Tuesday Poem: “O lucky man” by Riemke Ensing
O lucky man
Eight or nine small poems before breakfast, you record.
Oh lucky man! Here it’s a wonder
there’s any writing at all with the light slowly failing
and such clouds inexorably dark across the moon.
Rilke had one of his characters admit to maybe ten good lines
at the end of a long life. It has to be better than that
but everyday the horizon is closing in —
‘life’ and ‘art’ — the two unequal parts of the equation
never finding the balance to make that perfect symmetry.
This morning though, three blackbirds
at the bowl of persimmons on the outside table.
Poem enough itself
and a Chinese painting to break the fast.
© Riemke Ensing
From: O lucky man by Riemke Ensing, Otakou Press, 2009.
Reproduced here with permission
About the Poem:
The poem, “Oh lucky man”, first appeared in Riemke Ensing’s volume of the same name, published in 2009 by the Unversity of Otago’s Otakou Press to commemorate the centenary of Charles Brasch in 2009. The image was created by Otago artist Inge Doesburg to accompany this poem.
I first heard the poem at the Christchurch Writers’ Festival earlier this year, when Riemke Ensing read it as part of the festival’s concluding “Five Poets” event. At that same event, Riemke received the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award—awarded jointly by the Lauris Edmond Literary Estate and the New Zealand Poetry Society—for Distinguished Contribution to Poetry in New Zealand.
I enjoyed the poem very much and thought it would be wonderful to celebrate the poem—and Riemke—by means of a Tuesday Poem feature. I am delighted, therefore, to bring “O lucky man” to you today, to round off the Tuesday Poem year.
You may recall that Riemke was also featured on the Tuesday Poem Hub just over a month ago, with guest editor Renee Liang presenting both the poem, “Transport” and a wonderful interview with Riemke to accompany it. No words I could say today could add to that, so I shall simply refer you to that recent, excellent feature, here.
About the Poet:
“Riemke Ensing’s first book of poems Letters – Selected Poems (1980) was beautifully designed & printed by Philip Ridge on what was then thought to be the old Lowry press in the basement of the University of Auckland Library. The cover was a drawing from Albrecht’s Durer’s calligraphic construction of the alphabet.
Her most recent volume, O Lucky Man – (images by Inge Doesburg) was similarly composed in handset metal types by the then Printer-in Residence, Tara McLeod, at Otakou Press at the University of Otago Special Collections Library in 2009.
In between these dates there have been 9 other volumes, including Talking Pictures – Selected Poems (introduced by Lawrence Jones) put together by Mark Pirie at HeadworX. The cover for that particular book was designed by poet and librarian Judith Haswell.
Riemke enjoys collaboration and volumes such as ‘Like I have seen the dark green ladder climbing’, ‘Tarawera Te Maunga Tapu’, and ‘Storm Warning’ are responses to art works by painters such as Eion Stevens, Margaret Lawlor Bartlett, Colin McCahon and others artists who were working primarily in the Waitakere area at the time of that particular exhibition which she curated (2003).
She has written numerous articles for Art New Zealand and produced essays and poems for several exhibition catalogues.
Riemke recently won the NZSA Kevin Ireland 2012 Poetry Competition, and received the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for Poetry for her ‘unassuming and long standing mentorship and support for other writers, both as a teacher and an editor and that the outstanding merit of her poetry is recognized in New Zealand and internationally.‘”
For further details, please see Riemke’s website: www.ensing.co.nz
I am also the guest editor on the Tuesday Poem Hub today where I am featuring Sarah Broom’s poem “All my life” from her debut collection Tigers at Awhitu ( 2010: Auckland University Press, NZ; Carcanet Press, UK.)
When you have read and enjoyed “O lucky man” I hope you will also click through to the Hub and read: “All my life.”
And don’t forget to check out the poems posted in the left-hand sidebar, all either chosen or written by our international community of Tuesday Poets. Just click here or on the Quill icon in the sidebar.