
of a life, or kneel and softly touch
the headstone’s polished granite edge, or
finding sorrow’s weight too much,
collapse upon the muddy grass
while maples shake in windy blasts
and mangrove swamp, a corpse unsheeted,
feels the chill of tides receded…

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Holding My Wife at Gunpoint — Episode Eight, Res Publica, Live on Radio NZ

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand

Res Publica, read by Stuart Devenie, on Radio New Zealand Nine-to-Noon

Listen now.

You can read notes on the previous episode here.

In this Episode Eight, Arcady considers how his beloved island came to be. Geographers think it must have risen out of the ocean during an earthquake, and Arcady recalls a small earthquake he felt (and his wife ignored) some months before.

Now Autumn arrives and Arcady decides to confront his wife about his new discovery. He wants to ask her for some money in order to buy a boat. One day he approaches her while she’s putting on makeup in front of the bathroom mirror.

He tries to convince her she should invest in the island, that it’s a good business venture. Growing frustrated with his wife’s implacability, Arcady tries other ways to persuade her, more forceful, more domineering ways. Nothing seems to work. Finally, his wife decides she’ll give Arcady some money, but only because she recognizes in her husband a new sense of ambition — something she hasn’t seen for years — and she worries he might succeed in some venture without her owning a controlling stake in it.

Episode Eight ends with Arcady finalizing a deal with his wife’s accountant. He’s ready now to depart to his island, with no plans to return. The story continues on Monday with Episode Nine, broadcast at 10:45am, Radio NZ “Nine-to-Noon”.

It should be noted that the 12-line stanza form of previous episodes has now extended to 14 lines. The purpose behind this elongated structure is made clear in Book Two of Res Publica. The rhyme scheme has also changed. It’s now abbaccdedeffgg. Some lines, of course, were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Eight:

“I cannot stress enough – it’s urgent.
The jewel’s ours! If we just spend
some cash,” I said, “and can defend
our land from government insurgents,
we’ll make eight figures easily.
And best of all, it’s all tax-free!”
My wife, you know, is a shrewd investor.
A loan’s her favorite charity.
To make “returns” has always obsessed her.
And though I spoke in “our” and “we,”
such neutral words I always knew
were less effective than a “you.”
(Why even her draft of our prenuptial
was less fair-minded, more
cleanuptial!).

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