Author: Lesley Wheeler

  • Talk, talk

    Several times since I arrived in New Zealand, people have characterized my manner as refreshing and open. Leaving aside my obscure alarm at the word “refreshing”—am I reminding people of American soft drinks?—I think a lot about what that comment means, especially since at home, on the east coast of the U.S., I’m told I […]

  • Birds of Aotearoa New Zealand

    The farm’s still there. Mortgage corporations Couldn’t give it away. And Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle The magpies say. Bill Manhire and Harry Ricketts characterize Denis Glover’s 1941 ballad “The Magpies,” quoted above, as the best-known poem of New Zealand. Glover briefly tells a story of “Tom and Elizabeth” and their failed farm; the second […]

  • Poems including history

    I asked Robert Sullivan at a recent reading about the role of history in his poems. He replied, “I’m making a genre argument that historians are, like poets, imaginative writers; that poetry is also well equipped for these conversations; and that the historical can also be personal.” (I suspect those semicolons are all mine, but […]

  • Metaphors for Community

    Is there a word for this? I visualize a pale field crisscrossed by radiating lines, each representing some affiliation or influence. This web is speckled with nodes or tangled places where a great many lines converge, and of course the pattern isn’t fixed. Some nodes keep darkening, gathering power, pulling more threads through their hubs. […]

  • “heaviness of the cave, the hive”

    In Bill Manhire’s poem “Kevin,” “the cave, the hive” is an imagined space: maybe the far origin of voices on the radio; maybe the room around you as you listen in the dark; maybe the old-fashioned cabinet housing mysterious machinery. In any case it’s dim, enclosed, and haunted. I first heard “Kevin” at a City […]

  • Framing the House

    The first poem I hear performed in Aotearoa New Zealand is by a loud Australian Spoken Word guy. He’s ginger-bearded, ruddy, wearing hiking boots and a hat he stole in Nepal. His poem, “Behemoth,” begins with a wordless roar. I recognize the cast that follows, more or less, from other open mics I’ve attended in […]