Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuesday Poem - At Home In Antarctica

It's that time of the year again - August/September marks the beginning of the summer research season in Antarctica. The annual migration has started. Originally 'destined' to accompany my old team of scientists and ice divers down to New Harbor field camp this coming season, I will not in fact be going South this year. I will be staying home instead - and it feels right so. The resonances from previous seasons will endure for a lifetime. Besides, I can't help feeling increasingly conflicted by our presence in Antarctica. . . (Would I stand by that statement had I never been there? Or if circumstances were different this year? All things considered, yes, I believe I would.) 

It's no secret that I was one of those who fell in love with the white continent the moment I set eyes on her. I still feel an ache of homesickness for her from time to time. There are places skin, eyes and heart cannot un-remember.  

Where there is ice, there is music iv - Pastel on paper - CB 2009


In this place, silence has a voice
wide-ranging as the continent.
Some say it’s on the cusp
of madness, the way it hums
and stutters, mutters to itself
in quietest tones.
In this place, nostalgia
roams, patient as slow hands
on skin, transparent
as melt-water. Nights are light
and long. Shadows settle
on the shoulders of air.

In this place, the universe
brims. Inside absence, 
presence. Inside distance, 
dust and our sleeping earth 
dreaming beneath her thin blue
mask of ice.

Time steps out of line
here, stops to thaw
the frozen hearts of icebergs.
Sleep isn’t always easy in this place
where the sun stays up all night
                                and silence has a voice.


Tracking I - Ink, pencil & oil on a gessoed ply crate lid - CB 2006

For more Tuesday Poems please click on the quill. 
My turn to be editor on the TP hub this week. . . 
I have chosen Miner's Cook by fellow NZ artist and poet Meliors Simms


  1. this is a very, very lovely poem, claire. as you know , i share in your fascination for Antartica (and the Arctic, as well); i am pale green with envy that you have actually been there. it seems quite fantastic....
    thank you for your beautiful artwork, and delicate language.

  2. I think I connect most with your Antartica writings. Beautiful.

  3. Beautiful, Claire: thank you.

    And thank you for featuring Meliors' poem on the Tuesday Poem Hub.

  4. Beautiful poem, beautiful art work, it feels like I'm there.

    Sorry I haven't had time to comment, but I do pop by to read.

  5. Dear Susan - it still sometimes astounds me that I've been there, that that profound and altering encounter really happened. And yet, everything today is different because of it and because of that I know my experience is true. 'That place' is also a metaphor, of course, for the wilderness places we are invited to spend time in, those places where we lose and find ourselves in ways that somehow defy time and space. Once we've lain on ice, left the sheltering tent to step into a storm, watched salt stars form, listened to wind, been chafed by volcano grit (and so on), there can be no forgetting. You would absolutely love it there. re; the Arctic, do you know about this site/residency? http://www.thearcticcircle.org/

    Thanks for your comments re; poem and images xo

  6. Rachel - thank you. I feel deep reverence towards Antarctica, find myself wanting to write and draw my conversation with her 'in hushed tones.'

  7. Hi Helen - thank you. I'd initially written up a different poem (for here) this week, but Meliors's poem on TP and her abiding passion for Antarctica prompted me to post this one. I am a great admirer of Meliors's work - the patience, tenacity and dedication it reveals is quite remarkable.

  8. Hi Ant. . . when it feels as though you're (t)here, you are?

    Always happy to see you here, too - and I echo what you say re; visiting and reading, even when not commenting. I think I might start leaving stones on people's doorsteps again. . . )o(

  9. Your work speaks with authority, dignity, and delight - and echoes the voice of the continent.

  10. Fresh Garden - thanks for coming by and welcome to Icelines. The Antarctic landscape is like a dynamic sculpture garden, in a constant state of inconstancy; down there (perhaps more so than in any other place I've inhabited), our earth reveals herself at her most dynamic and enduring.

  11. Hi Sam - thank you.


  12. Breathtakingly beautiful words and images Claire. For those of us who dream Antartic dreams, you have given us a glimpse...no, a real sense, of its wild beauty. Have you read Sara Wheeler's Terra Incognita and Artic Dreams by Barry Lopez? I highly recommend them both. x

  13. Hi Jane - fortunately we are able to share places with each other, by proxy and via image, sound and the written word. If you're interested in seeing more on Antarctica and in joining a Ning community with Antarctica + Sound as its special focus, please just say the word and I will send you the weblink and access details? (I set up the site up with my Australian collaborator and friend, Rupert, as part of our research process for a conference in Canberra earlier this year).

    This invitation is open to anyone who reads here and might be interested. . .

    Thanks for recommending Arctic Dreams by B. Lopez. I haven't read it, no (Susan will v. likely be interested in it, too ; )). Sara Wheeler's Terra Incognita, yes!! xo