Tuesday Poem: “is anybody in there?” by Johanna Aitchison
is anybody in there?
The sun hits the tips of waves in Lyall Bay, the big wing, your
sunglasses as you fly into Wellington again. The blow of water,
the salt salt water, would taste like lips after chips & chips.
In the last two years you’ve taken to tearing out pages of your
diary and sending them off in screwtop white wine bottles.
You drop them in rivers, the names of which you forget almost
immediately on hearing the splash.
Your mother says, ‘you should brush your hair.’ You say, ‘I’m
33.’ She runs into the house & returns, holding out a plastic
comb. She slams the car door and starts stabbing at the air,
trying to reach your hair.
© Johanna Aitchison
from A Long Girl Ago, Victoria University Press, 2007
Reprinted here with permission
Recently, I posted about reading Johanna Aitchison’s collection A Long Girl Ago—and you can read how I was finding it, here.
Reading the collection followed on from Johanna’s enjoyable and distinctive guest appearance as part of the Canterbury Poets’ Collective’s spring season of poetry readings. One of the poems I mentioned in my initial post was in anybody in there.
Even though prose poetry is not always my thing, I really liked the way in anybody in there opens A Long Girl Ago in a way that characterizes the collection in terms of an essential New Zealand quality: “The sun hits the waves in Lyall Bay…as you fly into Wellington again.”
The sense of place is strong, but so too is the sense of both connection and disconnection co-existing uneasily with each other, that is prevalent throughout the book:
“In the last two years you’ve taken to tearing pages of your diary out…”
and comes in through relationships within families in particular:
“Your mother says, ‘you should brush your hair.’ You say, ‘I’m 33.’”
but also relationships between people generally, in almost every aspect of life. The poetry speaks to all of this: the sense of place and family and connection, the uneasiness and disconnection coexisting in immediate relationship to it that we all understand intimately—but also see with new eyes through the lens of Johanna’s poems.
Johanna tells me that the poet: … lives in Palmerston North. She has just turned 40 and, to that end, she is running a lot (about 50km per week) in the hope of doing a marathon. She works as a lecturer at IPC and a tutor at Massey University. She is driven by her love of coffee.
I also feel that it is relevant to mention that A Long Girl Ago was a finalist in the 2008 Montana New Zealand Book Awards, and that Johanna was recently the Massey University Writer in Residence.
To read the featured poem on the Tuesday Poem Hub—and link to other Tuesday Poets posting around NZ and the world—either click here or on the Quill icon in the sidebar.