30 July 2008

New Zealand Poets Eligible for New International Poetry Prize

From the web site of Salt Publishing (thanks womenrulewriter for the tip):

The Crashaw Prize for Poetry

For the publication of debut collections of poetry from major new talents

The Crashaw Prize

"The Crashaw Prize is an international annual prize for a first collection of poetry. Entrants must not have been published before, and must permanently reside in the UK & Ireland, the USA, or Australia & New Zealand.

Salt accept submissions of poetry manuscripts postmarked from 1st January until 31st October each year. The winners will be announced in December and published the following June.

The Richard Crashaw Prize winners will receive synchronous publication in hardback in the UK and Australia and in paperback in the USA by Salt. There may be up to six winners each year. Winners will be issued with a standard publishing contract from Salt."

Pretty cool, eh? If you are thinking about putting a first collection together, this seems like an opportunity you might want to take up.

See http://www.saltpublishing.com/prizes/poetry/crashawprize.php for the Terms and Conditions of the prize.

27 July 2008

A Short History of the Twentieth Century, with Fries

This 600-word story appears in Transported. It was first published in Flashquake and has also been translated into Vietnamese.

By the time they got to the Finland Station, Lenin and his posse were famished.

“What’ll it be, boss, Burger King or McDonald’s?” asked Zinoviev.

Lenin rustled up the kopecks for a quarter-pounder and fries all round and they set to chowing down. By the time he finished, Lenin had had a better idea.

“I’m tired of this revolution business,” he said. “Let’s set up a chain of family restaurants instead.”

It took a while to convince the Mensheviks, left-SRs, and other petit-bourgeois elements. Nevertheless, Lenin’s will prevailed, and Party cadres fanned out across the land in a sophisticated franchising operation. By the end of 1917, Moscow and Petrograd were under complete control, and Siberia was falling into line. Lenin’s Bolshevik brand — “the burger for the worker” — was taking command.

The big international chains didn’t take this lying down. With an aggressive combination of discounting, free giveaways, and sheer intimidation, they muscled in on the Bolsheviks. For four years, the struggle went on. The starving inhabitants of Northern Russia woke up each morning not knowing whether the Golden Arches or the Hammer and Sickle would be standing atop their local fast food outlet.

It was a bad time all round, but at the end of it, the red flag with the yellow emblem reigned supreme across Russia. Crowds flocked to enjoy the cheery, efficient service and chomp their way through the basic Bolshevik burger or such additional menu choices as the Red Square (prime Polish beef in a square bun) and the Bronze Horseman (horse testicles on rye — an acquired taste). Fuelled by Bolshevik burgers, Russia was on the move. Tractor production went up twenty per cent. Electricity output doubled in five years.

After Lenin choked to death on a fishburger on 1924, new CEO Joseph Stalin launched a full-scale campaign of collectivisation and industrialisation. Horse testicles were out, borscht was in. These changes were far from universally popular, but, as the slogan went, “You can’t say no to Uncle Joe”. From Murmansk to Magadan, it was Joe’s way or the highway.

The years 1939 to 1945 were bad ones for the Bolshevik brand. An ill-advised attempt at a strategic alliance with Schickelgruber’s, an aggressive new German franchise, ended in disaster. The names Leningrad and Stalingrad will forever be remembered from that period as examples of poor service and unusual burger ingredients. But Schickelgruber’s was finally seen off and the Bolshevik brand entered a new phase of expansion. It was time, said Uncle Joe, to export Lenin’s legacy to the world.

This wasn’t an unqualified success. What goes down well in Kharkov can cause indigestion in Kabul. The expansion policy did net Bolshevik the important Chinese market, but even there, Russian attempts to include cabbage in Chinese burgers were soon met by Chinese demands that all Bolshevik meals include a side-order of rice. Before long, there were two competing Bolshevik brands, and then three once the Albanians got in on the act.

It was the beginning of the end. Weakened by the massive costs of enforcing brand compliance in territories as diverse as Kazakhstan and Cuba, the Bolshevik empire collapsed in debts and squabbling. It was all over for one of the major franchises of the 20th Century.

For a nostalgic reminder of those days, take a trip to the Finland Station, where you can still see a statue of Lenin addressing the workers, burger in one hand, fries in the other.

23 July 2008

Of Montanas, Skodas and Likeable Things

Montana Book Awards

The biggest thing first: congratulations to all the winners, and all the nominees, in the Montana Book Awards, which were announced in Wellington on Monday night. In particular, I want to congratulate Mary McCallum, who won the Best First Book of Fiction and overall Reader's Choice Awards for her novel The Blue, and Jessica Le Bas, who won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry for her collection Incognito. Charlotte Grimshaw's Opportunity - a short fiction collection - won the overall Fiction award, and Janet Charman's Cold Snack the Poetry award.

The Skoda Diaries

The Skoda Diaries, a new story by me - one of my short, weird ones - is now online at Southern Ocean Review, which also has a nice capsule review of Transported and a number of other books (including Swings and Roundabouts: Poems on Parenthood).

If you seek a key to the Skoda, you might want to read up on the history of the Social Credit Political League. Of course, most of this particular short fiction is fiction, but the "controversial construction project" referred to in the Wikipedia article was the building of the Clyde Dam on the Clutha River - the moment when Social Credit jumped the shark.

Likeable Things

Groomed by a Bird, a poem by Emma Barnes

The cover of My Iron Spine, a poetry collection by Helen Rickerby

St Clair Apartments, a painting by James Dignan

Why I Write, an examination of motives (one motive per blog post), by Sean Molloy

20 July 2008

Mark Pirie’s New Poetry Journal broadsheet Makes Its Debut

broadsheet 1: New New Zealand Poetry

(May 2008)

Published by The Night Press, Wellington. Available from: The Editor, 97/43 Mulgrave Street, Thorndon, Wellington 6011. Subscriptions $12.00 for 2 issues.

Mark Pirie initiated, and was one of the founders and co-editors of, JAAM Magazine, and is a prolific poet and anthologist. Now he’s embarked on a new venture: a new poetry magazine called broadsheet (no relation to the famous New Zealand feminist magazine).

broadsheet #1 consists of a series of poems which were, in fact, originally intended, and in some cases issued, as broadsheets: double-sided sheets each containing two poems by the same author. Bookshops found these difficult to stock, however, so Mark has taken the broadsheets, plus some further poems, and combined them into a magazine.

Sadly, broadsheet stands as a memorial volume to two of its contributors, Victor O’Leary and Meg Campbell. The other poets included are shown on the cover.

My favourites from this issue: Tony Beyer’s “Ode”, with its superb last stanza which is both a masterpiece of economy, and expresses a sentiment with which I thoroughly agree; Alistair Te Ariki Campbell’s two poems – I still don’t believe his poetry has received as wide recognition as it deserves; Evelyn Conlon’s “For Yana”; Basim Furat’s “The Buraq Arrives in Hiroshima”; and Michael O’Leary’s “Sonnet for Victor O’Leary”. But to single these out is not to denigrate the other poems: there was no poem in this issue that I did not enjoy.

broadsheet isn’t open to submissions at this stage (which didn’t actually stop me from submitting, but hey, I didn’t know the rules then!). Poems for inclusion are solicited by the editor. If Issue 1 is anything to go by, future issues of broadsheet will be well worth reading.

17 July 2008

Earthdawn News: A New Novel, A New System

Two quick items of Earthdawn news:

My Earthdawn novel Anarya's Secret has become the head of a dynasty (well, a line of books, anyway). RedBrick has now released a second Earthdawn novel, Dark Shadows of Yesterday, to join Anarya's Secret.

Also, Redbrick and Wizards of the Coast have jointly announced a tie-up between Earthdawn and the mother and father of all roleplaying games, Dungeons and Dragons: Earthdawn Age of Legend Announced for D&D Fourth Edition.

Things are happening in Barsaive!

15 July 2008

In the Writers' Colony

The headline's a little premature, because it's not yet possible to be in the writers' colony, at least not in Wellington - but it will be if Doug Wilkins has his way. Doug contacted me a few months back and explained that he was planning to set up a writers' colony in Wellington, modelled on the very successful Sanchez Grotto Annex that he founded in San Francisco four years ago. I took a bit of convincing, but I've come round to the view that this is an excellent idea for those writers who need some dedicated writing space and would appreciate the combination of private working space, and social contact with other writers, that a writers' colony provides. Plus, Doug is a likeable chap who knows what he's doing and has the track record to show it.

Here's what Doug has in mind. If you're a Wellington writer and it sounds like this would suit you, I recommend getting in touch with him.

Doug Wilkins, a writer who recently moved to Wellington from San Francisco, is planning to start a writing community, The Pohutukawa Garret, which would offer over a dozen offices for rent, Internet access, cleaning services, sufficient heat, and a sense of belonging. His current intent is to locate this writers' community along Cuba Street somewhere. The only thing holding him back, momentarily, is having a quorum of writers; he reckons that it will take six dedicated writers expressing more than passing interest in joining the Garret to convince him to purchase a flat and start building offices.

Rent, since you ask, would be $95 a week, and no lease required. Doug would just as soon that anyone who isn't delighted with the arrangement should be free to leave after only a month.

Doug can be contacted at dbwilkins@gmail.com or 021-138-5050.

12 July 2008

Said Sheree

This story of love and literary funding appears in Transported.

Sheree and Miranda met at a party. Each left with the other on her mind.

Several weeks later, the Mexican Ambassador, a keen patron of the arts, held a reception. Miranda, ranked as a Tier Two poet for funding purposes, saw Sheree across the room. Miranda made a beeline for her - only to realise that Sheree was with a group of Tier Ones. Embarrassed, Miranda backed away.

That would have been that; but, a little to the north and far beneath their feet, Gaia shifted in her sleep. Poets and patrons alike rushed for doorways and crush-proof spaces. Sheree and Miranda found themselves pressed together against an antimacassar. Their mutual awkwardness was obliterated by fear. “You’re beautiful,” said Sheree. Miranda, plain and tall, was swept away.

Heads were counted once the tremor passed and the tumult subsided. Miranda and Sheree were missing. Separately, from Sheree’s bed, they phoned in their excuses.

Miranda went home. “I haven’t seen you for days,” her flatmate remarked. It wasn’t much of a flat, not really, and the flatmate held the lease.

“You can move in with me,” said Sheree.

Having lugged the last of her boxes up Sheree’s steps, Miranda went out on the deck. The harbour view, which she had admired since the first night she spent there, now felt like hers. The weather was grey and cold. Far below, hardy ants, gloved and muffled, scurried to and fro on the beach.

Between Miranda’s job and Sheree’s funding, they had enough to pay the rent, and a little left over. They each had time to write. Sheree wrote in the morning, after Miranda had left for work, and spent the afternoon completing grant applications and working on a project to deliver sonnets by mobile phone. Some platform-specific issues were still to be resolved.

Miranda wrote on Saturday afternoons, while Sheree played hockey.

They had other interests in common. They both collected earthenware. They both loved tramping. In summer, they joined a party heading south to Nelson Lakes. They were the only writers. It was bliss.

They dealt with literary functions by arriving separately and avoiding each other, though they exchanged sly glances when they thought no one was looking.

It worked for a while. But, inevitably, word got around. A small independent publisher agreed to bring out Miranda’s first collection. “I want to be with you at the launch,” said Sheree. “I’m not going to pretend.”

The publisher had hired a church hall. A few bankable names came along. When Miranda read, Sheree stood in the front row. When Miranda signed, Sheree sat next to her. “You must be so proud of her,” someone told Sheree.

Sheree’s third collection was launched at Unity. Sheree dragged Miranda along. That didn’t go so well. Miranda hung back, feeling like a fraud. Sheree talked with her friends and cast irritated glances Miranda’s way.

Miranda retreated to the outer shelves, looking at a bound edition of Ursula Bethell. Blanche Baughan was reassuringly close at hand.

Sheree forgave her. They forgave each other. They got drunk. They compared royalty statements. “It’s more about grants and residencies,” explained Sheree.

In the autumn, Miranda was up for reclassification. Without the support of a university press, Miranda had no realistic hope of moving up to Tier One, but she was still disappointed when the envelope came.

“Never mind,” said Sheree. “I love you anyway.”

Sheree’s status was secure for two more years.

Miranda came home from work a few weeks later to find Sheree bouncing off the walls. “Look at this!” she said.

It was an invitation from the Northern festival circuit: Nuuk and Norilsk, Vorkuta, Longyearbyen. Four weeks north of the Arctic Circle, reading, writing, workshopping. And watching out for polar bears - they could kill you. “I’m to be preceded by a man with a rifle,” said Sheree.

New Zealand literature had never before been represented so far north. It was a feather in everyone’s cap.

“I’ll miss you so much,” said Miranda. She clung to Sheree, tenderly, fiercely.

Sheree bought Miranda a video-enabled phone before she left. Four weeks of Sheree - blond hair poking out of her fur-lined hood - cavorting with new friends, silhouetted against snow, standing next to oil drums full of burning blubber to keep warm.

Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, was surprisingly cosmopolitan. Norilsk was one giant chemical dump. In Vorkuta, Sheree won the V. I. Morozov Prize for Best Recital of an Individual Work, for her declamatory piece in the style of Gregory Corso. The prize, thanks to a well-connected local businessman, was paid in US dollars. With the news, Sheree sent an air ticket. “I’m stopping over in the Caribbean on the way home to thaw out,” said Sheree. “See you in Basseterre!”

It took some nerve to ask, but Miranda’s boss was understanding. “I wish I could go with you,” Miranda’s boss said, and Miranda realised, suddenly, that she meant it.

Basseterre! Miranda had never heard of it. Palms shaded the beach, the locals talked about cricket, and once they had circumnavigated the island of St Kitts, there was nothing to do but eat, drink, sleep, and make love. Sheree kept Miranda entertained with tales from the frozen North. Longyearbyen had been the wildest of the lot. “Those Norwegians!” said Sheree. They were crazy up there. So were the bears.

They came home to the wind and the rain. Sheree set to work completing her fourth collection and editing podcasts from the festivals. She had secured funding for a G5 workstation, her latest pride and joy. Miranda had three poems published in Takahe and two more accepted by JAAM. She read at the Angus Inn. It was a wet night in the Hutt Valley, and some of the locals stayed away. Her collection, which was now heavily discounted, sold three copies. Not bad, considering. She was given a voucher for petrol, though she had conscientiously taken the train.

Sheree’s poem about their week together in the Caribbean is justly famous and much-anthologised.

Miranda’s boss gave her a promotion. Miranda and Sheree joined a soccer team. Sheree was the centre-forward. Miranda was a holding midfielder.

Delivering sonnets by mobile phone had not been a complete success, but the project hit the jackpot with haiku. Haiku were back, said Sheree.

People grow and change. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. A new funding category, Tier Four, was introduced. In consequence, Tier Two poets became eligible to be mentors, and Miranda took on a mentee. She was young, tiny, a wounded bird. Her name was Caroline. She lived in Johnsonville.

Nothing might have come of it, had Sheree’s success at Vorkuta not been noticed in high places. It took a public-private partnership, with a mixture of tagged funding, corporate sponsorship in three bands, and matching Government contributions, but at last the deal could be announced. Sheree would be New Zealand’s first poet in space! She would carry leading New Zealand brands to low earth orbit, and return with a three-book deal.

It was on for young and old. Sheree became public property, meeting the Prime Minister, appearing on Takatapui and Kiwifruit. In months, in weeks, in days, she was off to Star City to train for her mission.

“I love you,” she told Miranda, from the airport, from Moscow, from Star City. Photos: Sheree in a centrifuge, her compact body whirling round. Sheree hanging weightless in the hydrolab. The two cosmonauts who would be flying her to the International Space Station, Valentina and Vsevolod. Their brave little Soyuz spacecraft. I love you, Miranda, said Sheree.

Miranda’s mentee was promising but needy. Miranda allowed herself to engage in conduct that was inappropriate to the mentor-mentee relationship and breached the terms of her contract with the funding agency. She reproached herself late at night, as she watched Caroline sleeping.

Sheree appeared on BBC World, CNN, and Al Arabiya.

Miranda kept writing. A second published collection would be something. Not everyone made it that far.

Live streaming video of the launch, with Russian-language commentary, was available. Using high-speed broadband on Sheree’s G5, Miranda was able to hear the countdown, see the rocket on the launch pad, watch it vault upwards into space.

Sheree made contact. Docking had been successful, and she was aboard the space station. Three months to do nothing but write, and sleep, and float. (And help around the place; tidiness was especially important in space.) Every 92 minutes, she would pass overhead.

The mentoring period finished. Caroline could now be revealed as Miranda’s girlfriend. She had dependency issues, but that meant she was usually home.

Miranda broke the news to Sheree by scheduled uplink. Sheree did not respond immediately. One orbit passed, two. Then Sheree said she was sad, but not surprised. Also, two nights ago, she and Valentina ...

Miranda had three poems published in Bravado. Sport and Landfall regretted to inform. Trout did not reply.

As a result of Miranda’s excellent mentoring, Caroline was reclassified to Tier Three. She sold a poem to North & South. You’re going places, girl, thought Miranda.

Caroline had an empty room and a double bed. Miranda decided she was going places too. She moved her boxes out of Sheree’s house, down the steps, and off to Johnsonville. She promised Sheree that she’d continue to water her plants. Sheree had already asked Miranda and Caroline to come for dinner the first weekend after she got home from Russia. I want to be your best friend, said Sheree.

When the last lot of boxes was safely in Caroline’s van, Miranda returned to stand on the balcony for one last look across the harbour. Oh, she would miss the view! On the promenade below, hardy ants rode skateboards, walked dogs, and ate products containing dairy, gluten, and traces of nuts.

Above, the stars shone steadily. Among them was Sheree. Miranda could see her clearly. She was looking out of a porthole, smiling fondly down.

10 July 2008

Climate Change Statement from the Royal Society of New Zealand

As you may have seen from the energy and climate change links in the left-hand column of this blog, these are areas I'm keenly interested in. At present, there's a well-funded campaign which is attempting to convince New Zealanders that climate change is not a threat, or if it is, that the threat is remote. The purpose of that campaign is to dissuade politicians from taking any action on the issue: in particular, any action which would hit the big greenhouse gas emitters, such as agriculture and heavy industry, in the bottom line.

This campaign of denial has had such notable successes as getting the Listener's environmental columnist removed when he started to question who was paying the climate sceptics' bills.

I'm therefore pleased that the Royal Society of New Zealand has released a statement setting out the basic facts about climate change in a clear, non-technical way. The Introduction to the statement says:

The globe is warming because of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Measurements show that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere are well above levels seen for many thousands of years. Further global climate changes are predicted, with impacts expected to become more costly as time progresses. Reducing future impacts of climate change will require substantial reductions of greenhouse gas emissions.

The rest of the statement goes on to lay on the evidence underpinning this statement. It's the perfect reading matter for climate change sceptics who are still prepared to listen to reason.

08 July 2008

Transported Interview Podcast Available

My ten minute interview with Ruth Todd of Plains FM in Christchurch is now available online as a podcast. It can be played online or downloaded as an MP3 file.

Ruth and I talk about:

  • my short story collection Transported
    (which you can buy online through Fishpond or New Zealand Books Abroad, among others, or in person at an increasing range of bookstores)
  • why some ideas turn into poems and others into short stories
  • the benefits of diversity in a short story collection
  • my disastrous attempt to impress a woman [you know who you are!] with my Russian accent when it turned out that her boyfriend spoke the language fluently
  • the educational benefits of the Intermediate Section of the Invercargill Public Library
  • being the child of assisted immigrants
  • writing a short story about literary funding (come in, "Said Sheree")
  • acceptance and rejection from both the writer's and the editor's point of view
  • The Frank O'Connor Award longlisting for Transported.

The interview was a lot of fun to take part in. I hope you enjoy listening to it.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8, Volume 2: No Future for You


BTVS 8v2 No Future for You
But till then, television’s Tina Fey, we must find a way to keep warm.

Previously on Books in the Trees:

For seven years, Buffy Summers, a vampire slayer, saved the world. A lot. Then she ran foul of the ultimate Big Bad, the network, which cancelled her show. Now she’s back in comic form. The comics are being collected in five-issue trade paperback omnibus editions. Volume 1: The Long Way Home was a mixed bag. Now Volume 2: No Future for You has been released. Does it represent a new beginning, or a stake through the heart?


I hate cliffhangers, so let’s cut to the chase. No Future for You is a big improvement on The Long Way Home. There are three main reasons for this:

  1. Unlike the first volume, the stories in this collection don’t try to fit a TV programme’s worth of material into each issue.
  2. The first four issues in this omnibus form a consistent arc — it’s one narrative, split over four issues.
  3. Faith.

I’m with George Michael on this: I gotta have Faith (in a strictly narrative sense, of course). Faith Lehane, played in the TV series by Eliza Dushku, is the working-class, bad-girl Slayer from Boston who first appears in Season 3. Her uninhibited exercise of her powers was both sexy and frightening, and frightening quickly won. After hitting some very deep depths, Faith climbed partway out of them in Season 7, but she is still the outsider, still comparing herself to Buffy, still coming off second-best. (It is one of the great strengths of Buffy that everyone is an outsider in their own estimation, even those who are seen as insiders by others.)

The end of Season 7 saw two thousand young women turned from potential to actual Slayers, and come into full possession of their powers: superhuman strength, speed, ability to heal, and endurance. Much of Buffy and her team’s effort has gone into finding, recruiting and training these young women, but some of them have preferred to go it alone. One such is Gigi, a young English aristocrat, who is most decidedly not committed to using her powers for the common good. Faith is sent on a mission to take her down, but has second thoughts when she discovers that she and Gigi, despite all their differences, may share a common foe.

To say more would be to give too much away, but this arc is rewarding on many levels — from seeing Faith trying to fit in to British high society, to exploring once again her complex rivalry with Buffy Summers.

Issue 10 doesn’t reach the same heights — which is interesting, because the Faith arc was written by Brian K. Vaughan, whereas Issue 10 is written by Joss Whedon. As Lee commented on my previous Buffy post, Joss's issues haven't been as good. My feeling is that he tries to cram too much into each issue, using them like TV storyboards rather than working in a way that's native to the medium.

(Lee's review of No Future for You is also available online.)

Just like Issue 5, Issue 10 is a stand-alone, concentrating on Willow and Buffy. We get to find out that Buffy has a thing about Daniel Craig, while Willow fantasises about Tina Fey from 30 Rock (in an alpine-cabin kind of scenario), but there’s not much more here. Still, it’s a minor flaw in a fine volume, which to cap it all off, even has a tiny cameo by the Doctor and Rose. I shall be back for more.

06 July 2008

Jhumpa Lahiri Wins the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award

There was a brouhaha in New Zealand recently about the judges in the Montana Book Awards issuing a shortlist of four contenders for the fiction category, rather than the expected five. Now the judges of the 2008 Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, for which my short story collection Transported (which you can buy online through Fishpond or New Zealand Books Abroad, or in person at an increasing range of bookshops) was longlisted, have gone one better: they have decided to dispense with the shortlist entirely and award the prize to Jhumpa Lahiri for her collection Unaccustomed Earth. This means that five other writers are denied the opportunity of their books appearing on the shortlist, with the consequent publicity and potential sales this would bring.

The arguments for and against this move are pretty much the same as for the Montana. On the one hand, the judges are appointed to make their decision based on their experience, and that decision should respected; on the other, getting shortlisted for awards can be a lifeline for less well-known authors - this is certainly the case for the Montanas. But, having said that the decision on the Montanas should be left to the judges, I have to be consistent and say that it's their call here as well. If Unaccustomed Earth was so much better than the competition, then it's only fair it should win.

But there's one point on which I do take issue with the judges: according to the Guardian, they said that

With a unanimous winner at this early stage we decided it would be a sham to compose a shortlist and put five other writers through unnecessary stress and suspense.

I have to say, judges: you could have put me through the stress and suspense of being on the shortlist, and I wouldn't have complained one bit. I would have been very grateful!

03 July 2008

Coverage and The Season

It's blowing a gale outside. Here are two poems united by the wind. Both were first published in North & South magazine.


He went south with the housing market
to a cottage facing the sea,

spent his last pay cheque
on Swannis and draught excluders.

Coverage was minimal.
He called his children

from the top of a nearby hill,
struggling through gorse, matagouri —
the visible teeth of the wind.
He got through at last

and begged until she put them on.
Given the chance, the kids talked

and talked: sports, school, when
they could fly down to see him.

That depends, he said, and then
they were breaking up —

fugitive crackles, then silence
under a polar sky.

Coverage was first published in North & South (May 2007) and is included in Swings and Roundabouts: Poems on Parenthood (Random House, 2008), edited by Emma Neale.

The Season

The mountains reconvene.
An avalanche of voices
thrums the heavy ground.

Precise, confidential,
the wind reports the news
it gleans from pavement tables:

the All Black's private pain,
the public intellectual's
ceaseless quest for vengeance.

The mountains shake their balding heads.
The culture of celebrity
has pushed them to the margins -

there are no peaks on the social pages.
Aspiring no longer, they allow the wind
to hustle away with the clouds.

Eroding, reminiscing, the mountains shake their
heads. Snow falls, forgotten dandruff,
through the ever-warming air.

The Season was first published in North & South (August 2007)

These are not the first poems I've written on the topic! The Weather and Wind Walks the Hand are other examples. Many of them seem to combine the wind with parenting: perhaps that's because, the night my son was born at Wellington Hospital, there was a southerly snap and a power failure. The backup generators came on to power essential services, such as the incubator Gareth was placed in for a day or so. I remember standing by the end of Kay's bed, feeling the cold and watching snowflakes swirl past the window. That sort of thing leaves an impression.

PS: I'll be taking part in Montana Poetry Day events in Upper Hutt on Friday 18 July. The full schedule of events in Upper Hutt is available.