Sunday, 22 September 2013

Directing Traffic Around the Bay

I invite you to take a look at my Website's Photo Journal. Rather than post here this time, I have decided to direct traffic to my website, 'By The Bay' ... which is not to be confused with the term, 'By the By' (a kiwi accent joke!) or with Katherine Mansfield's, 'At the Bay', but which certainly owes something to both ... Plus I do live by a bay and the word 'bay' happens to rhyme with 'Kay'. (As you can see, hidden clues and word plays abound). Take a look around & enjoy your visit to my place, 'By The Bay'.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Story of Light

Artist Claire Beynon chose my poem to respond to for Poetry in the Waiting Room's Art exhibition currently on at Bellamy's gallery in MacAndrew Bay, Dunedin.

... light on Dunedin harbour ... Claire lives around the corner and across the harbour from me.  This photo reminds me not only of where Claire lives, but of her paintings and the special way they capture light ...

When I learned that Claire was the artist producing an interpretation of my poem, 'Life's Work', I was thrilled. Claire (who is not only an artist, but also a writer) lives in Dunedin and I've had many opportunities over the years to view her art. Claire's work is always stunning; expansive, innovative and evocative. When I take the time to stand and look at her work - especially her paintings - I feel drawn into their story of light - of landscape and colour.

... detail from Michael Cooke's painting 'Poet' which features in a small way in Claire's interpretation of my poem. ( 'our son hanging paintings, / his life's work so far / in the balance; )

When I saw 'my' painting for this exhibition, I had that same response - the sense of being drawn into light, mood and place. Claire has worked her interpretive magic on the voice of my poem. The result is a painting that owns the flow and dance of the mood and light of place, seasons and time.

life's work

Today, washing the dishes,
the smell of dish-washing liquid,
the sound of distant conversation,
a grey warbler, the neighbour
putting in his vegetable garden;
our son hanging paintings,

his life's work so far
in the balance; I think
but maybe not
of the scent of haymaking
and the bliss

of stopping
for a picnic tea
on a woollen rug;
of the taste of sun
and time, not lost
so much as stoppered.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

In the audio-visual part of her exhibit (a typically generous and expansive extra from Claire) she has used (among other things) words, music, voice and various images (such as the surprise of maps and place names). As well, Claire has incorporated collaboration with other artists.

... obviously I can't give you a photo of the painting, so you'll have to go and see for yourself if you are lucky enough to be in Dunedin in September ...

The exhibition runs for all of the month September. On the afternoon of Sunday 15th September, there is a poetry reading which I am part of. The poet Sue Wootton is m.c. for this event and Emma Neale, David Eggleton, Brian Turner and myself are the featured poets. (Seating for this event has been booked out, but there is still standing room).

Friday, 13 September 2013

Even When I'm Not Working I'm Working

Just now I started humming Brahm's Lullaby - I hummed it yesterday at work to a baby I was rocking in my arms and it's become a bit of an ear worm - so far not annoying. It's such a sweet tune. When I started humming it tonight, our cat Aggie who is sitting beside me, looked up and started purring. Nice to have an appreciative audience.

I hauled these photos of Spring from my files of photos taken other years. (I haven't got my camera at present - see previous post if you require elucidation).

The first photo is of a plum tree in blossom. We have a few plum trees growing around here and on a warm day, the blossom fills the air with the smell of honey.

The second photo was taken at the city gardens, of crocuses dotting the grass like lit candles on a birthday cake.

Tonight as I hummed Brahm's lullaby, I was going through my poetry in preparation for Sunday afternoon's poetry reading at Bellamy's Art Gallery. The reading is part of Bellamy's Five - an art exhibition featuring several artists' interpretations of a chosen poem. It is run by Poems in the Waiting Room (Ruth Arnison, the organiser and director). (Dunedin people - check it out!)

Poets Emma Neale, Brian Turner and David Eggleton are also reading.

After a bit of deliberation, I have decided to read two poems from my book, 'Feeding the Dogs', two poems from my second book, 'Made for Weather' and four new poems from my third collection, 'Born to a Red-Headed Woman' - which I found out this week will be published in 2015. At last I have a date for publication - even if it does seem a mite interminable.

I feel differently about this reading than I did about the recent readings I did in Southland with Jenny Powell. For the Southland readings, I felt like I was at home reading to family in my living room. This reading feels more formal - as if I am reading poems to visitors in someone else's drawing room (which when you think about it is rather apt seeing as the reading will be held in an art gallery!) Sometimes reading poetry is not my most favourite thing to do.

I have been working most days this week. Working always sends me into a spin. The weekend is going to be a busy one too; no writing time for some days yet. In worried tones, I ask for patience from the characters in my novel as they lie unable to move until I start pulling their strings again. (For some of them this is no chore, they're patient sorts - but others are mad with me. These ones can turn petulant at the drop of a hat. They ask me why I have to work and just how much longer do I expect them to wait?)

At the hairdressers today I made an appointment for my next visit in six weeks and was advised to also make my pre-Christmas booking. Yikes! The year is slipping away so fast it's positively terrifying. (Maybe the 2015 publication of my third book isn't that interminable after all).

P.S. Next post I will dwell on the beautiful painting (and audio visual) the artist Claire Beynon did of my poem, 'life's work'. I love Claire's response to my poem. It is there to view at Bellamy's (MacAndrew Bay, Dunedin) along with all the other works.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Lost and Found

This pretty pink poppy was growing in a park just off the Champs Elysee in Paris, France. When I see this photo I am transported right back to the warmth of that day (my birthday) and the peace of the park where my friend Chrissie and I sat on seats, rubbing sore feet and taking a quiet five from the frantic traffic and crowds that is Paris in the summer break.

I lost my camera at the start of the recent poetry reading tour in Southland. I presumed I hadn't packed it at all, but just imagined I had. (Something that my unreliable memory tricks me into more and more these days).

I needed to stop fretting about it and concentrate on the tour, using my phone camera to take photos (not at all as satisfactory, I have to say). I fully expected the camera to be at home when I got back.

Another Paris poppy - this one was behind the Notre Dame - our friend Phil said that the back of the cathedral was almost as impressive (and less crowded) than the front of this famous Paris building. And he was right. I was particularly taken with the flying buttresses - and this bright orange poppy.

When I got back home and still couldn't find my camera, I was resigning myself to it being lost; just like the phone I lost while overseas. (A few days ago, it turned up in Munich at Chris & Jenny's apartment. In the meantime I'd bought a Smartphone to replace it).

For two weeks,  I fretted and grieved about the loss of the camera. While up in the North Island to visit my mother and sister, I'd reason to mourn its absence on more than one occasion - the image just down the street from my mother's house of perfectly straight, parallel railway lines disappearing into the infinity of flatness, the spring displays at Palmerston North's Botanical Gardens, the birds and insects at Zealandia sanctuary in Wellington ...

This bright display was outside a florists on Paris' Left Bank. They remind me of that day spent wandering with our friends Chrissie and Phil, mentally pinching myself that I was actually wandering Paris' famous Left Bank. They also remind me of seeing a signpost for Boulevard St Michel, as mentioned in Peter Sarstedt's song, 'Where Do You Go To My Lovely?'. Of seeing the Sorbonne (also mentioned in that song).

All my life I have forgotten and/or lost stuff. I have behind me a very long trail of items lost over the years. Having to go back to places where I've been to pick up things left behind, is one of my traits. I have a running joke that: Now, Have You Got Everything? should be written on my headstone. (It is a question my mother frequently asked me and which over the years I have trained myself  to ask ... not that it helps all that much).

However I am surprised at how much of the stuff I leave behind, I get back. The honesty of people has long astonished me. I have gone back to many shops and cafes for lost wallets, keys, credit cards, jackets, hats, books ... many, many times. Nine times out of ten, I have found them where I left them, or someone has handed them in or kept them safe in case I came back.

And these were taken as we walked to the Eiffel Tower, of flowers growing wild on an embankment by the Seine. This photo was also taken on my birthday and reminds me of the leisurely walk the seven of us made, stopping to 'smell the roses' on the way.

There were also herb planters there from which you were free to pick mint, parsley, coriander ... which Jenny did. 

It was  five o'clock on my birthday, the tower a tantalisingly wavering grey in the distance. When we got there, it was to find the Tower was on strike! Luckily the Eiffel Tower is too big to be folded away, so even though we couldn't climb to the top, we were able to lounge on the grassy expanse at its foot.

Back to the story of the camera - the other day the thought came to me that maybe I had taken it into the 'Howl at the Moon' cafe in Gore where Jenny and I had dinner the very first evening of our tour. I didn't recall doing so and doubted that any inquiry I made would bear fruit. However, I decided it wouldn't hurt to ring them up - just on the off-chance. And lo! "Yes, we have got a camera here", the manager said. His description matched mine. My camera was no longer lost, but was found.

My auntie who lives in Gore, has picked it up for me and when I am next there, it will once more be back in my possession.

Jenny took this photo - I love it - it captures perfectly that wonderful, happy day - my 60th birthday in Paris. 

Having had no camera for almost a month now, has made me capture what I see in my memory rather than relying on the camera to do that for me. Even so, I can't wait to have it back again to capture and frame images and memories.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Pink Roses in Paris

roses in Paris (in a garden at the back of the Notre Dame cathedral)

pink paranoia 

The soft navy-blue suitcase is packed, arrangements have been made
for Nicola to feed the cat, collect the mail. We leave wooden walls
clenched against lack of fireside warmth, hung dishcloths desiccating
over taps, dust congregating in the bath. The garden will get away
and we will have vanished into places where no-one recognises us,
grist for the mills of taxi drivers with loud radios, bait for beggars
in stadium-sized railway stations, lost in the paranoia of airports,
caught in the rain in Berlin, in the stress of Paris - Ah! but Paris

is where there were pink roses, so 1950's, to bring back the home
I'd carried all that way in my head, homesick already
for my daughter in her red scarf when we were only just
as far as the Timor Sea's grey smudge somewhere
underneath the cloud and where just for a fraction of a second
I thought I was on a Dunedin bus, yes a bus, not a jet, no,
but solid and home and placed and this was where I was getting off,
my fingers scrabbling for the cord to stop the bus.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Clocking Out

 I have been neglecting this blog for some months. I think perhaps I should face facts and accept that it is indeed time to retire this blog...