In October 2008, I was one of ten artists invited to participate in the Caselberg Trust's inaugural Breaksea Girl Residency. Our group of painters, poets, a jeweler, a filmmaker and a composer spent six days and nights on board the conservation yacht, the Breaksea Girl, exploring the dark and dramatic waterways of Western Fiordland.
Before setting sail from Dusky Sound, our Captain Lance suggested that should any one of us feel a need for space, we should speak up and he would drop us off on a convenient rock for as long as might be deemed necessary.
"Can’t you just picture it," said Gillian. "Ten artists. Ten rocks?"
for Gillian Whitehead
This unsteady place of black water and red kelp insists
we lay down our tools and listen.
From where I stand, spine to the rope, I catch her
in the act – eyes closed, head back – undisturbed by silence
or squall, the sharp/flat cadences of weather.
She’s with us on the Breaksea Girl, but music
is her separate boat.
See how her face is wet
with notes, her throat a waiting bird.
Taonga Puoro surge in her chest like waterfalls.
How strange I should remember here a line I read
long, long ago; bees in Mykanos hum in a minor chord.
Here, the scale is unpredictable, the thrum
that of a sailor’s cap, an incidental island,
a glissando of salt scattering the shadows of dark-bellied fish.
We sail through contrapuntal seas -
our private charts, our common geography.
Ten artists, yes, and at least as many rocks. But
in this unsteady place of black water and red kelpwe do as we must. We lay down our tools and listen.
Aaah. . . 'tis good to be back.