Monday, October 11, 2010

Harvey McQueen’s These I Have Loved

When I began this blog, I thought I would restrict my comments to cricket poetry and related material. On Sunday I went to a launch for Harvey McQueen’s new poetry anthology These I Have Loved. No cricket in it - but it’s worth mentioning. Harvey is a contributor to A Tingling Catch. He helped with early versions of the book, and he encouraged me to be more judicious in my final selection. One afternoon, after talking with him, I cut the book quite substantially.
I note Harvey’s book took him 10 years from its original conception and five years of actual work on the book. His anthology has been through a number of drafts. I saw an early version where I had two poems included - now just one. So it's nice to still be in it.
Harvey’s anthology is unique. He has put together his favourite ‘100 New Zealand poems’. Not many would take up this challenge. These I Have Loved is an innovative masterpiece in 21 section breaks, like a long powerful poetic sequence, orchestral and symphonic. Love in a spiritual and secular sense (and in its changing states and forms) is at the forefront throughout. Harvey treats poets with great respect, from our colonial elders (Michael Keane, Dora Wilcox, Will Lawson, Frank Morton), to classic poets like Glover, Campbell, Curnow, Baxter, Fairburn, Johnson, Frame, Bethell, to more recent younger poets like Amy Brown, Kate Camp and myself. He provides valuable notes about why certain poems have affected him throughout his life. The book is a rare treat with excellent production work by publisher Steele Roberts. The book is what it is, a personal selection of New Zealand poetry that has affected Harvey. Helen Shaw’s Mystical Choice anthology and her other anthology work might be another example of an anthologist covering similar wide ground to Harvey.
Back to the cricket: in the original manuscript of A Tingling Catch, Harvey had two poems. I took one out. I felt there were too many poems mentioning Hadlee in a similar fashion, but I’d like to share the poem with you. The poem is from Harvey’s sequence Room (Black Robin, 1988) about his former house at Farm Road, Northland,Wellington. It gives a good sense of cricket watching, how it is often on in the background, while daily lives and thoughts (political and historical) continue around it:


From Room


Good intentions lost in watching TV,
soup upon our knees as Hadlee bowls.

Every space has its own rituals,
trampolines from which we spring to other spheres;
the place of eating in religion is well recognised,
grace & candles,
                           the terrain of sex & sensibility.

Pottery bowls of ripe fruit,
confessions of forgetfulness,
Nigro’s faceless male,
Palmer’s self-sufficiency of women,
at some point the picture becomes background.

Strange the shrines we erect,
Semple preaching for conscription,
yesterday’s rebel now leads the parade,
loyalties, oracles, infidelities
the effort we invest in them,
during the advertisements I open yet another red.

Poem © Harvey McQueen

Thanks Harvey for your new anthology, and for all the work you have done for poets and poetry.

These I Have Loved: My favourite New Zealand poems (published by Steele Roberts).
Enquiries to

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