Tag Archives: poetry

Standing Up

I was alone in the house, thinking about something I wanted to write, composing words of little consequence in my head, when something funny happened. I had just stepped outside to check on the washing, riffing away at gags and observations, when I heard a noise behind me that I didn’t recognise. A soft, woody, clicking.

It was the feathers of a fantail, flitting gently around the room. Long tail hanging down below.

Oh, I said. Oh, aloud, following its flight.

I have come to be nervous of birds in the house. They panic, throw themselves against the windows. Shit on the curtains. But the piwakawaka did exactly what fantails do. It calmly flew three circles of the space, aware that windows are not exits, and then it bobbled past me, out into the afternoon sun.

I quickly shut the door.

1200555Piwakawaka 5

It is 17 years since I last saw that. I was starting a writing course in Timaru. A fantail flew into the kitchen, circled the light three times, and headed straight out into the garden. My flatmate, another writer, was uncertain. She thought it meant death. Something to do with their role in the death of Maui when he sought immortality. I swiftly made the point, rightly or not, that such events are also seen as a portent of rebirth, the start of something new. We were to write. Add words to the world.

As I recalled that moment, our recently returned long-lost cat appeared at the door, shouting to get in. Too much. Meke tu meke.





I had wanted to write about the poet I saw last night. The two poets I saw last night. How it was 2/3 performance, 1/3 poetry. How funny they were. John Cooper Clarke and Andrew Fagan. I liked it so much I even bought the Ramones-inspired tour t-shirt and started to write garbled poems in my head, humorous and wry. Words the world is not waiting for, does not need, but I have to express.



I had recently been thinking about giving stand-up a crack. It’s something I haven’t done. Not bucket-list but a bit of a lacuna. I’ve written a set and am trying to pluck up the courage to give it a bash. The thought terrifies me. I’ve often had the urge, having worked on so many live stand-up shows, but felt I was too much of an actor and/or writer, needing control of words.

Last month, when I saw a wonderful young actor do a solo show that was as much stand-up as theatre, I resolved to try my hand. I am nearly 51, how bad can it be?

I have read my ropey poems live, shaking in my boots. It really does happen. The anxiety was worse than theatre or playing in a band. You are totally naked. A performer and writer with no loud music, drama or drums, make-up or guitars to hide behind. Just you and your words. And a mic.


Maybe that is why both poets last night, 70s punk and 80s pop star, both employed costumes, patter and props, jokes and gags. It wasn’t stand-up, it was funnier than that. I smiled and laughed the whole time as they entertained the beautiful, packed historic church and offended the young.

I don’t know if I have the guts to act like a stand-up comedian. But I can be a funny poet. Maybe I could blend the parts into something new, born of me. A brash bird no longer bashing against windows it cannot see.

I want to flit about new spaces, unafraid of any threat, confident that the door remains exactly where it was when I came in.



A Bit of Pottyry

Is it really over two months since my last blog? Really? Truly? Has time devoured my mind and our southern winter huddled my thoughts?
That’s nuts.
Collected and squirreled, not to share.

I have been writing in that time, of a sort, but it’s been back with my first love, fiction. More precisely: speculative fiction*. One set in the distant past amongst pre-lingual humans, the other in the near future in a post-relationship society. My journal writing has been cracking along, too, at a rate not seen since the turn of the century (when I did my first proper writing course).

As it is with a lot of writing, I have little to show for it. Nothing put away to sustain me through the dark days, or to lure a lover to my hoard. What a frigid beast is the desire to scribble.

Last night I received another rejection, for a story of ‘science and the erotic’. Like all rejections, it hurts, but there’s nothing to be gained by not barring up and putting your nuts on the line once more.

I’m doing just that at the moment, taking an online poetry course through the University of Iowa. As you can see from the purple prose and tortured imagery above, I’m no great shakes as a poet, but as a lover of knowledge, and a constant writer of prose, I’m keen to engage in the unknown and learn, fail, learn.

There’s over 7,000 poets around the world doing this free course, so while I feel rather naked posting my exercises/poems online for others to sniff, prod and nibble, I’m able not to attract too many eyes.

That said there’s nothing worse than getting up on stage to dance around and show off your goods to the sound of a deafening silence.

Which is the bind of plucking up the courage to reveal yourself. It hurts when you attempt allure and grace, and fall flat on your face.

It stings just as bad when the tip tucked into your g-string is unearned, unthinking sympathy.

I’ve always written verse. For better or worse (stop it!) Throughout childhood and my teen years, when I played in bands, never has it ceased. It slowed for a time, when I abandoned rhyme (oi! what did I say?)

Ah. Ok, now I’m extracting the Michael (as the saying goes). Time to stop. View the next lecture. Nut out some words (grrr…)

* I have two first loves, but they never meet, so they cannot get jealous of one other. The other love is literary fiction, but please don’t tell, you’ll ruin everything.