The Dim-Post

December 30, 2012

The Love Song of J Key Prime Minister

Filed under: poetry,Politics — danylmc @ 6:12 pm

LET us go then you and me,
While the day is spread out on my BlackBerry
Planner, like a day spread out on a BlackBerry planner;
Let us go to scheduled photo opportunities,
In appropriate communities
Marginal electorates of middle class swing voters
Campaign finance fundraisers at BMW motors:
Guest spots on sports radio talk-back
Friendly breakfast TV chats
Until I’m interrupted by an annoying breaking news story . . .
Oh don’t ask, ‘Why is education such a disaster?’
Let me talk about my mate Dan Carter.

In my office officials come and go
Warning of negative gdp growth.

The tracking poll that wanders slowly down,
The popularity poll that grazes about but over time trends down
Smiles upwards when we get tough on welfare,
But answers sensible wealth creating policies with a puzzled frown,
Shies for our opponents when we try to mine the national parks,
Runs with herd-like terror from Hollywood or Wall Street,
Ducks and nuzzles the ground indifferently at public service reform,
Answers historic infrastructure projects with a sullen bleat.

And hopefully there will be time
For the public surveys and our own in-house poll,
To recover and no longer trend down;
Hopefully time, hopefully time,
For growth to reduce the number of workers on the dole;
There will be time to grow our ailing stock exchange,
We’d be halfway through the power sales already
If the Maori Council weren’t so deranged;
Time to show our economic policies are sound,
And time yet for a hundred and twenty key actions,
The Christchurch rebuild and resource extractions,
To kick in before another election rolls around.

In my office officials come and go
Warning of negative gdp growth.

And hopefully there won’t be time
To wonder ‘Is it working?’ and, ‘Is it working?’
Time to face the opposition, smirking,
And the electorate whose doubts are lurking –
(They all wonder, ‘Why aren’t things better now?’)
As if I could flick a switch, somehow
And float New Zealand on the Dow –
(They all wonder, ‘Will he stay or take his bow?’)
Do I dare
Stand for a third term?
Hopefully I can leave on a high note
And go chair a multinational finance firm.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
I’ve known the advisers, the strategists, the campaign troops,
I’ve run the goddamn country by focus groups;
I know the midnight phone call
Querying comment on tomorrow’s scoops.
So how shall I recoup?

And I have known the lies already, known them all –
The smear that we don’t care about the poor,
And that our economic strategy is a failure,
That our welfare policies are an epic stall,
A distraction from the exodus to Australia,
Our opponents are actually liars, and so much more.
And how should I recoup?

And I have known the officials already, known them all –
Officials who tell me things are slowly going to hell
(But the executives of Fulton Hogan say that things are going pretty well)
They drone about productivity growth stagnation
And the unaffordability of superannuation
Officials with gloomy projections projected on the wall.
And will I then recoup?
And how should I reply?

Shall I say, I have played golf with real wealth creators
Company directors, venture capitalists, equity fund managers
Who think things will pick up, and that I’m roughly on the right track? . . .

External circumstances are what critics should condemn
I’d have been a great PM if nothing went wrong

So the economy still slumbers, fitfully!
Twitching whenever the exchange rate rises,
Stunned after Christchurch and the Global Financial Crisis,
Inflation is low, unemployment still better than half the OECD.
Can the manufacturing industry wake without the state intervening?
Will net foreign debt go down now that the Hobbit’s started screening?
But though I have cut tax for high earners, cut corporate tax,
Streamlined the RMA to make things easier for developers,
The numbers in each fiscal forecast are consistently worse,
And in short, I am not relaxed.

And would it have been worth it, all that work,
All the speeches, the interviews, the debates,
About whether the economy is in dire straits,
Is it worth it? Am I keen,
To return to government in twenty fourteen?
Resume the treasury benches with a winning smirk
Give my speech to the throne with my trademark grin,
Promise that our policies would see some progression;
If my advisors then sit me down, looking sinister
To tell me we’re back in recession,
And Winston Peters is my new Finance Minister.
Then how would I administer?

And would it have been worth it after all,
Would it have been worthwhile,
After the teapot tapes and Kim goddam Dotcom,
After the sackings, the privacy breaches, the interminable Cabinet meetings,
The GCSB brain fades and countless press gallery briefings –
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But it as if a power-point presentation drew my thoughts in diagrams upon the screen:
Would it have been worth while
If Treasury tell me the Auckland property bubble has burst,
The most likely fiscal scenarios are the worst,
And you can’t pass budgets without New Zealand First.

I’m slightly less preferred . . . I’m slightly less preferred . . .
As Prime Minister, and my asset sales are deferred.

Do I dare to crush a union? Or reappear on the cover of Woman’s Weekly?
Maybe I’ll do Woman’s Day, and undermine collective bargaining discreetly.
I’ve heard my strategists whisper, then sigh bleakly.

I do not think they’re entirely frank with me.

I’ve seen them printing out their CVs on the office printer
Meeting with lobbyists, planning their new careers
Cashing in on their connections for a few lucrative years.

For I have twenty four more months to be comfortable about things
To smile and float cheerfully around
Til our lack of coalition partners sinks us and we drown.

September 6, 2012

That word again

Filed under: poetry,Politics — danylmc @ 8:25 am

There’s a national hui on water rights next week. When the Maori Party were asked if they’d go they were very careful to repeat John Key’s talking points on the issue: there’s no point in going, because water rights need to be negotiated iwi by iwi, hapu by hapu ect.

Hone Harawira drew attention to this in his usual subtle way, writing on his Facebook page:

Time John Key realised a few home truths like (1) he can tell his little house niggers what to do, but (2) the rest of us don’t give a shit for him or his opinions!

Which works on the same level as Colin Craig referring to John Key as gay – the point is the attention gained through the reaction it provokes.

Anyway, free-associating a bit, I guess most people probably know this already but the term ‘house nigger’ refers to a famous speech by Malcolm X:

It’s a bit discordant to see a guy in a nice suit and perfect diction sneering at the house negros for their nice clothes and good diction, but he’s still a great speaker.

A few weeks ago I mentioned Wallace Stevens on the blog, and Scott Hamilton asked me if I’d read his poem, Like Decorations in a Nigger Cemetery. I hadn’t – it’s an amazing work. A modernist classic, left out of all the anthologies, presumably because of the title.

In the far South the sun of autumn is passing
Like Walt Whitman walking along a ruddy shore.
He is singing and chanting the things that are part of him,
The worlds that were and will be, death and day.
Nothing is final, he chants. No man shall see the end.
His beard is of fire and his staff is a leaping flame.

August 16, 2012

Poetry of the day, this cheered me up a bit when I read it on the bus edition

Filed under: poetry — danylmc @ 5:17 pm

I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

Wallace Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.

The other twelve are here.

August 10, 2012

What the hell, maybe it will be a regular feature

Filed under: personal,poetry — danylmc @ 6:02 pm

I think this recent bout of intense dreams are my daughters fault. She wakes up very early, which means Maggie and I go to sleep shortly after finishing dinner in the evening. So I’m digesting when entering REM sleep.

Anyway, last night I dreamed about Yeats’ poem Leda and the Swan. In the dream I discovered that the poem had a hidden meaning – one which revealed a great truth about the nature of existence. But when I tried to tell people about this none of them knew anything about the poem, and when I tried to show it to them in books (anthologies etc) it wasn’t there. The poem had been erased from existence.

I remembered that Yeats had been an occultist, and understood that the poem itself was a magical spell – it concealed a great mystery but if anyone ever solved the mystery the poem would cease to exist.

Normally I have the same ‘forced to go back to high-school but my high-school was also a swimming pool’ dreams that everyone else has.

July 27, 2012

A post on national poetry day in which I do not post any poetry

Filed under: poetry — danylmc @ 9:43 am

Firstly, an update on this poetry day post from last year about Dennis Glover’s Threnody, which celebrates Plimmerton’s seabird haunted caves, and I pointed out that there are no such caves in Plimmerton. Well, a couple of months ago I walked along the coastline from Plimmerton to Pukerua Bay – it was a nostalgia thing, I did that walk a lot when I was a kid – and I noticed that there were, in fact, caves along the remote stretches of the walk that could plausibly be haunted by seabirds. So that’s alright.

Also, I’ve been reading illustrated poetry books to Sadie, as one does (she particularly likes Wynken, Blynken and Nod), and I’ve also found myself thinking a lot about Larkin’s Aubade, following the death of a close friend who was fond of Larkin, and I’ve been thinking it would be brilliant to do a child’s illustrated version of Aubade and post it on the blog (this probably violates all sorts of copyright – lucky bloggers like myself are above the law). If anyone has any illustration skills and a bit of spare time, let me know and I’ll tell you my ideas for the images.

April 20, 2012

Hon Paula Bennett vs Lord Alfred Tennyson

Filed under: poetry — danylmc @ 4:36 pm

I wrote a quick cut-up script to merge Tennyson’s Ulysses with Paula Bennett’s instant classic, Address to New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services. See if you can guess who said which line.

It is a pleasure to be here to speak to you all.
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
I am the Minister of Social Development, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I hope you have had a successful conference to date and that you have shared ideas, problems and solutions.
All times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone, on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
Much have I seen and known: For example; if a woman on benefit had another child when their youngest was 18 they would automatically get another 18 years on benefit.
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all; And this is just the start.

I admire the work you do in our communities, far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
There are moments in my job when I sincerely feel the pull to be working at the grass roots level.
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world whose margin fades
For ever and forever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end of well over 200,000 children living in benefit dependant homes.
They were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From Maori who looked after each other and fought for what they believed in.
A year later and some changes had been made but not enough for this gray spirit, yearning in desire
To stand still is to stagnate, so surely we should take the best of what we have known, the best of who we were and look to who we can be… But I digress beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This afternoon I want to talk about who we were, who we are and most importantly about who we want to be as citizens as New Zealanders.
To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This is fair, especially when you consider that 50 per cent of New Zealand sole parents and 69 per cent of partnered women are already working.
A few weeks ago Family and Community Services announced that five providers would not have their contracts renewed this year.
I will subdue them to the useful and the good.

There had to be change and I would spend more time and money supporting that change.
There is over $550 million of contracting for services that MSD does and we are demanding that they all be up to a high standard.
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
The first change for those on DPB, That ever with a frolic welcome took
is that they will be expected to be available for part time work when their youngest is five and be in full time work when their youngest is 14.
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The new system will not punish people who can’t find work. If someone can’t find a job their benefit will not be cut.
The days of a passive system are over. Come, my friends,
’Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The next logical question is why?
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It was also for those who were cruelly widowed and there was no such thing as being born into welfare.
That which we are, we are; it is not who we were. It is who we are. But is it who we want to be?
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We were a proud nation.
Moved earth and heaven,
One third of women currently on the DPB started on the benefit as teen mums. That is more than 30,000 people.
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

July 23, 2011

Poetry of the day

Filed under: personal,poetry — danylmc @ 8:54 am

(Apparently) yesterday was National Poetry day, so belatedly:


In Plimmerton, in Plimmerton,
The little penguins play,
And one dead albatross was found
At Karehana Bay.

In Plimmerton, in Plimmerton,
The seabirds haunt the cave,
And often in the summertime
The penguins ride the wave.

In Plimmerton, in Plimmerton,
The penguins live, they say,
But one dead albatross they found
At Karehana Bay.

Dennis Glover, 1964

I heard this poem when I was very young and it stuck with me, partly because we lived in Karehana Bay; mostly because I mistakenly thought an albatross was a kind of dinosaur and whenever we went to the beach I lived in expectation of seeing my own dead albatross, with intact skeleton, terrible claws and massive fangs.

Reading it again as an adult I’m more intrigued by the seabird haunted cave. This did not exist when I lived in Plimmerton in the 80s and 90s. (Although there were old gun-emplacements on the stretch of beach between Plimmerton and Paramata.) Was it a bit of poetic license on Glover’s part, or did it get filled in sometime during the development of the suburb?

I do remember penguins frequenting the beach when I was very young. Every now and then one would get hit by a car along the esplanade, or killed by a dog, and I remember one schoolmate of mine who lived close to the beach had them nesting underneath her house. After a while these reports stopped. I remember going out for a walk one night when I was a teenager: I came across some friends sitting on the beach, shivering with cold. They’d taken LSD and come down to the sea to ‘play with the penguins’, possibly (my memory is hazy) inspired by this Glover poem. I stayed with them for a while but no penguins appeared.

March 24, 2011

Poetry of the day, I think it’s an allusion to ‘A Farewell to Arms’ edition

Filed under: poetry — danylmc @ 9:35 pm

And the cold rain fell
On that back street hell.
On the hard table-top
Would the pain never stop
As the cold rain fell.

From an unnamed 1976 poem by Chris Trotter about abortion. You can find additional verses (and more besides) here.

February 2, 2011

Poetry of the day

Filed under: general news,poetry — danylmc @ 12:06 pm

Of course many people will have much to say.
We should listen. But we won’t be deceived
by words such as Indispensable, Unique, and Great.
Someone else indispensable and unique and great
can always be found at a moment’s notice.

C P Cavafy

I’m thinking it’s tough to throw out dictators in their eighties. Younger tyrants  can flee to Geneva or Jeddah, buy a palace, hire a good doctor, take a young mistress and have a decent couple of decades. If you’re eighty you’ve got your eye on your place in history; you don’t have that much of a life left to lose.

September 15, 2010

Poetry of the day

Filed under: poetry — danylmc @ 9:25 pm

David Cunliffe has posted a short poem about politics over on Red Alert. I’ve reproduced it here, but added some selected verses from Howl by Alan Ginsberg. See if you can tell who wrote which line:

Politics For separates the politicians from the people.
It does not begin with those it seeks to serve.
It does not build trust, but breeds cynicism.
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic
Politics With starts with being.  Not doing, not telling.
Spectral nations! invincible mad houses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
It comes from the heart.  The gut, not the head.
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body!
It is grounded in relationship.
It is built through partnership.
Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy!
It is about the We stuff, not the Me stuff.
Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!
About a fair chance for every Kiwi kid.
Whatever their situation or the size of their parents’ wallet.
What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
It means working together for a better future for all of us.
Ten years’ animal screams and suicides!
Politics With is worth fighting for.
It is in our DNA.
And how we must be.
Crying in white gymnasiums naked and trembling before the machinery of other skeletons.

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