In a low pocket of the nightscape
beneath the rumpled quilt, at the foot of a
scraggy leafless tree, she waits.
Like a voice long quiet
a voice sitting in the solitude of this place
this is a bracketed or italic silence
between scenes / between moments / between entrances or exits
silence is not an acquiescence, it is a moment
in the night’s hunker down, eiderdown sleep
when the voices wake – she is there, listening
the melody of the sun rising – the sun casts the tree twice
between them she hears the moon lie down to dream
silent a moment more as the sun begins to speak
the night shines with te marama, an introspection
and the day unfurls a multitude of voices, he mārama
Getting back into the residency
Having taken time out, I’ve had to go back over those first few days and how I got into the flow of being productive without the pressure to be productive at the residency. The easiest way to do that was get up to date with blog posts (this is the last one for today!) and poetically process yesterday’s trip to Castle Point!
my voice rises from my tongue like tree growth
a poplar or a tī kōuka – the kind of tree that looks best
when paired with a cloudless blue sky
but once in the air the roots are disengaged
the sound becomes a rock hard vessel
landing easily and assuredly on the earth
there is no sense that such a boulder of sound
will ever release its form and
crumble into the ground beneath it
instead these forms, scattered on the landscape,
hum, holding together their form through the overlay
of tonal fluctuations, I can make no further connection
when next I speak, the vibration of my chords
forms silk threads like spiders’ or worms’
leaving trails, softly, silvery, perhaps wet like saliva
the sound now makes connection – perhaps a
single sound interrupted only by lip curls
tongue curls and lapses of concentration
this time my voice eases itself up against the atmosphere
and dissolves, evaporates
was I ever here at all?
the rocks in their weather resilience hold together
an ever living memory those things ever said
hard-shelled and concrete
the threads network the sounds – weaving the words
alongside one another to make rerenga kōrero
remembered only by the flight lines they leave behind
On Friday I flew to Christchurch for a conference, giving a paper on ‘Transposing Islands: a way of remembering place in the poetry and drawing of Cilla McQueen.’ It was a wonderful little side trip which included hearing two fantastic papers at the conference, one from Tina Makareti and one from Gina Cole – both with eye opening and exciting ideas about ways of thinking about memory and the Pacific. I also went kayaking with some friends on the Avon river in the middle of Christchurch.
None of that was in the Wairarapa, so keeping the count of my days here, Thursday was day five, so Sunday was say six.
Christine picked me up from the train station around midday, having stayed the night in Wellington Saturday night. We drove out to Castle Point. It took about 1.5hrs to drive out there in the blazing heat but gosh it was worth it!
Sian and I had a chat with Lynn Freeman on Friday at the RNZ Wellington studio (in the recording studio they use for Morning Report) on our way to the airport (Sian was off on a trip to Sydney for a family wedding, I was going to Christchurch for a conference – more on that later).
I’ve never been on the radio before, so it was a lot of fun! You can find the recording here.
A quiet day today, or rather a day that was writing quiet. Plenty of reading of course, some solid Maori study with Sian before heading off to Masterton. Stopped in at the warehouse for a new pack of cards, then on to fish and chips and a trip to ‘The Screening Room,’ a new cinema and restaurant in Masterton. We saw ‘Murder on the Orient Express.’ Great film, Wes Anderson-esque framing and colours, especially the interviews out on the snow. A shame about Johnny Depp – but at least he was the hated character. It felt comforting knowing that no one on screen liked that guy either. Still hate that he’s getting screen time.
When we got back to the house, I remembered that I had mail to post, this is how they do it here (the white flag tells the postie there’s mail to pick up):
Day four already! We drove into Eketahuna this afternoon – Sian was interviewing some locals at a cafe.
I think living in Auckland, you can forget about small town NZ. Eketahuna has an edge of familiarity, but actually it is foreign to a city dweller like me. There’s a pub, a four square, a booze shop and a cafe. The rest of the functioning shops are all second hand stores with weekend opening hours. But many, if not most, of the buildings are empty, derelict. One empty building has a 2016 exhibition of artwork by the local kids in the windows – self portraits painted on apple and egg trays.
on the first light, beyond heavy curtains
the thunder rumbles into the earth
sheep tread along their fear, their cleft feet
a percussion on the dry compacted mud
the last one limps, a back leg black with foot rot
each bleat is a call for clarification
what are you here for? they ask
moving amorphous like oil repelled by water
a heavy tang of oncoming rain
licks at the scent of thick lanolin.
i trek the paths worn through the grass
single or double lines woven across and
between the grooves of the hills
this is where the sheep go, leaving their trace
tagged wool wrapped by the wind along fence lines
the last one limps, hobbled by a black back leg
her urgent step adds a note off beat from the rest
the flock tremble, their footwork echoes
the thunder rumbling into the earth – when the rain starts
i retreat to the curtained room and the light filters dimly.
I arrived last night at Normandell house, the NZ Pacific Studio artist residency in the Wairarapa. It was a warm spring evening but the light was dimming as the train arrived at Masterton station and was snuffed out by the time Christine drove into the carport.
I’m here for three weeks as the Ema Saiko fellow, in a room also named for the Japanese poet. I am here with Christine, the house manager and a ceramic artist, and Sian, an Irish playwright.
This morning, beneath a light grey sky, I began the day with yoga on the lawn. I feel like a total cliche, but the yoga was relaxing and the setting was soothing. Today is about loosening the grip of the semester, its workload and associated stress. An opportunity to finally relax after those surgeries.
(In the style of Ema Saiko):
Arriving in the hazy dark, light spills
yellow and warm from inside
In the morning great tall doors open
to let in the tui call and the grey spring light