Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday Poem - SPARK by Emma Neale


                 Our son, nearly one, has one near-word:
                 another determined birth
                 the sound stutters, gutters
                 then rushes and floods


                He points to lamp and torch,
                to LEDs on clock, computer, answer machine,
                to sun-strike – on sash windows, ignited
                from an old ute’s wing mirror, firing
                a red beech leaf as it falls, flares,
                flaught – like torn newsprint in a grate
                as it spasms into flame….

                “That’s right!” we say, “A light, a light.”
                And as he points to hyacinth, door, cat,
                and tries,


                say, “No, that’s a flower, a door, a  cat,
                but he, small and earnest professor,
                cranes forward a little on his rump,
                to repeat slowly and with extra care


                until we look again.

                It gathers in thick cones,
                rods of bee caves
                dozens of lilac oboe mouths
                peeled back into stars.

                It hovers on one wall
                like a vertical lake
                that rapidly drains
                to miraculous views
                (a dog! a tree! a car!)
                then fills again with itself
                hard, white, stilled.

                It unfurls, blackbird-blue,
                to arc and vault
                from windowsill to garden

                where discs and glints of it
                flock, merge, and wheel apart
                into hedge, clothesline, pegs, water,
                frost on red roof, green blade, yellow grain:


                “Ah,” we say, “We see.   There.
                And there.
                Light.   Light.
                All shapes of light.”
                Emma Neale

Emma Neale

". . . The first thing we hear is the rhythm of the mother's heartbeat in the womb.
We learn to master language through the principles of corresponding sounds - the world says "da", and "ma": we echo it back, in the long, slow rhyme of learning to talk. A return to childhood certainties is perhaps what many readers are unconsciously seeking when craving the loud, clear bell of end rhyme.
The patterns of rhyme and metre may set up, and fulfil, expectations; it's an enjoyable re-enactment of hopes realised, in artistic form. Yet readers - and writers - over the centuries have not only sought the comfort and security of traditional prosody: they've also sought adventure and novelty, in the form of variation, spontaneity, inventiveness.
Readers might remember that Shakespeare often wrote in blank verse - unrhymed iambic pentameter - and yet he's known as one of our finest literary forefathers.
Poets who are able to use rhyme skillfully, free of cliche and the thump of bathos, might be the Red Checkers of literature: dazzling, dexterous, daring, and yet just as the RNZAF aerobatics team aren't the only kind of pilot, rhymesters aren't the only kind of poet.
Contemporary poetry uses a full, bristling quiver of techniques to add aural music to the literary form: e.g. assonance, sibilance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, consonance, repetition of all kinds - from song-like refrains, to cyclical teuletons (or repeated end words: see the sestina form in today's offering in the Monday Poem slot).
Yet because poetry is often a printed medium, it also uses line ends and white space to articulate all the qualities of silence, and to add narrative or rhythmic suspense and delay. . . "

from the article 'Not All Cats are black, not all poetry rhymes' by Emma Neale. Read the full piece on the Otago Daily Times website.


Emma Neale is a Dunedin-based poet, novelist, essayist, teacher, editor of our local newspaper's Monday's Poem, mother of two sons and friend; she and her work will already be known to many of you. Emma's latest novel Fosterling is a must-read; you will find yourselves immediately, deeply engaged and transported by this beautifully honed, transformative story. Listen to Emma's conversation with Lynn Freeman on NZ's National Radio (scroll down the radio's page till you reach Emma's name).

Emma has just taken the plunge and joined the blogging community. You can visit her very new blog here. Oh, and how fascinating. . . I have just seen that Penelope Todd featured Emma and her poem Well on The Intertidal Zone a year ago - almost exactly to the day; 20 April 2010! 

Emma has generously donated a copy of her poetry collection Spark to MANY AS ONE - Artwork for Christchurch
Thank you, Emma. 

Also new to MaO, 2000 Circles a photographic work by mountaineer, environmental sculptor and photographer, Martin Hill and Philippa Jones


Tim Jones is this week's TP editor, with Pacific Tsunami Found Poems by Teresia Teaiwa

Please click on the quill



  1. Thanks for this introduction to a stunning poet and writer, Claire. I'm excited to talk to Emma on her blog.

  2. It gathers in thick cones,
    rods of bee caves
    dozens of lilac oboe mouths
    peeled back into stars.


  3. I am overwhelmed by the detail and almost painterly quality of this poem. Exquisite!

  4. A poem that's richer with every read — thank you, Claire, and Emma.

  5. Hi Elisabeth - a pleasure to introduce Emma to you; she is indeed a stunning poet and an inspiring and insightful writer. I imagine you and she could enjoy many a satisfying conversation ; ).

  6. Dear Mim --- gorgeous, yes! I find myself wanting to rush off and paint the shapes, colours and scents Emma's describing here.

    Love to you in sunny SoBe.

  7. Elizabeth (with a 'z' ; ) ) and Penelope. Rich and exquisite, yes. Hallmarks of Emma's writing. . .

    'Spark' - the poem and the collection - crackle with vibrancy.