Some reasons why I got this job
Because I’m charming, elegant, gracious.
Cultivated, strapping, and look good on the box.
Because I haven’t appeared on
This Is Your Life.
Because I don’t sit up late
and watch sad movies on TV.
Because I’ve given the effigies to charity
and thrown away the pins.
Because I’m fast on the bike
and cast very nicely when standing
in ripples in high country streams.
Because footie’s no more important than art.
Because there’s love in a cool climate.
Because I accept that we just have to live with sandflies.
Because, when Americans began talking loudly
outside the motel window at 6:15 this morning
they weren’t threatened with weapons of mass destruction.
Because I’ve been surprised by what I’ve written
and perseverance isn’t to be sneezed at
except when caught in the middle of a bull paddock.
Because there’s no good reason to give up trying
to do the decent thing, now and again.
Because annoyance or irritation
make more sense than anger and outrage.
Because there’s room to do better.
Because we’re not yet lost nor found.
Because my grandmother was scared I was drawn
to depravity, and her husband told me
if I wasn’t careful I’d become an anathema.
Because . . . because this is not the sort of poem
I’m said to write. Or is it?
Brian Turner’s awards include the NZ 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 was Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury. In the Seventies he won the Dulux Prize for Sports Journalism.
He is the Te Mata Estate New Zealand Poet Laureate for 2003-2005.
His most recent books are a biography of rugby legend Colin Meads, a collection of poetry, Taking Off, and a memoir, Somebodies and Nobodies, about growing up in southern New Zealand.
Brian Turner has had a long, active involvement in sport and recreation. He represented New Zealand at hockey in the 1960s and played senior cricket in Wellington and Dunedin. His interests include tramping, mountaineering (his climbs include an ascent of Mt Cook), sailing, cycling and fishing.
He is working on a new collection of poems, and on an account of the life and career of the former All Black rugby captain Anton Oliver.
Brian Turner was born in Dunedin in 1944. He lives in Oturehua in the Ida Valley, Central Otago.
Turner comments: ‘Early in 2003 I was asked if I would accept the position as the Te Mata Estate New Zealand Poet Laureate for 2003-2005. That’s nice, I thought. However, I felt it proper to think about it for a few days, and, when I couldn’t see any good reasons not to accept, I rang John Buck of Te Mata and said I’d be pleased etc etc.
‘A few weeks later I flew to the Hawke’s Bay for my “investiture” – a damned nice lunch with good company, excellent food and splendid Te Mata wines. I spent the night before the function in a local motel where, while eating breakfast, I felt the onset of one of those feelings that, sometimes, means a poem is in the offing. I began to write in my notebook and, half an hour or so later, much of “Some reasons why I got this job” sat there chortling at me. I tinkered with it for a few minutes and shut my book. An hour or two later I had another look at it and wondered if I might just dare read it when accepting the Laureateship. I looked at it again before sitting down to lunch. Generally I don’t find poems written “to order”, as it is said, are much good. Mmm. In the end I decided to risk it.
‘As to the content and tone of the poem, clearly it’s ironic, droll in places (I hope so), and, here and there, satiric. There’s some self-mockery in it, something found in many of my poems, but not often commented on. From time to time I have been irked by the number of critics, and others, who refer to me as a “landscape” or “nature poet”. I don’t mind those terms especially, but they overlook a great deal of the poetry I have written. For instance, the social and political poems, including those so-called “nature” ones that are a reaction against the way in which “nature” has been commodified and, in the process, often wrecked; the poems about human relationships; the love poems, and so on. Best stop here before I really get going and produce a prolonged whinge. But I have to admit I saw the poem’s arrival as a chance to give a few people a mild ticking off while at the same time providing those who had voted to give me the Laureateship the opportunity to smile. Because? Because I can be a mischievous bugger, so I’m told.’