June 19, 2012

Dear Heart: 150 New Zealand Love Poems

"I invite you to trespass on the look of love; to move and to sway, to be moved and to be swayed." -- Paula Green. introduction to Dear Heart.

Dear Heart is the title of the entrancing and surprising anthology of New Zealand love poems which Paula Green (co-editor with Harry Ricketts of that other fine book, 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry) has put together with her usual keenness and care.

I say "entrancing and surprising" because I wasn't expecting -- and was entranced by the idea -- that the love poems would have as their objects, besides the classic beloved, a child, an Auntie, a bicycle.

Paula will be presenting her book in the Whare Wānanga at Central Library tomorrow evening. Twelve special-guest poets will be along to celebrate love poetry and Paula's book by reading their work to us. They are Angela Andrews, Janet Charman, Murray Edmond, Riemke Ensing, Kevin Ireland, Stephanie Johnson, Michele Leggott, Renee Liang, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Kiri Piahana-Wong, John Pule and NZ Poet Laureate Ian Wedde.

As happens with love objects, the form of the book is as bewitching as the contents, with illustrations by New Zealand artists Dick Frizzell, Michael Hight, Gregory O'Brien, John Pule and John Reynolds.


The Bicycle
by James Brown

I have always been lucky.
When I was seven
my parents gave me
a red bicycle.

I rode it every day until
it became a part of me.

It had a basket on the front,
and my father attached a bell
to make doing the deliveries
more noticeable.

Pedalling up hills
pushed me so far inside my head
that only reaching the top
could bring me back out.

Going down, my mouth would open
as the world became flocks
of many-coloured birds
soaring into flight.

I loved that bicycle.

Lying in bed listening
to rain sheet against the window
and knowing that tomorrow
it was Monday,

I would get up and go
into the hall and stare at it,
consoled by the standing
of its beautiful silence.


June 17, 2012

Happy Bloomsday!

Today is June 16th and that means it's Bloomsday, the day people around the world celebrate the author James Joyce and his great novel Ulysses by getting together to read from the book, which follows everyman Leopold Bloom on his wanderings (thus "Ulysses") around Dublin on June 16th, 1904. I'm heading off to a Bloomsday celebration organised by Dean Parker at the Thirsty Dog on K Rd, starting in a few hours, featuring The Jews Brothers, Linn Lorkin and George Henare, with readings by Brian Keegan.

Even if you can't make it to a celebration tonight, you could get out your copy of Ulysses and reread a chapter or two, if you are already one of the converted, or you could check out a copy from the library and have a taste, if you are not. It is a genius book, fantastically comic (perhaps above all comic, something I notice now when I read it, but didn't so much when I first read it as a teenager), poetic, literary, revolutionary, full of humanity, by many considered the greatest novel of the twentieth century.

I'll end with the finale of that feat of writing which has entered literary history as "Molly Bloom's soliloquy"; the long stream-of-consciousness monologue spoken by our everyman's Penelope, sensual, bawdy, rushing like a river.

O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the Alameda gardens yes and all the queer little streets and pink and blue and yellow houses and the rosegardens and the jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and Gibraltar as a girl where I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will yes.

 
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