November 27th, 2010

When my first boy was born
I went off the road two years.
Twenty-one years on, another son,
I do the same, go off

roads, and backroads off backroads.
And if that’s not enough
to keep the boys happy,
take a river of a road to the sea.

-from Doubtless, by Sam Hunt

Finally caught up with some of that Kiwi poetry I brought back with me in February. Yeah, I should’ve been studying my road code.

But I must remember, my windowshelf is not a booksill. Put them back in their proper place, to be pulled out, dusted off, and indulged in next time I need to avoid the necessary and inevitable.

Today’s dalliance: A sprinkling of a little each of Kapka Kassabova, CK Stead and Sam Hunt. Vincent O’Sullivan as yet untouched.

Doubtless is a book of new and selected poems of Sam Hunt’s, published 2008 by Craig Potton Publishing. It happens to end with an old favourite of mine (the beauty of being both new and selected), Oterei River Mouth:

I get to think that God

is somewhere there between the rivermouth and sea



with only a broad sky a bored dog and me


I love the peace and broad acceptance of an embracing Nature of this poem. I spent many a happy hour in my youth along a river bank, estuary, coastline feeling and seeing exactly what that poem brings out into conscious expression.

The other books mentioned (albeit only by author’s name) of this afternoon’s dalliance, for those who may care, are:

The Black River, CK Stead, Auckland University Press, 2007.

Geography for the Lost, Kapka Kassabova, Auckland University Press, 2007.

And from what I read this afternoon, great books both.

And the one I didn’t get to this afternoon:

Blame Vermeer, Vincent O’Sullivan, Victoria University Press, 2007.

Seems 2007 was a good year for New Zealand’s poetry and university presses.

And with books back off shelf and in hand, I can’t resist (never leave me unattended in a bookshop) flipping through the O’Sullivan, and the first I find is this:

A dream of my father, winding our watches together

He hands me his watch to wind,

I give mine to him, silently.

So my time runs down with his,

His ending time with me.

To which I say, ah, beautiful ambiguity.

But I have yet to find a New Zealand poem to match Hone Tuwhare’s Mauri for sheer vital force, not raw, but quiet, eternal, boding and biding, ever-present crouched subtly beneath the surface, moving constantly through the rocks, magma and ocean currents. I struggle to think of any poem from any country or culture that can match Mauri‘s brooding immensity.

But you’ll have to search for that one yourselves, with the warning that you will be amply rewarded both for and by what you read.

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