Poetry NZ Issue 24
Issue 24

Alistair Paterson

Michael Harlow, Raewyn Alexander, Peter Bakowski, Vincent Berquez, Tony Beyer, Cyril Childs, Stephanie de Montalk, Lee Dowrick, Grant Duncan, Riemke Ensing, Mark Farrell, Michael Farrell, Janis Freegard, Robin Fry, Jeffrey Harpeng, Paula Harris, Mary K Herbert, Rob Jackaman, Harry Johnson, Miranda Johnson, Kapka Kassabova, John Kinsella, Gary Langford, Sandor Lau, Jessica Le Bas, Simon Lewis, Harvey McQueen, Adrianne Marcus, Eric Mould, Dennis Phillips, Mark Pirie, Lewis Scott, David Starkey, Anita Treefoot, Milena Wieczorek, Sara Zettervall

Mark Pirie

Alistair Paterson

While the last two issues concentrated on the poetry of brilliant newcomers such as Pooja Mittal (PNZ 23), and fairly recent arrival Jack Ross (PNZ 22), this first issue of 2002 features the work of the much more experienced and well established New Zealand/American poet Michael Harlow. This issue is directed towards encouraging readers to recognise the contribution Harlow has made to poetry and its development here and overseas. It also includes work from poets in Australia, Great Britain, Poland, Czechoslovakia and the United States, as well as from those in New Zealand.

Three sample poems can be found here: Reading Mandelstam by Michael Harlow, Eaglereach by Kapka Kassabova and The New Table by Adrianne Marcus.


Poetry may have declined in reader popularity over the last few decades, yet for those who wish to seek it out it still offers the most delicate and sensitive expression of human hopes, fears and aspirations. At its best it allows writer and reader to share in the most intimate of human experiences, conveys the essence of the period and place in which it's written, and creates an aesthetic capable of transporting itself through time and space in a way that will almost certainly persist as long as people, language and literature survive.

Poetry is subversive. In its purest form it can undermine prejudice, negate the most pervasive shibboleths, and counter damaging, long-held habits of thought and action. It is able to negate international barriers and to speak to, and for, all of us everywhere. The pity is that the mass media – television, radio, newspapers, 'popular' magazines and cinema – take little interest in poetry, and through the usually minor place they accord it decrease its visibility and suggest it's no longer either a significant or a serious art form.

Another difficulty poetry has to contend with is the imperialism of many of its advocates and supporters – people who in the words of Edward Said (see Culture and Imperialism, Chatto & Windus Ltd, 1993) have, 'the power to narrate and block other narratives from forming or emerging...' These are the people who exert imperialistic control from situations of privilege and points of advantage – large international publishers, distributors and sellers of books, and powerful academics, editors and reviewers – who act as arbiters of good taste and consciously or unconsciously use the power their socio-economic situations grant them to maintain and expand the pre-eminence of themselves and their group or class. Editors of literary journals, including the editor of PNZ, have to be aware of this because they too – even when they think otherwise – occupy positions that may lead them in the same direction.

Print magazines and internet publications which are open to all comers and operate independently of nationality, power groups and socio-economic advantage, have an ability and a duty to counter such imperialism. The media – especially newspapers, magazines and internet sites interested in the arts and social justice – should support poets and poetry and provide them with the back-up that's needed.

Alistair Paterson, March 2002

Reading Mandelstam

for Nikolova

Inside the barracks you bear
a number; always, there's a hand
that leans against you back.
The cup you drink from fills
with dark; the same hands
before your hands, the deep
down darkness that spills
across the back of the century.
Behind the wire your shadow
walks on a bent stick; at night
voices that call out the lost
noises of the sun. Sooner
or later you move into
the zone of zero.

And still in a time 'north
of the future', that immense
distance of the heart, you dream
of words to carry you beyond
this world of broken stones
and falling trees. Your voice
the earth, you say how endless
the stars of flowers. Instinct
with elegy your words: a song
between two grass blades,
we hear what secret
grammar of wish
they stalk the air.

— Copyright Michael Harlow, 2002.


It was the hour of sudden chills.
I woke up and I was standing
in a room on top of a mountain.

Vapours filled the valley below
concealing its depth,
a white Styx that travelled slowly
between here and somewhere else.

I needed to remember. But nothing came.
The trees stood in the still air,
their sharp leaves betraying nothing.

Small animals with names I didn't know
scurried on the roof
and a rain of pebbles fell.
'Listen,' I said. I turned around.

Then I remembered:
there had never been anyone.

— Copyright Kapka Kassabova, 2002.

The New Table

"At home he (Robert Schumann) atttempts to give
music lessons to a table, throws books at Clara
and has increasingly bizarre visions..."
James Polk, NY Times review, September 17, 2000

Pale wood, blonde satin;
as my hand glides over the swirled surface,
seeing the waving birches, the woods of Finland
rising out of the winter's snow

stark white, slashed with black, the snow
another white, elegant skeletons of forests.
I can see why Schumann would want to
teach you music. In this silence of your

heart, the wood resounds as if it were
the finest instrument: purer than the thick
voiced cellos, violas, instruments with dark
sounds rising from their bellies.

Or even the high violin, the child of instruments,
demanding, singing, crying in the shrill
voice of a lost human. No, table, you
are a solid sound, and I can teach you nothing

you don't already know. Almost too pure to
sully with a plate, a book, but perfect
to rest one's arms deliberately upon,
the pale surface that floats in an

oval of air, welcoming family, lovers,
saying, Sit here. I will sing to you of arguments,
joys, the pleasure of a holiday, of time
spent together, listen. Sing with me.

— Copyright Adrianne Marcus, 2002.