Edmond, L. and Sewell, B (eds.) Essential New Zealand Poems. Auckland: Godwit.
I opened it at random and chose 6 consecutive poems to read:
· Bob Orr: My Fathers bomber jacket. Easy to read, one simple image.
· Bob Orr: Container Terminal. First reading jarred – ‘tracks across the tide’ = tracks conveys earth not sea to me, but I worked out what he meant (ships’ wakes) on second reading. The poem has half a dozen connected images that flow into each other quite easily.
· Chris Orsman: Ornamental gorse. Some words didn’t feel right to me (obsequious, reprise, tangential, reluctant). Maybe reading it again tomorrow will improve my enjoyment. (Familiarity with the image can often defuse initial irritation with words)
· Chris Orsman: The Last Tent. Again occasional irritating word (why does he use the ‘providential’ cry). His thought a bit obscure – ‘the grief he’d all but tutored himself in’ = death? And ‘for which he must soon be bound’ – on his legs, or in a skua’s belly? (Need to read again.)
· Vincent O’Sullivan: In Parliament grounds. Not too keen on ‘preordinations’ and ‘perdurable’. I had to look up the words in a dictionary, and still feel they don’t fit.
· Vincent O’Sullivan: July, July. Obvious rhyme (X, A Y A) which is done well, even glove/love! Some lovely images e.g. stanzas 3 & 5, and lines ‘there’s a shine and flicker to the wind’ and mountains ‘with their withers of snow’. But overall? Ho Hum!
It’s obvious I didn’t get much pleasure out of reading these poems the first time. Why?
· Perhaps I need familiarity with some poems. (Not all though, I must say.)
· I know I like ‘nature poems’ and, if it’s about humanity, complex ideas expressed simply. I am NOT into obscurity. Say it plainly hey?
So, after another couple of readings:
· I’ve realized some poems are immediately accessible (plain English) – think of TS Eliot’s Journey of the Magi, and it’s not unique –there are umpteen thousand of poems where you walk right in to the image and/or writers thoughts. So if poems are more obscure I tend to take a ‘pass it by - I haven’t got time for this’ attitude. Along the lines of George Wither’s poem: Shall I, Wasting In Despair
And unless that mind I see,
What care I how great she be?
· However, having been stuck in some strange places with nothing but my trusty book of verse with me, I know by experience that if I put some effort in, I can supply my own images and understandings (probably not at all what the poet intended), and then the lovely rhythms and words will sing along to me.
· So reading these poems again has been productive. I have puzzled thru the more obscure one’s to supply meanings that suit me. Then of course, I get the treat of clear images – e.g. In the Last Tent I’ve decided he’s going to die in that blizzard and get carted back to the coast in a skua’s belly (most satisfactory). I have also assigned my own images to the words that jarred me (e.g. preordinations > groundsmen cleaning the statue). July July is no longer ho hum, because I have got that Wellington weather firmly in my mind’s eye. And ‘perdurable shacking’ is firmly entrenched in my mind as a bird’s nest (which the writer intended I think).
· I also played around looking at some technicalities: full-rhyme, slant rhyme, some lovely alliteration, syllabic poems (no), sonnet forms - the search for forms is tedious actually.