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The Monday Poem > The art of walking upright - Glen Colquhoun (25/03/2014)

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message 1: by Erica (new)

Erica | 859 comments This poem is about the very essence of being a kiwi or New Zealander- acknowledging our traditional maori past and culture as well as the colonial/european/pakeha element.

"The Art of Walking Upright"

The trick of standing upright here
is the trick of using both feet.


Being born is casting on a row of stitches.
It is a whenua in a plastic bag in the freezer.

Bread is walking back from a dairy with milk.
It is the smell inside of tea-towels.

Red is the sun burning at dusk.
It is kowhaiwhai curling around a rafter.

Meeting is the grip inside a hand.
It is the sound of wet lips.

Black is the colour of the sky at night.
The clothes of old women at church.

White is the sun's paint.
Flax drying on a fence.

A feast is the warm order of plates on a tablecloth.
It is a fat kettle of tea squeezing between tables.

Seafood is fish on the plate with lemon.
It is the rattle of cockles in a pot.

Singing is the wind in the trees like a choir.
It is Tom Kelly crooning at three in the morning.

Laughter is the sound of hands clapping.
It is a row of cans falling off a shelf.

Sleep is the feel of clean sheets on skin.
The soft gaps between people on floors.

The sky is a lid left off a tin of biscuits.
It is a man making love to a woman.

The sea is an uneven playing field.
It is the blue eyes of a god.

Remembering is a statue in a park.
It is a face carved in wood.

Growing old is a pattern fading on a dress.
It is collecting pipi at low tide in an apron.

Dying is a casket the shape of a keyhole.
It is a long walk north to the cape.

The art of walking upright here
is the art of using both feet.

Ones is for holding on.
One is for letting go.


message 2: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 12897 comments Mod
How I like the first two lines!
"The trick of standing upright here
is the trick of using both feet."

It looks simple enough but it is not simple at all!!!!


message 3: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments I like this! I will have to come back and revisit this poem but my first reaction is that I like the double image for each noun/stanza. I don't understand how some of them relate to the noun (such as the lid of a biscuit tin being the sky) but I like the juxtapositions.


message 4: by Bionic Jean (last edited Mar 26, 2014 07:00AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) I like this too, very much, especially the duality, which I learnt is both a feature and a constant struggle of New Zealanders. I am English, but fell in love with New Zealand when we visited the country a few years ago. We also have English friends who now live there.

I'm telling you this, as I personally had to look up a few words, to remind myself of their meanings. So it occurred to me that outside New Zealand these Maori words will be unfamiliar to most readers. I hope you don't mind if I put up a few definitions, Erica, just for our convenience?

Pākehā - white New Zealanders who are of European descent.

whenua - placenta, and an additional meaning, land

Kowhaiwhai - a form of Maori decoration that takes the form of abstract curved pattern work.

flax - a tall plant with strong fibres which grows all over the islands. Used for weaving into traditional clothes, baskets and ropes. A plant that has played an important part in New Zealand's cultural and economic history.

pipi - edible clams


message 5: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Thanks Jean - I knew flax and figured out pakeha from context but had no idea on the others.


message 6: by Erica (new)

Erica | 859 comments Thanks Jean :)


message 7: by Jenny (last edited Mar 26, 2014 03:28PM) (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Wow, that's a rich one Erica. I almost want to look at each stanza seperately and mull over it a little. Like Leslie said: some of them strike a cord immediately, with others it's less self-revealing.


message 8: by Helen (new)

Helen | 47 comments This is simply beautiful , thank you for sharing.


message 9: by Alannah (new)

Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11269 comments Mod
Can't believe I have only seen this poem but I really liked. Never heard of the poet before but then again, that is what I love about the Monday poem.


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