Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Dear Heart - 150 New Zealand Love Poems - A collection of New Zealand’s finest love poems

This book is not being published until 5 April but it has given me such delight that I pleaded with the publishers to let me write about it now rather than wait until April. I hope this doesn't cause too much frustration for readers in the meantime. Believe me this book is an utterly wonderful collection. I loved it from beginning to end, and the gorgeous cover design, end papers and artwork are a bonus,I am delighted to have it on my poetry bookshelf. How special too that it has been published in hardback Congratulations to Paula Green and to the publishers on a fine publication.
It’s been some years since a collection of New Zealand love poems was last in print, says Random House Publishing Director Nicola Legat. “The bar was set very high a decade ago with Jenny Bornholdt and Gregory O’Brien’s anthology My Heart Goes Swimming, also published by Godwit,” she says. “We wanted to create a new collection that was just as lovely and that would do that magical thing of making poetry approachable for non-poetry readers.”

To that end Paula Green approached nine of New Zealand’s leading artists and asked them to paint each of the letters that make up the words Dear Heart. The images by Dick Frizzell, Michael Hight, Sam Mitchell, Gregory O’Brien, Reuben Paterson, Johanna Pegler, John Pule, John Reynolds and Emily Wolfe add something very special to the book. In addition Michael Hight, who is Paula Green’s husband, created a beautiful design for the cover and endpapers. “It’s a book to handle with pleasure and to treasure,” says Nicola Legat.

Paul Green’s selection goes back to the 1930s and is a roll call of this country’s leading poetic names, as well as including some more recent comers to the craft. “I have arranged the poems as though I were composing a symphony rather than sticking to a chronological rule,” Green writes in her introduction, “because I wanted poetic music along with poetic heart. Now it is over to the reader to explore the different echoes, the unexpected juxtapositions, the contours of tone, the historical links and disconnections, the contemporary exposures.”
Paula Green (right) is one of New Zealand’s most highly regarded poets. With Harry Ricketts she wrote the critically acclaimed 99 Ways into Poetry (2010), which was shortlisted for the NZ Post Book Awards 2011.

The publishers have kindly made available to me Paula Green's excellent introduction which follows, along with four of my favourite poems from the book. Enjoy.

 Love — that complicated, delicious, pleasurable, necessary feeling — ties us to another human, to a  mother, father, son, daughter, sibling, lover or friend. Love can also tie us to a place, an experience, an object. We love and we are loved; unexpectedly, gloriously, painfully, deeply.

On the Going West Festival’s final steam-train journey in 2005, Meg and Alistair Te Ariki Campbell read at the little chapel at Waikumete Cemetery. At one point they faced each other with such a look of love — enduring, strong, tender — the hairs on the back of my arms stood on end. I felt like I was trespassing, and then I heard the look of love translated within the lines of their poems.

This is what poetry can do. A poem can deliver a look of love that gives us goose bumps. Yet as this collection of love poems by New Zealand poets clearly shows, the poetic look of love takes many guises.
Love belongs in the real world not as some neoplatonic ideal that places a pure and untarnished love
upon a pedestal, but as a feeling that includes grief along with joy, anger along with tenderness, frustration along with attentiveness.
Love poetry reflects this stretch of feeling.

The majority of the poems I have selected reveal adult love —from the sparks of youth to the changing
nature of love in old age—but I have also included examples of the love of offspring (Janet Charman’s ‘warm loaf ’), of particular places (Brian Turner’s ‘Remembering Summer’) and of beloved objects (James Brown’s ‘The Bicycle’). Sometimes the poem is surprising as in Kate Camp’s response to a black swan that supposedly fell in love with a plastic pedal boat shaped like a white swan (‘Mute song’). At other times love is threaded into an extended narrative poem as in Anne Kennedy’s The Time of the Giants and John Puhiatau Pule’s The Bond Of Time. Some poets follow the tradition of using a particular form to frame aspects of love as in Andrew Johnston’s sestina (‘The Sounds’) and Michele Leggott’s sonnets in dia.

Poets have addressed the subject of love for centuries and, after all this time, it still remains a vital topic.
Time-honoured motifs, such as the heart, the moon, flowers and the oceans, appear fresh in the service of love like an old grape that produces a new and delightful aftertaste. I have included a range of poems from the 1930s to the present day to highlight the shifting musical tones, vocabulary, motifs and attitudes across the decades, and while we may have to approach earlier poems with a different ear, these are poems that tap into universal constants and stand the test of time.

I have arranged the poems as though I were composing a symphony rather than sticking to a chronological rule, because I wanted poetic music along with poetic heart. Now it is over to the reader to explore the different echoes, the unexpected juxtapositions, the contours of tone, the historical links and disconnections, and the contemporary exposures.

Love has its origins in the intimacy of private lives, yet the poet makes ‘the look of love’ public to greater and to lesser degrees. While we should be cautious about trusting the truthfulness of poetry as autobiography, I have placed my trust in these poems to reveal diverse truths of love itself.

The anthology’s title, Dear Heart, is borrowed from Michele Leggott’s poem, which in turn borrowed it from the popular song by Henry Mancini (it also makes its way into Te Ariki Campbell’s Cages For the Wind). Songs get under your skin; they make your body sway and your heart beat a little faster. With this anthology of heart poems, poems that may make you laugh, grimace, weep and feel simpatico, I invite you to trespass on the look of love; to move and to sway, to be moved and to be swayed.

— Paula Green

 Seven wishes
— Fiona Farrell

A straight account is difficult
so let me define seven wishes:
that you should fit inside me neat as the stuffing in an olive
that you should stand inside the safe circle of my eye
that you should sing, clear, on the high rock of my skull
that you should swing wide on the rope of my hair
that you should cross rivers of blood, mountains of bone
that I should touch your skin through the hole in your tee shirt
that we should exchange ordinary tales.

 Ending and going home
— Jenny Bornholdt

Ending and going home
to where love
lives, high
above the town.
My favourite place,
where you find
sweet apples fallen
on the soft ground.

The Fire is Lovely
— Richard Langston

To you whom I did love
to you whom I might love
to you whom I might have otherwise loved
to you that I do love
good evening, the fire is lovely.

— Alison Wong

he moves his hand
down the dip of her back
over her buttocks
then up again
each stroke
the sound of a wave
over shingle
it’s like your skin has a grain he says
like the scales of a fish
oh she says feeling the world turn
she turns and there
it is — a touch
of rainbow in her skin
as he catches her
in the right

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