Muse by Craig Ranapia


On First Looking into Elizabeth Smither's The Commonplace Book (After Elizabeth Bishop)

(The Commonplace Book: A Writer's Journey through Quotations, Elizabeth Smither. Auckland University Press. ISBN: 978-1-86940-476-5 RRP: $34.99)


The art of losing’s impossible to master;

but we become devoted amateurs, in our way,

so the battle won and lost is no disaster.


Keep a diary, carry a notebook.  Bluster,

if you must, but why waste another day

when the art of losing’s impossible to master?


There’s nothing commonplace about a modest answer,

In places, and names, what others think and say.

That flirtation,(I’ve made a note), is no disaster.


Hunting for a rhyme, I look up “luster”

— polish, cut glass, reflected light — a play

of the mind I’ve never learned to master.


The poet’s question is put obliquely, changing colour,

and why should a poet’s prose be any other way?

Writing in a 1A8 exercise book is no disaster.


— Even losing friends, cat and keys, finding another

life in the wide margins, both sad and gay,

Makes the art of losing a little easier to master.

Which, like an inquisitive sea, is no disaster.


(Yes, it is damnable cheek praising one of New Zealand's best poets -- and certainly my favourite -- with a rather clunky homage to my other beloved poetic Elizabeth.  I only hope Smither -- and the shade of Bishop -- accept this limp posey in the intended spirit of sincere and deep admiration.)

DISCLOSURE: Many thanks to Auckland University Press for providing a review copy.  Just for the record, they are stubbornly unforthcoming with other inducements to critical corruption. I do have a price -- just ask.)

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