Sex, Death, and a Mince & Cheese

Meat PieRecovered from AWP yet? Isn’t it cozy to imagine that writers all over the country spent yesterday tucked up in bed with a pile of shiny new books, a bottle of Advil, and a plate of greasy meat bits? Here at Malvern Books, we’ll offer a graceful no comment on the more sordid excesses of the past week, and simply say, golly, yes, we met heaps of lovely people and came home with a ton of books.

Of particular note: John Gallas’ Fucking Poets Vols. 1, 2, & 3, a series of chapbooks from New Zealand publisher Cold Hub Press. (Cold Hub also published a collection entitled Ballad of the Last Cold Pie, which is almost but not quite the best possible title for a collection of New Zealand poetry. The best possible title for a collection of New Zealand poetry would clearly be You Think You’re a Flowerpot Because You’ve Got a Hole in Your Bum.) As the title suggests, Gallas’ poems are about famous poets having sex. Featured rutting writers include Rupert Brooke, Christopher Marlowe and, of course, that old rogue Mr. Shelley. The poems are full of “merry obscenity,” as the blurb insists, and bloody brilliant.

But lest you think Kiwi poets only write about sex and meat pies… wait, there’s more! They do pretty well on the usual gloomy death stuff, too. Here’s one of New Zealand’s most acclaimed poets, Bill Manhire, with a sad poem that makes me very happy. (And if you’re ever in New Zealand and find yourself wanting to express your post-meat-pie-eating joy in the local vernacular, be sure to say “I’m a box of fluffies, mate.”)

“Kevin”—Bill Manhire (from Lifted, Victoria University Press, 2005)

I don’t know where the dead go, Kevin.
The one far place I know
is inside the heavy radio. If I listen late at night,
there’s that dark, celestial glow,
heaviness of the cave, the hive.

Music. Someone warms his hands at the fire,
breaking off the arms of chairs,
breaking the brute bodies of beds, burning his comfort
surely to keep alive. Soon he can hardly see,
and so, quietly, he listens: then someone lifts him
and it’s some terrible breakfast show.

There are mothers and fathers, Kevin, whom we barely know.
They lift us. Eventually we all shall go
into the dark furniture of the radio.

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