Let’s talk poems: Deep Water Talk

Are you a poet or creative practitioner? I’m looking for creative/poetic responses to the poem below by Kiri Piahana-Wong

Add your comments below.

 

Deep Water Talk

In honour of Hone Tuwhare

& no-one knows
if your eyes are
blurred red from
the wind, too
much sun, or the
tears streaking your
face that could be
tears or just lines of
dried salt, who
can tell

& you never can tell
if you are seasick,
drunk, or just
hungover — the
symptoms are the
same

& sea and sky merge
until the horizon is
nothing but an
endless blue line
in every direction,
so that you are sailing,
not on the sea, as you
thought, but in a
perfectly blue, circular
bowl, never leaving
the centre

& you wonder who is
moving, you or
the clouds racing
by the mast-head

& you wonder if
those dark shapes
in the water are
sharks, shadows, or
nothing but old fears
chasing along behind
you

& the great mass of
land recedes, until
you forget you were
a land-dweller, and
you start feeling the
pull of ancient genes
— in every tide, your
blood sings against
the moon

& food never tasted
so good, or water
so sweet — you’ve
never conserved water
by drinking wine
before — and rum;
and coke; and rum
and coke; and can
after can of cold
beer

& your sleep is
accompanied, not
by the roar of traffic
on the highway,
but by the creaks
and twangs of your
ship as she pitches
and moans through
the dark ocean,
all alone

& you wonder —
where did that bird,
that great gull perching
on the bowsprit,
come from?

The poem can also be found on http://snorkel.org.au/002/wong.html
and is the introduction poem in Kiri’s collection Night Swimming


6 Responses to “Let’s talk poems: Deep Water Talk”

  1. This is a response I received from Kelly Malone:

    Give me that deep water talk
    (words from Kiri Piahana-Wong’s, Deep Water Talk)

    Red wind sun and tears –

    tell me Hone, how should I be

    in this world?

    (Drunk? Hung-over? Sea-sick?)

    At the centre in endless blue
    watch the cloud
    the mast-head
    the dark shapes
    the moon loves you –
    pulls you tirelessly

    and see the bird?
    The great gull at the bowsprit?
    Wonder where that came from.

  2. and so the genes beckon and burn the spirit
    which rises above the mundane
    in an ethereal longing for the same sun tropical
    in its giving.

    we were all born under suns
    with dark tans and burnt minds
    but we sailed the same ship to this shore
    bringing our longings to blend
    and burst into the fire of this land
    where we now belong

    the bird that you watch
    soared above oceans connecting
    you and me
    and everyone else
    watching as we glued into community
    to create a new frontier of vibrant cultures
    unburdened by our past
    yet blessed with slowly fading memories.

    we will rise as one.

  3. Of sea and Sky
    By Anna Forsyth

    (using only words from Deep Water Talk by Kiri Piahana-Wong)

    i. Sea / Drunk

    the sun is streaking
    racing drunk
    until the horizon is hungover
    an endless salt

    but you can never be
    perfectly sea sick
    leaving
    blurred blue

    chasing along behind you

    ii. Sky / Sleeping

    the sky recedes
    as you start feeling
    nothing
    chasing shadows

    old fears
    you can never tell
    blurred as a thought
    the moon never tasted

    so good

  4. 4 Chris Parr

    I won’t try to match those 3 poetic and intriguing responses to Kiri’s call – rather, a couple of observations from listening/reading at the back of the room. I am very struck by the ampersand starting every stanza, and not used for the word ‘and’ *inside any of the stanzas (it’s a detail all 3 of the poetic responses leave out entirely). I home in on details like that, because they are a poetic equivalent to a repeated sound (a guitar note, djembe thwok, drum crack or cymbal tish) in a song or piece of music — and in this poem have the effect of pushing the poem along again, like when you foot-push on a scooter or skimboard – &… &… &… &… Four times it’s “& you …” keeping the poem on course, the trim of the sails. (though that you is, fittingly, a shifting signifier! – oblique as to its exact referent) Since the device is used at the very beginning, so we are ‘in media res’ already sailing from the outset, it propels the strong energy of the poem – images (& questions) that otherwise might be rather contemplative, and even foreboding, instead skim and shift, and build up to that powerful totemic animal image in the conclusion, “the great gull” … One thing that is cool about poems (& songs) is the way a minimal element like that can make such a distinct contribution to the entire effect, so I wanted to focus on how effective that single simple element is here (it’s “formal’ and yet as I’m arguing it’s *crucial to the poem’s entire effect, and thus is also meaning(ful) /content) … I don’t feel I know Hone’s work well enough, nor how he has been read and heard in NZ these past decades since I heard him on tours through the universities late 70s & early 80s, to be able to comment on the imagery & its allusions, though I get that they are in HT territory, as befits a poem to honour him … It’s also, wonderfully, a very New Zealand poem, a very Pacific poem — in the middle of the US continent, where I live most of the time, or even along the coast of Europe & the Atlantic where I visit often, these images and musings wouldn’t make much sense or even likely occur … for all the generalness of much of the imagery (I love the “rum;/ and coke; and rum/ & coke” lines, as a switch-up of particularity) we (“you”) are very much on the Hauraki Gulf, and heading out, north perhaps, east, out …
    Thanks for requesting this, making it possible, and I hope something I’ve said helps! Great idea you’re working on, Makyla – glad my cousin Serie was into it! – cheers.

  5. The imagery in this impressed me as simple, vivid and often original, with some puzzles and unfinished qualities about the word pictures. A sense of there being many questions arises from hearing and reading the poem.

    I was struck by the use of the third person, as if the poet is addressing other readers, or perhaps Hone Tuwhare, or perhaps trying to convince others they have the same experience she does from this poem. All of which strike up an immediate and constant feeling of manipulation and illusion. No one ever can know what someone else truly thinks or feels. But there is this kind of invitation here to share, to be together, to be closer, to someone, this undefined ‘you’. If it is the poet Hone Tuwhare then why not be more obvious that it is indeed him she is addressing? Another puzzle.

    I write more below after each stanza. My notes start with +++

    Deep Water Talk

    In honour of Hone Tuwhare

    +++ The title seems to mean ‘not small talk’ and also something about being way out at sea where people rarely go, perhaps a bit lost, like ‘all at sea’ the old saying.

    & no-one knows
    if your eyes are
    blurred red from
    the wind, too
    much sun, or the
    tears streaking your
    face that could be
    tears or just lines of
    dried salt, who
    can tell

    +++ The ‘no one’ would include the subject themselves so this is saying they are also confused, i suppose. A sense of puzzlement anyway and sadness. Not knowing why someone appears this way could be distressing. The tears reference appears to hint at sadness.

    & you never can tell
    if you are seasick,
    drunk, or just
    hungover — the
    symptoms are the
    same

    +++ Seems to be a hopeless quality here. Everything muddled together and none of it that pleasant.

    & sea and sky merge
    until the horizon is
    nothing but an
    endless blue line
    in every direction,
    so that you are sailing,
    not on the sea, as you
    thought, but in a
    perfectly blue, circular
    bowl, never leaving
    the centre

    +++ The ampersand obviously a repeat motif for some reason, I usually only use it if there needs to be a shorter line. I guess it is to emphasise the “and” starting each verse, making this a continuous stream of observations, and helps the lines to appear casual too, so this can be read as more friendly less formal.

    +++ The bowl motif makes this seem like a kitchen now or an artwork, a ceramic bowl perhaps somewhere, it belies the seascape image, it makes it more domestic. More confusion in that case then. But it kind of feels safe too.

    & you wonder who is
    moving, you or
    the clouds racing
    by the mast-head

    & you wonder if
    those dark shapes
    in the water are
    sharks, shadows, or
    nothing but old fears
    chasing along behind
    you

    +++ The sense of being way out at sea now takes over, and still a sense of being lost and not sure.

    +++ I have an aversion to sharks being used in the same sentence as ‘fears’ and consider the image rather cliche. Many people could however find this vivid and evoking a sense of being threatened or worried.

    & the great mass of
    land recedes, until
    you forget you were
    a land-dweller, and
    you start feeling the
    pull of ancient genes
    — in every tide, your
    blood sings against
    the moon

    +++ The poem keeps expanding the territory it inhabits, it goes outwards further and further before to the horizon and now inward, to one’s genes, history and sense of self. At sea that far one does forget the land, this is true and a sense of revelation seems to be unfolding.

    & food never tasted
    so good, or water
    so sweet — you’ve
    never conserved water
    by drinking wine
    before — and rum;
    and coke; and rum
    and coke; and can
    after can of cold
    beer

    +++This could be a celebration of the greatness of feeling completely alive, and being able to please oneself, but it also seems to be a warning of some kind – the subject matter makes it so. Occasionally when people write about others who are hedonistic, if this is about Tuwhare (which maybe it is now, I am starting to think), they take this tone that is rather judgmental or emphasising the other person’s excesses.
    Repetition is used to good effect to make it clear possibly what the writer thinks of all this drinking, although it is quite plain and simple, the writing, it seems like a lot of alcohol is being consumed. The contrast with the start and the end seems deliberate, as if this is a kind of message about opposites.

    & your sleep is
    accompanied, not
    by the roar of traffic
    on the highway,
    but by the creaks
    and twangs of your
    ship as she pitches
    and moans through
    the dark ocean,
    all alone

    +++The imagery of being on board is well realised. The sense of solitude is too. This reminds me of what janet Frame said about it being best to be a ship unencumbered by the barnacles of business and publishing, better to be instead sailing unknown waters, adventuring with our writing sailing away alone and exploring. This seems to celebrate the creative person, except they are asleep for some reason, which seems to negate that idea. Another puzzle.

    & you wonder —
    where did that bird,
    that great gull perching
    on the bowsprit,
    come from?

    In mythology a bird represents spirit, quite often, a gull is also a scavenger and a fishing bird. This huge bird apparently leading the way is in the dream I suppose, since the ‘you’ was asleep before. It is perhaps a way of recognising the poet is affected by much outside themselves, they cannot be too caught up in their own persona or ego.

    +++Overall the poem seems to create a grand world full of secrets, puzzles, dreams and journeying, it also appears that this is confusing. The imagery keeps the reader’s interest and has some exciting moments.

    +++I hope this is helpful. Luckily I am on mid-term break with tons of time on my hands. If only someone was paying me for this. *smiles*

  6. 6 traceysullivan

    longing for that great gull … I love the expansiveness Deep Water Talk, how generous it is, and how embracing … thank you both Makyla and Kiri.

    Two much ‘smaller’ poems, that are not new, that in response are perhaps … flotsam … or beach combings.

    landfall

    wading to the edge
    of displaced sleep

    I find you there,
    tall saint

    blue eyed
    kneeling in the sand

    under the curved sky
    of a misplaced dream

    snow crystals melt
    in the tread of your boots

    mountain light
    still tangled in your hair

    mouth full of promise
    heart in a box.

    Current

    When I run,
    I always
    run towards
    the sea.
    The lick of salt,
    it could be
    sea or
    me. The pound
    I hear
    is feet, or
    wave, or heart.

    But pain
    and joy? Was
    riptide
    from the start.


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