Men Briefly Explained is the working title of the poetry collection I’m currently putting together – which, when published, will be my third collection, after Boat People (2001) and All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens (2007). The poems in it are all about men in some way, even those that aren’t.
My long-haul task at the moment is to take the manuscript of the novel I completed drafting over the Christmas holidays and polish the rough edges off it so that it glows like a bridesmaid’s dress. Though with less ruffles.
But in other nooks and crannies of my life, I’m wrangling the poetry collection into shape. I now have all – or nearly all – the poems I plan to include, some still in rough draft form, others finished, or as near to finished as poems ever get. The tough part is to organise them to best advantage. Should there be four sections, or three? Which section is it best to start with?
The poems in All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens mainly date from the period 2001-2005. Some of the poems in the new collection have been with me since before ABKG was published, while others are a few weeks old. I need to make sure that I’m equally comfortable with all of them; I need to finalise the newer poems and send them out into the world in a brief adolescence, to see whether they can find homes as individual poems before I call them back home; and I need to make those final decisions about what goes where.
All that may take a while – and then there is the little matter of getting the collection published – but I am hopeful that, should you or someone you know require a brief explanation of men, one will be forthcoming in the not too distant future.
As a taster, here is one of the poems I plan to include. It was published in the first issue of Enamel magazine, and some more of the poems to be included in Men Briefly Explained will be appearing in the second issue.
She stares up through the ceiling,
sees your hand descend.
You trace the outline of her lover:
the commander, disheartened,
has started sleeping with her troops again.
You draw the beloved form, face
now spent with sex and sweat. You want to add
what you can never have: a few curved lines,
a niche of hair. But she’s too strong.
She tugs the sheet above her breasts.
Rebuffed, you pencil in the floor.
Bras, panties, a discarded teddy: night
of passion and disorder. The two of them curved together
like spoons, like swords, like last night’s impulse
surviving into morning.