Cycling in the Maniototo

I wouldn’t care to hear
why it’s said we’re here
in case it ruins
what it feels like now.

The meaning of life
being played out
on the undulations between
Ranfurly and Kyeburn

on a bristly summer’s day
is not part of the
metaphysical agenda
as far as I know.

There’s no need to worship
the God of all gracious things:
the only one worth
honouring is the will

to keep on resolutely
keeping on. I baa at sheep,
shout at magpies, moo
with cattle, marvel at

the panache of hawks
riding the air above
the Ida Range. And I ride,
my legs going round

faster than in months,
the sou’easter a helpful
lick and flutter, and
past Wedderburn,

on the gentle incline
down the straights
to Oturehua, in the distance
the skyline of the Old Man Range

is a high wire
on which the last
of the snow is caught
like strands of wool.

Brian Turner’s varied interests are reflected in his many published books. In addition to collections of poems, these include sporting biographies – which have been highly praised – and a memoir, Somebodies and Nobodies, about growing up in southern New Zealand.

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, received an Arts Council Scholarship in Letters in 1994, and in 1997 was Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury.

Turner comments: ‘I wrote this poem in my head one brilliantly sunny day in spring 2004. I was out training on my road racing bike in the Maniototo district in Central Otago where I live. I felt fitter than usual and exhilarated, imbued with gratitude and wonder and a love of the place. I tried to capture, in the form and rhythm of the poem, something of the cadence of pedalling through this remarkable landscape, and chart part of the course of what it means to me to be alive in a place as distinctive as any I know, and am still discovering.’

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