Thursday, 23 October 2014

High-Tensile Poetry

Something near to miraculous occurred yesterday. I came away from the poetry reading I attended last night, with fresh ideas. The poetry, written by poets from Nicaragua (Joaquin Pasos, Blanca Castellon, Ernesto Cardenal and Gioconda Belli) inspired me to look again at such well-trodden themes as time, death, freedom, community, political duress and love; as well as 'the poem as subject', that for once doesn't regress into the contrived or pretentious. I'm as keen as mustard now to get these ideas down on paper.

Or maybe not. As one poem I heard suggested, I could allow these future poems to simply remain my bright, peripheral friend for just one day, before watching them fly free and (apart from the description of their brief existence as unspoken / unwritten / untranslated poems) letting them go, unrecorded. Such is the value of freedom to a poet who lives where true freedom is precious and largely unattainable.

As I listened to a language I cannot translate, I gained some idea of how to listen to the bared poetic voice. The music of the poetry being read in Spanish, offered freedom from trying to work it all out, leaving the words to flow over (under? in? through?) my brain. After hearing the translation, I then waited to hear how a phrase or line sounded in the original language. When I was rewarded by recognising the line or word, it was satisfying and surprising all at the same time.

When introducing the two guest readers for the night, M.C. Jacob Edmond, described translation - any translation - as a betrayal. I can see the truth in that, but as Jacob also pointed out, there has to be a flip-side. The other side of the coin is how much of a gift that a translation is. Especially when handled correctly.

There is possibly a Spanish word that means 'wider insights that take you away from your own reflected environment'. English can sometimes be an inadequate language. However, when another language is translated into English with as much insight as the translated poetry I heard last night, it is clear that any clumsiness or restriction can be over-ridden.

The word spellbound came to mind during this Octagon Collective's reading at Circadian Cafe. Listening to the gifted translator, Roger Hickin of Cold Hub Press and Rogelio Guedea , a major Mexican writer and poet residing in Dunedin, as they read from the works of famous Nicaraguan poets, was a real treat.

Jacob introduced both men as taonga (in the Maori language; Te Reo; that means precious treasures). A fitting description with Rogelio being a famous Mexican poet. (So much so that when Jacob was in Mexico and people found out he was from New Zealand, they would inevitably ask him if he knew Rogelio Guedea!) And Roger is certainly a well-established and renowned New Zealand poet, publisher, artist, translator etc. who has for many years worked at the cutting edge of publishing and the art of translation.

The poetry I heard last night, having been wrought under sufferance to a restrictive, freedom-taking political system that someone like me can only imagine, left me with an impression of the metal (mettle) of language hammered thin in order for the raw essence to be revealed. This was poetry taken to the wire.

Jenny Powell was invited to join the other two readers, and read three of the translated poems of Gioconda Belli. Jenny read beautifully; her readings are always very clear and intelligent and last night was no exception. Her delivery honoured the voice of the poet perfectly, giving it full justice.

The poetry I listened to could have been (given the political circumstances in which the poetry is written) mired in anger, bitterness or hatred, but it was not. Instead, I found it delicate, yet strong, unadorned, even sad, and all the more moving and powerful because of those things.

This poetry from Nicaragua that we were treated to last night, reminds me of a high-tensile spider web that silently, beautifully shimmers as the morning mist catches it; that quivers in a gale, yet holds its strength to remain unbroken.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Call of the Crow

crow at a park in Kyoto, Japan. Taken December 29th 2011 - just before we walked to the cake shop to buy a birthday cake for R.

Sometimes I have no idea of what to write on my blog, other times I have a very definite idea.

I knew yesterday what I wanted to post today. Going through my unpublished comments, I read that someone had asked for permission to use a photo of a crow I had posted back in 2012. I was delighted someone a) wanted to use it for artistic purposes and b) actually asked for the right to use it.

Because the photo is one I took in Japan, it got me thinking about all our trips over there. How fortunate I have been to be able to make a trip over there three times now. (In R's case it's been four times).

The trips have been in different seasons. R's trip was in Spring, so he was able to experience some of Kyoto's celebrations of the blossom season. (That experience is now down on my dream-list).

The photo I took of the crow was taken in winter. So far, my favourite season in Japan.

The crows' haunting calls and sudden silent approaches, punctuated every outing. In Kanizawa as we walked through the gardens at dusk (just before closing time) a whole flock of them landed on a piece of ground, their coal-black outlines accentuated by the snow's smooth whiteness. Our granddaughter attempted to chase them off, her pink coat an eye-catching contrast against the black crows and white snow.

Far from being freaked out, I find crows both fascinating and compelling. Maybe that's because we haven't got them here in New Zealand. My daughter-in-law said that over in Japan crows are kind of seen as annoying scavengers. Which is ironic, because when she came over to New Zealand she loved our seagulls, yet some of us over here kind of think of seagull as annoying scavengers.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Finding The Time

The sign for the number eight - 8 - is the only figure in our line-up of Roman numerals that is impossible to get out of.

It's a loop. Once inside, you can never escape.

Eiffel Tower as seen from Le Jardin des Tuileries - taken June 25th,  2013

The 'F8 Principle' (as I shall dub it for patenting purposes) means that you can opt to physically return to pleasant memories (with the control to come and go at will) and dwell there in your own time loop; skating your own Figure of Eight moves; for as long as you desire.

canal in Arrondissement 19, Paris, June 2013

However, until this invention of mine is actualised, photos will have to do.

left bank Paris, 2013

Maybe there's already an App. A F8 App. Must look it up.

Actually, when I think about it, how would I ever find the time to Time Travel?

Au Trappiste, Paris, 2013

Ah well ... c'est la vie.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Colour Me Spring

kowhai flowers in our garden a month ago

The kowhai is just finishing flowering now. A native tree, it forms part of Spring's full orchestra here in Aotearoa.

The lovely magnolia has recently become a significant flower for our family. It also goes by the name of Tulip Tree.

Dunedin's Botanical Gardens is a favourite place of mine to take the grandchildren.

Illness update: The doctor has prescribed antibiotics. Praise the Lord for antibiotics. And for poppies.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Sick in Suburbia

sunset October 13th, 2014 as seen from Chisholm Park golf course

I was feeling a bit better last night, to the point of thinking I was fully recovered. I even felt motivated to go for a walk. 

At 8.30 last night the birds were still awake and chirping and as we walked, we felt soft, warm bands of air wafting over us like currents of warm water from the gulf stream effect. There was a pretty sunset in the west. The weather was calm. The sea lazy. All was well.

But this morning I woke feeling unwell again. Consequently, all plans to do lots of things today, flew out the window - the window of my bedroom; the one I've left open to ensure I'm not cut off from either the world or fresh air.

Instead of *checking out art galleries and attending midday concerts, I am in bed, medication within reach, listening to the trip-trap of birds' feet on our corrugated-iron roof and the barks of a neighbour's lonely dog. 

However, the occasional bursts of rain showers I can hear make me think that perhaps for today I'm better off in my bed after all.

*Dunedin's Art Festival is on this week with lots of events and exhibitions to check out (if you are well enough to).

Monday, 13 October 2014


swirl of cloud above perched houses.Taken today from out of bedroom window

Just starting to feel better ... seeing  out of the window, gulls soaring on thermals, free of the inhibition of illness, gives me hope that soon I will feel normal again.

Not that I expect to be soaring a thermal, but at least out in the fresh air.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Honing In

sand patterns, Kaka Point beach

Struck down with a lurg. Dosing up on pain killers for an extremely sore throat.

sea lettuce, Kaka Point beach

When you're sick, you hone in on to your immediate circumstances. The present is all you have and even then it's as if you are looking at your surroundings through a haze as your body fights to get well again.

old post, St Clair beach, Dunedin

The brain and mind also get caught up in the body's fight to get well. Even a crossword puzzle would require too much effort.

I distantly tap out these words on the keypad as if my brain is wearing woollen gloves.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Rhodos on Silverton Street

taken this time last year, rhodos. on Silverton St.

Sometimes in the middle of spring I already become nostalgic for winter and its perfect excuse for rest and restoration.

Spring is a deconstruction of all that winter stillness. Churning weeds merrily twirl and leap like cheerleaders among the flowers in our garden, and I know someone has to pay attention and do something about them.

mother duck and ducklings on inlet 

Maybe spring's saving grace is that it does have its cute side.

Friday, 10 October 2014


Arrowtown. Poplar trees by Arrow river; taken in April this year when on a walk with lovely J. 

I remember the river chuckling along beside us as we walked and talked and breathed in the freshness of early autumn.

I love that J. is like me in that she cannot help but gather as she walks - grasses, stones, driftwood, berries, flowers ...

It is in me too this gathering instinct. I got it from both my father and mother. It is in my nature.

Thursday, 9 October 2014


Watched the eclipse last night. We perched out on our small deck, rugged up against the evening's chill.

At the same time, our son in Japan sent us a photo of 'his eclipse' out on the street outside his work - the moon high above the narrow Kyoto street, along with a photo his wife E. had taken of the kids looking at the same moon from their bedroom window.

Spending time looking up is a good way of keeping things in perspective.

taken last year, a kereru with butcher-apron breast, perched in one of the silver birch trees that once lined our driveway. The trees are no longer there, so different roosting places will be required this year. Luckily there are plenty to choose from ...

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Waving Not Drowning

Work is getting in the way of me posting daily. Maybe I should aim for every two days (is that twaily?)

kite surfing St Clair

We have recently worked out that the suburb we live in is actually Tainui, not Andersons Bay as we had thought.

This is good news because our sons all went to Tainui school. It also means that when we moved from the first home we owned, on the flat in Tainui; so close to the ocean we could hear it like a train running past at night; we never actually shifted boundaries (as we had assumed).

Tainui means Big Wave in Hawaiin. I often have dreams of big waves - always have since a small child. I lived the first ten years of my life within the sound of the ocean. Then for decades I lived near rivers. For the last twenty-nine years of my life, I've been back living near the sea.

Maybe my dreams of big waves have always been telling me that Tainui would be where I would settle. I'll settle for that.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Black Swan Gliding

black swan; Sinclair Wetlands

Over the past few months after my mother's death, I jotted down some of the random thoughts that occurred. 
Here are a few of them:

When Your Mother Dies

It feels like my tendons have been cut. I feel disconnected from what used to be normal

When my mother died, an integral part of my world died too

Mum's death is the biggest one yet. My dream of a tsunami – the biggest and highest one I've ever dreamed - is an indication of this. “Look, it's as high as the Longwoods”.

It's a sudden cold wind / that chops at the waters where memory harbours / and tugs at the rope that tethers and steadies. / It is a grey slap of grief that rocks the heart.//

The grief I feel is a primal grief. A child's for its mother. Deeply sub-conscious, one can never prepare oneself for it.

It's a subterranean yearning for the return of that safety a parent provides. It is wanting the world that a parent has created for you, to be restored.

My sense of place has been profoundly disturbed.

Sadness overwhelms because I miss my mother's presence in the world. It seems that nothing can mend the rough, torn hole she left behind her when she left us.

The grief comes in waves.

Is it cataclysmic when a parent dies? It feels like it. Or am I going all weather-news reporter?

The trick is to calm the pain of death's finality and its unbearable sense of separation, with any present joy provided by those nearest who are vital; still very much alive.

When your mother dies you become a kid again. No matter how old you are. A kid whose mother has left them and who just wants her to come back. A kid with an adult's realisation of death's finality with no buffer of innocence or ignorant bliss to protect against the crush of grief that keeps washing in.

I create a timeline. She's a slim, young woman twenty-five years old, with curly red hair – my very earliest memories of her. Then a less slim mother of seven children, who cooked, baked, sewed and gardened. Who fed the hens. Hung out the washing with wooden clothes pegs. Who sang as she worked. Who was harassed and crabby just about as often as she was fun. Then as a too-young widow at 38 years old, she was like a crying child needing her own parents to lean on. Later, a grey-haired nana. Still later, a friend on the other end of the phone, making me laugh. Finally an old woman, a great-grandmother, more daunted, moving more slowly, feeling tired but with her sense of humour still intact, still doing crosswords, visiting Facebook daily and undeniably, still my mother

Things start to draw in a crowd of memories. The clock. The yellow bed jacket.

Today gaining the light to ride the wave.

So I just have to go on without you?


Friday, 3 October 2014

Lavender's Ease

I'm thinking I'll ease myself back into posting on my main blog again, with a trial run of posting a photo a day.

lavender from my garden

Today, workmate J. wasn't wearing her jandals and capris. I knew she'd tried to get into summer gear far too early.

The cold weather is forecast to remain for the next few days. Hopefully we will continue to experience only the flick of the wintry tail as the brunt of it misses us and high-tails it straight up the middle of the island, travelling over the Southern Alps.

Highlight of the day at work was 3-year-old L. explaining that he was playing Heaven. "I am in heaven," he said describing his position in a small hollow in the bark chip area beside the sandpit. He approached me saying, "I'm just going to heaven, will you wait for me?" Turning back to his bark-chip hollow, he said, "Heaven's way up in the sky, I am going to need a tall ladder'.
Lots of thoughts flashed into my mind, most of them concerning heaven on earth and how close they possibly are. Maybe there's merely a thin barrier between the two, invisible to adults but not to children.

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...