Poetry NZ Issue 32
Issue 32

Alistair Paterson

Jessica Le Bas, Jenny Argante, Cherie Barford, David Bath, Joy Blair, Louis Daniel Brodsky, Owen Bullock, Jennifer Compton, Jan FitzGerald, Bernard Gadd, Diane Glancy, May Iremonger, Timothy Kaiser, Leicester Kyle, Norm Levine, Kent MacCarter, Carolyn McCurdie, Margot Zucker Mindich, Tammy Ho Lai Ming, Susan Minot, Elizabeth Morton, Andrew O'Donnell, Regina O'Melveny, Nicholas Reid, Helen Rickerby, Anna Rugis, Ginny Sullivan, Ryan G. Van Cleave, K C Wilder, Cyril Wong

Jack Ross, "Denys Trussell – poet, musician, ecologist"

Suzanne Nola, "Collected Poems of Alistair Campbell"

Roger Horrocks, "Two books by Pooja Mittal"

Alistair Paterson

Issue 32 features the work of Jessica Le Bas, winner of the 2005 Bravado Poetry Competition. She has been writing poetry since the age of six, and has spent the last twelve months as a full time writer.

Three sample poems can be found here: under, cross over by our featured poet, Jessica Le Bas, Lamartine by Nicholas Reid, and The art of conquest by Ryan G. Van Cleave.


As far as it's possible to tell, poetry appears to have been composed and enjoyed for perhaps as long as language has been used. People like to talk to each other and listen to others speak. They enjoy the experience of language whether it's in spoken or written form, whether it's an immediate part of the social situation or otherwise, whether it's recorded in books and magazines, or delivered electronically by television and radio, or on the internet.

Poetry's pervasiveness and its persistence over so many millennia (in spite of its current lack of economic viability) suggests it's something more fundamental than pleasure alone – that it could be an essential part of being human rather than some kind of add-on, that it might have its origins deep in the ancient limbic system of the brain, and perhaps even possess survival aspects.

Charles Baudelaire once said, "Any healthy man can go without food for two days – but not without poetry," which at first seems a little absurd. Perhaps, though, there's truth in it because poetry doesn't have to be thought of as a few fancy words written on paper or delivered in some half-dark mini-auditorium to an obscure assembly of a dozen or so would-be poets and poetry aficionados. It concerns the emotions and a sense of the aesthetic more than anything else – allows us to experience life ipso facto, on its own terms and as itself. Without this we'd be automatons with little or no reason for survival, nor any ability to laugh, weep, love or care about the absurdity of the human condition.

"There is," according to Ryle (The Concept of Mind, Gilbert Ryle, Hutchinson, 1976, page 82) a "sense of 'emotion' in which theorists classify as emotions the motives by which people's... behaviour is explained." Some would argue that in reality it's more likely the other way around. Be this as it may, motives and behaviours relate to feelings, to emotions, to the fundamental mechanisms behind them. An intimate aspect of these is the aesthetic factor which pervades our conscious and subconscious lives, which constructs the world around us and affects all that we say and do – the poetic.

If this is true, Baudelaire is right and it's not surprising that more people are writing poetry than ever before. They're writing it because poetry is an irremovable aspect of the way people experience what's going on around them, what's happening in their heads and how they deal with life itself.

Alistair Paterson, March 2006

under, cross over

after Paul Haywood, CoCA, 6/05

rated x
the fabricated weave
drawn through the suite, a full century's air
a girl smears blood on the arms, legs
you, an acrylic flavour in similar hue
behind the bars the thin neighbour perves.

all that red and no desire?
he is laid
in the window – green
it could be home.

stretch marks – contrived pain
the sun not going down
closer closer closer in the red

in places you change your mind
for another mind
caged vapour doesn't escape
never mind.

the thin thread hangs him
the neighbour's simple
cut short with panic, flees
he's cross

— Copyright Jessica Le Bas, 2006.


"Que me fait le coteau, le toit, la vigne aride?
Que me ferait le ciel, si le ciel etait vide?
Je ne vois en ces lieux que ceux qui n'y sont pas!"

— Alphonse de Lamanine, "La Vigne et la Maison", 1858

Memory is a shutter banging in he wind,
moss on the sunless side, a broken window pane,
unswept gutters overflowing,
a cracked tile letting in the rain.

Be honest now. Dropped off the coach, you met
the clanging village bell. You knew you'd heard
(in Paris and Italy and on the Rhine)
others more sonorous and melodious.
Scatter dithyrambs on it if you will.
Say how solemnly it elevates your thoughts,
casts childish things away,
recalling stoic rustic deaths.

But it's only a clanging hick-town bell.

You've heard better.

Walk the muddy tracks around the old estate.
Weeds. Cow-dung. Peasants sucking toothless gums.
Could you live in poverty this way, in Milly
your terre natale? Remember that long curse
you wrote for the mercenary stranger
who would come and barter it all away?
You are that stranger now. Your debts have mounted.
Plucking their lyres when revolutions come,
even good aristos have creditors to feed.

Milly – it'll have to go.

Try to seize back the living moment from
these dead things, like
your dead love from the lake, or from the crucifix she kissed.
Did the hills really say "They were lovers"?
Was the crucifix still warm?
Only mementi mori both – reminders of death –
and all in your mind.

Say dark ivy is mourning for the broken house
while the green vine lives.
Mystify it with rhyming incantations.
Still the wind drones back an absence.

Where's your consolation?
You will pray God, after death, to make another home
like this, but more so,
on another planet, under other skies.

The better-shining sun you crave is your childhood

All your logic leads back
to death.

One thought, old man, stands like a pyramid
in a desert. What's past is past.
Your words will not revive the dead
or make the loving widow walk.

The shadow of a cypress on a white mausoleum.
A cracked tile.
A skittering dead leaf.
A shutter banging in the wind.

— Copyright Nicholas Reid, 2006.

The art of conquest

for Leonard Nathan

First, we'll take all your chairs.
They aren't yours anymore.

Later, we'll fill your wells
with pine tar and pack
your cannon-throats
with cement.

For too many years,
your republic has stood
for persimmons and
the death mask of Byron.

That is now at an end.

We'll put a stop
to your high-school
biology teachings.

We'll sweep clean
the mouth of every

It's true.
Your dead
will pile up,
on the fire escape
of the palace.

We'll fill
the dump
with your terrycloth

We'll teach you
how to fume quietly
in a succession
of specific
angry gestures.

The nasturtiums
and national parks
will be plowed over;
after, we'll set
the hills ablaze
with night-blooming
jasmine and mayflies.

We'll pass out
kerosene lamps
and oil for your
grandmother's loom.

We'll employ
every itinerant tinker
to make padlocks
and boot grommets.

The republic is gone.
The palatial terrace
is empty. When the blood dries,
we'll make orange
our century's color.
Red is too grim.
Black is too true.

You will thank us
When we're through.

— Copyright Ryan G. Van Cleave, 2006.