new zealand electronic poetry centre




Murray Edmond

Recorded 23 September 2014 at the University of Auckland

Murray Edmond
 Photo credit: Joanna Forsberg

Murray Edmond’s recent book publications include Then It Was Now Again: Selected Critical Writing (Atuanui Press, 2014); Three Travels (Holloway Press, 2012), three haiku-based sequences in Poland, Scotland and the volcanic plateau of Te Ika a Maui; Walls to Kick and Hills to Sing From: A Comedy with Interruptions, poems from Auckland University Press in 2010. Recent essays include ‘Solomon’s Throw:  Memoir of a Name’ (Landfall 227, 2014, pp.25-35) and forthcoming in The Journal of New Zealand Literature ‘Who Would a Would-be Be: A Memoir of Literary Encounters.’

Murray works as Dramaturge for Indian Ink Theatre Company. Their newest work Kiss the Fish (2013) won Outstanding New New Zealand play of the Year in the 2014 Chapman Tripp Awards.

Having been teaching at the University of Auckland for almost 30 years, Murray is now retiring (or, if he were a car, ‘re-tyre-ing’) in order to drive in new directions.

Poem notes

I have come (slowly) to realise I am a sort of nonsense poet. Not that I write exactly what Spike Milligan or Lewis Carroll or Konstanty Ildefons Galczynski wrote. On the other side of the gyroscope, Byron loved to write a kind of nonsense, some of Keats is pure nonsense, and perhaps Coleridge could not finish ‘Christabel’ because he had forgotten it too is partly possessed by nonsense (but of the most intriguing and frightening kind). Nonsense holds the true mirror up to nature and nature means motorcars and artificial fertiliser and the human genome as well as clouds and crowds and readings aloud. In, say, Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream there is a comedy that is silly and profound (profoundly silly), cruel and erotic, banal and mysterious, the reconciliation of opposites. Drama accesses this tension through voices and bodies struggling in situations (more than in narratives). I am drawn to the moment when poetry steps towards drama, as it does, say, in rap, where one also finds an element of poetry (rhyme) extended to ridiculous lengths and, by so doing, elevated to the status of a mechanism for resistance to the power structure and survival in spite of it.

These poems are from a forthcoming collection gathered under the title Shaggy Magpie Songs. Songs are poems that are incomplete without their music, so I think of these poems as all wanting to get off the page and start singing and dancing. The magpies of Aotearoa are silly (and slightly dangerous) birds who have given rise to the most profound line in the New Zealand poetry canon: ‘Quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle'. ‘Shaggy' might refer to either magpies (biologically unlikely) or dog tales/tails (not to be trusted). So, these poems are incomplete, profoundly silly and untrustworthy pieces of nonsense. I hope they give pleasure (and terror).

There is one poem in the reading set that does not belong to Shaggy Magpie Songs and that is ‘Putting It into Poetry.’ This poem emerged from a translation I did with Joanna Forsberg, for publication by the Polish Embassy in Wellington, of a poem called ‘On the Translation of Poetry,’ by Zbgniew Herbert. Herbert's original is restrained balanced and ironic; Joanna and I made a translation that attempted to represent in English the Polish original as faithfully as we could. But then, since Herbert's poem is a poem about translating poetry, I made this further translation that completely misrepresents the tone and style and language of the Polish, but does seek to enact something I found hidden inside the poem, as a bee finds what it wants in a flower.


Last updated 25 March, 2014