November 27, 2012

To Albert Wendt, congratulations and fa'afetai

To my great pleasure, and that of everyone who knows him, Albert Wendt has just been announced the winner of the 2012 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Achievement in Fiction. The Prime Minister's awards for literary achievement are New Zealand's highest literary awards. The other two awards are for poetry, which went to Sam Hunt, and for non-fiction, which went to Greg O'Brien -- all three impeccable choices.

Albert Wendt is one of the most magic people I know. Like that, immediately you meet him. Immediately your eyes meet his unclouded, intelligent gaze; immediately you hear his slow-cadenced, musical voice, at once amused and profound.

The award is for fiction so I've been looking through a few of his novels and short-story collections I've grabbed off the library shelves to see if I could find a passage I could excerpt here, and I can't! They are just not excerptable. They come on like those long Pacific swells, unassumingly, the narrative gathering strength almost stealthily until it carries you -- by now weightless -- with it on its journey.

In other words, if you want to enjoy reading say, Sons for the return home, one of the books I'm looking at, I think you need to go for the whole ride.

So I've opted instead for my favourite poem from Albert Wendt's latest book of poetry, From Mānoa to a Ponsonby garden.

Used-by Date

We are programmed with used-by dates but so far 
I've outlived mine using pills and other remedies

But when the time comes I want it to be a summer morning 
of cool temperatures and mellow sighs

of the sun enjoying the full spread of Ponsonby 
oblivious to how I am snaring and using it

to illuminate this poem's way towards 
understanding and completing itself

of the smell of toast and hot coffee nosing its way down O'Neill Street 
without knowing it is entering my house at number 63 

and meeting the well-tended memories that people 
wall    floor    carpet    and hold up the ceilings

of the full horde of hungry sparrows in my back yard feasting 
as usual on the bread I tossed out the previous night

of my children and mokopuna snug in their alofa for one another 
and the other people I love will forgive me for leaving

a slow unassuming morning that will swing open -- 
it won't know it is a door -- and I'll slip through it

into the endless summer light that won't know I'm leaving 
the body that is unaware it is bone and pain

to be part of that which connects all things to all things 
and right back again to the dark and the first spark

that set me alight and this poem that is struggling to become 
that morning of my going away

to be all that was now and will be 
in the stretch of Tagaloaalagi's breath     

Fa'afetai lava Al! For the talent and the alofa you have shared with us all.  

Here is Albert Wendt reading a poem from the anthology Mauri Ola, which he co-edited with his wife Reina and Robert Sullivan, taped at a Central City Library Pasifika celebration.


Ditulis Oleh : tosca // 05:30


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