Thursday, July 31, 2008

From Writer's Block to Writer's Blog

Something about the giant wave that has washed through my life and taken away my father and then my mother a short distance apart from each other, has given me back my own Muse.

I have been a writer all my life, chiefly of poetry, but for the past fifteen years the work I have produced has been almost all transactional (lectures, essays, emails) and very little purely creative. Every now and then a poem has welled up in spite of my deliberate efforts to close off that old area of my life. I chose to use the poetic impulse in other ways, and I don't regret that, but some stopper has come loose recently and I have the urge to write again.

I even stepped up at open mike last week and read out several poems at the Octagon Collective. For the first time in many years I am carrying around a writing notebook in case inspiration strikes. Now there's an act of faith!

It's not just that my life cycle has tossed me back up above the tide line on the poetry beach - I believe that I have also been inspired by the generous and interesting writing blogs I have been reading lately. It's contagious! And blog writing too, can access those secret parts of a person where the imagination lurks.

So I have to thank the magnificent Vanda Symon, because I only signed up for Blogspot in the beginning because I wanted to post a comment on her blog. And through her blog I encountered so many other wonderful writer's blogs. Power to them all.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Cat Nap

The warm rock is nice, and the lavender scent is making me feel sleepy, but where's my feather pillow?

Love Affair of the Century

He waited nearly a year for her ashes to be mixed with his.
They are together again, and at peace.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Many thanks for the condolences, it meant a lot.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Mum's Earthquake

New Zealand Earthquake Report
Saturday July 12 2008 at 12:08 pm (NZST)
Magnitude 5.9, 80 km south-west of Te Anau.

Benjamin Franklin said:
"In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes."

I have had an eventful 24 hours today: I paid my tax, I felt a moderate earthquake, and my mother died in my arms.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Circadian Rhythms

There was a welcome return this week of the Octagon Poetry readings at Circadian Rhythm vegetarian cafe on St Andrew Street.
Circadian Rhythm is a busy and popular performance space (if you're really really interested you can find lots of info on Google, including an old myspace profile). It's one of those slightly impractical but quirkily magical spaces. It's long and thin, with not ideal acoustics, crowds up quickly, and there's a freezing draught if you sit near the door, but it has a great atmosphere and it's friendly and casual.
A highlight of Wednesday night's gathering for me was a short reading by Sue Wootton, this year's Burns Fellow at the University of Otago. She read two "drowning women poems" and I loved the one about Virginia Woolf, especially as I've just been reading Hermione Lee's excellent biography Virginia Woolf. Sue reads (and writes) so well, and she's clearly making the most of her time on the fellowship. Here's a link to a interview with her in the student newspaper Critic.

The featured reader was Marion Jones, who is another good poet and really deserves a bigger reputation, although one gets the impression she'd be uncomfortable with that. It's always good to hear her read, and I really hope she gets her poetry manuscript published soon.

Plenty of other gems came out at open mike. Every fortnight for the next wee while, a poetry feast is to be had. Poetry on the front lines, a ritual pulse in the blood.

At the end of the evening, on stepping outside into the chilly night air, Schroedinger and I expressed exactly opposite sentiments simultaneously: "It's really quite mild out here," he said, as I was exclaiming,"It's like walking into a freezer!"

Poet Jeanne Bernhardt happened to catch the simultaneous contradictory comments, and told us she recognised such a phenomenon as a good omen for an enduring relationship, because, she said, "You'll always have a bone to pick over."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Winter Blossom

Checked out Dunedin’s new Chinese Garden today, on a cool but sunny halcyon afternoon. Being the school holidays, many vacationing young scholars were enjoying the delights of the traditionally designed and constructed scholar’s garden. So it wasn’t that peaceful and contemplative, with the gleeful explorers swarming over the climbing mountain – and that was just the parents! But there was plenty of refreshment for the soul, and aesthetic pleasure to be had in taking in the exquisite vistas at every step and turn. We made sure to get a season ticket and will be back very soon. What a joy it will be, to watch the seasons cycle around the calendar, and catch the garden in its different moods and times of day, and watch the plants flourish.

We were just remarking how pretty it will be in springtime when the blossoms are out, when we turned a corner and discovered one of those brazen early bloomers awash with fluffy flower petals... gorgeous!

The Garden is a fine tribute to the longstanding and vibrant contribution of Chinese people to the cultural life of Dunedin, and it’ll soon find its way to the top of the must-see list for visitors to the city. Beautiful.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Metaphorical Cat

"wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein

This quote is for all those wonderful people who serve the community in access and non-profit radio, by enabling useful, non-commercial, and educational content and providing a soapbox for all interested citizens.

The Well-Read Tabby

"The cat is domestic only as far as it suits its own ends." - Saki

"Time spent with cats is never wasted." - May Sarton

"Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."
- Winston Churchill

"I never met a cat I didn't like" - Andy Warhol

"No matter how much cats fight, there always seems to be plenty of kittens."
- Abraham Lincoln

"If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but it would deteriorate the cat."
- Mark Twain

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Text Centre a Treasure for Train Lovers

Here's a heavenly link for rail anoraks - an online archive of The New Zealand Railways Magazine:

The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre is in general a marvellous resource - it's a "free online archive of New Zealand and Pacific Islands texts and heritage materials, which offers an ever expanding, fully searchable, set of images and full-text books, manuscripts and journals."

Highly recommended.

31 Years Ago Today... of the greatest joys came into my life. He came into the world conscious & thoughtful. He was placed into my arms, and looked up at me and smiled hello. (No, it was not wind. This kid arrived alert & communicative. Maybe it was the effect of the Mozart I used to play while he was in the womb.)

Happy Birthday sweet heart! Sorry about putting you on my blog...

What big ears you have, Grandma!

I did mention recently that the elderly Tabby sometimes reveals herself as part cat, part demon, especially when she visits the vet.
Most of the time though, she is more like a small person in a furry zip-up cat suit. She sneaks into the bed at night, and rests her head on the pillow like everybody else in the family, keeping her body comfortably under the blankets.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Procrastination Seminar Postponed

I know, it's a classic topic for a blogger. Sooner or later you have to face the question: are you wasting your time here (whether you are reading and/or writing)? Are you being distracted from what you really should be doing? Minutes turn so easily into hours in the ether, even if you only confine yourself to the most worthy internet sites.

I'm really loving the Kiwi writing blogs posted by people like Mary McCallum, Vanda Symon, and Rachael King. They're so well-written, and so generous and inspiring, and they are a way for those who need solitude for their work, but like to communicate anyway, to provide a sense of community for each other. Blogs like that network with each other, and out to the world, feeling out kindred spirits all around the world, and locating resources and sharing them, sending out and receiving gentle electronic energies that must eventually fall back inwards again to nourish the creative parts of ourselves.

That's got to be a good thing, right? Do you think the tax department will find it a convincing reason for my tax return being one day late?

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Resurrection for New Zealand Rail

On the 1st July 2008, Toll Rail (a remnant of the privatised New Zealand Railways) became owned by the New Zealand Government and was renamed KiwiRail.

At the KiwiRail launch, Prime Minister Helen Clark said:
"With our rail system back in public ownership we can make the strategic decisions and investments necessary for rail to play its full part in building a more sustainable New Zealand."
Among the torrent of positive comment on the re-purchase, was this statement from Auckland regional council chairman Michael Lee:

"Speaking as a New Zealander, the launch of the state-owned KiwiRail signals the renaissance of rail as part of our national identity. This is an idea whose time has come... again."

Tabby or not Tabby

Simultaneously alive and dead according to quantum theory. Here's a lively cartoon of Schroedinger's "thought experiment" that I found on the internet. The artist has kindly released the image into the public domain for anyone to use. Or so it says on Wikipedia, but anything one reads on Wikipedia should be taken with a grain of radioactive salt. If you are the copyright holder and your rights have been violated please contact me immediately.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Cat out of Hell

The temperature has been taken and the toenails have been clipped, but not without a fight.

A fetching cat muzzle was applied, but it didn't do anything to pacify the elderly but feisty Tabby. It took three people to hold her down while the vet wielded the clippers.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Claw Enforcement

The Tabby received a formal letter today, from the vet.

"Sorry to bring you bad news but it is time for your annual check over. Get your people to phone my people and we'll get together soon."

Such visits involve an undignified application of a thermometer, the clipping of toenails, and possibly an injection or two.

I am quite sure the Tabby would prefer to take her chances with the uncertain fate awaiting her in Schroedinger's Box.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Some Recent Book Purchases

Overkill Vanda Symon (Penguin)
The Blue Mary McCallum (Penguin)
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox Maggie O’Farrell (Headline Review)

Luminous Alice Tawhai (Huia, Wellington)
Been There, Read That! Stories for the Armchair Traveller edited by Jean Anderson (Victoria University Press, Wellington)

Body Parts: Essays on Life-Writing Hermione Lee (Pimlico, London)
Virginia Woolf Hermione Lee (Vintage, London)
At the End of Darwin Road: A Memoir Fiona Kidman (Vintage, Auckland)
The Kindness of Strangers {Kitchen Memoirs} Shona Koea (Vintage, Auckland)

Colin McCahon: The Titirangi Years, 1953-1959 Peter Simpson (Auckland University Press)
The Big Picture: A History of New Zealand Art from 1642 Hamish Keith (Godwit, Auckland)
The Not-So Still Life: A Century of California Painting and Sculpture Landauer, Gerdts & Trenton (San Jose Museum of Art)
Cats Yann Arthus-Bertrand (Cassell)

Magnetic South Sue Wootton (Steele Roberts, Wellington)
Spark Emma Neale (Steele Roberts, Wellington)
Laughing Mirror Douglas Wright (Steele Roberts, Wellington )
The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara edited by Donald Allen (University of California Press)
Abandoned Novel David Beach (Victoria University Press, Wellington)

The Hollow Men: A Study in the Politics of Deception Nicky Hager
No Left Turn: The Distortion of New Zealand's History by Greed, Bigotry and Right-Wing Politics Chris Trotter (Random House NZ)
The Essence of Happiness: A Guidebook for Living The Dalai Lama (Hodder)

Happy Birthday Mama

You made it!

You're 80 years old!