Monday, August 31, 2009

Poems as a Camera


Your head thrown back
at something I said

your teeth irregular and tough
your lips colloquial with laughter

your fig green

in your hair
the summer

cool as white wine
tawny and lovely and loose …

Bob Orr


Tiny fangs of yachts
in the channel.

Last night I felt an earthquake
it shook the house
like someone sitting down suddenly
on the edge of the bed.

Walking up the path one time
I thought you’d hung a blue sheet on the line

it was the sky

that today wears the white and ragged half-circle
of the moon
like the trace of a peeled-off price sticker.

No word from the piano.
It is saying nothing
since I closed its dark brown mouth
the day you left for England.

Kate Camp


She came so close – so curious-
he thought he’d caught the scent of her thinking.

She said her heart a bird-in white-
had long left the nest, because it was restless

and hadn’t returned
so he built a screen in white

around her heartlessness:
these are the hopeless movies he projected

because she offered nothing
and he accepted

Andrew Johnston

The camera was one of the defining devices of the 20th century. It’s use altered literature as well as art. .At one level poetry can be defined as an arrangement of words, striking and/or entertaining. There’s an element of composition, just as in the use of a camera. Then there is organisation, there is craft behind apparent casualness.

Sometimes its use is a simple snapshot like Orr’s poem with its lovely last stanza, a moment of sheer pleasure. Other times it’s a collage of experiences, like Camp’s Beauty Sleep with its shifts of mood and tone. Shortly after I read this poem I went to a friend’s house, high in the Wellington hills – the yachts were like little fangs darting across the water.

The snapshot metamorphosed into the moving image. Film enhanced techniques of movement in time. ‘Cut and paste’ entered our narrative. Johnston uses these techniques to capture aspects of a one-sided love affair – the poet in the director’s chair. Minimalist I am not. My poems, like my life, are cluttered. Orr’s, Camp’s and Johnston’s poems pare down to essentials, models that I envy. They represent in their different ways a generation shift and new poetic directions, ‘cool’ as it is in contemporary jargon.

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