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Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

I have recently succumbed to the tyranny of the pedometer. I need to move and get outdoors because the winter gloom of Southern New Zealand affects me quite a lot and sun and exercise helps. Thing thing is…exercise. In my much younger days I climbed and tramped and the thought of “artificial exercise” eg the gym, chills me. I have friends who walk and I am a fan of flâneury on the page at least, see here and here. Related to this, some of my favourite books relate to psychogeography, brilliant examples being Martin Edmonds’  “Chronicle of the Unsung” and “Dark Night: Walking with McCahon“. More recently I discovered WB Sebald whose “Rings of Saturn” which I cannot recommend strongly enough.

So can I walk with purpose in my small town, and is it big enough that I can also wander? Initially I am being guided by the 1970s books “Taieri Buildings” and “More Taieri Buildings” by Lemon and Bascand, and am trying to locate all the buildings still there that are within the build up area. Sadly some, like the old Flour Mill (in this photo just before its demolition), have been reduced to gravel carparks.

Recently on a night walk I managed to circumnavigate, by accident, the grounds of what was Holy Cross College, a former seminary. This photo was taken around 1900 I am guessing, as a new chapel was built in 1902.

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DCC Archives, postcard in Taieri County Council Photograph Series. Photographer: AW Bathgate

And today I took this – from a similar position. You can see a former convent just in front, now a house.

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Poor phone camera photo taken today of same view.

So yes….more to walk and write about. I am also excited to compare urban, rural and small town journeys. In Rebecca Solnit’s “Wanderlust: A History of Walking” she writes “In the country one’s solitude is geographical – one is altogether outside society….In the city, one is alone because the world is made up of strangers, and to be a stranger surrounded by starkest…is among the starkest of luxuries”.

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Someone once gave me some very sage advice. “The things you have to work hard for are the best“. At the time I wasn’t very impressed with this, but actually it’s true, for me at least. Frequently I have to work hard* to attend things and today I dragged the family out early on a long promised outing, so I could make it home in time to get organised to go to a reading at Dead Soul Books.

These events always remind me how small Dunedin is and how good this can be. I turned up on my own not really expecting to know anyone except Dean Havard:- proprietor of Dead Souls books and also the man behind Kilmog Press. But as people arrived, it seemed like I knew nearly everyone. And the readers: Former Burns fellow, David Eggleton ; current Burns fellow David HowardLynley Edmeades, poet and one of the people behind Deep South. Dunedin is rich in the arts. The event was a launch for Vaughan Rapatahana’s books Toa and China as Kafka (a Kilmog Press book).

The setting was brilliant (Dead Souls is an atmospheric, old world bookshop), and the readings very good. I am sometimes wary of poetry, in fact I told someone at Dead Souls today that poetry makes me feel out of my depth. But I am a reader and consumer of poems. What I like is when a poem speaks to me, whispers in my ear, stays with me long after. Some times they reach out and grabs at me and today’s poems did that; Vaughan’s readings especially so. A poem from China as Kafka ‘At Waikanae’  described asa lovely, lyrical poem reminiscing about the teenaged poet and his cousin mowing the lawns at their urupa, tending the graves of their whanaunga. ” But it spoke to me of living and working on the Kapiti Coast, of the tangi and the urupa I encountered and the sadness. I felt homesick.

Rapatahana also read from his novel Toa “a road trip through the ‘skinny country’ where Mahon, an ex-university philosophy lecturer, and his gun ‘Molly’ blast their way across the country in a black Mark IV.” Now that’s a book you have to read – and I’m looking forward to reading my copy.

I often think of tribes (in a postmodern sense) as I move through life and especially at events like this. I’ve never quite found my tribe. There has always been a disconnect. Occasionally, like today I find myself on the edge of a group and think, “maybe this?” But mainly I think I live at the intersection of many – in that slim crossover area of a Venn diagram; a lost soul perhaps?

But did today’s poetry stay with me? Yes. Humming on the drive home and then while I cleaned out the rabbit hutch and I noticed how sweet the new hay smelled. It followed me to the supermarket and then while I folded the washing. And now while I write this…and that is all good.

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Worst photo ever – David Howard, David Eggleton, Vaughan Rapatahana (and others) today at Dead Souls Bookshop

* It may not sound like work, but for me a trip to the public pools is like entering one of the seven circles of hell.

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In the stress of life and a new job, I have frequently found myself at 3am worrying about work. My remedy has been to listen to audio books which I find soothing and I manage to get back to sleep. I should add at this point that a recording of Ginsberg reading ‘HOWL‘ did  not have this effect.

However my recent late night/early morning sorry has been Patti Smith reading her book “Just Kids“. There is an intimacy in an audio book read by the author, it felt like Patti was telling her (and Robert’s) story directly to me. I was surprised at her accent (yella, fella etc) and affected by her vulnerability. In fact, yesterday morning at 5am I found myself weeping as the story drew to a close with Sam Wagstaff’s and then Robert Mapplethorpe’s deaths. Yesterday was that kind of day and the book on reflection is full of reminders of our mortality.


Patti and Robert lifted from here

It is an old story. I watched a film a while back that is an intersection with Just Kids.  Black White + Grey, is mainly about Sam Wagstaff and Robert Mapplethorpe’s relationship. Ron Brownson has written about this here and I agree it was sad not have more focus on Wagstaff and his amazing collection of photography (which Smith details the beginnings of in Just Kids). I have been dreaming of black and white photographs of American Bison since: the great herds of the great plains of the west, now as non existent as the New York of the 1970s that Smith and Crump document.

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A pile of American Bison skulls waiting to be ground for fertilizer: photographer unknown, mid-1870s (image by Chick Bowen, 27 May 2011)

I hate the concept of ‘bucket lists’ and yet I sort of have one. Sadly often the things I want to see or do don’t exist or can’t happen. For example I wanted to stay at the Chelsea Hotel (a feature of the Just Kids story and many others) but it has been bought out and closed. “ A property developer recently bought the down-at-heel building for $80 million (£48 million) and has turned it over to an architect best known for designing bland Holiday Inns.” Gone the way of the bison, ground into fertiliser.

[This post was written to a soundtrack of Smith’s “Horses” and aided by strong black coffee.]

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It is my birthday and coincidently I wonderful little handmade/hand drawn/hand painted book arrived for me from Sarah Laing.

My full list of inspirational people is/was

  • Tom Waits
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Sam Hunt
  • Jim Baxter
  • Janet Frame
  • Keri Hulme
  • Philip Clairmont
  • Colin McCahon
  • Frida Kahlo
  • Rita Angus

Iggy Pop was on the sidelines

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Colin McCahon by Sarah Laing (2013)

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I recently picked up a clearance copy of Hemingway’s “Death in the Afternoon“. I like Hemingway  although I prefer his writing when less blustering and more sentimental. My favourite Hemingway book is “Islands in the Stream“, and I wonder if it was not published during his lifetime because it is such a tender book in places, as well as a great fishing/action/adventure yarn. One day I will visit Bimini although the hotel burnt down in 2006.

The photos in “Death in the Afternoon” are quite special, no matter your position on bull fighting. I feel they illustrate the horror of the sport as well as the glory. I particularly “like” the caption of one photo “Granero dead in the infirmary. Only two in the crowd are thinking about Granero. The others are all intent on how they will look in the photograph.

These photographs were in my mind when I happened to be in Wellington of the opening weekend of Michael Parekowhai’s “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer” at Te Papa. I managed to have a few hours spare to really spend some time looking around and I also made a point of seeing Fiona Pardington’s Flora,Fauna at {Suite} Gallery which was truly wonderful.

I had read a lot on-line about Parekowhai’s pianos and bulls and was interested in their current incarnation after seeing photos of the Venice Biennale arrangements and the gift to Christchurch of a partially outdoor installation

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Michael Parekowhai’s On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, Christchurch 2012

On Sunday afternoon, as I approached the long gallery at Te Papa I was disconcerted to hear a young voice singing Adele’s “Someone Like You” with piano accompaniment. Oh dear! but the cluster of bulls and pianos at one end of the gallery had such great impact, that I forgot about Adele for a minute.

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Parekowhai installation at Te Papa

Another player soon took a seat at the red Steinway (He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: Story of a New Zealand river) and launched into a passionate rendition of….well I’m not sure really. I like to think it as Rachmaninov because 25 years ago I worked with a very very kiwi bloke kind  of guy who would sit at any available piano and very play amazing classical music – usually Rachmaninov – and this reminded me of Russell. All the while, a logo’d Te Papa person circled, taking photographs.

My reaction was very similar to that of Best of 3, who wrote about her experience beautifully.

I don’t think I have ever been so moved in a museum. There was something about the way that people’s individual reactions and responses built into a collective experience that just opened my heart. It made me realise just what power artists have, that they can make occasions like this for us. Parekowhai is quoted on the exhibition info panel as saying There is no object I could make … that could fill a room like sound can.”

yes I cried….it was so moving and I felt overcome by thoughts about of my last few years…life the universe and everything. It also reminded me of saying goodbye to McCahon’s Northland Panels at Te Papa when I left the North Island. I cried then too.

There was a small emotional death for me this August afternoon, with a powerful piano soundtrack played on a carved red piano and with 2 large blackened bulls as harbingers of something ominous. Like the photo in Hemingway’s book, I felt that only I am thinking about the future. The others are all intent on how they will look in the photograph.

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Broadcasting from a new location

I’ve moved house and although I posted a few entries here about not needing an office, I actually have ended up with a room of my own with a view (apologies to Woolf and Forster). I haven’t set it up yet, but the unpacking has begun.

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Deep Sea Dive

Writing is a deep-sea dive. You need hours just to get into it: down, down, down. If you’re called back to the surface every couple of minutes by an email, you can’t ever get back down. I have a great friend who became a Twitterer and he says he hasn’t written anything for a year.” -Dave Eggers (from an interview with the Guardian)

Found here

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