NZ Poetry Day: Zoetropes, by Bill Manhire

Zoetropes

A starting. Words which begin
with Z alarm the heart:
the eye cuts down at once

then drifts across the page
to other disappointments.

*

Zenana: the women’s
      apartments
in Indian or Persian houses.
Zero is nought, nothing,

nil – the quiet starting point
of any scale of measurement.

*

The land itself is only
smoke at anchor, drifting above
Antarctica’s white flower,

tied by a thin red line
(5000 miles) to Valparaiso.

London 29.4.81

Reproduced by kind permission of the author, Bill Manhire.

Tim says: This poem captures better than any other I know both the sense of isolation which so many New Zealanders feel, and the sudden, irrational pride in reading any mention of our little country, no matter how trivial or fleeting, in the world’s media. Here we are, floating somewhere between Chile and Antarctica, hoping someone will notice us…

Bill Manhire is one of New Zealand’s best-known poets. “Zoetropes” was published as the title poem of Zoetropes: Poems 1972-82, and republished in Collected Poems (2001), available in New Zealand and internationally from Victoria University Press, and in the UK from Carcanet.

7 thoughts on “NZ Poetry Day: Zoetropes, by Bill Manhire

  1. Great choice, Tim–I love \”The land itself is only//smoke at anchor\” and \”tied by a thin red line(5000 miles) to Valparaiso.\”(Although of course we're only 1500 odd to Australia.)

  2. What a great poem – it has such a lovely pattern, and I love that ending: the land being only \”smoke at anchor\”. Your own comments made me laugh out loud. Many thanks.

  3. \”the sudden, irrational pride in reading any mention of our little country, no matter how trivial or fleeting, in the world's media.\”Very true. My partner is British and he becomes irrationally annoyed at my irrational pride! Great poem choice, Tim. I am glad someone posted some Manhire on NZ Poetry Day.

  4. Thanks for your comments, Helen, Belinda, and Sarah Jane. I am looking forward to reading the poems everyone has posted tonight & tomorrow, but haven't had the chance yet.Later this month I'm doing a live interview of a New York editor who's attending a science fiction convention in Wellington. The first question I plan to ask him is \”How did you like the inside of the customs shed?\” and the second will be \”How do you like New Zealand so far?\” Wrong answers will be punished severely!

  5. Tim, this is great! Oh that letter 'Z' – it does alarm the heart… and that we are only 'smoke at anchor, drifting above/Antarctica's white flower…' is simply wonderful. I wonder if Bill feels the same way now he's been to Antarctica…

  6. \”then drifts across the page to other disappointments\” But I certainly wasn't dissapointed this time. definitely worth more than a smile, especially your comment of – \”the sudden, irrational pride in reading any mention of our little country, no matter how trivial or fleeting…\”

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