Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Poet and The Cleaner: NZ National Poetry Day

The Poet and The Cleaner

                                                           while the cleaner
                                                           scrubbed the toilets

the poet spoke loudly
in meter
about truth
                                                           as the cleaner   
                                                           polished the mirror
                                                           in swirling circles

the poet leant close
to it’s sheen
and whispered
about justice
her breath
a small patch
of condensation

the poet repeated
to remember
her poems

                                                        to the rhythm
                                                        of the cleaners mop

musing on difference
        or identity
standing back
to finish
her poem
in the mirror
with a flourish

                                                       the cleaner
                                                       slowly clapped
                                                       her hands

the poet bowed low

                    one hand still holding the mop.

Above is the re-imagining of a poem I wrote when I was 17 and working cleaning a school, after my school day. I don't have the original it's in an archive far away...It's in honour of National Poetry Day in NZ July 27. People are going crazy for poetry all over the country! Read a poem aloud! It would be 15 more years after the above poem, before I finally started saying my poems out loud in public! I am celebrating 30 years of writing poetry myself, by re-joining the New Zealand Society of Authors.

 I am reminded of teaching a poetry class a few years back. On instinct, on my way out the door, along with my books by Canadian poets, notes, and weblinks, I picked up photocopies of some poems I had published anonymously in the school magazine around the same time as the above poem. In a break in the class a man asked me what was the purpose of poetry, we chatted some and then I handed him the poems from aged 17 and told him to read as few or as many as he liked, 2 of the 8 poems were about writing poetry. After the break he was still studying the poems, closely. We wrote, and then who ever wanted to, read their work aloud. He like me, was an immigrant to Canada, and read  about what he had left behind, what he found when he arrived, what he hoped for. It was a class in which people often shared their struggles, but later the tutor told me that in two years, this was the first time he had ever shared anything personal. I marveled that the words of a teenage white girl from the other side of the world, from 25 years ago, could inspire a middle aged black man to reveal himself in words. As I too have been inspired by so many poets from so many backgrounds. 

Then we looked at video poems on the web, by young and old, performance poets, in American Sign Language, all kinds of formats. The tutor was so enthused she made a video poem right then and there with a poem she had previously written and some photos she had in her laptop. 

Be enthused about poetry!

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