Shadow stands up #2

On August 4th I was handed the New Zealand Poet Laureate tokotoko in the company of my old friend Cilla McQueen and a gathering of friends, family, and the terrific people from the National Library. Then a crowd of us went and had a long, celebratory lunch. On Friday 12th I went to Dunedin for Ralph Hotere's 80th birthday celebrations and on Sunday joined Bill Manhire and David Eggleton for a poetry reading in Ralph's honour. A good time was had by all. On Friday 19th I went to Wellington for the launch of Peter Black's extraordinary book of photographs, I loved you the moment I saw you. More good times.

The following Friday it was back to Wellington for the launch of my novel The Catastrophe at Meow, followed by gigs from poet John Newton's band The Tenderizers and Damien Wilkins's The Close Readers. The good times were still very good but getting tiring. This Friday in Auckland is the launch of Haka at the Auckland Centre of the National Library of New Zealand, then up to Whangarei with Donna for the Northland Spring Book Fair on Saturday, she to talk and sign copies of her novel Surrender, me to give a poetry reading. I'm sure we'll have a good time. There's more to come - Going West Books and Writers Festival at Titirangi the following weekend, always an enjoyable event.

What I'm noticing is what began on August 4th. I'd have been at all the events this month, and would no doubt have enjoyed them just the same, and felt just as agreeably clobbered, but I've begun to be gently nudged into public view as a poet, and this will take a bit of getting used to. But in the spirit of good will I've encountered this month, taking my cue from the encouragement I've had, I'm posting another section of 'Shadow Stands Up', the sequence of poems I'd just begun to write when I heard about the Laureate award. Nudging it out into view.


Please don't squeeze me until I'm
yours reads the greengrocer's sign
on his ripe avocados
whose enticing location
in a tilted tray on the
footpath outside his shop says,
we live in a country of
ripe words, which is why the im-
print of memory may be
all that mars the surfaces
where the outlines of trees can
seem to rise up at any
time and become the shadows
of runners circling the park
a green Link bus goes past with
me in it, thinking, 'How can
I know what memory is
going to offer me unless
I can feel it's ready to?'

Shadow Stands Up

(The National Library warmly welcomes Ian Wedde to the position of New Zealand Poet Laureate. We think he’s going to do rather well.)

Mix and Mash has returned for its second year, offering big prizes and instant fame for the best remixes and mashups made with New Zealand content. Ian has kindly made his poem below, “Shadow Stands Up”, available for use in (or out of) the competition.

Shadow Stands Up

Shadow stands up under the
trees in Victoria Park
whose own filigree shadows lie
across matted russet leaves
on the sodden green turf that
the morning’s tai chi moves
barely mar – I see this from
the Link bus window as we
cross the intersection at
the bottom of the hill where
Kathmandu’s winter sale fails
to persuade me there’s much to
gain from any promise of
warmth other than what I get
when, while rain rattles against
the bedroom window at dawn,
I press my ear to the smooth
skin between Donna’s shoulder-
blades and hear, in the hollow
chamber where she’s making dream
words, a voice that’s not the
same as hers say eerily,
‘Shadow stands up.’ It’s morning.

“Shadow Stands Up” is licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0).

This is a first hesitant draft of what may be the first poem in a sequence of poems I now plan to be writing over the Laureate term. For me it’s been a great coincidence, to get the news about the Laureateship at pretty much the same time I’d begun to think about this sequence, which at this early stage is called "Shadow Stands Up" – which could easily change.

At the moment I think its themes are to do with memory, first of all – how memory stitches time into patterns and narratives that can’t exist in rational ways – and also to do with ghosts. Enough said. I am breaking one of my own rules here, by showing a version of something I’ve only just begun to write. With luck and some persistence, what seems to be getting under way here will grow and change into something else that I can’t anticipate at this early stage.

- Ian