Tuesday Poem: 'A Little Pneumonia' by Jan Kemp

A little pneumonia
to Katherine Mansfield

The German for lung is Lungenflügel - lungwing -
clever you, Katy, calling it your ‘wing’ to fly. Now,

one of mine’s infected too & antibiotics will kill
all those bacteria, well, on the wing. Also cures

gonorrhoea, would have cured your TB & you’d
have had more life, looking in death's face at 34:

‘shall I try to get up, if I do will I cough,
if I cough I can’t breathe,’ ‘lift my head Ida,’

‘say it pathetically, please’ (you quote yourself)
into the pillow. ‘I’ve got to try.’ Your will, that steel.

Lunch over, having to lie down again, (know what
you mean & me a swimmer. Lungs!), then,

all those stories like mist off the land
lifting up to your pen; then, all that quick,

fine, flying work till they found
their places: your children of the sun.

Jan Kemp: Voicetracks, Puriri Press (Auckland) dennyjhs@xtra.co.nz
 & Tranzlit (Kronberg im Taunus) tranzlit@iconz.co.nz (2012)

I'm currently in New Zealand and I thought it would be really good to feature some NZ poets while I'm over here.  The first was Helen Lowe and the second is Jan Kemp.  I loved this poem when she first published it in the Katherine Mansfield Society Newsletter.  Jan's just been over to the UK to record some of her poems for the Poetry Archive.  A Little Pneumonia is now included in Jan's latest collection of poetry, Voicetracks, which can be ordered from the publisher below.  Also her previous collection Dante's Heaven.  The title poem is here the subject of a painting by Richard Bavin - beautiful! 
Tranzlit, Kronberg im Taunus, Germany
<www.tranzlit.de> <www.tranzlit.com>
email: <jantranzlit@iconz.co.nz>

For those who haven't yet read Jan's work.  She was born in Hamilton, New Zealand, in 1949. She was the sole woman anthologized in The Young New Zealand Poets (1973), and in 1979 co-starred with Alistair Campbell, Hone Tuwhare, and Sam Hunt on a national poetry-reading tour. During the next two decades, while the gender balance among New Zealand poets spectacularly changed, she taught in universities in the South Pacific, Asia, and Europe. For nine years she was based at the National University of Singapore. More recently, married to eminent professor and analyst of postcolonial literature in English, Dieter Riemenschneider, she and her husband shuttled between the two hemispheres, with bases in Frankfurt and Auckland, finally settling outside Frankfurt in September 2007.

For more Tuesday Poems, please pop over to the Tuesday Poem Hub and see what the other members are posting. 


  1. An awesome poem...love this German word Lungenflügel - lungwing - And the way she shifts between Katherine and the present.
    enjoy your trip.:-)

  2. As far as I know, the German word for lung is Lunge. A Lungenflügel would be a lobe of the lung.


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