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New poems by Owen Marshall

Clocktower clock

Monday, 24 February 2014 2:28pm

The White Clock cover

The White Clock, a new poetry collection by Owen Marshall published by Otago University Press, takes us from Gorbio to Nelson, from Turkey to St Bathan’s, from Richard III to resentful schoolboys on detention; from intimate endearments to a portrait of the disillusioned guy in the pub cover band.

“For me poetry is an attempt to find the significance of everyday experience and so become more responsive, appreciative and aware,” says Owen Marshall.

Delving both into ‘the worlds of the mind’ and ‘where he happens to be’, The White Clock is steeped in the classics, history and literature, and yet is alive with the vivid particulars of damp duffle-coats and hot-air balloons, beer and bicycles, willows and skylarks, kauri gum and limestone tunnels.

Marshall’s work, taut with aphorisms, mining the philosophical, is nevertheless understated and wry. It is as likely to explore the nature of enduring love and the sacrifices made to adhere to a personal morality, as it is to delight in the image of a small child’s animal élan on a trampoline.

This new collection offers a rich array of insight and poetic finesse. Marshall’s dry, even acerbic humour and verbal control effect a keen-eyed watch on any melancholia and despair that grow out of staring too long into the fire of human folly.

Owen Marshall is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, poet and editor of several collections of New Zealand short stories.

Small Child on a Trampoline

And I see a little girl bouncing
fearless and alone upon a trampoline.
Higher and higher until the perfect
instant of equilibrium between
momentum to the sky and the drive
of gravity to the core.
And she is transfixed there for ever
weightless, smiling open-mouthed,
dark hair flung out, skinny legs free
of duty, hands outstretched as stars
against the buttoned white flowers
of the dogwood trees.

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