Thursday, October 03, 2019

What the earth bequeathed us

                               What the earth bequeathed us

                                 This is what was bequeathed us:
                                 This earth the beloved left
                                 And, leaving,
                                 Left to us.
                                 No other world
                                 But this one:
                                 Willows and the river
                                 And the factory
                                 With its black smokestacks.
                                 No other shore, only this bank
                                 On which the living gather.
                                 No meaning but what we find here.
                                 No purpose but what we make.
                                 That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
                                 Turn me into song; sing me awake.

                                 Gregory Orr

Monday, September 30, 2019

On what cannot quite be said

A couple of days ago, I stumbled on the site of 'The Open Ears Project': 'Part mix tape, part sonic love-letter, the Open Ears Project is a daily podcast where people share the classical track that means the most to them. Each episode offers a soulful glimpse into other human lives, helping us to hear this music—and each other—differently.'

In episode No. 6, author Ian McEwan chooses the slow movement of J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins.

And in Episode 16, On ForgivenessMezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges shares what she learned about memory and forgiveness from Henry Purcell’s Dido’s Lament.


This morning I woke abruptly from a dream, startled into wakefulness. The first thing I read was a post from Caroline on FB - an acknowledgement of Jessye Norman's death with a recording of her singing Dido's Lament.  

Further reading took me to an article in The Guardian. "17 hours ago; Jessye Norman died at Mount Sinai St Luke's Hospital in New York." Her rendition of Dido's Lament is being played all around the inter-web. May she rest in peace.



[ graft, grahft ]


Thursday, September 26, 2019

Advancing Women Artists

"Interestingly, women make up the majority of art restorers in Florence. This professional dominance can be traced back to the mid-60s, when a catastrophic flood laid waste to millions of the city’s art treasures. 'It was the first time women began wearing trousers in Florence,' Linda Falcone, AWA’s current director told Artnet. 'Women’s liberation in Florence is deeply linked to the art restoration effort.'

Many of the artists in the database were self-taught, barred from seeking formal training or studying anatomy on account of their gender. They could not hope to make a living from their talents when women were forbidden from issuing invoices. And then, of course, there were the demands of marriage and motherhood.

Small wonder they have been so underrepresented in museums and art history books."

Friday, September 20, 2019

How You Remain

I will not surrender my heart,” the tenderly ferocious poet ire’ne lara silva has said. “I will not surrender my art. My poems and my stories are what I have to give in this world.” 

Here, in her invocation for the endangered axolotl — Ambystoma mexicanum, also known as the Mexican walking fish (an amphibian resembling a smiling, translucent salamander) — she praises the intrinsic healing power of beings, a power greater than all governments or public pronouncements. It’s the gentle force of organic, elemental restoration; the song that keeps people singing even when the news grabs them by the throat. [Poem selected by Naomi Shihab Nye, for the NY Times - 12 September 2019]

                                                               little warrior
                                          almost imperceptibly
                                          from so much healing
                                                           how many regrown limbs
                                                           how many repaired organs
                                          even precious
                                                   brain tissue
                                                           created anew

                                          teach me this
                                                          little warrior
                                          how you remain
                                                  tender and
                                                        soft and eternal
                                                        in the face of struggle
                                          how it is the healing
                                                  has already begun
                                                           even before the wound

                                          ire'ne lara silva       

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

All This | Elizabeth Brooke-Carr

          All this

          Winter beach, desolate. Wind-whipped, exhilarated, salt
          air stings our faces. Sand, marshmallow-soft winkles
          out our toes. A gull swoops low, querulous, edgy,
          screaming at us, this is mine! We throw back our heads,
          laughing, tease, it’s ours! But we know all this
          is only ours to care for, our kaitiakitanga, as we pass,
          pressing footprints into the wild, southern afternoon.

          You see it first. A lumpish, static shape on the shoreline.
          Kelp? Driftwood? An old jacket, lost long ago, returned
          by the tide, hunched shoulders, bunched lining, seams
          split by a careless shrug of sea? Our footsteps track to
          the hump. Collars up, we huddle into curiosity. A pup
          shark, dark biscuitchip eyes glazed with ancient fog,
          leafbud ears. Kneeling, I whisper its beauty.

          Perfect parabola, black velvet shading to ashy grey,
          white belly curve stained with a blush of weeping pink.
          Did the waves carry you here to finish your struggle,
          lay you out on this cold sand slab, for us to marvel at,
          as if wonder was a last rite we might perform for you?
          Far out, at the edge of my spindrift mind you swim
          again, intrepid, in a school of gliding fins.

          Elizabeth Brooke-Carr [1940 - 2019]

"... Our harbour and peninsula held a special place in our friend Elizabeth’s heart. When we first met I was living in an old villa in Ravensbourne; the house stood - still stands - directly opposite the Lone Soldier. Many of you will be familiar with our harbour sentinel. I was intrigued by him – took to painting and photographing him in all-weathers and waving to him from my bathroom window. Then one morning in early 2009, a poem landed fully formed on the page, as if the soldier had somehow called it forth. It was a love poem. I took it along to our next writing meeting and read it to the group. 

Fast forward several months - possibly even a year or two - and out of the blue, Elizabeth sent me a letter. 'I'm not sure how to tell you this,' she said, 'but the soldier has written a response to his poet.' She'd attached a Word document. As was her way, she had meticulously followed the same stanza- shapes and line- lengths as in the original poem; the voice of the soldier echoed back at me from his hill across the harbour. His words brought me to tears. And to laughter. I wrote straight back to her saying, ‘MsLiz, we have to do something with these poems – this pair, their relationship’.  And so we wove the two poems together, stanza by stanza; I added visuals and a music track and turned their conversation into a small film. Our mutual friend Paul Sorrell agreed to read Elizabeth’s soldier’s lines. 

Elizabeth was a relationship-builder with a fierce sense of justice. An open-hearted warrior woman in a tiny physical frame, there was something utterly solid and reliable about her –

'If you call, I will answer'

— which is essentially the same reassurance - and invitation - the characters in these poems extend to one other and to each of us."*

Ms Liz

Writing Group: Maxine, Jane, Paddy, Kath, Elizabeth, Martha, Claire, Carolyn, Huberta 
(Penelope, Eva, Beatrice, Shirley and Jenny weren't present for this pic)

*excerpt from A Tribute to Elizabeth. Her memorial service was held in Dunedin on Saturday 7 September.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Love Liberates

"[A person] does not think with [her] hands, but the intellect of a painter certainly thinks in [her] hands, so much so that, in moments of manual inspiration, an artist can sometimes let the hand do its job without bothering too much about what it does." Etienne Gilson Painting and Reality (1955)

 Rest in peace, dear woman

29 January 1932 - 31 August 2019

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Sunday, August 25, 2019

For the Sleepwalkers

          Tonight I want to say something wonderful
          for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith
          in their legs, so much faith in the invisible

          arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path
          that leads to the stairs instead of the window,
          the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror.

          I love the way that sleepwalkers are willing
          to step out of their bodies into the night,
          to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,

          palming the blank spaces, touching everything.
          Always they return home safely, like blind men
          who know it is morning by feeling shadows.

          And always they wake up as themselves again.
          That's why I want to say something astonishing
          like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.

          Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs
          flying through the trees at night, soaking up
          the darkest beams of moonlight, the music

          of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches.
          And now our hearts are thick black fists
          flying back to the glove of our chests.

          We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.
          We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-
          walkers who rise out of their calm beds

          and walk through the skin of another life.
          We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness
          and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.

          Edward Hirsch

Image CB
OIl on paper (detail of larger work) 

Friday, August 23, 2019


Some years ago, I was Artist-in-Resident for a week in the Caselberg Trust's cottage on the Otago Peninsula. In the kitchen cupboard were two old, pale and slightly brittle egg cups. A pair of hens, as you will see. Before leaving the cottage at the end of my stay, I photographed the egg cups on the kitchen windowsill along with my two last mandarins. Something about those photographs always made me smile -- and so this truly odd little vid. came into being.


The world is - quite literally, in places - on fire. We're daily tasked to somehow gather the bitter and the sweet together and to hold all manner of uncertainties and extremes alongside in the same oddly-shaped basket.
I'm posting this quirky wee vid. as a gift (and with just the faintest flutter of trepidation). My hope is it will bring joy, a moment's reprieve, some welcome lightness. It's not attempting to say or reveal anything about anything - nope, it's as simple and innocent as can be; two mandarins in two egg cups dancing in sunshine on a kitchen window sill. That's it. It's also not intended to be in any way 'flip' or irreverent - especially given current world realities. I know for myself (with my inborn 'PFI '- Propensity For Intensity) that there's something immeasurably uplifting about laughter. 

It's often said, isn't it, that joy and sorrow stand back-to-back; each can spin/give way/allow us access to the other.