new zealand electronic poetry centre

David Eggleton

 Capital of the minimal  

David Eggleton was born in Auckland, partially raised in Fiji, and left high school to begin a performance career that, two decades later, positions him as a role-model for young street poets and musicians. His awards include Time Out’s Street Entertainer of the Year 1985, PEN Best First Book of Poetry 1987, the Robert Burns Fellowship 1990, and the New Zealand Book Reviewer of the Year 1991, 1997, 2001 and 2003. His CD releases include Poetry Demon (1993), Seeing Voices (1999), and Versifier (2001). He co-edited two digital films based on his poems: Teleprompter (2001) and The Cloud Forest (2002). Echoing The Verlaines, in November 2003 he released Ready to Fly: The Story of New Zealand Rock Music (Craig Potton Publishing). In these lines from El Dorado he might be describing his own performance style, which owes something but not everything to the rapid-fire delivery of punk poet John Cooper Clarke:

In order not to let himself be caught by anyone on the back foot, he was now engaged in a permanent fugitive hip-hop, both hands plunged into sweaty hip pockets. But he was still capable of organising a head-to-head stand-off, still capable of a bare-faced, cold cash take-down.


If Buccleugh Street Could Talk

A plate of stale scones, a drab bag lady,
with the Octagon your centre of gravity,
dowdy Dunedin, capital of the minimal,
you’re like East Berlin before the Fall.
City of butterscotch and antique junk sales,
of walks on the transplanted Hibernian strand.
Descendents of people who wove the heather,
now in sherry-gold or flame-blue cardies,
are a dance of pedestrians joined by blood-ties
in the neverending carwash that is your weather,
your lowering afternoon that lasts all day.
Sinkhole, bolthole, considered a cold hole,
a Celtic bog, across which drifts piss and vinegar,
the sour old reek of homemade preserves,
of battered shark’s guts and thrice-fried chips.
A catchcan catchment of Third World water
through rusted aqueducts, along rotten flues.
Town full of night owls and First-Edition-seekers,
town haunted by ghosts of whiskered ancients.
Time-warped necropolis, one big cemetery,
crepuscular as a funeral parlour,
all stasis, all stagnation, Death’s waiting room –
a trapped gas bubble, a cloistered Agridome.
Your rain-wet ODTs are a place of obituaries,
and your floodlit churches film noir settings,
smeared by a dirty squeegee on a stick.
Elderly coupon-carriers, close to flatlining,
drift like autumn leaves towards the supermarket,
as a mountain bike whizzes down York Place.
The low expectations of the chemically-altered,
the guitar blues riffs on the rites of failure,
the bored waving to Russians, Hello Sailor!
You’re Presbyterian, grey, made of stone,
but your stony façade hides a warm glow.
Like prize bantams from a bantam-weight chook,
you blow out the statistics in the record book.
Your Uriah Heep humility, your dungeon of grunge:
you create these visions within a single compass,
and as shiny 4WDs race to the crossroads,
where the traffic lights are forever amber,
and the Town Hall clock bongs hallelujah,
Dunedin, just up from the mute, inglorious Milton,
is a name to conjure with in the world.

If Buccleugh Street Could Talk [mp3: 3.7MB]

Drifting Cone

Under the slowly drifting cone of Taranaki,
when evening stretches out from the mountain,
the black tresses of its rivers wind me to you.
Always I feel the cold fire of your kiss,
that frozen fire that scalds my memory still,
the elixir of your lips where love fixed it,
so that I should taste, like tears in rain,
your distant indifference smouldering to ash.

I remember the scent of ferns you unknotted,
the crystal haze of mist whitely shimmering
on the sea-swell of your bare salty flank,
the mane of night on your shoulders of snow,
and the rare minerals of your eyes that flashed -
your distant indifference smouldering to ash.

Drifting Cone [mp3: 3.9MB]


© David Eggleton 2004


Last updated 13 August, 2004