Tuesday Poem: ‘A Late Walk, Matapouri Track’ by Martin Porter

A Late Walk, Matapouri Track

To enter, I badly needed
Vixen nerves,
The courage of midnight,
A shadow path
Into the hollow clearings,
The stink of den deepening
With the starless darkness.

Mortified I imagine hands,
Feel the pelt forest,
From the fur riven stump,
And something touches
My cold face,eyes,
With sacrificial fingers
Tearing delicately.

I imagine a legend,
Blank heirlooms,
Run through dreams,
The thrill of fronting
A long, distressing,
Hot-house death
A cold loneliness.

In sharp recognition,
A fox-faced sun
Springs into the
Redstained half-light,
Brilliantly red,
Then burnt yellow.

With a deeper cry
My child shadow,
With a sharp history
Alive with her instinct
Of self-preservation,
Her birth-yell.


Martin Porter offers the following commentary about this poem: © Martin Porter 2012

“A Late Walk, Matapouri Track” is a poem written about the Tutukaka coast using words taken excusively from three poems, Ted Hughes “The Thought Fox” (1957), Adrienne Rich “Abnegation” (1969) and Adrienne Rich “Fox” (2001). The challenge was made easier by selecting a range of eras and two different poets, but more difficult as there are no foxes in this area of New Zealand.

Although the limited vocabulary might be seen as a serious constraint, it turned into a remarkably liberating experience, revealing opportunities for metaphors that would have remained invisible otherwise. In some ways, this can be seen as a subordinate of the syntax-semantic-vocabulary model of ekphrasis, but where the semantics and syntax are not constrained, only the vocabulary.

An additional, unexpected, benefit was the development of the concepts by the vocabulary. The development from dark fear to bright relief was steered, but not created, by the available lexicon, but the remaining words revealed an unthought-of opportunity of further investigation into self-realisation, progressing the poem from a merely descriptive piece to one with a moe sophisticated meaning.

More detail of the actual process of writing this poem can be found in my blog “Small Stony Notes and Jottings” here and in additional entries in the same month.

Martin Porter gazes at the sky from the winterless north of New Zealand. A member of writers’ groups in Whangarei and Jersey, he writes mainly poetry and won first prize in the Channel Islands Writers Competition in 2005. Some of his work can be found at Take Flight and Poetry Notes and Jottings.


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7 Responses to Tuesday Poem: ‘A Late Walk, Matapouri Track’ by Martin Porter

  1. Melanie says:

    Reblogged this on Melanie's Blog and commented:
    And the another book? “The light house”?

  2. Pingback: A Late Walk, Matapouri Track | Poetry Notes and Jottings

  3. Andrew Bell says:

    Wow, I wondered as I read about the strange somehow disconcerting imagery, but then reading the explanation made it clear. What an interesting idea and what a great challenge to set oneself. Thanks for posting this intriguing poem, Michelle.

    • martininwhangarei says:

      Thanks, Andrew. The imagery is disconcerting, but taking us out of our comfort zone is one of the great joys of using this form of limited vocabulary poetry.

  4. Helen Lowe says:

    A challenging poem to read, but interesting nonetheless.

    • martininwhangarei says:

      Hi Helen. Many thanks for your perseverance. I feel able to take risks like this because of readers like you who are willing to make the effort to read and appreciate. It is a most rewarding experience to get feedback like this.

  5. Thanks for reading, all! I really like that Martin works his way through such challenges. He’s never afraid to experiment and try out new things.

    Next TP is about to go up today, even if it’s Thursday Poem this week…

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