Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Classic NZ Poets by Theme

poetry is magic
– W. H. Auden


Here's a thematic breakdown of the 110 poems in our Classic NZ Poets in Performance anthology (Auckland: AUP, 2006). The categories are pretty subjective, and could undoubtedly be improved on. Not a bad starting point for discussion, though: what's the poem really about?

ADOLESCENCE
[Adcock’s “Camping” speaks for itself. Campbell’s “Gunfighter” is definitely having trouble growing up, even if he isn’t actually an adolescent. Wendt’s poems from The Book of the Black Star (AUP, 2002) are clearly about a great many things: depression, friendship, etc. but it was hard to think of any other heading to put them under].
Fleur Adcock: Camping - 89
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell: The Gunfighter - 60
Albert Wendt: On Our Way - 115
Albert Wendt: Over Ponsonby - 116
Albert Wendt: Scavengers - 116
Albert Wendt: Bus - 117

ANIMALS
[The poems here may actually be about love, death and a number of other subjects, but animals star in all of them].
Peter Bland: Death of a Dog - 93
Lauris Edmond: yellow-eyed penguin - 47
Janet Frame: The Cat of Habit - 50
Brian Turner: Fish - 133
Brian Turner: Pig - 134
Brian Turner: Trout - 131

CHILDREN & GROWING UP
[Kids often seem smarter than grown-ups, but maybe that’s because we just project our preconceptions onto them].
Peter Bland: The Happy Army - 95
Alistair Te Ariki Campbell: Home from Hospital - 61
Michael Harlow: Cassandra’s Daughter - 99
Alistair Paterson: Jenny Roache Love all the Boys in the World - 71
Albert Wendt: Conversation - 113

COMMUNICATION & POETRY
[These could be useful pieces for a class focussed on their own writing].
Fleur Adcock: The Pilgrim Fathers - 88
Louis Johnson: Singing to the Ancestors - 55
Alistair Paterson: On reading Robert Bly’s Selected Poems … - 72
Kendrick Smithyman: Communicating - 34
C. K. Stead: from The Masks of Catullus, 16 - 77
Albert Wendt: Bound For Whangamata - 117

DEATH
[One of the two great poetic staples].
Lauris Edmond: Before a Funeral - 45
Kevin Ireland: Villanelle for a Smile - 85
R. A. K . Mason: The Spark’s Farewell to its Clay - 8
R. A. K . Mason: Stoic Overthrow - 10
Vincent O’Sullivan: Elegy for a Schoolmate - 105
Keith Sinclair: E. D. S. (1893-1969) - 31
C. K. Stead: from The Masks of Catullus, 11 - 76

FRIENDSHIP
[Some of the most charming poems in the collection – I think so, anyway].
Janet Frame: Lines Written at the Frank Sargeson Centre - 51
Elizabeth Smither: Smoking with Carol - 126
C. K. Stead: from The Masks of Catullus, 19 - 77

GETTING OLD
[Best not to let it get you down, I guess ...]
Lauris Edmond: Autumn in Canada - 47
Louis Johnson: The Seventies - 56
Elizabeth Smither: Saveloy - 127
Kendrick Smithyman: Closing the Chocolate Factory - 37
C. K. Stead: Horation - 79

HISTORY
  • colonialism
    [“History is real” -- Kendrick Smithyman]
    James K. Baxter: Prospector - 66
    Allen Curnow: House and Land - 16
    Allen Curnow: The Unhistoric Story - 17
    Allen Curnow: The Skeleton of the Great Moa … - 19
    Kendrick Smithyman: Near Ellon - 36
  • the depression
    [memories of the Great Depression]
    A. R. D. Fairburn: Walking on my Feet - 4
    Denis Glover: The Magpies - 23
  • the first world war
    [A Gallipoli poem]
    Alistair Te Ariki Campbell: Lest We Forget - 61
  • the second world war
    [Three different aspects of the war – North Africa, the camps, and the front line].
    Alistair Te Ariki Campbell: Maori Battalion Veteran - 62
    Riemke Ensing: Transport - 111
    M. K. Joseph: Drunken Gunners - 26
  • the atomic bomb
    [Two poems written after Hiroshima]
    Keith Sinclair: The Bomb is Made - 32
    Hone Tuwhare: No ordinary sun - 41

LANDSCAPE & LOCALITY
[Autres endroits, autres moeurs].
James K. Baxter: Poem in the Matukituki Valley - 65
James K. Baxter: The Fallen House - 68
Allen Curnow: A Dead Lamb - 19
Denis Glover: Threnody - 24
Kevin Ireland: A Hard Country - 82
M. K. Joseph: Mercury Bay Eclogue I & II - 26
M. K. Joseph: Elegy in a City Railyard - 29
R. A. K. Mason: Flow at Full Moon - 11
Kendrick Smithyman: Inlet - 34
C. K. Stead: Auckland - 79
Albert Wendt: The Mountains of Ta’ū - 113

LIFE IN GENERAL
[So what’s it all about? -- dunno, really].
A. R. D. Fairburn: Full Fathom Five - 1
Janet Frame: The Icicles - 51
Michael Jackson: Seven Mysteries - 120
Louis Johnson: Coming and Going - 57
Vincent O’Sullivan: Butcher on Life in General - 103
C. K. Stead: Birthday Sonnet - 75

LOVE
[The second great poetic staple ...]
Charles Brasch: from In Your Presence - 14
A. R. D. Fairburn: Cupid - 4
Michael Harlow: And, yes - 101
R. A. K. Mason: Be Swift O Sun - 9
Vincent O’Sullivan: Seeing You Asked - 106
C. K. Stead: from April Notebook - 75

MAGIC
[How else could one characterise these poems?]
Fleur Adcock: A Game - 87
Riemke Ensing: Morning Glory - 109
Michael Jackson: Shape-Shifter - 119
Vincent O’Sullivan: Still Shines when you Think of it - 104
Elizabeth Smither: Late Summer Dew - 129
Brian Turner: In the Swim - 135

MEN
[Two versions of the Kiwi bloke].
Kevin Ireland: A Whiff of the Old Adam - 84
Vincent O’Sullivan: Butcher in Sunlight - 103

MUSIC
[Pianos seem to have more fans than any of the other instruments – so far, at any rate].
Michael Harlow: Today is the Piano’s Birthday - 100
Elizabeth Smither: Listening to The Goldberg Variations - 128

NATURE & CONSERVATION
[Jackson stresses the violence of nature, Tuwhare its gentleness].
Michael Jackson: Green Turtle - 122
Hone Tuwhare: Rain - 40

PAIN & IMPRISONMENT
[Suffering / illness ...]
Riemke Ensing: T’ai Chi - 110
Janet Frame: O Lung Flowering Like a Tree - 52

RELATIONSHIPS
[“No problem, but not easy” – different relationships, with their different beginnings, middles and ends].
Lauris Edmond: Scar Tissue - 46
A. R. D. Fairburn: A Farewell - 2
Michael Harlow: No Problem, But Not Easy - 98
Kevin Ireland: Cloud - 83
Vincent O’Sullivan: Before you go - 107
C. K. Stead: Between - 78

SEX
[It’s on our minds a lot, so it’s in our poems a lot, too].
Fleur Adcock: Smokers against Celibacy - 90
A. R. D. Fairburn: The Cave - 2
Brian Turner: One Night Stand - 135
Hone Tuwhare: cummings - 42

VISION QUEST
[Poems about journeys, long or short, and the things one sees on them, whether they qualify as “visions” or new perceptions of reality].
Allen Curnow: Any Time Now - 20
Michael Jackson: The Red Road - 119
R. A. K. Mason: Out from Sea-Bondage - 8
Brian Turner: Training on the Peninsula - 132

WAR, VIOLENCE, PREJUDICE
[“Sudan” can be a good corrective for students who find poetry bland and unmoving].
Peter Bland: the nose - 94
Michael Jackson: Sudan - 121
Louis Johnson: Words for Blair Peach - 56
David Mitchell: my lai / remuera / ponsonby - 124
Alistair Paterson: The dictionary of battles - 73

WOMEN
[Guys like talking about women; women do, too, it would appear.]
Peter Bland: Shopping with Brigitte Bardot - 95
Riemke Ensing: Love Affair - 109
Elizabeth Smither: Red shoes - 126

8 comments:

Richard Taylor said...

Jack - this is good - I couldn't get to the launch - when I am less fiscally challenged I will get one of the books/audios -

You know: I have had The Globe Tapes for years and never listened to them... dont know why - maybe have a listen soon...your book reminded me of them.

My poetry will never be of any use to teachers as:

a) I don't know what they are about myself and doubt anyone else does - or ever will.

b) I am not really of any region - I am regionless.

Jack Ross said...

Oh, come on -- everyone knows that you're the sage of Panmure ... you're at least as much of a region as some of the folks in the anthology! As for what the poems are about, those seniors in the Alzheimer's ward who rioted when *Red* was read out loud to them certainly seemed to know what they meant ...

Richard Taylor said...

Jack - you caught me out! I was being coy again! Actually I did satrt the Panmure Poetry Club and I was thinking at one stage of either incorporating or using Panmure - perhaps somewhat as you did the whole of Auckland - in fact some years back that was one dream I had to travel round Auckland and write poems -at one stage I was going to get my daughter's help as then she was right into photography as I have been myself...

But I actually am getting more and more interested in Panmure/Mt Wellington etc it must be old age... like any area there is more to the eye... I also have Maungarei etc

Yes - the "not knowing what poem means" is a chestnut. I feel better now you have said that (that story was a true one by Scott as I met his girlfriend at the time) - have been poetically in the dolrums a bit..hmm...I did another entry on my Eyelight on Leicester - I started to do some more on my poem but did a thing on Leicester.

I am reading your brother's book - it has been slow for me (partly to get started or to concentrate on it) but I am starting to get very intrigued by it... my target is thus good (meaning long and rigorous) criticism or evaluation -in other words I will say if I think it is all load of cobblers - which I dont think it is) - not certain how to judge it as I am not primarily a novel person - but...well I will get through it - the (Finnegans Wakean) (or somewhat Taylorean) "interruptions" are certainly fascinating if problematic...not sure if all of it is so good yet though - point is I am getting into it now. Target - next or the following Brief. I want to read it twice to get a good look at the book.

Parts of it are beautifully and skilfully written other parts not so good - I am not sure of it all so far... but am proceeding! (I know Bill did a short review of it)

Liv said...

I agree with Jack - if anything Richard your not having the "meaning" clutched in a tight iron claw is likely to make it a lot better for teachers as they can say what they like. Plus who can resist the goblins.

Richard Taylor said...

Thanks liv -

Re "meaning" - what is the meaning of meaning? And what is the meaning's meaning? But let's not get mean about meaning. Let's not even get mean - know what I mean old bean? Let's just go pick up Dean and a Goblin or two and get down town and be green. Know what I mean?

I like Auden's statement or phrase no doubt from a poem or essay by him as quoted by Sir Jack:

"poetry is magic"

I like it that way - word-webbed, secret,dark, and strange.

Jack Ross said...

Although you be, as I am, one of those
Who feels a Christian ought to write in prose
For poetry is magic, born in sin, you
May read it to exorcise the Gentile in you.
-- W. H. Auden

It's the " poetry is magic" bit that really stuck for me from that quote ...

Richard Taylor said...

Auden had a Christian "phase" ? I read it's a mistake to do this - his Freudian - his political - his Christian and so on - unless one wants or maybe needs to classify these things - the poem itself doesn't look so good - the phrase is great.

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