(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.)