Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Three Roses by Timothy Cahill

                                 THREE ROSES

                                 through the night I dreamed of her
                                 and three roses for my love -

                                 the first dry as memory
                                 fugitive, a concentrate
                                 of beauty drawn tight to the heart

                                 next a climbing blossoming vine
                                 incarnadine in the dawn
                                 mingled scents of spice and sky

                                 and the last a winter rose
                                 bare and barbed
                                 in silence staunched against the cold

                                 yet at the root
                                 all the art of bud and bloom

                                 Timothy Cahill

Timothy Cahill - writer, photographer and editor of Art Conservator, the magazine of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center - is founding director of The Center for Documentary Arts at The Sage Colleges in Albany, New York. Tim blogs here, where - in his statement of intention, he writes "The Center for Documentary Arts is an initiative to increase humanitarian awareness and foster compassion through the power of the documentary arts. Documentary arts are those narrative forms of photography, film, oral history, theater, painting, poetry, etc. that address social themes and reveal the human condition. . . "   

Three Roses moves me for many reasons, one of these being its acceptance of the heart's seasons. The poem lovingly illuminates the vulnerabilities and hopes inherent in our most intimate and enduring relationships. As with each and every truly creative process, love is asked to accommodate all weathers, including periods of what can seem like dormancy. Ah, and then the miracle of discovery. . . incubation; rich is the compost given over for its purpose - to break down the stubborn shape of things, nourish roots, promote growth in unseen places. . .      

                                  ". . . yet at the root
                         all the art of bud and bloom."

For more Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill. Kathleen Jones (a recent winner in the inaugural Straid Poetry Prize) is this week's editor; she has chosen The Hieroglyph Moth - a beautiful, ephemeral poem by French-born, Welsh-based poet Pascale Petit

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Once Upon A TIme

I'm immersed in a swirl of images, notebooks and A4 paper, preparing Words on Water for a Humanities Conference in Phoenix next month. ('Next month' makes it sound like ages away, when in reality - eek -  it's next week! I'll be leaving Dunedin for Christchurch on Wednesday, boarding a plane to LA at the crack of dawn on Thursday. This time next week, we'll be in the air.). I'll say more about the conference (whose 'umbrella theme' is Invoking a New Renaissance - Let Peace Prevail Through Harmony, Beauty and Art) at a later stage. It's a vast subject and one dear to my heart. Some months ago, during the tail end of my Waters I Have Known project,  Marylinn Kelly gave me permission to include her wise words in a painting,  'It is all one water - a finger in a tide pool brings our shores together'. This phrase has become one of the key themes of my presentation. Thank you, Marylinn. . . 

As happens, I've been rummaging through heavens knows how many iPhoto libraries, hunting out  images pertinent to my paper - some of these go back as far as the early 1980s. Needless to say, it's been a bit of a journey; along the way, I came across a library of photographs of my children's early paintings and was immediately transported back to the land of 'Once upon a time. . . ' Since one of the threads of my paper is to do with personal and collective myth, perhaps coming upon these memory 'beads' was timely? From where I stand today, these seven images uplifted from past to present seem to me to hold  the ingredients of our common humanity; I find myself relieved and delighted by this archive - Life's notes? It's all here, really - from the earnest and awkward to the fluid and free; how appropriate to find a solo dancer in the garden of a castle; friends at play and in conversation; I recognize wistfulness, frustration, a healthy expression of fury; contact and separation; uncertainty, mirth, a hint of darkness and flashes of light; I see love and reality, fantasy and tenderness. But perhaps that's just me. I wonder . . . what do you see? 

Anyone for tennis? 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday Poem - SPARK by Emma Neale


                 Our son, nearly one, has one near-word:
                 another determined birth
                 the sound stutters, gutters
                 then rushes and floods


                He points to lamp and torch,
                to LEDs on clock, computer, answer machine,
                to sun-strike – on sash windows, ignited
                from an old ute’s wing mirror, firing
                a red beech leaf as it falls, flares,
                flaught – like torn newsprint in a grate
                as it spasms into flame….

                “That’s right!” we say, “A light, a light.”
                And as he points to hyacinth, door, cat,
                and tries,


                say, “No, that’s a flower, a door, a  cat,
                but he, small and earnest professor,
                cranes forward a little on his rump,
                to repeat slowly and with extra care


                until we look again.

                It gathers in thick cones,
                rods of bee caves
                dozens of lilac oboe mouths
                peeled back into stars.

                It hovers on one wall
                like a vertical lake
                that rapidly drains
                to miraculous views
                (a dog! a tree! a car!)
                then fills again with itself
                hard, white, stilled.

                It unfurls, blackbird-blue,
                to arc and vault
                from windowsill to garden

                where discs and glints of it
                flock, merge, and wheel apart
                into hedge, clothesline, pegs, water,
                frost on red roof, green blade, yellow grain:


                “Ah,” we say, “We see.   There.
                And there.
                Light.   Light.
                All shapes of light.”
                Emma Neale

Emma Neale

". . . The first thing we hear is the rhythm of the mother's heartbeat in the womb.
We learn to master language through the principles of corresponding sounds - the world says "da", and "ma": we echo it back, in the long, slow rhyme of learning to talk. A return to childhood certainties is perhaps what many readers are unconsciously seeking when craving the loud, clear bell of end rhyme.
The patterns of rhyme and metre may set up, and fulfil, expectations; it's an enjoyable re-enactment of hopes realised, in artistic form. Yet readers - and writers - over the centuries have not only sought the comfort and security of traditional prosody: they've also sought adventure and novelty, in the form of variation, spontaneity, inventiveness.
Readers might remember that Shakespeare often wrote in blank verse - unrhymed iambic pentameter - and yet he's known as one of our finest literary forefathers.
Poets who are able to use rhyme skillfully, free of cliche and the thump of bathos, might be the Red Checkers of literature: dazzling, dexterous, daring, and yet just as the RNZAF aerobatics team aren't the only kind of pilot, rhymesters aren't the only kind of poet.
Contemporary poetry uses a full, bristling quiver of techniques to add aural music to the literary form: e.g. assonance, sibilance, alliteration, onomatopoeia, consonance, repetition of all kinds - from song-like refrains, to cyclical teuletons (or repeated end words: see the sestina form in today's offering in the Monday Poem slot).
Yet because poetry is often a printed medium, it also uses line ends and white space to articulate all the qualities of silence, and to add narrative or rhythmic suspense and delay. . . "

from the article 'Not All Cats are black, not all poetry rhymes' by Emma Neale. Read the full piece on the Otago Daily Times website.


Emma Neale is a Dunedin-based poet, novelist, essayist, teacher, editor of our local newspaper's Monday's Poem, mother of two sons and friend; she and her work will already be known to many of you. Emma's latest novel Fosterling is a must-read; you will find yourselves immediately, deeply engaged and transported by this beautifully honed, transformative story. Listen to Emma's conversation with Lynn Freeman on NZ's National Radio (scroll down the radio's page till you reach Emma's name).

Emma has just taken the plunge and joined the blogging community. You can visit her very new blog here. Oh, and how fascinating. . . I have just seen that Penelope Todd featured Emma and her poem Well on The Intertidal Zone a year ago - almost exactly to the day; 20 April 2010! 

Emma has generously donated a copy of her poetry collection Spark to MANY AS ONE - Artwork for Christchurch
Thank you, Emma. 

Also new to MaO, 2000 Circles a photographic work by mountaineer, environmental sculptor and photographer, Martin Hill and Philippa Jones


Tim Jones is this week's TP editor, with Pacific Tsunami Found Poems by Teresia Teaiwa

Please click on the quill


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday Poem - One Senryu & two haikus by Rupert Summerson


A sombre event
Dark glasses to hide the tears
Thinking of Japan


Chit chat chitter chat
Rosellas on the power lines
With a whirr they’re gone


Dawn has just broken
The street trees turned into gold
Old moon in the east

Rupert Summerson

My friend Rupert holds great reverence for all things Japanese. It was Rupert who re-introduced me to Basho (how could I have left him covered in dust for all those years?) and, too, to the sounds of the traditional wind instrument shakahachi and stringed instrument, koto. 

Rupert, Lisa Roberts (she of the lyrical krill and coccolithophors) and I met in Christchurch at the Imagining Antarctica conference hosted by Gateway Antarctica in --- heavens, when was it --- 2007? The Ant. conference happened to fall during the same week as Christchurch Writers' Week, so the city was a-buzz with creative zealots. I'd heard - though not really listened to - a shakuhachi a handful of times before. 

At the end of our day's meetings, a group of us walked into town to a restaurant beside the Avon River - 'Sticky Fingers' was on what's known as 'The Strip' on Oxford Terrace. We had a delicious meal with Central Otago red wine and wide-roaming conversation. Penelope was with us; I vividly recall her recounting the dream she'd had a few nights before - the dream that ultimately gave rise to her inspiring e-publishing company, Rosa Mira Books - yes! Reality is born of dreams.). After dinner, Rupert unsheathed his shakuhachi, walked over to a darkened corner of the restaurant and played a piece of ancient Japanese music for us.  

The shakuhachi is an instrument that's all about 'the breath.' It's played in an attitude of mindfulness - i.e, meditatively and with the intention of humility and 'offering' rather than one of performance. I find its sound haunting - it puts me in mind of words like 'origin' and 'ancient', 'sacred', 'source', 'pure' and 'distillation.' 

In the relatively short time I've known Rupert, he has written a great many haikus. These days, he generally writes between one and three haikus and/or senryus a week. In the recent e- that carried the three poems above, Rupert wrote, "Three haikus - actually, one senryu and two haikus - this week. On Saturday I went to a memorial event in the Japanese gardens near here for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Japan's ambassador was there and one of my shakuhachi-playing friends played Tamuke, a traditional piece often played at funerals. It means prayer for a safe passage and is very beautiful. . . "

Last month, Rupert - who lives in Canberra - played his shakuhachi every lunchtime to raise money for the Red Cross earthquake fund in Christchurch. The month before that, he played for the flood-affected people of Victoria; this coming month, he will again be busking for the people of Christchurch this time donating his earnings to MANY AS ONE. Thank you for this beautiful gesture, Rupert.   

Rupert busking in Canberra - April 2011

Tyr - TP's Birthday Poem

It's finished - TP's First Birthday Poem! 
And what an adventure Tyr's unfolding has been. . . 

Alicia Ponder wrote of the process, 
"So close...watching for the next line is almost like waiting for it to breathe."

one year old you say
this must be celebrated
I shall write haiku

"It was like christmas morning, to run downstairs, click on the link, see where our beautiful poem has ended up. it has taken on life, hasnt it? Thank you so much for this brilliant idea... and the contributions of everyone." xo Susan Landry

"I started from the beginning and read through - line by line, as one does. Each one familiar by now, but different, because part of a bigger thing, leading onwards, ending - who knows where? And then there! - the final lines - and oh, wonderful things, woven with the spit and breath of all the lines gone before, from all over and everywhere, a NZ autumn, a London or Philadelphian spring ... Unbelievable. Thanks everyone." Mary McCallum, TP Curator

To read our birthday poem, please click on the quill. 

Monday, April 11, 2011


Today, I have the privilege of featuring a powerfully affecting work made by North Island artists, Meliors Simms and Bethwyn LittlerMunted is their collaborative response to the Christchurch earthquake and I am grateful to Meliors and Bethwyn for offering this handmade book - a significant and meaningful chronicle of these times - to MANY AS ONE

A few words from Meliors. . . "The word 'munted' is a wonderfully dry kiwi colloquialism for 'broken' and has become widely used even in formal situations to describe the infrastructure damage caused by the earthquake. Bethwyn and I offer this collaged book with heartfelt compassion, respect and sympathy for everyone who survived that awful day. It is not our tragedy to describe, but we hope that by bearing witness we can contribute in some tiny way to the recovery process."

"Today Bethwyn and I met up for a Frugal with the Bruegel session of collaborative altered book making, our first in many weeks. We spontaneously decided to devote our session to working together on a single book, responding to the Christchurch earthquake. Without any particular preparation or planning, we began making a book which may turn out to be our most coherent narrative yet. Drawing only on our collection of old (mostly) children's books, which includes nothing specific to Christchurch, yet the result feels to us very evocative of our emotional response witnessing the earthquake from a distance.

Making this book feels cathartic and healing: a compulsion to channel survivors' guilt, grief and helplessness into creativity. Working with focus and synchronicity we got about half way through the project this afternoon and hope to have it finished in our next session, ready to auction off as a fundraiser for a Christchurch earthquake response fund. . . " from Melior's blog entry, Rapid Response.

Melior's blog - Bibliophilia

"Like many. . . outside of Christchurch, I have developed a profound sense of appreciation for my flushing toilet, hot shower, endless drinking water, electric power, cosy bed, smooth streets, sweet fresh air, fully serviced city and most of all, the solid ground beneath my feet. It may be a while before everyone in Christchurch can enjoy such amenities again. Bethwyn and I hope that our book can provide some small contribution towards Christchurch's recovery. . "

To check out the updated MaO catalogue, click here

To be in the draw for Munted and a selection of other fine artworks for Christchurch, please consider making a donation to the MANY AS ONE appeal. You will find an orange donate button to the right of this page as well as on the MANY AS ONE site. Thank you. 

Saturday, April 09, 2011


A friend directed me to this YouTube video this morning; I received it as a blessing. How remarkable, this baby bird's trust and the young man's tender, matter-of-fact patience - his patient, matter-of-fact tenderness. Each of these elements brings something to bear on both young man and bird, affects the exchange they are having, influences the moments' unfolding. We witness the ways in which a tiny bird's trust affirms a young man's instinct to nurture which in turn emboldens the bird and facilitates its growth. The young man is calm, unhurried. He pays attention, makes very little fuss. It is not long before the hummingbird takes to the air, discovering what it knew all along; it was born to hover, to feed on the nectar of flowers. It was born to flourish and fly. 

Young man and bird are engaged in a conversation that is at once pragmatic and intimate, prosaic and profound, plain and poetic.

Watch carefully the nature of their exchange. . . Each encounter they have is preceded by eye-to-eye contact. It seems to me they aren't so much looking at each other as looking to each other. Each time they connect in this way, bird and man seem mutually dazzled and fortified. 

Forgive me if I'm anthropomorphizing here, but this endearing double portrait speaks to me of the importance of connecting and of being present to the moment in whichever ways we can. There is so much ache in the world right now. So much ache.  This baby bird had a ragged beginning, but  - oh, see - how the young man's tenderness and nurture ensured it would triumph. We, too, were born to burgeon. Day by day, we practice faithfulness; we turn up and take our place. Standing in the heart - at times a brutal, bloody, bewildering place - we walk both familiar and unexpected landscapes together, hands extended in a gesture of welcome and inclusion, as the young man's are to the hummingbird. 

Love to you all, dear friends - and, dear T., especially to you. You are not alone. We are none of us alone. 
Kia Kaha xo

Thursday, April 07, 2011

In Time or On Time?

Last night I went to an early evening lecture at the University - Art & Science were up for discussion in  the Archway Four lecture theatre. . . Afterwards, friend Jenny and I went on to Eureka Cafe for Laksa, cider and scrumptious conversation. We inevitably got talking about books; Jenny asked me if there are any books on my shelves that I read - or re-read - regularly. Well, yes! Im sure we all have a handful that fall under this umbrella? Amongst mine are The Four Wise Men by Michel Tournier (pretty much an annual read since December 1984) and, too, evolutionary biologist Lynn Margulis's What Is Life? (with chapter titles like 'The Autopoietic Planet', 'Cosmic Wiggles', 'Living Carpets and Growing Stones', 'Kissing Molds and Destroying Angels', 'Hitchhiking Fungi' and 'Underbelly of The Biosphere', you will understand my saying I take this book to bed with me often; I have (blush-blush) even been known to tuck it under my pillow pre-sleep?! Lynn Margulis co-authored this volume of reflective essays with her son, Dorion Sagan - son of Carl). Another book I read regularly is Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman. . .   

"Suppose time is a circle bending back on itself. The world repeats itself , precisely, endlessly. For the most part, people do not know that they will live their lives over...'' (pg 8)

"There is a place where time stands still. Raindrops hang motionless in air. Pendulums of clocks float mid-swing. Dogs raise their muzzles in silent howls..."  (pg 70)

"A mushy brown peach is lifted from the garbage and placed on the table to pinken. It pinkens, it turns hard, it is carried in a shopping sack to the grocer's, put on a shelf, removed and crated, returned to the tree with pink blossoms. In this world, time flows backwards... " (pg 102) 

These are various lines that open the succinct, time-defining (time-questioning) chapters in Einstein's Dreams by Alan Lightman.

One of the insistent global themes at the moment is 'living in the present.' The ideal is that by living in the present, one can still assimilate and integrate the past (without getting stuck there) and trust that - with a healthy dollop of proactivity on our parts - the future will unfold as it must. Lightman addresses time from a number of different angles. In each chapter, time is introduced as a unique concept with a peculiarly different set of characteristics. In one chapter, time is a sense. In another, a memory. He wanders and muses, opening the subject up rather than drawing any conclusions. 

I consider time a gift, not a commodity and yet, we think (in our so-called civilized communities) that we can trade it, save it, promote it, bottle it, consume it... Not so! I read somewhere that 'time' is one of the most frequently used words in the English language. It is also one of the most elusive and un-pin-down-able of subjects. This is one of my favourite excerpts from Lightman's book -

"In this world, there are two times. There is mechanical time and there is body time. The first is as rigid and metallic as a massive pendulum of iron that swings back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The second squirms and wriggles like a bluefish in a bay. The first is unyielding, predetermined. The second makes up its mind as it goes along.

Many are convinced that mechanical time does not exist. When they pass the giant clock on the Kramgasse they do not see it; nor do they hear its chimes while sending packages on Postgasse or strolling between flowers on the Rosengarten. They wear watches on their wrists, but only as ornaments or as courtesies to those who would give timepieces as gifts. They do not keep clocks in their houses. Instead they listen to their heartbeats. They feel the rhythm of their moods and desires. Such people eat when they are hungry, go to their jobs at the millinery or chemist's whenever they wake from their sleep, make love all hours of the day. Such people laugh at the thought of mechanical time. They know that time struggles forward with a weight on its back when they are rushing an injured child to the hospital or bearing the gaze of a neighbour wronged. And they know too that time darts across the field of vision when they are eating well with friends or receiving praise or lying in the arms of a secret lover. 

Then there are those who think their bodies don't exist. They live by mechanical time. They rise at seven o'clock in the morning. They eat their lunch at noon and their supper at six. They arrive at their appointments on time, precisely by the clock. They make love between eight and ten at night. They work forty hours a week, read the Sunday paper on Sunday, play chess on Tuesday nights. When their stomach growls, they look at their watch to see if it is time to eat. When they begin to lose themselves in a concert, they look at the clock above the stage to see when it will be time to go home. They know that the body is not a thing of wild magic, but a collection of chemicals, tissues, and nerve impulses. Thoughts are no more than electrical surges in the brain. Sexual arousal is no more than a flow of chemicals to certain nerve endings. Sadness is no more than a bit of acid transfixed in the cerebellum. In short, the body is a machine, subject to the same laws of electricity and mechanics as an electron or clock. As such, the body must be addressed in the language of physics. And if the body speaks, it is speaking only of so many levers and forces. The body is a thing to be ordered, not obeyed.

"Taking the night air along the river Aare, one sees evidence for two worlds in one. A boatman gauges his position on the dark but counting seconds drifted in the water's current. 'One, three metres. Two, six metres. Three, nine metres.' His voice cuts through the black in clean and certain syllables. Beneath a lamppost on the Nydegg Bridge, two brothers who have not seen each other for a year stand and drink and laugh. The bell of St. Vincent's cathedral sings ten times. In seconds, lights in the apartments lining Schifflaube wink out, in a perfect mechanized response, like the deductions of Euclid's geometry. Lying on the riverbank, two lovers look up lazily, awakened from a timeless sleep by the distant church bells, surprised to find that the night has come.

Where the two times meet, desperation. Where the two times go their separate ways, contentment. For, miraculously, a barrister, a nurse, a baker can make a world in either time, but not in both times. Each time is true, but the truths are not the same."


Time and Truth. Endlessly fascinating subjects. . .

I can't help wondering whether there mightn't be two primary prompts - interchangeable and essential - when it comes to our relationship with time: (1) time awareness that acknowledges responsibility to self and one's own rhythms and truth, and (2) time responsiveness that takes into account one's place within the community - i.e. in relationship with others?

Seems to me, it makes sense we pay equal attention to
both these calls, since the neglect of either surely serves neither the group nor the individual well? As for the elusive 'still point' . . .  the 'still point' is, I think, where we find equilibrium - of self, as well as in relation to the call to link in more effectively with others. Few things take the path of a simple straight line, though, do they? (Or do they?) 

My tussles with these themes are very much in evidence on this here blog! And yes, there are A Lot of words here today - I hope not too many. ; ) Ta ra.

Not Rebelling To Agitate Trouble But As A Lover of Something Poses Questions ii
Oil on paper - CB
from Questions of Balance series 2009