The barn roof needs painting
and the spouting is ruined.
Likewise the roof of this house
in which we live, borer here,
rot there. I’m neither handy
in the great Kiwi DIY tradition,
nor monied, which rather leaves
us up shit creek without a shovel.
I grub to find what Stevens called
the ‘plain sense of things’
and come up empty-handed
more often than not, but
I’m a dab-hand at recognising,
if not suppressing, self-pity,
and I can back a trailer
expertly, so all is not lost.
Brian Turner was born in Dunedin in 1944 and lives at Sawyers Bay in Otago. He is a freelance journalist, editor, and writer whose varied output includes non-fiction books, TV scripts and several volumes of poetry. His journalism has appeared in the New Zealand Listener, North and South, Metro, Sunday Times, National Business Review, The Independent, Evening Post, The Dominion, the Otago Daily Times , The Press, Fish and Game New Zealand and elsewhere. He has written on a diversity of subjects: sport, recreation, conservation, current affairs and literature among them.
His poetry has appeared in a great many publications in New Zealand and overseas. His awards include the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 1993 and the Commonwealth Poetry Prize in 1979. He was Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago in 1984, and in 1985 he won the John Cowie Memorial Award for Playwriting. In 1994 he was awarded an Arts Council Scholarship in Letters, and in 1997 he was writer-in-residence at the University of Canterbury. In the 70s he won the Dulux Prize for Sports Journalism. He is working on new poems, a memoir, a collection of his writings on trout fishing and a book on the All Black rugby “legend” Colin Meads.
Of “Semi-Kiwi” he comments: “What to say about it that isn’t obvious? It is fairly obvious that it is meant to be read as a wry self-evaluation. Occasionally I’ve been irritated by women who expect New Zealand males to be all-round handymen, do-it-yourselfers. There’s an implication that you’re not a ‘real man’ unless you can replace weather-boards on your house, put up spouting, scrape and paint the roof, chop down a tree, and so on and on. The irony is I can and have done all those things, and more, but I don’t think it’s fair to make it a cultural and gender requirement. But it is, oh yeah! The poem is also about, to me, the need to be aware of and mock one’s inadequacies — not to take oneself seriously all the time.”