Friday, February 15, 2013

Elizabeth Smither

Poetry, because it is so compressed, so undiluted, lacks the facility to conceal or postpone that prose has. Every part of a poem is visible, like one of those ornate clocks in a glass dome: pendulum, springs and weights open to view.  
~Elizabeth Smither

New Zealand poet Elizabeth Smither today, plus a little celebration of the Oxford comma. 

Margo and Sir Walter
by Elizabeth Smither
for Margo Buchanan-Oliver
 
She lives among others but loves Sir Walter
best of all men, presuming she could choose
from all history's pages, up to today
the interpretive and the hazy, equally-weighed.
 
She loves him in his Tower rooms, writing,
and his evening stroll upon the battlements
his pipe smoke escaping in the London air.
She loves him for going to death over a marriage
 
an English and a Spanish king arranged
with him as the prize gift. She loves
his request for a knife to stir his wine
and then his abandonment of it for his quill.
 
She loves—there is no end to the catalogue—
his profile, his beard, his great foxiness
his manliness on his scaffold walk and speech
so if a drop of his divine blood flew
 
and landed on her dress she would
cut it out in a square and place it
behind glass and in a gilded frame
and draw a heart with Ralegh and her name.

~~~~~~~~~~

The nurses are coming
by Elizabeth Smither

2.55 p.m. and a swing door opens
and five nurses in dark blue
 
mid-calf-length slacks and V-necked
tops adorned with silver watches
 
each with a sheet in her hand
detailing the last vital recordings
 
the progression of signs which they read
in a glance. In Room 5
 
all but one line is being taken out
and the morphine is two-hourly.
 
A head sinks into a little folded towel
deep in a pillow, like a snow angel
 
and the nurses walk, bunched together
down the polished linoleum, past
 
the open doors of the dire, not looking
yet, just walking, just coming on
 
the way stars come out, flicker
and gleam: We are here, we are arriving.

~~~~~~~~~~  

The Oxford comma
by Elizabeth Smither

A little knot of writers at a
prize-giving ceremony, standing
uncertainly, looking at the stage

and the side table with scrolls and envelopes
containing magical cheques, we discuss
to show erudition and hide fear

the Oxford comma and the use of it.
'Unnecessary,' someone offers. 'An extra
fence where no animal was escaping.'

'But perhaps a breath,' another suggests.
'A large egalitarian family being given pocket money
or sharing beds, a demarcation with bolsters.'

Victory, loss, effusions, and stoicism
someone thinks but doesn't say
as the crowd files in and takes their seats.

 
~~~~~~~~~~ 

I am Team Oxford Comma myself, so I thought I'd go ahead and share some OC links:

In Defense of the Oxford Comma: A Love Poem
Rob D Young is an Oxford comma enthusiast. (If you don't know what the Oxford comma is, visit here.)
My True Love Will Use...
Team Oxford Comma t-shirt
Oxford Comma for Life t-shirt
The Nerd Goddess's Etsy shop has jewelry to meet all your punctuation needs.



~~~~~~~~~~ 

Margo and Sir Walter and The nurses are coming can be found in the New Zealand Electronic Text Collection. The Oxford comma is from the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre.

More by Elizabeth Smither:

Stars
Music withholding its theme
Ms. Smither's books for sale at the Auckland University Press
Elizabeth Smither on Amazon.com

~~~~~~~~~~

Linda at TeacherDance has the Poetry Friday round-up. 

12 comments:

Tara @ A Teaching Life said...

Hooray for the Oxford comma, and earrings to celebrate its use. Smither is new to me, and I was so moved by The Nurses are Coming. Thanks for the introduction to this powerful poet, Tabatha.

Myra Garces-Bacsal from GatheringBooks said...

Hi Tabatha,
I fell in love with these lines:
"She loves—there is no end to the catalogue—
his profile, his beard, his great foxiness
his manliness on his scaffold walk and speech
so if a drop of his divine blood flew

and landed on her dress she would
cut it out in a square and place it
behind glass and in a gilded frame
and draw a heart with Ralegh and her name."
Now if that isn't love, I don't know what is... to be reminded of that time when one draws hearts and initials on little notebooks, secretly, stars in one's eyes. To be young again. :)

Hope you had a lovely Valentine's Day!

jama said...

Smither is new to me too. I think I'm in love with Sir Walter too after reading that poem. :)

Count me in as an Oxford comma fan.

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

I'm with you, Tabatha - Team Oxford comma all the way! And thanks for sharing Smithers' work...there are some tremendously talented writers, artists, and musicians (notice the comma) from NZ and most Americans haven't heard of them!

Irene Latham said...

"Every part of a poem is visible." Man, do I love that. I don't need that ol' comma... one less character to type. :) Love these poems!

Bridget Magee said...

I wasn't familiar with Smither before today. Thank you for sharing her with us, Tabatha! =)

iza said...

I admit, I was also unfamiliar with Smither- but no more! I will be sure to check out more of her work. Thanks so much for the intro, Tabatha! Lovely selection of poems.

Linda at teacherdance said...

Tabatha, these are wonderfully thoughtful, then I started reading the links about the comma. My, my I had no idea there was such controversy! I may return with another comment-so interesting!

Margaret Simon said...

A rich post indeed, filled with wonderful, lustful words, and such truth! And then come the extras: earrings, t-shirts;One could build a whole wardrobe here. And make such a fashion statement. Thanks!

Mary Lee said...

I, too, am Team Oxford Comma.

SaraV said...

Tabatha, what a wonderful website and poetry!! I love your poems, Sir Walter Raleigh was a splendid love poem, the nurses' poem was a perfect stoic, almost sterile verse, the head sinking into towels like a snow angel was brilliant and cheers for the Oxford Comma! Thank you so much for the visit, look forward to reading more of your writing :-)

Author Amok said...

Hi, Tabatha. The last two stanzas of the Sir Walter poem knocked me out. This especially: "She loves—there is no end to the catalogue—
his profile, his beard, his great foxiness."