A beginning


Soon after you were born you tore yourself away from the person who was holding you and flew upwards. You proceeded across the room. It was the middle of the night and the curtains were not drawn. We saw you reflected in the glass of the window. You paused for a moment and the hospital bed, your astonished parents and the unperturbed nurse were reflected below you. You may have been asleep. We weren’t sure. You twitched slightly and began to power up again, picking up speed as you approached the open window. Your cotton wrap fluttered in the air and the ghost of a hand cradled your head. Once out of the window you went into town with great confidence and returned after an hour and a half. In your small clenched fist you held a thread or it may have been the stalk of an apple. Attached to it were various round objects that you had collected on your excursion into Tokoroa; a soccer ball, a large mottled egg, a lemon, a granny smith apple and a ginger-haired wig with the long hair at the back pulled into a ponytail. Everyone was delighted with your return. In their madness to hold you and inspect you for damage, everyone forgot about your small store of roundish items. We collected them or put them on ice or froze them or ran after them when they rolled away down various natural declines. As your Autobiography we feel it only right to return these items to you, the items you yourself collected in your infancy, items you went to a great deal of trouble to stockpile. We thank you for reading this accompanying note. We hope you might like to make contact. If not we will be waiting.


Poetry, collaboration, yes

Maukatere coverA few years, 44-email threads, and many generous layers and seeds of collaboration later a book called Maukatere: Floating Mountain by Bernadette Hall will be launched in May and June 2016, published by Seraph Press.

Bernadette first emailed me in 2013. She was working on a new piece of writing. I read the draft and was blown over by it. Did I want to do illustrations? Yes! was my immediate reply and we began exchanging emails about our writing, art adventures, walks and little people (her grandchildren/my nephew). We would go off on our own tangents and reconvene with much to share, both online and in person when either of us was visiting each other’s home town.

An illustrated character called ‘the hooded lantern’ was directly inspired by Maukatere: Floating Mountain. The character has cropped up in a few of my graphic essays since, including Enjoy gallery’s most recent occasional journal. Sometimes the hooded lantern is an awkward hipster who seems a bit embarrassed to have a lamp for a face and retreats, a little unhelpfully into a hoodie to be emotional, that is until a joke, word play or a bit of bad news that’s so bad it’s possibly funny makes the lamp beam out into the world again. In Maukatere: Floating Mountain, the hooded lantern, who appears in most of the drawings I’ve done for the book, is closer to one of Bernadette’s poem figures, the Tangler.

The Tangler is an individual who breaks through, as Bernadette put it to me, the safety nets of family and community. The Tangler is a provocateur who knows all about nets and lifelines, catchment areas and floodgates, land and people, stories and silences. Maukatere: Floating Mountain is an extraordinary poem about memory, what it’s like when other people invite you to know them and what it’s like to be known in return, the things that haunt us over time, the demystifying process of looking at what’s right in front of us. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the drawings are shaped by a mesh pattern, even though this really did seem to accidentally occur to me:


Maukatere 8 sm

Maukatere: Floating Mountain is a single long poem sequence that explores and celebrates life below Maukatere (Mt Grey) in the Hurunui. The book has been beautifully published by Helen Rickerby at Seraph Press. The Press just published Poroporoaki to the Lord My God: Weaving the Via Dolorosa: Ekphrasis in Response to Walk (Series C) by Colin McCahon by Anahera Gildea and will soon publish Paula Green’s New York Pocket Book. It’s been a real pleasure to work with Helen and see all the amazing work she is doing to connect readers with local poetry.

Poetry has an ambiguous presence in today’s world. Working on this project has reminded me that great poetry doesn’t tell you what to think. It gets you thinking for yourself. You see other people around you lifting up a lid on a part of themselves they forgot about or are out of touch with. You hear yourself say that you need something, that what you need might be the same or different from before. The process of remembering, returning to what we think we know is constant and necessary to staying afloat in life. Poetry is sometimes a parent to a kid in the country who can’t drive yet and who needs to be taxied to places and people that will fundamentally help them resolve into some kind of independent person, a person who will either have to learn to drive themself, champion public transport and environmental justice, cycle, run, and/or persuade people to carry them just up to the next corner, please…

Maybe. Not.

All I really know is that poetry is a provocateur of anything and everything, from the glorious to the bamboozling. Maybe that’s the coolest thing about poetry, BYO ethics!

If you can, please join us for launches at Hurunui Public Library (Amberly), Scorpio Books (Christchurch) and Ekor Bookshop Cafe (Wellington):

Launch One: 3.00 pm, 21 May 2016, Hurunui Public Library, 11 Carters Road Amberley Launch Two: 2.30 pm, 22 May 2016, Scorpio Books, 113 Riccarton Road Christchurch Launch Three: 6.00 pm, 2 June 2016, Ekor Bookshop Cafe, 17B College Street Wellington