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Bad Poetry, Good Poetry and Joan Fleming


National Poetry Day in New Zealand.

The poetry I write here is bad because this place loves me. It has forced words out of me into physical gestures that have nothing to do with lyric. Instead I’m bone dancing my love for it and burying it in the soil. Hands on plastic keys, because we need to send emails and things, and in the soil patting down roots to help green form.

Lucky I have friends who write for me, whose words I can call on as if they edged off my own reaching tongue, out of the night corners & leanings of thought. These friends are the eyes of New Zealand. Here is one who remains in this place despite distance, one who taught me how to walk here – Joan Fleming.


This Place

This place of sip and crack
This place unable to falter outside of the water
This place where sons cut their teeth on the drupes of ice peaches, on the drupes of nectarines
where sweet blood is
This place where mothers and sons with sunburnt legs stop coolly beside the torn wallpapered swallows This place of letters
This place where ice letters from half-dissembled loves are sent
where the ink bleeds coolly in the storm
This place where storms are sweet like stone fruit where the lake could be just past that ridge
or it could not be
This place of the speckled mother with her legs tucked under the tree that fell in the storm
This place of the son with a sent sweater made of water
This place where we learnt how to press our several faces against the doors as they were opening
where we found our faces were made entirely of opening doors
This place of transparent syllables
This place where we might have been torn paper
where we might have been doorstops where we might have been the lake’s best secret
oldest secret
dark and willing
This place of spent mother
spent son
This place of the lake’s spent secret
where money is a kind of alphabet we learnt the sound of before we learnt to fracture and marry its small black shapes with our chosen hand
This place planting weak cellophane gestures inside our transparent ballrooms
This place still learning how to walk
of rubber in the shapes of fish their tails stippled so we can hold on when the slickness comes
This place of single scales placed over our eyes to keep back the blinking
This place of wanting us to see it
This place of the exquisite fish bone in the throat of the lake

Meet Joan, and read Joan’s essay on how she crafted the poem above and learn more about the sculpture, poetry and drawing collaboration from which it emerged.

Photo credit: Kate Van der Drift

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