The Harrier Suite


‘She must originally have bought
the potassium cyanide
as a sort of aesthetic caprice, the way

she kept a skull on her dresser
as a young girl.’ (Thomas Mann
on the suicide of his sister, Carla.)

But you misunderstand:
your senses merely paraphrase
a translucent day, an opaque night;

too concerned to compose
an account, you take no account
of translucence, of opacity

because you want to own
you cannot own another, the other,
or the dust it will all come to

but for the harrier, your subject.



The harrier does not enter
space as if it was theatre.
Its fictions are indelicate;
it does not regard
your narcissism, that of your father
as either moral or immoral.

Sometimes the male
dives on the female, forcing her to roll
over and present her claws . . .



He drew the bedclothes
back to view my breasts:
I was frightened but he never grew
tired, I was his

The harrier sees prophecy as parody
and relies on carrion:
‘I saw my self seeing
my self, smelling her
kelpie sex and sulphur . . . ’



As peripatetic emperor the harrier rules
wherever: its subject

the river it follows
follows reformist policies, undermining
the bridge’s foundations

while critics hurry over
from the known to the unknown,
out of their depth.



A commercial traveller
your breath is never
immaterial: you

exhale and take essence
towards substance. The harrier
emancipates day from night,

rising through silence like
a question. Instead of.
And you belong to that ‘of’.



this glasshouse is a map of the world                           this glasshouse is tactile light
curling around the poles: America                              it fuses the sky with the hue of
a perennial at the centre                                      the star-spangled banner
New Zealand floats in a styrofoam tray                        when the long white cloud clears
                                                 the harrier is there

Born in Christchurch (1959), David Howard co-founded both the literary quarterly Takahe and the Canterbury Poets Collective. A past winner of the New Zealand Poetry Society Competition (1987) and a finalist in Ireland’s Davoren Hanna Poetry Competition (2001), five years ago David retired from a career as SFX supervisor for acts such as Metallica and Janet Jackson in order to write from his isolated studio at Purakanui. His books include the out-of-print Shebang (Steele Roberts, 2000) and How To Occupy Our Selves [with Fiona Pardington] (HeadworX, 2003). His long poem ‘There You Go’ was recently set as a cantata for solo female voice & piano by the Czech composer Marta Jirackova. ‘The Harrier Suite’ first appeared in brief #30 (Winter 2004), pp 36-40.

Howard comments: ‘With the lights out it’s less dangerous. At Purakanui I enjoy the indifference of the world to my designs upon it. Here we are now, entertain us. I don’t think so. I feel stupid and contagious. I draft to Nirvana; Kurt Cobain’s lyrics echo Arthur Schopenhauer’s Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung(1819). A theme: the World as Will and Representation. It’s fun to lose and to pretend. While Cobain rages off the page, Thomas Mann’s postscript to suicide is my intro. If it’s reportage (and more) then so is the courtship of the harrier. From July until October I look out:

Sometimes the male
dives on the female, forcing her to roll
over and present her claws . . .

‘Authority. The dictionary declares that a suite is “a composition of several movements only loosely connected”. There is no argument. Instead Mann’s notion of “aesthetic caprice” mediates Cobain’s despair. She’s over bored and self assured. The predatory ambiguity of our manners – ritualized ambition – and the judgement of the harrier, which is categorical. Perhaps. Yay, a denial.’

Poem source details >



nzepc – New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre: online work
New Zealand Book Council writer file
Jacket 25
Philip Mead
Peter Simpson