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. Six Poems by Diane Brown  


The difference between us

Up close, one mountain looks
to me much the same as another.
I see my foot slipping on ice,
my body hurtling backwards, over

rocks, into the crevasse, the blue
walls luminous; deadly.
He who has climbed a few in his time
and survived just such a fall sees

their particular shape and lines
of approach, as if they are women,
beckoning. These days his knees
would betray him, still he plots

a route in his mind—each step
a move closer to conquest or death.



The woman who walks backwards

In my neighbourhood of bankers’ mansions
converted into halfway houses, and broken
windowed student flats, I’ve come to expect
odd subjects, the man who cries out piercingly
at dawn, the speedy walker with Tourettes,
the one who stalks the footpath for his next
cigarette, and now the woman who walks
backwards down the 200 steps, hoping
to meet herself going forwards; a way
to delay getting old, I’m told, but how
she risks splinters, bare hands gripping
the rail for dear life.



Listening to my father read

As if he wanted to be the bearer of news
we couldn’t read for ourselves, for years
my father’s been in the habit of reading
newspaper articles aloud to anyone around

usually my mother, sometimes going
as far as selecting me to listen, down
country over the phone, resisting
attempts at diversions; questions asking

for his opinion or the delivery
of ours. We simply had to receive
the reported facts. Now, in his hospital
bed where he has been granted

a reprieve from his death sentence
(bleeding on the brain in two
diagonally opposite places)
he picks up a women’s magazine

and reads aloud, cadence rising
and falling just as before, seemingly
making sense but not to us struggling
to decipher one recognisable word

from his babble. ‘Dad,’ I say, desperate
for connection, ‘I’m driving your car.’
He raises his hands, makes a cry
of mock alarm and resumes reading

and laughing to himself. I know then
there is little hope. It’s as if he’s clutching
the one last skill left. The car is lost to him
as we are—all he has is this strange

language we cannot ignore, brought
back from wherever he’s been.



Taking off

In Italy during the war he went AWOL twice.
Worth it, he said, to see the architecture and art
his head turned permanently by the Gates
of Paradise at the Battistero in Florence.

Little wonder then, to discover he’d taken off
from the rest home on a stolen walker dressed
in his best—shoes, shirt, good pants and hat.
In the end, a rush of blood to his head

felled him short. At first, I thought collapsing
on the footpath lacked dignity, but with walking
the only skill left to him, I realised he’d chosen
this: to go not in bed, surrounded by strangers

but hurrying down the road to home and wife,
the other great and true beauty in his life.



On the way

Sunday morning; driving my friend’s car
on the way to visit my father who’s just
died in hospital I stop at the pedestrian
crossing; a Chinese man wearing a white

mask and white gloves steps gingerly
onto the road, waving his arms as if
practising tai-chi or warding off attackers.
What sort of man masks his face

on a clear sunny day in Bayswater?
What kind of woman notices such a man
when her father has just died? And what
sort of poet mentions her father

at all—as if to claim some emotional
significance otherwise missing?




In the middle of the night I get up
for my night-time wee finding as usual
these days my legs reluctant to give support.
I reach for the bed base and the drawers

to lean on only to find the drawers gone
along with everything else I have been
relying on; my grandfather’s medicine
cabinet to remind me I come from people

who worked with their hands, the paintings
to denote a moving up the social scale,
the photographs of my younger self naked,
the clothes to conceal my older self

the makeup and jewellery to distract
from the truth in the mirror. There is
no mystery in this, they are all
next door while we paint the walls

a calmer colour for sleep.
Now in this room, inhabited
only by the bed and us
I realise it is all down to me.