Monday, February 28, 2011

Many as One - i

Paper poem
Sketchbook drawing
Ink, graphite & chinagraph pencil on paper 

Those of us living within-reach-but-at-a-distance from loved ones in Christchurch are feeling oddly disoriented and at a loss re; what we can do to make a difference. Penelope and others have found words when I have found them difficult. (For non-New Zealanders, Dunedin - the harbour town in which I live - is four and a half hours South of Christchurch; Christchurch is considered by many to be our country's 'heart centre'.). 

If you would like to contribute to the Christchurch earthquake fund, please consider making a donation - no amount too small - for the drawing posted here? (You will find a new Donate button in the side bar to the right of this post.) My intention is to post a new drawing each Monday for the foreseeable future (these will be smallish - sketchbook size - for easy mailing); at the end of each week, all donators' names will go into a hat and a friend will be asked to draw one out. The person whose name is pulled out of the hat will receive the matted* drawing. Proceeds will be transferred directly into Christchurch's Mayoral Fund to assist the community there.

Please note - a one-off donation ensures donators' names go into the hat each week. (i.e The chance of your name being drawn remains in place for as many weeks as this initiative is active.)

Please pass the word on, and if you have anything - an artwork, book of poems, etc. . . - that you would like to put forward for this appeal, please email me on Contributions can be 'sent' to me in virtual form and will be progressively listed on the new MANY AS ONE - Earthquake relief page (you'll find the Tab button at the top of the blog, just below the title.). 

The wider we cast our net, the better. . . Many thanks.


This, too, from Penelope Todd: "Rosa Mira Books and Utah author Dorothee Kocks have agreed that all proceeds from sales of The Glass Harmonica: A Sensualist's Tale from now until 7th of March will go to the Christchurch Mayor's fund, donating to those in need there. This is a straightforward way to give US$11.00 — by going to Rosa Mira Books and following the buying process."

Kia kaha forever strong. 

* The Artist's Room gallery in Dunedin has generously offered to contribute the matts (incl. materials & cutting service) for these drawings - thank you +++, Michelle & Cath ; ) 

Friday, February 25, 2011

(The clip below shows Eric Whitacre describing how this choir came into being.)

With thanks to our friend Pam for emailing me a link to Lux Aurumque some weeks ago. 

Eric Whitacre's website is a feast of glorious, life- and community-affirming music - which is, of course, all the things a choir is. There is nothing we cannot do when we link up. . . especially during darkest hours. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Notification of this vigil just landed in my e-mailbox. Please pass the word on. . . 


Friday 25th February 2011
5.00 - 6.00PM 
Upper Octagon, Central Dunedin.


Further information: Michael Laufiso   
Ph. 027 2461039

A Dunedin Community Initiative supported by the Dunedin City Council & OUSA.

Note: At 4.45pm there will be a pre- vigil gathering on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral for those who would like to offer thoughts or prayers during the vigil.



"Nations Church at 334 King Edward Street, South Dunedin is opening the facility as a collection point for relief items that will be taken by the Salvation Army to Christchurch. The church gym will be open between the hours of 9am and 1pm, Tuesday to Saturday, from 24 February to 5 March. Someone will be there to organize the collection. Unfortunately the church is unable pick up items.

Allen O'Loughlin"

The following items are most urgently needed. Please provide sealed packages, not home made goods. All items should be new or near new.

 ~ Baby food
 ~ Torches
 ~ Batteries
 ~ Tin food (preferably food that doesn't need heating)
 ~ Manual can openers
 ~ Gloves - leather or gardening style (preferably rubber)
 ~ Disposable gloves
 ~ Nappies - all sizes
 ~ Wipes
 ~ Sanitizer lotion
 ~ Brooms
 ~ Buckets - new only please
 ~ Pillow cases
 ~ Sheets
 ~ Blankets
 ~ Toilet paper
 ~ Deodorant
 ~ Soap
 ~ Treats: chocolates, biscuits, sweets

Thank you.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dear friends

Please keep the people of Christchurch in your hearts and minds. After months of stress and distress following last September's earthquake, a 6.3 quake shook the city at lunchtime today. The devastation is significant; the earthquake's epicentre was very shallow. There are fatalities, people trapped in buildings, darkness and rain tonight. And there is concern, of course, about the inevitable aftershocks. 

Light candles, please. And send up a prayer - or your personal equivalent of prayer - for the people and their city. . . 

Thank you. 

Tuesday Poem - Spirit Level Lady

No more clocks and calendars (detail) - Oil on paper - CB 2009

I wrote the following prose poem after a visit to one of my favourite places in the US - Geier & Bluhm Spirit Level Factory in Troy, Upstate New York. (Click here to see Questions of Balance, a body of work that arose from that time and that incorporates these 'instruments of poise'.) 


This is not the first time she's been here. Anticipation makes her 
clumsy. She brings the door knocker down - too hard, Helen. Too loud.

But wait.

She’s not inside the building yet, is standing still on the rough side of the door, 
wood and woman momentarily chagrinned on the tatty outskirts of Troy.

Tugboats. Traffic. Trains. Impatient calligraphy of sound. She hovers 

on the red brick steps at the high tide mark. Above the factory keeper's door, 
neither plaque nor polished bell; instead a weather-worn lintel, 

tough as a loved old face - grooved, striated, shocked rigid by age – 
and four strong numbers staking their claim. 

One. Nine. Zero. Seven. Nineteen hundred and seven. 

She cannot help herself, quickly does the sums: one plus nine 
equals ten plus zero plus seven equals seventeen. Seven plus one equals eight. 

Of course - the perfect number for sanctuary and business.

Behind the un-carved door, the double shuffle of footsteps. David.
Russell. They click back the latch, usher her in. Men of few words

they’re all shyness and grace, manage Hello and thank you 
and how have you beenHelen checks an inappropriate thought; Heavens alive, Woman

You want to take your shoes off? You can’t; this is a factory!

It’s a chapel. I must. 

In her head – where, mercifully, everything is possible – she does both. 
Upstairs, on the factory floor, her eyes adjust to the light. 

Three silhouettes – sacristans dressed in deep purple
overalls - look up, nod and continue about their business. Helen hears

humming. Where are the choristers?  The darkly-timbred pipe organ? And then
she recalls the previous time, late afternoon industry striking up music,

the pedal-board bellow of wind amongst lathes; the percussive shlip shlop 
of slip over metal and slurry over glass. She remembers the mellow undertones

of ochre flocculent in a small harbour basin, glass tubes oscillating 
in a modest side room. Here, now, Russell urges her to touch, pick up the pieces, 

take photographs. She runs her fingers over tall mesh racks, shining bronze mushrooms; 
cools her cheeks on damp clay moulds. A little further on, a blackened steel workbench

is the night sky laid out for the taking - constellations, planets, glowing glass moons. 
You work in the apse of a cathedral! She exclaims. They smile. Say nothing. Keep walking. 

In the furthest corner of the last small room, Helen finds Frances
focused on her task. Each glass vial is given a two-minute circle

of attention. She has the capture and release of bubbles down to perfection. 
At the end of the day, it’s Frances who makes these fragile spirits

soar - every piece a perfect promise. Helen asks her if she remembers how it felt 
to be a girl, barefoot in a light cotton sundress, blowing soap bubbles in a garden? 

She leaves wanting nothing more than to skip and dip a wire wand 
into a glass jar sticky with dishwashing liquid and glycerine.

CB – 2010

Catherine Fitchett is this week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub where she has posted 'The Olduvai Gorge Thorn Tree' by North Carolina poet, Sarah Lindsay


newsflashnewsflashnewsflash. . . . .flashnewsflashnewsflashnews

Ann Kjellberg - editor of special press, Little Star - has posted the poem Phi by Tuesday Poet, Melissa Green on the press website. Ann is instrumental in seeing that Melissa's exceptional books - her poetry collections The Squanicook Eclogues and Fifty-Two, and her memoir, Colour is the Suffering of Light - be reissued. You can show your support and add your name to the motivating petition by clicking here

Saturday, February 19, 2011


The Gratitude Diaries

    "One day, my heirs and successors will have to deal with my diaries. These volumes already occupy several feet of my bookshelf and may have colonised several more by the time I'm done. They will notice that the A5 notebooks are in chronological order and that there is an entry for every day of the year. Already anachronistic - handwritten copy between hard covers - such a thing will be really quaint and bizarre in a couple of decades. Despite this, the heirs may be hopeful that they have come across a sensational cache of information and revelation. 

    Disappointingly for them, they will soon realize that there have never been such dull diaries. They contain no gossip or spicy anecdotes, they aren't written to entertain or even to provide a record of events: they are just an endless list of positives with not a bad word for anyone or anything. The heirs might as well wonder why anyone would bother with such banalities as they pile the diaries into a skip; but what they couldn't know is my not-so-secret formula for happiness. 

    Some years ago, after a period of turbulence in my life, a friend introduced me to the concept of keeping 'a journal of gratitude.' She gave me the book in which it was to be kept and suggested how to use it. 'Every day, write down five things to be grateful for and write them down,' she instructed. The journal she'd given me only provided five blank lines per day so there was no room for qualification or complaint. For the first few months I dutifully performed the ritual at night. Often I found it difficult to think of enough things and took refuge in being grateful for my comfortable bed or being warm or well fed. If the day had gone badly I could always be thankful that it had come to an end. 

    After a while it began to easier to find legitimate entries, and occasionally I had a problem with what should be left out. Rather than a chore, the diary-keeping was becoming a pleasure and the journal itself became precious and it was the first thing that went into my suitcase if I was going to be away from home. 

    Almost imperceptibly, free-floating anxiety and feeling of discontent with myself and the world were replaced by contentment and a clearer understanding of what I found acceptable and unacceptable about my own and other people's behaviour. Keeping a gratitude diary didn't prevent me from being a flawed human being or crashing the car or having rows or being lazy or suffering loss, but it did - and does - help me keep things in perspective. 

    For five years I replaced that first diary with physically identical ones, with the same rather cringe-making suggestions and aphorisms at the top of the page and the restricted space for entries. It was only in the sixth year that I felt secure enough in the gratitude-habit to buy a blank notebook and to embark on free-range gratitude diary keeping. Although the formula is the same - no more and no less than five things for which I am grateful - the extra space allows for a bit more elaboration; or possibly waffle. 

    I look back over past volumes from time to time and, given the limitations imposed by the formula, it is still extraordinary what a flood of recollection each page provokes. Some of them are extremely frustrating, for example one entry reads, 'I'm grateful that the chancellor agreed to the breakfast.' What was that about, I wonder, but the diary doesn't relate and I can't remember. The entries for the births of my three grandchildren, however (at which I was present), are equally succinct but they prompt the most vivid and detailed recall. 

    The diaries spell out very clearly what gives me the most satisfaction and pleasure. By far and away the most constant refrain is gratitude for my family and friends, for meals eaten together, for conversations, laughter and love. Running a close second are the occasions when I feel I've done a good job of work or completed some neglected or onerous task. Natural beauty and cerebral and sensory pleasures feature, but luxurious possessions and treats hardly get a look in. 

    It's hard to maintain many illusions about oneself in the face of so much detailed evidence. If I'd fondly imagined that I was a party girl with a passion for music and literature, these diaries would put me straight because they actually portray a family-oriented home-body with a puritanical work ethic who likes cooking and swimming. But the most transformative revelation is the power of the gratitude itself; it takes up so much room that everything corrosive and depressing is squeezed to the margins. It seems to push out resentment, fear, envy, self=pity and all the other ugly sentiments that bring you down, leaving room for serenity, contentment and optimism to take up residence. Tracking gratitude doesn't, however, make for a very thrilling diary. " 

Sue Crewe
pg. 194. (Random House, London UK)

Writing this short essay out one word at a time was a good exercise for me. I've been a bit stuck on the gratitude front lately, have needed reminding, a jolt or a nudge. I'm thinking it mightn't be a silly idea for me to begin my own Gratitude Diary. 

What five things are you grateful for today? Here's my list - 

(1) My children are all in one city (this one) for another few weeks
(2) I have seven new tubes of oil paint and
(3) Zoe Keating's latest cello album, 'Into the Trees' keeping me company in the studio
(4) Friends within arm's reach and in this community here
(5) The direction for my next body of work has made itself clear (more water, this time with the web)

And here are a few compasses (I've been playing in my studio) in case any of you would like one -

B is for. . .

Beautiful Brassica


(I came across these on the drive home from Christchurch)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Conceal - Reveal

Kate Alterion - The Divide

2011, Chinagraph, ink on paper, sand-blasted glass, brass & steel rivets & lacquered custom wood, 560 x 340mm

I'm away to Christchurch this morning (will be gone for a couple of days) to attend the opening of my friend Kate Alterio's exhibition, Conceal - Reveal. You can view this elegant, pared-back, peaceful show on Kate's website here - and on The Arthouse gallery website. Kate will be sharing the cathedral-like space with sculptor, Tim Main. "Tim Main continues to explore the underlying patterns of the natural world with his latest series, The Vines. Like the traditional art of Japanese screen painting, these works float in a flattened perspective, with the character of each plant beautifully expressed through lightly stylised realism. The elegance and ease of these sculptural forms belies the many painstaking hours of creation. With highly skilled craftsmanship, Main blends ceramic and wood seamlessly together into sculptures that give utmost expression to the forms of nature."

Kate is the gifted and dedicated young Wellington artist who comes down to the South Island every so often to make work in my studio. Accompanying her on this new chapter of her creative journey has been a joy.   

Kate Alterio - Into the Unknown

2011, Ink on paper, sand-blasted glass, brass & steel rivets & lacquered custom wood, 450mm diameter

"In her series, Conceal - Reveal, Kate Alterio uses her well-established skills as a jewellery/object-maker as a springboard into exciting new territory. Alterio has long been interested in notions of revelation and concealment; in this new body of work (ink on paper with sand-blasted glass, brass-and-steel rivets and lacquered custom wood) she makes deliberate reference to earlier collections crafted in precious metals. The combination of solid and transparent materials alludes to the relationship between our physical and spiritual worlds, providing Alterio with a material context within which to explore different states of being and ways of seeing. In our journey through life, we are continually engaged in a process of opening and closing doors, of revealing and concealing. We live with many more questions than answers. Mystery waits behind each door, around every corner. Do we ever catch more than a small glimpse of the endlessly mysterious whole?"

Opening 5:30pm Wed 16 February 2011

All welcome 
(Christchurch bloggers. . . Helen, Catherine -  any chance you might be able to come? xo)