March 26, 2010

dear stormbird (Michele Leggott)

dear stormbird  


whose offshore passage I watch
with the ache that means only   I remember
your small weight in my arms
the first time   the great ocean of forgetting
lay before us   ankle-banded
and determined you set off at once
into the storm   I put one blue hemisphere
over another trying to tell the story
and give you a place to come back to
I carved our image in words
that extend over whatever distances
the world will put between us   they are there
when you want them   incised
with metal tools from an elsewhere
that does not matter now   the feathers
on the back are rounded   with a central line
from which smaller lines slope down
on both sides  
bird you will come and go
be lost and found many times
hold tightly to a prow or keep your balance
on a rolling globe   you will be all these things
over under and around the breathing world
with a specific gravity of 2.581 at 60o F
his words not mine   the first time
you were measured and weighed

Posted in honour of Nick and Saskia, and little Agatha, just-new and much-loved.

Michele might not have been thinking about parenthood at all when she wrote this but that was what I saw when I read it. And thinking about it just now, I realise that what makes this poem so affecting to me is not actually that it expresses my feelings as a parent – although it does -- , but that I hope, longingly, that my parents felt thus about me.

"Dear stormbird" is from Mirabile Dictu, the poetry collection which was the fruit of Michele Leggott's stint as the first New Zealand Poet Laureate, published last year by Auckland University Press. As soon as you open this perfectly titled book (Mirabile dictu being Latin for “wonderful to relate”, sometimes given in our times as “Strange to say”) you are hit with a bright turquoise inside cover flap bearing an introduction which to me, who am lucky enough to know Michele Leggott, sounds just like Michele talking: devoid of small talk, open to wonder, and always thinking about poetry.  Here it is:

"Something strange happens every day sometimes up close, sometimes further away. If you can’t see the whole story in one place, you may find it in another. If you know part of it now, you may recognize more of it later though it will have changed in the interim. And then there is the singular moment where we plunge in among particulars of language and say ‘this is the poem, this is the event. I was looking (I was listening) for this.’

"These poems follow the course of a year in which I walked from light into darkness and found ways of making the return trip. They begin in high summer with a poet’s funeral and they range the places and occasions poetry makes for itself in the world. They also attend to the making and naming of gifts present and to come, of people living and dead. They look for what is lost and sometimes they make visible what has disappeared. They are work for the living, relating wonders (mirabile dictu) and closely related to the moment when light and darkness define each other in the camera of the human eye."

You can read online works of Michele's on nzepc, the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre, "electronic gateway to poetry resources in Aoteaora/New Zealand"  at the University of Auckland. I especially like h o n e y b e  e:  " I am the dancer on the plate the one in blue / with a honey stomach full of delectable lies..."

At the library we have:
Mirabile Dictu,
As far as I can see , a collection of poems from 1999
and Michele Leggott, a CD of her poetry released last year.

Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 04:30
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