Island City: Auckland

I’ve grown to love this place of sea and noise
Where buildings have assumed a regal poise
As high they stab on sultry summer nights
Daring to dim the stars above their lights.
The neons flicker brazen into sky
And tinselled posters twinkle at each eye
Proclaiming that this city is alive
And recommending goods on which you’ll thrive.
At midday pavements throb with office feet
In exodus to cafe bars to eat,
Their owners sipping coolness from the breeze
Which sidles through the streets from polished seas.

The beaches baking lazy to the east
Are spun with birds and shells and picnic feast
Quiescent waves creep gently to the shore
And drowsily retire to ocean floor.
An idle dinghy snoozes at its buoy
And dreams of leading warships in convoy;
And tiny spratt are entertaining thoughts
Of scuttling sharks at underwater sports;
Small birds untaught of Hitchcocks and Spiegels
Are planning to attack some legal eagles.
A feeble wind that scarcely quivers sails
In fancy lashes fearful schools of whales.

But beaches sprawling windswept to the west
Are bitterly symbolic in their quest
For souls to fill the coffers in their church
Where Poseidon reclaims from salty perch.
Here, winds in frenzy whip and splice each mound
And slouching crabs are snooping all around;
And even soft white seabirds lack a grace
As awkwardly they lumber wingéd space.
The jagged rocks stoop ugly from the tide
Where straggling seaweed strangles at each stride
The smould’ring sun the seaside reeds has baked
And smoothest rocks with vicious shells are caked.

These are the beaches of Time and Season
Demented waters of gnashing waves
Fired with reality, wild beyond reason
Conquering humans to be their slaves.


Elegy for Koko the Literate Gorilla who Died June 19, 2018.

The Earth is still, Wind dares not move, for Death
Has laid her claim to treasure rare and bright
Koko, in sleep, gave up her final breath
Alone, but loved by millions day and night.

Not just an ape, a tender loving soul
An ape who loved a kitten called All Ball
An ape who loved to tease and talk and roll
An ape who held admirers in her thrall.

Koko signed with hands and fingers clear
Her happy heart expressed her clever mind
And grieved so when she lost her kitten dear
‘Cat, cry, have-sorry, Koko-love’ she signed.

First named Hanabi-ko for Fireworks Child
By keepers at the San Francisco Zoo
She soon became Koko re-domiciled
In Californian style secure and new.

At Penny’s knee she learned to tell her thought
We marvelled when she tried to sign a word
We followed ev’ry change her learning brought
And thrilled that more she heard, she onward spurred.

She soon had fifty signs she understood
And then a hundred more she quickly learned
As Penny taught her everything she could
To help her to enjoy respect she’d earned.

As ev’ry day more talent she displayed
She added signs and symbols to her game
She added words and lists of thousands made
She learned new sounds and thus increased her fame.

Dark Continent – you lost a precious child
(Who carried in her heart a mem’ry still
Of jungle hot and green, as yet unseen?)
I have the hope that see you now she will.

Your child was blest with something close to Grace,
A virtue, charming, now so seldom seen,
A pure example for the human race,
Nay man nay beast but somewhere in between.


Jan Darling is a New Zealander who has worked in Auckland, Wellington, London, Barcelona, New York and Sydney at copywriting and marketing strategy.  She has spent her leisure time over sixty years writing poetry and short stories. Now retired, she lives in pastoral New South Wales with her husband Arturo. 

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12 Responses

  1. James A. Tweedie

    Back in the 1800s the British magazine Punch ran a cartoon showing a Vicar eating breakfast at a parishoner’s home. “And how is your egg?” He is asked. “Parts of it are excellent,” he replies. Tact compels me to do the same with these two poems. There are some lines which rhyme. There are some lines that that exhibit iambic pentameter. There are some lines that represent proper English grammar. The ocean breeze that sometimes turns downtown Auckland into the world’s largest wind tunnel is there, as is Koko’s imaginary genetic memory of her African origins. “Parts of it are excellent.” The vicar may have exaggerated.

    I wish to thank Ms Darling for sharing her efforts and thoughts. I would also like to encourage her in future to increase the proportion of words that rhyme to those that don’t, and to do the same with the meter and the grammar/syntax. Personally, I prefer mine “over easy.”

    Keep at it, Jan. You’re off to a start!

    • James A. Tweedie

      I fear I misspoke re the rhymes. They are there. Apparently what happened was that when I subconsciously reworked the lines into proper grammar the rhymes ended up in the wrong places. My bad.

      • Jan Darling

        Thank you James A. for your considerations. I am hugely pleased that you take the time to read and comment. I appreciate the point about your subconscious reworking of the lines into “proper” grammar – but I am not heir to your educational experience. I’m particularly reminded of the differences between what is proper in American grammar and what is proper in English grammar, which Noah Webster found it necessary to identify in his works. To some degree we are each working with different tools. I appreciate and value your observations.

  2. Michael Dashiell

    I mostly liked both poems. Though modern in character, they’re not afraid to express sincere love. I thought many of the words chosen were smart if not brilliant. The only problem I had was with the Auckland poem that uses couplets. These tend to suffer monotony after a while, but many famous and successful poets have done the same. What I hope to see is formal poetry done in a modern sense to make a fit reply to contemporary free verse poetry. I think formal poetry has the ability to stand again. Unfortunately, poetry in general, both formal and free don’t make popular reading. We need some drama regarding these two types. Free verse has been the genre most often published for the past 100 years. Though recognized as modern, it’s now in wrinkled old age. Formal poetry however has been a shunned and neglected child that I believe has the power, if done properly, to make a worthy competitor with contemporary free verse, even end its long, complacent and tiresome reign.

    • Jan Darling

      Agree absolutely! We need to popularise poetry and I’m sure The Society is gradually sneaking into some neglected areas. Maybe we need to remember that great events create great poetry. WWI for a few years placed Wilfred Owen, Rupert Brooke and Siegfried Sassoon into every English literature programme. Perhaps Lit. classes would benefit from creating a view of the world as expressed though the best poetry of each 30 year (or so) period over the last five hundred years…. some way to show how poetry mirrors social and political life in different environments. Thanks for your comments, Michael.

      • Michael Dashiell

        It’s sad that only a handful of literary magazines publish formal poetry, and that thousands only publish free verse poems. This look-a-like conformity stinks like rotten fruit. I hope our group can help put a dent in this rampant sameness of literature. I’m glad this site and ourselves exists.

  3. C.B. Anderson

    The comments of James and Michael were astute. And now I wish to add my own two cents’ worth:

    I want to go to Auckland. Maybe I’ve always wanted to go there, but now all the more so. A couple of points about contractions & elision:

    Twice you wrote “ev’ry.” This is not necessary. I don’t know anyone who pronounces “every” with three syllables. With “mem’ry” it’s a slightly different matter. The way I deal with it (and I’ve used the word often in iambic verse) is to assume that the reader will scan the word properly according to the rhythm the writer has established, but I guess it doesn’t hurt to make sure. I think that “memory,” in ordinary speech is most often pronounced as two syllables. In any case, schwas can usually (3 or 4 syllables?) be disregarded in polysyllabic words. I know how difficult it is to write metrical verse on definite subjects, as compared to spinning lyric excursions, and so I must approve of your narrative as it stands. And God bless Penny, Koko’s mentor. I’ve often wondered what evolutionary effect human interaction with, say, dogs, apes, & dolphins will have on these client species. We already know the effect they have had on those of us attuned to the wonders of inter-specific interactions.

    • Jan Darling

      Thanks C.B. I think you’ll like Auckland and those beaches to the north. I, too, wonder what evolutionary effect human interraction will have on our close relatives in Nature. What drives dolphins to seek human company? How is it that my heart hears what my ears cannot? (I speak of my affinity with the cats who have ruled my world. I hear a cat walking on soft carpet. I know when a cat is at the door two floors away.) How do animals know when you need sympathy? How much more can dogs give us when they can be trained to sniff out drugs, weapons, sickness? It’s a wonderful world we share. Back to poetry – you’re right about elisions. Perhaps I didn’t trust my readers sufficiently. My thanks.

  4. manfred knuth

    Sounds good ,i like both, in fact i did not know about KOKO’s ability, a very remarkable animal,

    • Jan Darling

      You have met Koko – I renamed her Gerald (a reference to Not the Nine o’clock News); Gerald used to sit on the couch. Thanks for reading me.

  5. David Watt

    With lines such as “Their owners sipping coolness from the breeze
    Which sidles through the streets from polished seas” there is much to appreciate in these poems. As a postcard from Auckland, “Island City” succeeds in capturing the elements, life, and the moment.

    • Jan

      Thank you David. I’m delighted that you enjoyed the poems and took time to let me know.



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