"who are you, little i
(five or six year years old"
peering from some high
window;at the gold
of november sunset
(and feeling that if day
has to become night
this is a beautiful way)"
e. e. cummings
After a month's break over the Southern Hemisphere's summer holidays, Tuesday Poem 2013 starts up again today. Hooray. It is my pleasure and privilege to be editor on the hub this week. I chose the poem Almost Always, Never Quite by Dunedin poet David Howard. David is NZ's new Burns Fellow - this coming Friday - 1 February - he will pull up his chair at the desk Emma Neale has happily occupied since this time last year.
Born in Christchurch, David Howard co-founded Takahe magazine (1989) and the Canterbury Poets Collective (1990). He spent his professional life as a pyrotechnics supervisor whose clients included the All Blacks, Janet Jackson and Metallica. In 2003 David retired to Purakaunui in order to write: 'The rural hinter is perfect for this; by getting clear of the social whirl you realise what matters is the dirt under your fingernails.
In March 2012, fellow Tuesday poet Tim Jones interviewed David for the online journal, Cordite. Here follows one of my favorite - postively crackling - excerpts from their discussion ---
TJ: You have previously worked as a pyrotechnics technician and SFX supervisor for acts including Janet Jackson and Metallica. Has it left traces on your poetry?
DH: Pyrotechnics promised a wider collaboration with the musical, sporting and entrepreneurial worlds than was possible in literary New Zealand. While visceral, fireworks are impersonal and I wanted clear of the word writer. Perhaps my poems had come, like the trees of Birnam Wood, to rout the person who owned them. I withdrew from the submission-publication-review cycle. I fell silent, only it didn't feel like falling.
What then? Kenosis. Fireworks were and are part of that challenge to empty. They appear to dominate the sky but it's a percussive illusion; they get their power through surrendering to the night. By vanishing they stay with us. Seeing is not believing; belief comes after the seeing, when you're gazing at black. And with poetry you have to listen for what's not there. An attentive listener knows the word partners something larger than a dictionary definition. On tour, rigging in gantries, then packing out at four in the morning under security lights rather than the moon – it all helped me to weigh silence.
Designing fireworks displays, articulating space, gave me the strength to attempt longer poems: I was now confident of my ability to structure the unseen, the becoming. How? If site provides context then fireworks don't so much map as transcend it because they take the viewer into an apprehension of the eternal through the momentary. The report of a launching charge is more than a deafening report on experience. Exposed by the exploding shell, perhaps site is akin to the light-sensitive paper that photographs are printed on – but a paper that has not been treated with fixative. When the spreading charge transforms common chemicals into uncommon effects, then the audience participates more than the pyrotechnician. No exposure matches that of the spirit – it cannot be captured. After all, is this so different from what happens with language? Words turn around the world, searching the pockets of discarded jackets for secrets. See, here is a piece of crumpled paper. It is the charred casing of a star shell.
You can read the full interview here