Claiming the Land

Yesterday at St Heliers library – the launch of the Atlanta review NZ edition.

I read my poem Claiming the Land.   The version that I submitted is a much reduced version of the original ( published in JAAM 32 Shorelines) .  These line limits!!  But it’s still okay  -though I may post the full version another time.

Claiming The Land

you read the subtext of the city
the mangroves below the reclamation

your inner eye sees the was and were of it
you look beyond the concrete piles
the metal chip      rubble       tarseal

there the snapper spawning ground
the crab scuttle             slow creek
between green banks        a heron watching

and if your ears are tuned
to some supra-sonic frequency
you may hear the stilts call

the volcano rumble
the shouts of men setting nets
small utility waka line the shore

all oblivious to the streets
the cars rushing above
you see this         hear this

and are lost to the city of now
the city as façade and a thousand year

depth to those first foot-prints
lost in the mud of time
signifies little compared

to that long still season         of the birds
the trees      and the slow river
transforming to harbour

now surveyors’ pegs spike the heart
and concrete alters geology
new cliffs and chasms form and the past

is referenced with decoration
patiki-patterned on-ramps
motorways fringed with flax

sunlight      moonlight      neon
traffic hum         the long slow vibration
of the tidal change        suck and cover

unrooted             rootless
old pneumatophores hold

sacred spirit           bones and sticks








The smell of chrysanthemum leaves




Chrysanthemums are mentioned in a poem ( The inside dark ) from my thesis Deconstructing Light (2016)  In this thesis I used the theory of ikebana ( flower arranging) as an organizing principle for the collection of poems

When I was at university the first time (biological sciences) I had a holiday job in the hospital as a nurse aid in the antenatal ward.  I loved messing around with the flowers that were delivered daily to the ward. Lots of carnations with that lovely clove-y scent – roses of course and gladdies, and chrysanthemums which I was pretty negative about – it didn’t seem right that flowers should smell horrid. But years pass and I came to realize I loved the smell – the light greeny-ness of the flowers and the pepper green spicy camphor of the crushed leaves – a scent of autumn gone perhaps, and I discovered that in some cultures chrysanthemums may be associated with loss adversity or death


Conversation by Owl-Light



The title of of my first collection of poetry ( Conversation by Owl-light) I took from the title of this poem. As a present to myself, to celebrate the publishing (by Steele Roberts Aotearoa) of this collection, I commissioned Black Fox Press to create this letter press version – I feel the variability of the text adds greatly to the impact of the poem.

Owl-light is that imperfectly lit liminal zone between night and day; a transitional time when difficult things (life death love betrayal) may be spoken of.