The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls, by Kate Camp

The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls, by Kate Camp (Fiction & Literature)

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Shortlisted for the 2011 New Zealand Book Award for Poetry

The first Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls caused its author to be burnt at the stake for heresy in 1310. Kate Camp’s fourth collection of poems demonstrates a darker turn in the work of this popular poet. Shortlisted for the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award, it establishes her in the front rank of New Zealand poets.

Kate Camp is the author of three previous collections of poems, Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars, Realia and Beauty Sleep, the essay On Kissing, and Kate’s Klassics.

From The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls, by Kate Camp

Mute song

i

The first time I saw you

I don’t know which I loved more

you with your tranquil neck

calmly transporting yourself through the world

or the one who followed you everywhere

trolling the dark waters like a hook.

ii

The strange thing was that

as each other’s opposite and negative

we were even visible

I with my tatty winter coat

smelling of reeds

you consisting entirely of surfaces

or should I say one fabulously curved surface

smooth and white as an egg.

iii

I have no idea what you saw when you looked at me

a shadow dully pursued by the shape that cast it

a placeholder reserving a space from nonexistence.

Perhaps you saw God’s fearsome ability

to be absent, his morosely taken option

to hoard his riches in another universe.

In anyone else, such a thought would be absurd.

In your case, it was luminous and adorable

shining in the dark location known as me.

iv

It was inevitable I would follow you

the sound of laughing that came

though you never laughed

the sweet nonsensical conversations

in which you remained impassively silent

the pointless journeys you took

your eyes perfectly round.

My desire was the desire to be superlative

I, who had spent years in domestic craft

became selfishly single-minded as an artist

inflicting your beauty on myself

like some ecstatic adolescent

cutting her arm with a pocket knife.

v

At night I would disappear.

You and the moon would glow.

I hated to think of the dark

covering you over like a mouth.

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