Tuesday, February 24, 2015

“Container” by Fiona Apple


I was screaming into the canyon
At the moment of my death.
The echo I created
Outlasted my last breath.

My voice it made an avalanche
And buried a man I never knew.
And when he died his widowed bride
Met your daddy and they made you.

I have only one thing to do and that's
To be the wave that I am and then
Sink back into the ocean.

Sink back into the o-
Sink back into the ocean.
Sink back into the o-
Sink back into the ocean.


*

This week's Editor: Zireaux


“Speak, speak, I charge thee, speak" — this is Horatio, in Hamlet, imploring the ghost of Hamlet’s father not just to make some noise, to simply howl or to growl say (which would be astonishing enough), but rather to speak, to say something intelligible. More than any apparition, it's words that bring a ghost to life.

And yet, Hamlet’s father aside, they rarely make good orators, these clumsy, techno-challenged spectres and their speech impediments; rapping on tables, sending codes through flashlights and will-'o-the-wisps, playing alphabet games on ouija boards, making reverse recordings of their glossolalia on old LPs. But how else should it be? Speaking in tongues, or through mediums, offers a solution for those without tongues or bodies of their own. Divested of form, of density, what larynx can produce a voice? What brain suggests a syntax to the whims of the dead?

With her song “Container,” Fiona Apple produces the voice of a ghost — brilliantly, beautifully, but most importantly, poetically. Through lyrics, through words. It’s a wave, that voice. It rises and recedes, rages and calms. Apple starts with a tremor in her tone. Note the metrical structure here, the eerie, plaintive trimeter of the first quatrain — with its trochaic howling words, “SCREAMINGing,” “CANyon,” “MOment.” Then she belts the “echo” like no other singer, in no other song. The line becomes pure sound, pure mantra. The avalanche, meanwhile, seems completely out of place for an ocean-born ghost, but that’s the thing: This is a ghost voice. A vibration. It ripples and tsunamis through space, from sea to shining snow-top. There’s a oneness here, between language and sound, poet and phantom.

The first quatrain swells and solidifies into the event-driven physicality of the second, which is sturdy iambic tetrameter, re-enforced with the “died”/“bride” girders of internal rhyme. Note the echo-effect of line five, with its ricocheting ictus in the canyon of iambs — my VOICE, it MADE, an AVaLANCH. Apple bounces back and forth. The literary device here — “My voice, it made,” “my abc, it xyz’d” — is called dislocation,* whereby the pronoun emphasises the noun by echoing it.

And it’s the echo, the ripple, the great wave of sound that becomes physical and powerful; that causes the avalanche, that causes the death of a stranger and a child to be born. The reference to “daddy” is intimate, child-friendly.

“Containers,” I should point out, is the opening theme song of a TV series called “The Affair,” which just finished its first season on Showtime. The song lends the show a haunting artistic key with which “The Affair” never quite harmonises. Not for lack of trying. One of the show’s two main characters, Alison, insists that her dead son is still present in the world. “He’s watching us,” she says. “He’s caring for us every day.” If this is true — and at one point, yes, as Alison attempts to drown herself in the ocean, we hear the voice of a little boy shouting from the shore — if true, it’s definitely not something we want a main character to tell us.


Rather, we need to hear the ghost-voice for ourselves — which brings us back to Apple’s poem. We’re now at the third stanza, a tercet, in which the first two lines, still holding the dimensions of the previous stanza, start to tremble and collapse:

I have only one thing to do and that's
To be the wave that I am and then


This is pure abstraction, pure searching, wavy, echolocation. It’s barely English. The five-lettered “thing” is the longest of the 18 words that flail about and say nothing. Beautiful, poetic ghost-speak. There’s a very soft, ghostly, syllabic rhyme in the enjambment — “and that’s” / “and then” — which Apple deftly stresses through the rhythm and tone of her voice, before the whole thing slams into the spondee of the original trimeter: “SINK BACK into the Ocean.” From the howling trochees of “SCREAMing,” “MOment,” “CANyon” we end with another, softer, more surrendering and mournful one: “Ocean.”

One of the most beautiful themes in poetry (which circles just beyond the black hole tug of a trope) is that of the passively almighty. The powerfully weak. The noisy unnoticed. A kind of stop-motion perspective in which things that appear silent and still and locked in eternity — the ocean, the dead, the ancient rocks of Australia (see that greatest of ghost stories, Picnic at Hanging Rock) — can rise up, knock us over, overwhelm our world with their substance. Apple’s poem contains that kind of substance. It dislocates our sense of control over our lives; and makes us stop and listen in wonder.

____

This week's editor, Zireaux, lives in Canberra, Australia. His most recent novel, A Charlatan's Orbit, is available on Kindle and in paperback on Amazon. (If you can't afford the Kindle version, contact Zireaux.com, mention "Tuesday Poem," and you'll receive a free gift version). His poetry, commentary, stories, novels and other writings are available at Immortalmuse.com.

* Dupriez, B. and Halsall, A.W., A Dictionary of Literary Devices: Gradus, A-Z, University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division, October 30, 1991; and later referenced in Huddleston, R. and Pullum G,, The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, Cambridge University Press, April 15, 2002.




Tuesday, February 17, 2015

From Pen Pal by Sugar Magnolia Wilson

1.
Hellooo. How are you?

I’ve only just started
witchcraft so this letter
includes some of my hairs.

My two guinea pigs had
million dollar babies –

two lots of babies.

Mum says they have the
eyeless ways of newborns.

Friday and I’m sitting
in the quad under the
acacia tree.

The bell has rung
and I’m waiting for
Mum or Dad to pick me up.

No one has come. It is
strange.

Did I tell you? I owe $1.50 to
the school canteen.

Mum says I don’t feed
them often enough but
I do.

My lips are in a terrible way –
they are so fannyish

when I am older they
will droop.

Everything gets older.

With my third eye I sense
my little guinea pigs are
in

some kind of
life-ish trouble.

P.S. Did I tell you

in July a meteorite fell?

Blue flashes in the
field it

still glows in the
rain sometimes.

But that doesn’t mean nuffink –
it still sucks shit to
live in the bush.


6.
It said: Spell for apology

Return to your thankfulness as 
we all may go blind somewhere
down the road. 

The new moon’s eyeless ways. 

During a yellow October 
an old book, a few lavender seeds. 

Place between and bring the 
palms of paper together.

Kneeling 

bury in the woods
beneath the light bounced 
off the moon. 

Let 

your heart glow 
so red
when it rains.


10.
Hi.

Tomorrow mum goes
to the Mexican clinic.

I feel like a cagey fox in a
field where there are no
delicious babies to eat.

Maybe it’s because I am
waiting for dinner – it seems to
take so long these days.

Yesterday Mum crashed the
car. I didn’t know till
they drove past me on the road
and stopped.

It was really strange – Mum and
Dad looked like two people
who didn’t know me.

You know in the movie how
Sarah and Bud acted when they
first started going round?

Well, a sad version of that,
like it was just
them on the planet.

For a while I felt as if my
head was underwater and
I was looking up at them
through layers of old branches

or like a boat out and tangled
in the mangroves

getting farther and
farther away.


Pen Pal, by Sugar Magnolia Wilson (or Magnolia, as she is generally known), is a rather twisty sequence of poems, in the voice of a young, not-so-sweet, not-so-innocent, and actually very real girl. There’s definitely a narrative running through the sequence, but (or, and), like the best narrative poetry (or maybe narratives in general), story isn’t the only thing that’s going on, as I hope you can see from these extracts.

It was hard to choose which sections to share here, but I chose these three from different parts of the poem, as they give a bit of an idea of the range. The first part sets it all up, and then I had to include one of the gorgeous spells, and I find section 10 so haunting. I hope you will love it too.

The 15-part Pen Pal sequence was the first publication from the new Cats and Spaghetti Press, which is run by fantastic poet Emma Barnes and fabulous novelist and short-story writer Pip Adam. (Emma, Pip and Magnolia all live in Aro Valley, as do I and quite a few other writers. We are challenging Paekakariki in the most-writers-per-square-inch challenge.)


Emma and Pip have decided to do this publishing thing their own way, and Pen Pal isn’t a book so much as a fold-out wonder, with its elegant embossed metallic-pink cover, to the ‘pages’, which you can open out completely, or read in a more book-like fashion. The reverse side of the paper has an illustration of a cat and meteor (which both feature in the poem) by Julie Jeon, who also did the design.

Cats and Spaghetti also didn't release their first publication in the usual way - there was a launch, but no sales: the limited edition booklet was given away. This sadly means that there are no more available, but Emma has kindly sent along a pdf, which means that you can read the whole poem and get a bit of a sense of what it looks like: Pen Pal PDF.

Cats and Spaghetti’s second publication was the online journal Rejectamenta, which published work that had previously been rejected by other journals, along with their (real or made-up) rejection letters. And I'm really interested to see what they will do next.

Sugar Magnolia Wilson is from a valley called Fern Flat in the Far North of New Zealand. She completed her MA in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington in 2012. She has had work published in New Zealand literary journals such as JAAM, Turbine and Minarets. In 2014 she, along with Hannah Mettner and Morgan Bach, started the new journal Sweet Mammalian. You can read more of Magnolia’s poetry online in Turbine 12, Turbine 13 and Shenandoah.

This week’s editor, Helen Rickerby, is a poet and publisher from Wellington. She has published four collections of poetry – her most recent, Cinema, was published by Mākaro Press in 2014. She runs Seraph Press, a boutique publishing company with a growing reputation for publishing high-quality poetry books, and she is co-managing editor of JAAM literary journal. She is currently indulging her interest in biographical poetry (about which she recently co-organised a conference at Victoria University of Wellington) by writing prose poetry about George Eliot.

Check out more Tuesday poems in the sidebar.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"Breathing You In" by David Gregory

From up here it looked
as if the harbour’s lungs inhaled
the fog in through the headlands;
light as breathing, concrete coloured,
it set in for the day, giving us each a bubble vision
containing what little we know,
and out beyond the garden’s edge;
all life arrested.

There was a fog of the familiar
such that I could not see
all of the changes underway
between you and me.

But then the sun splashed down,
rinsing the hills, draining the fog to seaward.
Across the water, your house was sun-washed.

I thought I might see you there again,
the last of the mist upon your lashes,
each tiny world a globe
in which anything is possible.

© David Gregory, September 2014
 
Featured on The Tuesday Poem Hub with permission.

Editor: Helen Lowe

David Gregory was a guest reader for the 2014 Canterbury Poets' Collective Spring Reading Season and although I have been familiar with David's work for a number of years now, listening, I was struck again by the quiet elegance of his poetry and his formidable "way with words." 

I had a difficult task selecting a poem to feature on the Hub today for much the same reasons – but believe Breathing You In displays both quiet elegance and a formidable way with words "in spades." From the assurance of the opening image: 

"From up here it looked
as if the harbour’s lungs inhaled
the fog in through the headlands"

we are drawn into the landscape of the poem, which takes us from the fog and the harbour heads to the "garden's edge" where we also encounter the "fog of the familiar" which obscures:

"all of the changes underway
between you and me.".

Breathing You In is a poem of juxtapositions, with fog that is both "light as breathing", yet also holds the weight of being "concrete coloured." It is also a poem of subtle repetition, from the "bubble vision" of the first stanza to the:

"last of the mist upon your lashes,
each tiny world a globe"

So, too, the landscape of the poem also takes us from the large (the fog settling in for the day), to the small (each globe of the mist upon lashes) but then springboards us back into something large again:

"...each tiny world a globe
 in which anything is possible."

This is poetry of the everyday, apparently unassuming, that leads us, step by assured step, into an awareness of something larger. It's also a poem of considerable emotional strength, but one in which every emotional brushstroke is delicate, understated... And therein, I believe, lies its power, from:

"...I could not see
all of the changes underway
between you and me.

to:

"Across the water, your house was sun-washed.

I thought I might see you there again..."

As readers, we are not sure whether such a "seeing again" will occur or not – but the poem allows us to feel the possibility that it may: we take that step back into the larger universe of hope, offered by the concluding stanza and line: "in which anything is possible."

Quiet, elegant, assured: this is also the poetry of alchemy, where the everyday is transmuted into a more transcendant experience. I am so pleased that David has allowed me to share both the poem, and the delight it evoked in me as a reader, with you today.
.

David Gregory has had three books published in New Zealand, Always Arriving and Frame of Mind, both by Sudden Valley Press and Push by Black Doris Press. His poetry has appeared in a goodly number of publications and anthologies and he has performed his work here and in the UK. He is an active member of the Canterbury Poets Collective, which organises regular readings, designed to give new writers a performance platform and to expose them to good poets in the form of guest readers. David has been involved with this for over 15 years. He has also been involved in an editorial capacity with the production of over 30 high quality titles for Voice Prints and Sudden Valley Press.

Today's editor, Helen Lowe, is a novelist, poet and interviewer whose work has been published, broadcast and anthologized in New Zealand and internationally. Her first novel, Thornspell, was published to critical praise in 2008, and her second, The Heir of Night (The Wall Of Night Series, Book One) won the Gemmell Morningstar Award 2012. The sequel, The Gathering Of The Lost, was shortlisted for the Gemmell Legend Award in 2013. Helen posts regularly on her Helen Lowe on Anything, Really blog and is also active on Twitter: @helenl0we

In addition to "Breathing You In", be sure to check out the wonderful poems featured by the other Tuesday Poets, using our blog roll to the left of this posting.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Like a Butterfly by Jennifer Compton



The half a walnut
in the bowl of mixed nuts
is exactly — Like a butterfly.

A moth flies in the open door
alights and palpates
to the right of the screen.

The wings beat — yes yes yes.
That is what you said.
Like a butterfly. Like.

So
now you are privy to
a thousand thousand things.

You have found the door
into the intricate labyrinth
where the olds live.

Welcome. Oh welcome.
To where everything is
like something else.

Not that we didn't want you
to find us out
but ...

no pressure, just be
for a little longer
innocent.

This is one of the poems from Jennifer Compton's new collection,  Now You Shall Know  published by Five Islands Press. The book will be launched at Melbourne's Collected Work's Bookshop by Geoffrey Lehmann Thursday 5th February at 6.00 pm. 

Jennifer is, of course, a Tuesday Poem poet who has introduced readers to many exciting contemporary voices in poetry, particularly in Australian poetry, on her blog, Stillcraic. I first came across Jennifer's work in 1994 or 1995 when I read it in Cordite - which was then published as a hard copy broadsheet. It was the day after a three day Australian Poetry Festival held at Stonnington and I was on a bus going to Leongatha. I should have been poetry-ed out, but I opened Cordite and there was her direct, passionate but laconic voice. I was bowled over. 

What I like about this poem from her latest book is how a  moment is  observed, chronicled and understood in such a writerly way. It's a reminder to pay attention. This week, you can read another of Jennifer's poems, 'Lost Property' on my blog.

Jennifer Compton is a poet, short fiction writer and an award-winning playwright. Recent works include, Parker & Quink,  Ginninderra Press in 2004, Barefoot, Picaro Press, 2010 and This City, Otago University Press in July 2011. Barefoot was shortlisted for the John Bray Poetry Award at the Adelaide Festival and This City and won the Kathleen Grattan Award in New Zealand. Check out Stillcraic for her weekly poem post.



Catherine Bateson is a poet and novelist for children and young adults and she is also a partner in a publishing and editing services business, Tyle&Bateson Publishing. She is Melbourne-based.




Tuesday, January 27, 2015

matthew 11:28-30 by Hamish Petersen

28:

Job. He wrote, “Why did I not perish at birth?”
“Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter
of soul?”
and I ask why He gave me breath and life.
“But man dies and is laid low”
“At least there is hope for a tree”

29:

Tell me about light and life.
The same light that hides
That light seen but not touched
and like punching under water
leaves a thirst.
That life which leaves me, my soul back broke. Like I’m struck
at the ankle - left inch deep, unmoving, maybe shaking
shuddering. and then you can kick me.

30:

Jesus told me his burden was light.

As he hung from it, hands pierced, thorns through the scalp,
he tells Matthew “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.

Someone else told me it’s hard to keep your head up in the
rain.
You’re my rain and I’m looking for a thumb because my jaw is
heavy.
Heavy with your eyes,
But heavy with your blindness
Heavy with your expectations that I will become what I am
meant to be
 
But still that I am nothing.

Jesus also told me that the spirit is willing but the body is
weak,
So what I say here means nothing If I don’t carry the yoke of
these words.

His burden was a hole in each hand, a crown on the head
and a tomb.

So if he could carry his yoke

I don’t need that thumb.
I can carry mine.

Posted with the permission of the poet
Editor this week: Andrew M. Bell

Hamish Petersen is a young poet whom I saw and heard reading as a Guest Reader at the Canterbury Poets Collective Spring Reading season 2014. I was immediately struck by the forcefulness, passion and conviction that Hamish conveyed when reading his work. Hamish is definitely a poet whose style is rooted in the oral tradition of poetry and his poetry possesses a potent extra dimension when read aloud.

When I watched him reading his work, I was fascinated by the way he really "inhabited" the poem so that he drew the audience in until they were tightly focused on his words, following him closely, almost like they were the poet's pillion passengers.

Although Hamish is a young poet with much life experience ahead of him, I feel that he has already forged a fairly mature voice which he applies to subject matter which is not easily pigeonholed.

In the poem above, I enjoy how Hamish uses punctuation in an unusual fashion so that it catches the reader off guard and often works in arresting interplay with the imagery. Some of Hamish's imagery catches me unawares, surprises me, and I love that. I keep returning again and again to that wonderful triplet in the second stanza: "That light seen but not touched/and like punching under water/leaves a thirst."

Hamish Petersen is still staking out the ground on his poetic journey, but I think he shows great promise and that we will be hearing a lot more from him in the future.




*
Hamish Petersen, the runner-up in the 2012 CETA Poetry Slam, has performed his poetry at the Pallet Pavillion Mid-Winter Market in Christchurch in 2013 and was a Guest Reader in the Canterbury Poets Collective Readers Series Spring 2014. Hamish also self-published a 20-page Chapbook of his poetry in 2013, entitled i am not a poet.

This week’s editor, Andrew M. Bell, writes poetry, short fiction, plays, screenplays and non-fiction. His work has been published and broadcast in New Zealand/Aotearoa, Australia, England, Israel and USA. His most recent publication is Green Gecko Dreaming, a poetry collection. Andrew lives in Christchurch and loves to surf. Some of Andrew’s poetry can be read at Bigger Than Ben Hur. His website is: www.biggerthanbenhurproductions.com


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Please see the sidebar to the left for other Tuesday Poets' contributions this week. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

'Imagine a Woman Behind Razor Wire, Glimpsed' by James Owens, with art by Cheryl Dodds

Railroad Diary, Istanbul 2012 -- by Cheryl Dodds
1.
A long time ago, when we lived in the sky….
2.
But no, we never lived in the sky.
We invented that because of pain,
because desire tortures even the dirt and stones into division,
into definition fracture power solitude wall razor wire.
3.
(But pleasure is also real. Joy is real. One autumn day, my wife
climbed a fence and stole from a farmer’s disregarded field,
knotty tart small apples burnished by the wind and the sun,
and she gave me one, though I watched her eat and tasted her mouth, instead.
Not everyone remembers that such things are possible, since they often happen only once.)
4.
“Razor wire” is a slang term. Did you know that?
Industry professionals call it “barbed tape,”
which has a reassuring tone,
something your father would carry in his toolbox.
5.
If no one beats you, how do you know who you are?
6.
I insist on saying this plainly, without art:
if you remember joy, you should tell it
speak it
write it.
7.
Once I found someone’s voice lying on the ground,
a little puddle or puzzle of utterances, desperate
and wet and confused by having been cut or torn from a warm throat.
I brushed it off, and it huddled against the inside of my hand,
nuzzling for safety. I held it to my ear,
and it was like the sea shouting in the vast rooms of a shell,
but not like that, at all.
8.
Imagine a woman standing behind razor wire,
glimpsed, as you pass to your easy life.
This poem is not the gift of a woman’s voice.
See how external I have remained, despite certain maneuvers
that I hoped would bring me closer?
This poem is white noise leaning into silence.


Some gestures toward commentary on Cheryl Dodds’s "Railroad Diary, Istanbul, 2012":
1. My initial reaction to Cheryl Dodds’s extraordinary photograph was the thought, this forbids speech. The voice is caged. Not “the woman is caged” but her voice. Then there was long silence, while I wondered what I meant by that. I’m still not quite sure, though the poem makes little forays in that direction.
2. Geometry is a power here, and even if geometry is inevitably symbolic of tragic-historical forces adumbrated in the photograph’s title, in the woman’s dress, in the intrusion of “Western” repressive measures of control (razor wire) into what could have been a peaceful “Eastern” scene, still it is line and plane, as if drained of detail to reveal underlying structure, sky and wall and roof’s edge and drastic perspective that forces the human figure into one narrow corner of this near-abstract composition. She is held at this distance. She cannot come forward. We cannot go toward her. We cannot hear her speak, though this is what I desired.
3. Does it matter very much whether the woman is trapped inside the wall or outside? Either way, it is division that is heartbreaking, though division is also the birth of desire. (Underneath the writing of the poem, though unspoken inside it, is the likely etymology of “paradise” in Persian as something like “place enclosed by walls,” the sacred as set apart, the desirable as distanced. What, then, does it mean to stand outside of a prison?)
4. In a world supersaturated with images, including images from this photographed woman’s part of the world, images whose narrative we tend to consider transparently understandable, it is of great value to be reminded of the silenced voice that would speak outside of our expectations, the surface of the image that rejects our wish to hear (understand, empathize), the voice an object of desire like the luminous fruit in the now-long-forbidden garden. (Oh, but these fragments don’t say what I wanted to say.)

Copyright James Owens. Posted with  permission by the poet. 

*
First published at Blue Five Notebook in the December 2014 year-end issue, in which the editors asked poets and fiction writers to contribute works based on a piece of art or photography. Other ekphrastic works can also be found in this issue, here
*
JAMES OWENS has published two books of poems – An Hour is the Doorway (Black Lawrence Press) and Frost Lights a Thin Flame (Mayapple Press). His poems reviews, translations, and photographs appear widely in literary journals, including recent or upcoming publications in Superstition ReviewValparaiso Poetry ReviewPoetry Ireland ReviewThe Cresset, and The Stinging Fly. He lives in central Indiana and northern Ontario. 

CHERYL DODDS was co-editor/publisher for Urban Spaghetti, a literary arts journal. Her artwork has taken the form of mixed media, graphite drawings, photography, painting, woodcuts and multimedia as well as a few conceptual art projects. More of her work is online at AbsoluteArts.
MICHELLE ELVY, TP Hub Editor, is a writer, editor and manuscript assessor based in the Bay of Islands but currently in SE Asia. She edits at Flash Frontier and Blue Five Notebook. She is also an associate editor for the forthcoming Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton, 2015) and co-ordinator of New Zealand's National Flash Fiction Day, More at michelleelvy.com (editing),  Glow Worm (poetry and fiction) and SV Momo (sailing).