Time to decide what’s real and what’s illusory

August 29, 2011

Central Otago poet Brian Turner says it’s time for New Zealanders to decide “once and for all what is real and what is illusory, what is sustainable and what is not”.

He was speaking at a University of Otago graduation ceremony at which he was awarded a Doctor of Literature.

“That means working out how to manage the transition to a society based upon a different ethos, one that’s more ethical and imaginative.

“We need to be smarter, more caring in every sense, abandon the lust for instant materialistic gratification, and ignore the freakery of those who would have us believe in the possibility of perpetual euphoria.”

Decades ago, Aldo Leopold had implored people”to adopt a land ethic, to see all creatures and the very atmosphere we breathe, as a community to which we belonged” rather than mainly as “commodities to be used however we saw fit” . . .

. . . “I’m convinced that strengthening one’s localities, one’s regions, in the interests of our families and friends, and of the wider family of life on earth, is the best and most responsible thing we can do.

 

“Considerable resilience” was called for, everywhere, “if we are to make the transition to different ways of living and providing for ourselves”.

If he is arguing for more localism I’d take issue with it. Self sufficiency has its place but so too does interaction and trade between communities and countries.

However, I agree there is a need to seek continual improvements in the way we do things.

Such calls often taken to be anti-business and development but it doesn’t have to be that way. A reader emailed me this link to the obituary of Ray Anderson, the  head of the world’s largest commercial carpet-tile manufacturer, who was a trail blazer in reducing his firm’s environmental impact:

While much of what Anderson instigated is now relatively common – including measures such as car pooling for employees, moving distribution of goods on to water and rail, switching to an element of fair trade for suppliers, and introducing sustainability training for employees – his company blazed a trail. It also showed, as Anderson was keen to point out, that most of the measures were beneficial to the bottom line – money. Waste-saving innovations alone over the past 13 years have saved the company $372m.

Some initiatives such as fair trade are often based more on feel-good factors than fact, but treading more lightly on the earth can have positive affects on both the environment and the economy.

In seeking to do that we should also strengthen our localities and regions in the interests of people. If I read what Turner is saying corretly, we’ll make the world a better place for people now and for those who follow us.


Excerpt from 15 Flower World Variations

March 6, 2011

Excerpt from 15 Flower World Variations by Jerome Rothenberg was featured this week on the Tuesday Poem blog.

Some of the Tuesday poets linked in the sidebar responded to the earthquake:

Songs and Dances of Death by Catherine Fitchett

Storm Front by Helen Lowe

As the Earth Turns by Mary McCallum

Flutter by Brian Turner

Epicentre by Jennifer Compton

Kiwi Heros by Alicia Ponder

this fly – earthquake by Jeffrey Paparoa Holman

Christchurch to Greymouth by Renee Liang

Among some of the other Tuesday poets linked in the sidebar are:

Treasure by Saradha Koirala

Venice by Robyn Rowland


Fisherman

November 30, 2010

Fisherman by Brian Turner is this Tuesday’s poem.

It was chosen by Emma McCleary who writes:

I  love the utter quiet despair in this poem. I find that if you really listen and pay attention to the world then it’s often the small, the quiet and the unassuming people and things that have the most impact.  . .

. . .  This poem has a hollowing feel, a poignant sense of loss, and something that I too felt couldn’t completely be explained by words when people asked, “How are you?”

 Among links to other Tuesday poems int he side bar are:

Helen Lowe’s choice  Blue by Catherine Fitchett.

Catherine has just joined the Tuesday poets and her choice this week is Jim Brock’s Aubade: Good Daylight.

Helen Heath’s choice is The First Drummer Boy of Xmas by Jennifer Compton which starts:

 

Yesterday I was at the Mall and I heard

my first rendition of Little Drummer Boy.

 

Dear Lawd above – I said to myself – Xmas is hard upon us. For our sins.

It is time to head down the back paddock . . .

 

And at Stoatspring Harvey Malloy features Poem for a Geography Teacher by Anna Livesay.


Tuesday’s answers

August 31, 2010

Monday’s questions were:

1. What breed of cattle is this?

2. Who said: “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”?

3. Whose third Law of Motion states: “That for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”?

4. In Spanish it’s estrealla ; in French it’s étoile, in Italian it’s in Maori it’s whetu – what is it in English?

5. Which poet won the poetry section of this year’s NZ Post Book Awards (announced on Friday) for the book Just This?

Eleven people answered:

KG got one right.

Mr Gronk got two (and my general knowledge isn’t as good as the quiz suggests. As any teacher or reporter will tell you, you can get away with not knowing an answer if you knew where to look for it – and Google helps.

G got three.

Chris Bird and Gravedodger earned electronic bouquets for getting five right.

David got three (allowing that Brahman is a breed of Zebu) and a bonus for extra information.

Andrei got three.

Zen Tiger gets a bonus electronic posy for wit and doggerel.

Richard gets a point for honesty -though I’d be very surprised if you saw a Brahman in North Otago, but my farmer said you might have seen a Santa Gertrudis which began as a Shorthorn-Brahman cross.

PDM got three.

Adam got two and a bonus for humour.

Tuesday’s answers follow the break:

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Tuesday’s answers

November 10, 2009

Monday’s questions were:

1. What’s distinctive about someone with a variation in the MC1R gene?

2. Who said, “Hollow commitments to action in the future are insufficient. Deferring difficult issues must not be tolerated. Our children and grandchildren expect us to speak and act decisively?”

3. Who won this year’s Prime Minister’s Awards for Literature?

4. What is a titipounamu?

5. Name the national presidents of: Federated Farmers, Rural Women NZ and NZ Young Farmers.

Paul Tremewan got two right, a bonus for originality in his answer to #1 and another for humour in his last answer. If his answer to #2 is satirical he’ll get a bonus for that too.

Paul L gets a bonus for lateral thinking and another for humour.

David W got 2 1/3 plus a bonus for teaching me something with the full answer to #1.

PDM – Mike Peterson chiars what was Meat & Wool NZ and will soon be just Meat NZ. But you can have a bonus for humour.

Tuesday’s answers follow the break:

Read the rest of this entry »


Turner receives PM’s Literary Award

October 29, 2009

Central Otago poet Brian Turner  is one of three recipients of the 2009 Prme Minister’s Literary Achievement Awards.

The other two awards went to  C. K. Stead for fiction writing and Dr Ranginui Walker for nonfiction.

Although he is probably best known for his poetry, and was the 2003 Te Mata Estate poet Laureate, he is also a much-published essayist and biographer.

Many of his poems are set in or about the South Island, particularly Central Otago. Many are also philosophical, like Home Hills Road, from his most recent collection  Taking Off.  It finishes:

Let art do us more good than harm/is my prayer for those who would apprehend/and make it staunch, a lifelong friend.


Timeless Land

October 20, 2009

Brian Turner’s poetry, Owen Marshall’s prose and Grahame Sydney’s paintings combine to capture the people and places of heartland New Zealand.

Timeless Land, published by Longacre Press, is a glorious tribute to Central Otago.

In Place,  Turner writes: Once in a while/you may come across a place/where everything/seems as close to perfection/ as you will ever need . . .

Once in a while you may come across a book in which everything seems as close to perfection as you will ever need. This is such a book, one to linger over, read and re-read.

dairy 10013

Post 20 in the post a day for New Zealand Book Month challenge.

Deborah at In A Strange Land posts on Matariki by Melanie Drewery, illustrated by Bruce Potter.

Oswald Bastable posts on Jim Henderson’s Open Country  and Shooting from the HipLip by Lee Hughes.

book month logo green

 


Just This

August 14, 2009

Reading Brian Turner’s poetry is to wander through tussock, under a big Central Otago sky, basking in the heat of a summer’s day or breathing the crisp, clear air of winter.

His latest volume of poems, Just This, takes the reader to other places too and describes people and relationships with an eye for detail and gift for choosing words which tell more with each reading.

 He explores Honesty and Fear, the First Day at School and Unfashionable Suggestions; he goes to a Shareholders Meeting, visits a South Dunedin Garden and the Matukituki; shows the view from High Windows; examines Celebrity and concludes The Earth is Enough. 

It’s a wonderful collection of poems from a master wordsmith.

 Just This

‘Find your place on the planet, dig in,

and take responsibility from there.’

         Gary Snyder

 

Affecting without affection, like the sere hills

then the early evening sky where Sirius dominates

for a time, then is joined by lesser lights,

 

stars indistinct as those seen through the canopies

of trees shaking in the wind. There’s this wish

to feel part of something wholly explicable

 

and irreplaceable, something enduring

and wholesome that suppresses the urge to fight . . .

or is there? Ah, the cosmic questions

 

that keep on coming like shooting stars

and will, until, and then what? All I can say

is that for me nothing hurts more

 

than leaving and nothing less than coming home

when a nor’wester’s gusting in the pines

like operatic laughter, and the roadside grasses

 

are laced with the blue and orange and pink

of bugloss, poppies and yarrow, all of them

swishing, dancing, bending as they do, as we do.

                 – Brian Turner –

Just This by Brian Turner, published by Victoria University Press, 2009, $24.99.


Autumn Cornflowers

April 2, 2009

April is poetry month, so I’m aiming for at least one poem a day rather than just one on Friday (though I have to admit yesterday’s from Dr Seus was there by coincidence because I hadn’t realised it was poetry month at the time).

Autumn Cornflowers comes from Footfall  by Brian Turner, published by Godwit.

Autumn Cornflowers

 

A friend rings to tell me

he’s writing my name, Turner,

on all the old thermal underwear

he can find

and is going to hang the lot

on a fence on the West Coast.

I can’t think why

except that it’s his way

of broadcasting my alleged

rough, tough customer image

and bringing it to the attention

of the wider world. Something

like that. And then he says

‘You live in the coldest place

in New Zealand, don’t ya.’

‘One of,’ I say, ‘one of.’

 

When he hangs up

I go outside

and look at the bunches

of blue cornflowers

I planted in the shade

of my dry stone wall

five months or more ago.

They are still in bloom

in April, in our crisp

blue autumn, I love

these flowers, I have

no hesitation in saying:

they are the last I have.

There is no poverty in them,

pure brave imperative

without pity.

 

– Brian Turner –


Making Hay

March 27, 2009

Hay making is a summer and autumn activity for farmers, though this Friday’s poem Making Hay, is one for all seasons.

It comes from Taking Off,  by Brian Turner, published by Victoria University Press.

          Making Hay

 

Where would the road not taken

have gone to? How many garden

paths have you been led down

and not come back with a frown

on your face no longer as young

as it was? And how badly stung

were you in days called long ago

when what one thought was so

wasn’t? Too many dire or dopey questions

about resultant defections and deflections.

Can you say now you ever had your day,

that there was a day when you made hay?

 

         – Brian Turner –


Planting Spuds

October 17, 2008

The first new potatoes are appearing in the supermarket but I’m not tempted because they’re from the North Island and always a disappointment in comparison with the far tastier, but slightly later ripening, North Otago ones.

 

Until the local spuds are available I won’t be buying, but the thought of them prompted the choice of this Friday’s poem.

 

It’s Planting Spuds by Brian Turner from Footfall published by Godwit in 2005.

 

Planting Spuds

 

You were reading where a man planting spuds

in his garden saw it as his ‘sovereign prerogative’

a phrase both lofty and daft, possibly outrageous.

 

It’s hard to decide. As is, if what one does could ever

be worthy of such belief. And it’s difficult to know

if you’re a certain sort of person, what one has

 

a right to do, or whether one should even be troubled

by the question. I can easily imagine working in a bee-loud

corner of a glade, a lost domain, humming happily

 

or watching a rabbit unnoticed yet ever alert,

nibbling grass perked by rain. But what one

chooses to do next is governed by more than

 

one’s own prerogative. You should be ready to run

like a rabbit, no matter what. It’s got something

to do with who’s part of the food chain, and which

 

way the wind’s blowing. What do you reckon?

How deep in the ground would you put spuds

if you didn’t have the requisite advice printed

 

on the bag they came in? And would it help to

plant them before the sun goes down and the bees

return to the hive? Does anyone know that?

 

– Brian Turner –


The Way Is Is

July 18, 2008

 

That you love nature is easy to say

Until you learn that unless you act accordingly

It will call you to account in the end.

                                         That’s why

we’re required to make the connection

between the sound the wind makes

when it starts the leaves quivering

and the way the white canes of sunlight

line the spaces between the trees

on a summer’s morning.

                         It’s a case

of working out what’s here

for the long haul

and if we want to be part of it.

It’s marvellous, abominable, confusing,

exultant: the way things are,

the way is is.

 

– Brian Turner –

 

Another offering for Montana Poetry Day. Turner lives in the Maniototo, Central Otago.

 


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