On shelves and hooks it hangs and hovers
always verging on too much
and next year and every year
there will be more of such and such
and more. More stuff.
Gently gently let us unstuff
all our aggregates of things
too dull too bright too wrong too tight.
Every item needs a vote
or out it goes.
Gently gently let us unclog
all our mucked-up super-shelves
of yellow books and speckled nouns
and safety pins and rusty crowns.
Someone else may want that stuff
someone else may vote for it.
And when we die, remainers
will bless the day we started
on the road from heap to hollow
gently gently pondering
every item in our selves
and gently gently holding on
or letting go.
Why I wrote this poem and where it was published and why this was an extraordinary event in my little life
Last week was a beautiful week for New Zealand poetry by any standards, and especially for me. In the mail separately came two books, each featuring one of my poems.
The Friday Poem is a rush of 100 poems chosen by Steve Braunias from his Spinoff column of the same name over the last three years. It’s sparkly and lively and varied, and captures this magic moment when hordes of young New Zealand poets are bursting out of the starting gates, and numerous older poets, like me, are still alive and writing, and a splendid parade of poets in their prime is performing at the top of their game.
By contrast, Eight poems is an art book designed and letterpress printed at The Pear Tree Press, Auckland, New Zealand, by Tara McLeod in an edition of — wait for it — 30! So that’s a rare and beautiful book from the word go. The eight poets are Richard Von Sturmer, Karl Stead, Brian Gregory, Paul Thompson, Riemke Ensing, Daryl McLaren, Glenn Colquhoun, and me.
I’m still smiling. The reason why I’m so chuffed by these two books is that for about 20 years I never submitted my poems for publication — I never stopped writing, but I got blackballed, I got sidetracked, and then, I suppose, I got forgotten. But then, independently, Steve asked me for a poem for Spinoff, and Tara and Christine McLeod asked me for a poem for Eight Poems. Steve got “But when?”, which I have since published in a little book, Templates. And for The Pear Tree Press I wrote a new poem, which you see above. Decluttering… the idea can feel oppressive to some people, but the act is both cheering and spiritual.
Thanks for reading!
Below, I want to show you the glorious handwriting of Steve and Tara. It’s no accident that these are poetry addicts. These are the most beautiful letters a poet can receive. I had forgotten the thrill. (Poem and photos by Rachel McAlpine CC BY 2.0.)