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

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Still Life With Zinc Bucket


Conversation winds around review articles
the contradictions that intimacy and objectivity
cannot help but provoke from inside 
this full-frontal still life. Talk curves 
common objects, a shard of buried porcelain, 
the way a bent garden fork with misshapen clods 
of earth states its attachment to the sun.

He assembles and re-assembles
scattered pieces of nature’s detritus
a torn bird’s wing (feather stirring
with striking yellow stripe, the stilled thread 
of flight). There are hints at life’s other
layers, the masked existence of geological rhythms 
in even the plainest of things. But look, 
the space in the picture is collapsing, yet 
he stubbornly provides no anchor of table 
or solid ground, no convenient mountain backdrop. 

Instead he sets the thinnest wash 
of silver-grey floating across dampened paper.
In the end, it is the warped simplicity
of a single zinc bucket that makes me 
leave the room to slake my thirst. 


For more Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill. 
This week's editor is Sarah Jane Barnett. Sarah has posted a TED video of John. G. Rives giving an electrifying performance of his poem Rives Controls The Internet. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Today has been

delightfully bizzurd |bizˈherd|adjective    strange or unusual, esp. so as to cause interest, incredulity or amusement; wildly unreasonable, illogical, unpredictable or inappropriate;  arousing amusement; calling forth expressions of the bizarre, ridiculous or absurd 
shaped a little like these

and these 

What shape has your day been? 
(is anybody out there?)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Folding the World

In March this year, my youngest son, Tomas, (twenty-one-going-on-six-hundred-and-seventeen) left New Zealand to seek his fortune on the other side of the world. He has just returned to the UK after a three-week adventure in Morocco - an adventure his whanau back home are looking forward to hearing about! Tomas is easily the most self-contained person I know - a quality I admire and celebrate - and (yes, 'and' not 'but') one I very occasionally lament; he's, shall we say, unconventional when it comes to staying in touch - an opportunity for some us to practice patience? In time Tomas will regale us with his stories; his way is to fully inhabit the present moment, to dwell in the vivid details of a place or experience, absorbing the subtler textures of it all so that when he comes to write about it further down the track, everything's 'right there' as if it just happened. His letters, when they come, are well worth waiting for.

(As an aside. . . have you noticed how when we live in time, we worry less about all manner of things - and that living in time, we are generally on time?) 

When we was a very small boy, Tomas developed a passion for All Things Egypt and - a year or two after that - for paper and paper-construction. He tended to take to things on an all-or-nothing basis, which basically meant there was no stopping him if he was engaged and no starting him if he wasn't! Paper-folding pushed his 'on' button. Over many months of intense engagement, he developed methods that were exacting and delicate; sometimes his creations were closer to engineering than origami. I loved - loved - watching his complex constructions taking shape. He'd spend hours measuring, tearing, folding, unfolding, glueing, reinforcing, adding bits, removing others, building, dismantling, rebuilding. . . such patience! The addition of wire, balsa wood, batteries and small motors allowed him to animate them and take his ideas in fanciful directions. For him, construction, function and process were what it was all about - he seldom, if ever, spent time decorating or embellishing the things he made.  He'd make them, get them to work then move on to the next project. We shared our space with a cast of eclectic, eccentric things. 

Anyway, this is a very long introduction to this week's Tuesday Poem! Tender memories have a way of taking us on unexpected detours. . .   

            for Tomas, aged six

            My boy is captive to paper, mesmerized
            by the crisp wafer crackle and bright
            wrapper wrinkle of his tissue paper
            playground; abandoned old telephone
            books, corrugated cardboard fortresses, 
            towering newspaper pyramids.

            He wraps, creases, folds his world.

            His bedroom walls are busy sky
            grazed by paper darts. A hundred planes
            fly head-to-tail in a steady clockwise
            stream; West to East they score
            lines of latitude behind blue
            unblinking eyes.
           Seams in our old yellow wallpaper
           are time-keepers marking strict, straight
           lines of longitude. He crosses one, two
           three time zones in a single journey
           around the room - no instruments
           required to fly his tri-planes, bi-planes,
           classic and boxoid gliders, parrots,
           hawks, level-track deltas, fighter jets
           and - every now and then - an airborne
           origami elephant.

                   Tomorrow - perhaps - he will fold
                   winged sycamore seeds, construct a camel,
                   design a paper boomerang.

           Tonight he will crumple in sleep, dream
           of Tutankhamun and a flimsy shrine
           of gold leaf and turquoise.
           He will wake with the desert wind
           on his breath, whisper tales of Osiris,
           Isis, papyrus and dates. He does not falter
           in his fondness for scarabs nor question
           his small boy's thirst for the deep wet
           fragrance of pomegranates.

           CB 1998/2011

For this week's Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill. 

In recognition of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 this week, TP curator Mary McCallum has posted a film on the hub; listen to New Jersey poet Deborah Garrison reading four poems she wrote in response to this life-altering event. 

May Peace Prevail 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Deep Educational Responses - Ten Years On

We have all been reflecting on 9/11 - the event that ten years ago brought us and our global community to our knees in profound, painful and heart-opening ways. Two essays that especially moved me are these - - -

(1) A piece titled Formulating a Deep Educational Response to Tragedy: Reflections on the Eve of 9-11, by Tony Jenkins, Director of Education at the National Peace Academy.

Jenkins writes ". . . 'Our quickest responses are those that use the least of our imagination and are framed in unquestioned and familiar ways of looking at the world. Human tragedy and suffering will always be shocking, but the increasing frequency with which these violent events occur is evidence that our responses have not gone deep enough.'

Articulating further what I mean by a "deep" response is where I return today in my reflections about 9-11.   "Going deep" is a provocative metaphor.  In ecological terms we talk about digging deep below the surface to reveal the roots.  While we may see and appreciate a tree from the trunk up, we know that it cannot survive without the root system that delivers water and nutrients to each leaf and branch. Belief, cultural, political and institutional systems operate similarly: there are often ideas, principles and values at the core of these systems that are poorly examined and invisible to the naked eye. 

Facilitating learning that capacitates citizens to see and feel deep below and inside is one of the roles education can play in responding to tragedy.  Providing opportunities that engage learners in processes of reflection, relating, re-conceptualizing, futures thinking, and rebuilding should be at the heart of that deep response.  While not exhaustive, these processes are the building blocks of a transformative educational response to tragedy. . . " 

The second piece is a challenging and deeply reflective essay written by Timothy Cahill, Director for the Center for Documentary Arts at the Sage Colleges (Troy & Albany campuses) in Upstate New York. Timothy writes ". . . after the cruel destruction of that day and the bloodshed and destruction that followed, the one incontrovertible truth it has demonstrated is that aggression never works. Not in the long run. It will not affect the change you imagine and cannot set you free. Aggression is slavery, and if we are not to destroy ourselves as a race we must, must, must reject it. We must rise above our baser instincts to fight and accept our human capacity to cooperate, to collaborate, to experience empathy and feel compassion. Love—only love—is the hope at the bottom of Pandora's box. . . " 

This link will take you to the full entry on Timothy's blog, Art & Document

It is good to gather around the table with you again. Soon I'll be ready to return to more regular blogging. . .  things are starting to pick up again in the studio, though more in the way of quiet and steady industry than wild flurries of activity - which feels good. 

Blessings all -

Friday, September 09, 2011

A Word

          A WORD

             This is the first year of the sea
             between us. We are islands apart
             but tuned to the same taut string. 

             I can feel the fear in his quaking
             texts. 1) Christch is gon. Lideas lost
             2) in littelton its all skwshd

             3) wot hapns now 
             Between us the land widens, gulps
             and fractures. The night falls deep.

             4) i just thnk wot if all of a sudn
     i had nuthng
             You would have yourself.
             5) is it enuff
             You would have a lifetime of love.

             It's the only word I can offer, 
             it's the one he knows best. 

             Jenny Powell
             Dunedin 2011

Thank you, thank you to my poet friend Jenny for answering 'yes' in response to my request to post A Word here. This poem - written for her son, Wyeth - rattled my chest and shook my heart open when I read it this afternoon and did so precisely as and when I needed it. To echo Marylinn in her post from earlier today, there are angels everywhere; Jenny? Wyeth? Marylinn? Yes, yes and yes again. In her colourful homage - an 'honoring collage' -  to a dear friend, Marylinn writes ". . . Look not askance at whatever crosses your line of sight today. Be attuned to the most hushed and coded whisperings of the unseen. Embrace what may seem unlikely and pay attention. . . "  I appreciate the reminder. 


A Word first appeared in the September edition of The Dyslexia Foundation's monthly journal. 

Jenny’s latest collection maps the country, people and places of Viet Nam. It forms a cultural and literary bridgbetween the country Viet Nam and the visit to New Zealand of a Vietnamese music teacher Hao, who lived with Jenny during his stay in New Zealand. “Is it possible to love a country you have never been to? Is it possible to visit a country in your imagination?” she asks in the introduction to Viet Nam: A Poem Journey. Viet Nam is an evocative, colourful and imaginative journey that confirms in her work the power of the imaginal world. Read more here