New Zealand poet Tim Heath is a friend of mine and I have been very much enjoying his new volume of poems not as the crow flies. Tim has kindly given me permission to share two of his poems with you all and as I have recently heard that I will have a second grandchild later this year (Yippee!), I felt that two of Tim’s delightful poems about grandchildren would be appropriate. I hope all of you who have grandchildren can relate to them:
not as the crow flies by Tim Heath
English: The Bastard Language
I throw the ball to my grandchild –
Her flailing hands clamp around it,
“I catched it, I catched it!” she yells, all grins and high fives.
“Caught it,” I proclaim. “We say caught.”
She snatches too late at the next throw,
The ball falls to the ground.
“Oh,” she wails, “I didn’t caught it.”
Driving My Grandson’s Car
The petrol tank’s empty
As I knew it would be.
The seat is too far from the pedals
As I feared it would be.
The radio is on the Concert Programme
As I hoped it would be.
It’s easy enough to adjust the seat,
The mirrors, the student detritus.
I smile a bit as I fill the tank.
Think I should suggest
The brakes get looked at,
Maybe the steering too.
I will speak of these things,
But not of the shock
That he drives,
Has a degree almost,
Sleeps with a girl,
Has his own advice.
He no longer needs my comfort when monsters enter his dreams,
But we console each other about the Rise of the Right.
I no longer hum him lullabies, a bit off key,
But his Bach playing fingers enchant my ears.
I no longer spend hours tossing a ball for him to drop,
But am embarrassingly loud when his team scores.
It’s gone, my time as his superhero,
But I fear I’ll be buying him petrol
For a while yet.
I love the way Tim’s poems capture a fleeting moment and the way he shows how quickly time passes. I think we all know that feeling when it seems just the other day our kids were babies, and suddenly they are driving cars and leading their own lives. In the first poem, he also shows so vividly the challenges of learning the complex English language. I think both poems are fun, moving and beautifully written.
Tim is a strong believer in people hearing poetry. He takes part in poetry slams and recommends the Poetry Archive website, where you can hear poets reading their own works. Inspiration comes to him when something happens – nice, as in these two poems, or awful as in the terrible tragedy in Christchurch in March. The words go around in his head until he feels he has them in the right order for writing down. He’s not always satisfied even then, and often tweaks and changes, but he gains enormous pleasure and satisfaction from getting a poem ready for publication.
It’s encouraging to hear from Tim that poetry is thriving in NZ. There’s the South Auckland Poetry Collective which works with young people who find that writing poems is a cathartic experience, there are magazines such as The Listener which publishes a poem every week, and there are many poetry groups around the country. I wonder how many Kiwi poets will put pen to paper on the subject of the appalling killings in Christchurch, and find that it helps bring them comfort to do so?
I’m always interested in which poets have influenced or most enchanted other poets, so I asked Tim for his favourites. He listed NZ poet Hone Tuwhare, W.B. Yeats, British poet Kathleen Raine, and American poet Billy Collins. I can see my poetry reading list getting longer by the minute.
You can order Tim’s book directly from him for $30 including postage (and I am sure he’ll sign it for you too): contact email@example.com
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