Friday, September 04, 2015

Shaggy magpies and a stolen moon

Our oldest son is only three and a half years old, and can only read three letters of the alphabet, but he's already entered the canon of New Zealand literature. On August the 28th, also known as National Poetry Day, the venerable Kiwi writer Murray Edmond launched his new book Shaggy Magpie Songs in front of a big crowd at Auckland public library.

Murray's new book includes a sequence of song-poems that he wrote after visiting Tonga, where Cerian and Aneirin and I were living, in 2013. These 'Tongatapu Dream Choruses' recall Murray's experiences in the Friendly Islands - the lecture and theatre workshop he gave at the 'Atenisi Institute, his journeys to beaches, bush plantations, and ancient tombs, and the very strange man who used a kava drinking session to introduce himself and explain that both Adam and Eve were a) Tongan and b) male.

The 'Tongatapu Dream Choruses' come with the dedication 'apologies for Aneirin, for stealing his moon'. One of Aneirin's favourite words in the middle of 2013 was 'moon', and its Tongan equivalent 'mahina', and Murray seems to have been inspired by his enthusiasm. Here's the section of 'Tongatapu Dream Choruses' that may feature Aneirin's moon:

under a banana moon
time stops at half past noon 
there's a word for everything

and everything fits right into
that one word

calls the tune
kava carves a cave into
the cliff of time

and when we speak
our talk sounds soft
the moon under the sea

You can read samples of Murray's book at the Auckland University Press website. I described some the Tongan adventures of Murray Edmond and his fellow Kiwi poet Richard von Sturmer last year, in an essay for Poetry New Zealand.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]


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