Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gary Langford’s NZ cricket poems

I first came a cross Gary Langford’s name in the Arthur Baysting anthology, The Young New Zealand Poets (1973). He was one of the emerging young poets of the ’70s in New Zealand. He later moved from Christchurch to Australia working as an academic in writing programes at the University of Western Sydney. I kept track of his Australian-published work through the volumes I found in the Wellington City Library.
Recently, I’ve been re-reading his work. We have a number of his books in the Poetry Archive in Wellington, including his beautifully-produced first collection The Family. The Family (which includes old photos) as its title suggests looks at family members and includes mention of his grandfather, who was a cricketer in the poem ‘The Silver Brooch’:

A small house, stoking the furnace
on mornings when the room creaked
with frost, white lashes over
The macrocarpa hedge. Voices fluttered
In her skull, cold, sniffing.
He was apart, forgiven. She nagged,
he drank, she cooked stews and
dumplings, he became a life member
of the Working Men’s Club.
Pedalling home on their tenth
anniversary, he gave her a silver
brooch with MOTHER cut
into it in gold.
During the summer he’d sit under
the apple tree eating fish and chips
and thinking cricket scores,
the days when he played
for the province, then stumble
inside and collapse in bed,
dribbling on the pillow.
She slept badly, things got her down,
growing fat like a dumpling
as she fussed and clucked and cooked
and knitted. His heart gave up
clogged by whisky, not knowing
how to open the windows and cry for help.
No-one knew what she really thought,
dust to ash, ash to dust, Pop became
a good husband.

  Always bringing me
  something home--did
  you know he gave me
  this brooch?

Clever with his hands--
he made all the furniture--and
good at sport--he
played for the province.

In a later book of Gary's poetry, Jesus the Galilee Hitchhiker, there is an update on this poem relating to the death of his grandmother:

Grandmother's Funeral Service

She outlived most of her children, or did she,
guardian of the first door,
as though this in itself was an adventure?
Each generation locked dentures,
marching side by side without a dream,
love becoming an empty section,
houses like people falling down,
too spare to escort the vacuum to another room.
She received a telegram from the Queen,
scorer of a maiden test century,
calling out in the night
which blew and grew underneath her eyelids,
given out by the Umpire of death,
old lady before wicket,
ordered to the far away pavilion,
exactly a run to the day
he tried to order me out,
head hit by wicket,
it's so poor when people argue,
I'll be back, I always win,
no matter how many times you slip through my fingers.
She was clutching a silver brooch
with MOTHER cut into it in gold,
calling for a man given out years ago,
he was offered a drink, that was enough,
the finger went up, he went down,
glass in hand, drunk before wicket.
She was never a drinker, took longer to sink her.
When she walked she walked hand in hand,
thinking of a younger man, a forgotten name,
and she was a young woman,
held in the loving arms of long ago.

This year, Steele Roberts published a substantial new book of Langford’s called Rainwoman & Snake. Langford is no longer an academic and is currently what he terms a ‘pure’ writer living between Melbourne and Christchurch. He is also a New Zealand co-ordinator for the Poetry Archive sound recordings project in England. In the second part of his new book, Snake, is a cricket poem.
Snake works around the theme of snakes in our lives and Langford gives a colourful and humourous vision as to how he thinks the snake appears in various sports, including football, cricket and swimming:

Sporting snakes are renowned for cheating.
They seduce umpires and referees with style.
We play for the sheer money of the game.

In his cricket poem, the snake appears on the field in various guises as both ‘stump’ and ‘bat’, snakes, as Langford alludes, appear everywhere:



Bones are struck in the grin,
hanging on the umpire’s call,
out, pain before wicket.

There is no particular enjoyment of bruised joints.
Snakes dream of cracking us open,
sinewy stings under helmets and pads.

Balls change into a snake’s head,
aiming to hit us between the eyes.

Our defence is another snake,
wood carved into a hard shape.

These splinter when the snake yawns,
then hisses, lightning up your fingers.

We wonder why we play the game.
Snake is in our thoughts, licking long.

Stump = snake.
Each of us sighs
and waits to be in a kiss-hit.

When the time comes, you walk away,
back to the far pavilion,
unable to pick the final sting.

© Gary Langford 2011

Gary Langford’s new book, Rainwoman & Snake, is available from Steele Roberts Ltd, email info@steeleroberts.co.nz or visit their ordering information page: http://www.steeleroberts.co.nz/orderinfo.html

Article © Mark Pirie 2011

Post-script: Gary Langford writes: "Ginninderra Press, Adelaide, Australia, just did The Family Album this year too, which is my final sequence of my family poetry books: The Family (yes, Fragments Press did a beautiful job on that one), Four Ships and The Family Album which covers the period from those 2 books till now. Comic seriousness. Just as my novel Newlands was for my homeland, and why I wrote it. I have just written a sonnet called 'Percy's War' as I found my uncle's gravestone (he died when he came off a motorbike at 20, and is a chapter in Newlands) earlier this month. It was in a field and needed searching among the sheep who baa-ed at the idea of 'Percy's War' - not in our paddock, thank you. The Family Album is notable for using 3 of my paintings."

Thanks Gary, and for permission to reproduce the poems.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Tingling Catch congratulates the All Blacks

I'd like to congratulate the All Blacks and coach Graham Henry on a hard-fought but well deserved Rugby World Cup 2011 victory over France, 8-7.
It was a great final, contested to the very end, with a superb display by the French forward pack who put up a brave fight but McCaw and the All Black forwards were equal to the task.
Here's a triolet I wrote for Richie McCaw and his team:


The Cup

McCaw lifts the Webb Ellis Cup,
   Tired joy is on their faces:
It’s a hard road to win the cup.

McCaw lifts the Webb Ellis Cup,
   Captain Fantastic holds the cup.
The pain of winning leaves no traces.

McCaw lifts the Webb Ellis Cup.
   Tired joy is on their faces.

Poem © Mark Pirie 2011

An earlier poem I wrote for All Black Piri Weepu, 'Scrum-feed', which was published in The Dominion Post, 20 October 2011, is now on my website too.

Bibliography of NZ cricket fiction and poetry

I've written previously on New Zealand cricket fiction and now I've finally started to compile a bibliographical list of New Zealand cricket fiction and poetry that I will publish in the new HeadworX edition of Michael O'Leary's cricket novel Out of It (due for publication in early 2012) that I'm currently editing.
This bibliographical list will be updated as more fiction pieces come to hand, i.e. individual short stories. There are a few of these stories archived on the Tingling Catch blog, including stories by Tim Jones, Eva Burfield and John Sellwood. I'd like to thank Rob Franks whose bibliography Kiwi Cricket Pages (c2006) provided me with the skeleton to work from (an acknowledgement to him below):

List of New Zealand cricket fiction and poetry by Mark Pirie [work in progress]

Adult fiction

W.J. Foote, Poetry in Motion: The Tragic Tale of the Pukemanu Prodigy,
  New Zealand’s Greatest 
Slow Bowler, 2003.
Michael O’Leary, Out of It, 1987, 2nd archival ed. 1999, 3rd ed. 2012.

Adult poetry and songs

Tim Finn and the Record Partnership, Runs in the family
  [sound recording], 1995.
Mark Pirie, Slips: cricket poems, 2008.
Mark Pirie ed. ‘A Tingling Catch’: A Century of New Zealand
  Cricket Poems 1864-2009, 2010 [anthology].
Mark Pirie, Tingling Catch [electronic resource], 2010-
Mark Pirie, J. H. E. Schroder’s New Zealand Cricket Poems:
  an essay and an appendix of poems, 2011.
Mark Pirie ed. King Willow: Selected Poems by Robert J Pope, 2012.
Jim Tocker, Songs of a Cricketer, 1983, 2nd ed. 1999.
Arnold Wall, A Time Will Come [New Zealand Cricket Council
  broadsheet, Christmas 1932].

Juvenile fiction and rhymed stories

Tom Bradley, Johnny Whitler and the Mad Cap Cricket Match,
Garry Carter, The Cricket Test, 1996.
Mervyn Elias, The Boy From New Zealand: The Story of a
  New Zealand Boy at an English Public School, 1940.
A. Greenhaigh, Kee-wee Plays Cricket, 1983.
David Hill, Seconds Best, 1996.
Midge Janssen, The Catch, 1995.
Hazel Kreyl ed., Cricket Bat Smash!, 2001 [anthology].
Di Michels, Playing Cricket, 1995.
Lino Nelusi, That’s the Way!, c1998, 2nd ed. 2003 [Niuean
  and Tokelauan language versions].
Dinah Priestley, That’s Not Cricket, 1994.
Alison Robertson, Knocked for Six, 2001.
Sharon Whillis, The Boxing Day Test, 2002.
Barbara White, Time for Cricket, 1991.

(Fiction information sourced from Rob Franks’s Kiwi Cricket Pages: A Bibliography and Reference Guide to New Zealand Cricket Publications, c2006, UK)

Bibliogaphy © Mark Pirie 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cecil W Pierce’s 1894 Australian cricket poem

A friend and book collector Rowan Gibbs recently sent me a photo of a poem he found inside a copy of the great Australian cricketer George Giffen’s book With Bat and Ball (1898).
Giffen (1859-1927) was once referred to as the “WG Grace of Australia” (Wisden Obituary) and his career span was 1877-1904. His exploits on the 1886 tour of England are best known, more so than the 1893 tour mentioned in this poem. As the poem states he continued to rack up huge scores at the time for South Australia despite not living up to expectations on the 1893 England tour. In 1894, near the time of this poem, he was ‘All-Round Cricketer of the Year’ in Wisden.
Rowan says: ‘This copy has pasted on the endpaper a clipping of a poem ‘To George Giffen’ (possibly from The [Sydney] Bulletin) signed “CECIL W PIERCE SOMERSET, The Snowy River, near Mt. Kosciusko, January 14, 1894”. However from a letter in The South Australian Register 1894 this seems to be an error for Cecil W Pierce, of Somerset, S.A.
I’ll share the poem with you here:


To George Giffen

So they jeered you, George, in Melbourne: no wonder that they seem
   So snarlish when they see you, and so sore.
What have you put together ’gainst the cabbage team?
   A dozen double hundreds or a score?

They’ve a tidy troop of trundlers, but when you’re on the job
   They don’t improve their figures very much;
Though they tackle you with “Hughie,” or try you with their “Bob,”
   You thump them like an uncle who is Dutch.

And then you belt their batsmen, till you’ve got them all abroad,
   (And that’s enough to cause a lasting feud).
If you snavel all their wickets, and score two hundred odd,
   How can you, George, expect their gratitude?

Then in the tour just over, the freedom of your “tip”
   Has pained some gentle spirits in the crew.
For every man’s a model, who has made the English trip,
   And needs a dirty halo – barring you!

And there are some around you, whom your long success offends;
   The vermin of their envy swells our gorge,
Whilst many a fairish player has got a knot of friends
   To put his powers by yours, my matchless George.

But let them bark behind you – ‘tis the trick of ev’ry cur,
   Yet when you meet the Melbourne team again,
You may make a cool five hundred, the barrack bile to stir,
   And may they face your dropping ball in vain.

Good luck, king George of cricket! Of your prowess we are proud
   And may you ever have at your right hand
Big Jack, the giant hitter, the joy of ev’ry crowd,
   Who lammed the lightning Lockwood to the stand.

And Adelaide, the handful shall possess the Sheffield shield,
   With big and braggart Melbourne fairly purled;
Whilst the white and tiny city can send into the field,
   The hitter and the champion of the world.

The Snowy River, near Mt Kosciusko
January 14, 1894

© Cecil W Pierce 1894

Extract from Cecil W Pierce's poem to George Giffen

Cricket Poetry Award 2011 announced

I just received the following media release about the Cricket Poetry Award 2011. Congratulations to the winner Cecilia White, her poem is included below:

Media Release Friday, 7 October 2010

Over one hundred entries were received from the UK, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia for the Cricket Poetry Award competition in 2011.
The last four poems were selected and publicly read at the Cricket Art Prize opening event - Members Pavilion, Sydney Cricket Ground on October 6th.
The judges, Louise Wakeling and Amanda Shalala felt that a majority of the poems were of a very high standard and as such, they had a challenging time refining the collection down to twenty for the first public reading; then at the live readings night, the general public voted for the last four to be re-read at the Cricket Art Prize opening.
Louise and Amanda affirmed “…we chose our top twenty in terms of what worked for us as poetry; based on a skilled fusion of technical skills and conventions, including phonics, insights and emotion.”
‘Boxing Day Test’ by Cecilia White won the Cricket Poetry award for 2011.
Her poem powerfully describes the retrospective, compassionate thoughts and feelings we feel when watching a test match on television on a hot summers day…


Boxing Day Test

twelfth man leaves the field, we tumble back to our places
sitting cross-legged below a semi-circle of lanky shinned uncles.
men, exhausted by another year’s hard labour
and christmas day.

our skin sticks to itself on boxing day in new south wales.
the geography of each body is irrigated by sweat
it is impossible to imagine standing outside
for each over, and over again.
the cork and willow clap in the dry summer heat 
of another state.

our uncles lean into the room,
lean forward towards the box, as if they were next bat.
tensing muscles deep in bare redbrowned arms
they are in the memory position,
revisiting lives they dreamed as boys when
they could imagine up a roaring crowd
that would lift them high above the drudgery
of normal men.

© Cecilia White 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ronald Castle’s NZ cricket related poem

A poem I found recently with cricket in it is by the late New Zealand poet Ronald Castle (1907-1984), a local Wellington chemist, writer and musician, who created a pharmacy museum in the 1970s. He was an old boy of Wellington College.
Castle’s poem is an elegant evocation of school days at Wellington College, where ‘On summery days on the green, white-flannelled cricketers batted’. As an old boy of the school, I very much enjoyed Castle’s poem.
I’ll share the poem with you here:


Man in the Faded Blazer

Weary, kindly old gentleman ambling slowly the pavement,
   That black blazer you wear speaks of collegiate days;
Lamp that eternally burns, in orange embroidery gleaming,
   Still have you treasured from youth, braving the fugitive years.
Know that I, too, at the back of some drawer filled with odd trifles,
   Found my tattered old cap, fronted by orange lamp.

What are your memories, leaping the chasm of the relentless
   Onward-hastening days? Sit you again at the desk
Watching the black board where geometric angles and circles
   Drawn with chalk-scratching sound, kind ‘Garry’ Lomas defined?

Or under Welsh Mr. Jones gowned in immaculate neatness,
   Drilled with phonetic symbols, could we ‘assassinate’ spell?
Learnt we from sad Alexander the rich Ovidian sweetness
   Ere he, dying too soon, boarded Charonian barge?

And what shall be said of the Master declaiming passionate verses,
   Still ignoring his wound, late from the trenches returned?
Lover of beauty immortal, and England’s sonorous language,
   Fired he many a youth, taught him poetical craft.

Now unremembered be good Monsieur Balham, tutor,
   With Gallic accent pure, gesticulating hands,
Coaxing unlikely lads from that ‘plume de ma tante’, still missing,
   On to noble Racine, chansons of dark Baudelaire.

What nauseous fumes emitted the attic science research room!
   Bubbled the glass retorts, Bunsen burners up-flared,
Dangerous phosphorous retrieved from water exploded like fireworks;
   Through the microscope tube we viewed the structure of worlds.

Still stands the observatory dome on the hillock behind the college,
   Where Doctor Gifford grave, his counter-poised telescope swung,
Sweeping the heavens antipodean, to pupils revealing
   Stars in endless space, galactic Milky Ways?

On summery days on the green, white-flannelled cricketers batted,
   Or on the tennis courts with resonant racquets smote:
While in the blue-tiled baths naked forms were swimming,
   And from the music-room came brass and cymbals sound.

This we knew and revered, O man in the faded blazer
   Black with the orange badge bearing the deathless lamp
Over its Latin script, motto engraved in our bosoms,
   ‘LUMEN ACCIPE ET IMPERTI’, from age to age.

Poem © Ronald Castle, 1983

(From The Select Poetry of Ronald Castle, Wellington, 1983).

Publications by Ronald Castle:
Fleeting Music, Wright & Carman, 1937
Arcadian Grove, Wright & Carman, 1939
Psaltery and Trumpet, Chapbook Publications, 1948
Old Instruments in New Zealand: a short survey of the Zillah and Ronald Castle collection of early and unusual musical instruments, Z & R Castle, 1969
Verses for Music, R B Castle, 1981
The Select Poetry of Ronald Castle, Castle Publications, 1983

Further reading: A Reading of the Poetry of Ronald Brian Castle by F W Nielsen Wright, Cultural and Political Booklets, 2001