Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bookcase Full Of Closed Books Wants To Sing by Joan Fleming

The books are all commuters pressed together on a crowded five o’clock train. Every commuter has a bird, trying to beat its wings, inside their chest. No one talks. No one talks about the furled flock of story harboured by the hard spine, the clamouring dusk chorus, suppressed inside the travelling body. Which hardbacks will open up, tonight? Releasing a piteousness of song, a murmuration, an exaltation, a flight.

                                                  Editor: Helen Heath

This poem is from Joan's debut book of poetry, The Same As Yes, which will be launched on November 17. The whole collection is a series of conversations, beautiful and strange. Everyday things take on their own life, if only we can stop and notice them. I love these mysterious and strange little gems.

Joan Fleming won the Biggs Poetry Prize in 2007, and her work has appeared in Landfall, the Listener, Sport, Turbine and The Best of Best New Zealand Poems. She and US poet Emily Toder paired up to produce a chapbook which featured on Tuesday Poem last year. She lives and works between Wellington and Golden Bay.

Joan says:
The poem came about because I have a beautiful, huge, hardback OED thesaurus, and while I hardly ever use it for it's proper purpose (that is, finding better words than the ones I usually choose), I love to read the middle section of the thesaurus which has all kinds of lists: lists of every different sort of hat, lists of the names of diseases, lists of dances, lists of crimes, lists of architectural terms. 
One of the lists is a list of the collective nouns for birds. So, that list, combined with an impulse to imagine the stacked books in a bookshelf as something else entirely, is how this poem was born.

Poem published with permission.

Helen Heath is the editor of this week's Tuesday Poem. Helen's book of poetry, Graft, will be published in May 2012 by VUP. You can read more at her website helenheath.com . Sadly, Helen is leaving Tuesday Poem to go on sabbatical for a little while. She's been an enthusiastic Tuesday Poet since we began in April 2010 - posting all sorts of marvellous poets and poems -- and with Claire Beynon's image, she created our Quill logo. Helen is also so reassuring with her advice on blogging.  We'll miss you, Helen, come back soon. 

Have a look to your right at the sidebar to see all the other wonderful Tuesday Poems this week.


Elizabeth Welsh said...

The description of how the poem was constructed/came about is fascinating. I always find that it's rather voyeuristic, but hugely pleasurable to discover how writers and poets get their inspiration. Thanks so much for sharing, Helen!

Emma said...

I <3 Joan's work. Thanks for posting, Helen.

Mary McCallum said...

This is lovely. I love the way Joan sees into things - animates them, gives them beating hearts and things to say. Or whisper. Or sing. In the era of the e-reader, this is a hymn to the hardcovered book. It reminds me of Tim Jones' wonderful story: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/2010/08/books-in-trees.html

Thanks Helen and Joan!

Jennifer Compton said...

very tasty

Jayne said...

Oh yes, aren't we all books. Stories written, stories read. Stories shelved and dusty.

I want that thesaurus, and Joan's chapbook, too! Sounds like a must for any writer's collection.

Cattyrox said...

Loved this and how the books became animated by the close attention. Also enjoyed finding out how the poem was triggered. Thank you Helen for bringing this poet to my attention.