Tuesday Poem – Black Chalk – James Brown

In the room of doers, I tabled vague
ideas. I can’t believe
in a god,

which makes my dead
really sad

I have watched
clouds pull
my life

the way they
the land.

Don’t cross the line.
But I was nowhere
near it.

(c) James Brown

photo courtesy of US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
photo courtesy of US
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A few years back I did a short online poetry course through Whitirea Polytechnic.  James wrote the material for the course and I enjoyed it so much I decided I would like to have him as my guest on Tuesday Poem. ‘ Black Chalk’ is a new poem, previously unpublished.  Thank you James for permission to use it here.

James says, ‘many of my poems are pursuits of particular styles or features currently holding my attention. In ‘Black Chalk’ I was interested in line-breaks, brevity, and being less explicit. Many of the poems in Warm Auditorium (VUP, 2012) are longer, narrative-based, and reasonably straightforward, so ‘Black Chalk’ is partly a reaction against that. The title hopefully suggests things that are hard to see (including, in the poem’s case, a single, definitive meaning), and also that the poem comes from a dark place. While it is certainly elusive, I hope it isn’t obscure, and that there is enough there to allow readers to engage with it in their own ways.’

James Brown
James Brown

James Brown’s five poetry collections are Go Round Power Please (winner of the Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award), Lemon, Favourite Monsters, The Year of the Bicycle, and Warm Auditorium. He is the author behind the useful, non-fiction booklet Instructions for Poetry Readings and, in 2005, edited The Nature of Things: Poems from the New Zealand Landscape. He teaches the Poetry Writing workshop at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University, and is part of the Writing Team at Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum.

James’ first two collections were shortlisted in the 2002 Prize in Modern Letters and he has been a finalist in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards three times. He has held the 1994 Louis Johnson New Writers Bursary, a 2000 Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship, and was Writer in Residence at Canterbury University in 2001 and Victoria University in 2004. He lives in Wellington with his partner and two children.

To read Patricia Prime’s Takahe review of Warm Auditorium go here.

'Warm Auditorium' by James Brown VUP 2012
‘Warm Auditorium’ by James Brown VUP 2012

I hope you enjoyed this post.  To read the Tuesday Poem hub page, this week edited by Catherine Fitchett of Christchurch, featuring  a poem called Fault, by TP alumni Joanna Preston. go here.

While you’re on the hub page, have a look at the poems in the left hand side bar where the other Tuesday Poets hang out. Enjoy!

6 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem – Black Chalk – James Brown”

  1. Hi Helen,
    Yes it is paired right down isn’t it. James said one of his interests in writing it was brevity. It has the effect of giving a strong emphasis to the words, making them count. I like the word spare….it’s so lean isn’t it! Thanks for the comment Helen:-)

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