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For : Pyramid Scheme

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Poetry Magazine Newsletter Banner
February 20, 2018
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Image of the February 2018 issue of Poetry magazine.
The February 2018 issue is devoted to New Zealand poets.

Bill Manhire’s “Polly” is a study of birds and words: early on, a parrot chants “pretty pretty pretty.” Throughout the poem, Manhire follows that chirpy example, rhyming and repeating terms. “Tip” appears twice and “pretty” four times, chiming with “nitty,” “gritty,” “city,” and “committee.” 

To a parrot, “pretty” could mean pretty much anything, and Manhire’s theme is the slipperiness of language. He ponders what to call things: “I take stuff to the dump … or maybe it’s the tip?”—a term for “dump” in New Zealand English. He also uses “tip” in another sense: “a bar where you ought to leave a tip.” And he concludes with an illuminating tweak of a statement by WWI poet Wilfred Owen. Owen wrote: “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.” For Manhire, though, “the poetry is … in the pretty”—a similar-sounding word whose totally distinct definition transforms Owen’s observation. Is it now as meaningless as the bird cry that it parrots?

Then again, perhaps there’s no source of meaning like the confusions surrounding language. “It isn’t the world that makes us think,” Manhire writes, “it’s words that we can’t come up with.”
Image of the poet Bill Manhire.
I know I find it hard to listen. / I read too much. I often need a drink.
By Bill Manhire
Image of the poet Hera Lindsay Bird.
I know you hate the domestic in poetry but you should have thought of that before you invited me to move in with you.
By Hera Lindsay Bird
Image of the poet Robert Sullivan.
They forgave me, not that it matters.
By Robert Sullivan
Image of the poet Anna Jackson.
For an eternity / when i was young / i only read books by men / now i’ve turned on them / the page i mean.
By Janet Charman
Image of the poet Essa Ranapiri.
And this was the day / the lord made / the scuttling crab.
By Gregory O’Brien and John Puhiatau Pule
Image of the poet James Brown.
You yearn so much / you could be a yacht.
By James Brown
Image of the poet Daisy Fried.
On recent books by Geoff Cochrane, Tusiata Avia, Claire Orchard, Hera Lindsay Bird, and Bill Manhire.
By Daisy Fried
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The editors discuss Hera Lindsay Bird’s poem “Pyramid Scheme” from the February 2018 issue of Poetry.
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From the Editors' Blog

Reading List: Contributors to the February 2018 issue share some recommendations.

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