Congratulations to Kona Macphee: Perfect Blue wins the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize

   
    
 
 
Kona Macphee was born in London in 1969 but grew up in Australia, where she experimented with a range of occupations including composer, violinist, waitress and motorcycle mechanic.
 
Eventually she took up robotics and computer science, which brought her to Cambridge as a graduate student in 1995.
 
She now lives in Perthshire, where she works as a freelance writer and tutor, and moonlights as the co-director of a software and consultancy company.
 
Kona received an Eric Gregory Award in 1998. Her first collection, Tails, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2004, and her second collection, Perfect Blue, was published by Bloodaxe Books in 2010. 
 
 
 
 

  
 
 
In Perfect Blue, Kona Macphee applies her versatile and polished technique to a characteristic diversity of themes – from the natural world to war and politics, from memories of childhood to bittersweet snapshots of everyday life, from wry asides to fantastical flights of narrative fantasy.
 
Her eclecticism is never more apparent than in the ‘Book of Diseases’ sequence, which launches from its simple premise into a delirious medley of forms and subjects.
 
The meticulously crafted lyrical poems of Perfect Blue reflect the growing power of a distinctively original, musical and compassionate voice that laments the transience and fragility of life while celebrating the joy of truly living it.
 
 
 
 
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The invention of the electric chair
 
All the slow purposes that make a tree
were in you once – to grow; to gauge
in every measured angle of your leaves
that moving target, light; to hold
through winter like an indrawn breath; to feel
the buzz of resurrection borne on spring.
 
As neutral wood suborns to dark intents
of blame, in icons hewn and nailed –
the scaffold and the catherine wheel,
the cross and gallows: symbols of
a skill that’s more than carpentry,
and deeply less than human – so, lost tree,
 
this timber rictus of your supple green
has made a foursquare chair. Now history
awaits in thrall the painted scene
that might beatify your sacrifice –
those drooping limbs surrendered to your arms;
that smoking moment held: a Pietà.
  
  
  
This poem was first published in New Welsh Review,
Issue 86, Winter 2009.
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
 
Newsbites
 
These conflicts always stem from faith or race.
(Subtitle: Leading Academic’s views.)
[Now cut to close-up; linger on ravaged face.]
 
There’s fear the growing violence might displace
the farmers, with their yearly crop to lose.
These conflicts always stem from faith or race.
 
Another bombing struck the marketplace
this morning, near the long employment queues.
[Now cut to close-up; linger on ravaged face.]
 
The children here have vanished without trace.
[Slow pan across a blood-stained pile of shoes.]
These conflicts always stem from faith or race.
 
The overflowing camps have no more space
for victims trickling back in ones and twos.
[Now cut to close-up; linger on ravaged face.]
 
The ceasefire holds, but nothing can erase
the painful memories. More in tomorrow’s news.
These conflicts always stem from faith or race.
[Now cut to close-up; linger on ravaged face.]
 
 
 
This poem was first published in Magma, Issue 43, 2009.
 
 
 
 
*
  
  

  
Pheasant and astronomers
 
For GTR
 
 
Burnished, finicky, picking his headbob way
across the asphalt path, into the leafy scrub
behind the twelve-pane window of our office,
 
we can’t not watch his colours in the sunlight.
Our measures and projections fall aside
as coarsest calculus to his most perfect curve;
 
so we observe.
                         Can such a day-star brave
the midnight sky whose glaring spectral eyes
seethe down the invert shrinkage of a telescope,
 
or does he sleep all clouded in the hedgerows’
straight-line rays of green restraint to roads
that sling his slow kin cockeyed in the gutter?
 
On foot and unconcerned, he patters out of view,
out of our world again; the sunlit room
falls just a lumen dimmer with his passing.
 
 
 
This poem also appears in the Identity Parade anthology
from Bloodaxe Books.
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
 
Marchmont Road
 
Above the tarmacked voids that breach
the ranks of tenements, a reach
 
of sky to which the day has lent
a calibrated gradient
 
of northern blue. Along the road
the pelt of antlike cars is slowed:
 
a hearse in mirror-faultless gloss
precedes its cavalcade of loss,
 
and while this dark skein passes, I
cast out for where its gist might lie …
 
Stop it. No moment must encore
itself in some pert metaphor.
 
Suspend that distanced commentary.
Take a deep breath. Now be here. Be.
 
 
 
This poem was first published in Northwords Now,
Issue 13, December 2009.
  
 
 
 
*

 
  
Order Perfect Blue here or here.
 
Visit Kona’s website.
 
Visit Kona’s blog, that elusive clarity.
 
 
 
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