January 14, 2017
Michael O’Leary recently contributed his poem and the below drawing (Blonde on Blonde) in honour of Bob Dylan, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and an elegy for Leonard Cohen, to Poetry Notes, Spring 2016 (Newsletter of the Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa).
The Bob Dylan poem also appears in Phantom Billsticker’s Cafe Reader, Summer 2016, and the Cohen elegy in Tony Chad’s Valley Micropress, December 2016.
BOB DYLAN, A VISITATION
With my ear to the future
And my mind to the past
Sitting twenty rows back
and up high
I could feel the real visions of Johanna
From the ancient times
When the nuns had us sing
The answer is blowing in the wind
the Jews and the Catholics
Have fought pitched battles over my soul
And out on Highway Sixty One
Or along any lonesome railway track
The songs remain like freight cars
to be sung or shunted
Along the weary lines of a human face
Echoes of Mr. Yeats’ hymn
And a thousand singsong others
Expressing in thought, word, music
like your friend, Woody
The all too familiar taste of dust and death
Recalling the desolate row
Of houses in Margaret Street
Now either destroyed or gentrified
must we really move
Into the Ponsonby of the new, shallow mind
Later, you entered the ‘her’
Part of my life also
With a precious angel
now gone, but then
I was the man in the long black coat
From all you need is love minus zero
To being sick of love
Then, on one more night
you took us from Maggie’s farm
To forever young, as a simple reminder
Now there’s even talk of
Cranking up the Oldsmobile
For so long stuck inside, and
up the central plateaux
To Auckland, the Great Arsehole, sacred
Okay, Mister Room Man
Play a song for us
Say a prayer too, as you
wing your own way
Earthbound, heavenwards soaring beyond
For always talking the blues
To your Jews and Gypsies
All those masters of war
old Hitler, Stalin, and yes
The President of the U.S. does sometimes stand naked
Through all the years’ confusions
Of ideas and people and events
To this present listening
so many things have happened
While you just keep on singing to my sister’s alarm
I’m glad to come and see you
To tip my hat to the master’s hand
With my rainy day woman
asleep on my shoulder
Times have changed so much, they’ve remained the same
SO LONG LEONARD COHEN
Beginning life as a middle-class son
Comfortable in your Jewish Catholicism
Tailor-made for the family’s business
You chose the more difficult artist’s path
Through the Montreal poetry scene
You played youth’s favourite games
Slim volumes proffering Flowers for the Führer:
Eichmann’s normal human perversions
More polite than the gutter snipe
Rock and rollers, who said they joined
A band to get laid: young Cohen said
He played music to meet women
In the late 1960s when every belief
Came to an end: when The Beatles’ apple
Turned to pulp without the future fiction
You came along with a song from a room
A muse, in the real sense of ‘to amuse’
Someone who spoke openly about thought
And feeling, perhaps here was a poet
Who wasn’t alive a hundred years ago
Who wasn’t ‘beat’ or rock ‘n roll, exactly
But came so far, with a Spanish guitar,
With a seductive voice and lyric to match –
Existential, if you’ll pardon the expression
So all our Suzanne’s took us all down
To our own lands of rags and feathers;
Remembering well that Chelsea Hotel,
New York and the tragic taste of success
You went into God’s Hamburger Bar in
The city of Angels, wanting nothing but
‘One with Everything’ . . . becoming a Buddhist
Monk to escape the world of pain and love
Old songs and new could not be suppressed
So you returned to the world to bring them,
To sing them to audiences old and new
Hallelujah, Hallelujah: from below and above
Dancing to the end of love, you twirled
Full circle, singing so long Marianne, by e-mail
As she lay dying, remembering Greek Isles
Sunshine and smiles, farewell dreaming
It’s now as dark as you want it, Leonard
But remember, there’s always that crack
Perhaps you really have come to understand
Now, that’s where the light truly gets in . . .
Poems and drawing copyright Michael O’Leary
November 7, 2015
On Saturday, 24 October 2015, Michael O’Leary’s new book Main Trunk Lines: Collected Railway Poems was launched in tandem with David McGill’s The Death Ray Debacle.
The launch was held at the Paekakariki Station Museum.
A report appears on Beattie’s Book Blog:
September 6, 2015
The Paekakariki Arts Walk was opened on Sunday 30 August 2015.
Michael O’Leary appeared at the opening and blessing for the project. Michael, a significant local artist, is included in the walkway with his poem ‘Track Gang & Shunters at Paekakariki’ .
Here’s a link to the website about the project:
September 5, 2015
Michael O’Leary’s collected railway poems Main Trunk Lines has been released through HeadworX Publishers in Wellington. Copies of the new paperback edition can be ordered direct from HeadworX, email: firstname.lastname@example.org See information and details on the book below:
New Book Information from HeadworX
Title: Main Trunk Lines: Collected Railway Poems
Author: Michael O’Leary
Editor: Mark Pirie
Release: September 2015
Extent: 80 pages
Category: NZ Fiction
About the Book
Michael O’Leary’s new book is the first to collect his entire oeuvre of New Zealand railway poems.
Spanning over 30 years of his writing, it runs the length of the railway in Aotearoa and depicts many of the country’s railway stations and towns.
The central poem of the book is O’Leary’s sequence Station to Station, a cognac dedicated to the rock artist David Bowie.
Mark Pirie writes in the foreword: “Michael’s poems take the reader on their own rail journey, stopping from station to station and recording the life and times of the people and places around them. But the train can also be a metaphor for life, the great journey we are all part of which encompasses both love and death. There’s no stopping for long with Michael, as the next train arrives and the next journey awaits.”
O’Leary’s well-known love of all things rail led him to become a trustee for the Paekakariki Station Museum after he settled on the Kapiti Coast in the 1990s. He currently operates Kakariki Bookshop next to the Paekakariki Station Museum.
‘I don’t know of any living New Zealand writer who is a bigger railway enthusiast.’ – Iain Sharp, Sunday Star-Times
About the Editor
Mark Pirie is a New Zealand poet, editor, writer and publisher. Website: www.markpirie.com
Cover photo by W W Stewart, A P Godber collection, Turnbull Library
May 20, 2014
Michael O’Leary recently contributed his drawing of Northern Irish footballer George Best (above) and a poem on the 1967 Manchester United visit to New Zealand to a special football issue of broadsheet: new new zealand poetry.
The issue edited by fellow poet/publisher Mark Pirie comprises a selection of football poetry from 1890-2014, focusing mainly on New Zealand football by New Zealand poets.
Others who’ve contributed include Gary Langford, Harry Ricketts, James Brown, John Gallas, John Dickson, Bill O’Reilly, Grant Sullivan, Harvey Molloy, Tim Jones, Dylan Groom and Pirie himself. Former New Zealand All White Michael Groom has written the foreword.
The Night Press, Wellington, has published the special issue to coincide with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. It will be available from May online as a free download pdf as well as in a limited print edition. Website: http://broadsheetnz.wordpress.com
Here is Michael’s poem:
MANCHESTER UNITED VS AUCKLAND 1967
In 1967 the football club Manchester United played a game
Against an Auckland Eleven they were expected to tame
And although they did in the end win eight goals to one
Seeing ‘The Beatles’ of the football world was great fun
For as a teenager I had always preferred the round ball code
Rather than the rugger that ‘everybody else’ in New Zealand chose
And watching the ‘Beautiful Game’ in that ‘Summer of Love’
Brought music and sport together as if to finally prove
That a show in front of more than 26,000 at Carlaw Park
Watching Soccer could be like a rock concert where the spark
Of enthusiasm is ignited by an ultimate, primal, human desire
To belong, as in olden days when people gathered around a fire
Thus, the world’s most famous and celebrated sport was seen
In Auckland at a time of love and music and the world of dream
DB NZ Soccer Annual 1975: ‘Manchester United came to New Zealand, hammered both its opponents [Auckland 8-1 and NZ 11-0] and introduced soccer supremo George Best to the country. That United team had all the stars: Best, Charlton, Law, Stiles, Stepney, Aston, Foulkes, Crerand, Kidd … the list seemed endless.’ Charlie Dempsey was the director of tours for the NZFA and the AFA.
October 30, 2012
Michael O’Leary has been included in the anthology, Notes for the Translators: Poems from 142 New Zealand and Australian Poets.
The book is intended to be offered to Chinese mainstream publishers for translation.
O’Leary’s poem is ‘Nuclear Family’ – a speculative fiction poem on apocalyptic war.
Notes for the Translators was collected and edited by Christopher (Kit) Kelen of the University of Macao, China. It also features other leading New Zealand and Australian poets like Les A Murray, John Kinsella, David Eggleton, James Norcliffe, Chris Wallace-Crabbe, Mark Pirie and Niel Wright.
October 30, 2012
Michael O’Leary (pictured above, c1970s) recently published a book of his artwork over the last 40 years. It is accompanied by descriptions of his art along with key extracts from his poems that relate to his artworks.
It has an introduction by art curator Gregory O’Brien and was launched at John Quilter’s Bookshop, Ghuznee Street, Wellington, on Saturday 21 July 2012. It is available from Michael at email@example.com
Here is part of O’Brien’s introduction to the book. The title of the essay is a nod to Maurice Duggan’s story ‘O’Leary’s Orchard’:
When Charles Barr wrote that ‘all criticism involves distortion,’ he probably wasn’t thinking of the kind of distortion Jimi Hendrix utilised in ‘Voodoo Chile’ or ‘Star Spangled Banner’. Forget about the small metal box on the stage floor, equidistant between the Fender Stratocaster and the Marshall Stack. Barr was talking of the gnarly, misshapen kind of criticism against which Charles Baudelaire railed over a century earlier. In his 1846 review of the Paris Salon, the father of modern art-writing laid it on the line: ‘I sincerely believe that the best criticism is that which is amusing and poetic; not that cold and algebraic kind which, under the pretext of explaining everything, displays neither hate nor love…’ Thus the best account of a painting can well be a sonnet or an elegy. Of similar mind, the American painter Fairfield Porter put it another way: ‘Aesthetics should be, or I think I prefer to say, is, a collection of personal remarks, avoiding systems and extrapolations…’
In attempting a critical introduction to this sampling of Michael O’Leary’s diverse visual/verbal output, I would—channeling the benevolent spirits of Baudelaire and Porter—embrace and celebrate the effects and distortions of the work but without, I hope, distorting
the work further. Instead I would offer the reader/viewer a few vistas from the periphery of this munificent orchard, and corral a few thoughts appropriate to such a zone of carefully considered moves and virtuosic mishaps (‘what is the life of the mind but a history of
interesting mistakes,’ wrote Hugh Kenner) so that we might follow Michael O’Leary on his ’eccentric orbit’, to borrow an astrological term well-suited to his artistic progress, his trajectory through the inner and outer world of things.
Needless to say, Michael is on the side of the makers rather than the annotators, elaborators and explainers. He places himself firmly in the grand tradition of artists who invent their own tradition. That said, he has inherited an assortment of character traits from Romanticism. Like Rimbaud or Mallarme, he is capable of the ecstasies of artistic creation and a euphoric immersion in nature or human company or music (the Beatles, Kurt Cobain…). Like Yayoi Kusama, from time to time he finds himself ‘obliterated in the dancing swarm of fireflies’. When the need arises, an inner need, he can also rally the troops, shake the battlements, blow the trumpet—just like Ken Bolton: ‘Unemployed at last!’ Or, again, like Kusama: ‘Love Forever Girls! Adolescence is on the way!’ Or Mallarme: ‘A lovely drunkenness enlists me to raise, though the vessel lists, this toast on high and without fear. / Solitude, rocky shoal, bright star…’
Title: ARTIST: Artworks and words
Author: Michael O’Leary
Extent: 60 pages
Publication: July 2012
Publisher: Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop
March 6, 2012
The poem ‘Rubesahl’ and an extract from the novel Unlevel Crossings by Michael O’Leary appears on the following blog Aotearoa Affair Blog Carnival with links:
January 17, 2012
Two poems by Michael O’Leary appear in broadsheet 8 (November 2011).
The first ‘From P.H. D. to PhD’ is a ballad relating the accomplishment of his recent PhD at Victoria University of Wellington’s Gender and Women Studies Dept.
The second poem ‘The Last 48 Seconds of Kurt Cobain: A Poemumentary’ was first published in Benedict Quilter’s Cobain tribute book Blue Eyed Son (Independent Women Records, Wellington, 2010).
September 3, 2011
Reflections on the effect of the 1981 Springbok Rugby Tour on the mentality of the Kiwi
After work the other night
I was feeling alright
It was pay day so I went down for a drink
To a pub I know right well
And I know the clientele
I thought “I’ll be welcome here tonight I think”
When I first walked in the door
My mate said “Have one more”
Even before a drink had passed my lips.
Another fellow, already frisky
Said, “I’ll get you a whiskey”
And came back with a brandy and some chips.
And so before too long
Conversation and song
Mixed together, with alcohol to lubricate the voice
Have a gin, and have a rum,
Have a beer, a wine, come, come,
It’s my turn now boys what’s your choice?
Soon I was better at talkin’
Than I’d ever been at walkin’
My legs were like my mind, that is not straight.
By now my head was swimmin’
And I was looking at all the women
Thinking, that one, no that one, no that one would be great.
I went out for a wee wee
And I thought, ‘I’m at the Kiwi’
No wonder everything here is so friendly and bright.
And I thought about the past
How often I’d spent my last
Penny here, long ago, every single night.
For when I was a student,
Ernest, right and prudent,
It was coming to this pub that turned me on my head
For I could have been a teacher,
Doctor, lawyer, even a preacher,
But I went to the Kiwi, so I’m a drunken poet and labourer instead
Memories are sad, enough of this!
I thought and finished off my piss.
Having done what’s done I must do what I must do.
As I stumbled to the bar
Which seemed five times as far
I bumped into ten or twenty boys in blue.
I thought, I’ve seen them before
Was it Gisborne, Hamilton or
No, it was just down the road at Eden Park.
And it’s not that long ago
Or is my memory just slow
To forget that cloud that hung over our country long and dark?
Well I tried to have a talk,
And I watched the blues baulk
When they said ‘The manager has asked you to leave.’
The ones who wielded batons
Are the same ones that we spat on
Aotearoa is such an easy place to grieve.
I think I shall not deign
To enter this hotel again
I was so drunk I didn’t want to cause a fuss
When I got outside it cleared my head
I forgot all that had been said
My main preoccupation was to catch a bus