Last night I read some of my poems on the radio. The local Paekakariki community radio, that is. (NZ 88.2 FM, or Paekakariki.org on the internet.) I was nervous. I haven’t read my poems to an audience very often. I practised reading them out loud at home, which led to some line break changes.
I call myself a a writer rather than a poet; most of my writing is prose, but from time to time something feels like a poem so I write it like that. Then I revise and revise and delete some words, replace others, think long and hard about a comma. Someone said you never finish a poem, just just stop writing it.
A few of my poems could almost be short stories, but something about them insists they are poems. (I’m not going anywhere near what’s the difference between poetry and prose.) Here’s a poem that began in 2001 and has had many iterations, but retains the core of the original piece. It could never have been anything but a poem.
At Paekakariki beach
Between the rumble of the train
and the waves’ reiterating roar
at the mussel-rocks this afternoon.
Neither birds nor mussels
care that the afternoon
is looming grey
with rain in the wind
and a hidden
arrows of light through gaps
in the cloud onto white-tops that disrupt
A fisher fishes
A poet scribbles
A child climbs the skeleton
of a tree dropped on the beach
by the waves of a storm and sunk;
stable now in the sand like a climbing
frame in concrete. Last week that dead tree
was way down there.
Oyster catchers fly off
at the skittering approach of a small black dog.
The pied shag drying its wings on a rock
scares into flight
as a man approaches,
running behind a push-chaired baby.