Hall, Bernadette

New Zealand, (b. 1945)


such is the language
of exigency
you wash and cut
& core yellow pears
you could do
with a pig
white & cool
as ointment
the lawn is
littered with them
 Bernadette Hall. The Persistent Levitator. Wellington, NZ: Victoria UP (1994).

Editor’s Note:

Bernadette Hall described the creation of this poem in Sport, a New Zealand literary magazine in 1992. An image of the poem with stanzas numbered is included below to ease the visualization Hall gives of several different ways the poem can be structured:

One day I sat listening to a friend who was calmly and very rationally unravelling an emotional tangle. As he talked, he peeled a pear, fastidiously stripping back the skin with the long slow sweeps of a kitchen knife. I remember thinking, ‘Hey your solutions are too neat. The real world is full of mess and muddle.’ And being mischievous, I wanted to show him some.

I wrote two sentences on separate sheets of paper which lay apart in a folder for over a year till one day I introduced them to each other. They PAGE 126 huddled uncomfortably in a skinny little poem which never looked much until one day my typewriter grabbed it and threw it sideways into the shape of a dart. Just like this:


Checking up on it a few weeks later, I suddenly realised that the poem was in fact just like a reversible jacket. It could be worn three different ways: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5; or 1, 3, 2, 4, 5; or 1, 3, 5, 2, 4. Somehow this gaggle of words had insisted on their own structure and in doing so presented me with a joke I could never imagine.

‘Poetry is the great enemy of chance in spite of also being a daughter of chance and knowing that, in the last resort, chance will win the battle.’ (Italo Calvino) Such is the mystery of the process. And better after all to just ‘Cut the cackle and get weaving!’

 Bernadette Hall. “Tiny Signals on Paper”, SPORT 9: Spring 1992. Fergus Barrowman, editor. Wellington, NZ.

About the Poet:

Bernadette Hall, New Zealand (b. 1945) is a poet and playwright. After receiving an MA in Classics from University of Otago, she began her professional life as high school teacher of Latin, Classical Studies and English in a number of high schools in Dunedin and then in Christchurch.

Hall did not start writing full-time until in her forties. She published her first poetry collection in 1989 and retired from teaching in 2004. Hall has since published over ten poetry collections and edited several. Her work has been widely anthologized nationally and internationally, including eight times in Best New Zealand Poems.

Best known for her poetry, she is also an award-winning playwright and her short fiction has appeared in Sport and been produced on National Radio.
For 10 years Hall was also the poetry editor of Takahē magazine. Subsequently, for five years she was poetry editor for The Press, Christchurch’s main daily newspaper. [DES-02/18]

Additional information:

A random image of a pig, hog, boar or swine from the collection at Porkopolis.