Castaly: Poems, 1973-77

Castaly: Poems, 1973-77

by Ian Wedde

The poems that make up Castaly: Poems 1973–77 have been selected by the poet from work completed over the course of four years. Ian Wedde writes: The poems in this book represent my attempts to remain alert in the world between 1973 and 1977. . . . Nevertheless my main obsessions (sometimes called 'themes') have remained the same, though not habitual I…  See more details below


The poems that make up Castaly: Poems 1973–77 have been selected by the poet from work completed over the course of four years. Ian Wedde writes: The poems in this book represent my attempts to remain alert in the world between 1973 and 1977. . . . Nevertheless my main obsessions (sometimes called 'themes') have remained the same, though not habitual I hope. They are few, and if they don't come across in these poems, well, I did the best I could. (That's all I am telling.) Last night I had a comical dream in which all the typists from the typing pool of a large insurance company hurled their typewriters down the lift-shaft of the building. This odd vision is what I have to get on with now, it's still mine, whereas the poems in this book belong (with thanks) to whoever cares to read them. (I suspect the dream offered a metaphor for wasted emotions. I recognise another voice which says, 'Nothing is wasted' . . .

Product Details

Auckland University Press
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt


Poems, 1973â"1977

By Ian Wedde

Auckland University Press

Copyright © 1980 Ian Wedde
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-86940-717-9


    LYRIC 1


    He asked her for a token
    she sang plaisirs d'amour
    not another word was spoken
    ah how he longed for more

    And when his heart had broken
    she sang plaisirs d'amour
    she kept the heart for a token
    and then she wept full sore


    The sun's arc censored daily
    its drift veering north:
    mountain valley plantation outcrop
    wintering interstices sodden
    with light, shadows foundering
    in amber afternoon:

    as if these waves which just keep on arriving
    at the beach were staking out claims
    as if this stinking wrack meant adventure
    as if the child swung above the sand
    between the young man & the young woman
    were about to fly ...

    At night, knocking grit from the child's shoe
    the young man thinks:
    I've no ambition
    these pure gifts erode me, each day
    bright as water in a brass bowl:
    refractions whose edges cut me back

    till I slip over the borders of seasons
    mountain valley plantation outcrop
    no longer fixed but fluid
    as light is, no longer
    an eye but a gaze,
    no longer searching but sought through ...

    But tapping the small load of grit
    into the palm of one hand
    he stands in the back yard in darkness
    feeling the grit's weight
    once more press him against
    what, being sought, exists.


    to A.R. Ammons

    I started late summer-before-last
      digging for a
        field-tile drain
    at the bottom of the garden
      where below
        topsoil that leached away
    as fast as I mulched &
      fed it was
        a puggy clay

    slick turning rainwater
      frost dew snow sparrow-
        piss & other seepage & drainage down
    under an old shed
      in the lower adjoining
        section: here the water
    bogged foundations & floorboards
      till the whole crazy
        edifice began to

    settle sideways &
      slide on greased clay
    taking a fouldrain with it:
      visions of 'faecal matter'
        bubbling up from clogged
    overflow traps bothered
      me & some
        others too: it was time

    to act! especially since
      in addition to ordure getting
        spread around &
    putting its soft mouths in
      deep cloacal
        kisses to our
    livers any obvious
      breakdown in the system for
        disposal of this shit

    (our shit) would
      bring the council inspectors round
        like flies
    aptly, & that would mean
      they'd get to look at
        other aspects of how
    we choose to
      live which might strike them as
        unorthodox or even

    illegal: for example there's
      lots being done round here
        with demolition
    timber, & that's illegal, you gotta
      use new timber,
        citizen, the old stuff
    which was once forests of kauri &
      totara & rimu took oh
        hundreds of years to get to

    where it was when it was
      milled, the house it knit
        together stood & with-
    stood 'better' than the forests
      I suppose: the timber
        served, anyway, it
    did that for whoever watched
      the process through, &
        now that the houses're out
    of phase much as the forests once
      were, though like the
        forests the fibre of the brittle
    timber can still spring
      & ring ... anyhow,
        now it's time
    to go, it has to be stamped down, splintered
      by a dozer's tracks & what's
        left of fibre knot

    & resin has a match
      put to
        it: its goes 'up
    in smoke' — but round
      here we hoard the stuff &
        use it, it easily bends
    nails, it splits & you
      belt your thumb often enough
        to know all about that

    but the structures
      stay put! & the inspectors
        would say 'Down
    with them' — well, down with
      them! ... I like the way you
        have to compromise with brittle
    demolition timber: what gets
      built has bent the
        builder as well as his

    nails & nerves: he's
      learnt something about
        service, the toughness of the
    medium may have taught him
      that ease is no grateful
        index to dispensability
    or availability: like
      who wants a companion for
        life or whatever span

    you fancy (they're all 'for life') who can't
      put some juice
        back in your
    systems? — ah how you value
      the tough lover who
        keeps you up
    to the mark, whose head
      eyes language hands
        loins en-

    gage you, give you
      elevation, a prospect, with whom you ride
        up the up &
    up like birds beating on in
      the mutual updraughts of
        each other's wings — birds, a
    subject I'll come back to later
      when I'm through with this
        drain: what needs

    to be noted here, though, is that even if
      some things don't fight
        back at once or
    obviously, you can still
      bet your 'sweet' (for)
    they fight back all right & your children & children's
      children will be paying your
        blood-money, citizen —

    well, meanwhile, we agreed, let's
      keep our shit out
        of the public eye & let's
    keep our friendly sheds, our lovely slums,
      our righteous brittle screwy
        inspired constructs
    up: & then
      let's add some
        flourishes, decoration in this kind

    of setting doesn't coddle
      anyone, least of all the chickens
        who coop's
    included in the drainage
      problem threatening to
        overwhelm us
    all: besides, we'll all
      benefit: chickens with dry
        feet lay more eggs

    because they're happy: happiness
      as a concept may be
        about as brittle as
    demolition timber when the latter's traced
      back to its
        forest & the former
    to its causes, but it
      serves likewise, it teaches us
        'for life': if you're

    for life you're for its crazy outhouses,
      the corners of happiness that don't
        square: right,
    there were lots
      of reasons, the practical & the
        ideal didn't separate out,
    the forests & the brittle planks
      were one, we
        were engaged, we wanted

    to convert our drainage problem,
      transform it, tran-
it, assume it into
    the causes of our happiness & the
      happiness of our
        chickens whose wet feet
    & poor laying rates
      rebuked us daily — we picked
        up shovels, backed off somewhat,

    then we started digging fast, we went at it, we went
      down four feet & then
        two more, there was
    all kinds of trash, bottles & old
      sofa springs & broken
        masonry & bricks
    & unusual quantities of bones dating
      from a previous owner who'd bred
        dogs, Dobermans (-men?) I

    heard, then we began to get
      into the clay
        pug, we were out of
    sight by now, the shovels hove
      into view at
        rare intervals,
    shaken by
      buried handlers
        to loose the sticky glup:

    a comic & as time went by
      popular spectacle: for those
        down in the drain
    the strain began to
      tell: some quit, some
        hid, some developed rheums
    blisters & trenchfoot, streptococci
      swarmed upon their tonsils,
        they pissed

    chills straight from the kidney (it was
      now winter, autumn had
        dallied by among
    the easy wreckage of an
      earlier level)
        they defected, deserted,
    they offered their apologies, they
      fucked off, the practical &
        the ideal

    sprang apart like
      warping unseasoned
        timber, boiiiinngg-
    ggg ... a sound, I
      thought, not
        unlike a drop
    on a long rope: what
      deserters got once, & I found myself
        wishing it on them

    again as I
      plied my lone shovel, bucket,
        grout, mattock, axe & spade,
    baling out the boggy trench
        as the 'drainage problem' halted
        right there, hacking
    through roots (that deep!) shoring
      up avalanching walls (the drain — huh! — was
        by now fifty yards

    long & in some
      places twelve feet
        deep! impressive even
    if left at that) & shaving
      out gummy scoops
        of clay which grunting
    I then flicked heaven-
      ward into the blue
        icy sky or

    alternatively into the sky
      the low colour
        of clay: clay
    anyway, clay & more
      clay, the gobs landed up
        there pretty
    randomly after a while, & sometimes
      they got washed
        down again by the late winter

    rain, heavy rain, which the
      roots of trees were
        sucking at, sap
    beginning to rise in them,
      refreshed by those
        surface-feeding tendrils, those deep
    tap-roots, & it's here the
      story really
        starts: not

    that what's been said so far's
      irrelevant, though I apologise for its
        disorderly development &
    the large number of
      seeming non-sequiturs — things
    follow I assure you, they
      proceed, citizen, they practically hunt
        you down, & me, who've

    just been enjoying the way
      these lines unfold, much
        more easily than how the pug
    & clodded
      marl left that
        drain, landing up there
    out of sight & almost
      burying one
        of three baby

    fruit trees (we're here) which
      therefore didn't get its tiny
        branches cut
    back before the
      sap rose in them as spring came
        on gravely, gaily, with me still down
    there in the trench
      still chucking the odd
        clod up & still

    covering that pear tree: finally
      a retaining wall
        got built (use
    was made of
      used materials) & then a truck
        came with field tiles
    & another with shingle & we got
      together some
        used roofing-iron
    & we had a drain! Yeah! there
      was enough fall in it to get
        'the problem' drainage
    away & out of our way, the chickens
      basked & laid, the clammy surfaces
        of seeping banks
    dried up, the rotting
      structures with their feet in
        clay delayed their


Excerpted from Castaly by Ian Wedde. Copyright © 1980 Ian Wedde. Excerpted by permission of Auckland University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More

Meet the Author

Ian Wedde, ONZM, is the author of fifteen collections of poetry, six novels, two collections of essays, a collection of short stories, a monograph on the artist Bill Culbert and several art catalogues, and has been co-editor of two poetry anthologies. His work has been widely anthologised, and has appeared in journals nationally and internationally. In 2010 he was awarded an ONZM in the Queen's Birthday Honours, and in 2011 was made New Zealand Poet Laureate.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >