Tag Archives: Res Publica

Response from Nowhereisland — Friends or Foes? — and Early Version of Res Publica, from April, 2003

Mount Ngauruhoe: 'I suggest writers like Ngauruhoe'

Mount Ngauruhoe: ‘As far as stories go / I suggest writers like Ngauruhoe’

You’ll recall that on learning the British artist, Alex Hartley, had landed upon the artistic shores to which I have laid claim myself, I did what any native poet would do — I applauded his designs and showed my respect for his achievement by nominating myself Poet Laureate of the territory he calls “Nowhereisland.”

My thanks to those of you who may have supported and seconded my self-nomination. As a result of our actions, yesterday I received a friendly but puzzling response from the director of an organization called Situations, the arts commissioning program behind the Nowhereisland project.

In her email, the director points out — addressing my claim that Alex Hartley’s work mimics my own — that Mr. Hartley “commenced work on Nowhereisland back in 2004.”

Puzzling indeed. If we’re going to bring dates into the matter of artistic discovery (never my intention), then for the record, Res Publica was conceived in 2001, with a completed version of the poem recited before a live audience, in April, 2003 — a good year and half before Mr. Hartley’s “discovery.”

I’ve decided to publish, below, that early version of Res Publica, from April, 2003, for Situations, Alex Hartley, and the Nowhereisland expedition team (they are still awaiting the copy of Res Publica, Book One, which was sent by regular mail).

I will comment further on the email I received from Situations — and its potential significance in terms of artistic integrity, colonialism and territorial rights — over the next couple days.

Res Publica
by
Zireaux

To M.

Prologue

The following is a true account
of seven years and fifty weeks
of my life. The thrifty reader who seeks
some greater truth from such an amount
should stop here. A visiting Kipling once said
our island nation is British fed,
but will one day repay its debt in stories. *
Rudy was known for allegories.
This is not one – it’s factual role
as firm as the streets our Capital stole *
from the sea! As far as stories go,
I suggest writers like Ngauruhoe. *

Canto 1
It Happened on a Practice Day

1.1

It happened on a practice day.
A lull in squalls made failing motors
of the sails. We were trailing-boaters
with nothing to do now but play.
A ray of sun had set alight our skin;
the weary umpire was first to jump in;
and the cool Gulf quickly doused
the judgements which his body housed.
A flagsman leapt, then a meal-hand,
then a sailor for Team New Zealand;
everyone but me – an unsociable seal,
who was busy sleeping at the wheel.

1.2

A knocking of the stern against
some rocks – “Come in! Are we racing
again?” By god t’was night! I was facing
the stars, which floated free, unfenced,
in the celestial sea – like spectator craft! *
I looked around: My boat was unstaffed!
The water – shiny as horse-fur, banded
with white where moonlight spanned it –
was flat as an empty stage, no props
or crops of trees, no mountaintops
piquing the horizon – which truly shocked;
for the knock told me my boat was docked.

1.3

The air was warm, my clothes were wet,
without a trace of salt. To the West
soft thunder answered in anapest
a difficult question. And new ones beget:
My mates? Perished? What absurdity!
On a different boat they must surely be!
Slowly my thoughts (I snoozed through a storm?)
diffused like water from the low landform
which caused me to stand, and from the stern climb,
and question that morning’s rapid “burn-time,”
and whether my brain had sizzled while I slept.
But lo! On ground my feet now stepped!

1.4

The land was as long as a football field
and curved like rising Te Ra across.*
Momently inhabited it was. An albatross
waived and flapped her feathery shield;
then fell forward in flight. Now I
was alone in the night; not high, but dry,
perched on drowned Poseidon’s head
as if the god were standing there dead,
blue face underwater; scalp made of sand.
A moment’s panic bade me search the land
for blow-holes. But Tinirau I wasn’t to be; *
nor is that other Robinson me.

1.5

My GPS guided me swiftly home
the roughly fifty nautical miles;
to my unknotting conjugation, where smiles
were absent as always. It was a syndrome,
this icy fever of married life.
The dawn spoke more than my gab-spent wife,
who rather than assessing her husband’s survival,
was dressing for work upon his arrival.
An affair with her paycheck! Oh how the toil
of marriage can stagnate one’s life and spoil
one’s rhymes! Enough of this despair!
Fill our wings, Muse! To Wellington’s air!

Canto 2
Longitude 175 58’

2.1

To the Land Office on Lambton Quay,
where nary a report of my tiny highland
by passing ship or plane or island
map was produced by the Admiralty.
The flu-sick helicopter pilot
(a woman named Meg) sought my islet
at longitude one-seven-five, fifty-eight,
beyond the swirling Culville straight
and Cuvier isles by roughly eighteen
miles, and snuffly expected a slate-scene
of liquid, with depths of fathoms forty,
but found a landing-pad for our sortie.

2.2

Land! Untrespassed land! Untrammeled
hope! Geographers appraised:
“It was,” they said, “quite recently raised.
Tectonic crusts can shift…” They rambled
on and on, while I recalled
the prior week a tremor had stalled
my wife’s soft typing a millisecond.
“Did you feel that, dear?” I beckoned.
“No” – click-click, her thoughts well-railed,
while mine across great oceans sailed
on maritime bail from marital prison;
not knowing, off shore, my new home had risen.

2.3

My home! No prints of human feet
or vision were stamped upon that ground
before mine! Yes, such spots are found
by children and lovers and other discreet
explorers of secret places daily.
The earth, like skin, impermanent, scaly,
replaces wounds with scars, and erases
others. Imagine the infinite cases
of ownership, were deeds dispersed
for all things traversed or sighted first!
Boundless kingdoms in every town –
but none of that matters to the Crown.

2.4

What is ownership alas? One kind
alone is vital to the poet: the title
of Uniqueness! For each new recital,
a copyright of style is legally assigned,
making tycoons of many a bard
who once found paying creditors hard.
Lord Byron owns the ancient East.
All paradise from Coleridge is leased.
Couldn’t I divine within me some song
to build my empire loud and long – *
Oh foolish bards! Get real! A purse is
worth more in bank notes than verses!

2.5

“Sweetheart, I need some money. It’s urgent!
The emergent country I staked with a flag
(when set aground by ‘Helicopter Meg’)
needs protection from government insurgents
who claim our recently risen stone
lies within their Economic Zone!
Our lawyers, however, tell a different story:
The rock’s outside the territory
of this nation by a distance fixed
at a quarter league. Everything betwixt
that point and Peru is blue free land!
And therein sits our New New Zealand.”

2.6

Notice my choice of “our” and “we.”
My tight-lipped wife’s a shrewd investor;
the issue of “returns” have long obsessed her,
making loans her choice of charity.
Even the way she drafted our prenuptial
was less kind-hearted and more cleanuptial.
I bravely signed her contract then
and — once I produced a schedule when
she’d be five-times repaid or more
(then moved it forward a decade) and swore
to slavery should my promise prove cracked –
she savorily agreed to my contract.

Canto 3
Amends to the Albatross

3.1

I embarked on a life of solitude.
I packed a boat; I farewelled friends.
I brought some herring to make amends
to the albatross (a waste of food.
She had fled when I arrived).
On clams and mussels and seaweed I thrived.
There was plenty of rain. By the time November
came and went, I was a member
of parliament – of parlia-tent
I should say, just me to represent
myself, a population of one,
to protect the liberty and joy I’d won.

3.2

Indeed, it’s hard not to rejoice
in a country which breaks from Johnson’s rule
(that Republics are governed by more than one fool) *
and gives Res Publica a singular voice.
Matters of nationhood could be debated
in sleep’s chamber. On a mattress inflated
I could sign, or veto, then take a swim
and check all imbalances according to whim.
I remember once composing a treaty,
then floating it, bottled, to Tahiti,
and voting all regulations to reject!
And then came my wife, her debt to collect.

3.3

Where were the profits from oil I’d promised?
The fisheries and pearl farms? The rich investors?
The earl from England? Or was he a jester!
“You’re worse than Madam Scary, my palmist,
who predicted our pairing would be marital bliss!
Only” – lifting a paper – “she never signed this!”
I couldn’t argue. The truth was plain.
The same contract; my same bloodstain.
I offered to repay nearly ninety percent
of what remained of the funds she lent.
But she refused, and demanded in one year
I double her investment – or disappear.

3.4

Alone in my air-bed I tossed and raved
and schemed and dreamed of my Xanadu.
An army. A gold-mine. A Sultana, too?
In the end I commissioned the island paved
by a handsome Kiwi-slash-Turkmenistani
with thick mustache, who was such a good man he
offered to work for a negative sum
if I’d let seventeen of his relatives come.
And why not? He arranged the ship and sloop
and life-vests for the entire troop.
By the time his family paddled ashore
he’d imported from Auckland provisions galore.

3.5

He built the first level. There’d be many more
added above – but the first was incredible!
A Byzantine structure with divans that were bed-able;
pink satin cushions littered the corridor,
where children, saddled with Micky Mouse bags,
rode bicycles streaming with Warehouse tags *
through vibrant smoke-filled lands indoors,
with Persian carpets lining the floors,
to a bright-eyed teacher near Entrance Eight
whose Turkic words they’d enunciate.
Indeed — since Cook’s Endeavor arrived
no better breed has ever thrived.

3.6

Such thrift! Such industry! Such zeal to adapt!
How eager they were to perform some labor
which met the demands of our western neighbor:
A swift tapestry. A stuffed seal well-wrapped,
and boxed and shipped to a buyer in the U.K.
with plastic flowers wired in a bouquet.
No enterprise eluded; no wage-law intruded;
no permit was needed or passport disputed!
I recruited an accountant. He was impressed.
We bought a generator for our concrete nest.
From boxing to xeroxing — our work was transformed,
and the saffron pilaus were microwave-warmed.

Canto 4
When Limping Sunlight’s Journey Ceased

4.1

Then came “Island Babes,” the game
on TV where bikini-clad ladies seduce
a castaway sailor, racing to produce
his child. (The show won great acclaim;
Not one of the seventeen infants was hurt!)
The producers saw a chance to convert
the roof of our massive island home
into a kind of open-walled dome
for scenes which called for clean conditions
(and off-screen advice from obstetricians)
with ample sea-views. Three mothers stayed.
The sailor married our first-floor maid.

4.2

My Turkmeni friend’s acuity,
his global sense for timely invention,
his noble bent – not to mention
consent for promiscuity
(he built a bordello on level five) —
brought wealthy fellows to our hive.
Oh unfaithful Muse! How many men
you’ve inspired before me and my pen!
Higher we rose without delay;
no code of compliance, no laws to obey.
Lottery stalls and cyber-cafes!
A maze of walls and malls to amaze!

4.3

Level ten was reserved for the King (of burgers)
and the rest of his estimable court (of food).
Oh the untiring, unfathomable fortitude
of aspiring Punjabis and Beijing-born workers!
An Irish pharmaceutical rented
levels twelve through twenty in which it invented
(in vacuo that ingredient – tax)
a range of aphrodisiacs.
Homes and clubs took a higher view,
and all the people of Waikawau knew *
when limping sunlight’s journey ceased; *
our tower’s orange embers ignited the East.

4.4

With the U.N. we were quick to enlist
our high-rise nation. Our intrepid free will
earned a capitalization of ninety three mil –
but again! These royal thoughts persist!
I say “our” – but was my life enriched
by a roof-top tent (same tent!) now pitched
one hundred and twenty meters higher? *
I am just a versifier,
whose hard-earned highness in life or title
won’t spurn the slyness of a wife’s requital.
To be Queen, she said, our contract had bound her.
While her heart enthroned my mustached co-founder.

4.5

Through the skylight of their royal penthouse,
I observed their polyandric cult.
Despite rain, or Thor’s sky-whitening bolts,
I remained, above all, a loyal tent-spouse.
A great queen she was! On each new graph
our empire scored in the upper half! *
How often I wished to congratulate her,
but her button wouldn’t glow in the elevator
no matter how slowly I depressed it.
Depressed it? I meant “pressed it” – lest it
falsely ascribe a wise introspection,
to scribes with horizons stretched every direction.

4.6

The sails and whales; the magic levity
of cormorants in flight; the pelagic grace
of sea-clouds trailing their silvery lace,
— they stirred illusions of longevity!
And just as the crescent moon is ignored
by sun-bright noon, incessant Time soared
so high and quiescent, no clear terminus
beamed through my azure. I determined thus
never to look down, but to worship infinity
and for years I was true to my timeless divinity;
and for years I considered my peace well-earned,
until the albatross returned.

Canto 5
Quick! Out of Bed!

5.1

It landed on the balustrade
(which helped to keep me safely caged
when nighttime walks were sleep-engaged).
The early morning gulls, afraid
of their giant sibling, grew upset
when I approached the para-pet
and offered it food, which it refused,
its transfixed eyes were well-transfused
with something wicked, reader! I shivered!
And had my voice by cell-phone delivered:
“A head-cold,” she sniffled, but that didn’t stop her.
I was whisked away by Meg and her chopper.

5.2

How great our building appeared from a distance –
only slightly besmeared by national flags
like the pulled-out pockets of a poor man’s rags,
and the soot-black stains from someone’s insistence
on firing crackers for every last sixer
(struck not by our New, New Zealand Elixers,
but by the bat of the Indian team!).
Such flaws would be fixed. The Queen’s regime
would import new migrants to clean below:
the hemorrhage of oil, the waste-paper snow;
hot sewage boiling in a yeasty sand-brew!
“Say Goodbye!” said my pilot, “to East-Sealand Zoo!”

5.3

“How could you fail to notice?” asked Meg,
plucking from her bed-side dresser
the tissue burlesquing its predecessor.
“I don’t know, Megan; to mask some vague
understanding of masses? Money-seeking
betrays the spirit – oh look at me! I’m speaking
in cliches!” “What goes up, they say…” “Perhaps;
but our Queen would never allow such a lapse.”
“Biblical then?” “No, we arrested
Babel’s fate. Our builders were tested *
in typical English.” Bewildered cough,
then a kiss; we continued from where we left off.

5.4

“Did you feel that, Megan? The earth just trembled!”
“Oh yes.” “No, I mean, really shook!
Quick! Out of bed! We need to go look
and see if my nation has come unassembled!”
“Your nation? Why? Its emphasis
is height! Which means its genesis
is written in those stories, right?”
I said nothing. We took a flight
in her thunderous Muse. My nation approached
like a flea-ridden giant, leewardly broached
by waves! The sea rose levels four!
The fifth-floor bordello becoming the shore!

5.5

And the fleas – the fleas were people falling!
“Take me down, Megan! Down, I say!”
— as a waiter leapt from a tenth-floor cafe
and gamblers trapped in casinos were calling
for rescue! Quake-born – but not shake-proof!
“Down,” I demanded, “down on the roof!”
As loyal Megan vainly searched
for level landing, plainly perched
atop the rail like sculpted stone –
just one unruly feather blown
about by our dragon’s approach (a quill
taking notes) – the albatross was still.

5.6

“Didn’t you hear me? Down I insist!”
I made as if to exit my door,
while furious Megan swerved and swore
and reached aside to hold my wrist
— but missed! Now I was bold enough
to jump, so I did, with a landing rough
and just as Megan was coming my way,
the building started to crumble and sway.
Then tumble and crash. I sunk last,
like Melville’s native on Pequod’s mast; *
and only knew I wasn’t dead,
when I saw a white cloud with wings wide-spread.

Epilogue

A thousand worlds are born each day.
(Whoever says the world is shrinking
suffers from a lack of thinking).
Every set of eyes conveys
a country different than our own!
But if my fallen nation be known
to future readers, I thank the nurses
who served as midwives to these verses
by copying a notice every morning
and giving it to my neighbors. Its warning:
“All talking and pop-culture is restricted,
lest from this library you’ll be evicted!”

— Takapuna, April 3, 2003

Notes on the text:

Prologue

1.7 – Kipling’s story, “My Lady of Wairakei,” in which Kipling makes this point, first appeared in the New Zealand Herald on January 30, 1892.
1.10 – Several streets in downtown Wellington are built on land which rose out of the sea during an earthquake in 1885.
1.12 – Ngauruhoe refers to an active volcano in New Zealand’s central North Island.

Canto 1 — It Happened on a Practice Day

1.2.5 – Uncontrolled spectator craft in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf have been known to cause delays for Americas Cup races.
1.4.2 — Te Ra is the Maori sun god.
1.4.11 – According to Maori legend, Tinirau rode on the back of a whale.

Canto 2 — Longitude 175 58’

2. 4.10 – Taken from Coleridge’s poem, “Kubla Khan”: “Could I revive within me / Her symphony and her song / To such a deep delight ‘twould win me / That with music loud and long…”

Canto 3 — Amends to the Albatross

3.2.3 – Samuel Johnson, In his Dictionary of the English Language (London, Walker and Co, new edition, 1853, page 536), defines the word Republick: “state in which the power is lodged in more than one.”
3.5.6 – The Warehouse is a popular discount department store in New Zealand.

Canto 4 — When Limping Sunlight’s Journey Ceased

4.3.10 – Waikawau is located on the Eastern side of the Coromandel ranges, the only town in New Zealand which could have seen New New Zealand.
4.3.11 – The sunlight is most likely “limping” because in Maori legend, Maui slows the sun by injuring it
4.4.7 – Had the builders followed the New Zealand Building Code, 1991, this would make the structure approximately thirty stories tall – but, of course, as the author makes clear, no such code was followed.
4.5.6 – Some literary scholars, such as Alberto Cross, in his book,
Kingdom by the Sea: The World of ______ (Stanton and Gross, 2001), claim the author is satirizing New Zealand’s efforts to rank in the upper half of the OECD countries. In interviews, however, the author has categorically denied such intent.

Canto 5 — Quick! Out of Bed!

5.3.11 New New Zealand followed its neighbor’s example of instituting a mandatory English language test for immigrants.
5.6.10 The three “natives” of
Moby Dick – Tashtego the native American; Queequeg the Maori; and Daggoo the African Negro — ascend the three mast-heads of their ship, the Pequod, as it sinks. Befitting the boat’s native American name (and the author’s nationality), Tashtego, the native American, takes the mainmast and is therefore last to sink.

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Tuesday Poem: “Extra Buttons” by Zireaux

'...a bride / of birth-marked beauty you can score...'

‘…a bride / of birth-marked beauty you can score…’

Having lost his beautiful maiden to an ugly, old (but wealthy) banker — who infected her with syphilis, which resulted in her death — our poor Turkmenistani hero, Mr. Sayeed, laments his impoverished life…

Extra Buttons
by
Zireaux

To M.

What was my fault, I ask? Or hers,
to be denied my doting? Was my
affection false? My love impure?
Did we not meet in dreams? Did I
not wrestle for her a Russian bear
while she sold chorba at the fair
near Garabek? Didn’t I perfume
my stockings, keep a peafowl’s plume

behind my ear for her – an ear
which just for her I paid two chickens
(our last) to Mohan the barber, to stick an
oily quill in and pick out years
of thickened wax before I danced
for her the nautch d’amour in pants
cut extra high, with extra buttons
round the waist (bullfighter style)
to hold them up and keep my gut in?
Didn’t she display a brighter smile
that day I danced? And happier eyes?
Such eyes I neither recognized
when lowered in wedding-vowed abduction;
nor hooded and bowed in death’s seduction.

O king! O countrymen! The fool
I was I am no longer! Heed
my words, I tell you! Hear Sayeed
and you’ll enjoy a life less cruel:

Be ugly, yes, repulsive, mean;
be foul-mouthed, hunch-backed, old and sterile
with breath that smells of a latrine;
be monster-like, inhuman, feral,
a murderous psycho, a regicide.
Be all of that – and still a bride
of birth-marked beauty you can score.
But never let yourself be poor.

_____
From Res Publica, Book Two, for the Tuesday Poetry Group.

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Protected: “Noorya’s Prophecy” from “The Stowaway’s Song”

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Ticklish Talking (or, “On Completing a Major Work of Poetry”)

1421, by Gavin Menzies

1421, by Gavin Menzies. '...books / that make one think some Chinese ships /
once sailed around this country’s hips / in 1421'

Ticklish Talking (or, “On Completing a Major Work of Poetry”)
by
Zireaux

 

“And then?”

               “Then what?”

                                   “Well why this stifling
of your story? What muzzles you?
You’ve served some meat; we want to chew
it –- Arcady! This foolish, trifling
rhyme of yours. How dare you set
the scheme my tongue must follow!”

                                                        “And yet
in life, my dear, aren’t we required
to speak a certain way? Our words
are chosen for us. What we desire
to say is rarely what gets heard.
Come here, my love! Just look outside.
It is that time, the eventide,
when gypsy’s belly-dancing twilight
slips her gauze across our eye-sight,

moves in sequined undulations.
Car-lights blaze like embers in
a desert’s sideways-howling wind.
Their wild and festive oscillation,
through the curtain gaps, advance
and stir our shadows into dance.
But do those drivers see the fervent
fun they fling upon our walls?
And is our reader so observant
as to see our bodies sprawl
upon this bed in just our socks,
a blanket on a pinewood box
which wasn’t built for two to mingle?
(Our ghost had friends, but slept a single).”

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown. '...or Mona / Lisa has some trick persona / which symboligistic scholars / think denotes the holy grail'

“And so?”

               “And so, my dear, most stories
must live in constant twilight. To read
them is to nonchalantly speed
through claire-obscurist territories,
our eyes fixed more upon the red
oscelar brake-lights up ahead
than on the angels lighting stellar
tapers in the night. And yet,
unknown to readers, most storytellers
— in rendering that silhouette
through which their readers, eyes ablaze,
so blindly pilot –- use those rays,
those passing rays of light, to brighten
up the starless dens they write in.”

“Your point?”

                     “My point: The reader rarely
disembarks his car to walk
(or if the writer’s rich, to stalk)
around the author’s nest! This barely
visible shack! It stands on legs
of cinderblocks — or rather, sags,
much like a creature apprehended
in a net of shadows cast
by trees (the net both torn and mended
by the car-beams speeding past).
See now, dear reader! See? I turn
my lamp on here, and you discern
through golden window what I’m doing.
View the woman I am viewing

as she lifts a hand-knit sweater
‘bove her head — ”

                      — “It’s corduroy,
a jersey” —

The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra

The Book of Secrets, by Deepak Chopra. 'I know that Chopra / is a fraud. And so is Oprah.'

                  “ — and lets us both enjoy
those lacy, black and loosely fettered
pups beneath; the way, each yoked
to each, they both in tandem poke
their noses out through thickly rolling
waves of flesh; how each one seeks
a tasty treat, or soft, consoling
master’s stroke. O let us peek
beneath their muzzles! No? Not yet?
A symptom of the female set:
The more she feels a lover eyes her,
the more she serves up appetizers!”

“Be serious, Arcady! A merry
search is on for you, you know.
And not just in New Zealand – no,
the BBC, Fox News, Al Jerry – “

Al-Jerah

               “ — whatever. The global news
broadcasts your face without your views.”

“But of the two, my face is better.”

“Except when wearing bold-print hats
and matching collars made of letters
spelling ‘shame,’ ‘disgrace’ – and that’s
when they proclaim your death. If they
knew you were still alive here — ”

                                                  “May
I slip these off? These stanzas tingle
when my lips with yours commingle.”

“Okay, I guess, but please – I worry
these escapades just cause delay
my love! – that they postpone the day
this poem’s finished.”

                                     “One cannot hurry
the Muse. She likes it slow.”

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki

Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki. 'My dad was neither rich nor poor /nor even my dad…'

                                   “I know.
O darling! But maybe I could show
your poem to some kind of literary
figure – the type that turns a crime
to profit. Imagine the monetary
benefits (I hate these rhymes) —
the cash! Arcady Robinson:
The Man Behind the Isle. Part One.
A True, but Incomplete Confession.

(Or should we ask for name-suppression?)

Imagine all those readers demanding
the second installment! The better half.
The judge will want your autograph
more than your neck!”

                                 “You’re misunderstanding
books. Shall I explain?”

                                  “Please yes – ”

“It’s not that books aren’t bought unless
they’re finished first (for Byron
published all his works in parts);
but publishers these days require in
books those cabbalistic arts
that make one think some Chinese ships
once sailed around this country’s hips
in 1421; or Mona
Lisa has some trick persona

which symboligistic scholars
think denotes the holy grail;
or if a woman wears a veil
then freedom either must enthrall her
or appall her (nothing betwixt).
I couldn’t care less for politics.
I’m not an Indian with spices,
snakes or mangoes to bewitch
provincial readers. No artsy vices
such as drugs or guns enrich
my bio page. I lack the style
that lets a witty pedophile
be so adored. I know that Chopra
is a fraud. And so is Oprah.

The World is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman

The World is Flat, by Thomas L. Friedman. 'I’m not a pundit like that Thomas / of the New York Times, who sees / some universal homilies / in brief encounters abroad'

And dragons, hobbits, ghouls, boy-mages
— yes, they work to mesmerize
the kids (and Rowling gets the prize
for feeding them their veggie-pages).
but I’m like MAF, with virgin greens
in need of certain quarantines
to stop invasive breeds of fancy.
I’ve never served a King or Czar
in such a way with unzipped pants he
anoints me as a tabloid star.
My country isn’t torn by war.
My dad was neither rich nor poor
nor even my dad…”

                          “Why stop your raving?
Your lips are nicely misbehaving.”

“I’m not a pundit like that Thomas
of the New York Times, who sees
some universal homilies
in brief encounters abroad. I promise
this as well: There’s not a chance
in hell I’ll beat that racer Lance
— so tell me, then! An honest query:
What publisher will publish one
who lacks the features necessary
to be a popular writer?”

                                      “You done?”

“With what, my dear?”

                                    “Your ticklish talking.”

“This poem has sailed.  This poet is docking.”

 

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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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My New New Zealand — Episode Seven, 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 Seven, we return to the helicopter, caught in a storm over the ocean, with its two passengers — our narrator, Arcady, and the helicopter’s pilot, Megan. They’re searching desperately for somewhere to land, but the tiny island Arcardy discovered is nowhere to be found.

Again Arcady muses about adventurers, about finding some undiscovered land. What makes people think that being first to stand somewhere — an island, a country, a continent — makes it your own? And what constitutes discovery? Must you stand on the ground with you’re bare feet or must you be wearing expensive shoes? What if you’re wearing extremely thick boots — like the Apollo astronauts — does it count as having actually set foot on a new land?

A sudden jolt, a final thud. The helicopter touches down. Arcady looks around. He sees the same rocks where his boat had landed three nights before; he sees the footprints of the albatross in the sand and realizes they must have landed on the same tiny island. He calls it his “New New Zealand” and celebrates by claiming it as his own.

Back in his Takapuna bach, as he’s writing these verses in the present time, Arcady suddenly hears the knocking sound again. He thinks it’s the ghost at first, but this time he hears a voice as well. He rushes to the door. The episode ends with Arcady welcoming a woman into his writing chamber and kissing away her tears.

The story continues tomorrow with Episode Eight, broadcast at 10:45am, Radio NZ “Nine-to-Noon”.

A note about the verse structure:

Twelve-line tetrameter stanzas, with a mostly iambic cadence (although the rhythm is varied), and a rhyme scheme of abbaccddeeff. Some lines, of course, were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Seven:

My land! My promised land! A Zion
of designs my own! A place
of dignified and leisured grace,
a soil for me to live and die on!
A rock I found amidst a sea
of wandering dreams – or it found me —
a Hermitage to live withdrawn;
my private summer Yiheyuan.
A solid place in pitching life.
A refuge from one’s bitching wife!
An ocean gem, a rich and free-land;
my country home, my
New New Zealand!

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The Poet’s Ghost — Episode Six, 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 Six, our narrator, Arcady, describes the small Takapuna bach (the former home of a deceased writer) in which he’s currently writing; and what it’s like to be a starving poet.

He wonders why New Zealand writers are so poor. Why must they be recognized by other well-known writers before their art is appreciated? He wonders if perhaps there are great poets in New Zealand who no one has ever heard of. Some brilliant uncelebrated taxi driver, perhaps, composing the most beautiful verses in the world.

He hears a knocking sound.

He muses about how much New Zealand could use a really good epic poem — something grand and beautiful to represent the country overseas and prove its literary wealth.

He hears the knocking sound again.

He talks about how he writes each day, and how the Takapuna bach is haunted by the ghost of the writer who lived there before him; how they lie in bed together; how he smells his breath and hears him rattle the keys of the Olivetti typewriter in the middle of the night.

Again the knocking sound. He laments the hard work of writing good poetry, the fate of poor New Zealand writers, and he ends this episode with a plea for money and food (a good reason, no doubt, for listeners to buy his book).

The story picks up again — with Megan and Arcady in their storm-battered helicopter — in Episode Seven, broadcast tomorrow, 10:45am, Radio NZ “Nine-to-Noon”.

A note about the verse structure:

Twelve-line tetrameter stanzas, with a mostly iambic cadence (although the rhythm is varied), and a rhyme scheme of abbaccddeeff. Some lines, of course, were cut or altered to fit the audio segments.

An example of a stanza from Episode Six:

Yet look at this – I write! I write!
I build, construct, design, reshape,
and try as best I can to scrape
the sky! Of stocky modest height,
these simple stanzas, not too wordy,
a quatrain base, austere and sturdy,
then rising up in couplet walls
on all four sides (no need of halls);
a loose iambic tetrameter rhyme
with some beats missed (is it a crime?);
dactyls and trochees thrown in for good measure;
male endings mostly, females for pleasure.

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