The Monthly interviews young New Zealand poet, Elizabeth Ayrey – Part 2 – Developing key ideas

part one of this interview is here

What ideas are you trying to interrogate with your writing?

A lot of people would say that writing, especially poetry, is about expressing feelings. To me it’s more about processing the things that I read, the ideas I am exposed to, as opposed to just my own personal experiences. It’s much more about reacting to the world than it is about creating something from nothing. You can see in my writing that I’m always referring to earlier works, material I’ve read which I absorb and then it ends up in my poetry.

Beach Day

At 8 o’clock this morning

Brighton is quiet

but not deserted.

The waves are persistent as always,

licking the shoreline

and teasing those wading

in the shallows.

Digging my feet in the sand

and braving the seafoam

makes me feel alive.

I think about how getting cold feet

means backing out.

My feet are cold and my eyes

are wide open.

I see 5 girls strip off

and run across the dunes

towards the sea.

For all the seagulls know

their clothes are a creature

washed up on the sand.

Shirts and jeans and socks tangled

like some leviathan from the Pacific,

tossed up by a merciless sea.

I think if I end up dead on a beach

some day, that would be alright.

The girls are shrieking now

and dunking their heads in the water.

Your work seems very layered. Would that be reasonable to say?

Yes. There’s immediate meanings and then more layered thoughts and I spend a lot of time working on that side of the process. I don’t tend to do spoken word or slam, it’s more about how it looks on the page for me. I spend time playing with line breaks and figuring out how the poem will read to others. I try to select my words so they all have weight, or add more nuance to the piece.

International Page and Stage – One Year On – Elizabeth Ayrey reads at 56min –

Given there is a move towards raw lived experience poetry, especially in the spoken word scene, do you feel, especially at your age, you are bending against the wind?

I think my approach is quite a Kiwi thing, actually. We tend to be, generally, quite humble and so for us it’s less about ourselves and more about the things we read and the ideas we come across. I know we have a really close knit poetry community in New Zealand, in Christchurch especially, and everybody is in it together. We’re all sharing ideas, bouncing off each other, being supportive of each other.

Flight of the Discus

Apollo’s hands, were they warm?

They threw you,

and the West Wind caught you

snatched you hungrily

from midair

wrapped you

in his arms as a lover might,

though you were not the object of his affections.

His plan: fueled by envy

and a tempestuous rage,

whispered through the rushes

and along the ripples in the brook.

As you drifted over the meadow

the flowers stared with wide eyes.

Maybe your regret was fleeting

when you swung towards

your destination, as surely as Eros

shot his bow—only your collision

was not love, it was blood and broken bone

and Hyacinthus fell.

Lying still in the morning light

he turned the petals crimson.

The West Wind fled,

fearing the heat of the sun’s wrath.

Apollo thought he was the guilty one,

does it bother you?

Were you an accomplice or simply the weapon?

Sunshine fell in teardrops

on the scene of the crime.

Hyacinth the boy was no more

but up sprang the flower

rooted in his resting place.

part three of this interview is here

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