Tuesday, June 27, 2006

for Leicester Hugo Kyle, b.1937

Persistence of tussock
maxed-out Mastercard

Well, I’ve had some rather bad news. My friend Leicester Kyle is in extremis, with terminal cancer, at the Bone Marrow Unit of Christchurch Hospital. He’s elected to receive no further treatment for it, and his partner Carol circulated an email on the 18th of June warning his close friends and associates that he wasn’t long for this world.

As I write, a week later, they’re administering the Anglican last rites, or “final anointing.” David Howard – who was able to travel up from Dunedin to see Leicester one last time – just rang to tell me that, and also that he and I have been asked to be literary executors. I wish I could be there too. Writing this instead is, it seems, the best that I can do.

Barns raise rooftops
in reverse

Leicester’s wife Miriel died of cancer, too, a year or so after we first met. It was at a poetry workshop in 1997, actually – rather an auspicious day: the day I met Lee Dowrick and Stu Bagby, also. We’ve been friends and allies ever since.

The first Leicester I knew, then, was the Auckland Leicester – the man who invariably went along to Poetry Live on K Rd and sat there looking avuncular with his long white beard and broad-brimmed leather hat, before standing up to read some wry and witty verses to the assembled hipsters.

The scenic guard-rail’s

whited out

After Miriel’s death I asked him if there was anything I could do for him, anything at all to make things easier. He said that there was one thing, rather a trivial thing – if I were to organise a regular gathering of friends, perhaps weekly or fortnightly, to talk about poetry, that might be a nice distraction.

Accordingly Richard Taylor, Scott Hamilton, Leicester and I began a semi-regular series of meetings in the London Bar, punctuated by visits from the likes of Hamish Dewe, Michael Arnold, Miriam Bellard, Kirsty and Andrew McCully, as well as the boys from evasion ... Those meetings still continue, at Galbraith’s tavern, under the nom-de-plume of the brief organising committee. Leicester got us onto a good thing.

Charming Creek
takes an awkward turn

Then Leicester left. He bought a house, sight unseen, in the tiny village of Millerton, in the hills above Westport, and drove off there in his red Land Rover. It seemed a bit of a leap in the dark. I felt quite worried about him at first. But when I heard he’d acquired a little cat called Cursor (because he kept pace with the lines every time you turned over a new page in a book), I thought he’d be all right. And he was.

I visited Leicester in Millerton three times. The first time, in 1998, I flew down for ten days. The second time was after escaping that vast melancholy mud hole called the Gathering at the turn of the millennium. The third time, a few years later, I drove over in a rental car with David Howard for a week or so.

A naked tap
for Miner’s Dark

The lines I’ve been quoting above are from a poem called “Tips on Stress from Seddonville” which I wrote during my first sojourn in Millerton. We drove over there to buy some coal, after trying rather unsuccessfully to dig some out of one of the exposed coal seams that criss-cross the region (it looked bona-fide enough, but belched out acrid smoke whenever we tried to burn it).

The Tavern is, it appears, quite famous. We had a beer there, and then tried to compose some poems in each other’s manner. After a while the proprietor came over and remarked that there were two types of weather in Seddonville – if you can’t see the hills, it’s raining; if you can see them, it’s about to rain. Then he turned on the rugby. No poetry-scribbling drifters for him!

This is the poem I wrote that day, called “Kylesque.” I’m sure it doesn’t do him justice, though it later appeared in one of Tony Chad’s anthologies under the title “City Face”, so it must have touched some kind of chord:

Told yesterday
I had a ‘city

this morning
I spent
before the glass

insouciant sneers
atrocious leers
insolent stares

till I noticed
the espresso
had gone


[As “City Face” – Valley Micropress 1: 11 (1998) 6;
All Together Now! A Celebration of New Zealand Culture by 100 Poets,
ed. Tony Chad (Wellington: Valley Micropress, 2000) 85].

After a while, as Leicester became more and more of an iconic figure on the West Coast (mainly because of his intense involvement in the fight to save the local environment from strip mining), I began to feel that someone should compile an anthology of the various poems and tributes to him which had begun to appear all over the place. Virtually everyone who visited seemed to want to write a poem about Millerton and his strange, old-man-of-the-mountain role in the community.

Tony Chad, David Howard, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, Jim Norcliffe are just some of the writers I know who went there and wanted to record something of the extraordinary nature of the place.

So what will I miss most about Leicester? His wry sense of humour, above all, I suppose. In the very last letter he wrote me, just six weeks ago, he offers one parting reflection: “it isn’t really true that the quality of a poem has anything much to do with the beauty of the reader” – a typically sly and offbeat reaction to my own moonings over girls.

Also, his unfailing courtesy. He was a gentleman in the deepest sense of the term. When I heard how ill he was, a couple of months ago, I sent him an advance copy of the Classic New Zealand Poets in Performance anthology that I’d edited for AUP with Jan Kemp. I thought he might like it, hearing again the voices of Curnow, Glover, Tuwhare and the rest reading their iconic poems. Even from a cancer ward he took the trouble to ring up and thank me.

I was out at the time, so he had to leave a message. Is it sentimental of me to have saved it, and to play it back again now? The voice is thin and breathless – a shadow of what he used to sound like – but it’s so recognisably him:

Message recorded Sunday June the 4th, 12.27 pm:
“Hello Jack, this is Leicester. Just ringing to thank you very much for the poetry book. I think it’s a real triumph. The poems are so well chosen, and it’s really good to read New Zealand poetry all keeping such good company. So very thoughtful of you, and I’m reading it with great pleasure. Bye.”

I guess that’s the last time I’ll hear his voice. There are a thousand more stories I could tell. Maybe I will tell some more of them later on, but for the moment I just want to put on record my love and respect for that wise and complex man – priest, poet, conservationist – the Reverend Leicester Kyle.

Monday, June 26, 2006

for Leicester Kyle (2)

A Preliminary Bibliography

Longer Poems:
Koroneho: Joyful News out of the New Found World (1996)
[In A Brief Description of the Whole World, 6 (1997) – 9 (1998)]

Options. Mt Eden: Heteropholis Press, November, 1996. [& Maria (July, 1997)]

State Houses. Mt Eden: Heteropholis Press, June, 1997.

A Voyge to New Zealand: the Log of Joseph Sowry, Translated and Made Better . Mt Eden: Heteropholis Press, October, 1997.

Heteropholis. Mt Eden: Heteropholis Press, February 1998.

A Machinery for Pain. Millerton: Heteropholis Press, 1999.

A Safe House for a Man. Millerton: Heteropholis Press, 2000. [republished: Auckland: Polygraphia Ltd., 2000.]

Five Anzac Liturgies. Millerton, Buller, 2000. [republished: Auckland: Polygraphia Press, 2003.]

A Christmas Book. Millerton, Buller, 2000.

The Great Buller Coal Plateaux: A Sequence of Poems. P.O. Box 367, Westport: MAPPS [The Millerton and Plateaux Protection Society], 2001.

King of Bliss. Millerton, Buller, 2002.

Things to Do with Kerosene. Westport: Heteropholis Press, 2002.

A Wedding in Tintown. Millerton, Buller, 2002.

Dun Huang Aesthetic Dance. Millerton, Buller, 2002.

8 Great O’s. Millerton, Buller, 2003.

Panic Poems. Westport: Heteropholis Press, 2003.

Living at a Bad Address. Millerton, 2004.

Anogramma. Westport: Heteropholis Press, 2005.

Breaker: A Progress of the Sea. Illustrated by John Crawford. Millerton, Buller: Heteropholis Press, 2005.

Publications in brief (1995-2006):
[the magazine formerly known as: A Brief Description of the Whole World / ABDOTWW / description / ABdotWW / Ab.ww / brief. &c.]

Koroneho: Joyful News Out Of The New Found World / 6 (1997): 10-19
from Koroneho / 7 (1997): 35-40
from Koroneho / 8 (1997): 62-67
from Koroneho / 9 (1998): 49-54
Comparative Atmospheric Pressure; On Forest Culture / 10 & 11 (1998): 43-47
Marlowe overwritten / 13 (1999): 36-39
On The Principle Of New Zealand Weather / 14 (1999): 57-62
Errata / 15 (2000): 86
Mr. Buller To... / 16 (2000): 84
A Voyge to New Zealand / 18 (2000): 12-21
On The Great Buller Coal Plateau / 19 (2001): 38-40
Sign-off/ 20 (2001): 66-67
Mr Muir and Mr Emerson / 24 (2002): 75-77
from Dancing in the Cave / 25 (2002): 58, 60, 62
On Birchfield Fen / 27 (2003): 55-56
Spawning Galaxis / 29 (2004): 57
Death of a Landscape / 31 (2004): 83-92
Peninsula Days / 32 (2005): 61-64
A Letter from Buller/ 33 (2006): 44-45

Longer Prose:
The Abbot and the Rock [32 pp.] (c.1970s)

I Got Me Flowers: Letters to a Psychiatrist [54 pp.] (c. 1975)

Deosa Bay: A Pastoral [47 pp.] (c.1970s)

The Visitation; An Account of the Last Diocesan Visitation of John Mowbray, Bishop of Calcutta; Largely Compiled form His Journal and His Letters [68 pp.] (c.1970s)

Shorter Poems:
There were at least 475 of these, when I attempted a preliminary census in 1999. Heaven knows how many have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the seven years since ...


says Jack
and tentative

is the wind

that blows

over dead hills
on the Manukau

[© Leicester Kyle. Spin 31 (July, 1998): 31].

Der Berggeist

‘If there were no small pines in the fields,’ he murmured to himself. Such a fitting reference, I felt; far better than any new poem of mine could have been. I was most impressed.
– Diary of Lady Murasaki

[Monday, 3rd January – 10.55 a.m.]

Leicester has found a strange orchid, which he wishes to collect. Time for an orange-break.

Sunlight gleams

the leafy spot
we passed on the track

foaming, tannin-brown stream

miraculously green rock

“The weather’s not doing what it should be – I don’t have it properly trained” – Leicester Kyle in the Fisherman’s Rest, Granity.

Der Berggeist

Tom’s words laid bare the hearts of trees
– J. R. R. Tolkien

Bush-lawyer glow-worms
in the garden butcher’s
shop ground to stone
slabs Dracophyllum
Mountain Neinei Dr
Seuss Trees the yellow
orchid like
Aladdin’s cave a pothole
in the moors with water
flowing by
the Christmas
bush so long
as no-one mentions
anything to do
with Christmas

green like that stone
you picked up last
time from the Gentle

[Jack Ross, Chantal’s Book (Wellington: HeadworX, 2002) 95-96].

In the Ngakawau Gorge

Plastic arrows broken
off, DOC plaques
erode to
native yellow.

Detour, they said,
back on that
fuelled by gravity.

Irrupting from fern-
bush: creek, stream,
rill, foam-
berged, peat-

stained. No further
forth – no rain
(as yet). We sat,

What does one do
with this? Cite
Rilke? Prate about
milady’s favours? Fail to


[Spin 32 (1998): 37].

A Clearer View of the Hinterland:

Leicester at Millerton

Absence of rapids on Ngakawau stream.

Big Ditch and Little Ditch Creek – impious hand bisects the ‘D.’

Cobweb of raindrops in dragon sun.

“Down, down, down from the high Sierras ...”

Electrical storms: intensity of affect.

Fund-raising at the Fire Depot.

Grey & white kitten, black robin, and black fantail.

Huffing into an Atlas stove.

“If you can see the hills, it’s going to rain.”

Jack said: “A succession of inner landscapes.”

Kiwis peck through sphagnum moss.

Leicester said: “A community devoted to male play.”

Millerton speaks – A Cannabis Landslide.

Nature tips – gorse is choked by bush.

Other landrovers get one wave.

Proud grey donkey; manure in a sack.

Quarrelling over the Fire Service.

“Rain has a persistency of grades, much noted by the locals.”

Siren: “I’m always free on Wednesday nights.”

Twin side-logs set for smoke-alarms.

Utopia St, Calliope Rd.

Village hall stained with camouflage paint.

White-packaged videos, too frank a stare.

X of three rocks marks one rare tussock.

“You have to say: Great! Awesome! Choice!”

668 – Neighbour of the Beast.


[Spin 36 (2000): 51].

[This alphabet poem, written during my first stay with Leicester at Millerton, was described by the one reviewer of that particular issue of Spin as "languid and oddly-themed" (Wayne Edwards. Small Press Review 334-5 (November-December 2000): 18). I've always taken that as some sort of backhanded compliment, though it may not have been meant that way at all ...]

for Leicester Kyle (1)

Here's the full text of an article I published in our lamentably shortlived print journal the pander early in 1999:

Leicester H. Kyle
Prophet without Honour

Are you the kind of reader who goes for the fattest, glossiest, most shameless paperback on the bestseller shelves? Or are you the sort who snoops through ratty old second-hand bookshops looking for the esoteric and elusive: the promise of the unknown masterpiece?

Ezra Pound chanced upon Andreas Divus’ Latin translation of the Odyssey on an bookstall in Paris; D. G. Rossetti found Fitzgerald’s Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám in a remainder bin in Charing Cross Road. If we wait long enough, eventually someone may pick up a copy of Leicester Kyle’s Heteropholis in the stacks of one of our larger public libraries (defenders of the obscure, God bless them), and be similarly transfixed by this strange work of the modern sensibility. Why wait, though?

Heteropholis is a complex, multi-faceted narrative poem, not predominantly lyric in inspiration – which at once condemns it in the eyes of most readers of contemporary poetry (the only sin more heinous being what Milton calls “the troublesom and modern bondage of Rimeing”). It concerns a fallen angel, who has descended to earth in the form of a small green native gecko (species: Heteropholis gemmeus). This gecko has been caught by an apartment-dwelling Aucklander, and makes observations on his habits, on the weather (a subject of particular concern to angels, who are used to looking down), and on sundry other matters. Some of the matter is lewd, some liturgical[1]. It is, nevertheless, a profoundly serious and, indeed, partially autobiographical work. No commercial New Zealand publisher will touch it with a barge-pole.

Leicester Kyle, like his lizard protagonist, has been caught. Poetry snared him late, after a long and successful career as an Anglican pastor. He had written short stories before that (notably for the Listener and the London Magazine), but his poems began to appear in New Zealand magazines midway through the nineties, and have now become almost inevitable features of any local publication. Like other late-flowering converts to poetry (Thomas Hardy, say, or Herman Melville), he is prolific, and could undoubtedly present us with a collection or two of lyrics which would take their place with the others so routinely reviewed in these pages.

Instead, he perversely insists on writing erudite, book-length works in an experimental mode (Zukovsky and the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets are acknowledged influences). His shorter poems have tended to be wry, ironic reflections on modern New Zealand life, which explains their ready assimilation into the bland modernism-without-tears of our present literary milieu. The longer works, though, defy ready characterisation. They display a darker, more rebellious gift.

In order, we have Koroneho: Joyful News out of the New Found World (which has been appearing serially in Alan Loney’s journal A Brief Description of the Whole World from issue 6 onwards). A series of descriptions of – misidentified – native orchids compiled by the missionary and botanist William Colenso are here versified and complicated by Leicester into a work combining the scientific and literary vocabularies (a continuing preoccupation in his writing). This is perhaps the most austere and “difficult” of his works to date.

Next comes Options (1996-1997), available only through Leicester’s own Heteropholis Press (now removed from its former location in Mt. Eden to the wilds of Buller). This set of four poems examines, with a wickedly satirical eye, a series of religious and mystical vocations. We have Evagrius, the fourth century ascetic; Jeremy Taylor, the seventeenth-century Anglo-Catholic Jeremiah:

Always look for death.
Every day knock at the gate of the grave.
… Consider the tomb
At your triumph; the skeleton
At the revel; the bones
At the banquet …

(Leicester comments, perhaps tongue in cheek: “It was my intention to make better use of Taylor’s humour, but I found this oddly difficult to do. It is here, but unexpectedly dark”); Fran, a thirteenth-century Franciscan mendicant transported to contemporary Northland; and finally Maria, the celebrated nineteenth-century dancing prophetess of Kaikohe. The disjunction of cultures and epochs might seem extreme, but that’s how its author likes it.

As a whole, Options is a delightful and witty work which deserves a wider audience, and which might have great value as a corrective to the mouthings of the New Age prophets who surround us in these last days of the millennium.

State Houses (1997) is more personal, interweaving tragic family history with the history of the first state houses in the Christchurch suburb of Riccarton. Leicester explains that his “dream-like recollection” of childhood “is set against the ideology of which the state houses were part” (hence the Bauhaus epigraph, and the various diagrams and maps), but that “progress is provided by a ritual house-blessing, an alternative ideology, which moves the family group from room to room, part to part, of reality.” This is an intense and moving poem, whose total effect can perhaps be best summarised by repeating the quotation (from Lorine Niedecker’s correspondence with Louis Zukovsky) on the dedication page:

“Yes I know you’re moving – in a circle, backward with boxes –”

The “moving” pun is intentional.

Finally we come to A Voyge to New Zealand: the Log of Joseph Sowry, Translated and Made Better (1997). “Made better” is a description cribbed from Talmudic commentaries, but this is more ludic, a bit of fun. The author has taken a real nineteenth-century journal, and teased it into strange shapes on the page and in the imagination. It reads as an affectionate tribute to the spirit of our pioneers, a fin-de-siècle version of Curnow’s “Landfall in Unknown Seas.”

As I mentioned earlier, Leicester Kyle has moved from Auckland to the West Coast of the South Island, where he can scribble, observe, explore and botanise to his heart’s content. The samples I have seen of recent work (including sections of The Machinery of Pain: a new sequence on pain management, prompted by close personal experience) promise some extraordinary new directions. My own hope is to see, eventually, a single volume, a little like the Black Sparrow Press collection of Jack Spicer’s poetry books, which will showcase his work for a larger public.

Jack will have his heroes, you may say. Regular Pander readers have already observed me constructing “hagiographies” (Danny Butt’s word, Pander 3:6) of Kendrick Smithyman (1: 10-13) and Kathy Acker (5: 26-27). But saluting the unorthodox is a principal reason for this magazine to exist, it seems to me.

There is nothing inaccessible about Leicester’s mad, funny, eccentric verses, seen in their proper context, but perhaps they do sound like a barbaric yawp next to the anaemic pipings of our other bards.

Now pursuing truth
I make new moves
and am more business-like …

I must learn more

I’ll take to interstices

I’ll live in the wall that divides

I’ll watch with my bespectacled unblinking eye

I’ll see all sides

It’s a strange thought, but I’m uneasily aware that in this strange flowering of Leicester Kyle we may be seeing genius.

[Pander 6/7 (1999) 21 & 23].

[1] For an example of the former, see Pander 3: 19.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bluff 06

Next stop, Rakiura ...

"laborious days sharing the life and hardships of their people in the simplicity of Christ" -- rather an inspiring sentiment.

Berlin Storkwinkel 12

- Yang Lian -

Hilary Chung made this word for word rendering from the Chinese for our Words and Places poetry workshop.


[Michele Leggott, DIA (Auckland: AUP, 1994) 7].

Michele gave permission for us to use this poem in the Words and Places poetry workshop.

Words and Places (Bluff 06)

Poetry Workshop
(Saturday 22 April, 9.30 am-12 noon)

el original es infiel a la traducción
[the original is unfaithful to the translation]
– Jorge Luis Borges


When Michele Leggott asked me to write a short report on the poetry workshop we did at the Bluff 06 Poetry Symposium a couple of months ago, I agreed blithely enough. It’s been hanging over me ever since as a kind of uncompleted obligation. Nevertheless, it’s worth remembering that nothing in the literary field is ever really complete until you’ve written a spiel pointing out what an unqualified success it was – or, rather (as one might say), the proof of the pudding is in the assertion.

So I’m sitting in my office here at Massey Albany, staring at a pile of scribbled-on pieces of paper: annotated interlinear translations, ballpoint drafts of poems, battered sheets of A3 with curious designs drawn on them in multi-coloured felt-tip … I bundled them all together at the end of the exercise (I almost wrote “class”), and have hardly had a moment to go through these rather inscrutable relics since.

The original plan, I must confess, was simply to get the assembled poets to produce some creative transcriptions of foreign-language poems with the help of annotated cribs. Extensive discussions with Michele, however, modified and broadened the idea significantly. “Why not translate out of English as well?” she asked, and I had to admit she had a point.

Why privilege English as a kind of conceptual default? Even if we haven’t been intending to stay on the Te Rau Aroha Marae, the multicultural complexion of our projected line-up of poets would no doubt have brought the issue to the fore.

The request we finally sent out to all the guests at the symposium was accordingly for English-language poems as well as dual-text interlinears:

In the tradition of the collective poem and online anthology put together during FUGACITY 05 in Christchurch, you are invited to attend and contribute to the opening workshop of the BLUFF 06 symposium.


There are various components to the exercise we’ll be doing. The first two are:

  1. a poem in a language other than English, with interlinear literal translation and notes.
  2. an anonymous poem in English.

For the rest, you’ll have to wait and see. Please bring along pen, paper and anyone else you think might like to spend the morning writing and talking.


The end result, by Saturday noon, should be one or more poster-poems for display and impromptu reading. After due consideration, you may wish to type up your poem to be posted to the nzepc online anthology being launched next day in Oban, at the final reading of the symposium.

How can you help?

You can send us a poem.

Either one of your own, in which case you would have to agree to allow other people to play variations on it.

Or, alternatively, those of you who are fluent in – or have studied – another language (or languages) could email me a poem laid out as an interlinear text, with the original above and an English translation under each line (as in the example below). Footnotes on contentious points, double-entendres etc. would also be helpful. Please provide a phonetic transcript if it’s written in a non-Roman script.

What kinds of poem should you choose? Well, up to you. Fairly short ones, up to a page in length. Poems which interest you, or which you find challenging in some way.

The greater the variety, the more entertaining the workshop will be.

I made a few comments about it on the Leaf Salon website, but here goes with a much fuller report:

The Day of the Workshop

Saturday morning dawned grey and overcast, the perfect weather for a good long writing session. I’d brought down enough poems for (I hoped) ten or twelve groups, but a number of people approached me with new materials there in Bluff, so I ended up with enough pieces of paper for an army.

(Poor David Howard was kept very busy ferrying poems to and from the photocopier; Martin Edmond and I had had an interesting time the day before trying to find poster-sized paper in Invercargill).

We ended up with seven groups. Each one was issued with a poem, an interlinear translation, and a stimulus (we’d brainstormed these on the blackboard before the exercise got underway):

o Ancestors
o Bluff
o Oysters
o Ferry to Rakiura
o The view out of the window
o The weather
o 100 years from now

I debated for a long time whether or not to post the original materials on this site, but I can’t really see any harm in it. Some of the adaptations were extremely subtle, and it’s hard to get their full flavour unless you know the ingredients each group started from:

Group 1

Letter to a lost friend

Rob Allan, Michael Harlow, Cilla McQueen, Emma Neale

Original Poem:
The Mooring of Starting Out

We walk into what we’ve made already: Zapiski
iz podpol’ya
– underground; red spot on the right cheek,
then the left, flecked off. More spacious gestures,
opening to wide boulevards, the cars (Daihatsu, Hyundai),
Nikkei index – minutiae of day.
The renovations here fall into legend; we plot their progress,
waiting, day by day.

Dürer’s self-portrait in the Prado: “Can self-love
go any further?
” intones canned Kenneth Clark. Self-loathing,
rather – through the frame dry summer, Central
Otago moon-landscape – six huhus rubbing together.
A lake though, not these bomb-craters of metal,
light-blue and red t-shirt over hipster slacks, skewed platforms.
One more line completes it,

your breasts rhyme with the cloudlessness of day.

[Jack Ross]

Transcription from Chinese:
Yang Lian
Berlin Storkwinkel 12

[word for word rendering by Hilary Chung]

Group 2

Nevada’s dead white face

Jeanne Bernhardt, Martin Edmond, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman

Original Poem:
Some More of Your Friends from Nevada

In a corner of the old Capitol cinema

(Now an indoor rock-climbing centre
track-suited, trussed-up straight arrows

working their way up the walls)
they’ve left up one poster

Wes Craven’s
The Hills Have Eyes

a black cut-out hillside (you guessed it)
studded with lidless red eyes

Of course it’s too late to convince you
it’s always that friend of a friend

Who hoons off downriver
veers off the state highway

ends up getting fucked like a pig
or mown into road-spoil?

[Lorraine West]

Translation from Latin:
Theodorich of Saint-Trond, near Liege (12th century)

‘Flete, canes, si flere vacat, si flere valetis;
Weep, dogs, if there is time to weep, if it suits you to weep;
flete, canes: catulus mortuus est Pitulus.’
Weep, dogs: the little puppy is dead, Pitulus.’
‘Mortuus est Pitulus? Pitulus quis?’ ‘Plus cane dignus.’
‘Pitulus is dead? Which Pitulus?’ ‘More worthy than a dog.’
‘Quis Pitulus?’ ‘Domini cura dolorque sui.
‘Which Pitulus?’ ‘The love and sorrow of his Master.
Non canis Albanus, nec erat canis ille Molossus
Not an Albanian dog, nor was he a Molossian dog
sed canis exiguus, sed brevis et catulus.
but a tiny dog, but short and a puppy.
Quinquennis fuerat; si bis foret ille decennis,
He had been five years old; if he had been twice, ten years old ,
usque putes catulum, cum videas, modicum.
when you saw him, you’d think he was just a tiny puppy. .
Muri pannonico vix aequus corpore toto
Scarcely equal to a marmot with his whole body
qui non tam muri quam similis lepori.
not so much like a mouse as a hare.
Albicolor nigris facies gemmabat ocellis.’
His white coloured face was jewelled with little black eyes.
Unde genus?’ ‘Mater Fresia, Freso pater.’
‘From whence his tribe?’ ‘Mother Fresian, father Fresian.’
‘Quae vires?’ ‘Parvae, satis illo corpore dignae,
‘What strength?’ ‘Little, enough to match that body,
ingentes animi robore dissimili.’
huge spirits with dissimilar physical strength.
‘Quid fuit officium? Numquid fuit utile vel non?’
‘What was his work? Was it anything useful or not?’
‘Ut parvum magnus diligeret dominus.
‘So that the big master might take delight in the small. ’
Hoc fuit officum, domino praeludere tantum.’
This was his work, only to play around for his master.
‘Quae fuit utilitas?’ ‘Non nisi risu erat.’
‘What was the use?’ ‘There was none unless by laughter.’
‘Qualis eras, dilecte canis, ridende, dolende,
Such you were, beloved dog, to be laughed at, to be mourned,
risus eras vivens, mortuus ecce dolor.
living you were laughter, dead behold grief
Quisquis te vidit, quisquis te novit, amavit
Whoever saw you, whoever knew you, loved
et dolet exitio nunc, miserando, tuo.
and laments your death now, which must be mourned.

[trans. Bernadette Hall]

Group 3


Brian Flaherty, Lisa Williams

Original Poem:

At the edge of Temuka the road is blocked by three bales of hay, a black flag, and the last two O’Shaughnessy kids, who take turns holding the rifle their cousin brought back from the Somme. Outsiders get sent back to the city: Maoris have to keep to Arowhenua, on the far side of the creek we dive in to wash the sickness away.

When Queenie got the cramps we took her to the small house behind the marae, and laid her out on a clean sheet, and fetched a bucket of creekwater, and cooled her stomach and hips, and washed the mushrooms under her arms. The younger kids giggled beside the bed, expecting another baby cousin. First her fingernails then her hands turned black; her breasts swelled, popped their nipples, and dribbled blue-black milk. We couldn’t straighten her arms in the coffin, so we folded them across her chest. She looked like she was diving into herself.

[Scott Hamilton]

Translation from Italian:
Salvatore Quasimodo
Ed è subito sera
And it’s suddenly evening

Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra
Everyone is alone on the heart of the earth
Traffitto da un raggio di sole:
Transfixed by a sunbeam:
Ed è subito sera.
And it’s suddenly evening.

the verb ‘trafiggere’ means to run through, stab or pierce – here I’ve gone for the sonic equivalence of ‘transfix.’

‘raggio’ means ‘ray’ – I’ve gone for ‘sunbeam’ for the assonance / slant rhyme it offers with evening, specifically because Quasimodo’s original has the significant full rhyme of ‘sera’ and ‘terra’, as well as the internal half rhyme of sole and solo.

[trans. Cliff Fell]

Group 4

rhapsodia autographia

Maureen Dillon, Murray Edmond, Bernadette Hall

Original Poem:
New Leaf
for Alan and Miriam

Such a green song
so full of light sings
in the palm of your
hand, cave walls
have it, the first high-
five to say hello:
that shout of green,
love you could go
crazy for, and all
mind’s tendernesse
to the heart, take hold

[Michael Harlow]

Translation from Russian:
Osip Emilyevich Mandelshtam
Za gryemuchuyu doblyest’
For the sake of the resonant

Za gryemuchuyu doblyest’ gryadushchikh vyekov,
For the sake of the resonant valor of ages to come,
Za v’isokoye plyemya lyudyei
for the sake of a high race of men,
Ya lishilsya i chashi na pirye otsov,
I forfeited a bowl at my fathers’ feast,
I vyesyel’ya i chesti svoyei.
and merriment, and my honor.

Mnye na plyechi kidayetsya vyek-volkodav,
On my shoulders there pounces the wolfhound age,
No nye volk ya po krovi svoyei,
but no wolf by blood am I;
Zapikhai myenya luchshye, kak shapku, v rukav
better, like a fur cap, thrust me into the sleeve
Zharkoi shub’i sibirskikh styepyei, –
of the warmly fur-coated Siberian steppes,

Chtob nye vidyet’ ni trusa, ni khlipkoi gryazts’i,
– so that I may not see the coward, the bit of soft muck,
Ni krovav’ikh kostyei b kolyesye,
the bloody bones on the wheel,
Chtob siyali vsyu noch’ golub’iye pyests’i
so that all night the blue-fox furs may blaze
Mnye v svoyei pyervob’itnoi krasye.
for me in their pristine beauty.

Uvyedi myenya v noch’, gdye tyechyet Yenisyei,
Lead me into the night where the Enisey flows,
I sosna do zvyezd’i dostayet,
and the pine reaches up to the star,
Potomu chto nye volk ya po krovi svoyei
because no wolf by blood am I,
I nyepravdoi iskrivlyen moi rot.
and injustice has twisted my mouth.

[trans. Vladimir Nabokov, Strong Opinions, 1973 (New York: Vintage, 1990) 280-83.]

Group 5

The Moral is the Swan

John Dolan, Talia Smith, Robert Cooke

Original Poem:

between classes I play this computer game called Radial Pong
originally there was Pong
which was just a square with two rackets on either side and a ball going between them
Radial Pong is the same concept in a circle
the rackets are curved like brackets
it takes a bit of getting used to working in this way
because the ball goes off at all these wacky angles
when I’m teaching my students are always looking at their digital dictionaries
or compact mirrors or out the window
so I’m always trying to intercept their line of vision
like I’m playing Radial Pong
it’s a funny job teaching
you have to become a kind of all-pervasive presence
darting around the classroom
breaking them up
raising your voice
you’re not really real
you’re a hologram
they call you Teacher

[Gabriel White]

Translation from French:
Un Gâteau Bilangue

Les mufliers me rappellent l'Américain
The snapdragons remind me of the American
qui s'est approché de moi dans un café
who came up to me once in a coffee bar
en s'exclamant d'une voix forte,
exclaiming loudly,
– Madame, vous mangez comme un serpent!
– You eat like a snake!
J'ai posé mon gâteau.
I put down my cake
– Pardon, Monsieur?
– I beg your pardon?
– Un serpent. Vous qui êtes tellement petite!
– A snake. And you're so small!
C'était vrai.
It was true.
La tranche avait été grande –
The slice was very tall,
il a fallu ouvrir très grand la bouche pour l'accommoder –
I had to open wide to get it in.
il a fallu faire sortir presque tout à fait les mâchoires des gonds.
Unhinge my jaws.
Et moi avec de la crème au menton,
Cream on my chin,
j'avais été absente, invisible,
I had been oblivious of my surroundings,
sur une planète inconnue.
invisible, on a foreign planet.

[from Firepenny ©Cilla McQueen]

Group 6

net a little to land...

Hilary Chung, Jacob Edmond, Cliff Fell, Paula Green

Original Poem:

[Michele Leggott, DIA (Auckland: AUP, 1994) 7].

Transcription from Chinese:
Bei Dao
Shēng huó
Life (two characters: “to be born” and “live”)

wang = net, network, web (including www web)
one character-looks like a net: 网

[word for word rendering by Jacob Edmond]

Group 7

gyres of moaning poppies

Michele Leggott, Jack Ross, Helen Sword

Original Poem:
from A Satire Against Reason and Mankind

The senses are too gross; and he'll contrive
A sixth, to contradict the other five;
And before certain instinct will prefer
Reason, which fifty times for one does err.
Reason, an ignis fatuus of the mind,
Which leaving light of nature, sense, behind,
Pathless and dangerous wandering ways it takes,
Through error's fenny bogs and thorny brakes;
Whilst the misguided follower climbs with pain
Mountains of whimseys, heaped in his own brain;
Stumbling from thought to thought, falls headlong down,
Into doubt's boundless sea where, like to drown,
Books bear him up awhile, and make him try
To swim with bladders of philosophy;
In hopes still to o'ertake the escaping light;
The vapour dances, in his dancing sight,
Till spent, it leaves him to eternal night.
Then old age and experience, hand in hand,
Lead him to death, make him to understand,
After a search so painful, and so long,
That all his life he has been in the wrong.
Huddled in dirt the reasoning engine lies,
Who was so proud, so witty, and so wise.

[Henry Wilmot, Lord Rochester]

Translation from German:
Rainer Maria Rilke
Sonette an Orpheus – I, ix
Sonnets to Orpheus

Nur wer die Leier schon hob
Only [he] who the Lyre already raised
auch unter Schatten,
even among shades,
darf das unendliche Lob
may the infinite Praise,
ahnend erstatten.
when sensed, render.

Nur wer mit Toten vom Mohn
Only [he] who with the dead of poppies
aß, von dem ihren,
ate, those which were theirs,
wird nicht den leisesten Ton
will not the softest note
wieder verlieren.
again lose.

Mag auch die Spieglung im Teich
Though even the reflection in the pond may
oft uns erschwimmen:
often dissolve before us:
Wisse das Bild.
Know the image.

Erst in dem Doppelbereich
Only in the dual realm
werden die Stimmen
will the voices
ewig und mild.
be eternal and gentle

[from The Penguin Book of Twentieth-Century German Verse, ed. Patrick Bridgwater, 1963 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968) 47].


I guess, from my point of view, the most interesting thing was that each of the seven groups took a completely different tack on what they were “supposed” to do. It would have been a bit odd if such a stellar group of talents hadn’t come up with some pretty interesting poems, but I hadn’t expected quite such a range in the results:

  • Group 1 composed a gentle, allusive lyric.
  • Group 2 wrote a stanza each (Martin the first, Jeffrey the second, Jeanne the third, if you’re curious).
  • Group 3 chose to emphasise the clash of languages.
  • Group 4 condensed their materials with Zukofskyan precision.
  • Group 5 ended up transcribing the vagaries of their own writing process.
  • Group 6 made a concrete poem.
  • In Group 7, breaking down the wordy materials we’d been given into bite-sized phrases inspired us to make a kind of collage – which doubled as a reading score.

I suppose the real point of this postmortem on our poetry workshop is to suggest that poetry is a more robust art than even poets often assume. Once you’ve chanced upon something interesting, something from left field, by going along with an exercise like this, I hope you’ll feel more inclined to get wiggy with it more often in the rest of your writing.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Imaginary Museum of Atlantis

[poster design by James Fryer]

It's two days now since that strange booklaunch in the English Department common-room at Auckland University. I've always thought it a pretty odd space, even before the carpets were all dyed slaughterhouse purple. Once we'd turned off all the lights and arranged little lamps around the window-ledges, though, it turned into a kind of Orphic cavern: the temple of the mysteries.

I think there had been a film preview in there before we arrived, so there was still a huge white screen in the middle of the floor. We didn't dare to try and take it down without instructions, so it stayed there behind the podium with the speakers projected onto it, like the chained-up captives in Plato's parable of the cave.
Michele Leggott had kindly agreed to introduce the speakers, and did so valiantly despite having hardly enough light to make out her notes.

Scott Hamilton went first. He's already given a spirited account on is own blog of the talk he gave introducing Bill Direen's J. G. Ballardesque novel / Apocalyptic text Song of the Brakeman. Brett Cross of Titus Books (the publisher of both novels), comments about the reading Olwyn Stewart then went on to give from it, that "it got quite surreal and trancelike there for a while, with hazy music in the background, the low lights, and words tumbling over the top ... I don't think I'll ever get those nodules of Tyrian purple nosing out of thinning fur out of my mind ..."

Then came Gabriel White, introducing my book The Imaginary Museum of Atlantis. "Jack has a cold front," he said. "Jack puts his worst foot forward." He went on to compare me to Plato -- or Plato's more subversive side, at any rate. He sure got a laugh at that! I despair of doing justice to all the extravagant stuff Gabriel had to say -- it was a pretty goddamned impressive performance, though, I reckon (though I say it that shouldn't). For a video-clip of part of Gabriel's speech, click here.

The wine flowed freely and bread & cheese went down by bucketloads. Strange shapes loomed up in the semi-darkness, insisting on sharing their own views on Atlantis. "Perhaps some of their descendants are here in this room," speculated one poet. "Perhaps we're all Atlanteans," I riposted.

Andrew McCully's mood music was the other unique feature of the evening. He played on heroically as evening turned into night and the stars and citylights came on. He was still playing when I left. I hope he and all those others got safely home.

If you didn't manage to get there, I'm afraid that you missed an experience. Both books are now on sale, though, and can be ordered from the Titus website. I'll finish with some of the plaudits my own book has earned already:

· The Imaginary Museum of Atlantis. ISBN 0-9582586-8-6. Auckland: Titus Books, 2006. RRP $NZ 27.95

"… after having read some of the contents, maybe it just wasn’t meant to be printed …"
– Marian Reeves, Massey Printery

"… rather rude …"
– Bronwyn Lloyd

"… women don’t always respond well to girl-girl erotica written by a bloke."
– Martin Edmond

I think that says it all, really. You owe it to yourself to check this novel out.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The Auckland Game

This is my own idiosyncratic map of the place where I live.

It's a grotesque distortion of the three-dimensional Auckland of the mapbooks.

It occurred to me one day that it would be interesting to try and create a kind of subway map of the events, places and people most significant to me.

If you consent to play the game, I imagine you might be inspired to create your own private dreamscape of the place you live inside your head.

The rules are here.

Start out on the place board, then move onto time.

gameboard (place)

0 - 8.00 am START
Throw the dice. Move ahead that many spaces. Read the square.

1 - 8.30 am ALBANY VILLAGE
Start up your car. Keep driving till you get to Coromandel.

2 - 9.00 am MASSEY CAMPUS
Turn on the computer. Search until you find your double’s name.

Jump ahead to Car Accident!

4 - 10.00 am FERRY RIDE
Buy a ticket and set sail for Rangitoto.

5 - 9.30 am MAIRANGI BAY
Leave the house too late and Miss the Bus!

6 - 11.00 am SUNNYNOOK
Go to the movies. Nothing on. Crawl back to Massey campus.

7 - 4.30 pm CASTOR BAY
Get off the bus. Walk back to Mairangi Bay.

8 - 10.30 am FORREST HILL
Stall the car at the traffic lights. Drive across to Birkenhead.

9 - 12.30 pm MISS THE BUS
Return to Start. Throw the dice again.

10 - 5.00 pm RANGITOTO
Rough on the harbour. Stop for breath halfway up the hill.

11 - 4.00 pm BIRKENHEAD
This is where it all stops. Miss a turn as you kill time.

12 - 2.00 pm DEVONPORT
Cruise the bookshops until it’s time for your Ferry Ride!

13 - 2.30 pm PONSONBY
Time for a coffee as you wait for friends (they’re late).

14 - 3.00 pm WALK IN THE PARK
From Grafton Cemetery through the Domain to Newmarket.

15 - 6.30 pm EDEN CRESCENT
Get off the bus in Albert St. Cross over into Shortland St.

16 - 1.00 pm HIGH ST
Lunch with an old friend yattering on & on about her kids.

17 - 3.30 pm K RD
Buy some shirts (or have them bought for you).

18 - 1.30 am GRAFTON
Take a leisurely Walk in the Park!

19 5.30 pm CAR ACCIDENT
Miss a turn. Get a lift from the cops back to Mairangi Bay.

20 - 12.00 noon GREY LYNN
Help a friend move house (for the umpteenth time).

21 - 1.30 pm NEWMARKET
Do some shopping – see what’s on at the movies.

22 - 7.00 pm WESTERN SPRINGS
Party in the house with the book-shaped letterbox.

23 - 7.30 pm COROMANDEL
End of the Road. Throw the dice to move back through TIME .

24 - 8.00 pm STOP
Shift over to the TIME gameboard.

gameboard (time)

24 - Stop 8.00 PM
Throw the dice. Move backwards that number of squares.

23 - Coromandel 7.30 PM
Start the car. Keep driving till you get to Mairangi Bay.

22 - Western Springs 7.00 PM
Video and pizza on the sofa with a friend.

21 - Eden Crescent 6.30 PM
Car towed. Taxi to the impound yard.

20 - Upper Harbour Highway 6.00 PM
Scoot round the corner from the off ramp just in time.

19 - Find a Car Park 5.30 PM
Practice the art of parallel parking. Back to Stop.

18 - Rangitoto 5.00 PM
Halfway back, two passengers are missing. Ferry Turns Back!

17 - Castor Bay 4.30 PM
A CD launch with snacks in the hills behind the bay.

16 - Birkenhead 4.00 PM
Work party in a glass-fronted house overlooking the sea.

15 - K Rd 3.30 PM
Arrive at the bookshop too late because you Trip & Fall!

14 - Trip & Fall 3.00 PM
Scramble up with a fixed smile – saving face.

13 - Ponsonby 2.30 PM
Not as many bars are open as you’d expect.

12 - Devonport 2.00 PM
Climb up North Head. Get lost inside the secret tunnels.

11 - Newmarket 1.30 PM
Walk by the CD shop before going to the movies.

10 - High St 1.00 PM
Climb the stairs to the trendy bar to give your launch speech.

9 - Catch the Bus 12.30 PM
Take the Link Bus. Get off again after 9 stops.

8 - Grey Lynn 12.00 NOON
Drive by your friend’s house. She’s waiting by the letterbox.

7 - Grafton 11.30 AM
Finally manage to Find a Car Park!

6 - Sunnynook 11.00 AM
Power-walk to the multiplex. After the movie, back to Mairangi Bay.

5 - Forrest Hill 10.30 AM
Memories of the day you got soused by the water main.

4 - Ferry Turns Back 10.00 AM
Still blithely unaware as they climb on.

3 - Mairangi Bay 9.30 AM
Leave the house on time to Catch the Bus!

2 - Massey Campus 9.00 AM
Morning classes never starts on time. You hope.

1 - Albany Village 8.30 AM
End of the Road. Toss the dice to find your PLACE.

0 - Start 8.00 AM
Shift back to the PLACE gameboard.

Keep playing till you've had enough.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Time to play the game ...

The instructions are very simple:

You can play alone or in a group.
You'll need two dice.
Highest score goes first.
If the winning score is odd, the game starts on the Place Axis.
If it's even, start on the Time Axis.
Click on the hyperlink for the number that you land on, then follow the instructions.

Keep playing till you've had enough.

Place Axis

0. 8.00 Am Start
1. 8.30 AM Albany Village
2. 9.00 AM Massey Campus
3. 6.00 PM Upper Harbour Highway
4. 10.00 AM Ferry Ride
5. 9.30 AM Mairangi Bay
6. 11.00 AM Sunnynook
7. 4.30 PM Castor Bay
8. 10.30 AM Forrest Hill
9. 12.30 PM Miss the Bus
10. 5.00 PM Rangitoto
11. 4.00 PM Birkenhead
12. 2.00 PM Devonport
13. 2.30 PM Ponsonby
14. 3.00 PM Walk in the Park
15. 6.30 PM Eden Crescent
16. 1.00 PM High St
17. 3.30 PM K Rd
18. 11.30 AM Grafton
19. 5.30 PM Car Accident
20. 12.00 Noon Grey Lynn
21. 1.30 PM Newmarket
22. 7.00 PM Western Springs
23. 7.30 PM Coromandel
24. 8.00 PM Stop

Time Axis

24. 8.00 PM Stop
23. 7.30 PM Coromandel
22. 7.00 PM Western Springs
21. 6.30 PM Eden Crescent
20. 6.00 PM Upper Harbour Highway
19. 5.30 PM Find a Car Park
18. 5.00 PM Rangitoto
17. 4.30 PM Castor Bay
16. 4.00 PM Birkenhead
15. 3.30 PM K Rd
14. 3.00 PM Trip & Fall
13. 2.30 PM Ponsonby
12. 2.00 PM Devonport
11. 1.30 PM Newmarket
10. 1.00 PM High St
9. 12.30 PM Catch the Bus
8. 12.00 Noon Grey Lynn
7. 11.30 AM Grafton
6. 11.00 AM Sunnynook
5. 10.30 AM Forrest Hill
4. 10.00 AM Ferry Turns Back
3. 9.30 AM Mairangi Bay
2. 9.00 AM Massey Campus
1. 8.30 AM Albany Village
0. 8.00 Am Start

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]

(at Massey Albany)

the wind’s
as students

walks past
towed by
her seeing-eye

Hi Jack!
won’t stop
I stop
remember her

three months
the funeral
where Fairburn

that poem
she cut out
read out
by me
he’s buried

over there

Coromandel (7.30 pm)

[photograph: Simon Creasey (2005)]


Es ist Zeit, daß es Zeit wird
– Paul Celan, “Corona”

bird stalks by
5-fingered sky

in the rearview mirror
Autumn gnaws my hands
we’re friends

van reversing
past the

check out those jeans
swap spit
talk shit

don’t stare at

time she said
it’s time the asphalt

it’s time

[First published in Poetry NZ 28 (2004): 92.].

Western Springs (7.00 pm)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]

Unsuccessful Applicant for
Neighbourhood Watch

I like to see
what people do
in private
in secret
in the dark

Newmarket (1.30 pm)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]


Everybody’s got to
have plans

my magnum opus

For a hard-earned

face caked with clay

fixed-rabbit stare
from the kid who
cut me off

Everybody’s got to have
this headache
sick to your stomach

Everybody’s got to
dress to impress

Grey Lynn (12.00 noon)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]

Every girl’s a babe

in Jackworld
Annora’s mother

pilloried on 12 o’clock TV
not answering the door

We’ve had her up before
she’ll keep on doing it

feral old man

tethered in the yard
titanic mounds

of garbageThey’re afraid
of dinging up their cars

They always stop

comforting me

when I stalked out of Poetry
a good kind woman

turned into the butt
of media mikes

& yetthe squalor
freaked me out

that dark reporter …

Grafton (11.30 am)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]

The Kid Stays in the Picture

Don’t want to just be intellectual
The way I feel is sexual


Twisting my rubber arm
bronze blue

Mocha almond
Cookies & cream




Oh shitoh shucks

K Rd (3.30 pm)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]

This DVD contains everything there is to know
about Stargate … & more!

Everything there is to know
& more

They got it slightly wrong

you ever wanted to know

Tempting, though
to take them at their word

fill in the blanks
fulfil the prophecy

Just like that waitress
pulled back from

her breaktime cigarette
by one more customer

or the cell-phone girl

left in the middle
of her afternoon

on her Bermuda shorts

High St (1.00 pm)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]

Cycle Couriers in Freyberg Place

a mirror hit him from behind

up the back orifice

where was that

he rings me up and goes

yeah blah blah blah

what was it

he was fucken doing?

Eden Crescent (6.30 pm)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]

First Night

Incorrigibly punctual
talk to me
forgive me

in the park
I suddenly thought

you’re on tonight
he told me
it was all

one thing
looking forward
to a cognac

since this morning
me a wine
the others

to a scream

Ponsonby (2.30 pm)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]

Such Manners

“Such manners …”
with the emphasis
of early afternoon

waiting for your friend
to come (she’s late)

whisper whisper
from the little girl
“You’d like to stay here

water baby
with a coke bottle
clear dishes

traffic’s already

starting to build up

Devonport (2.00 pm)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]

A Sunday Walk

Heteroglossia is as close a conceptualization as is possible of that locus where centripetal and centrifugal forces collide …
– Michael Holquist

MTChalk butterfly
VICTORIAetched in the pavement
faded to two wings
an eye open on each

bridge binding up the harbour
sails becalmed
halfway up the slope

… as such, it is that which a systematic linguistics must always suppress.
The Dialogic Imagination: 4 Essays by M. M. Bakhtin

NORTH· How did you do that?
HEAD· I’ll scrub them when I get home
· Whatever
· Have you had an inspiration?
· Uh
· Get up and stop being stupid
to a fallen child

[First published in Poetry NZ 28 (2004): 91].

Birkenhead (4.00 pm)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]


Out of this universal feast of death, out of this extremity of fever, kindling the rain-washed evening sky to a fiery glow, may it be that Love one day shall mount?
– Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain

If you can’t park in Birkenhead
where can you park?
Slip Inn

Play the Big Game
Dollars & Dealers
money talks

but bullshit walks
exchange the orange baby
for the panda bear

Since the All Blacks lost
’s such a hassle

two mouths crooked so

mother & daughter
Full prog
& bikini underarm

Black on white
& white on brown

Breaking the norm

[First published in Spin 49 (2005): 60-62].

Rangitoto (5.00 pm)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]


the damned have holidays – excursions … to this country
– C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce

Acc. to St. ThomasIt came to me
Aquinaslike a light
the smallest painin the centre of my vision

blanking outin Purgatory
allis greater than
but the peripheriesthe greatest on earth

Screamingwalking up Rangitoto
I buried my facestopping
in my teacher’s robeswinded

halfway upThe morning! The morning!
to read out versesI am caught by the morning
to the scoria& I am a ghost

it being relieveddown by the wharf
howeverwe waited
by the certitudefor the ferryman

to take usof salvation
to the asphodelsestablishing Holy Souls
the farther shores ofin deepest

[Portions of this text were sampled from C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce: A Dream (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1945) 60-61; 117; & the entry on “Purgatory” from The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. F. L. Cross (London: Oxford University Press, 1957) 1126].

Forrest Hill (10.30 am)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]


– Forrest Hill Presbyterian

New & Pre-Loved

O my rider
does that ring a bell?

Have we been here before?
Or never


hips above a skirt
that tilt

of innocent intent
PatroklosO my rider

Hektor has you now

laughing as he kills

Castor Bay (4.30 pm)

[photograph: Dr John Ross (2005)]

Castor Bay

The day your driver stopped
not halfway home

to say another bus had crashed
in Takapuna

& he’d been told
to turn around

pick up the passengers
but you got out instead

thinking it might be quicker
to walk home

only to see his tail-lights

before you got halfway there
your feet started to hurt

in those damned sandals
until you tried

that one surefire shortcut
that took so much longer

& you felt
not so much alive

as if you ought to feel

something like that

Sunnynook (11.00 am)

[photograph: Jack Ross (2006)]

We were soldiers

not me I wasn’t
in other men’s wars

Tonight I took the car out
for a spin
in moonlight
starting at shadows

Today I stayed at home
alone at home
same’s true
of yesterday

Off to hunt
the foxes
from their holes