Hard News by Russell Brown

Read Post

Hard News: A Century Since

66 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 Newer→ Last

  • John Armstrong,

    If you can get hold of the newest number of the New Zealand Journal of History, Nepia Mahuika's article has some powerful things to say about 'learning the trick of standing upright here'. No online version yet I'm afraid, but it will more than reward a walk to your local library..

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 127 posts Report Reply

  • Marcus Turner,

    I've been enjoying the Curnow readings on National Radio, and how they're presented in context.

    Since Nov 2006 • 202 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    I've got to admit that you've quoted the obvious anthology piece (which it is for good reason), but the Curnow poems that always get me is Magnificat from his 1972 sequence Trees, Effigies, Moving Objects:

    Who hasn’t sighted Mary
    as he hung hot-paced
    by the skin of the humped highway
    south from Waikanae
    three hundred feet above the
    only life-size ocean?
    Tell me, mother of mysteries,
    how long is time?

    Twelve electric bulbs
    halo Mary’s head,
    a glory made visible
    six feet in diameter,
    two hundred and forty-five feet
    of solid hill beneath,
    Tell me, mother of the empty grave,
    how high is heaven?

    Mary’s blessed face
    is six-and-a-half feet long,
    her nose eighteen inches,
    her hands the same.
    Conceived on such a scale,
    tell me, Dolorosa,
    how sharp should a thorn be?
    how quick is death?

    Mary’s frame is timbered
    of two-by-four,
    lapped with scrim and plastered
    three inches thick.


    Westward of Kapiti
    the sun is overturned.
    Tell me, Star of the Sea,
    what is darkness made of?

    Mary has a manhole
    in the back of her head.
    How else could a man get down there
    for maintenance, etc?
    Mary is forty-seven feet,
    and that’s not tall.
    Tell me, by the Bread in your belly,
    how big is God?

    I AM THE IMMACULATE
    CONCEPTION says
    Mary’s proud pedestal.
    Her lips concur.
    Masterful giantess,
    don’t misconceive me,
    tell me, mother of the Way,
    where is the world?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11902 posts Report Reply

  • Deb Mudie, in reply to Marcus Turner,

    I've been enjoying the Curnow readings on National Radio...

    I was about to say that very thing. They've been great listening, the last few days.

    Auckland • Since Sep 2010 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • Kate Hannah, in reply to John Armstrong,

    Did my MA with Nepia. Lovely chap and 'tis indeed an excellent article.

    And thanks Russell for celebrating Curnow today - those words still resonate so many years later, as we all learn and relearn that trick. One of the little notes above my desk has a scrawled Carol Ann Duffy quote - poetry is the noise of being human - and Curnow's poems have always struck me as being an attempt at the noise of being a New Zealander. I see Michael King's beautifil summary of New Zealanders in the conclusion of the Penguin History as the descendant of Curnow's 'standing upright here'.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2010 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • John Armstrong, in reply to Kate Hannah,

    Mmm. The reason I linked to Nepia's article, 'Closing the Gaps', is because it raises some critical questions about the somewhat cosy narrative that King and others have produced. I don't know enough about Curnow's oeuvre to make a judgement, but the poem that Russell has posted here - an iconic one - can certainly be read to support this narrative: that for those of us with European heritage, becoming a 'New Zealander' can be done entirely on out own terms, or at best by modelling our stance on a glass-encased indigenous museum piece. I am lucky enough to work with Nepia every day, and exposure to ideas such as those that the cited piece articulates has made me uneasy about that narrative. I think it also provides an immensely powerful alternative path to finding a way to stand in these islands.

    Hamilton • Since Nov 2007 • 127 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    I saw the headline and thought you were referring toIBM's birthday that's all over the tech wires.

    Sigh, now I feel like a geek, me who was an eng-lit major at Uni.

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 841 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Another recent, sad death of a NZ poet was Ken Arvidson. A real gent who taught in the English Dept at the University of Waikato.

    Excellent Media 7 last night, Russell.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2301 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Geoff Lealand,

    Excellent Media 7 last night, Russell.

    Thanks Geoff. I thought I wasn't quite on form personally, but Jose's two tracks were brilliant.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18815 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Andrew,

    I hadn't heard about Ken Arvidson, he was one of my lecturers on the aforementioned eng-lit track. He was an odd duck - not what one would expect a poet to be like (which is probably a result of me having grown up while Sam Hunt was touring schools).

    Hamiltron - City of the F… • Since Nov 2006 • 841 posts Report Reply

  • Marcus Turner,

    Just while I think about it, here’s something for Friday from the Udmurt Republic in Russia. Starts off a bit new-agey, but gets a nice groove on, and it’s beautiful, too.

    Since Nov 2006 • 202 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Aston,

    Graig - thanks
    Fantastic line " Tell me, mother of the empty grave, how high is heaven?"

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 482 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisW,

    Thanks for bringing the 100th birthday to attention of this Curnow fan too. It seems clear he did learn to stand upright here, so it's interesting his assertion in his youthful 30s/early 1940s that he wouldn't. And the moa perception is of its time too, the failure to adapt rather than being hunted to extinction as now recognised - indeed "The stain of blood that writes an island story" (yes, "Landfall in Unknown Seas" would be my favourite of his early poems).

    I long wondered what was it that made 1911 a marvellous year (note double ell in Curnow's and Oxford's spelling). Then I found that Kendrick Smithyman had wondered too, and had the answer -

    What, if anything, happened in 1911?
    Somebody screwed someone, somebody else
    screwed up.

    I guess Smithyman was not such a fan of this particular poem of Curnow's, on the evidence (from Smithyman Online)
    of -

    MOWER: RUAPEKAPEKA
    Skeleton of a motor mower on iron crutches,
    its own museum piece, eyes fix on in that museum

    without walls, the paddock’s fag end. What used to be
    a tractorshed keels into windbreak broken macrocarpa

    along with the tractor, early Fordson, and Terraplane
    without wheels or motives, a swaybacked Mack dumper,

    an almost toothless hayrake. It was not born in any
    marvellous year, has forgotten tricks of standing upright.

    Luxurious man brought/brings to use his vice,
    anvil, welding torch, elsewhere to other ends.

    Where Nature was most plain and pure wild onion,
    hemlock, cow parsley, rage and rant. The mower’s bones

    are chilled, as are the gods themselves who no more
    with us seemly dwell.

    Gisborne • Since Apr 2009 • 833 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Te Ara has some wonderful upright moa: this one and this. Of course we now know they probably didn't walk upright most of the time! Great poem anyhow. :-)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3438 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    And just to lower the tone I think we have to have this too:

    No moa, no moa
    In old Ao-tea-roa.
    Can't get 'em.
    They've et 'em;
    They've gone and there aint no moa!

    (popular New Zealand song, quoted in Trotter and McCulloch 1984)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3438 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to ChrisW,

    MOWER: RUAPEKAPEKA

    Burn! But brilliantly done. :-)

    [can someone remind me of the name of that South Island painter who did a series of huge heroic paintings of his motor mower?]

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3438 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Ah, it was Philip Trusttum. And the only one of his mower paintings I can find online.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3438 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    popular New Zealand song

    from a poem by W Chamberlain.

    * * *

    I long wondered what was it that made 1911 a marvellous year

    …Eh? It’s a real struggle getting to that reading of it.
    The voice of the poem (“I”) is presumably Curnow, born in 1911, who watches children interacting with the exhibit.
    “Not I” is therefore “some child” born at a later time;
    indeed, perhaps born in some future,
    unimaginable at the time of narration,
    “marvellous year”.

    * * *

    One of my favourite NZ paintings
    (albeit for its dark humour more than for its technique)
    is a piece in the VUW collection, “Onward”,
    which shows a moa, lumbering on blindly, boldly going
    in all likelihood to its death in a swamp.
    Which, of course, is a kind of posterity,
    given where the bones on display were dug up from.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 888 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    Didn't quite track down the reference within 15 minutes, but here it is:
    "Onward" by Caroline Williams (1987)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 888 posts Report Reply

  • Gregor Ronald,

    It's hard to go past Baxter;

    Alone we are born
    And die alone
    Yet see the red-gold cirrus
    over snow-mountain shine.

    That'll do me.

    It's not hard to walk upright here, but it's hard to walk in the right direction.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 72 posts Report Reply

  • JLM, in reply to linger,

    “Not I” is therefore “some child” born at a later time;
    indeed, perhaps born in some future,
    unimaginable at the time of narration,
    “marvellous year”.

    I sent this link to my daughter, a Curnow fan, addressing her as "my child born in a marvellous year" which tickled her greatly.

    Judy Martin's southern sl… • Since Apr 2007 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • Cromie,

    I was privileged to work on 'Early Days Yet,' Shirley Horrocks' 2001 documentary and what Allen said that day will always remain with me: "A poet can work very hard all day to put in a comma...then spend all of the next day taking it out"

    Orewa • Since Jun 2011 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • ChrisW, in reply to linger,

    I long wondered what was it that made 1911 a marvellous year
    …Eh? It’s a real struggle getting to that reading of it.

    Well, seems the straightforward reading to me, and I would understand also to Smithyman who was a colleague of Curnow's over many years. But yes, there is the alternative reading, seeming less obvious to me given the conspicuous pair of commas making 'some child' apparently parenthetic. Perhaps a little creative ambiguity, but for essentially the same overall meaning anyway, of a future Curnow not only imagined but promoted.

    Clearly that second comma of the pair was one Allen Curnow had in mind in Cromie's quote above, and after Smithyman's poking the borax, he probably thought he should have spent another day or two on it.

    Gisborne • Since Apr 2009 • 833 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Cromie,

    I was privileged to work on ‘Early Days Yet,’ Shirley Horrocks’ 2001 documentary and what Allen said that day will always remain with me: “A poet can work very hard all day to put in a comma…then spend all of the next day taking it out"

    Obviously, poets are doing nothing to close the productivity gap with Australia. The government will therefore introduce legislation (under urgency) to require a quota of verse (including commas) per day that will soon see us rise up the OECD rankings.

    "They toil not, neither do they spin..."

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2062 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    - the best gesture of my brain is less than
    your eyelids’ flutter which says

    we are for each other; then
    laugh, leaning back in my arms
    for life’s not a paragraph

    And death i think is no parenthesis

    e.e.cummings

    Not a NZ poet, but strong on punctuation.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3438 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.