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I know it well, the brine and pine-
soaked air, decaying bladder kelp
at dead low water, this turning to landscape
for what one cannot say,
and then, having taken one’s medicine
and been reproved, sitting in silence
at a window that will no longer open,
staring at the sea.
Houses settle. It is a sign of age.
At night I listen for the familiar sounds:
an engine cut or gunned, gulls clamoring,
the lap and drift of water disturbed
across the bay. The arrhythmia of our existence
you might say. The paradox
of being tied to the land
knowing we cannot stay. A strip of sand
where once was solid rock. Gulls
scavenging on what we cast away.
from “Damariscotta” © Michael Jackson 2016
Walking to Pencarrow
Softcover, 184 pp, 210 x 145mm
MICHAEL JACKSON (b.1940) has been described as “one of [New Zealand's] most astute, humane, idiosyncratic, neglected and perdurable writers” (Martin Edmond). His poetry is characterised by its cosmopolitan range, its conceptual depth, lyrical concision, and craftsmanship. He has spent most of his life as a professional anthropologist, and currently holds a distinguished Chair at Harvard. He is the author of thirty-five books, including eight volumes of poetry, and winner of the Commonwealth Poetry Prize and the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry.
Jackson writes, "I have always felt the need to refer my poems, as Basho does, to a place, time or event that brought it into being; to acknowledge that poems are not just texts, but have contexts. Poems are like windows that give us a glimpse of a world we travel through all too quickly. I think of Colin McCahon’s Northland Panels; the paintings stop you in your tracks, each one transcending time and circumstance while firmly rooted in mundane realities."
“Jackson’s vocation as a world-class anthropologist, and his spending so much of his life away from his own country, are shaping forces on his oeuvre. ‘Expatriate’ is not quite the word for one, any more than the tag ‘intellectual’ will suffice for the other. But the notion of ‘home’, with its stir of resonances, is at the core of all he writes. It is both the well and the hearth his poetry circles, draws from, celebrates, mourns. It is what experience impresses and myth confirms. His poetry reads as a constant unearthing, the shaped and responding artifact confirming where it is found.” –Vincent O’Sullivan
“Even as a child, I was aware of an antinomian streak in me, but it has taken me a lifetime to be able to say, as Diogenes did when asked the name of his hometown, it is both nowhere and everywhere.” –Michael Jackson