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The Glass Guitar

At first you don’t notice it

among the furnishings & potplants

half hidden in a darker part of the room:

the glass guitar

its neck bent

strings curled round its head

almost shameful in an otherwise

cheerful room,

people drinking beer

watching TV

taking little notice of arrivals and departures

clinking glass on teeth for sound effect

and in the hallway a small stereo tapping quietly

by a bedroom door,

no one paying attention to the glass guitar.

At first you don’t notice the urge

to smash glass:

the coffee table wet with slippery light

the floor crowded with spinning bottles

foetuses anlike mad.d clown-masks

walls sucked in like toothless heads . . .

Flopped in a beanchair

the overhead lights switched off

a candlestub spluttering for effect,

it suddenly hits you

like something you can’t find words for

and you reach for the guitar

and start strumming and singing

like mad.

© The estate of Peter Olds 2023

Publication date: 6 November 2023

Peter Olds

The Glass Guitar

ISBN: 978-0-473-69137-0

Softcover, 72 pp, 210 x 148 mm

Cold Hub Press ~ Peter Olds

The Glass Guitar comprises thirty-three previously uncollected and mostly unpublished poems in which Peter Olds reflects frankly on some of his characteristic preoccupations: the imperfections of life and art; his travels in space and time; his sometimes challenging relationship with his mentor, friend, and fellow poet James K. Baxter. In his introduction John Gibb describes Olds as “a navigator of contrasting and sometimes contradictory worlds, a kind of battered Zen ambassador of humanity, an at times irreverent pilgrim making his way through life”, and argues the case for Olds as a multi-disiplinary artist, as evidenced in Out of the Jaws of Wesley, a miscellany of Olds’ poems, prose, book cover designs and art work, (Cold Hub Press, 2022).

Peter Olds was a Robert Burns fellow at the University of Otago in 1978, and in 2005 was the first recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award for Poetry. He died in Dunedin at the age of 79 on 31 August 2023.

Cover image: Kathryn Madill, untitled collage, 2011,

hand-coloured by Peter Olds