Friday, July 27, 2012

The View From Up There

The View From Up There is Gerry Coates’ first collection of writing. These poems and stories span 50 years, from the excitement of a boy taking a flight in a Tiger Moth above the Waitaki Valley, to a brush with fame, and even the celebration of a first kiss.

Gerry Te Kapa Coates (Ngāi Tahu) was born in Ōamaru and left Te Wai Pounamu in his mid-20s. Waihao is his home turf, but he has lived in Wellington most of his working life. He works as an engineer and director, and has done many other varied and creative things throughout his career. He is now writing longer pieces, including a novel. 

“I admire the grace of these poems, and the carefulness which keeps them clear and direct. I also appreciate the ease with which they are able to bring together the Maori language and English, achieving a synthesis that is uniquely true to the country.” — Phillip Mann

Like Gerry Coates The Bookman is"a man of a certain age" and so I especially related to and enjoyed his poem Men of a Certain Age which the publishers have allowed me to reproduce below.
I hope you enjoy it too, happy National Poetry Day!

Men of a certain age

It’s hard when the pressing walls of work
close in on us, the men of a certain age,
somewhat past ambition but still aware
of the seduction of a position of power.

Because inside we are all still seventeen — a very good year
but back in the seminary or seminar room perhaps,
waiting to grow up (which we certainly did —
not that it helped us) and make our mark.

When someone today says ‘You don’t look it’
I wonder what it is I haven’t done — is my
temple a little less grey, my brow too unlined;
don’t I carry enough burdens of state blazoned on my brow?

Then I look at these captains of industry running
the so-called giants — BIL, Air New Zealand, etc
who do indeed look portly, avuncular, older and knowing
despite being younger (there is a certain look)

I’ll settle for being my uncertain age — younger rather than older
not doubting my ability, just aware that there is more
to life than money, and the NASDAQ index,
that the years do not condemn but make me more discerning.

When men of a certain age approach a ‘significant’
birthday sometimes it seems better to let it pass unnoticed.
I say, ‘No, shout it from the rooftops’ (or at least the top step),
that I will celebrate age and wisdom along with the child within.

I don’t need achievements, medals, accolades. Being here still
is enough. And there are things I have done — measures of life
like family and friends, mundane tasks achieved each weekend
a cool drink on a hot day, deserved sleep each night.

Who cares if the All Blacks lose? Men of a certain age
can claim to have seen it all before, give advice profusely
in the sure knowledge it will be ignored by upstarts
for we also know that in the end it’s just another game.

We are in the process of becoming, turning into kaumātua for whom
being is more important than doing, hearing more crucial
than just listening, quiet talk among peers means more than the
trappings of honour, the chances missed by men of a certain age.

The View from Up There
Gerry Te Kapa Coates
Steele Roberts - $24.99

I bought my copy at UBS Canterbury who had an impressive pile of it in their impressive poetry section.

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