He is risen indeed!

April 5, 2015

He is risen indeed!

— like Daniel Vettori, one-handed catch,
or Wingard marking like a boofy angel,
or Medhurst steadying before the net,
but with no ageing, no hamstring tweak,
and no second division.

And one day, we will see his face.
Perhaps tomorrow, or Tuesday week.

P.S. Cottier


Now, for benighted foreigners/those from non-cricketing, non-netball, non Australian Rules Football nations (for I hear that such places actually exist):

* Daniel Vettori is a cricketer who plays for New Zealand, who took a spectacular catch on the boundary in a recent World Cup match. I shall say no more about the eventual result of the tournament, although the word ‘plucky’ springs to mind. (Or plucked.)
* Chad Wingard is an AFL (Australian Football League) player who took a fantastic mark playing for Port Adelaide in a match against St Kilda last season. (A mark is where you leap up to catch the ball, often using another player as a fleshy ladder.)
* Natalie Medhurst is a prolific scorer in the Australian netball team, who exemplifies calmness and accuracy under pressure.

The ‘he’ of the title is rumoured to have been born in a non-cricketing, non-netball, non-Aussie Rules playing country. Can this possibly be true? (-: I shall try and understand this as I eat my weight in chocolate.


Yes, Tuesday Poem is four years old today, and a what a rambunctious lass she is. Born in New Zealand, she simultaneously exists in Paris, Canberra (and lesser parts of Australia), England and even bits of the United States.

Every Tuesday you can read wonderful poetry at the hub site and the members’ sites. Click this feather and go to New Zealand, for a far more comprehensive explanation of the birth of Tuesday Poem, and a poem (nay, four poems) on a food theme, broadly interpreted.
Tuesday Poem

We all contributed a food related sentence, which have all been stewed together, by clever chef Michelle Elvy (TP Hub sub-editor) along with Mary McCallum and Claire Beynon. It’s all rather like this extract from Dickens:

“‘It’s a stew of tripe,’ said the landlord smacking his lips, ‘and cow-heel,’ smacking them again, ‘and bacon,’ smacking them once more, ‘and steak,’ smacking them for the fourth time, ‘and peas, cauliflowers, new potatoes, and sparrow-grass, all working up together in one delicious gravy.’ Having come to the climax, he smacked his lips a great many times, and taking a long hearty sniff of the fragrance that was hovering about, put on the cover again with the air of one whose toils on earth were over.”

The Old Curiosity Shop Chapter 18

Regular readers of this blog can probably spot the sentence (or part thereof) contributed by this poet. Think quirk. Think juxtaposition. Think ‘yuck!’.

Enjoy your dinner.

…one part of the North Island of New Zealand, in fact.

Yes, next week I’ll be popping over to our comparatively near neighbours and meeting other Tuesday Poets, and particularly Tim Jones, with whom I am editing The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry.

We will be making final selections for the anthology, from the approximately nine million on our two lists of ‘must haves’. I’m also one of four poets reading at Au Contraire, a science fiction convention in Wellington.

And I hope to sneak off from poetry duties long enough to see a dead Colossal Squid on display, and also to see some live, medium-sized birds.

I really can’t wait. (That is not sarcastic, for once, by the way.)

I have visited New Zealand once before when I was a teenager on a school trip, and have vague memories of an extremely racist bus driver, a wool museum (like Australians really don’t have enough wool and need to visit other people’s wool museums), and the smell of Rotorua.

I look forward to contrasting Canberra with Wellington. The populations of the two cities are about the same. That fact says a little more about Canberra, I think, than Wellington.

So busy have I been preparing Vast Lists of speculative poetry that I have no poem to post this week, and next week may be dodgy too, as I’ll be buying things for Wellington.

Wool things, mostly.

Poem from a hammock

January 2, 2012

It’s perfect weather, about 30 degrees. I’ve been swimming twice today, and saw dolphins, black cockatoos and Brazilian tourists; all very pretty.  Tomorrow a new Test match starts.  There’s always a new Test match at this time of year, and then there’s tennis, or should I say Tennis, in Melbourne. This poem relates to the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, and was written as India came out to bat.  (I’m a quick poet, so I finished this before their innings was over…)

I know there’s still a world somewhere outside this huge brown hammock of a country, but in the middle of Summer, at the beach, that seems like an unlikely dream.  Here’s a lazy sonnet from a currently rather lazy country:

Every Summer

The flat green bird, flecked with white,
squawks all Summer in the corner.
Clarke, Ponting, Hilfenhaus, Warner
versus Dhoni and Dravid (the one to dislike).
There’s a shadow plays just behind this match
for something odd occurred at Bellerive,
concerning Kiwis, still hard to believe.
So in case something else weird should hatch,
there’s a certain anxiety beneath our banter.
India’s chasing two hundred and ninety-two.
(Difficult, but not impossible to do.)
But I think we’ll win now, in a canter.
And when it’s over, and the song is sung,
silence pounds out its ghostly runs.

P.S. Cottier

Seams? I know not seams.

Best wishes to anyone active enough to be surfing the net.  I’ll be back in full hardworking poetry-factory mode soon enough.  When I extract myself from the comfortable myth of perfection.  Happy new year to everyone.

(And after a lot of thought – for they still pop up in Australia in Summer – I can’t mention New Zealand in a light-hearted poem without at least acknowledging the new earthquakes that happened over the holiday period.  I read the ugly words like ‘liquefaction’ and have no idea what that would really mean, except that it must be terrifying to be in Christchurch when these tremors/quakes occur.)

Update: I realise now, having visited some news sites, that as I was drafting this entry, another major tremor hit Christchurch.  I hope that the damage was minimal.

The subject of my first interview on this blog has just had published a book of poems called Men Briefly Explained.   Brisbane-based publisher Interactive Press, which seems to be very active at the moment, has released this 64 page collection of new poems and works previously published in journals, and New Zealander Tim Jones has an approach to poetry that is at once delicate and amusing.  I’ve been following his blog for a while now, where he tends to post a new poem every Tuesday, either his own or someone else’s.  I decided to ask him five questions based on this new book, which is well worth reading.

I have never actually met Tim, and the questions and answers were sent by e-mail, so there is no spontaneous banter between the interviewer and interviewee, which may well be A Good Thing.

5 questions for Tim. 

(And one bonus question.)

interviewee Tim Jones

1.There seems to be a sense in some of the poems of mourning for purely physical work;  ‘…absorption into no-time, merely being and doing.’ (‘Men at Sea’.)  Do you really regret the general loss of this type of work?  (Obviously I mean in advanced economies such as NZ.)  How does this affect men in particular?

It’s interesting that you point this out, because I wasn’t aware of that when writing the poems. I’m someone who spends far too much time sitting on a chair in front of a computer, and when I get the chance to do some physical work, I usually enjoy it very much. At the same time, from those times when I was younger and my work involved physical labour, I remember mainly the rain, the cold, the heat, and the boredom.

In New Zealand, as in many other countries, there has been a shift in employment patterns from manual work to intellectual work which has seen many men lose their jobs — and, at the same time, men are on average lagging behind women in educational attainment, at least at high school. So, although women still get the rough end of the deal when it comes to wage rates, promotion, and sexual harassment in the workplace, there are a whole lot of men who have either lost their jobs, or feel they no longer have work that fits them.

One of the main reasons we need less manual workers is because their labour has been replaced by that of machines, many of which depend ultimately on fossil fuels. In the longer term – maybe even the shorter term – we won’t be able to rely so much on fossil fuels, and perhaps manual labour will make a comeback. Whether that’s a good thing is open to debate.

2.  Do you feel that gender differences are sometimes exaggerated?  Much of the existential malaise in the poems would seem to apply to women’s lives as well.

There are biological differences between women and men which, I think, do have an effect on our behaviour – especially our sexual behaviour – but culture obviously has a strong influence as well: a classic example is that, although pink is these days regarded as a colour that is stereotypically and almost ‘genetically’ feminine, blue used to be the colour associated with women – it’s noticeable that the early Disney heroines have blue dresses.

So, even though my book is called Men Briefly Explained, I think one should be cautious about essentialising gender differences.

But the poems in the book are mostly written from my own experience, and so they reflect what I think and feel as a man. If women think and feel many of the same things as well, then that’s good … I think.

3. Does the male sex have a future?  In ‘As you know, Bob’, you don’t seem at all sure about that.  Following on from that, do you ever adopt a female persona or voice while writing?  (May be a good career move, depending on your answer to the first part of this question…)

To take the second part first, one of the poems in the book, “Years with a Husband”, is written from a female perspective, and there are other such poems in my two previous collections. In my most recent short story collection, Transported, all the characters who have dialogue or play any significant role in the story “Said Sheree” are female – although I didn’t start the story with that intention, I guess it became my best attempt to pass the Bechdel Test. So yes, I do enjoy writing from a female point of view, although I doubt that I’m the best judge of how well I succeed at that.

“As you know, Bob” is about as close as this collection comes to science fiction – I extrapolate from some recent alarums about the future of the male gender, like declining sperm fertility rates. One of my favourite science fiction writers is Alice Sheldon, better known as James Tiptree, Jnr, and speculation about the future of the genders was one of her main themes. I suspect she thought the species would have a better chance of long-term survival if males could be dispensed with, and I can’t put my hand on my heart and swear that she’s wrong.

4.  I love the way some of the poems (such as ‘As you know, Bob’, ‘Extras’, for example) manage to be both humorous and quite moving.  The progress of young  men forward ‘to our destinies, our mortgages’ from ‘Down George Street in the Rain’ is at once a very funny and sobering line. This fruitful ambiguity can be a difficult thing to achieve.  Do you have to work at stopping yourself being merely funny, or slipping into the maudlin, or does that come easily to you?  The book could be read as a type of memoir; does this have any particular dangers for the poet?

I’ve always enjoyed writing humorously – I only wish I could manage it at novel length, and then I could make my pile as the next Sir Terry Pratchett and slip gratefully into a garlanded retirement.

And, actually, I would have no problem with being funny and nothing more – I love humorous writing, think it’s very hard to do consistently well, and wouldn’t use the adjective ‘merely’ in connection with it. But the combination of funny and poignant is what seems to come naturally to me.

A lot of my poem has memoir-like, or even (quel dommage!) confessional qualities. I know that isn’t approved of by the academy, but that doesn’t particularly concern me. Men Briefly Explained is divided into three sections – the poems in the first section are based fairly closely on my own life as a child, a teenager and a young man; the poems in the second section are based mainly on observations of other men; and then, in the third section, I look ahead to the rest of life.

For what it’s worth, my poetry draws more closely on my own life than my fiction does.

5.  Do you re-write your poems a lot, or do you carry them in your head until they are almost complete?  Do you write at a particular time of day or night, and how do you manage if you have a paying job as well?

Many of my favourite poems arrive all at once, and my job is to race to pen and paper, or computer, before they vanish again. In this collection, “Honey Moon” and “Shetland Ponies, Haast Beach” are examples of poems that came pretty much fully formed, though I did fiddle with one stanza of the latter a bit.

On the other hand, “The Outsider” has four stanzas, and it took me a good five years between writing the first and second stanzas, and a while longer for the final two stanzas to arrive. That one took second place in a New Zealand poetry competition (even though the poem is set in Australia), so that made the wait worthwhile.

I find that I need to write poems and poem ideas down pretty quickly to capture them, so I rarely carry them in my head – but I do often think about them while out walking.

I have a part-time paid job, and have regular ‘writing slots’ that I try, not always successfully, to stick to. Whereas my fiction-writing tends to be confined to those slots, poems can arrive at any hour of the day or night.

6. Bonus question: What on earth are Swannis? (p 49)

‘Swannis’ are more properly Swanndris – a brand of outdoor clothing that’s very popular in New Zealand. I used it in the poem to denote a man adapting to a life alone in the south of New Zealand – they are associated with our myth of the tough, resourceful, yet inwardly vulnerable “Southern Man”.


You can find out more about Men Briefly Explained, and buy it direct from the publisher, on IP’s mini-site for the book.

On Tim’s Men Briefly Explained page, there are more options for buying the book, plus latest reader reactions and reviews.

I recommend that you chase it up, and fill your stockings with Men Briefly Explained.  Tim will be interviewing me about my new book for his blog, over the next couple of weeks.  And further interviews with Tim as the subject will be published on other people’s sites, as he continues on his epic Tour de Blog.  All will be linked to his blog.