HomeTuning Wordsworth’s Piano

Buy Now

Tuning Wordsworth’s Piano

On an unlikely pilgrimage, a cycling tour to find a poet’s unmarked crib, Jane Simpson discovers a landscape at once less Romantic, and more lyrical than the ‘unspoilt Nature’ seen by tourists at scenic spots. Unexpected turns draw the reader into the worlds of goddess religions, pre-contact Māori society and western Christianity; and into the intimate world of family relationships. In the final section, where the sun and stars sing at the marriage of gay people in the Church, Wordsworth’s piano is tuned to the harmony of the spheres.

ISBN 97819215231915 (PB, 60pp);
140mm x 216mm
AUD $25 USD $18 NZD $27 GBP £12 EUR €14
ISBN 97819215231922 (eBook) AUD $12 USD $9 NZD $14 GBP £6 EUR €7


Jane Simpson’s new collection of poems is a gift for her elderly father, a retired Professor of Fine Arts, silversmith, bibliophile. How are we to remember a lifetime together? Perhaps as ‘a lacquered bowl, chipped, like memories.’ Herein is poetry as the servant of time, as the heart of a daughter.
– Bernadette Hall

A remarkably consistent expression of intelligent feeling. Jane Simpson has a very deft way of conflating landscape with language, instanced in the lively ‘cycling the Catlins’ sequence. Honest, unabashed religious poems are also a refreshing component. On the evidence of this volume, she has further strengths ahead of her.
– Tony Beyer

Jane Simpson

Jane Simpson grew up in New Zealand in a home filled with art and lively debate. Her art-educator parents emigrated from England just after she was born. She has a PhD (Otago) in religion and gender in NZ (1939–59) and has taught social history and religious studies in universities in Australia and New Zealand. Her poems and academic articles have been published in books, anthologies and journals both within New Zealand and internationally, including takahē, Poetry New Zealand and Meniscus. Her chapbook, Candlewick kelp, was published by Poets Group in 2002, and her first full-length collection, A world without maps, by Interactive Publications in 2016. She has an adult son, and currently teaches academic writing as a Senior Tutor at Lincoln University.


Tuning Wordsworth's piano

Unspoilt Nature is nature writ too small;
nature at our feet;
nodding daffodils saying ‘Yes’,
green the obverse of grey paths
in the Victorian Botanical Gardens
where children cavort and disks wheel,
Orphic artists paint concentric circles,
create the sun – sing the music
of the spheres.

A student flat, in a Christchurch winter

The flames entertained us, better
than any television set
in the days of black and white,
stoned, zoned out
making shapes from flames, like
people with crooked noses
in the clouds, or the man in the moon.
Philip Clairmont’s hessian fireplace
hangs from nails in the Christchurch Art Gallery,
full of demonic eyes
and flames licking,
painted under artificial light.

Unmarked crib

The sou’west exhausts all adjectives
at Hone’s crib,

his writing shed smooth
as a fridge, held fast
with a lock, and key left in.

Lean-tos encrust the house.
A lull then a gift – a wind
that blows kisses over weatherboards
bearded with lichen.

The storm leaves love bites,
broken palings a hasty repair –
mark the spot with an x.

Sonnenizio on a line by R. S. Thomas

I have seen the sun break through
and stretch at sunset across evergreen
space, then dress a single holly tree with sunburst berries;
been stopped by stage light flooding a sun-starved city – ginko,
green, blue, indigo – notes on an unsung score; sensed harmony
in sunflowers and the nautilus – the golden mean;
tasted the Son’s new wine, pure extravagance, where
once austere theologies were Sunday best.
Did God not put the sunbow in the sky? In an ancient church
the priest wraps hands, two sons are exchanging vows:
what God has joined together let not man put asunder.
Steeple bells are heard beyond the sun and stars.
The sun’s absence – scented nights, rumpled air, a couple wed;
men, not the sun, rising from their marriage bed.