Poetry NZ Issue 23
Issue 23

Alistair Paterson

Pooja Mittal, Rob Allan, John Allison, Robert James Berry, Richard Alan Bunch, Margo Button, Tony Chad, Janet Charman, Jennifer Compton, Blair Ewing, Eamon Grennan, Julie Leibrich, Frankie McMillan, Catherine Mair, Theresia Marshall, James Nordcliffe, Jacqueline Ottaway, Mark Pirie, Vivienne Plumb, Richard Reeve, Helen Rickerby, Jack Ross, Ian C Smith, Ryan G Van Cleave, Dave Winwood

Poetry from France:
Jacques Darras, Marie Ettiene, Dominique Fourcade, Jean-Michel Maulpoix, Paul-Louis Rossi, Claude Royet-Journoud, Andre Velter

Jacques Darras

Jocelyne Thebault

Jack Ross

Alistair Paterson

This issue features the poetry of Pooja Mittal, at 17 years of age a poet of remarkable talent. Her work shows a maturity of vision and a technical skill rarely found among poets twice her age.

In addition, Poetry NZ 23 takes much pleasure in celebrating the contribution the poets of France, and French linguistic philosophers, have made to writing throughout the English-speaking world over the last century. It does so through publishing an essay by leading French poet Jacques Darras, as well as the poetry of six other leading French writers.

Three sample poems can be found here: invisible by Pooja Mittal, Mrs Cabal's Cocktail Party by Blair Ewing and Sentiers et Secrets by Andre Velter. On November 23, 2001, this issue of Poetry New Zealand was launched at a "Poetry and Champagne" event in Wellington.


Half a century ago, Louis Johnson edited and published the first issue of the New Zealand Poetry Yearbook. Thus began the series of publications that has evolved into Poetry NZ and which makes the magazine the longest running of New Zealand's poetry journals. We celebrate Johnson's drive, enthusiasm and originality in identifying the need for such a publication, the work of the editors and publishers who have kept the concept going for so long, and the vision of David Drummond who in 1990 initiated the format PNZ presently follows. As Johnson said in his initial editorial of 1951, 'New Zealand Poetry Yearbook is not in opposition to other... selections, [but] seek[s] only to widen the field of poetry publication.' Following this precept, PNZ welcomes all poetry publications, wishes them well and trusts that they will continue to contribute to the wider appreciation and understanding of poetry, as the PNZ team is doing.

This special issue of the magazine also celebrates the talent and abilities of young writers through our featured poet, Pooja Mittal, whose work speaks for itself (as we believe our readers will agree) and perhaps in some respects parallels the talent of Arthur Rimbaud, who at the same age (17 years) leapt onto the literary stage where, as Jacques Darras comments in this issue, he remains 130 years later.

In addition, Poetry NZ 23 takes much pleasure in celebrating the contribution the poets of France and French linguistic philosophers have made to writing throughout the English-speaking world over the last century. It does so through publishing an essay by leading French poet Jacques Darras on the situation of poetry in France, and by including poetry by six other leading French writers as well as two major poems by Darras himself – poetry which explores language, contemplates language, and considers how it works in the poetic form. We hope that to some degree this remedies the lack of information currently available on what has been happening in France since linguistic theory began to influence literature, and of course, poetry in particular.

The publisher, editor, printer and all others associated with PNZ invite readers to celebrate with them Louis Johnson's initiative, the talent of such young and gifted poets as Pooja Mittal, and the contribution French poets and theorists have made to literature and poetry everywhere.

Alistair Paterson, August 2001


you know there's more ways
of staying still, of keeping

no pink fish here. I'm a lover
of contraries, give me
ten weeks to respond with my letter
and I'll
blow you
a kiss.

all the while we're waiting, but nothing
nothing comes along – Nothing
with a capital

all the green we have here, all the brown
of thighs & shoulders. not wasted
on the sunlight, no
not at all!

out where we could have found each other.
rumpled newspapers. fish-sticks
Nobody wandering

nobody in a baseball cap
nobody at the petrol pump
nobody receiving the prize
at the spelling contest.

no one eating spaghetti out of a can.

now we are teething
with our own hearts in hand. car
with broken headlight
on the back seat.

if you come with me
you can never say anything
to anyone – you must learn the art
of being Nobody, Nobody
with a capital N.

my very own
Nobody, my
love in a blue dress.

— Copyright Pooja Mittal, 2001.

Mrs Cabal's Cocktail Party

Are you ready?
(The executive summary bottom-lined its best.)
Please enter a concoction request.
We have your image and needs well in hand.
No other reason to read or ask.
After all, you are our well-chosen guest.

Are we not authorized?
The common villains of the lesser offices
accommodate this quarterly crop.
(Oh yes that's good please don't stop.)
It is our common cause, to excuse
the patience of the poor,
and thereby make the laws.

Are the deserts prepared?
Fragrant passionflowers spliced onto –
(Love your shoes!)
candied anteater tongues, a Sahel Surprise.
No, under the dome
there are no annual dues.

Are the tickets secured?
We fly to London each year for the glorious
celebrations of Guy Fawkes Day. Oh you know:
Remember remember the fifth of November
gunpowder treason and plot.
I know of no reason
the gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.
Just so much fun. Yes, some very randy clubs.
Whatever do you mean? No you awful man,
we leave the children and the servants behind
to mind the machines.

— Copyright Blair Ewing, 2001.

Sentiers et secrets

from La Haut Pays, Gallimard, 1995 (Translated by Jocelyne Thebault)

Space is given us without limit.

I'm not talking about the cavern of stars
but of the far reaches of the earth where our voyagers ride
of the desire as far as our gaze
its taste of dust, of flintstone,
its taste of other times in our sweat.

The moment is given us without quarter.

I'm not talking of the hourglass thrown at the wall
but of reality suddenly vaster
in the quivering of a blade of grass,
under the hoof of a horse,
at the bottom of a salt-saturated well.

The unknown is given us without fear.

I'm not talking of invisible valleys
but of unveiled meetings
snatched from daytime wakefulness
from the shells of rusted mirrors
to throw light on the heart's great beat.

Our absolute flashes like the sun:
love expressed in the light of things
offering that stretches two empty hands under the sky,
a march that has given up the route, given over
to the ardent season, to beauty,
to the marriage of ocean and storm
in thirst too great for spring water,
more midday to it than dawn.

We have caressed the prints of flowers
we have identified the traces of lightning,
we have delivered an angel from the curse
sowing about him blood, fear, gunpowder.

Always I hear the sound of the ages singing.
This is what remains of the hand-to-hand wrestling
which leads us by deserts or volcanoes,
rockslides, glaciers, ruins, torrents
and is reborn to elude us, and fades out to be reborn
like scattered pathways of eroded secrets.

Breath is given us without parsimony.

I'm not talking of the smithy of complaints
but of the echoes that hold our laughter and our loving,
of that tumult against the teeth
sounding the inordinateness, the meaning,
sounding the insult, the joy and the voicelessness of the gods.

The gift is given us without prayer.

I'm not talking of the coin of the dead
but of the hollows of dream full of horses bolting
for less than a hint of frost in our bones,
of drunkenness in our nerves,
less than a hint of armour and of ashes.

That is given us over and above our exploits.
And we have given our souls
to the sand of horizons.

— Copyright Andre Velter, 2001.