Poetry NZ, New Zealand’s foremost poetry magazine, guest-edited for this issue by Owen Bullock, showcases the finest in new writing from this country and elsewhere. It presents the work of talented newcomers and developing writers as well as that of established leaders in the field. This issues features the poetry of Tony Beyer, a New Zealand poet of long standing whose work continues to develop in new directions. Three sample poems can be found here: Fraternal elegy nothing more by Tony Beyer, Clean Shot by Belinda Diepenheim, and Student–teacher relations by Hazel Smith.
Whilst any magazine and any editor will harbour predilections around style, a taste for variety, as well as originality, seems requisite; I think that what has emerged in the current issue embodies this reality. Poems such as Tony Beyer’s mining poem, ‘Dominion’, evoke something in our recent history, though written about an event of nearly a century ago. Poets show us the ways in which general tragedy relates to inner personal space and loss, of finding a way to live on.
It is refreshing when poets write of scientific subjects, in particular to utilise the vocabulary of less familiar topics. Chemistry and mathematics seem to be the subjects of choice in a few of those inclined in this way, so that work by Mary Cresswell, Hayden Hyams and others demonstrates to us that the potential lexicon of poetry is a limitless one. A poem such as Fred Simpson’s ‘Flying to Byzantium’ may be said to relate to Robert McLean’s essay in Poetry NZ 44 concerning intertextual reference, another significant approach to composition.
Experimental poetry can be exceedingly exciting as it attempts to break new ground, and the long poem is often part of this aspect of testing parameters. I attended a conference at the University of Auckland in March—short takes on long poems—and was fortunate to hear a performance by Ya-Wen Ho in which she recited some of her recent work for a full fifteen minutes. Her poetry attempts to mimic the way we browse the internet; the somewhat tenuous linkages in her ideas form an example of semiotic technique, with strong tendencies towards found poetry, in a technological setting.
A couple of examples of haibun are also included here. More specifically, perhaps, these works can be referred to as tanka prose. Haibun mixes poetic prose with haiku, whereas tanka prose substitutes the longer form of tanka for the shorter haiku. The resonances between the different tones in such a literary balancing act are another of the delights of poetry.
My thanks go to our many contributors and to all those who have submitted poetry for consideration; although we can never accommodate everyone, we celebrate the work that goes on in Aotearoa New Zealand and elsewhere to maximise poetry’s relevance and power. With the publishing of this issue we remember those who have gone before us and, in particular, mourn the loss of Cyril Childs who passed away at the beginning of the year. Cyril was a proponent of many forms of poetry and his innovative writing was published in Poetry NZ 22, 24 and 26.
— Owen Bullock
you wrapped your skinny limbs
around the banister
and let go too late
into a confetti of glass and blood
there was talk afterwards
the scars would mar your beauty
but nothing could
I remember you
running about the place
like a mad elf
or talking to the great dane
in a Coronation St accent
you were much taken with dreams
receiving them like telephone calls
from an unknown exchange
somehow emitting cries
into the sleep of others
in your darkening last weeks
everyone who knew you loved you
yet you felt unloved
despair was the brand-name
of the sensibility you sought
the punishment for being beautiful
is thinking you’re not
there has to be a connection
dark dreams in the brain that become
opaque as silver moon pools on the screen
— Copyright Tony Beyer, 2012.
I was lined up against a stone wall
when they shot me in the back of the head
I knew I was dead, a woman never
rose up from the grave or old monsters
talking dirty to her
asking for coffee, a bit of you and me.
She barely gets past cake for fete day
pregnancies, mastitis, the death of her cat, time on a benefit
unconsciously bleeding governments dry as she makes lunches
They shot me on a whim, I was pretty
I was trim, I whipped up a mean dessert
It didn’t hurt
I had a clean shooter
stone wall blooded like a horned
I walked away
sky clouded over in one orange expanse
someone had planted delphiniums, all blue
I walked and admired
black eyed toxic angels
allosteric regulators of volted gated
even dead I sound smart
path raked, a space in the distance
with my name on it.
— Copyright Belinda Diepenheim, 2012.
An American student, shrill and sure, upbraided me about my teaching,
‘you should ask them to keep a journal, you know’, exactly what I didn’t
want to do lest it lead them into the temptations of confessionalism, but
I tried to look as if I had learnt my lesson, while also trying to firmly
transmit that I hadn’t.
Did you know that two per cent of prisoners make false confessions, and
that they do it sometimes just to get a drink or a fag or to return home
earlier, one chap even said he had done the murder when he hadn’t so as
not to be executed, an offbeat logic difficult for me to follow.
Though it depends what death is, how much one might try to avoid it. I
think of it as locked-in syndrome, which is horrible.
Each day my teaching further lowered its voice, until I was just one
amongst many holding back my comments; the students gave theirs
sometimes honestly, sometimes dishonestly, because they didn’t want to
inject realism into camaraderie, or because they didn’t want to encourage
negative critique of their own poems.
‘I’d like to be a violinist but I don’t know if I’ll ever be good enough.’
Until she realised all she could do was keep on grinding. So she ground
and ground until one day she was good enough, at which point the game
was dust, and she decided to embark on another bildungsroman as a poet.
‘I have some suggestions to make,’ he said, after the performance,
implying that he as elder statesman hadn’t liked it, and calling up the
only power that audience members have, which is to imply that they could do better.
I’m always amazed (aren’t you?) by what folks are prepared to reveal or
not, some pathologically private people will take their trousers down on
TV, while everyone thinks poetic suicides are symptomatic, but you can’t
distil the poet from the poem, anymore than you can understand what
death is by scrutinising a corpse.
— Copyright Hazel Smith, 2012.