Two adorable things about Mozart
First: he's straight into it. No preamble
ever, as if he's saying: there's plenty more
where that came from. You can bank on it.
And secondly: how he drags something
like heavy fabric, like a train behind him
up stone stairs to a window with a view of graves.
Elizabeth Smither has published 15 collections of poetry, including A Pattern of Marching (Auckland University Press, 1989), winner of the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 1990 and The Lark Quartet (AUP, 1999), winner of the Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry in 2000. She was the first woman Te Mata Estate Poet Laureate and her laureate collection, Red Shoes(Godwit, 2003), was published at the conclusion of her two-year term (2001–2003). Her most recent collection is The Year of Adverbs (AUP, 2007).
In 2004 she received an Hon D. Litt from Auckland University and in 2008 she was awarded the Prime Minister's Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry.
Smither comments: 'I've always loved (adored) the music of Mozart. The editor of The Raven Chronicles (vol 14, no 1: Legacies) queried "adorable" as being over-the-top but I managed to convince her (I am a most excellent rationaliser) that it suited Mozart's own extravagant exuberant gestures, his fondness for practical jokes. And Les Murray thought I was clever to use such a word, one he would hardly dare to employ. He sent me a homemade card with a frog when I told him if anyone could use "adorable" it was him. "A compliment such as you just paid me is liable to turn one of my sort into a prince!"
Mozart composed at speed – he was working on his last Requiem (K. 626) (which the commissioner intended to pass off as his own work) when he died. So there is never any preamble because none is necessary. Mozart had a talent that was yards long: the more he wrote the more he could write, from an inexhaustible store of musicality. He truly composes like an angel. "You can bank on it" refers to his efforts to continually raise money, going cap in hand to the bank.
"I'm not sure I get the last stanza" a friend told me and while I was trying to explain it to her I thought of the Jupiter symphony (K. 551), the way it has a dragging, braking sound while at the same time the melody pours on. Or, the deep notes, that signify that the time of reckoning approaches for Don Giovanni. Didn't Mozart himself say: "Art lies in expressing everything, the sad as well as the gay, the horrible as well as the enchanting, in forms which remain beautiful". Cloaks and stone stairs, a window with a view of graves. There is nothing that Mozart could not include.
This is a very long explanation for a very short poem.
Raven Chronicles: Vol. 14. No. 1: Legacies
New Zealand Book Council writer file
Best New Zealand Poems 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007
nzepc – New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre: online work
New Zealand Electronic Text Centre: online work