The Situation: Diane Brown

The Situation 2020

Tēnā koutou katoa

‘The Situation 2020’ is a kind of Poet Laureate's Choice of work from Aotearoa New Zealand poets for the Poet Laureate blog. Essentially, it will be a portfolio of poetry, posted over the next while, from a range of poets whose work I have enjoyed reading recently: interesting poems for interesting times.

 — David Eggleton


Joanna Paul's collection waiting, silent
for years in the revolving bookcase in the hall;
always new, apparently more relevant voices
to be reckoned with, but Paula's Wild Honey
draws like love poems back into the room.
It's early morning, I'm sitting on the couch
in the bay window when a small note
slips out from the pages, a love poem perhaps.

Alas, my writing: Please wait/ I am at UBS
getting some books/ can get lift to/work/me/3.05.
A life I don't have any more, but what job did I
ever have that started after three? No waitress
or barmaid. And who am I telling to wait? No
name, no hearts or kisses? My customary plainness,
a please, but is it a polite or a begging please?
My husband, in true biographer style,

interrogates the note. ‘I'm not so sure it's your writing,
or your life, where would you have left such a note?’
And again, ‘What work? It doesn't make sense,
you're not one to write specific times. Maybe the book
was second hand?’ He turns to the first page,
$15 written in pencil. 7/11j below it. Another mystery.
On a mid-week cloudy, spring day, my past, my story,
slipping out of my hands, like love poems.

— Diane Brown

Finding Yourself on the Other Side

— from Every Now and Then I Have Another Child

Haven't you sometimes discovered yourself teetering
on the edge of a lake or skyscraper with no memory
of how you got there? And yet you know it's not dementia,
it’s more like you've slipped into another life, running
            on a parallel track

one layer behind. In that life, I wander the streets
of my newly alienated city looking for the man who offered
to take the baby from the hotel to a place of safety,
even though he was a stranger to me. Perhaps he could see
            I was not up to mothering.

Across the square, their hands twitching on batons, police
stand by watching the homeless rioting. An old-fashioned
fire engine drives onto the footpath heading towards me.
 ‘Out of the fucking way, lady,’ the fireman yells. I jump sideways.
            ‘Watch out for my baby,’ I say,

patting her back, in the timeless way of a mother, although
I've forgotten the details of her birth. But we all feel that, don't we,
when handed a white-wrapped bundle the midwife says belongs
to you now and forever. A lie. There comes a time they must slip
            from your grasp.

— Diane Brown

Diane Brown biography

Woman looking at camera wearing a colourful top.
Diane Brown. Image Philip Temple

Diane Brown is a novelist, memoirist, and poet who runs her own creative writing school, Creative Writing Dunedin. Her publications include two collections of poetry - Before The Divorce We Go To Disneyland, and Learning to Lie Together; a novel, If The Tongue Fits, and verse novel, Eight Stages of Grace, a travel memoir, Liars and Lovers, a prose/poetic memoir, Here Comes Another Vital Moment and a poetic family memoir, Taking My Mother To The Opera. Her latest book is a long poetic narrative, Every Now and Then I Have Another Child, Otago University Press, 2020.

In 2013 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to writing and education. She lives in Dunedin with her husband, author Philip Temple.

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