Monday, July 25, 2011

It's snow fun after all

Tabby couldn't understand why we wouldn't let him out into the blizzard yesterday. It looked like such fun with all the flakes whirling around. So we let him out today, and he'd only taken a couple of steps when he stopped short and jumped smartly off the freezing white stuff.

First he licked his paw, and had a closer look at his footprints.

Weird stuff. He scratched at it. Nope, cold. And wet.

Let me back inside, please?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Snow day

Cantabby appreciates his feather duvet.

It's snowing in Dunedin today. Wonderful. Cold but wonderful. According to my indoor/outdoor thermometer, the outside air temperature has not risen above 1 degree C since before midnight last night, and a lot of that time it has been below zero. Reasonably snug inside the house though. The agency cat doesn't seem to know what snow is - he rushed along the window sill trying to bat at the whirling white things (Butterflies? Tiny white birds?) and was desperate to be let outside. We weren't keen to let him go out in such a wild mood, so we let him poke his head out to see how freezing it was. A snow flake flew into his ear and he retreated smartly. Back to sleep. Wake me up when the sun shines again.

Watch a slideshow of the biggest snow in Dunedin for years: Otago Daily Times.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Happy Poetry Day

Today is Poetry Day in New Zealand and it's an event that has really taken off - especially with those of us who celebrate every day as poetry day. It's a day when it's OK to love poetry.

New Zealand National Poetry Day Friday July 22nd 2011

To mark this special day I'd like to feature a couple of brand new slim volumes I've recently bought and I'm currently enjoying.

in vitro by Laura Solomon (2011)

Beyond sharp, these satirical set pieces offer a tasty read. "In vitriol" might have been a alternative title. I don't believe poets should pull punches.

Favourite poem "The Poet Leaves the Table." Favourite lines:

She had been mollycoddled enough.
No, no, I think you mean, she had been mauled enough.

Western Line by Airini Beautrais (2011)

I love this book even though it is published by "an academic press of mediocre standing which devotes far too much of its funds to lacklustre poetry" because I admire Airini Beautrais' poetry (it's not lacklustre at all) and because there are lots of trains in the book and I love trains as well as non-lacklustre poetry.

Favourite quote is from a prose poem called "The Woman on the Phone"; the woman is on a train and blabbering away at full volume on her mobile phone with just a handful of other people (including of course, our poet) a captive audience, listening in. The train goes into a tunnel and the woman is of course cut off, but doesn't at first understand. "Hello?" she says:

She has forgotten what happens under mountains.

Dunedin's primo poetry event will happen this evening at the Dunedin Public Library, in direct competition with some sort of rugby game going on somewhere else in the city. Readers will include the wonderful Rhian Gallagher, whose first book Salt Water Creek was shortlisted for the prestigious Forward Poetry Prize and whose second book Shift will be released later this year by Auckland University Press; Michael Steven; Richard Reeve; and Burns Fellow Fiona Farrell; with pyrotechnical poet David Howard as MC.

Viva Poetry!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

The New View

An icy midwinter evening after a beautiful sunny Dunedin day - the very best that this season has to offer here in the South. Looking from the new house on the hill, across the narbour to the city. The large structure lit up like a Chinese lantern is the controverisal new stadium - an expensive luxury bankrupting the entire district -  the brighter it shines the duller the surroundings seem. It's drawing all the money to itself and swallowing it in one glowing burp. I wonder if we'll be able to hear Elton John from over here when he plays the inaugural concert.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Poet: Hone Tuwhare

Small Holes in the Silence: Collected Works by Hone Tuwhare
Godwit New Zealand 2011

Just bought this collection hot off the press in time to have a Tuesday suffused with Hone Tuwhare's poetry.

When he was good, he was very very good, and I really do cherish his famous poem 'Rain' from which the phrase "small holes in the silence" is drawn.

I knew Hone quite well at one time and back in the day used to prop up the bar at the Robbie Burns Hotel with him, and had the odd feed and a drink with him in his little cottage in Dundas Street Dunedin. And many times heard him read, always including the poem 'Rain', never growing stale because of the delicious and sensuous way he savoured every word as he performed his Greatest Hit.

So his voice reads these poems aloud for me and I browse through looking for the ones I want to relive and linger on, and - in this ample volume revealing some verse I hadn't seen or didn't notice before - discover new tidbits for the first time. As with every Collected you have to take the stalk and the chaff along with the ripe tasty meal. And you get the sense of the journey of the poet, of their life, of all the work they had to do and the listening and the living and the travelling and the reading and the writing. And a bit of drinking and carousing, and a lot of loving.

Of course I don't have to have been at the edges of a poet's social circle to love their work. For me the poets I choose to read and admire become my friends, it's as if I was there when they wrote that thought down, and I'm grateful they went to all that trouble despite all else in their life. Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, Frank O'Hara. And so on, and so on. Their words are as if uttered for the first time, no matter how far away in time and space they are from their reader.

It's useful to have a Collected Works with the texts of every book, and the book covers, and some new Maori translations of many poems besides. And photos. Kia ora, Hone.

And I
should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind

For more information about Hone Tuwhare:

For more Tuesday Poems:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Temple Gallery

This quirky gallery is one of many hidden treasures in the arty southern city of Dunedin, where the weather is so crap it's a great place to work without distraction on your sculpture or your novel or your screenplay, your painting, your poetry etc. Cold weather spurs creativity? Is it true? Anyway this belief is one of the ways we console ourselves here where the winters are always bitter but so too, often enough, are the summers.

The Temple Gallery was originally a Jewish Synagogue. The architect was William Clayton, who designed another of Dunedin's lovely houses of God, the Anglican All Saints Church on Cumberland Street (1865). I went to that All Saints Church last year for the first time, to attend the funeral of a elderly friend, a well known and respected left wing author. There's a certain comfort in gathering to mourn in such a pleasing aesthetic environment, even if you're not particularly religious. Well, that is how I feel. But I love the holy and the solemn, it must be my Catholic background. The fine church felt like a fitting place to farewell a treasured and honoured member of the arts community.

Art galleries are a lot like churches, aren't they. Often they too are vaulted towards the sky. They're cavernously larger than most of us would dare to make our living environments. We behave circumspectly in galleries too. We're respectful, we're meditative, and quiet, we bow towards the works, and circle them reverently and take care not to touch or to approach too closely. Even if we're not converts to the sect or the denomination on display, we're generally quietly tolerant and civil (at the time anyway). And if we're lucky enough to be invited to the opening, we nibble on crackers and sip red wine.

Building began on Dunedin's first Synagogue in 1864, and it was consecrated in 1865. By 1881 the congregation had grown and so moved into a larger synagogue that was constructed nearby. In the same year the building that is now the Temple Gallery began its life as a Masonic Lodge. The structure was extended and altered - in a 'Romanesque' style -  but with the original synagogue still at its heart.

The freemasons sold their former Lodge into private hands in 1992 and it has since housed apartments as well as the marvellously distinctive art gallery with its mysterious steep garden pathway rising in a zigzag from Moray Place up to the sheer edifice of the Temple.

I visited the gallery recently to check out the latest facinating exhibition: 'Poisons' by Martin Sullivan (see ODT review by James Dignan). A most enjoyable mix of genres, wooden carvings, castings, bird bones and found objects; the placing of the displays using the atmosphere of the gallery well to create a sacred/secular - or is that scared/secular - space of myth and nightmare memory.

Construction details and dates drawn from a flyer written by art historian Peter Entwistle and available at the Gallery.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Books acquired recently

Martin Edmond's Dark Night: Walking with McCahon - One of my favourite authors on the subject of one of my favourite artists. What's not to love? But I haven't had a look in as Schroedinger grabbed this one first. Looking forward to it. Artandmylife has posted a great review.

Michael King The Silence Beyond edited by Rachael King. I was close to Michael and he emailed me as he was about to leave the house on the morning of his fateful trip. Not taking my laptop, he said, but in the unlikely event of an emergency I have my cell phone with me. He did take his laptop as it turned out, and there wasn't just an emergency, there was a tragedy. Fortunately Michael was better organised than many of us and he had backups and printouts of his work back at home, it wasn't all lost with his computer in the disastrous car crash and fire, so his daughter Rachael was able to gather together some unpublished and uncollected pieces for this volume. Reading this book has been a poignant experience for me as I shared a few of Michael's journeys. All the same I was quite shocked to find my name in the index.

Well, history is all our story, his story, her story, my story.

Dear Sweet Harry by Lynn Jenner. Glad I found this. It is truly fascinating, unique. Autobiography, poetry, fiction. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday Tabby Poem


by Charles Baudelaire

Both ardent lovers and austere scholars
Love in their mature years
The strong and gentle cats, pride of the house,
Who like them are sedentary and sensitive to cold.

Friends of learning and sensual pleasure,
They seek the silence and the horror of darkness;
Erebus would have used them as his gloomy steeds:
If their pride could let them stoop to bondage.

When they dream, they assume the noble attitudes
Of the mighty sphinxes stretched out in solitude,
Who seem to fall into a sleep of endless dreams;

Their fertile loins are full of magic sparks,
And particles of gold, like fine grains of sand,
Spangle dimly their mystic eyes.

(Translated by William Aggeler)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The fax of the matter

I can't get away from my desk right now.
I'll tell my people to get in touch with your people.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011