Updated: May 17, 2021
The Rialto no.95, pp46-064. (The Rialto 95 Completed.)
The title comes from Michael Mackmin's introduction and using it feels a little like being in a room with facing mirrors, as he says the expression was said by an elderly Tai Chi master, explaining a pile of defeated opponents. Mackmin uses the expression to describe his approach to Lockdown, and here am I using it to explain my approach to reading more poetry. The image reflects towards infinity in ever reducing amounts.
Or should I be using a Russian doll analogy? Is someone going to take my use of the phrase to surround a nub of an idea they have, just as my idea was within Michael Mackmin's use and his within the elderly Tai Chi master's? Well given my readership reach, this is possibly the small one in the middle anyway, so let's leave that there.
The Rialto is my favourite poetry magazine (I stress that I say this about all the magazines I subscribe to) because its format is to solely hand over to the poetry. It has no reviews or interviews, no articles or distractions, just 64 pages (excluding the cover, which football programmes do not exclude) of poem after poem.
What I love even more is the amount of space given to each poem. Large A4 pages of beautiful, high quality white paper with a single poem on it. Well there is a little doubling up if the poems are very short, but always there is plenty of SPACE for the poem to express itself. Jim McElroy's poem, 'Coal Hole' for instance has all 36 lines in one place, no turning of pages, so that the ending, 'The night's clock ticks time on the mantle', is able to not only allude to the passing of time, both before and after the poem, but can do this with the emphasis that there is no more to come from the poet, it must all happen in your own mind.
I chose to read this magazine next because I am struggling to find time for poetry reading right now as I aim to give the website a more meaningful appearance. The website (www.bobandpoetry.com) is only 6 weeks old from conception to this moment now after all. I fear I have created my own in-built non-poetry reading distraction, without realising that was what my mind all along! Double that for poetry writing. Nothing has been written since the day the site and the blog began. Hopefully 'it will all come out in the wash', as my patients used to say to me. (I wonder if I ever said anything helpful to them?)
So, The Rialto is the perfect magazine for getting you right back in there. No toes dangling over the edge, one tiny run up and in you plunge. It's my preferred approach to swimming pools; it is my preferred approach to poetry reading. There is only the barest description of the poets in their biographies, but I can see that they all have much more in print than me, and are immensely better qualified to be in print with their poetry, yet I read this magazine feeling this is a level I could aspire to, so in that sense it is very encouraging. Me on a very good day maybe, and that day may still be in the future yet!
My favourite poem today was 'a ruru named Murray, who I've been trying to write about since January', by Paula Harris, which after all I have said is on two pages, but as the pages are facing, nothing is lost. The tale concerns a ruru, which we are told in the poem is a morepork, though I still had to Google this word to find out a morepork is a Tasmanian spotted owl, and in the pictures looks essentially like what you would call 'an owl'. The poem is written over 12 verses, is playful, has a comedic use of idea repetition, and follows the ruru from its discovery abandoned as a baby in a bush to its letting loose by Kirsty's brother and, like the poem 'Cole Hole' I mention above, ends with an ending that alludes to a future time wondering where the ruru is now.
Along the way the poem plays with ideas, that orbit around finding the baby bird, naming it (Murray), feeding it, looking after it, discovering more about it, and finally deciding that Murray is an Egyptian god, that needs setting free.
it fascinates me that ruru were named after the sound of their call
but in English we called them morepork and claimed
this was the sound of their call
the sounds ruru and morepork don't sound anything alike
is the bird talking to us in two different languages?"
Just like poetry, I thought.
We humans bring ourselves to a poem and interpret it in our own sound. I read this poem at pretty much face value, of a significant moment in time. It's a story, with a beginning middle and end, and the memory of Murray, who made its own impact in the life of the poem's protagonist (and obviously we always think this is the poet themselves). Now that the bird is gone, the poem tries to hold on to the special place Murray had. Murray lives on for ever within the poem, or at least the memory of Murray does, even if we do not in fact know what ever happened to the bird itself.
Listen I have run out of time. I spent so much time scouring the biographies looking for leads to links I could use on the webpage, that this abrupt end can be a tribute to that time lost to poetry writing itself. Let it be a reminder to me that the poetry must always come first and the blog and website second. This is early days, future strategies must be put in place to protect the original hope, to get better at writing poetry.
If you have any thoughts on this do please write them to me, I am always open to listening to others ideas, and it's no fun writing in isolation.
and kia ora Paula, see:
'I Dope Fiend' cassette. See Thee Objects on Music | Thee Objects (bandcamp.com)