new zealand electronic poetry centre

Bob Orr 

Friday 23 August 7.30-10pm  once and for all
Sunday 25 August 2.15 – 3.45pm hearts and minds/minds and bodies 

Bob Orr was born in Hamilton, New Zealand, in 1949 and brought up on farms in the districts around Hoe-o-Tainui and Kiwitahi / Morrinsville. He is a poet of the Big Smoke generation – students in the period 1960 to 1975 – and was one of those most centrally associated with the radical magazine Freed and with The Young New Zealand Poets.

He has been writing poems since he was 12, "when I found that words and their arrangement, actual and possible, were a game unlike any other."

He publishes infrequently, only five previous collections since the 1960s. These include Red Trees (AUP, 1985) and Breeze (AUP, 1991). His work is also included in the critically acclaimed history/anthology Big Smoke (AUP, 2000), edited by poets Alan Brunton, Michele Leggott and Murray Edmond.

Bob’s latest collection Valparaiso is to be launched on 9 July as part of the 2002 Montana New Zealand Poetry Day celebrations.

A poem from Valparaiso, "The Tyre Shop", has been selected by Iain Sharp for inclusion in Best NZ Poems 2001

Bob has worked for 20 years on Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour. He now lives in Auckland "by pine trees, Western Springs Park and the Zoo," but has travelled widely and has also lived in Wellington and in Sydney.

The Clock Tower in Three Lamps

The Alhambra has closed –
Java Jive too.
The odd taxi heading west.
A stray cat
with ribs like razor blades
short circuits
a city
of my memory.
Getting home from Three Lamps
could I ride again
with Piers
on a motorbike
of methedrine
down askew streets
of colonial architecture
on the hillsides of crazy Ponsonby.

. . .

Was it fifteen years ago
I wrote a poem
about a cabbage tree
between the pub
and the Police Station
in Ponsonby? The pub
is an apartment block
the cabbage tree is gone
the poem is still around
the Police Station
where it has always been.
The Police Station
where once I was arrested
for contributing
to the irrigation
of the moss
on a concrete wall in Ponsonby.
The constable who held my hand
gently as a brother
and placed it
palm down
on an inky plate.
I saw my life like a weather map
highs and lows
the lines of hot and cold
the climate of a poet
on a roll
back then in Ponsonby.

. . .

Why should
the clock tower
remind me of a morepork –
its two white troubled eyes
nocturnal with numerals
staring down at me?
Perched high up
on the mossy plateau
of the Ponsonby Post Office.
Is it because somebody
somewhere has made fun of
the moon? Or is it
just a case of

. . .

It is 3 am
on a Monday morning –
I am blind
but it is also very clear
that what matters
is that Val
in a few hours
with her slender fingers
will be selling stamps
weighing packages and envelopes
on post office scales –
for voyages
for journeys
for flight
into the world
like a dream of clouds
or white birds
flying from
the island

 from Valparaiso. Auckland UP, July 2002.


© Bob Orr.


Last updated 15 July, 2002