Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tuesday Poem - fragments from F-/Wh Fugue

Camelot River, Bradshaw Sound, Western Fiordland

. . . When dawn comes and the ruru
return, we will cast our bodies
on your banks and
with spines to the ground
and eyes wide open, wonder
at the tenacity of moss, 
the complex miracle of breathing. .

CB 2008 
Sketch book page for F-/Wh- Fugue** (4th stanza)
(Text - CB; composition for piano, bassoon, solo alto and bass chorus - Gillian Whitehead)  

These fragments come from a longer text written in response to Camelot River, an ancient black waterway in Western Fiordland, one of New Zealand's most magnificent and inaccessible areas of primordial forest and uninhabited coastline. The Sounds are referred to by many as the 'birthplace of waterfalls'. I lost - and found - my heart there during a creative residency in 2008. One of the artists on board the conservation yacht was composer Gillian Whitehead. We returned to Dunedin much affected by our experience; our F-/Wh- Fugue is one of several collaborative projects that came out of that time. 

It opens like this - 

Your dark waters ask much of us, Camelot -
A day's encounter leads to nights of melancholy dreams,
Your fertile banks are a birthing place
for best and worst intentions - black mountains' glare
and forest's gaze; a poetry of pauses.
Old river, your dark waters ask much of us. . . 


*ruru - New Zealand's only surviving native owl, known for its haunting, melancholy call.

** In the Maori language, the letters Wh sound as an F does in English; the chorus in this piece called on Wh- and F- sounds for their cultural, linguistic and percussive effect (amongst many others, the bass chorus featured the words fecund forest fragile fauna falter fathom fall whanga wheku whanau whenua whetu. . . The intention was to evoke a sense of ancestral voices.) 

Sample page of Gillian's score

. . .  and a wee snippet of the fugue's first rehearsal (sans instruments) with a drawing in the making. . .

PS. I've been a flat fish - a flounder - lately. . . If today's post comes across as a bit of a deep sea dive (or an archeological dig?), that'll be because I've spent the last however many hours doing something I've wanted to do since November (flotilla time); i.e sift through old drawings, fossick through studio drawers; rummage through old folders of poetry. . . I've dug through computer archives, watched old work-related video clips, revisited past projects and past times. . . had a bit of reconnection time. I'd begun to wonder if the creative me had packed up and gone. It feels like a century since I spent a good stretch of unbroken time in my studio - or worked quietly at my writing desk. So, it was enormously helpful to look over where I've been and to see again the things that have fired me in years past; it was helpful to be reminded that I am a passionate person, that I do still have plenty of ideas to work with and there is a firm foundation beneath me even though the ground has felt shaky for an uncomfortably looooong time. 

I have yet to find traction in the studio this year - and must. There are two conferences coming up and a solo show seven months away, so there are several big things to sink teeth into. Today's rustling (my grandfather's term for 'purposeful rummaging') was really, really helpful.  One day soon, I'm sure I'll  return to the blogosphere with writing tongue and tail wagging. I read you all with appreciation each morning but have been at a complete loss for words. 

I've wondered about leaving a 'personal pebble' -  )O( - a sign that says 'I've been here', 'hello', 'yes', 'thank you', 'soon-soon'. . . when words prove elusive? Perhaps each of us could come up with a 'silent signature' for such times?  

To enjoy Gillian Whitehead's piano piece Arapatiki (performed by Stephen de Pledge), click here. Of this piece, Gillian says "Arapatiki, which translates as 'the way of the flounder', is the name given to the sand flats in the Otago Harbour in front of my house. Material suggesting the inexorable ebbing and flowing of the tide and the call of the korimako (bellbird) are the basic ideas propelling the piece."


For today's Tuesday Poems, please click here.


  1. ><}})o>

    Inassesable and uninhabited are all intriguing to the adventursome spirit in me, in an area I never have seen. Lovely thoughts and interesting passage.I like to sort through the old for the New Year, you are doing yours for the Chinese New Year, the year of the Rabbit.

  2. Its good to have times of back digging to remind oneself of forgotten creations. You cant be creative all the time!

    What a wonderful collaboration you have pulled from the search.

  3. Dear Claire, 'fossicking' back through the past is sometimes the only way to re-find ourselves, the tow lines we then threw into the future and which we somehow lost a grip on in the present. It's following the breadcrumbs back to the source, the home, the heart. And what treasures you have offered us here. And the sound of your voice is back as well. You are a person who will never lack for passionate things to attempt and accomplish. Sometimes one tumbles off the path without knowing how to get find one's way. I think you are back, Claire. xoL, M

  4. The audio clip has a resonance of chants that predate man-made cathedrals. I take both sides in the debate over whether all is always in perfect order or if we have somehow slipped into a chasm too deep to escape. Eventually, perfect order wins, though it often must be taken on faith for the evidence seems so contrary. It may be that we are called away from ourselves when intensity needs to subside, children being distracted from a dangerous activity.

    What treasures to sift through, what unmistakable affirmation. xo

  5. Claire, it's difficult for me to imagine the packing-up-and-going of the creative in you, ever.

    Just this single post is evidence of a creativity beyond what many of us aspire to in a lifetime.

    But still, I understand the distress one encounters in the absence of the muse.

  6. i wondered what that small, rounded stone was underfoot, this morning before my toes found my slippers.
    twas the personal pebble of Claire B.,
    foundered on land, the pearl of the sea.

    i hear you, my friend. and i am in and out these
    days meself, a gravelly little polyp in the craw of life.

  7. Claire,
    I've had that fear many times before that I'll somehow 'lose' my passion, my creativity. But I think it's because we love it so much that the fear of losing it takes over. It's a part of our lives just like eating and loving and gardening and laughing. It's a part of us. There are times we may be quiet because art in any form requires the ability to give parts of ourselves away. Sometimes we need to keep the parts for ourselves. But eventually - when we are all full up - the desire to give and create and let our hearts move our hands will come back. It always comes back.

  8. John G - how good to find you and your new signature here. I offer you a winged pebble in return )))O(((

  9. Ah, love and fear. . . what unlikely-but-persistent bed fellows! Dear Rachel, how often they walk hand-in-hand and how important it is that we unlink them, give them their independence. . . fear looms larger when we feed it, and dissipates through our detachment. Love wants to thrive, bloom and burgeon but requires a certain detachment, too? When we trust it and can enter it without fear, it grows to meet us. The same is so for our creative process, not so? This is what I hear you saying. . . 'all' we need to do is remember that we can trust it - then leap! L, C xo

  10. Yes! We have to. Many of us are saying the same things - the same themes. How can we not? It's all life. The unique voice or vision is what sets it apart. If we do not trust that unique voice or vision, what we are out to create can never set foot on the ground.

    But you will keep creating because you love it. And the love of it gravely outweighs the fear.

  11. Yes, Rachel, yes - to do anything (or be anywhere) because we love it, is the best motivation any day. xo

  12. Dear lovely Susan - 'a gravelly polyp in the craw of life' is the perfect descriptor! What I'd give for your sense of humour! Mind you, your gravelly polyp is one to treasure. . . seems we're all a bit in/a bit out, these day. It least it's happening in stereo, if not always in synch.? Love ++, C xo

  13. Dear T - bless you. And don't you believe it. . . The old, lacking-in-confidence, OMG-is-there-nothing-I-can-do-properly, jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none voice gets the better of me (of us all?) when everything else feels pummeling, rough, relentless. I suppose that's no surprise. But we shake ourselves off and keep going, lifting logs and rocks to see what's stirring beneath them. There's nothing dull about our 'making' lives, is there. . . I know you know. (I'd kill for one of those nutella donuts you wrote about the other day.) L,C xo

  14. Dear Marylinn - you restore calm; bring reason and balm. I think 'tis so. . . sometimes we are called away like children being steered from something that might otherwise be dangerous, unmanageable, too much, too at odds? I stand with you on both sides of the 'everything is just right as it is/is this a too-deep-chasm' debate. As you say, order - or alignment - asserts itself in the end. We are called to learn patience and the art of going slow - a little like the practice of being 'in time' rather than preoccupied with being 'on time'? Thank you for your insights. L, C xo

  15. Dear Melissa - 'tow lines' fit this state, yes. Hauling and retrieving, relaxing, releasing. . . the process and the end result rely so much on us testing the flex, gauging the tension required - and the cues - just right. Heaven knows, we are given plenty of opportunities to practice!

    Following the breadcrumbs back to the source is what has to occur, really? Whenever we stray and get lost - whether willfully or by 'accident' - returning to the source is the only way to regain composure, direction, reassurance.

    When my youngest son, Tomas, was a tot, he had a 'pet moss' with magical powers. Each night he would clamber onto its back and fly into his dreams. When the moss lost its power (as they do!), he knew to steer it towards the mountain he'd originally found it on, and then to its 'mother' rock - Gaia?. He'd encourage it to settle a while to recharge its battery and drink deeply of the rock's restorative, magical powers. He knew this at age three; perhaps we all did but forget and need reminding?

    Thank you for recognizing my voice when it returns, M - for knowing what to listen for. L, C xo

  16. Hello Gordon - I suspect what happens is that we need to spend a certain amount of time 'being, not doing'; incubation periods are far from fallow; to the contrary, they are every bit as creative as the outward acts would suggest? As essential as compost and earthworms are for our gardens. . . Digging can put us back into contact with these forgotten textures, less-familiar, smells, potential new riches? Thanks for entering so fully!

  17. Inaccessible and uninhabited are places of intrigue and allure to me, too, Steve - in the real world, and in that of the imagination. Thanks for coming by, and for the prompt to look up the characteristics of the Year of the Rabbit (from Rat in 2010 to Rabbit in 2011!). Of course, 1 February is Chinese New Year - Happy, happy Everyone ; )

  18. Actually, I just looked it up, Steve - I was being hasty in my presumptions. . Chinese New Year starts on 3 Feb. Close!

  19. Dear Mary, you've made an angel pebble; the curly brackets* look as though they're planting kisses on the cheek of a stone. L, C xo

    *What is the 'official' name for curly brackets? Do you know? Does anyone out here know?

  20. A child of three? A pet moss and drinking from the mountain? Well, clearly, as Wordsworth had it, we lose the luminosity we were born with, and each day that passes, see and know less than your son at three. We trade the instinctive knowing and magic for reflection, refraction, distraction--lovely, Claire. L, M.xo

  21. The curly brackets are officially known as braces. A word with many connotations. (No need to know, google is wonderfully quick with answers!).

    The wee snippet of the fugue in rehearsal was lovely.

  22. Change and change again . . .

    Yours sorting sounds like a prelude to re-dedication.

    Same here. First I sorted--a bit too much. Now it's time for reverie.

    Good luck, dear Claire!

  23. Claire, I love both "the tenacity of moss" and "the complex miracle of breathing. . . "

    Keep breathing! :)

  24. Dear Melissa - yes, he pretty much saw it all as a tot, did our T. Mind you, at he's twenty-one, he's still riding the back of that magic moss. In six weeks time, it will take him to the UK where his vocational journey will begin in earnest. How I will miss him, M. My mother's heart will ache for joy at the fact he's responding to his calling and with grief at his absence. But then again, we know more and more these days about presence in absence and how there really is no distance between us and the ones we love, regardless of where in the world we are? This thought - this knowledge - brings comfort and swings the pendulum from maternal pangs to a surge of jubilation on his behalf. xo

  25. Catherine - thank you! Braces. The word has inherent strength, don't you think so? More so than 'brackets' which feel a little ambivalent, uncertain re; what their role actually is in a sentence. I'm happy to know you listened to the snippet of the fugue in rehearsal, and enjoyed it. Thanks ++. L, C x

  26. Dear Mim - a prelude to re-dedication. . . I do like the sound of that. Yes. From what you say, we are in synch. with our sorting. Revel in your reverie, and then. . . all success to you, too, dear Mim. xo

  27. )O( x n to the power of a thousand (how does one write sums and formulae on here, I wonder?).
    i.e lots and lots of jelly tots to you, dear Rebecca L xo

  28. Hi Helen - the 'tenacity of moss' is something we might aspire to when the rains come down? And isn't breathing a miracle? I think so. As are our bodies, every last bit of them. Thanks, Helen. ; )