23 October 2012

Tuesday Poem: Before Science Stepped In, by Rod Usher

Before science stepped in with its fancy footwork
A raw youth, I'd scan nights for a shooting star
Crooning like Como to catch one and pocket it
Could it really do the magic? Unhook a girl's bra?

Ha! They're not stars, mere fragments of comet
Arcs of burnout in the black canopies of June
Older now, sadder, I leave science to the boffins
Rave on about breasts to an understanding moon.

Credit note: "Before Science Stepped In" by Rod Usher was first published in Eye to the Telescope 2, a special Australian and New Zealand issue of the Science Fiction Poetry Association's online journal, which I edited. The poem has been selected as a finalist in the Science Fiction Poetry Association's Dwarf Stars Award for the best short-short speculative poetry published in 2011, and will appear in the 2012 Dwarf Stars Anthology. It is reproduced here by permission of the author.

About the author: Rod Usher is an Australian writer living in Spain. His poems have been published in Island, Meanjin, Quadrant, Going Down Swinging, et al. He is a former literary editor of The Age and senior writer for TIME magazine in Europe. His third novel, Poor Man’s Wealth (2011), is published in Australia and New Zealand by HarperCollins, and is available in paper and e-book formats.

Tim says: A well-executed short poem is a joy to behold, and I very much like the way "Before Science Stepped In" links scientific and romantic disillusion while still holding out the consolation of the "understanding moon".

The Tuesday Poem: Is actually the Tuesday Poems - each week's hub poem and all the other poems linked from the left of that page.

16 October 2012

Tuesday Poem: On Contemplating The Statue Of Courtney Love Outside The Front Entrance Of Nelson College for Girls

The sculptor has caught Courtney in the act of running away,
her uniform already half removed, the blue of the blazer (optional)
offsetting the pallor of her skin. She lasted just one term
yet is the most famous Old Girl of them all.

No telling what she’s running from: maths, tyranny,
the restraints – petty? essential? – that fence her round.
It’s all in her past, or in her genes. Hardly the College’s fault
that they caught her in the middle of a very difficult year.

As for what she’s running to: the hardest of all fates,
doomed to be more famous for whom she loved
than what she’s done. Kurt is still better known
than Hole, than Celebrity Skin, than the sound of her guitar.

Courtney is caught in the act as she makes a break for town.
One foot is raised, one shoe slipping off.
One hand grasps at nothing, or punches the air.
In the shadow of her plinth, a small boy sells lemonade.

Credit note: This is a new, unpublished (and very possibly unfinished) poem.

Tim says: I wrote this poem in Nelson, inspired by walking past - you guessed it - the front entrance of Nelson College for Girls. Some parts of this poem are true: Courtney did attend Nelson College for Girls for one term, it was a less than ideal experience for all concerned, and a small boy did have a lemonade stand further along the street. The lemonade was very sweet, but also very welcome on a hot Nelson day.

The Tuesday Poem: Is just a poetic click away for all of y'all.

11 October 2012

Poetry At The Greytown Arts Festival and at Meow Cafe

Poetry in Greytown

I had a good time last month reading poetry and meeting poets and poetry lovers in Takaka and Nelson. Soon I'll be joining eight other poets at another poetry destination I haven't visited before: Greytown.

I'll be there as part of a nine-strong crew of poets reading at the event Poetry: a lasting peace, which is part of the Greytown Arts Festival. Here is the lovely poster, designed by Madeleine Slavick who has organised and will MC the event, which is on Saturday 20 October at 5pm at The Village Art Shop, 98 Main St, Greytown:

Here is the Facebook event: http://www.facebook.com/events/290166134417646

Some of the participating poets may also be lurking in Greytown during the afternoon, surprising people with poetry. Whether there is a local body bylaw against such activities in Greytown will be an exciting part of the discovery process. (I understand there is a law against wearing rubber-soled shoes on the streets of Nelson, a law which I repeatedly violated last month. Hah!)

Poetry at Meow Cafe

It's Hammer Time! I'm going to be an MC the week after next: Saradha Koirala, Harvey Molloy and Helen Rickerby are reading their poetry on Tuesday 23 October at 7pm at Meow Cafe, Edward Street, Wellington, and I'm MC'ing. Hope you can make it!

05 October 2012

5 Reasons To Vote Takahe For Bird Of The Year 2012 ... 5 Days Left To Vote

You have five days left to vote for the takahe as Bird of the Year 2012 - or, if you prefer (though I can't imagine why), some other bird. And here are five reasons to do so. Several of them are even true.

1. There are only 260 takahe left, and apart from their remnant natural habitat in the Murchison Mountains, they live only in sanctuaries. They need your support.

2. Takahe are incredibly cute. Check this one out:

3. If elected, takahe will reject the baubles of offices, unless the baubles of office consist of the right sort of tussock bases, in which case the takahe will accept them faster than you can say Porphyrio hochstetteri.

4. Many of humanity's greatest works of art are about takahe. Ke$ha's "Tik Tok" is her empathetic response to the takahe's threatened countdown to extinction. Homer's "Odyssey" is about a takahe called Kevin, and his twenty-year adventure to get home to his beloved Murchison Mountains. And as for Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" ... well, some things are better left unsaid.

5. The Vote Takahe campaign will not stoop so low as to fill up its final reason with irrelevant but highly-ranked search terms in a misguided attempt to boost the campaign's Google search rankings. And Rihanna, One Direction, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Nicki Minaj fully endorse our position on this.

Oh, and because you've been good, here are some more factual-type facts about the takahe:

• The takahē is an endangered flightless bird indigenous to New Zealand.
• Takahē once lived throughout the North and South Islands and were thought to be extinct until rediscovered by Geoffrey Orbell near Lake Te Anau in the Murchison Mountains, South Island in 1948. 
• Today’s population is around 260 birds at various sites including the Murchison Mountains in Fiordland as well as the pest-free islands Tiritiri Matangi, Kapiti, Mana and Maud and mainland sanctuary of Maungatautiri, near Cambridge.
• Some takahē have lived for over 20 years in captivity, but in the wild few would live to more than 15 years of age. 
• Since the 1980’s, DOC has been involved in managing takahē nests to boost the birds' recovery. Artificial incubation of eggs and rearing of chicks is carried out at the Burwood Bush rearing unit, Te Anau, where five pairs are held to form a small breeding group. 

Remember! Vote Takahe, tweet #votetakahe and #birdoftheyear, and disrupt opposition political gatherings with your enthusiastic pecking!

02 October 2012

Tuesday Poem: The First Artist On Mars, plus an Announcement

The First Artist on Mars

Well, the first professional artist
There were scientists who, you know
but NASA sent us —
me and two photographers —
to build support for the program.

The best day?
That was in Marineris.
Those canyons are huge
each wall a planet
turned on its side.
I did a power of painting there.

You can see all my work
at the opening. Do come.
Hey, they wanted me to paint propaganda —
you know, 'our brave scientists at work' —
but I told them
you'll get nothing but the truth from me

I just paint what I see
and let others worry
what the public think.
Still, the agency can't be too displeased.
They're sponsoring my touring show.
That's coming up next spring.

Would I go back? Don't know.
It's a hell of a distance
and my muscles almost got flabby
in the low G. Took me ages
to recover — lots of gym and water time
when I should have been painting.

But Jupiter would be worth the trip!
Those are awesome landscapes
those moons, each one's so different.
Mars is OK — so old, so red,
so vertical. Quite a place
but limited, you know?

Credit note: "The First Artist On Mars" was first published in Blackmail Press 15 (May 2006) and was included in my second poetry collection, All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens, where it forms part of a sequence about the exploration of Mars called Red Stone. That sequence was inspired by Kim Stanley Robinson’s superb Mars Trilogy, but this rather conceited artist is entirely my own invention.

Tim says: That note first appeared on Helen Lowe's blog, on which she kindly published "The First Artist on Mars" as a Tuesday Poem in 2010. I wouldn't normally 're-use' a Tuesday Poem in this way, but it seemed appropriate this time, because TFAOM was also included in Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, the anthology Mark Pirie and I co-edited in 2009 which was published by IP, and ... (drumroll please!) ...

P. S. Cottier and I have An Announcement: We are going to be jointly editing an anthology of Australian speculative poetry, to be published, all being well, by IP in 2014. Like Voyagers, it will have both a historical and a contemporary component - so we will be trolling the archives for the history of Australian speculative poetry, but also calling for submissions from contemporary poets - though it will be a while before that call is issued, so (if you happen to be Australian) please don't send your poems to us yet!

Unlike Voyagers, it won't be restricted to science fiction poetry, but rather will cover the full range of speculative poetry, including science fiction, fantasy, horror, and magic realism. We'll say more about that in the call for submissions, too.

I am really looking forward to our working on this project together, as if I were the Barney Gumble to her Linda Ronstadt, though I hope no snow-ploughs will be involved in this one. Keep watching the stars, and the market listings!

The Tuesday Poem: Is not a thing of rags and patches, nor yet a wand'ring minstrel, but rather a still point in a turning world.