yet another poem about a giraffe

pity the poor giraffe
lost on the frozen steppe

his wishbone legs
make pipe-holes in the snow

the stunted furze
laughs at his reaching neck

for Africa is
sixty degrees below

the hoarfrost catches
in his soulful lashes

his brown eyes lost
beneath the arctic moon

his blotched hide a map
of hopeless wishes

the swishing tail
a pendulum of doom

so he stands withstands
the bitter polar blast

that rips the fluttering
pages of his dreams

the flickering pixels
of a brilliant past

when the world was warm
and still and green

LISTEN to ‘yet another poem about a giraffe’ by James Norcliffe

James Norcliffe has published six collections of poetry, most recently Rat Tickling, (Sudden Valley Press, 2003) Along Blueskin  Road (Canterbury University Press, 2005), and Villon in Millerton(Auckland University Press, 2007); and several novels for young people most recently The Assassin of Gleam (Hazard Press, 2006) and The Loblolly Boy (Longacre, 2009).

He has been a long time editor for Takahe magazine and is the poetry editor for The Press. With Alan Bunn and more recently Tessa Duder, he edits the annual ReDraft anthologies of writing by young people.

He has twice won the New Zealand Poetry Society's International Poetry competition, and has been shortlisted for Montana New Zealand Book Awards Poetry prize. With Bernadette Hall he was presented with a Press Literary Liaisons Honour Award for lasting contribution to literature in the South Island.

He has been awarded writing fellowships both in New Zealand and overseas, publishes poetry widely internationally and regularly reads at festivals and occasions throughout New Zealand and beyond.

Norcliffe comments: 'Yet another poem about a giraffe is essentially a jeu d'esprit. I rather like the  way rhyme can generate feeling, in this case that wobbly territory between pathos and bathos. The poem was prompted by a famous poem by the Russian Acmeist poet Nikolai Gumilev, for a period husband of Anna Akhmatova. Gumilev travelled to Africa a number of times and wrote many poems with African settings and about African creatures. Gumilev's The Giraffe, perhaps written to cheer Akhmatova up, stresses the grace and wonder of the giraffe in its tropical home far from the "heavy mists" of Russia. I thought it would be fun to imagine the giraffe in Russia.'

Poem source details >



New Zealand Book Council writer file
The Cincinnati Review  (You must have the free software Macromedia Flash Player version 8 installed to view this site.)