Poem introduction

To reach Dante's earthly paradise in the Garden of Eden, you must climb the nine circles of Mount Purgatory to the top. I've imagined the tor at Torbay, North Shore City, Auckland as representing Mount Purgatory. A local Maori myth has a young woman waiting for the return of her lover as she sits on the tor watching the sea. Paua is a New Zealand shellfish with a highly iridescent shell.



There you are Beatus ―
grey star on a dusky scarf
the moon halved by a cloud
& us sun-bathing in your palm -
airy, toi-toi, blond feathers
staked like javelins
thrown to mark
a harbour - you are
the harbour & the yachts
in full light at full tilt - or

Orion, sword upside-down
spread-eagled on night blue -
you're the ninth step
of the ninth circle round
the tor, where a girl plaits
& waits for sight of your canoe,
paua eyes on the masthead gleaming
up from under as do those
of swordfish or marlin
or of a sea-god leaping.

from Dante's Heaven (Puriri Press, 2006), copyright © Jan Kemp 2006, used by permission of the author


Jan Kemp

Jan Kemp Reading from her Poems


2Hexandra in recess

3Master of Ceremonies

4Poem for R A K Mason (1905 - 1971)

5Night Poem

6Old Railway Guard

7Turkey Talk

8In golden smock, walking

9Down the first road

10West Coast town


12Walking a beach


14Melanion on the waterfront

15Chagall windows, Fraumunster, Zurich

16To my father, M.H.K.

17Hong Kong sounds

18The other hemisphere

19The dance of hemispheres

20Father's metamorphosis

21Sky crosses, Singapore

22At Kikowhakerere Bay

23The terrible angel


25Song of Noah's wife

26The Ballad of Donna Quixote


28Wedding / Naming / Bells

29Snow or Alles ist klar


31Crux Australis - Te Paki o Autahi - Southern Cross

32Dante's 'heaven'

33'We are all newcomers'

34Our Paradise

35'Naked ladies' near Otama Beach, Coromandel Peninsula

36A pukeko's trip south


38Bowl spoon table

39Best friends

40A childhood secret


42On news of a poet's death: I II IV

43Someone kissed me

44E la selva oscura, non c'e?

45He reads his poem aloud

46Being Beatrice


48crossing fields

49Swiss apple

50Cornish hymn

51on Shepherd's Hill

52blasted harvest

53Millet's L'Angelus

54Red Lamp

55Sue sewing