February 2011

A New Zealand Literary Showcase

Issue 14 Guest Artist:
Gordon Walters

Past Features:
Glasgow Voices
Volta: A Multilingual Anthology
(One poem: 93 languages)

15 Miami Poets

President: Peter Robertson
Vice-President: Sari Nusseibeh
Advisory Consultant: Jill Dawson
General Editor: Beatriz Hausner
Art Editor: Calum Colvin
Deputy General Editor: Jeff Barry

Consulting Editors
Marjorie Agosín
Daniel Albright
Meena Alexander
Maria Teresa Andruetto
Frank Ankersmit
Rosemary Ashton
Reza Aslan
Leonard Barkan
Michael Barry
Shadi Bartsch
Thomas Bartscherer
Susan Bassnett
Gillian Beer
David Bellos
Richard Berengarten
Charles Bernstein
Sujata Bhatt
Mario Biagioli
Jean Boase-Beier
Elleke Boehmer
Eavan Boland
Stephen Booth
Alain de Botton
Carmen Boullossa
Rachel Bowlby
Svetlana Boym
Peter Brooks
Marina Brownlee
Roberto Brodsky
Carmen Bugan
Jenni Calder
Stanley Cavell
Sampurna Chattarji
Sarah Churchwell
Hollis Clayson
Sally Cline
Kristina Cordero
Drucilla Cornell
Junot Díaz
André Dombrowski
Denis Donoghue
Ariel Dorfman
Rita Dove
Denise Duhamel
Klaus Ebner
Robert Elsie
Stefano Evangelista
Orlando Figes
Tibor Fischer
Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Peter France
Nancy Fraser
Maureen Freely
Michael Fried
Marjorie Garber
Anne Garréta
Marilyn Gaull
Zulfikar Ghose
Paul Giles
Lydia Goehr
Vasco Graça Moura
A. C. Grayling
Stephen Greenblatt
Lavinia Greenlaw
Lawrence Grossberg
Edith Grossman
Elizabeth Grosz
Boris Groys
David Harsent
Benjamin Harshav
Geoffrey Hartman
François Hartog
Siobhan Harvey
Molly Haskell
Selina Hastings
Valerie Henitiuk
Kathryn Hughes
Aamer Hussein
Djelal Kadir
Kapka Kassabova
John Kelly
Martin Kern
Mimi Khalvati
Joseph Koerner
Annette Kolodny
Julia Kristeva
George Landow
Chang-Rae Lee
Mabel Lee
Linda Leith
Suzanne Jill Levine
Lydia Liu
Margot Livesey
Julia Lovell
Laurie Maguire
Willy Maley
Alberto Manguel
Ben Marcus
Paul Mariani
Marina Mayoral
Richard McCabe
Campbell McGrath
Jamie McKendrick
Edie Meidav
Jack Miles
Toril Moi
Susana Moore
Laura Mulvey
Azar Nafisi
Paschalis Nikolaou
Martha Nussbaum
Tim Parks
Molly Peacock
Pascale Petit
Clare Pettitt
Caryl Phillips
Robert Pinsky
Elena Poniatowska
Elizabeth Powers
Elizabeth Prettejohn
Martin Puchner
Kate Pullinger
Paula Rabinowitz
Rajeswari Sunder Rajan
James Richardson
François Rigolot
Geoffrey Robertson
Ritchie Robertson
Avital Ronell
Élisabeth Roudinesco
Carla Sassi
Michael Scammell
Celeste Schenck
Sudeep Sen
Hadaa Sendoo
Miranda Seymour
Mimi Sheller
Elaine Showalter
Penelope Shuttle
Werner Sollors
Frances Spalding
Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak
Julian Stallabrass
Susan Stewart
Rebecca Stott
Mark Strand
Kathryn Sutherland
Rebecca Swift
Susan Tiberghien
John Whittier Treat
David Treuer
David Trinidad
Marjorie Trusted
Lidia Vianu
Victor Vitanza
Marina Warner
David Wellbery
Edwin Williamson
Michael Wood
Theodore Zeldin

Associate Editor: Neil Langdon Inglis
Assistant Editor: Ana de Biase
Assistant Editor: Eugenio Conchez
Assistant Editor: Patricia Delmar
Assistant Editor: Sophie Lewis
Assistant Editor: Siska Rappé
Assistant Editor: Robert Toperter
Art Consultant: Verónica Barbatano
Art Consultant: Angie Roytgolz

Click to enlarge picture Click to enlarge picture. From “Investigation of the Candidates' Lives”: Rumwold by Amy Brown  

This submission is an excerpt from a long poem, The Odour of Sanctity, which I am writing as part of a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Melbourne. The poem is based loosely on the Catholic process of sanctification and this small section is part of the first canto, titled ‘Investigation of the Candidates’ Lives’. The candidate in question here, Rumwold, is little-known baby saint from the 7th Century.

Rumwold is not

                     Rumaldi Archiep
                     Saint Grumbald
                     Sainct Rumwald
                     or Rumbaldi.

I am Rumwold the Confessor.

                     (Why not
                     Rumwold the Martyr?)

                                          Not to be confused with St Rombaut
                                          or Rumold of Mechlin

                                          who was in fact a martyr.

Not to be confused.

It was supposed to be a memorable
name. Did I not enunciate?


Neither hungry nor pained, but needing to gain
my parent’s interest, the cry expanded
to the edges of the field, to the ears

of the harvesters half a mile behind
us. I had been told to use a big voice
to let my relaxed baby lungs pump out

not only glottal wails but words of God.
If I’m loud, my message will sound urgent;
adults cannot escape that new-born noise—

they are powerless, forced to listen to babe
and carry the burden of his commands.
I needed milk and appreciated

the closeness of arms, like a normal boy,
the rest of my requests were too abstract

to be explained through moans and screams.
My words, booming, red-faced words did the trick.
What was the trick? A sermon and a song

before the awful funeral arrangements?
You have to die, otherwise the message
loses significance. What

message? I wanted to ask Him.
A talking baby should be remembered
long after a sermonising adult.

I don’t know what I did wrong, to deserve
such neglect from posterity. Called confessor, not
martyr, falsely, I wasted all three days.


My church stood on the coast between Folkstone and Hythe.
Its small white spire called the fishermen to shore
showed them safe passage, between rocks and sand banks.
Profit from the fattest whiting went to me as thanks.

When the spire was firewood, foundations demolished
the fishermen put the rumbal whiting money
towards a Christmas Eve feast for families
of the workers. They should never have been called “Rumbal”

rather “Navigation” or “Beacon”, and later
“Celebration” whiting. The fish were a sweet gesture,
I just wish they’d been for me. Who is Rumbal? a young
fisherboy might wonder. Who indeed. Not I.

Even the church of Saint Rumwold forgot over time.
Farfetched baby doesn’t need fish, can’t keep up a beacon
for the boats at night. What did he do to become a saint?
Confessor? Sermonising from the start? Poor parents.

One expects a few years before the child talks back.
Unbelievable. Rumbal. Unbelievable Rumwold.
From Folkstone there now runs a scenic road with a view
of the boat-flecked harbour. Nobody ever needed me.


I certainly did not die
of old age, but nor was I ill.
A doctor might say the body
does not die without a malfunction
which could be described as illness.

My vital organs switched off simultaneously
like machines on a timer. They functioned
perfectly, as they were always meant to,
every organ but one. My brain ticked faster
if anything. Sometimes guillotined heads

continue trying to talk as they roll sideways—
I am still trying to talk, even now, with nothing
but bones and even those forgotten. Baptised
babies go to Heaven, so I can only assume
that Widerin was incompetent.

I am hanging on now, somewhere,
watching. Bitter. Bitterly forgotten.
Let’s pool my meagre resources for a moment:
a missal and breviary in the Swedish State Archives
in Stockholm (don’t ask). Eight pence left

in Thomas Westall’s 1525 will—for the upkeep
of my long gone altar. A dedication to “Rumbald”
in Stoke Doyle. A Church of “Saint Runwald”
in Colchester, and Rumboldswyke, Sussex
with an 11th Century church, now, of course

dedicated to Saint Mary. Not remembered
even in my own village. Granted, I’ve never felt saintly.
I believe in Jesus just because I’ve met him—
anyone could do that. Otherwise I might be cynical.
(Really, I wouldn’t exist at all). Not a saint, no

but a martyr. This is a rare confession
from Rumwold the Confessor. Mostly, I am martyr
giving up my tiny life for the cause. I was not willing;
am I still clinging to the voice I should have lost long ago?
That would explain my disgraceful position now.