Landfall 229 : Aotearoa New Zealand Arts and Letters 9781927322420, 9781877578908

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Landfall 229 : Aotearoa New Zealand Arts and Letters
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aotearoa new zealand arts and letters



The Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize 2015




May 2015

Editor David Eggleton Founding Editor Charles Brasch (1909–1973) Cover: Rob McLeod, Untitled, 2015, 178 x 127 mm. Oil on canvas. Published with the assistance of Creative New Zealand.


4 Reflections on Waterfall Bay, Sandra Arnold 10 The Crow, Sandra Arnold 14 from By the Water, Pat White 16 At the Festival of Colour, Ruth Arnison 17 The How Do We Begin?, Emma Neale 20 The Ghost of  James Williamson 1814–2014, David Howard 33 This Compulsion in Us, Tina Makereti 46 The Funeral: April 2008, Adam Dudding 58 Script of Anzac Day 2015 RNZ National Feature Programme, Dean Parker 71 The Passion of Walker Evans, Robert McLean 74 Habitué, Bob Orr 75 In the Painter’s Studio, Sandra Bell 76 Study (2007), Ben Webb 77 Black Swans, Stephen Oliver 78 Arthur Dove’s Blackbird, Peter Belton 79 A Large Collection of Small Things, Nicholas Reid 81 ART PORTFOLIO, Jeena Shin 90 sacred logs, Christina Conrad 91 Episodes, Wystan Curnow 96 ART PORTFOLIO, Rob McLeod 105 The Modern Primitive, Sue Reidy 107 Until the Next Time, Terence Rissetto 109 On Core, Stephanie Christie 111 Revival, Victoria Broome 112 Tinkering, Rata Gordon 113 Delilah, Isaac Devenport 114 Danae, Alice Miller 115 Denial, Claire Orchard 117 empty room, Owen Bullock 118 The Lost Poem, Peter Bland 119 The Trees, Elizabeth Smither 2

131 Alex Listening to David, Anna Forsyth 132 Concentration, Sean Monaghan 143 Proposal for the Garden City, Doc Drumheller 144 My Dear Leonardo, Karen Zelas 146 Book Launch, Owen Marshall 147 Woodend, Gary Langford 148 The Osney Hag, Nick Ascroft 150 A Person Who Needs Another Person, Justene Musin 153 Mirage | Arizona, Louise Wallace 154 I, Ivy Alvarez 155 Out of  This/The Expression, Iain Britton 156 anti-aconite, Mark Young 157 from Quite Little Ones, John Geraets 158 THE CASELBERG TRUST INTERNATIONAL POETRY PRIZE 2015 160 Luthier, Sue Wootton 161 Four Photographs from a Window, Jessica Le Bas 162 Endless Sea, Bronwyn Calder 166 LANDFALL REVIEW ONLINE SEPTEMBER 2014—MARCH 2015 167 THE LANDFALL REVIEW 168


Self-Portrait, Martin Edmond



Whatever the Facts, Maggie Rainey-Smith









What the Body Can and Can’t Do, Siobhan Harvey



No Normal Woman, Tina Shaw

A Dialectical Strain, Tim Corballis Thriller, Denis Harold

A Canny Perceptiveness, Nicholas Reid




Reflections on Waterfall Bay Extracts from my journal, 23 October to 20 November 2014 Day 1: Thursday Chris and I leave Christchurch early in the morning and arrive in Waterfall Bay eight hours later. Scotty meets us and shows us around the property—a well-equipped two-storey bach overlooking the bay. The sun is shining on the water and a bellbird sings. Bushes of grapefruit, tangerines, lemons and limes scent the air. I smile from ear to ear. Day 2: Friday I wake to a bird piping in the garden. The hills and water are silver in the predawn light. I set up a writing room upstairs with a view of bush and sea. Through the open window I can hear birds, water, and the occasional boat in the distance. After lunch on the deck we explore the extensive grounds. Near the jetty, fish jump for insects and weka call to each other in the bush. Waterfall Bay is very secluded with few other houses visible on the hills, some of them with boat access only. There’s no television in the bach. The internet works intermittently and the mobile phone signal is weak. No distractions, therefore, and I’m happy with that. I spend the rest of the day editing draft chapters of ‘The Eshwell Bridge Witch Project’, the novel I’ll be working on during my month’s residency. Day 4: Sunday After a walk to Mistletoe Bay, I spend the day writing. Scents of jasmine drift through the open window. Seabirds glide past. A line I love from Henry IV Part One is ‘And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents.’ A ‘rare accident’ I think about now is a chance meeting with an old 4


man in a graveyard in England in August. I was there to do some research and next on my list was a sixteenth-century manor house. The old man introduced himself and took a handful of photos from his coat pocket, along with his birth certificate. The birth certificate showed he had been born in the manor house. The place is now a museum, but from the end of the eighteenth century until the mid-1930s it had been used as tenement flats for the poor. He told me he had lived there in one room with his mother and siblings until he was fifteen. On three occasions he had seen the ‘white lady’, he said, the first time when he was three and thought it unremarkable to see someone walk through a wall. Of his sixteen siblings, only eight had survived infancy and now he was the last one left. He told me where to find the room which, he said, contained his mother’s belongings that he had donated to the museum. He showed me a photo of his mother at seventeen. She was beautiful. He showed me the blackberries he was collecting from the cemetery for one of his community projects. Before he left he said he liked sharing his story with people who wanted to listen. When I visited the room where he’d been born, I felt privileged that he had done so. In my writing room in Waterfall Bay I draw on this encounter for the dialect of two of my characters. It is a dialect that is heard now only in the elderly. The old man’s former home plays a significant part in the lives of several generations of my characters. In the evening we go for a walk and find two large bee swarms in a tree. Back at the house we light the fire. The room is soon toasty and we settle down to read. A tapping at the window makes me jump. It’s a weka looking for insects in the jasmine. Day 5: Monday Rain lashes the bay with icy whips all night and by morning drapes the hills in shrouds of grey. I write all day and complete the first draft of a new chapter. When I finally stop at 6pm I realise I’m very cold. It’s time to eat and get warm. Day 7: Wednesday I wake early and watch the darkness drain out of the hills. The sea is like green glass. After all yesterday’s rain the air is tangy with earth scents. 5

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Life in Waterfall Bay has slipped into simple routines. I love the silence, the light that keeps changing the colour and texture of the sea, and the many moods of the weather. I’m reading John Ruskin at present and a sentence from The Lamp of Memory could have been written about Waterfall Bay: ‘It would be difficult to conceive a scene less dependent upon any other interest than that of its own secluded and serious beauty.’ Day 8: Thursday Scotty arrives with the bee man in the morning to move the two swarms into new hives. Manuka honey is produced from the bees at the property. The sun is hot, the bay is blue, but the bees are annoyed, so I return to my writing room. Over a cup of coffee on the deck, Scotty tells me about the Burdekins from whom Michael Seresin bought this property in 1990. Later he brings me a book: Riding with Whales by Heather Heberley, containing Olive Burdekin’s extraordinary story and the stories of other women who had lived in the Sounds in earlier days. Heberley wanted to record the women’s stories before a significant part of Sounds history was lost. She makes the point that if those women had had some time out from their myriad responsibilities they might have written their own stories. Day 9: Friday In the evening we go for a walk to search for the concrete bath Olive Burdekin described in her story. It had been housed in a lean-to when she arrived at Waterfall Bay in 1948. In later years, after the installation of better facilities, her husband rolled it down the hill to a creek and stored milk bottles in it. We find the bath still in the creek where he had left it, now covered with moss and ferns. It looks too narrow to take a bath in. Olive said it felt like bathing in a stone coffin. She lived in Waterfall Bay for 42 years. I’m glad I know something of her story. Day 10: Saturday I’ve been thinking about Ruskin’s statement in Modern Painters III, that an artist must ‘temper it for me, interpret it for me; let me see with your eyes and hear with your ears’. How does this relate to finding meaning in narrative? I think it is only by entering the space of the narrative and interpreting it for oneself. 6


The stories in Riding with Whales describe an era of different expectations, different social attitudes, different rules, physical hardship and stoicism. I reread a draft chapter of my book in which a child listens to her grandmother’s stories. I see that it is through entering the space of these stories for herself that the child can reach a decision that will have far-reaching effects on the direction of her own life. I complete another chapter. I’m surprised by the direction it takes, which is not at all where I expected it to go. Day 11: Sunday Scotty and his daughter Gabrielle take us by boat through the bays to Lochmara. We have lunch in the restaurant and enjoy listening to Scotty’s stories of the Sounds. Afterwards we go for a walk through a forest of giant ferns and punga trees and find huge faces carved by various artists into some of the punga and rocks. This is such an unexpected delight. On the way back Scotty points out a house in Onahau Bay where one of the women in Heberley’s book had lived from 1928, giving birth to eight children in sixteen years and continuing to manage the farm when her husband died. Day 13: Tuesday This morning we walk to Onahau Lookout. The track seems almost vertical, but the views of Queen Charlotte and Kenepuru Sounds are worth the effort. A group of French tourists is already at the top. They are excited when a weka walks out of the bush and one of the group tells me she has been reading about New Zealand native birds. She describes the Sounds as ‘paradise’. I tell her about some of the women in Heberley’s book. She produces a pen and paper and asks me to write down the title. On the way back down the track I feel pleased I was able to share the stories with someone who wanted to listen. In the evening the sky darkens and thunder rolls over the hills. Lightning flashes across the window. The house shakes. Day 14: Wednesday There are native pigeons, kingfishers, goldfinches, quails, fantails, bellbirds and tui in the trees around the house and many other birds I can’t identify. At the jetty we watch five dolphins diving for fish. Blobs of jellyfish float below the surface like tiny rainbows. 7

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In the evening I browse through a collection of old Landfalls dating back to 1957. It is a fascinating dive into the past in terms of writing styles, topics and social attitudes. In the early volumes the contributors are almost all male. In No. 120 (1976) I find Margaret Mahy’s brilliant essay on imagination. Her definition: ‘… a kind of energy which enables us to synthesise disparate elements, to perceive realities that are not immediately obvious’ (p. 292). The full moon wakes me in the early hours and the ending for my new chapter takes shape. Day 17: Saturday Scotty sails Nukatere to Havelock for repainting. Chris goes by car to pick him up. They arrive back in Waterfall Bay in the evening with Darryl and his parrot, a beautiful African grey called Fonz that he takes everywhere with him. Darryl, Fonz and Scotty leave on Pedro to sail to Picton and then home. I’m intrigued by the rhythm of their life in the Sounds. My days here have taken on a new rhythm. I wake each morning before dawn and start writing. I’m a slow writer because I edit and rewrite continuously, so I’m surprised at how much I’m getting done here. The creative process too has its own rhythms. Day 21: Wednesday Bars of bright light penetrate the bush on the peninsula track; through the foliage I glimpse the glistening water of the bay. I think about the papers I read last night on synaesthesia, a neurological condition in which there is a crossover of senses and certain words or sounds can trigger the perception of colours or shapes. This is experienced by two of my characters, who live three centuries apart. As I walk, I try to listen with their ears and look with their eyes. Day 22: Thursday I read the news on the BBC website. Item after item of murder and mayhem fills the columns. Reading it feels like an assault on the senses. It is so at odds with the beauty of  Waterfall Bay that I realise I haven’t missed being connected to the outside world. There’s an energy here that I want to continue feeling a part of, so I resolve to ignore the news until I leave. 8


Day 25: Sunday In the evening we walk down to the jetty to listen to bellbirds and tui singing their evening song. Gold-edged clouds are mirrored in the bay. Day 26: Monday It pours with rain all day. I edit everything I have written in the last few weeks, write the outline of three more chapters and finish reading New Lives for Old by Roger Kershaw and Janet Sacks, which details the stories of British child migrants to the colonies in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Day 29: Thursday My retreat at Waterfall Bay is over. It has given me a sustained period of uninterrupted time with no responsibilities other than to write. A rare luxury indeed. The result: seven new chapters and early drafts of three more.

The Seresin Landfall Residency From 2016 the Seresin Landfall Residency will be extended in length and awarded every two years.



The Crow (An extract from ‘The Eshwell Bridge Witch Project’)

The church was packed. All Christine’s classmates were sitting in the two front pews dressed in their Sunday clothes even though it was Friday. Some were weeping quietly, others stared in bewilderment at the small white coffin on its trestle in front of the altar. Reverend Grimshaw’s voice droned at the lectern, but Israel wasn’t listening. He was gazing at the stained glass window above the altar, following the bars of rose-tinted light that filtered down to the floor and splashed in kaleidoscopic fragments on the grey stone. When Reverend Grimshaw finished addressing the silent congregation, Miss Thrace stood up and handed each child a white daisy from a bunch she was holding. Israel noticed that her hands were shaking. He noticed too the grey circles under her eyes. In a whisper so low he had to strain to hear it, she told the children to form a line in the aisle; when she gave the signal they should go one at a time to place their daisy on Christine’s coffin. Israel was the first to walk up. As he did so, the organ struck a chord and the choir began singing ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, which, Miss Thrace had told them yesterday, was Christine’s favourite hymn. She told them at the same time that they must not talk about Christine and her accident to any other children in the school, and they should not discuss it among themselves either. If they did, she warned, Christine would not rest peacefully in Heaven. After the funeral service, they must put the whole thing out of their minds. In just a few more weeks they would be leaving Eshwell Bridge Primary School, she said. The summer holidays were almost here. In September most of them would be going on to grammar school. Francine would be going to St Catherine’s. Israel would be going to a new life in Australia. They would be saying goodbye to Christine tomorrow and then they must move forward. For their own sakes and for Christine’s. Israel stood at the coffin, around which drifted the indigo tones of the



organ with thin filaments of blue from the choir. But there was another colour forming on top of these: dark red, heavy. It wasn’t coming from Christine, although the pale lemon light she had always moved in was silent. Gone. Extinguished like the flame from a candle. As he turned to walk back he saw to his astonishment that it was coming from Miss Thrace. He stood beside her in the aisle as she instructed the returning children to wait until the last child came back, and then they could take their seats in an orderly fashion. She touched his shoulder to move him back a few steps, allowing the returnees to line up in front of him. A searing pain shot down his arm as though she had held a lighted match to it. He bit down hard on his bottom lip. He felt rather than heard her breathing, hard and prickle-edged, so heavy that he thought his own chest would burst with the weight of it. Miss Thrace dropped her hand and the pain stopped. He leaned against the side of the pew to steady himself and watched Lily go up to place her flower. Then Francine. They both looked down at the floor as they made their way back, so he couldn’t see their faces. They had told him their mothers had not wanted them to come. A funeral was no place for a child, they’d said. But Miss Thrace insisted the whole class attend and they didn’t dare go against her, not even Mrs Hathaway. He glanced behind him at the rows of sombre-faced adults in black, including his own father in the back pew with Mr and Mrs Thirkle, Lily’s nana and her Auntie Jean and Uncle Billy, Miss Laidlaw from the library, the Whipples from The Grey Lady, Mr Francis the church warden and Mrs Francis. On the other side of the aisle sat Mr and Mrs Beasley, Mr and Mrs Platt from the antique shop and Mr and Mrs Fitch. In front of them were Mayor and Mrs Worthington and other council members and their wives. It looked as if almost the whole village was here, Israel thought—even the Catholics whose children went to St Joseph’s. His mam had wept because she couldn’t come but she couldn’t leave the little ones, and Francine’s mother had a migraine, Francine said. He turned his head to the front of the church where Christine’s mam was sitting bolt upright on the edge of her pew, her elbows tucked tightly into her sides and her hands clutching her hymn book in her lap. She wore a black hat with a black veil that covered her eyes. Beneath it, her face was as white as chalk. She was so still that she might not 11

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have been breathing. Christine’s grandfather, Mr Crabtree, sat next to her, his face carved out of stone. The children returning from placing their daisy on Christine’s coffin crept back to their seats and sat silent and subdued. Dennis Worthington was the last one to come back. He was the only boy wearing a suit, with long black trousers, a white shirt and black tie. His blond hair was parted at the side and slicked down with Brylcreem. As he passed in front of Israel he avoided eye contact, took his place and leaned forward to pray. Israel slipped into the seat next to him. As Dennis dropped his head in his hands, Israel saw a red welt on the back of his neck, just above his collar. Dennis squirmed uncomfortably. Who had whipped him? Israel wondered. And why? Reverend Grimshaw held his arms out to the congregation and in a deep, sonorous voice told them that Jesus had said suffer little children to come unto me and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven. Christine had been called home, he said, and they must all rejoice that she was now in a better place. A loud clatter made Israel jump. All heads swivelled to the front pew in time to see Christine’s mother spring from her seat. She stood glaring at Reverend Grimshaw, her mouth working as though she were trying to say something but the words had jammed in her throat. Then without warning she threw her hymn book on the floor, stepped into the aisle, squared her shoulders and, looking straight ahead, strode out of the church, banging the heavy oak door behind her. The sound reverberated off the walls and echoed through the frigid silence. As it faded, a wave of shocked exhalations rippled through the rows. A few women at the back stood up and crept out: Mrs Thirkle, Lily’s Auntie Jean and Miss Laidlaw. All eyes now turned to Reverend Grimshaw, as if seeking guidance on how to proceed. The vicar closed his gaping mouth, took a deep breath and told everyone to stand and sing ‘Blessed are the Pure in Heart’. The choirmaster leapt in front of the choir and raised his baton. Mr Crabtree reached down, picked up the splayed hymn book, carefully placed it on the ledge, then stood and led the singing in his deep, steady baritone. Soon everyone was joining in as if their collective voices raised in song could erase the scene they had just witnessed. They sang as if their very lives depended on it. 12


By the time the congregation spilled out of the church into the pale May sunshine there was no sign of Christine’s mother. Nor was she there when the coffin was lowered into the grave. The rest of the class was absent also. This part was most definitely not suitable for children, Israel heard Mrs Platt tell Miss Thrace, who did not appear to be arguing. Israel was there, however, standing back from the small group of mourners with his dad. He watched each of them silently bend down and scoop up a handful of soil from the pile at the side of the grave and toss it on top of Christine’s coffin. He saw Miss Thrace drop the rest of her daisies in, one by one. He observed Mr Beasley staring at her with narrowed eyes that followed her all the way down the path, past the babies’ graves with little marble angels, past the old moss-covered headstones that leaned at crooked angles, past the big old yew trees with their dark shadows and out the wrought iron cemetery gate. He squinted up at the gathering rainclouds until he felt the pressure of his dad’s hand on his shoulder to signal that it was time for him to gather his own handful of soil. He watched it fall from his hand into the grave. A crow landed a few feet away and Israel thought how beautiful it looked with its gleaming black feathers that changed colour as the bird moved this way and that in a patch of sunlight. His dad had told him a group of crows was called a murder of crows. This was because people believed crows judged and killed a member of their group who had done something wrong or was just different in some way. But it wasn’t true, his father added. In fact they were caring birds that went out of their way to help those in trouble. Even birds they weren’t related to. Israel walked back to his dad and felt the warmth of his hand as it rested on the back of his neck. He focused on the rough edges of the blisters and calluses on his father’s fingers while he squeezed his eyes to clear the mist that was clouding them. As they turned to leave the cemetery, he looked back to see the crow one more time. And saw Christine standing by a tree. He blinked and she was gone.



From By the Water 1. a different mattress upstairs bay window just before sleep rising in tidal water full moon’s reflection 2. waking before dawn— wait on sunlight to descend the hillside penetrating tree by tree before at last, water is entered 3. while it may be true, as I once was told, you can’t live in paradise the idea of working in step with the passage of seasonal light, might just make our eviction a touch easier to take, mug of coffee incoming tide words surface out of dark currents 14


4. tui, korimako in branches along the shoreline I prepare line and bait— listening it is difficult to tell if Tangaroa would request elegy or laughter from their notes 5. two days after full moon she’s on the rise again from behind the hill above Mistletoe Bay, the hare leaps, the cow jumps over, the old man has gone lunar from here, she’s the only light on the planet 6. there’s that old man lifting from behind the hill again the difference is I am free to come and go she has him chained to the other side of darkness strung out across mountains and craters, beyond help pulling the tide skyward daily, like Sisyphus’ everlasting task, rock and a hillside 15


At the Festival of Colour Elderly skin folds into diamond patterned lines, criss crossing from nape to the edge of her 100% merino jersey (the label is telling tales). I’m tempted to purse a soufflé light breath in her friend’s direction, upsetting the vibrant scarf, hopefully revealing wrinkled hearts, spades or even clubs. Before I stir the air, all hands come together, the Quartet has arrived.



The How Do We Begin? We’ll begin this story with a true Once Upon a Time. There was once a young man called Liam and a young woman called Iris. They were Just Very Good Friends. They were Just Very Good Friends for years and years and years. About four. That’s an aeon for the young, especially when the small blue pilot light of unspoken attraction burns steadily. Various complex circumstances kept on prevailing—like a difficult headwind—until one particular night. It was after a mutual friend’s wedding, where the optimism and openness in the bespoke wedding vows, the free champagne glowing in the warm autumn air, the sweet idealism and the lusty bass lines in the DJ’s playlist meant that Liam and Iris finally fell over the line between friendship and more-than-that, into bed. If this were a film, now would be a good time for a musical interlude. Liam took off his watch (metal-linked silver strap heavy as a weapon) because he wanted nothing between him and the astonishing Iris as he stretched himself the length of her, lay himself he hoped gently as muslin over her skin, which was printed with a gleaming beaded trail of moon as it crumbled its light through the thread-holes of the Roman blinds. He placed his watch on the bedside table, said, ‘Is this all right, are you okay, what kind of talk do you like?’ She answered, ‘Nothing,’ let her knees fall open like lupin pods unhusked in the sun,


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remembered the way her grandfather used to clean his knife between spreads of butter and honey by neatly slipping it lengthwise into thick bread crust. Which made her think, ‘How strange to recall that now. Can it be Freudian when it’s in the middle of sex, or isn’t that the opposite of Freudian? Does it maybe even mean it’s bad sex if for years and months we’ve hedged around this question, yes, years, with that intoxicating, agonising does he want me, does he not? if he calls for coffee every fortnight is it just platonic, is there something I’m doing wrong, can’t he tell I think he’s the All New Gorgeousness Guaranteed? Yet here after all that thrilling high-wire waiting now I’m thinking of cushions, sequins, cider bottles, starlight, supermarket aisles, amber-coloured filigree beetles, motorbikes, neon EAT signs, seaside rocks old-bridal with spray, phosphorescence, open roads, orange dirt, the way in the nightclub the lint on his shoulders shone like an alien radioactive dust; that time when I said I didn’t smoke, he flicked the lid of the mint tin open like a Zippo, little joke, ohhhhhh, something has burst inside me as if he has painted a Georgia O’Keefe poppy with a hot welding iron plunged in ice water, overripe strawberries, molten toffee apples stretched and lost—’ and then Iris felt his sudden, shudderous heave



as he rowed like a shipwrecked boatswain desperate for rescue, last stroke to reach the shore, the prow of the bed slammed into the coast of the wall, the watch hurtled off, hit the wooden floor, and stopped. 11:08 pm. The sign hung in the tiny date window declared March 28. For weeks Liam forgot to get it fixed. Iris would ask the time, the date, and Liam would say, ‘Eleven-oh-damn,’ or ‘March twenty-shit.’ * Now We’ve Really Started Something Weeks and weeks later, Iris was sick-gilled and green as lake-weed. She spilled herself in all unlikely places: flower-pots, saucepans, gumboots, rubbish bins. (Oh, that’s quite likely, actually: it’s always a relief when pregnant if a rubbish bin is close at hand.) Popcorn buckets, handbags, desk drawers, plastic bags, wheelbarrows. Her eye was always on what could quickly be grabbed and made a receptacle, so she made less of a spectacle of herself, and the floor. She counted back, and would always believe that 28 March, 11:08 pm, was the precise moment of the baby-on-the-way’s conception. Once upon a time, she thought. And so we started you upon all your once upon a times.



The Ghost of James Williamson 1814—2014 What forsworn ghost of the family is now played at through this approximating violence? —Matthew Wood, F4: In the Interval

1 Before 22 March 1888 You never know. To come up an anchor must go down down down where light is forbidden and the largest things are hidden with the smallest. If sailors drown their teeth fill a cup made of coral. They’re empty like fishing nets twisted again and again. We all sink into our element yet think nothing of it—that’s the Amen a drowned man must be. But I did not drown. And out beyond the horizon a child stares at, I am walking starboard with the master, talking through coordinates, reconciled beyond any doubt



we are off course, despite cross after cross on a foreign chart justifying the ways of men to men. The longest days the shortest nights, I’m one more part of God’s cosmic loss. There’s no place like homelessness because it gets under the skin. But inarticulate things—they shift with every minute, it takes words to plumb what’s within then fix it. I guess I was lost for years and years. The parts of speech make an anchor hanging off each person. And the parts of an anchor, crown flukes palms shank ring and stock, they’re for holding what appears to move perpetually. We need to speak to feel alive in silence. The chief mate from Sydney, I’ve shifted as freight shifts in the hold. I will arrive a changed man, clearly one condemned to eternal return. I gaze over the bow, bobbing in the cosmos. On a four o’clock watch the loss of perspective gets to you: how the ship is in thrall


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to foam that’s boiling over the bulwarks, its jib-boom dipping under a hopeless gale; two lower topsails, reefed foresail taking the strain, you are slipping into the lower realm, cast out of your body. Come heavy weather every man’s flung from a bunk, swearing by his god, with the waves bearing down down down on those best laid plans, sky swallowed by sea. Stunned underneath the Gothic arch of a monstrous swell, I reach towards an afterthought— the unreal becomes our last port of call. The only way to teach others is to stick to our core business, living well, until the loudest breaker takes every breath away and there is neither night nor day; to quickly dismiss our Maker— there’s no forgiving death when our ship rounds Cape Brett to the Bay of Islands’ new world. If some of us must grope through the dark, out of heart and hope, now each leaf is a flag unfurled so we won’t forget



the Old Country’s bloody laws. Our fall into Paradise shows God is an ironist who gives the knife another twist— pointed refusal to disclose proof He’s the First Cause, here. At Kororareka I gave up the sea that gave up so many nameless men, selling rum to tattoos again when barques put in. Jack Tars would cup their hands and pucker blistered lips for service: ‘Half starved, grass-fed nag that you are, trot over here with a drop!’ After a year I shut up shop and bought a quarter-acre lot in Auckland. My rough plan? To speculate in land and become Machiavelli’s Antipodean prince, cultivating more than silence. My father ran two companies in Belfast, I’m damned by his words: ‘Beat that, young man.’ I tried for his success with sails but lost faith when the waves shrugged their shoulders. No one behaves well if their family curtails choices. While you scan


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the horizon, taste vomit thinking of what reputation you have left, how it fits inside a kit bag. The earth splits in two, as if the Creation failed, a long comet lost in space. I’ll navigate mortgages the way a pilot plays sandbars at low tide, knowing where and when you can ride a current. I’ll float in private on currency’s late surge but publicly deny my ambition. I’ll serve Auckland on the arm of my wife Julia, her eyes hold my life to come, they are diamonds and blue … ‘James, wave goodbye!’ I heard my late father yell after midnight. And morning brought the footfall of bailiffs, their faces set like bull mastiffs ready to attack. I was caught by the ankle, fell arse over kite. Once Auckland Agricultural Company collapsed—a circus tent floated on hot air—government of all my faculties left me. Pah was built on sand



as proof the earth inherits meek and strong alike. Puriri, Southern magnolia, London plane, Hill’s grevillia, Chilean wine palm, hackberry— they shadow us, bits of the Paradise that was lost before I cut my eye teeth upon weevils. ‘Goodbye!’ echoes my old man and the sky falls into that salty well, grief because, just because. An aged statesman sitting with quiet obstinacy by his domestic rice-pot— Joseph Conrad wrote that, yet what I hear is a voice that’s too wry for the Pah, splitting hairs. Near bankrupt, I looked out from the castle turret, master of nothing I surveyed. The material world betrayed my finer feeling. Disaster passed really devout friends who searched the horizon for the sun and then the Father— as an unholy ghost I felt like the devil’s riposte to them. If creditors gather the garden’s barren.


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I can’t get clear of that swamp Waikato Valley. And mud sticks whichever land you’re from, whatever one was promised. Rome and Heaven show realpolitik’s claims are paid out, pomp and circumstance colour both. Portraits fade from more than the sun. What we conceal reveals the most about us. Our ideals and our contingencies are one delusion, the truth suffices: ‘I will survive.’ Yet no one does. We must render unto Caesar not God for a lifetime, riding roughshod over every doubt, our tender thoughts buried alive. 2 After 22 March 1888 In black gym rompers, Mary and Claire Ross polish saints’ haloes in sure and certain hope … When you’re ten it’s more than a trope— if nuns always wear underclothes that is modesty.



At Thursday’s confessional, with an accent sharp as a burn, the priest forgives each girl who made a leap of faith to twirl before a carpenter’s son: ‘Learn the Roman Missal.’ Head and heart one when you’re dead if not gone, I want to believe as Mary and Claire Ross believed when they were ten. The cross rosary and lesson deceive those easily led astray. But why I am here disturbs their circle. ‘There’s no time!’ I complained while alive and I was right, some of us thrive in Eternity, the sublime and final frontier. Ghosts inherit the moment because the moment’s everything. If you participate in a story, then you create more than you thought. By burying cliché, you’re fluent in the future that is now a car-park. God is ironic. Our ignorance is real— we hold a few parts but we feel this can’t be the whole: Platonic forms might teach us how


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one thing in general is many things in particular and that’s universal. Creation is the dispersal of matter; x then y are there— or that’s what God says when He’s not resting. God knows what orchid blooms ahead of us, we still smell it. Formless as the night at new moon, I guess nothing becomes everything, plus the First Cause. Suppose Panentheism holds good— does that mean judgement’s suspended like the globe in nothing and its darkness? Without judging, that no soul ever ascended when, misunderstood, God chose to keep his distance? In the midst of life we are in … In Martin Chuzzlewit the barber must pay a visit to the baker; he can’t explain why. Our existence is conditional on what cannot be seen, the Holy Ghost, I should feel empathy. The visitors to TSB Wallace Arts Centre spend at most an hour to allot



the judgement that God withholds. ‘It’s not what you think …’ I over hear an earnest father reassure his son. Consider ‘The Preparation’ by F4 Collective: the folds in the left hand of a girl taped to her mother’s back, the folds in the mother’s shoulders barely there, while a boy smoulders to the left, as if he upholds the law. Fingers curl around this stanza: I say what happens here. Father and son leave the gallery, lost for words. Some works of art accost you like streetwalkers; this is one, it changes the way you think about family— mine is scattered, blood in ferment underneath the singsong of birds and cicadas. What’s wrong with this is me, the sentient relict who should be sleeping. If I face both ways I own nothing and it makes me an inarticulate diarist who mistakes the date and skips detail—that repartee we use to fill days


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when the rain is a blanket over the shivering children Monte Cecilia schools for the life to come, whether or not it does. Yes, there and then destiny is set. It appears impersonal. The fully moral do not reach an house not made with hands after following God’s commands. Redemption’s beyond parts of speech— it’s a miracle language gets us anywhere. As children learn to twist and shout sound follows the body, it describes a space that’s godly if sweat blood and tears are devout attempts at prayer, if they’re not then what matters, we’re lost. I got lost, a voyeur searching for the moral to my story. The law is null and void, a sort of erasure. Every day shatters the dream and we lose pieces as we go. I pick up the odd shard of laughter at Pah when visitors share their bizarre impressions of art; while they nod knowledge decreases



with each word that’s overheard on the polished stairs. Divided states, split infinitives make for chaos. Whatever gives grace to us, it is presided over by the word or so it’s said. With suitors girls move through the garden like light and they fade as quickly. When I say ‘Adieu!’ the turkey oak shadows me. I feel contrite and stupid, the cause of it all, but what is it exactly? Immeasurable like the current between an ellipsis’ stepping stones … Seen but not heard, children are able to tell: they admit nothing about love, the rest. Here I am trying to control detail others ignore: There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in Sheol, whither thou goest. So many things disappear in the horseshoe of a river or the turn of a phrase. It won’t matter how long we gaze at the vanishing line, whether love will persevere,


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we’ll break on the wheel, Rota Fortunae. We’re indifferent as the stones in a wall to the idea of freedom, all most of us know is argument about our quota

of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.



This Compulsion in Us The year is 1979. I’m five years old, walking into the Wanganui1 Museum, hand in hand with my father. I wear woollen tights and buckled shoes and most days there doesn’t seem to be much difference between what I can see and what I can imagine. On my fifth birthday I had been so disappointed by my play-dough kindergarten birthday cake I had tried to eat it, having decided the act of believing would magically transform it into something sweetly edible. Already, real life has proven itself fraught, though I have found solace in storybooks. At home I spend hours drawing Cinderella dresses over and over—tightly cinched waists, crinolines, pannier skirts. In Wanganui Museum, approaching the Edwardian Street, I travel back in time: olden-day shops with toys and sweets, a living room, mannequins with real Cinderella dresses. I have no concept of the era, only that this is as close to the imaginary world of story as I am likely to get. And there is Dad’s hand: dry and warm, large and solid and squarefingered. When he lets go to point out objects from his own childhood there is his voice, telling stories about how things were done in the old days, how it was different—more pure and innocent, it seems, even to a five-year-old. Later we climb the stairs and view the animals and birds that have stitches showing, glass eyes and stuffing that springs out at alarming angles. Somehow this is all part of the crusty magic of the place. In 1991 I return with my first-year Museum Studies class. I am excited about going back to the first museum I can remember—we haven’t lived in Wanganui since I was six. But I walk in with the newly acquired weight of family and cultural history bearing down on my shoulders. I reach the first cabinet in the Māori court—a glass box filled with countless taonga 1 In this essay, ‘Wanganui’ refers to the town of my childhood, while ‘Whanganui’ refers to the contemporary place. ‘Whanganui’ is the correct spelling, but the original colonial spelling, and all it represents, seems more apt here. 33

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pounamu—and stop. I feel inexplicably bad. Dizzy, almost as if I have stepped outside of myself. I have learnt enough in my Māori Art and Culture papers to know that these hei pounamu, hei tiki and hei matau once adorned the physical bodies of ancestors, and had likely been separated from those tūpuna by warfare, poverty or sneaky dealings. I know that the creation of taonga pounamu was a long, laborious process that took generations to complete. I know that the taonga most likely still carry the mana and tapu of their original makers and wearers, and the sheer number of items lined up row upon row tells me that they were acquired carelessly, without reverence for their intrinsic value as anything other than exotic objects. I turn and leave. On my way out I try to express my dismay to a fellow Māori student, but he does not seem to feel as bad as I do. I wonder now whether it was the swiftness of two inner worlds coming together that caused my out-ofbody discord. As a child I had not found the Māori court interesting. I don’t remember taking more than a cursory glance at the items there. Back then, Māori culture was taken for granted by mainstream New Zealand, and I had not learnt to see its value. I certainly had not learnt the stories behind any taonga I saw, and a trip to the museum would not have taught me them. This is no longer the case, of course. When I visit what is now called the Whanganui Regional Museum in 2013 I meet staff working with both the history of the objects and the ironies of the history of their institution. These days there is a level of self-awareness evident in most museums that was beginning to flourish around the time I went there as a first-year student. You wouldn’t find a bulk cabinet of pounamu on display today, but you would find curators and conservators and registrars in basements and back rooms trying to bring the disparate pieces of history back together, making connections between objects and people, looking for the source of things. Kanohi ki te Kanohi When I arrive at the Museum der Weltkulturen in 2012 there is an exhibition installed on the ground floor of  Villa 37. On the third floor are the apartments that will be shared by a small group of New Zealand artists and writers for the next month. Villa 37, Schaumainkai, overlooks the Main River in Frankfurt, along what is known as Museumsufer or the Museum Embankment, named for the large concentration of museums in that area. The city is old and pretty. 34


The locals are friendly and multilingual and über-elegant. Even the children and dogs appear languid. The exhibition is called Face to Face, or Fa`afesaga`i in Samoan, Kanohi ki te Kanohi in Māori. It contains pen and ink drawings by young Samoan-Kiwi artist Francis Pesamino alongside taonga from the Weltkulturen Polynesian collection. I have not seen contemporary Polynesian drawings by an emerging artist exhibited alongside tatau instruments and carved taonga before. The mix of ancient and modern is illuminating, creating associations a New Zealander, with all our education and cultural awareness, might not make. How does a portrait of  Valerie Adams, her sponsor’s name like a tattoo on her collar, resonate with ancient tatau patterns and carvings, for example? How does who we were in the past relate to who we are now? The exhibition opens, and there is a bit of celebratory mingling. At this event Yvette Mutumba, the curator of the African collection, asks about my visits to Weltkulturen’s other collections. I tell her my main observation, which is how much everyone loves and cares for their collections. She tells me that in Germany they do not use the word ‘curator’ for their work, but ‘Kustodin’. This word gives a clearer picture of what their work is, she says, opening her arms wide like a bird taking chicks under its wings—they look after the objects. I immediately think of how close the idea of custodianship is to kaitiakitanga. It is not the first time I have found myself thinking that the way they do things here is closer to the way we do things at home than I thought they would be. The collections of the Weltkulturen are vast, and this is unsettling. The institution’s main benefactors were collectors in the days when the objective was to obtain as many different examples of one type of thing as possible, in order to swap items with other institutions. Before I left New Zealand I asked a curator friend if there was anything I should do to prepare for an encounter with taonga that had been taken overseas. She told me that when she was in Berlin she had been taken without warning into a room filled with shelves of skulls. Better to write ahead and tell them I did not want to see any human remains, she advised. And whakanoa (cleanse with water) whenever possible. The Kustodins are very mindful of my request, though the director, Clementine Deliss, tells me about the mokomokai that have been repatriated to Te Papa, and assumes I will want to see images of them. 35

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Our ‘job’ as writers and artists in residence is to respond to the collections at the museum. A fresh eye on things can bring new ways of relating to and interpreting collections. This method was instituted only recently as a way to approach an old museum problem that had been exacerbated by World War II: all the taonga had been saved because they had been sent out of the city; all the museum records had not. While colonial collection records may have been inadequate, they would have been better than none at all. Soon Clementine is herding us towards a table of food, like a very European marae auntie. ‘Eat, eat! Come and sit down! You must eat. Where’s Francis?’ As the youngest in our crew, and the freshest to overseas travel, Francis is the subject of much concern, which gives us ample opportunity to tease him—‘You’ve got some German aunties now, eh? Bet you weren’t expecting that.’ Later, I think about how perfect the title of the exhibition is as a symbol for what is happening at the museum. Kanohi ki te kanohi is an oft-repeated Māori proverb that suggests that communication is better served by face-to-face meetings. Traditionally, Māori implicitly trust face-to-face contact as a means of avoiding misunderstandings and misinterpretations. The effort undertaken to meet face to face also suggests a level of respect and keenness to establish effective relationships. It’s like shaking hands or sharing food—a communal, physical gesture of relationality. Or the pōwhiri ritual of encounter, which forces visitors and hosts to lay bare their intentions, antagonisms and interconnections. I imagine that someone from the New Zealand at Frankfurt team must have suggested this title, but when I ask Dr Eva Raabe, who curated the exhibition, I find this is not the case. Eva’s idea was that Francis’ portraits and the objects from the collection would face each other, and that viewers would face them. Clementine suggested the name ‘Face to Face’, and Eva agreed. Only then were translations into Māori and Samoan made. Because I don’t believe in coincidences of this scale, I like to think that the staff involved in putting together the exhibition had developed some sensitivity to the cultural resonances of the objects with which they work. How else could a concept so fundamental to Māori culture have found its way into their lexicon as they worked with objects from Aotearoa? Māori believe that our taonga are living, breathing representations of the ancestors—could this not be one way they 36


show that indeed they are already in dynamic relationship, kanohi ki te kanohi, with their guardians in this institution? ‘Taonga are our time-travellers,’ says Paul Tapsell in his 2011 Gordon Brown Lecture. ‘They made real not only the ancestors, but also their surrounding landscapes by burying a sense of ancestral belonging deep into our living core.’ Taonga, he explains, collapse time so that descendants can emotionally engage and experience ancestral moments in the now. Perhaps even non-descendants can pick up echoes of meaning from these emissaries of time and place. Later, during one of the collection visits, Eva admits to one of the Kiwi visitors that at times of stress or conflict she touches the objects and talks to them. This information is eagerly passed among us. Later, when I ask her about it, she speaks of the very oldest stone objects, barely identifiable, which seem to carry a deep feeling of strength and calm. Perhaps her colleagues would disparage her for such actions, she says, but she has risen in our already high esteem. If I had any preconceptions, it was that I had expected to perceive the containment of Māori taonga in institutions like Weltkulturen in terms of our loss, but instead I discover a sense of exchange and yearning. The older impetus to collect objects, to colonise and contain, I do not understand. But now that the collections are there, custodians and audiences display a curiosity that is more unguarded and receptive than snatching and appropriative. The objects in the collection hold a charge that, as much as possible, they honour rather than suppress. This is not without its risks, but the practice recognises that museum collections contain taonga—precious objects that allow us to touch something ancient and deep and much more knowing than we are. Before we leave, we are to take part in discussions and readings as part of the Frankfurt Book Fair. One quiet afternoon, I take the key we have been given and go downstairs to sit with the taonga and write. On the day I am to leave, I take an audience into the same room, and ask them to face the canoe prow, or tauihu, displayed there. I tell them the story the taonga tells me, of history, wars and appropriations, losses and connections; of time passing and two nations brought together, face to face.


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In case you see yourself Passing through the main entrance of the Canterbury Museum, visitors are confronted by life-sized dioramas of Māori from the moa hunter period. They are posed in classical style: a stuffed moa in the foreground, a man with a spear crouched near him, ready to throw; a woman squatted low with her kuri at her side, their faces drawn in anticipation. In a sense, it is a beautifully rendered scene. Elsewhere, a woman leans over her waka, fish in one hand, breasts drooping realistically over her canoe. Men engage various technologies, making fire and flint, houses and storehouses in the background; a woman cooks small birds on a kind of spit. The scenes are as real as any that can be viewed in the best museum dioramas in the world, the human forms and expressions carefully moulded. I’ve seen worse recreations of colonial European figures: loose beards and frightening eyes, arms drooping where elbows and muscle tone should be. They’ve done a good job: so much detail and depth. Faces and voices from all over the world move swiftly past these entranceway dioramas. When they stop, it is for no more than thirty seconds or so. One or two walk slowly, peer more carefully, but none stay as I do. What do they see, I wonder. How do they read these displays? And then, do they see me? I begin to feel as if I am a later manifestation of the people in the cases. Few would think that. Few would look at the half-naked, brown-skinned, darkhaired figures in the cases and make a connection with the light-skinned, redhaired, clothed figure beside them. But if they look more closely, they might see the broad nose, thick lips and fuzzy hair. Perhaps even that would not be enough, but what would they conclude if I looked more like my ancestors? What if I looked like my cousins? A pre-teen girl comes through the gallery, gawping at my still-life friend with her fish and her waka, bare-breasted and bent forwards for all eternity, and exclaims loudly, ‘Soooo not appropriate!’ like a character from Mean Girls. I almost laugh aloud. She’s right, of course, in more ways than she’s aware of. The dioramas are a window to a version of the past: 3D fabricated stills of history or ‘pre-history’ that happen to fit a particular way of viewing the world, evolution, history and technology. Move to the next room and quite a different picture emerges. Here objects made by people in centuries past can be viewed—adzes, carved pou, ancestral figures, fish hooks. In this room I 38


overhear a mother say to her son, ‘Look how they were able to turn that piece of rock into a tool.’ Here there is the opportunity to understand how the ancestors lived via the material goods they left behind. Imaginations have to be engaged. Viewers slow down and are forced to engage with the display more carefully. Furthermore, the objects are imbued with their own power. That power might simply be a kind of archaeological and historical patina, or it may be the inherent power left by the makers of the objects, otherwise known as mana and tapu. To some, these museum artefacts carry the stories of everything that has happened to them and their people. A kind of nexus is therefore possible between the museum visitor, the object, and the people who long ago created and used it. A quiet walk around the gallery might create in the viewer a sense of awe. In this, there is a kind of magic. The artefacts are presented in a way that suggests they signify a progression from the moa hunter dioramas. But if the hypothesis, based primarily on Eurocentric analysis of material goods, is that as time went on, Māori developed a more cultivation-based, stratified and ‘sophisticated’ culture, then something is wrong. The people represented by the dioramas did not spring from the ground fully formed, nor did they evolve from apes in a land that knew no mammals. They navigated their way here following star maps and sea paths their ancestors had devised over centuries of experience and careful observation. The arrival of wave after wave of mighty sea-voyaging waka was not accidental; nor were their return voyages or other explorations. They brought with them the animals and plants they needed to survive, and sent their strongest and cleverest men and women, including tohunga and rangatira. These were people who knew the constellations, winds, currents and their own technologies so well they could confidently sail for months to settle an uninhabited land. They represented a level of knowledge and sophistication that few of us could claim. The dioramas, carefully rendered though they might be, show none of this. In contrast, most contemporary museums (including Canterbury, I suspect) are moving towards interactive, story-based exhibitions that contextualise historical experiences. Which is essential, since representing human figures without voice to express their stories continues a line of thinking that takes us, if we follow it to its natural conclusion, to dark and inhumane territory. 39

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Looking at the diorama figures, I can’t help wondering how far they are from other aspects of the natural history collection. All other living things were collected and stuffed by naturalists in vast quantities to be shared with other museums all over the world. Brian Gill’s The Owl that Fell from the Sky: Stories of a museum curator explains the world of taxidermy and categorisation, collection and taxonomy. Gill is passionate about the need for such collection and preservation. ‘Fully documented natural history specimens are called “voucher specimens”,’ he writes. ‘Each provides a documentary record of biological occurrence and distribution that is superior to a mere literature record … As natural history collections grow they become massive directories of the animals and plants that have lived in different areas at different times, and may hold the key to how the characteristics and distributions of species have varied with place and changed with time.’ Gill goes on to give many examples of how natural history collections have been useful for conservation and scientific discovery. More important for research than the mounted specimens we can view in museums are ‘studyskins. These require the same skilled taxidermy but for easy storage and examination they are set out straight, like a human body laid in a coffin.’ Sets of loose bones are also essential for identification work, as are the ‘bones of an individual joined together as an articulated skeleton’, and animals preserved in alcohol. What I make of this is not Brian Gill’s fault. Even as I nod along with his naturalist’s enthusiasm, uncertainty marks my reading. I waver between two extremes. I have enjoyed museums and their collections all my life. I have come close to (admittedly dead) animals I never would have seen, and learnt much from the experience, but something about this is inherently uncomfortable. It is not a far leap to wonder, while viewing Canterbury Museum’s moa hunter dioramas, whether museums would have taxidermied humans if it had been ethically possible. This might seem an extreme position until one considers that naturalists did once collect human bones, especially skulls, to categorise different ethnic groups and genders according to cranial size; that living humans were displayed in museums and zoos until at least a third of the way into the twentieth century; that in the Canterbury Museum itself a fully intact Egyptian mummy is on display, her wrappings intact but her body X-rayed, researched 40


and scanned for all that she can reveal about her people; that in our national museum, Te Papa Tongarewa, human remains were an element of the recent Aztec exhibition. If there were some acceptable way to preserve the human form posed in action, just like the birds and mammals of the Antarctic exhibition, would they not have done it? What if there were Neanderthal remains that could be resurrected to look natural? Would that be more acceptable, like stuffed mammoths or orangutans? Imagine the benefits to science and the potential audience. How human is too human? How naïve of me to ask. A little more research reveals that study-skins and bones of humans were collected. I have known for some time about Khoikhoi woman Sara Baartman, who was exhibited in Britain and Europe while alive, and whose bones and body cast were exhibited in France for decades after her death, until she was finally repatriated to South Africa and given the dignity of proper burial. I am unprepared for where a little more research takes me (look away, sensitive readers): ‘In the nineteenth century … many Khoikhoi women were treated as taxidermic material, their skins stripped and stuffed to preserve them as specimens of the anomalous. Sir John Herschel, during his visit to the Cape in the mid-1830s, noted that he had seen a “Hottentot woman’s skin— stuffed … with all the extraordinary peculiarities attributed to these nymphs by travellers”.’2 So we are not so far from our animal cousins. Some of us more than others, apparently. The museum in the living room Here is the paradox of the museum: it preserves and contains treasures, but also captures and immobilises things that make sense only in motion, things that should breathe and transform. The uncontainable. The living. Somewhere in the centre of that paradox is the niggling discomfort that accompanies each visit. In Frankfurt, even though we lived on the top floor of a museum building, it was on visiting a friend that I encountered a place that was like a museum without the more worrying aspects of museology. Barbara is a German film-maker who had come to Aotearoa to make a 2 41

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documentary about New Zealand writers, and then invited two of her subjects for dinner during our time in her home city. Barbara’s place was tiny and warren-like, shelves filled wall space with records and books to the ceiling. The upper floors included her office space, kitchen and living areas, but where we entered, on the bottom floor, was full of older wooden furniture and paintings. When I asked her permission to write about this, she sent me a document with photos of the building just after World War II, when it was a bakery. I recognised the outer walls of the garden courtyard we had sat in. In 1976 she moved in, her father taking the downstairs in 1980 as his studio. Almost forty years later she hopes to go on living in her home despite rapidly rising rents. Barbara’s father would have turned 100 last year, so she staged an exhibition of his work at Frankfurt’s oldest half-timber house, which dates from the twelfth century. As she notes, Georg Dickenberger was a brilliant man, his paintings vivid and soulful, sometimes abstract. ‘As [the family] were rather poor he did not have extensive schooling, but he acquired an enormous knowledge by reading. He was my Google and Wikipedia long before the internet—about history or art you could ask him anything.’ After they died, she restored all her parents’ nice old (and half broken) furniture and took it with their books over to the studio. ‘And now it feels like home.’ More than a museum, then. We were only there one evening, but I think of it as often as the Weltkulturen. We had been welcomed and fed and shown a piece of the history of a city, kept alive and warm by a descendant, and her stories. Going to the zoo For six months in 2014 we are residents at Randell Cottage in Wellington, built in 1867. Randell Cottage also has a museum in the living room—on our second day I discover the purpose of the small cabinet beside the bookshelf. It houses items that were excavated from under and within the house during renovation: nineteenth-century bottles and toys and crockery. The house is a mix of the original and the reconstructed or re-envisioned. Despite the care given to the reconstructed, it is the original elements that hold an extra charge: floorboards made from ship’s timbers, original brick around a fireplace, glass windows over walls that show layers of original 42


wallpaper. Outside there is a plaque under the ngaio tree, and another on the gate. We live in a house with signage denoting its age and cultural value. My project for the residency is to write a novel based on the story of a Māori boy who was taken to London to be exhibited alongside George French Angas’s drawings and paintings in the mid-nineteenth century. Very little is known about the real boy and his life. The first book I pick up inside the cottage is The Fox Boy by Peter Walker, which is about a different ‘orphaned’ boy in the nineteenth century. I have always wanted to read it, though it seems perfectly apt that I never have until this moment. The abduction of children of one culture by people of another culture traverses a gap, says Walker, and is ‘part of a very old theme, of removal and transformation … This is worth examining for a moment. The child wanders into the gap, but the gap is not a real place, it exists only in the mind. In other words it is not so much that the child is in the gap, as that the gap is in the child.’ The project of transplanting a child fulfils some need within the coloniser to understand the other, but only to such an extent that the gap can be filled with the colonising culture. Imaginatively, writing this story will take me to Piccadilly Circus, where Indigenous peoples were exhibited alongside exotic animals, material culture, ‘freaks’ and curiosities. It may also take me back to Frankfurt where, two years ago, on one of our research forays into the Weltkulturen’s vast photography, film and document archive, I discovered a folder filled with posters advertising the exhibition of human groups at the Zoologischen Garten. From around 1878 to 1931, in a circus tent on zoo grounds, European audiences were invited to observe such phenomena as the 1885 Ceylon-Expedition, featuring 51 Singhalesen and 12 Elephanten; the Ofrikaner-Karawane exhibition, featuring 16 men, four women and seven children; Das Amazonencorps; Australian Cannibal Boomerang Throwers; Krao The Missing Link Half Monkey Half Woman; and Schaustellung der Samoaner-Truppe (Flaunt the Samoan Troup, according to Google). Later exhibition posters for Samoan groups are somewhat in keeping with one Weltkulturen Kustodin’s comment that Samoan groups were treated better than the African or Asian groups that came. ‘Our new compatriots’ crows one poster above the title ‘Ausstellung Samoa’. The S for Samoa is formed by a snake wrapped around the top half of a seductive, heavy-lidded temptress dressed only in a tooth necklace with a flower tucked above one ear. 43

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The truth is, I am compelled by these posters not only for the historical story they tell, but for the exotic whiff they exude. They are odd, and old, romanticised and beautiful. Whatever horrifying tale they tell, I am just as voyeuristic about it as the audiences that flocked to the zoo for entertainment. Would that I could watch those audiences as they watched the people forced to parade or perform for their pleasure. How did we reach the moment in history that made such an activity acceptable? Desirable? Should I not be more repelled by this story? I am strangely attracted to it, understanding the dehumanisation in intellectual terms, but unable to instinctually reject a story that tells me something about what human beings are, what we are capable of.3 The old and odd. I want to understand this compulsion in us. The freak show. The talk show. Reality TV. The world’s biggest, or smallest, or grossest, or oldest. The modern museum may have an uncomfortable relationship with this, removing itself through changes in focus and display and interpretation. And so it should. But inside me is still the child who was fascinated by the old and dusty exhibits in Wanganui—the (forgive me) weirdness of it all, and it’s she who sometimes drives the writing. Going home Why is Whanganui Museum the one I remember best, of them all? Why, after living in at least eight places between the ages of three and thirteen, do I think of the town I lived in for barely two years as closest to my home town? Looking back from over here, from this different place, this different time, I see the footsteps my family left all over town. My grandparents took up residence there in the mid-twentieth century and didn’t leave until they took leave of their terrestrial lives. There was the bike shop, the schools, the yearly routines. My father, aunts and uncles grew up there. With their families they made homes and careers, and left, and came back. I barely knew most of them, but perhaps that is all it takes for a place to become a cornerstone in a life. I see now the ghosts of significant places and events: first school, first best friend, first memories, not-quite-first trauma. Whanganui has a resonance that other places we lived never carried. They don’t carry the same 3 On the other hand, my investigation of taxidermy took me to a place I would rather not have to witness. 44


draw, the same vibration as a town that bears a familial stamp. Sometimes the museum is where we go to find parts of ourselves we thought we had left behind. On the day we return to Whanganui so I can research this essay, we also visit my father, who has found his way back to one of his home towns. I have not seen him for nearly three years. As we pull into the driveway I glimpse him in the kitchen, the still-solid hand unsteady now, square finger and thumb pinched around his cigarette as he inhales. He turns and at first I am not sure he has registered our presence because he doesn’t move toward us, and his expression does not change. I can already see that this will not be a good day. I steel myself to leave the van. As we approach the house, my father comes out and blocks our way. I try to draw him in, promising a lunch he shows no interest in. He makes a couple of jokes about our car and how hard it must be to live with me. For the next hour he reminds me of a scratched 33 LP being played too slow, the needle jumping back to the same point and repeating the same out-of-tune warble. He doesn’t drink, but his half-full glass waits for him in the fridge. My daughter watches warily. My partner laughs politely. I make food. An hour later, before I have figured out how we can make a graceful exit, my father says, Well, it was nice to see ya. He has gained some lucidity, with the food and the talk. But neither of us seems to have the stamina or forbearance for this kind of encounter. This last memory is not really about a museum. I don’t know if it is really about my father either. Last time we talked he was positive, almost wise. Most people are basically decent, you know, he said. I hadn’t even told him I had been struggling to live with the world I heard about in the news. That world was not of my making, or my choice. That was a world that had begun to look increasingly ugly and threatening. It was a private pain, but fathers know things. Sometimes we have to excavate the good from things we have always viewed as bad. Appropriations, lost families, colonised and hidden histories, these are all part of our family stories, not just our national ones. There are always things that are hard to take, things for which we seek solace. But this my father gave me: afternoons at the museum.



The Funeral: April 2008 My father’s face had always been thin, even before his years of ill health, but the mortician didn’t know that. He has restored Dad to a Platonic ideal of the ageing, bearded patriarch—plumped out the deep cheek hollows, smoothed his frown-lined forehead, painted over the broken blood vessels on his nose, deflated the bags that used to hammock beneath his eyes. His skin is a healthy pinkish tan, not the grey I’ve grown used to, and his white beard has been brushed up to double its normal thickness. I haven’t seen it so voluminous and dense since the 1970s, when it was still black and extended halfway down his chest and almost as far width-wise. His lips are closed, but only just, as if he’s thought of something quite funny and is considering whether to say it out loud. The coffin is balanced on a folding trestle in the bedroom I used to share with my youngest sister. We’ve walked it—an uncle, two sisters, a couple of my nephews and me—down the garden path, past the sandpit built for grandkids and passing neighbourhood children but now colonised by Dad’s staked tomatoes, across the treacherously rotten wooden deck and through the French door which, three and a half decades after installation, can still only be secured by wedging a thrice-folded piece of paper between jamb and door. Younger nieces and nephews look on. One asks why, if this is an ecocardboard coffin, it looks just like wood. Another ducks under the coffin to assure himself the undertaker has set up the trestle correctly. My father lies there for a day and a half, never quite getting around to telling his joke. I don’t exactly remember doing it, but I imagine that I touch his cheek and that it is cold and waxy. Apart from the closed eyes, he reminds me of a heroic portrait of Karl Marx on one of the USSR stamps I collected while dabbling in philately when I was eight. Dad looks healthier dead than he has for some years.



A month earlier, we’d gone for a meal to mark his and Mum’s fiftieth wedding anniversary, at a Formica-table-and-strip-lighting Korean restaurant. By then, Dad had his oxygen tank with him all the time, the plastic tubing hooked around ears and nose like an ill-fitting military chinstrap. He kept resting his head against his hand and taking anxious little sipping breaths. He barely ate or spoke. Chewing and swallowing were becoming too difficult, the latest in a grim checklist of the activities systematically ruled out by emphysema over a decade and a half. First the running and cycling and strenuous gardening. Later, lifting grandchildren and walking long distances. Later still, walking even short distances. Then driving. Then reading out loud to grandchildren. And then, right near the end, swimming (he clung to that for so long), walking across a room without rest breaks, sitting up straight in a chair without feeling like shit. I took photos that day, annoying everyone by shoving a digital camera in their faces to take a series of individual close-ups. We were getting used to Dad’s semi-absent status at occasions like this, so it didn’t seem too callous that we were still trying to enjoy ourselves, even if one of the guests of honour was plainly having a bad time. I’m looking at the photos now. An adult nephew gurns. A brother-in-law looks startled and his daughter grins. Another nephew blows across the top of his soft-drink bottle and his brother is doing something weird with drinking straws. Another brother-in-law has puffed his cheeks out and crossed his eyes. In her photo my mother’s lips are pursed in what I think is amusement, and she’s looking ceiling-ward. The photo of Dad, which is the last I took of him alive, is awful. He stares down the barrel of the camera, too exhausted even to pull a silly face or a fake grin. He’s thin and grey. His eyes, though, are as piercing as ever. He knows the game is almost up. A couple of weeks after that meal, Dad dictated an email (my sister Anna typed it) to his six children, thanking us for the new bed we’d bought as their anniversary gift. ‘It’s absolutely lovely to lie on,’ he wrote. ‘No movement at all and I don’t think either of us will fall out of this one […] Many, many thanks and lots of love.’ 47

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A bed had seemed a fitting gift. The one it replaced wasn’t entirely unusable—just old and broken down and squishy, and, as the email suggested, prone to ejecting sleepers—but once upon a time my parents’ bed had been one of the two mortal embarrassments that made me reluctant to bring friends home from school. From the time I was two, our family of eight lived in a two-bedroom house in Torbay, one of the northernmost bays on the North Shore of Auckland. Even with children stacked into a triple bunk (excellent for launching somersaults) and a trundle bed, there simply weren’t enough bedrooms for Mum and Dad to have one, so their double bed was in the corner of the living room. (Or in the back garden, where, on cloudless summer nights, they’d drag the mattress and bedding, creating a brief mystery in the morning for children looking for a bed to climb into.) Once old enough to make a comparative study, I realised this was unconventional and thus terrible. If a schoolfriend visited, I’d make feeble jokes about the bed actually being a really big flat couch, then suggest we stop talking about it and go play in the bamboo forest at the end of our section. (Later, of course, I came to rather admire the eccentricity of the public bed, as, clearly, did Mum and Dad: even after the house gained two extra bedrooms and four children left home, the double bed stayed in the living room for years.) The bed was nothing, though, compared to my toe-curling feelings about our toilet. For the first half of last century, much of the North Shore had no sewers, so toilets were semi-detached affairs whose small tanks of shit and piss were collected by the ‘night soil man’. When sewers were installed in the mid1960s, most people installed a loo somewhere inside. Dad did not. To find our toilet, you had to go through the tiny kitchen, out the back door and down some wooden stairs that were generally slick with algae, missing a couple of steps, or both. (After the stairs rotted completely, Dad replaced them with a sloping plank, with a number of smaller boards nailed widthwise to reduce the likelihood of headlong slides.) Once at the bottom of the stairs, you then had to walk through the ‘washhouse’—a narrow, tunnel-like lean-to butted against the broken fibrolite exterior of the house, with its own broken louvre windows and cracked 48


concrete floor. Through the holes in the fibrolite you could catch glimpses of the dark, spider-filled crawlspace under the house. The toilet cubicle itself was separated from the wash-house by a curtain. Inside, the bowl was tilted off square, as the concrete floor there was cracked too. Depending on household finances, there would sometimes be storebought toilet paper, and sometimes torn-up squares of newspaper tidily impaled on a nail. In an act of water conservation, Dad had put a large brick inside the cistern, and modified the flusher so it had to be held down for the duration of the flush, making a swift exit impossible. By day this was embarrassing, by night it was terrifying. At twelve, I was still asking my mother to accompany me to the toilet after dark. Fortunately, I was encouraged by Dad to wee on his citrus trees, which slightly reduced the number of visits needed. My embarrassment reached its zenith when I was eleven and brought home for the first time my new best friend, Phillip. I’d already been to his house, which had many bedrooms, a swimming pool, a games room with a pool table, and an Atari video game console. I was anxious about how mine compared. When Phillip said he needed to go to the toilet I offered a lemon tree, but he needed the real thing. I simply couldn’t bring myself to tell him where the toilet was. Increasingly desperate, he went searching, but didn’t think to look beyond the back door. ‘I’m really sorry,’ I said. ‘We actually don’t have a toilet.’ Phillip grabbed his schoolbag and ran the hilly 1.5 km to his own home. We remained close friends for several more years, but we restricted our after-school visits to his house. Dad gets just fourteen sleeps in the lovely new bed. Around 3 am on Monday the 21st of April 2008 he goes to get out of bed, probably with the aim of heading for the loo (still outside but now accessible via a sturdy new staircase, complete with handrail and rain-shelter). He stands, then falls to the floor. My brother-in-law Graham, who has been lodging at my parents’ house while in Auckland for a new job, hears my mother, Lois, trying to call his name. Three years earlier Mum had suffered a major stroke that affected her 49

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right side and her speech, so her words don’t always come out right. When Graham reaches their room (my parents did, eventually, lay claim to a bedroom), Dad is lying naked on the floor, unconscious or very nearly. To Graham it seems like he’s still there, but his eyes are closed and he can’t speak. He’s not exactly dead, but he’s awfully heavy. Graham lifts him back on the bed, shaking him and shouting at him to wake up. Mum is still lying on the other side of the bed. Graham tells her to press the button on her medical alarm pendant. Dad is not breathing so Graham begins mouth to mouth. When the ambulance arrives, the first thing they do is drag Dad back off the soft new bed onto the hard floor, the better to perform CPR. It looks like he’s had a massive heart attack. They zap him with their defibrillator paddles, then put him on a stretcher and carry him to the ambulance. As Graham strips the bed and mops the floor, the sibling phone tree tips us out of our beds around the country—I don’t remember which sister calls me. I creep from my sleeping house and begin the short drive home, but before I get there I get another call telling me to head for the hospital. I drive, gritty-eyed and dazed, jaw clenched with adrenaline, through the empty suburban streets. I’m in a bubble disconnected from the real world, like I’m halfway through a long-haul plane flight, in neither one place nor another. I’m already taking it for granted that this is a heart attack, and that even if Dad is still alive he won’t be for long; that his heart, which has grown enlarged in compensation for pumping blood that isn’t carrying enough oxygen, is in no shape to recover from anything untoward. The sun still isn’t up. As I drive I make some more calls—to my wife, to my sisters. I am thinking about logistics—should we wake our two young children and get them to the hospital before he dies? Do I need to hand over any projects at work if I take a few days off ? What about Dad’s honorary doctorate ceremony on Wednesday evening—what will we do about that? Not far from the hospital, as I pass the row of pines lining the Pupuke Golf Course, I stop thinking, and cry for a bit. At hospital, Dad is in his own room, on his back on a wheeled bed, eyes closed, a blood-oxygen sensor clipped to one of his grey fingers like a giant 50


clothes-peg. Mum and two of my sisters, Anna and Rachel, are already there. The monitor by his side shows the impossibly fast pulse and unfeasibly low blood-oxygen levels. Dad’s heart has been restarted but the rhythms are all wrong. He is brain-dead, more or less, says the doctor. There is nothing they can do. Do we want to have the monitors and wires removed? We do. I’m not sure how long we sit there with him—perhaps an hour. At some point another sister, Melissa, arrives. We hold Dad’s large, heavy hands. We talk to him, and sing—a quiet version of the Harry Belafonte calypso ‘Yellow Bird’. After a time, Dad’s big bony chest—the secret behind his extraordinary ability to float on his back with arms lazily folded behind his head, as if he were in the Dead Sea rather than the Hauraki Gulf—seems to be still, but every twenty seconds or so it slowly heaves up, then down, accompanied by a long rasping wheeze. We sit and talk to him, and watch. The gaps between breaths lengthen, then his chest rises and falls and stays there. He is dead. Mum is sitting up by his shoulder. She gives a sob that is more like a roar, and bends down till her face touches his. It is 7 am, and the wider family is gathering. They’ve moved Dad to a tiny side-room and we crowd around the bed, overflowing into the hallway, my own children jiggling on the knees of their much older cousins, weighing up the invitation to touch their dead grandfather if they want. The adults have other decisions to make—about undertakers and the funeral and where the body will go next. The doctor needs to ask us about something else, too. It is now early Monday morning, and Dad had spent six hours on Sunday at the same hospital, sitting in Accident and Emergency with Rachel, waiting to have a nasty wound on his leg treated. (That fucking new bed! He’d been walking around it and, unused to its generous dimensions, brushed his leg against its corner. His skin, tissue-paper thin from age and from the steroids he took to eke out the last remnants of lung function, had torn back like the skin of an overripe plum, bloodily bunching back under itself.) It is hospital policy, says the doctor, to investigate any death that occurs 51

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shortly after someone has been discharged, just in case doctors missed something they shouldn’t have. Do we wish to lay a formal complaint? We don’t. Who knows—perhaps the hospital’s lamentable service has in fact been the death of him. But what is the point of blaming the final straw when you’ve known for a long time that the camel’s back is at breaking point? And we are all thinking, if not yet saying out loud, that a quick exit is probably preferable to what Dad has been enduring. Still, it would have been nice if he’d been able to hang in there a few more days. On Wednesday night he was meant to be receiving an honorary doctorate of literature from the University of Auckland. The English professors who put him up for the award said, in their nomination letter, that Dad was not exactly a household name, but he was New Zealand’s ‘most gifted and significant literary editor of his generation’. Dad had been half-dreading the ceremony—the crowds, the physical discomfort, the fact that he’d probably have to go on stage in a wheelchair— but he was chuffed to be receiving such heavy-duty recognition. The ceremony goes ahead anyway, with two of my sisters collecting a certificate and handshake on Dad’s behalf. Amid the congratulations and condolences I felt a bit sorry for poet Vincent O’Sullivan, who was getting an honorary degree in the same ceremony—the evening was rather dominated by the pathos of an award that became posthumous by a whisker. .

A day or two before the funeral I’m in my father’s study, sitting at his big, cluttered desk, trying to figure out how to download some photographs from his ailing computer for a slideshow at the wake. His old rotary-dialler telephone rings. It’s a newspaper reporter. ‘I’m calling from the Dominion Post. Do I have the right number for the family of Robin Dudding?’ I gaze out the window overlooking the back garden, which slopes sharply down and then up again, split at the bottom by a stream that was once a few centimetres wide but carved itself into a three-metre-wide chasm during successive winter downpours. After one big storm, a huge piece of earth caved in and washed away, creating a dark tunnel that ran several metres into the wet clay. Once the rain had stopped, Dad found a couple of torches and 52


persuaded a friend to come caving in his garden. The tunnel itself collapsed after a few weeks. A year or so later, Dad persuaded someone to dump a couple of tonnes of broken concrete pieces at our front gate, then made me help him lug them all down and toss them into our ever-growing canyon. He never fully explained what this was meant to achieve. The reporter is asking me about Dad’s early career. I get the feeling she’s called not so much because she has heard that a mighty totara of New Zealand literature has fallen, but rather to follow up an intriguing death notice about an old man who dropped dead days before he was meant to receive an award. I’m a newspaper reporter. I occasionally ring up relatives of the recently dead and ask intrusive questions. I’m always slightly amazed that people answer them, but now I understand. I’m on a high—a mixture of busy-ness and emotional intensity and lack of sleep. I’ve been thinking and talking about little other than my father for the past seventy-two hours. His body is lying in a box, ten paces from where I’m sitting. I’ve just been looking at photos of him spanning seventy years, making notes for a funeral speech, talking with my mother and sisters. Of course I can help the reporter out with a few details about who Dad was. She has trouble shutting me up. I realise I’m feeling proud—a reawakening of that almost forgotten feeling I had when I was much smaller, that the books and magazines he made were somehow noble and important, even if, when he parcelled up ten copies of his literary magazine Islands in brown paper for my primary school fair, they sat unsold on the book stall long after the last Len Deighton novel had gone for five cents. On the morning of the funeral, my parents’ house is overflowing with relatives and friends. There’s not much black and the women are not wearing hats, but several men are in suits. I’m wearing a three-piece I bought ten years ago for a fancy occasion—the only suit I’ve ever owned. I seldom wear it, though—it’s black and has a slightly eccentric three-quarter-length jacket which I worry makes me look like an undertaker. The actual undertaker looks uncannily like Dad: tall and thin-faced and with a large grey beard. A couple of times I spot him out of the corner of my eye and do a lurching double-take. Shit. That’s right. He’s dead. He’s lying 53

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there in the bedroom with the lid off the casket for anyone who wants a final glance. Through the open door I see my six-year-old son hugged to the hip of his adult cousin Joe, looking solemnly down at their grandfather, still not sure if he wants to touch him. After we’ve loaded the coffin into the back of my brother-in-law’s Ford Falcon stationwagon for the trip to the cemetery, the undertaker wants a word with me. ‘Where did you get your suit?’ ‘London,’ I say. ‘From that Spanish chain store, Zara. About ten years ago.’ ‘Ah, that explains it,’ he says. ‘I can’t find a suit like that anywhere in New Zealand.’ He looks me up and down again. ‘That’s a nice suit.’ We drive to the Schnapper Rock Road cemetery, which serves much of the North Shore and is as sprawling and charmless as the newly developed suburbs surrounding it. A hundred or so mourners balance themselves on the slope. Rachel, eldest daughter, reads a eulogy. My wife reads a poem that my mother wrote in the late 1950s and which Dad published in one of his earliest magazines. It’s rather racy, with lines that go: ‘I shall love you in the joy-filled spirit at night / for the love of the racing muscle …’ We’ve warned Mum it will be read, but I think she’s forgotten and she mutters a half-scandalised ‘Oh really!’ We sing a few of Dad’s favourite songs—‘Molly Malone’ and ‘Clementine’ and ‘Yellow Bird’—and a granddaughter reads out a poem she’s written. Then the youngest of the grandchildren take around baskets of stuff that Dad’s younger brother Ian has collected from the garden—persimmon, feijoa, tamarillo, apple, ferns, flowers whose names I’ve never been able to remember​ —and we all hiff something onto the eco-cardboard coffin before we leave. There are so many stories that day. In Rachel’s eulogy she talks of Dad leading backyard golf games with a hockey stick, and of visiting friends being chased with false teeth. At the wake at a nearby boatclub, it seems everyone has prepared a speech: 54


me, my sisters, assorted friends and partners and ex-boyfriends of my sisters who’ve been left scarred or uplifted by their encounters with Dad, writers he once published or challenged to table tennis or both, workmates from when he was a subeditor at the Listener, old friends. Our musician and actor friend Rose Beauchamp paints an idyllic picture of our family when we were living in Christchurch in the early 1970s, when Rose was married to writer Ian Wedde and had a young family. ‘You might arrive and find Lois sitting in a tree, reading a book, because it was too stressful in the house, and Robin would be probably cooking something, and there would be examination of Adele Davis’s cookbooks as to what we were meant to be eating, and chickens to discuss and so on. I became aware that being a parent wasn’t such a bad thing. It was quite fun. It really helped me a lot.’ Belinda, a school friend of my sister Ruth, tells how she and another girl flew up from Christchurch to visit us in Auckland soon after we’d moved cities. On their last night together the three friends slept on the fold-down bed in the back of Dad’s Ford Transit. They were disturbed by some movement in the night then nodded back off, but woke in the morning to find the van had been driven to the beach by Dad, who’d left them there with the back doors wide open to the sea view. ‘Three fourteen-year-olds in our nighties, down on the beach with a plane to catch in two hours. We had to run home to Sealy Road, with all these men and neighbours yelling out things as we went. I still cringe.’ Funerals are where nice things are said, but if you care to hear it, there’s an undercurrent of something else too. Those halcyon childhood days, says Rachel, were winding down by the time the youngest siblings came along. ‘Dad had got a bit grouchy—we’ll generously ascribe that to pain in his arthritic hips.’ Anna—the sister closest in age to me—is more direct. ‘He was a tough dad,’ she says, her voice cracking. ‘He never said “yes”; it was always “maybe”. Whenever you walked in the door he said, “What took you so long?” ’ In recent years, she confesses, ‘I’ve been cross with him a lot.’ She tries to balance these awkward heresies by insisting she has ‘so many really, really good memories’ of Dad’s vigour and sense of fun, but the dark note has been struck. 55

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An old school friend of my sister Melissa tells a complicated story whose main point is that when he was a teenager and came calling, Dad would mercilessly insult him, tease him about his last name, and call him dimwitted. Graham, the brother-in-law who had given Dad CPR the night he died, tells how after he and Ruth (who are not married) announced she was pregnant, Dad brought out an old air rifle and left it on the dining table as some sort of heavy-handed joke about shotgun weddings. Graham insists it was an example of ‘Robin’s sense of humour and fun’, but really it’s a story about how he had a mean streak, and he sometimes got a kick out of making people feel seriously uncomfortable. There are other stories that I’ve half forgotten. My parents’ old friend Ian Free remembers the time, around 1982, when Dad arranged a street party to celebrate the completion of the street’s new footpath by council workmen. ‘We dressed up the old Hillman Super Minx with a couple of flagpoles,’ says Ian, ‘and we flew flags from the front mudguards and we dressed up.’ I remember Ian’s arrival, but the two things that really stick in my mind from that day are that Dot next door baked a cake in the shape of our street, complete with grey icing for the footpath; and that Mr Konings from across the road turned out to be a video arcade game salesman, and set up a twoplayer game of Donkey Kong on the footpath, rigging the coinbox so you could play forever with one recycled 20c coin, which I found almost vertiginously exciting. I always feel mildly irritated when I hear someone talk about a dead person and say such-and-such is ‘what they would have wanted’. It sounds smug, a bit self-serving—the kind of thing that a voracious sister-in-law might say just before disappearing into the night with a disputed family heirloom. Or maybe I roll my eyes because of the implicit religiosity—as if the dead could give a toss what we do once they’re gone. All the same, I felt that my mother and my sisters and I, plus all the people who had sung and spoken and read poems or just turned up, had done the old bastard proud, even if the only string quartet we could find for the wake was actually a trio. A few weeks later, though, Anna finds an unwitnessed will Dad had written 56


in 1994. It’s a brief note that essentially leaves everything to Mum, but it quietly seethes with the passive-aggressive grouchiness Rachel had talked about: As I haven’t had time (or attracted much interest) in preparing aforesaid document— let me just express preferences for some other poor bugger to work out … At the end he writes: On death: burial or cremation, whatever suits. NO SERVICE of any kind, but wake at 4 Sealy Rd Torbay, with keg of Guinness provided from my estate. We got it wrong on almost every count. Screw it. I reckon it was still what he would have wanted.



Script of Anzac Day 2015 RNZ National Feature Programme narrator elsie locke gordon watson ralph blacklock john mulgan winston churchill

We hear New Zealand’s WWII anthem ‘Blue Smoke’: Blue smoke goes drifting by into the deep blue sky And when I think of home I sadly sigh Oh I can see you there with loving tears in your eyes As we fondly said our last goodbyes. And as I sailed away with a longing to stay I promised I’d be true and to love only you Blue smoke goes drifting by into the deep blue sky My memories of home will never die … narrator:

This month, April 2015, is the centenary of that bungled attempt to invade Turkey in the early years of the First World War, the senseless war. It’s also the seventieth anniversary of the deaths of two New Zealand soldiers, killed in the last weeks of the noble war—the Second World War. One died on 17 April, one on 26 April; one was killed by the enemy, one by his own hand; both were slain by the same duplicity and treachery that accompany all wars.



We hear the communist anthem ‘The Internationale’: Arise ye workers from your slumbers Arise ye prisoners of want For reason in revolt now thunders And at last ends the age of cant. Away with all your superstitions Servile masses arise, arise We’ll change henceforth the old tradition And spurn the dust to win the prize. So comrades, come rally And the last fight let us face The Internationale unites the human race … narrator:

Gordon Watson was a communist. He’d joined the Communist Party of New Zealand during the 1930s Depression when New Zealand, despite being blessed by nature’s abundance, found the iron laws of economics prevented the hungry being fed. This was at a time when the Communist Party was becoming a significant force in New Zealand by way of its strength in the union movement and its roots among working people. Watson had been a gifted student of languages and literature at Victoria University in Wellington. His abilities were such that he quickly became editor of the party paper. When war broke out in 1939 the Communist Party opposed New Zealand’s involvement, claiming the war was a struggle between imperialist powers. The party and its publications came under constant police harassment and vandalism. We hear a tram passing. We hear Gordon Watson, in a street.


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gordon watson:

People’s Voice! Working people’s paper! People’s Voice! No more war! People’s Voice! The peace paper! Hey—! Hey—! Get your hands off me! Are you arresting me? Give those papers back! Hey! Give me back those papers …! narrator:

He came up from Wellington and with other party members set up a crude printery in a lava cave near the Southdown freezing works and the Otahuhu railway workshops in Auckland. We hear a duplicator cranking out stencilled pages. narrator continues: The police were tipped off and raided the cave but Watson eluded them and set up the printery elsewhere. In 1941 he became party secretary. That same year Hitler invaded the Soviet Union and Stalin declared that the war had turned into a struggle to defend socialism. Gordon Watson immediately enlisted in the New Zealand infantry, intent on doing his bit in the war against fascism, the struggle to defend socialism. The party hierarchy tried to argue him out of his decision, alarmed at losing so capable a leader. But he remained steadfast. He served in the Pacific, then took a long furlough back in New Zealand where he worked on the party paper, which was now unimpeded in its production and sale. Finally, he was once more posted back overseas: to Italy. He had been in the north of Italy for four weeks in the months of March and April 1945, in the Po Valley, when, as Elsie Locke wrote in her tribute published in 1949 entitled Gordon Watson: His life & writings, a memorial volume to a New Zealand writer, soldier and communist), elsie locke:

He took over a Bren gun after the two previous gunners had been wounded— knowing well that the Germans had the Bren neatly located. 60


We hear a Bren gun commence fire. Immediately we hear Spandau fire respond. elsie locke continues: He was killed almost immediately by Spandau fire. narrator:

Watson died when he was thrown against a German rearguard force following an Allied decision to advance with all speed on the north. The main German army was already in full retreat back into Austria. Dominant in the minds of Western leaders was the fear that the collapse of fascism would lead not to a restoration of the old order, but to a workers’ revolution. We hear the Italian communist anthem ‘Bandiera Rossa’. Avanti o popolo, alla riscossa Bandiera rossa, bandiera rossa Avanti o popolo, alla riscossa Bandiera rossa trionferà. Bandiera rossa la trionferà Bandiera rossa la trionferà Bandiera rossa la trionferà Evviva il socialismo e la libertà! narrator continues: In the industrial belt of northern Italy, the days of April 1945 were immense in their upheaval and potential. The Germans were in full retreat and the Italian partisans and proletariat took advantage of the sudden vacuum of power. On April 18, the day after Watson died, a general strike in Turin was a prelude to huge insurrections in Genoa and Milan and then Turin again.

We hear the swelling roar of a huge assembly.


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narrator continues:

On April 24, 60,000 workers in Milan came out on strike, setting up workers’ councils. The strike spread and assumed insurrectionary levels, with 20,000 fascists executed. Much of northern Italy was in fact being liberated by Italian partisans and not the Allies’ Fifth and Eighth armies. In Genoa the partisans trapped the German garrison force within the city, forcing the commander to surrender. That Allied decision to advance with all speed was taken to head off popular power and secure the northern industrial belt from its workforce. Compare it with the decision of the Allies in the preceding winter of 1944–45. Then, spurred on by the Allies’ advance from the south, the partisans had also risen. This time the Allies stayed put in Rome and Florence while the German army and the Italian fascist forces crushed the communists in the north. Gordon Watson, a faithful party soldier, convinced he was fighting a war of freedom-loving democracies against fascism, never knew this. Neither did he live long enough to discover that the Italian Communist Party, under instructions from Moscow, was to join in a government of ‘national unity’ and assure the Allies that the communist-led partisan movement ‘would not make a revolution’. Behind the back of the partisans a deal had been carved out by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. The Russians would have Rumania, Bulgaria; the Allies would keep Greece, Italy. Communist leader Togliatti—just flown in from Moscow—said at the time, ‘We are all united by our agreement to have no recourse to violence in the struggle between the parties. This agreement calls for the disarming of all, and we were the first to carry it out.’ Looking back, former Italian communist leader Luigi Longo observed, ‘When the Allied authorities reached the north with their troops, they began to remove from important posts the men of the Resistance appointed by the national administration committees, and replace them with officials from the old administrative apparatus.’ The Italian revolution was betrayed. Ralph Blacklock, a veteran member of the CPNZ who served in north Italy in 1945 and died in February 2000, wrote in a private correspondence: 62


ralph blacklock:

The sad part about all this is that though I can write about the Allied and Moscow scheming now, everything other than what I saw as an individual was not known. Gordon and I saw none of this, and he was dead. And I knew after the event. Truth is an elusive objective. At times during war it’s the first casualty. Again we hear a Bren gun commence fire. Immediately we hear Spandau fire respond. Silence. Again we hear ‘Blue Smoke’. Auahi rere nei ki rō te rangi nui Me ōku mahara tae atu aue He nui rā te aroha me te roimata … ‘E wehe nei, e wehe nei ra koe.’ E haere rā ahau me te aroha nui Mōhou, e tama e, te aroha nei Auahi rere nei ki rō te rangi nui E kore au e wareware e. E kore au e wareware e. We hear a distant muezzin crying out that there is no god but God … There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger. narrator:

Nine days after Gordon Watson died on the Italian front, Lieutenant Colonel John Mulgan took his own life in a hotel room in Cairo. We hear a kit being opened, then the clink of bottles. narrator continues:

He filled a glass with liquid and tablet morphine taken from his medical kit. 63

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We hear liquid being poured, and tablets being dropped into the liquid. narrator continues:

And then he drank it. We hear the liquid being drunk. narrator continues: And he lay down on his hotel bed in his green pyjamas and died.

We start to hear a boys’ choir singing … … And did those feet in ancient time Walk upon England’s mountains green? And was the holy Lamb of God On England’s pleasant pastures seen? And did the Countenance Divine Shine forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here Among these dark Satanic mills? Bring me my bow of burning gold: Bring me my arrows of desire: Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold! Bring me my chariot of fire … narrator continues: John Mulgan was one of nature’s First XV. He played rugby and cricket, boxed, sailed, tramped, was prefect at Auckland Grammar, had a Dio girlfriend at varsity, a place on the Students’ Exec, was editor of the student paper Craccum, went on to Oxford and a first, wrote the great New Zealand novel, fought Jerry at the battle of El Alamein, parachuted into occupied Greece, rose to Lieutenant Colonel with a citation for the Military Cross and then, the day after Anzac Day 1945, overdosed on morphine. Dead by his own hand at 33.



In 1932, with the Depression at its most bitter and forlorn, Mulgan had joined up as a special constable to keep in check rioting mobs of unemployed. It was his class duty and he accepted it. The following year he arrived at Oxford. What began then for Mulgan was a gradual political trajectory from the centrist right toward the communist left. With capitalism unable to overcome chronic economic slump, and parliamentary democracy ineffective in halting fascism, communism seemed all that was left. john mulgan:

It was the only place to go. Apart from the pictures. narrator:

Before the decade was up Mulgan had produced one of our best novels, Man Alone, its staunch hero Johnson dismissive of Labour Party reform— We hear a typewriter. john mulgan:

‘ “They’re not Socialists, those fellows,” Johnson said, deprecatingly. “They’re currency reformers.” ’ Typewriting continues … narrator:

—and clearly sympathetic to the revolutionary left and ending up in Spain fighting fascism. john mulgan:

‘It was in the late summer of 1937 when I met Johnson. He was at Jamara before that and afterwards at Brunete. He was at Teruel and on the Ebro. He was at Calaceite and on the Aragon front … ‘He was still in Spain when they started to ship the International Column out and he was caught with others in the great retreat from Catalonia when 65

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the German artillery came through. The last word I had of him was from someone who was with him waiting in a tunnel in Port-Bou to get over the frontier … ‘There are some men, this fellow said, you can’t kill.’ narrator:

Following the outbreak of war and after service in the Middle East, Mulgan was parachuted into occupied Greece to coordinate activities between the British Military Mission and the mainly communist partisans. Upon Liberation in October–November 1944 he farewelled Greece and joined British military staff in Cairo. In January 1945 Mulgan was flown back to Athens. His task was to render assistance to those who had helped the British Mission during the period of German occupation. After three months he returned to Cairo and on April 26 he sat in a hotel room and typed out letters of farewell … We hear typing. We hear the carriage return for the last time, hear the paper removed from the roller. Silence. narrator:

And then killed himself. Again we hear a kit being opened. Again the clink of bottles. Again liquid being poured. Again tablets being dropped into the liquid. Again we hear the liquid being drunk. Silence. We hear a distant muezzin crying out that there is no god but God, there is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger. narrator continues:

Conjecture about the reasons for Mulgan’s suicide has been largely based around 66


claims that he had a melancholic disposition, a death wish, an estrangement from life, a despair at the future of human endeavour. He had just completed a memoir showing his disillusionment with the communist practices he had experienced in Greece.

He also had a complicated private life, both in Greece and Cairo, and was faced with returning to a wife and child in New Zealand whom he hadn’t seen for four years. But there was one area that nobody seems to have touched upon, and that is the exact nature of his work in Athens in 1945. We hear Greek rembetika music, Ioannis Halkias playing ‘Minore Tou Tekke’. narrator continues:

When the Germans withdrew in November 1944, British forces had taken control of Athens. Churchill intended re-establishing Britain’s empire and restoring its role in Greek affairs. He had met with Stalin and agreed to spheres of influence in the Balkans—Britain would resume hegemony in the Mediterranean and the Soviet Union would have the Rumania oilfields.

A puppet prime minister was appointed in Athens and former Nazi collaborationists were sworn in as national guards. In reaction, a general strike broke out, followed by an armed uprising led by the dominant force of the wartime resistance, the communists. Churchill told his military commanders— winston churchill:

Treat Athens like an occupied city. narrator:

British planes that had once dropped supplies into the mountains of Thessaly now dropped bombs on the equivalent of Glen Innes and Otara in the Greek capital. We hear bombs exploding.


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narrator continues:

By the time Mulgan arrived, 15,000 prisoners had been taken. The communists replied in kind, taking their own mass hostages. Mulgan’s new job in Athens—assisting those who had helped further the British war effort—saw him replacing a Major O’Toole, who was suspected of being too favourably disposed toward the Greek communist partisans. Mulgan was, and remained, a member of Britain’s wartime intelligence unit, Force 133, Special Operations Executive. His period in Greece 1943–44 must have given him extensive knowledge of the membership and strategies of the KKE, the Greek communist party. During his period in Athens, January–April 1945, Mulgan would surely have taken part in briefing the British Mission and its puppet Greek government on the KKE and its adherents. He would have seen some of his former partisan friends rounded up and incarcerated, possibly executed. Was this the guilt and despair he brought back with him to his hotel room in Cairo? In early April he had written from Athens— We hear Greek rembetika music. We hear typewriting. john mulgan:

I’ve been very depressed lately about the trend of events around me. I know that it’s partly because I’m close to a situation that I’ve come to know rather too well, and also that nothing is happening that we mightn’t have anticipated, but it still doesn’t save me from depression. narrator:

War must have seemed to Mulgan endless, a swapping of sides: the British for the Germans. And as for the communist liberators to the east, Stalin was as cynical as ever and his local stooges seemed at best untrustworthy, at worst murderous. Typewriting continues.



john mulgan:

I was more sympathetic to communism when I was younger. It was the only religion of my time and they were the only people who were prepared to fight in Spain and elsewhere. Now I know that a lot of their drive is little more than a search for power and that no socialism can be worth having if it sacrifices individuals so carelessly … narrator:

Mulgan’s friend James Bertram wrote a tribute years later and compared Mulgan’s death to that of  T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, ‘who committed a kind of mental suicide when he found just where victory was leading a cause he had believed in’. It’s a nice comparison. The cause Lawrence had come to espouse was the emancipation of Arabs in the Middle East at the end of World War I. He had received assurances from London; London then changed its mind. Gordon Watson and John Mulgan had fought a war to end fascism, a war that was meant to see in a new order of peace and plenty, dignity and democracy. Again we hear ‘The Internationale’. Arise ye workers from your slumbers Arise ye prisoners of want For reason in revolt now thunders And at last ends the age of cant. narrator:

They had gone where the argument led them, from the Victoria University Socialist Society to the Po Valley, from the Oxford Labour Club to the mountains of Thessaly.

Again we hear ‘The Internationale’. Away with all your superstitions Servile masses arise, arise We’ll change henceforth the old tradition And spurn the dust to win the prize … 69

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They met duplicity and betrayal. Watson was killed before he found out the truth. Mulgan realised the truth, and couldn’t live with it. Again we hear ‘The Internationale’. So comrades, come rally And the last fight let us face The Internationale unites the human race … winston churchill:

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of central and eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone – Greece with its immortal glories – is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. Again, ‘Blue Smoke’. Auahi rere nei ki rō te rangi nui Me ōku mahara tae atu aue He nui rā te aroha me te roimata … ‘E wehe nei, e wehe nei ra koe.’ E haere rā ahau me te aroha nui Mōhou, e tama e, te aroha nei Auahi rere nei ki rō te rangi nui E kore au e wareware e. E kore au e wareware e …



The Passion of Walker Evans What’s in a face? A certain grace known only to the lens. To praise it is to view God’s work anew. So who’d regret a cigarette or glass of whiskey? James Agee, wet with weeping, kissed the divine. It’s risky. Across the table Walker was able to watch his friend in thrall to Babel, from heights descend towards his end. Flaubert, his God, felt that le mot juste was a matter of faith—an odd notion. But later he knew better.


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By which I mean Gustav had seen words don’t stay true to mise-en-scene. And what we do, words misconstrue. One had to live and not deprive life’s silences their due, to give to each man his own consequences. He loved the croppers, their chapels. He’d profit from his Agape; Eros would’ve stopped his voice. To parlay freely is the hard way. Plainly spoken, not in the broken English he’d expected, their anger provoked in him an aesthetic primed to protect it. Time and space his medium, grace was withheld until their weary faces, silent and still, enacted his will.



Yet one never knows how to compose oneself. We smile and strike a pose, assume a style of self-denial. And the shutter freezes time. Unease is understandable: God does as he pleases, abandons all for good or ill. A desultory fame may make one’s name posthumously; outside the frame, nothing; we see what cannot be. Hymn Walker’s praise of works and days on their behalf— Flaubert’s true phrase; wheat rent from chaff; a photograph.



Habitué I could well have recalled you as the Cavafy of K. Road had you possessed in addition to a passion for sex the Alexandrian’s Greek sense of measure. In the footnotes of each city’s memory is a street with a forgettable café where sits an unremarkable poet who alone has foreseen on the horizon an empire’s armada. For Anthony fucking Cleopatra beneath a gold embroidered canopy so for the boy dark as a coffee bean in the poor quarter all night in a creaking bed. As if from a shore of dreams a newspaper vendor at dawn cries out the impending catastrophe.



In the Painter’s Studio ( for John Pule) the moon burns a hole in the sky, inviting me through. I follow a string of lights across the still harbour, past the Te Atatu peninsula. books of loved Polish poets with unpronounceable names lie on the table—we know them like brothers, sisters, imagine their souls through snow. in the painter’s studio, blue aquatic plants— strange flowers transported from space to the depths of the Pacific Ocean. the eel glides through all the way to Tonga. summer house of grapevines, ripening figs and apples, like summer in Odessa. 75

Ben Webb, Study, 2007, 92 x 116 cm. Oil, ink and opalescent pigment on etching paper



Black Swans In memoriam Ben Webb Black swans at Aramoana. The harbour lettuce green as in a watercolour. Otago Peninsula narrowing off Harington Point, and then the open sea. The stately black swans, the running tide. The Spit. A few run-down cribs, mostly unoccupied, set back amongst a scattering of pine trees, marram grass and driftwood. Its arm curving out as if to protect itself against the dune-forming tides. Early evening in half-light; and suddenly, filling the lounge window at the Pilot’s Cottage—bridge and funnel sliding past, massive, in slow motion. The stage machinery turning, dead silent, as though in a waking dream. Perhaps he saw this too, in his last moments, alone in that cottage at The Spit. Focused upon the container ship as it slipped noiselessly out to sea, past Taiaroa Head. What was it then, threw back the image of the terrified child from the dark well? Self-loathing made real in that final act. Afterwards, out there in the darkness, riding upon the waters, black swans arched long velvety necks, and turned toward the dim-lit window with its silhouette, framed there.



Arthur Dove’s Blackbird Blackbird flew into the side of Arthur Dove’s car. Stunned. He cradled it in the cup of his hands. Captured breath. His pulse thrilled when he felt his small black parcel stir. The painting, likewise, deeply gorged with black marks feathered the wilding strokes to stir into sentences of song. Always the shimmer of pulse in the blackest moments of chance.



A Large Collection of Small Things As in a battered leather suitcase he carried a large collection of small things— aphorisms repeated at the dinner table and punchlines from radio comedies (circa 1958) father’s discreet departmental gossip and mother’s memories of Wellington in the twenties blurbs on the front flap, author photographs on the back flap of old review copies the colophons of defunct publishing houses and where exactly the books sat on his father’s shelves what big brothers were saying to their classmates what parents had said to their classmates how the south wind came under the wash-house door on days when his mother was struggling with the wringer and advertising jingles, piles of comics imported through Gordon and Gotch sounds and wordage held by the cordage of chance in time and place and age. He wished for a smaller collection of large things— the right bon mot for every occasion 79

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the real wisdom of the ancients, literature methodically read and absorbed, coherence. The small things persisted, the large unforgotten collection of small things. The life. The context. The small things that still weight the suitcase.



Commenting on this work, Shin says: ‘I progressively built up two or three layers to work against the original layer, minutely building up paint thickness. By overlapping and breaking up the patterns of the articulated positive and negative space relationships, the swirling/tumbling shapes create a kind of centrifugal movement. This becomes a motif in itself, generating new forms and shapes that float in space.’ In the Herald Theatre foyer Shin’s [Motus-related] project excites because of its restless inventiveness and unpredictability. Her glowing white forms interact with moving viewers’ bodies with impact, creating a surprisingly intimate, stroboscopic ambience that is reminiscent of naturally claustrophobic settings like forests and water-reflected caves. Such a complex architectural interior, achieved via celebratory painted shape subtly modifying functional form, demonstrates Shin’s skilled manipulation of light and space … [Shin] uses tumbling angular motifs that look like overlapping sheets of intricately cut paper, falling en masse like autumn leaves. —John Hurrell, Eyecontact, April 2014 1. Motus 3, 2014, 860 x 1200 mm. Acrylic on canvas. 2. Motus 4, 2014, 860 x 1200 mm. Acrylic on canvas. 3. Motus 5, 2014, 860 x 1200 mm. Acrylic on canvas. 4. Motus 6, 2014, 860 x 1200 mm. Acrylic on canvas. 5. Motus I, 2014, 2400 x 1800 mm. Acrylic on canvas. The Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tāmaki. 6. Motus II, 2014, 2400 x 1800 mm. Acrylic on canvas. 7. Motus III, 2014, 2400 x 1800 mm. Acrylic on canvas. 8. Motus IV, 2014, 2400 x 1800 mm. Acrylic on canvas. All these works are from the exhibition Motus, held at Two Rooms Gallery, Auckland, 5–23 December 2014. Photographs by Sam Hartnett.


sacred logs in the kauri kitchen the smoky lamps were dimmer than candles except for sudden mad flaming the small black-eyed sons almost engulfed adept at handling flame they swung the lamps as if on a ship they wielded sharp knives slaughtering vegetables hacking at logs with little axes stoking up the fire until the chimney trembled flames licking the ceiling until it glowed red bringing the father down the hall to accuse us of burning all the wood instructing us to burn 1 stick at a time oblivious we burnt sacred logs gazing hungrily at the furniture 90


Episodes (Second Season)

Like Akasha tricks Enkil into drinking the blood of twin boys she’d whacked with laudanum overdoses knowing that blood from a corpse is fatal to vampires. (What’s not to like about that!? screams Gregory O’Brien). This weakens him, and she slits his throat. (Pshaw!) Khayman reboots vampires who war with the vampires Akasha and Enkil had made.
Khayman and Akasha, neck and neck, go off the radar and into their squeeze before slaking their thirsts. Sinking deep into that tranche, in the most squelchy-welchy way. And Marx goes: Capital is dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. (Kia ora, Karl.) And then, he’s: now what? Like derivatives that feed off the labour of the unborn? Their separate ways: Akasha to Alaska, Khayman to the Carribean. Maharet turns Eric, now a John Key vampire who flunked the crash course in Critical Teleology to complete his Degree of Difficulty (DoD) because, sure enough, he just wants somebody to suck. The heartless Elder (David Inkle-ockle) now places Akasha and Enkil in the sun, before returning them to 91

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the tax shelter, causing vampires everywhere to melt, to run, burn, or disambiguate. (Black bottle! If you come into my house, I’ll kick your lights out!) Offline for over a century, Mael goes through his tissues before being written out of the series. Marius is waxen, rabid, seriously rarked up; Al Wendt suggests you like him in spite of everything. Or, and why not just eviscerate the bastard in a fit of arbitrage? Well, Marius de Romanus, not so much the Epicurean as ‘the blond with the cobalt eyes’, he’s the one that made Lestat a real vamp, all woony but not so croony; ended up a bitcoin consultant for BDU (Bank of the Dread Undead). Akasha and Enkil get the flight out of Egypt. Somewhere over the Gobi they receive two alarming messages. Realising they’ve had it with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, they decide to liquidate their intellectual assets without delay. Maharet meanwhile flees to Antioch, again plunging a dagger into Akasha’s neck to establish the truth of the legend that Akasha must exist for all other vampires to exist but it ends up a total splish splash. No Double Dipping. Recent studies show taking a bath’s actually worse than a haircut. (David McNally chortles quietly to himself.) Cashed up, Akasha takes a controlling stake in Entrepreneurs Go Blind. Santino joins Vampires on Vespers
(Vroom! Vroom!) in convoy down PC Hooftstraat. J.P. Morgan wants to be their friend—don’t we all? Marius bites Armand and, much to his credit, lives off his blood 92


for the next seventeen years. Magnus meantime becomes a tax murderer. Lestat’s mortal birth … (to be continued …)
 (Moving right along) Louis’s mortal birth restores his triple A Moody rating. Mortal Lestat goes into the forest and slays the wolves again. 
(Sheesh!!) Undead, he repairs with Sookie to Paris, where he’s recognised as an award-winning sociopath. Magnus, now in serious party mode, makes twenty-yearold Helena Sword a fucking bloodsucker,
which she was anyway, then flings her heedlessly into the slavering mosh pit’s heave and ooze. Flashing back now to 1791—Lestat’s rescinded Armand’s Vienna Aktion coven status. Great buckets of blood! And walls of fire! Honestly, I’m Ooof ! Extreme Lifestyle Advisory! Adult tissues and fistfuls of wipes and swaps! Lestat retorts: Nicholas, you’re a vampire now! Get a grip! He gives Renaud’s Theater to the four vamps—Annie Rice Burroughs’s among them—who’ve been rough-necking with Sookie like there’s no tomorrow. Then it’s renamed the Theater of the Lost Waxers of the Art and
he and Gabrielle restage their journey down the old Silk Road 2.0. Lestat writes the first of many novels; Hardly Normal’s an overnight sensation. Go Hardly! Nicholas catches fire. Meanwhile, back at the Vamp Camp, Sookie takes a bit part in The Bling Ring (nah, just kidding!). Lestat’s mortal family is overturned during the French Revolution. Another turning point. Gabrielle 93

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gives Lestat the runaround, goes into derivatives and mislays her memory—for the umpteenth time. Like there was no yesterday. So Lestat buys Plasma Resources (UK)—blood supplier to the NHS—and onsells to Bain Capital. Marius embraces Lestat and takes him to the Samoan islands where Akasha and Ross Ulbricht are seated as statues (they’re huge!) above board on shell companies. Lestat 
awakens Akasha, who turns another corner. Marius then sends Lestat abroad. (to be continued …) 
 (As you were.) Lestat turns twenty-five-year-old Louis, who’s fated to become the first ‘sympathetic vampire’ in the literary history of capitalism. Chalk that one up, guys! He winds up flaxen-haired twentyfive-year-old Claudia until she’s screaming like a born-again libertarian meemee. Totally stoked, she snorts the line. All three settle into a domestic routine in a townhouse on Bourbon. 
 Dust to dust, Devil must. Claudia, who can take it no more, sucks Lestat, chucks his remains into the bayou. Gradually coagulating over slime time, Lestat finds a situation as Adjunct Professor of Phlebotomy at the Character Institute.
 Louis notwithstanding burns down the townhouse and he and Katrina, now regurgitated and reunited, flee
to Europe where they melt, mingle and mash. Claudia, Louise, and Desiree Fixler are tagged looking up Old World vamps and crocs in nearby Onepoto Basin, or maybe just for opportunities in Public 94


Art. Whatever, they all want somebody to suck. So blood thirsty! At first they can’t find no body. Henri Louis LeCren shares a toke with E.A. Poe (aka Antonin A. Toad), who extends an invite to the Theatre of Plastercast Gnomes where backstage he makes Madeline a vampire frog (Blimey she’s slimey!). Armand’s coven buys Claudia and Madeline out of Paypal. Louis and Armand share their bloodlust with the quant jocks of Goldman Sachs. Next thing you know, the Apostolic Camera loses its credit rating. Louis travels with Edgar Allan; they return to Cajun country, where he claims to have seen Lestat. Armand and Louis part company. Like Maharet says, like it’s all about capitalism (continued) igniting passions, saying no to its Unwanted Heirs Prescient of the Association of Unmanned Gothic Operations. What we call UGOs (drones). Libor’s flush (drained).



from the FYMA series 1. Untitled, 2015, 178 x 127 mm. Oil on canvas 2. Untitled, 2015, 178 x 127 mm. Oil on canvas 3. Untitled, 2015, 178 x 127 mm. Oil on canvas 4. Untitled, 2015, 178 x 127 mm. Oil on canvas 5. Untitled, 2015, 127 x 178 mm. Oil on canvas 6. Untitled, 2015, 102 x 102 mm. Oil on canvas 7. Untitled, 2015, 102 x 102 mm. Oil on canvas 8. Untitled, 2015, 102 x 102 mm. Oil on canvas

This is classic McLeod: sensual and calligraphic as 1940s De Kooning, gruesome as Bosch, crudely cartoonish as Guston, a Rabelaisian carnival of excess complete with distorting mirrors … the indelible physicality of chrome yellows, acid greens and dirty flesh pinks, and the Disney biomorphism, demand comparisons with American painter Elizabeth Murray, but the synthesis is all McLeod’s own, heading more in the direction of Gerald Scarfe and John Searle. Here, a Freudian phallus nose; there, a creature in tartan (an allusion to the artist’s Scottish origins) with dugs interchangeable with her flesh-pink Mickey Mouse ears may be Miley Cyrus at the 2013 VMA awards, twerking away among the stylised comic strip shorthand of swooshes … The flying saucers can be traced back to one of McLeod’s favourite characters—the black-hatted cowboy villain Badjin (a variation on Scots cartoonist Bud Neill’s creation Rank Bajin or ‘bad-un’ in the right Glaswegian accent) ‘Little Green Man’ type. — Andrew Paul Wood, from catalogue essay for the exhibition When the Aliens Land, Suite Gallery, Wellington, 2013


The Modern Primitive Out in William Street a vicious wind sliced through me. I was cold to the bone. Behind the bus shelter was the locked door of First Blood. On offer, a vast array of full body modifications carried out in a professional and safe environment: piercing, custom tattooing, scarification, ritual body suspension and tattoo laser removal. Needles quiver at the mere touch of bare skin. Tender morsels are inscribed, emblazoned, pricked and perforated. Insistent stabs of pain break through tight lips. Eyebrows beaded with silver rings. Pierced ears open up like cauliflower florets, the steel-ringed whorls of a nautilus exposed. How far will he reconfigure himself ? Nipple and tongue splitting, ear shaping and sub-dermal implantation are not for the faint-hearted. Alchemised ink. Straw into gold. Man into god. A phoenix rising from cold ashes. Cut him down before he falls. Spork Boy could not find the words for the adrenalised pain-numbing endorphin rush of his brush with suspension. Sky Walker reported her suspension took her to a happy place. Branding, cutting, corset training. Conquer your body. Swallow a flaming sword, be suspended by your hair or from embedded hooks, a modern primitive. Transcend the limitations of your flesh, 105

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fly without wings, a dancer pirouetting in the clouds, releasing small rosary beads of blood to the unbelievers below.



Until the Next Time You’re digging deep, trying to find something, Some body, someone to hang your head on. People are laughing behind your back, Pointing, whispering, mocking, You’re being lied to, cheated on, two-timed. The more you dig, the more dirt you find to fling, Until the pile tips carelessly backward, And I stand in front of you, Wet with the rain of your tears and spittle, mud sliding off. You have built me rancid, from feet of clay to mudbrick and slosh, Hardening despite the cool sun of your stare. Quickly you flail at me with axe and knives, Trying to cut me into glittering shards of alleged sins. This, somehow, showing that you still love me. Let he who is without, I say, cast the first lover, I hit you hard, without anger or sin, And strip you of your bindings, Throwing them, naked saints, into the hole you have dug, Together with the splintered crosses you are trying so hard to bare. I grasp my own shovel, worn but sharp, And bury myself deep into your dark moist earth, Loving the smell of you, the feel of you, the forbidden taste. You lie quietly for a moment, Then thrash and writhe, impaled, angry. I take my time, slowly breaking new ground, Laying it bare, opening your heart to the wind, The ploughshare mightier than the sword. It is the spiritual that the whispering mind tries to erode, Earth to earth, ashes to ashes. 107

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Till death do us part, We make hate, we make love, I drag you screaming yellow fire, From the jealous brittle undergrowth of my past Into the delta of conjugal reality, And leave the warm whole of you, a furry furrowed field, Covered in soft red petals, The scratches on my face healing, Until the next time.



On Core When I recall you’re going to die, I cry. Poetry has wrecked me from an early age, drawing circles of loss and mortal business. On the page it can all get held in the same taste. My heart burns. Soon the heart stops. These lines make visible the patterns of your desires to knowing strangers. I’m so full of love, feelings spill clouded colour over polite conversation. Tidal response, moods, structural mysteries. You’re like hot water in winter. The ones I love derail vigilant ordering. They play in the cold, hard fact. Engagement is the stable ground of trust. Some times we need to ask, at others to protect. when the nothing is come, a kind word, a soft strong touch, in the hope the intention will spin up some luck I met you. The love sets in. I will die, and you’ll have to tell your deep mind, that asks after me, that you can’t satisfy. Here is a hunger you’ll have to live with, like an ex-gambler, starting fresh each day, but worse.


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Maybe you’ll find God then, the one who’ll never leave you, and if you feel lost, then the answer is to trust the system has it covered. As long as we are able to we’ll keep this thing afloat



Revival (after Lucinda Williams’ album West ) Not long after they met, she said—I think you’ll like this.
It got dark, she turned on the soft light, he sat in the chair beside her, reached
for her hand and touched each finger. They listened through the whole of  West.
He said— don’t expect anything from me, don’t think I can give you much.
She said— you can’t rescue me, you can’t protect me.
They were mystified. It was like being at a revival meeting, where the preacher prophesies and in the spotlight his voice is a black snake with a flicking tongue moving towards her across the crowded tent, yes her, it is coming to her, the preacher’s voice gets louder, there’s sweat on his brow, his shirt is stuck to his chest he hurls up his voice, he says—Jesus, sweet, sweet, Jesus let this girl go free.
There’s a thunderclap and she stands up and falls back into a stranger’s arms.
Her heart is smitten and she knows the end is nigh, the end is the river swiftly moving as the banks are crumbling. It will rip the tent pegs out, the lights will explode into flame, fire will compete with raging water and everyone will cry out—Jesus, sweet, sweet Jesus, let this girl go free.



Tinkering my filthy little insect city caterpillar glitter garden ant lip spider leg my bristling back hiss my cricket hop slater wrist wasp stone bee stick my husk flake slug sprint skink pet tick my moth dust mouse bone petal blow mouth mist whisker mask black hole my bark kiss x



Delilah Your sun-bleached hair shaved, An offering was made To Delilah’s wicked hand You can touch it if you want Allowing fingertips to run Along the prickling wire fence, Gazing through, skins close, But only enough to breathe In, and be weakened By the baptism pool’s Heavy chlorine air



Danae Raped grain by grain grit scrapes her wet opening eyes closed body got off on a god’s expensive finger the body coaxed open: Grit, welcome, Grit her skin’s now sellable her insides scraped with pure So, was Titian right Was Titian right, with his poison



Denial There’s no show without Punch. No rest for the wicked, no time like the present. No news is good news. No questions asked, no network access. No spring chicken. No meat, no dairy, no eggs. No more cakes and ale. No such thing as a free lunch. No left turn. No legs to stand on, no country for old men, no quarter given. Close, but no cigar. No smoke without fire, no place like home. No sweat. No room to swing a cat. No good deed goes unpunished. No hot water. No big deal. No means no. No jail time. No laughing matter. No running, no diving, no bombs. No strings attached, no pain no gain. No turning back. Yes, we have no bananas. No dice. No hard feelings. No time to waste. No room at the inn, no time to explain. 115

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No truck with that. Look Mum, no hands. No man is an island. No joke. No brainer. No ifs or buts, no two ways about it.



empty room the empty room isn’t empty it contains a chair with two shirts draped over it handbag, phone charger book of short stories, tissues festival brochure, phone, map receipts, three hats an empty picture frame shopping bags, coat two pairs of sandals a pair of shoes folded sheets used for a table pieces of cardboard lamp, mandolin juggling balls, three tin whistles, folder of songs notebook, another phone plastic sandwich bag, laptop case mug of tea, clipboard another notebook and pen a cushion but it seems empty



The Lost Poem I’ve been looking for another lost poem. One I think I started a few days ago. It may only have been the beginning of a poem, the taste of it, or even a particular sense of space within which a poem was trying to discover itself. Anyway I couldn’t find it among all the bills, letters, recipes and notes that littered my desk. I looked everywhere, under carpets, down the back of the sofa (where I found my old glasses), on window-sills dusty with dead spiders and moths, in the crannies of overloaded bookcases, even out on the garden porch. Nothing doing. The lost poem remained lost. Perhaps it had escaped into the garden? My garden is full of lost poems. They immediately disappear once they get caught up in that jungle of moths, mushrooms, bramble and tall weeds. Nevertheless, I surprised myself with the urgency I’d whipped up over something that may not even have existed. The longer I thought about it the more probable it seemed that I was hunting down a mere impulse. I needed to admit defeat. If anything of interest had existed it will eventually make itself known one way or another. Panic had to be replaced by trust. In the meantime I was grateful to have found my glasses.



The Trees ‘… the tree is touched with such inimitable spirit’—Emma: Jane Austen There were old trees growing on the band of lawn they had claimed as their own. An oak, a yew and a beech. The oak was the one they usually sat under, at a little distance from the gnarled roots where they disappeared under the dry summer grass, the damper, warmer spring grass, the drenched (requiring coats or rugs or thick textbooks or folders) leaf-combed autumn grass, between showers and in the heady wind. One of the girls, Susannah, thought the trunk dived into the ground like someone from a springboard. But the canopy of the oak was still wide and vigorous: against the sky the farthest, tiniest leaves were making their way against a limitless blue or grey. On one side of the lawn ran a path that was hardly frequented except between classes; the old building was the earliest school, pebble-dashed, coated in layers of cream paint. In its porch Miss Tancred, the headmistress, had installed a pay phone for emergencies. On the other side, close to the road, was a sheltering hedge. If words of their conversations slipped through they would be muffled by tight shiny leaves. Someone passing might have heard numbers: two, three or four, as the girls seated on the summer grass played a game, started by one of the forward-thinking ones, of guessing the number of children they might have. Not everyone was prepared for whatever conversation took place under the tree but at seventeen there were strategies and honed blank faces even if the eyes remained hopeful and fingers plucked little patches of grass bare. The daisies growing in the lawn were brutally used. In the canopy of the tree the air moved and the leaves conducted it down passages like the holes in a recorder, or a sudden gust moved all the leaves at once, spilling air over their heads. Only this wasn’t quite accurate: Susannah, looking up to avoid being looked at, noticed in the dead centre the movement was barely perceptible. In a crowd some must take the brunt, she thought. Some must be trampled. 119

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They had studied history, art history, English literature and grammar, French, German, mathematics a little. One had taken Mandarin lessons privately. One or two had penetrated physics; one had a gift for pure mathematics and was allowed to join a class at the boys’ school; one, when their science mistress was indisposed—she was often indisposed through apathy—taught the class as they sat at long benches, Bunsen burners regularly spaced, like candles at a ghostly table. All of them had learned something, though the depth of this knowledge was questionable. Something had clawed at Susannah from her English texts: The Catcher in the Rye, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, For Whom the Bell Tolls. Particularly it had clawed from Willa Cather’s Lucy Gayheart, which ended with light footsteps running off. These light footsteps had run up her school uniform (print dress in summer, serge gymslip in winter) and clung there like a burr. Susannah did not think, in those last months of her last term, that she would ever get rid of Lucy Gayheart. Whatever happened—and it was easy to promise with such an untouched world before her—she would aim at Lucy’s gaiety. As her fingers plucked the grass—there was not a single daisy left as far as her hand could reach—it seemed that something was being plucked from her. The summer dresses, with their stiffened belts, were pulled up, some to mid-thigh. Susannah’s was ruched between her legs like a sanitary pad. There had been times when spots had appeared on the back of her dress and had to be sponged out. She had never minded those heavy days when her brain, which normally darted in all directions, felt simply like another organ, content merely to exist. Her mother, perhaps to overcome the embarrassment of a late pregnancy that had produced her little brother, Timothy, presented everything in a positive light. She didn’t go as far as calling women’s bodies ‘vessels’—Susannah would instantly have taken the side of her classmates who doubled up with cramp or became tearful or argumentative. Nonetheless, as her fingers stroked the grass, she felt grateful for her mother’s optimism. ‘It’s no excuse for holding back,’ Irene Worthington said, with one hand in the small of her back. Her father, raging at first at the expense, had soon enjoyed the teasing of other men and become complacent. In the later stages of her pregnancy her mother had developed toxaemia and been hospitalised. Susannah visited her and couldn’t help noticing how her mother rejoiced in the small white room, the books beside her bed, the jug of 120


iced water. She had an idea, as she shifted slightly on the grass, that women needed periods of withdrawal. ‘Which among us will not marry?’ Hillary asked and a little frisson ran through the group. ‘There are other things,’ Carmen insisted. Her face was plain and in the last year disfigured by acne. Sometimes it almost cleared but the spots always returned. Susannah knew she had been gifted a knowledge of love at first hand. She was eleven when she had seen her mother emerge from her bedroom, eyes glowing, feet practically dancing on the kitchen linoleum. She was still in her nightgown, thin white cotton, and it was creased and rumpled as if her mother had wiped her face on it. Her mother made a little pirouette and then her heels touched the floor and one arm made an obeisance, or so it seemed. ‘I’ll just take your father his cup of tea,’ she said, but the message was received. Love caused her mother to dance and she might dance too in her turn. They had taken a vote of hands and Susannah had raised hers boldly but not, she hoped, too eagerly. Others were like weak salutes. Only two left their palms flat on the grass or pretended they didn’t hear. A tiny breeze was rising—what in English class would have been called a ‘zephyr’—and the leaves of the oak were rustling. Because she wanted to close her ears to the conversation, Susannah paid attention to the conduction of the breeze. Conduction had been demonstrated using iron rods: cold at one end and then warming as the heat was passed along, particle by vibrating particle. The leaves in the centre of the crown were still; the movement of the outer leaves was far from them and yet Susannah shivered. Who could tell what was coming? How many would marry, have children, divorce? She looked at her friends and saw no questioning in their eyes beyond who would have what. ‘Three children,’ she said confidently when her turn came. Three was the fashionable number that year; it recognised that siblings might not agree. Her mother had achieved it with her later pregnancy but the chance of friendship with Timothy was unlikely. When she got home she would pick him up and change him and his serious blue eyes would gaze back at her with a strange judgemental light. She thought of him as a parcel, to be carried from place to place. 121

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‘And if we marry,’ Cynthia said, ‘what will we lose?’ But no one could think of anything. ‘We need a fortune-teller,’ said Carmen. Then she began a long story about going to a fortune-teller in Hong Kong with her mother. Her mother had laid her hands, in a surrendered position, on two velvet cushions and Carmen had thought of Scheherazade, finishing a story for the Sultan and awaiting his verdict. Her mother seemed to totally succumb to the palmist, a small plump man with shiny black hair parted in the middle. A drop of perspiration formed at the side of his forehead. When Carmen’s turn came she looked cynical. She tried to take everything he said with a grain of salt. Nonetheless he had informed her she would have three children and, as he said it, his mouth stretched in a wide grin, showing gold incisors. Even in summer there were days of soft rain when the flattened grass recovered and the daisies re-grew. Nobody can tell me, Nobody knows, Where the wind comes from, Where the wind goes quoted Hillary as she touched the ground with her fingers to test its dryness. The leaves on the oak were moving vigorously and the whole canopy seemed to glisten. She reached into her satchel for her sunglasses. ‘That’s the sum of what you’ve learnt? That you don’t know where the wind goes?’ said Justine, throwing her blazer onto the grass and settling herself on it. ‘More or less,’ Hillary said. ‘I don’t think I’ve learned much more.’ They had the tree to themselves for a good ten minutes before the others arrived. ‘Do you really want children?’ Justine asked. ‘And to marry? Hardly any of our teachers are.’ The married teachers were more rounded physically, softer, as if less effort was involved in getting between the classrooms, often followed by a captive girl carrying an overflow of books. The headmistress had a policy of recruiting from overseas: young women 122


who were easy to tease and undermine. They might be going to have two or three children each but the girls under the tree had felt their own cruelty. And they had dispensed it. Hillary and Justine had tried their claws on each other, in the lightest of blows, like kittens with their claws retracted. It was the week Justine had dyed her hair red and left the dye on too long. She had come into the classroom, head high, determined to brazen it out, looking for a mock-serious, eye-rolling but supportive glance from Hillary. Instead she had caught a sneer travelling towards the girl she most disliked. For the first time, Justine felt the chill hand of judgement. Hillary was not a friend of Donna and had often described her as a bully. Now Donna was sitting on the other side of the tree with the two girls Justine thought of as her ladies-inwaiting. Already she knows what she wants, Justine thought, and the look she directed at them had a hint of admiration. If Hillary had intercepted it she might have felt wounded. Friends last, people said, but the details were as pain-ridden as any other kind of love. Susannah, despite her mother’s dance on the linoleum, had been in no hurry to have a relationship with a boy. That was the question that should have been posed, she considered, plucking one of the frail fresh daisies. Who among you has done the deed? Definitely Donna, she thought. Definitely her. Already the learning of the last five years was slipping away. All the history, the Greek and Roman architecture, the poets, the languages they had attempted to take a purchase on were fading. Soon the dates of crucial battles and Reform Acts, the momentous day when the suffragette had plunged across the racetrack and under the horses’ hooves, would be gone. She thought of the dictée she had feared and then come to enjoy, the French teacher, Mademoiselle Desrosiers, strolling between the rows of desks, a ruler in her hand as she enunciated … Pierre est brun et un peu impatient et il n’est pas musician. Alice est intelligente mais un peu allergique au chocolat. So what had been the use of those endless hours when they sat in long lines, carefully spaced, over examination papers which, the second they were turned over, seemed as incomprehensible as a foreign language? What power the teachers had then. Susannah had raised her burning head and found she could hardly focus her eyes. Three hours had passed in a dream and she had devoted so long to one question that in the closing minutes she had been tempted to write a letter to the examiner. 123

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‘All this stuff,’ she said, easing a copy of Plain Sailing out from under her hip. ‘What use is it?’ She had already investigated nursing and arranged an interview. Rumours of wild parties and ‘nurses being easy’ were part of the appeal, meaning she might not have to make too much effort herself. At a party in a flat she might meet a doctor or at the very least an intern. Of course at the interview she would adopt the pose and resolution of Florence Nightingale, who had not planned on meeting anyone in the Crimea. Some of the others would go to training college and become trainee teachers, supervised from the back of the classroom by a senior teacher and, eventually, an inspector. It would be necessary to profess a love of children and concern about their welfare. Susannah thought she could nurse provided she could avoid paediatrics; Timothy had put her off teaching. That morning when she had lifted him from his cot, red-faced and sweaty, he had vomited over her blouse and she had had to hunt for one in the laundry hamper. ‘Take him,’ she said to her mother, averting her head from swollen blueveined breasts. She resolved, if she was ever in the same situation, blue breasts and secretions would be well hidden from any male in the vicinity. The leaves on the giant oak were drying in the sun. They had absorbed the moisture from the night and now processes as mysterious as the human body were taking place. She imagined the trunk stretching itself in pleasure the way a human being did on waking. So if all this learning was to be jettisoned, what was going to replace it? Far away now was the third-form year when she had bent over her Latin grammar, learning declensions and conjugations by rote. She had been sick with pneumonia and had missed six weeks. When she was well enough, but still confined to bed, she had propped herself up with pillows and recited amo, amas, amat. There was no question of sitting exams; that would have to wait until she returned to school, pale and a little unsteady on her feet. The teacher had almost forgotten her name. Surprisingly she had scored a near-perfect mark but did not hear the teacher—who read the results backwards, the lowest, humiliated girls first—call out her name. She had felt faint and put her head down on her hands. From then on she had been the pet. If anything could have saved the scholars among them—Bonnie at mathematics, Cynthia physics, Justine English, Carmen French—it would have been the sight of those who had missed accreditation of their university 124


entrance exams and were forced, in the last languid days of the year, to cram until their brains were fit to burst. Susannah had caught sight of some of them walking, holding their books in front of them, in the high field known as The Top where the grass had recently been mown. It made her think of the end of Fahrenheit 451 and the memorisers of books. And below them, invisible under the huge oak, lay the others as if their learning was already being drawn from them the way sap is made inside a tree. ‘Orlando, Barnaby and Isolde,’ Cynthia was saying. ‘I believe a child should have a unique name.’ But as the air filled with names, plain and perverse, Susannah turned aside her head. The thought of naming what was not yet in existence nauseated her. It was like presuming the crown of the tree would extend a yard into the sky in twenty years’ time, that the fragile leaves on the perimeter would be adult and plump. ‘I think names should be plain,’ Hillary said. ‘Plain Jane, if that’s what you want. But my children will be distinct.’ And bullied and pitied, thought Susannah, shifting on the grass, easing her hip. She had felt her mother’s disappointment when she mastered very few pieces on the piano. Donna, who had said very little, put her handkerchief over her mouth to conceal a smile. She and her boyfriend were far removed from these innocents. On Saturday afternoons, while his mother worked, she and Terry lay on his single bed, hip to hip, idly stroking one another’s damp bodies. Already practice was making perfect. She felt a superiority so great she could hardly stop herself hooting with laughter. Let them have their innocent baby names. She forgot that her all-consuming romance had begun with knitting Terry a jersey with sleeves that had stretched until they flapped like bats’ wings. The bell rang and the girls scrambled to their feet, brushing leaves from their skirts, leaving behind little crushed patches of grass. It must be relieved, Susannah thought, as she got stiffly to her feet. The flattened blades, with an effort she could neither imagine nor see, would have to raise themselves and stand upright. Perhaps they prayed for rain, for a day’s respite, before the great lumpish weights pressed on them again.


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Love came to Susannah in the last month of her final term. She knew about Donna—her smugness could not be hidden—but while they sat plucking grass and choosing baby names and the girls in the field walked about holding their books in their hands, love was coming towards her. She had an invitation to stay for a weekend with Carmen and attend a dance. There was no money for a new dress but Carmen would lend one of hers. Carmen’s brother, Richard, came to the door when they were trying it on and covered his eyes in mock horror at the sight of Susannah in a white cotton bra and net petticoat. ‘In Japan the sight of an ankle is enough to produce a marriage proposal,’ he said to Susannah later. Her ankles, proposal or not, were fine and shapely, one of the few parts of her body she did not dislike. He did not go to the dance but he drove them there and later he came back and collected them. ‘Find anyone?’ he asked Carmen as they flopped onto the back seat. Susannah realised her body had been taut all night, taut with waiting to see if she would be partnered, taut with worry about the foxtrot. Between dances she had stood politely clapping her hands before she was led back to her seat. It reminded her of a docile animal being taken back to its stall. ‘I’m not looking,’ Carmen told her brother, after she’d reminded him to mind his own business. ‘I’ve got university.’ ‘A far bigger pool,’ he said, looking over his shoulder at Susannah. ‘No use hunting for frogs in a rain puddle.’ In the dark, as the car turned from the country hall onto the main road, Susannah smiled to herself. By sinking into her seat and raising her head she could see the new moon. It was the best part of the evening. ‘A boy phoned,’ Susannah’s mother said to her a few nights later. She handed her a scrap of paper with Richard’s name and number. Susannah stood in the hallway with the doors to the dining room and bathroom closed. She knew her mother would not be listening. In the distance, like a faint timpani, she could hear the sounds of saucepans and knives. ‘I’d like to see you again,’ Richard said when he answered. ‘That’s if you’d like to.’ Part of her mind told her it was a conjugation. I and his likes and then the recipient You. The strange thing, remembering the conversations under the tree, was that 126


the I used by girls soon reverted to the You of others, whereas with males it was the reverse. I would like to see you. How her sympathy flew to that, as if the I was a great revelation. Unconsciously Susannah raised one leg and placed it, in the pose of a young knight, on a footstool. She listened intently as if to a theme in music, concealed under a lively surface. There was a silence and she recalled what was being said. ‘Do you like movies?’ the voice asked. ‘It depends,’ she said, and now the knight stood up and pushed the footstool away with her foot. A great wild sense of freedom and daring and rendering another person uncertain filled her. At the same time she recognised it would not last. The voice took on a more respectful tone. ‘Perhaps you could let Carmen know.’ ‘Yes,’ Susannah said, and the power shifted back again. ‘I wouldn’t go out with my brother if I were you,’ Carmen said the next time they were assembling under the tree. The unaccredited girls were sitting exams that week; everything in the school was closing down. Carmen spoke softly. ‘He’s not what he appears.’ Susannah would have liked to ask a question but Justine and Bonnie were arriving. Bonnie had a bag of doughnuts she was passing around. ‘He hasn’t asked me yet,’ Susannah said, her head down, brushing icing sugar off a leaf. ‘Well, don’t.’ Cynthia had revised the names of her three children. Eloise, Quentin and Paola. ‘You’re forgetting the surname,’ Justine suggested. ‘What if it’s something like Ramsbottom or Stickleback?’ It was unlikely to be Plantagenet or Sitwell. Susannah Devanny, how would that sound? And would she and Carmen remain friends? Carmen had lowered herself onto her back, her head propped on her satchel. Gingerly Susannah stretched out beside her. Above them the great canopy of the tree swayed and glistened, unified, and yet each leaf was outlined. Quantities of light were pouring through it, halted by its great intricacy. 127

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‘Remember how Miss Rowntree said females leap ahead?’ Carmen said, not lowering her eyes from the canopy. ‘How we meet someone and the next step is imagining marriage and babies?’ ‘Babies’ names,’ Susannah offered, though most of the names were now settled. ‘Perhaps we just have to have things settled,’ Carmen said, ‘before there is an outpouring of anything.’ Susannah knew she was talking of love. Also of her brother. She scanned the theatre notices for a week before she phoned back. That way she did not consider she had made a leap. ‘He should collect you,’ her father said. He had been preparing for his daughter to start dating since she was a toddler; now he realised none of his strictures had led to rules. ‘His sister is a friend,’ Susannah replied. ‘A sister and a brother may be very unalike.’ Still she said nothing to Carmen. She avoided going to sit under the tree the next day and walked around the sports field instead. Only three girls were left, walking about with their books. ‘What is it?’ she asked one girl whom she slightly knew. ‘Trigonometry,’ she replied, with a groan. Susannah walked about until she heard the bell. There was something ancient about the way it rang over the grass. Beside Richard in the back row of the cinema Susannah felt dwarfed. She leaned back in the seat, then perched on the edge. The lights went down but she hardly knew what the film was about. From time to time she concentrated as if she might be questioned. Wet streets, a man in a belted raincoat, a woman on a balcony. She was looking at Richard’s hand and saw it move towards her. She shifted a little in her seat and turned to face him. The hand withdrew. The lights came up and she wiped away an involuntary tear. By the light of the dashboard Susannah noticed Richard’s eyes were on her, penetrating, solicitous. As if he was waiting for a clue. In the film’s closing moments the heroine had descended a circular staircase. The cameras were positioned on the top floor and her figure diminished as she went down, her heels tap-tapping on the marble steps. Somehow the spell of the evening had 128


been broken; the figure who had sat on the edge of her seat, waiting for the hand to descend on her knee and rub the fabric of her dress, had been replaced by someone who was carrying a wound. Richard sensed her mood had changed. It was the trouble with schoolgirls. They might be delightful to initiate—the surprise when they French-kissed: the way they recoiled and then, with feminine courage, submitted. It was more than submission, it was how they would face anything distasteful for the rest of their lives. He had been looking forward to parking with Susannah. He had a place in mind, a familiar place with which he seemed to have a dialogue. The girl might be uncertain but the sandhills and the breaking waves, lit at their edges by moonlight, seemed to be welcoming him back, encouraging his persistence. But they had not reached the beach with its shallow bank he had clambered down numerous times, clutching a girl’s hand, tugging her on until they reached the low dunes. The sun had set long ago but the sand was still warm and the spiky grasses stood up like fine leg or arm hairs. It was the perfect place for fumbling with clothing, for fingers to touch the soft down of limbs—his own legs were particularly hairy—for pressing his nose into soft hair that made a fan or a dark strip. Something had gone wrong. He had made some remark about his sister and regretted it the moment it was out of his mouth. Perhaps Carmen had warned her. Still, a warning meant nothing, a warning was meant to be overridden, it was a test. ‘She’s like a guard dog,’ he had said, keeping his tone light. ‘Except she doesn’t know who she is guarding.’ Suddenly Susannah felt nauseous. She had declined popcorn but there had been an icecream, chocolate-coated, nearly frozen solid. She had wiggled her hand inside her purse and brought out a small folded handkerchief with a triangular corner of lace. Now a hot bile was rising in her throat. She had just time to get out the handkerchief again. Her lipstick fell on the floor near her feet. Then the door was open—he had stopped smoothly by the gutter as if she was royalty drawing up—and her head was down. Her handkerchief was sopping because she had held it to her mouth; tears ran down her face. When it was over—she had kept her back turned to the car—she refused to go back. She could see she was near the school, the boarding hostel. Not far 129

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away was the lawn and the tree. She would sit under it for a while and then she would go home. The tree looked different in the dark. The light was different. At first she was too wretched to see. She wiped her mouth with the handkerchief Richard had pressed into her hands as she had pushed the door open. ‘Are you sure you’ll be all right? Promise you’ll phone your father?’ he said. But she could not bear to turn her mouth towards him. She just nodded her head vigorously, made a dismissive gesture with her arm. There was a little water fountain against the wall of the library and she made her way there. First she lowered her head and drank copiously so the water ran down her chin and neck and into the top of her dress. Then she scrubbed her face and her makeup came off on the handkerchief. She rinsed it in the fountain, wrung it out, and pressed it to the back of her neck. On the way back to the tree she dropped it in a litter bin. ‘What is this man’s handkerchief doing on the school grounds?’ Miss Tancred might ask and Susannah imagined it being fished out on the end of the long stick used by the groundsman for picking up leaves. Now she had time to look at the tree. The grass beneath it was almost black. It was hard to think of it as the tree they sat under day after day, their hips jutting as they lay on their sides, fingers plucking daisies and blades of grass. The top of the tree was light. Starlight was streaming through the crown as if a piece of scintillating fabric was resting there. The light of stars that might be dead were still sending down their gaze. Now Susannah wished she had not thrown the handkerchief away, she wanted—since the stars were dead—something to clutch. The world, though she steadied herself with one hand behind her, seemed to be whirling. After a while she moved closer to the great trunk and set her back against it. Then she reached into her pocket, pulled out the coins her father always insisted on, and went into the porch to phone.



Alex Listening to David For Alex, Tuesday night became a long, juddering tunnel. The podcast, ‘Attenborough in Paradise’, had her thinking. Quest for something or other. All we have to do is … down goes the counter-weight. Now I’m leaving that dark world of the forest. Alex was still in the dark forest. She was on a train, travelling through one in slow motion. She had time to capture still frames. What first drew me to the bear? One bear in particular really caught my interest. I met her when she was just a cub thirteen years ago. It’s great to see her after all this time, but does she remember me? I certainly remember her. And so on. Alex was tossing and turning, in between yawns. She stretched her body out as long as she could under the duvet. David’s voice. The sound of rain. Sleep evaded her.



Concentration Aaron lost concentration when Casey aimed the car for the clifftop. There shouldn’t have been a roadway up here anyway, he thought. And she shouldn’t have been driving. ‘How much have you had to drink?’ he said. He could smell it on her. A dull alcoholic waft. ‘A couple of wines,’ she said. ‘And a couple of beers.’ ‘I think I should be driving.’ At this Casey laughed. She’d been at Victoria running hard at a bachelor’s for three years. It would take her another year at least. She was twenty-five. Aaron had met her earlier. When he’d begun his Concentration package for the evening. The swirl of thoughts still tried to draw him back into their vortex. He was wearing a red, black and white plaid shirt, brushed cotton with a soft collar. Jeans and Osiris boots he’d bought at a discount from the Jimmy Peters’ Shoep. Stupid pun, he’d thought, but the shoes were under his fifty dollar threshold. Red with white trim. ‘Do you think I’m going to drive off ?’ Casey said. She jerked the wheel back and forth. The car’s speed was no more than walking pace. A duck waddle. ‘I think you’re capable of driving off,’ he said. He liked her. She’d been forthcoming, laying out her details when they’d met. Pretty, too, in a kind of grinning, exuberant way. He couldn’t imagine how she would like him back. Not that way. She was trying out Concentration for the first time. ‘I think I’m capable of flying,’ she said. ‘That’s what I felt the first time.’ Across the bay’s growing darkness he saw a big biplane dropping for the water. The aircraft’s silhouette wallowed down at a surface glistening yellows and golds reflecting from the setting sun. 132


Casey tapped the brake. The engine chugged. ‘I don’t know you,’ she said. ‘You could have brought me up here to do wicked things.’ ‘You’re driving. You brought me. And what is there to know?’ ‘Age. Star sign. Gender. School. Dreams and hopes.’ ‘A simple five-point test.’ ‘If you can answer more than two you’re doing better than most guys who manage to get me up here.’ ‘Twenty-five,’ he lied. ‘Gemini.’ ‘Two from two.’ She didn’t look over. She was leaning forwards, intent and peering over the hood. Watching the edge of the cliff close. ‘Male. St Ed—’ ‘Good,’ she said. ‘That’s sometimes a tricky one.’ She flicked him a glance and looked again at the bay. ‘St Edward’s Catholic School for Boys.’ ‘Not “wayward” boys.’ ‘I’ve never been wayward.’ ‘Pity.’ Aaron put his hands on the dash. ‘Slow down.’ ‘One more question.’ ‘To fly.’ Casey laughed. ‘Not to make out with me?’ Aaron waited a beat. How did he answer a question like that? ‘Aren’t they the same thing?’ ‘Ow!’ Casey squealed shrilly enough to hurt his ears. ‘Aren’t you just a delight?’ The car stopped, front wheels on the precipice. Later Aaron let himself run through a Concentration exercise. He set the moment on a loop. The car approached the cliff. He felt his Concentration going. Had she been drinking? Four drinks! Get out from behind the wheel! Not before you answer some questions, mister. I’m twenty-three. Gemini. Male. Of course. I can see that. 133

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I went to St Clement Primary. On Wikiriwhi Road. I dream I can fly. Liar. You, Aaron Williamson, are one big fat liar. The next day Aaron made notes. Calculus and chemistry. He tried to memorise the glucose cycle. Again. There was someone, somewhere in the universe to whom this made perfect sense. The house stank of his housemates. Dull, linear football heads studying horticulture. There needed to be an ‘ostensibly’ in that description. His own room felt cramped and claustrophobic after Concentration. After time with Casey. Casey above the bay, he thought. Casey in the daisies. He spent two hours watching stupid television reruns of sitcoms he hated anyway. Sixty-two Facebook friend requests pending. At midnight he made an omelette and a hot chocolate. From the living room came the guttural primate grunts of Evan and Tony. Watching some cable game. Aaron ate in his room. As he was finishing the phone rang. He let it go six rings before getting up and going to the hallway. The boys still grunted in front of the television. ‘Hello,’ Aaron said. ‘Hi.’ Casey. ‘Let’s go watch the moonrise.’ He almost said, ‘I’m studying,’ but substituted, ‘Sure.’ ‘Pick you up in five to ten.’ Aaron couldn’t help but hear the echo of a jail term in the phrase. But five was plenty. He lay on his rumpled bed and stared at the ceiling. His mother had bought him the quilt when he’d first left home. Patchwork, handembroidered. Not a family heirloom, but he wondered if she intended it to eventually become so. It smelled of his grandma’s house. Aaron settled into Concentration. The cliff. Growing nearer. The water glowing, reflecting the golds of the clouds. I’m twenty-three, Gemini on the cusp, very definitely male. Satisfying, she said. I attended St … Andrew’s? 134


St Andrew’s on the Green. Yes. I kissed a lot of boys from there. But not me. Not yet anyway. I dream of flying, but I’m not so sure now. You say the sweetest things. The edge of the cliff came too close. Someone needed to apply the car’s brake. With a thump the wheels went over the edge. The vehicle slewed sideways. Tipped. Aaron scrambled for the handle. The car tumbled upside down. It rolled down the embankment. A terrible sound assaulted his ears. A wrenching, tearing, groaning noise. The sound of the car dying. Mixed with it was the sound of Casey screaming. Aaron sat up on the bed. That was all wrong. The loops should only be revisionary within an event. That was far too far outside his experience. It was all wrong. The doorbell chimed. Accompanied by a fist hammering at the glass. He straightened his clothes, blinked at himself in the mirror and went to meet her. On the front step Casey looked pale and gaunt. He hadn’t remembered that about her. Still pretty, though. She had her hair tied back in a ponytail, and a baseball cap on. New York Yankees. Aaron smiled. That was actually baseball, if he remembered rightly. ‘We’ll fly over the Hudson,’ she said. ‘Across the Atlantic.’ ‘Sounds like fun.’ He followed her out to the car. On the walk she took his hand and squeezed. The moon rose. A slave to celestial mechanics. Its cuplike crescent hung down, as if spilling stars into the mountaintops. Aaron told Casey. ‘That’s nice,’ she said. They sat on the car’s hood, up near the cliffs. The breeze was cool, but Aaron didn’t mind. He snuggled into her and she snuggled back. ‘Don’t you worry about Concentration?’ she said. ‘Worry?’ The programme happened weekly. A small group of them, meeting in unoccupied rooms at an insurance office. One of the members worked for the 135

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company. They were trying to lease the rooms and let the group meet for a nominal fee. Gold coin donation covered that easily, and coffee. Someone always brought baking. It wasn’t quite meditation, wasn’t quite study hall. Some of the group had been ADHD as kids. Some of them had been autistic. Aaron figured he was almost the most normal of the bunch. Aside from Casey. They practised looping, reviewing and concentration. There was a mantra, but it wasn’t mandatory. Some thought the evenings helped with family relationships. Others thought it helped them stay focused at work. Some thought it helped them go grocery shopping and come home with eggs, milk and bread instead of greeting cards, curry powder and packs of 64 clothes pegs. Aaron knew it helped him study. ‘Well,’ Casey said, ‘they’re kind of a creepy bunch. I mean the way they make google-eyes at me. And the coffee table’s a mess. Biscuit crumbs and they put the wet spoon back in the sugar. Gross.’ Aaron watched the moon. Its size seemed to diminish as it ascended. ‘I like it,’ he said. ‘I think I’ll stop going.’ ‘Oh.’ He wished he had a better response. He wondered if he had anything stored up that wouldn’t sound needy. He liked Concentration, but he liked it a whole lot more with Casey there. ‘Well,’ she said. ‘That’s the moonrise. Let’s get out of here.’ They drove to Carl’s Jr. for thickshakes, but his mind was verging on making a loop. Not here, he thought. He sipped at the thick, minty, malty, milky, cool shake. It clung to his tongue. He caught a hazy glimpse of Casey looking over her straw at him. Lips pursed she drew and inclined her head. Up at the cliff. The moon made an elegant being. A celestial crescent. The stars spilled. Casey snuggled in. I worry about Concentration. But I like it. The car’s hood felt warm under his behind. The Concentration group. Each week a new theme, a new batch of baking. Practising loops. 136


I’m thinking of leaving. Aaron wasn’t sure if she meant him or the group. He felt bereft. How could she leave? Let’s get shakes. Fast food. A thickshake. He sipped. Milky. Cloying his mouth. Back at the cliff. An elegant moon. Snuggling. I’m leaving. No, Aaron thought. Don’t leave. I feel like one of those sweet thick milkshakes, don’t you? I feel like being with you. Up at the cliff. A hand on his elbow. Aaron became aware of the noise of the restaurant around him. Teens queuing with their phones in one hand, tattered banking card in the other. ‘Wow,’ Casey said, ‘you really disappeared there. I thought you’d gone for a vacation on another planet.’ Aaron saw the moon rise again. A perfect vision. ‘I think Concentration will help you,’ he said. ‘With study.’ ‘What do I need? Sixteen more credits.’ She leaned forwards. Aaron saw that her clear plastic milkshake cup was empty. He still held his. Three-quarters full. Melting now, almost warm in his hand. ‘Concentration will help you in your life,’ he said. ‘Sheesh, now you sound like my mother.’ Aaron didn’t say anything. ‘Did you ever think it’s like a cult or something? They suck you in, turn you over and never, ever, ever spit you out again?’ ‘No.’ Was it a cult? It seemed a very negative view. Casey twiddled her straw. Her eyes looked at him. Sad, hooded. The corner tips of her lips twitched. A slight smile. ‘I guess you’d better take me home.’ Aaron set his milkshake cup on the table. Casey didn’t even turn off the car’s engine. Aaron sat for a moment. He wasn’t


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sure what he expected. He looked at his feet. ‘It’s getting cold.’ Casey glanced up at the house. There were lights on in the living room. Putting his hand on the door handle, Aaron gave it a tentative tug. ‘I thought you liked Concentration.’ He wondered if what he was really saying was I thought you liked me. ‘I thought so too.’ The chugging of the car’s engine felt like a beat. He felt it coming on again. The cliff edge. A thickshake. The car tumbling, trying to fly. It’s getting cold. The cycles of the car engine. ‘Pistons,’ he said. ‘I should get home.’ ‘What’s wrong?’ She looked at him, looked away. ‘Whatever this Concentration thing is, it can’t help me.’ ‘What? It helps everything.’ ‘Not everything,’ she whispered. ‘It puts you in touch with the universe. Plus it’s really good for memory.’ ‘Maybe it’s memory I don’t exactly want.’ ‘Casey.’ ‘I don’t like you spouting it back. It’s like you’ve rote-learned their twelve steps.’ ‘It’s not a twelve—’ ‘Stop it. Get out.’ Now he gave the door handle a good yank. With a clunk the door popped open. ‘I’ll call you,’ he said as he stepped out. ‘Don’t.’ Casey popped the clutch and the car shot away. The door banged closed. Aaron stood watching her tail-lights. The car stopped half a block away at the traffic signals. The red hung and hung. No other traffic. With her car stationary it was almost as if she was waiting for him to disbelieve her and run up. The lights flicked to green and she drove off.



Mullen Road was punctuated by a series of traffic lights. She stopped at the next red. The automatic cycle held her, even with no cross traffic. Green and another stop at the last set. Aaron watched until her tail-lights had gone off around into Kennedy Street. He trudged inside. The boys were still watching some game. ‘You’re out late,’ Evan said. ‘Not like you.’ ‘Yeah,’ Tony said. ‘Getting out of your routine a bit.’ ‘That’s healthy.’ They both laughed, calming quickly with some excitement in the commentator’s voice. A penalty goal. Or something. Aaron lay awake. The clock hands made their progression. A part of him wished there was a hand that moved somewhere between the speed of the second and minute hands. A decimal marker hand that took ten minutes to cycle around. Slow enough to ignore, fast enough to watch. What did it mean, that image of the car tumbling away over the edge? Concentration told him the past. The angles were different, the speeds varying, but only the repetition of what had been. Good for study. Good for groceries. Why was it revisionist? 3:00 am. 3:01 am. 3:02 am. In twelve hours it all repeated. Steps around its face. Now he felt like a man outside a clock mechanism, trying to explain how it worked on the inside. Einstein. Everything was relative. Aaron let Concentration wash over him again. A big biplane out over the water. Propellers driving it forwards. Casey’s car rolling ahead. A low fence at the edge. Nothing substantial enough to stop a determined ton of momentum charging towards it. I like you. Casey held an empty cup. Don’t call me. The car drove again at the cliff. The moon hung overhead. High in the sky. Too high. Aaron looked closer. He wasn’t in the car. That couldn’t be right.


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Casey sat alone. The engine was running. Aaron walked closer. He tapped on the window. Casey looked up startled. Aaron? What’s going on? I’m in Concentration. It should be repetition. A loop. Why are you here? She was crying. Casey? What’s— With a graunch she shoved the car into gear. Popped the clutch. The car launched for the— Aaron sat up. Concentration broken. Weird. Casey had driven away in the wrong direction. Instead of U-turning she’d gone way up onto Kennedy. Up the cliff road. Tony and Evan were still in front of the game. ‘Tony,’ Aaron said, ‘I need to borrow your car.’ ‘You what—now?’ Tony’s car was a 1998 Honda hatchback. Both its windscreen wipers stuck straight up on the glass, the return circuit busted. Tony stopped at the lights. Aaron sat in the back seat looking at the moon through the side window. ‘All this is over some girl, huh?’ Evan said from the front passenger seat. ‘Drive like a maniac,’ Aaron said. ‘The lights are just on a loop. They’re not triggered by on-coming traffic.’ ‘I’ll get a ticket.’ ‘Wouldn’t be the first,’ Evan said. ‘Exactly.’ ‘I’ll pay the fine,’ Aaron said. ‘We don’t have much time.’ The dashboard clock on Tony’s car glowed back at him. 3:37. The light stayed on red. ‘Live a little, Tony,’ Evan said. ‘You’re always such a rule stickler.’ ‘It’s only sensible. What’s the hurry?’ Saving someone’s life, Aaron wanted to say. They were going to end up at the clifftop park and find it empty. He would see Casey tomorrow on campus. They would have a laugh and she would come on back to Concentration. ‘Listen, Tony,’ Evan said, ‘if Mr Autistic in the back seat can get out of his



routine, so can you.’ Evan looked around at Aaron and shrugged. ‘No offence, but, well, you know.’ ‘I know.’ The light turned green. Tony eased forwards. ‘Sheesh,’ Evan said. Tony ran the next two reds. He almost squealed the car around the corner into Kennedy. The headlights threw eerie shadows through the trees on the windy road up to the naked park. ‘That’s more like it.’ Evan’s voice came out high. He clung to the plastic handle above the door as the car swept through the curves. The park was empty darkness. Tony slowed, turned. The headlights glinted from something red. Casey’s tail-lights. ‘Whoa,’ Evan said. ‘Is there a guardrail over there or something?’ ‘No,’ Aaron said. ‘Stop here.’ He had the sense that in those other moments he’d been stepping from Tony’s car. Casey’s car on the clifftop. Alone. Aaron walking over. Lit by the low-beam glow from Tony’s car. That’s how it had been. ‘Let me out,’ he said. Evan sat forwards and Aaron clambered over him. He ran across the damp grass. Casey’s engine idled, a putt-putt-putt sound. Toylike. He slowed at the back bumper. The loop ran around his head. Tapping on the passenger window. The car launching over the cliff. He went to the other side. Her side. He didn’t tap. He wrenched the door open. Casey looked up in fright. Aaron grabbed her arm. He hauled her out. Casey’s foot came off the clutch. The car launched out over the cliff. The tearing, ripping sound ricocheted around the bay. Aaron lay beside her on the grass.


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She managed a faint smile. ‘Boy, am I glad to see you,’ she said. Aaron sat in the circle at Concentration. The tellings buzzed around him. He couldn’t concentrate. He’d pulled her to safety. Standing, he pushed his chair back. It scraped. ‘Sorry,’ he said, ‘I’m finished here.’ Casey was waiting outside. ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘I was thinking of going in.’ Aaron shook his head. ‘I like it better without the loops.’ He reached out to her hand. Casey grinned and took it with a squeeze.



Proposal for the Garden City Before the earthquakes crumbled our buildings fields of orchards were bulldozed to build houses. Now that they’re gone, volunteer potatoes self-seed abandoned back yards of the red zone. Wild lettuce sows itself into vacant lots parsley rises in between pavement cracks. Empty carparks transform into greenhouses for the homeless to sleep with tomatoes. Watercress sprouts in construction site streams beans grow beside the river to fuel the rebuild. The four avenues turn into an orchard granny smith apples grow in the gutters. Peel back the concrete to sow a new CBD let the garden city reclaim its name.



My Dear Leonardo I look about our cityscape and wonder what you would make of it. Not entirely new to you I’m sure, a wasteland. You’d have seen the odd battle or aftermath, or sketched a scene of devastation from your mind’s eye. How does this compare? I attach a link from YouTube for your perusal. Have you felt the earth tremble beneath your feet? Not from love or fear or admiration, but when Vulcan at its core convulses, and nothing is as was before. Imagine him again shaking the Alban Hills until the Forum crumbled. We have an added plight; a city whose foundations rest on peat and patrimony. I watch these cranes in mating dance bob their heads, nuzzle and strain with the physics, the gaggles of engineers with plans, hi-viz vests and worried faces. New buildings reach far below to bedrock, or float like a prince’s barge upon the shifting surface of theory and idea. Leonardo, we need your brain and foresight.



You are welcome to stay with me—hotel rooms are scarce in the wake. You might consult Eliot, TS, passing through. Please bring compass, setsquare, rule and pen, plumb-line and your thinking cap. We can provide the electronic folderols; you’ll take only a moment to get the hang of them.



Book Launch There are, of course, the proprietors who have generously offered premises even contributed perhaps to the finger food. They hope to recoup such benevolence although in the case of poetry, few copies will be sold beyond the night. Motivated by personal loyalty rather than expectation of a literary Damascus, family and friends turn out to play the chorus, take opportunity to snap a photograph, and go on afterwards to an ethnic restaurant that doesn’t mind late sittings, or approximate reservations. They are increased by those of the shop’s clientèle of course, drawn by the prospect of drinks and nibbles, and who with practised ease slip away sans purchase, even before the speeches. They have a certain ironic detachment, are pessimistic from hearsay alone of the critical response to the work. The book is, of course, launched by a senior practitioner, generous but balanced in commendation of a colleague or protegé who poses no ineluctable threat. The writer sucks brief nectar to sustain further grim pilgrimage of spirit, and reads at length despite a desperate lack of seating and response. Immured within the classified sarcophagi heaped upon looming shelves are a thousand scribes who had this brief spotlight in their turn but choose, of course, to contribute no applause. 146


Woodend There is a back of rotting wood behind the shop front. The town’s clothes are specially sewn for history’s body. A paint gloss. We think of you is in the window. Back doors teach as much as front doors. Our children are bored with history’s hand, which is anything older than they are. The town clock slowly clicks, matching the pace of today’s thinkers. I know if  I can remember why. The church at the road’s end is a Chinese restaurant. Our son is in deep silence. Words are his enemy. A teenage front-line is talking to your parents. My boy sees common sense as a foreign currency. Cul-de-sacs are habits, beyond his soft doe eyes. I read this to him. At least I get a pitiable sigh.



The Osney Hag I No code is uttered from the shopfloor tannoy. My manager, Muruj, just mutters, ‘Anne, Oi get yourself to undergarments, look,’ And points a pen along her aproned dress: The Osney Hag has entered M&S, Bedecked in bags that hang from every hook— Her fingers, teeth and in each elbow’s crook— And bags within, like onions lathering Her coiled mind. I sweep the gathering Detritus bobbing in her wake. We brook No trespass (ugh, one bag has our logo). I make it felt: the foodhall is a no go. Her figure shrinks away, doglike and motley, And lumbers bag-encumbered on to Botley. II The Osney Hag returns to me in dreams. Her volatile eye in close-up—glimpseSurmising my role supervising—seems A melancholy moon, but its eclipse That starts in bag-clenched spasms of her lips, If not a smile, is a memory Of one. She feints with outstretched fingertips To brush her touch of careworn emery Against a rack of bras, then darts to starboard, And, perceiving that I’ve followed, lists Abruptly off to port. I never harboured 148


Notions I was high or grand, but twists Of fortune find me plodding to a beat Whose half-shod feet my dreams and I repeat.



A Person Who Needs Another Person So this is what happened. He called just after 10 am that Friday, a minute or two after I’d scoffed my almond-encrusted croissant. With my job you never knew who would be on the line, although you generally expected it to be an angry octogenarian with inadequate rest-home health care. Not this time though. Mannerly as can be, there was a tentative lilt to his voice. Not surprising really; his call was monitored by a guard. ‘How can I help, John?’ I twirled my pen and put some fluoro post-its on standby. ‘They don’t treat me very well here.’ ‘Where’s that?’ ‘Mount Eden Prison.’ ‘Oh.’ He wasn’t my first prison caller. Seven months in the job, I knew this type of call. Relentlessly courteous and completely self-effacing. My guess is that they had no one else. For me, it was a welcome change from the yelling. As he described his predicament, I tried to put a face to the voice. Tall? Young? Tattooed? What kind of tattoos? My mind drifted further still. How did he wind up in prison? Was it a respectable crime? Are there respectable crimes? The thoughts swirled around my head like a hurricane, furious and magnetic. ‘Okay, so let me check I’ve got this right. You’ve got diabetes and you’d like to have needles available in your cell.’ ‘Yes, please.’ His tone was smooth and rich, like those voices on the radio trying to sell me something I don’t need. Prisoner requests were usually unreasonable like this, but you had to take a delicate tack. You were their person, their only person probably. I’ve never been in prison, but imagine the monotony must be suffocating. Gradually more and more claustrophobic as the walls crawl inwards. No doubt, he wanted to break free. Any way he could. 150


I was transported into his cell as he described the conditions and felt for him even though I didn’t know him. Even though he might have killed someone. Or perhaps saved someone but had to kill another person in order to save them. Anyway. In that instant, I felt gratitude for being free. As free as you can be in a world like this. Kind of broke, needlessly insecure, hopelessly lost, but free nonetheless. ‘And how much more time will you be serving?’ ‘Five years, two months, two days to go.’ But what did you do? I thought. ‘I’ll look into it and see what I can do. No guarantees, though.’ ‘Thanks so much, Miss. You have a good day.’ My hands curled around my mug of Earl Grey. Contemplative sip. He was never going to have a needle in his cell. Let’s face it, he probably wanted it for something else. Even so, I felt guilty for the impending rejection of his application. Because if there’s anyone who found it hard to say no, it was me. Later I learnt that the more you say it, the easier it gets. Empowering, even. Of his own volition, John called me three more times over the next two weeks. By then I’d imagined him as a second-rate Keanu. Reeves, that is. Grittier but possessing the same quiet mystery. We talked about the ins and outs of having a needle in his cell, in such detail it was as if we were worldclass engineers navigating a space launch. I had to let him have that fragment, that wisp of hope to live on. The most tragic death is the death of a dream. Even a small one. I considered whether he once had bigger dreams. And where those dreams went exactly. Each time I lied and purported that his application was still in progress. Couldn’t tell him the truth. He knew it and I knew it but we both couldn’t say it. This was the biggest elephant in the room you’d ever seen. Colossal. We made light chit-chat, never speaking long because of the whole prison thing. We manoeuvred around the topic with astounding ease, as if manoeuvring was what we were made to do. He asked about where I worked so I described my office and co-workers. Not too much detail, of course. Just something. I described what my new brogues looked like and how they didn’t seem to match with anything. He assured me that one day I’d find that something.


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I held off for weeks, but there came a point where I had to post the rejection letter. It had nestled on my desk for days, pouting. That night, my sleep was haunted by the thought of  John coming to find me. Every creak filled me with fear, increasing its forces with every passing minute. My boyfriend slept casually like nothing had happened. I listened to his calm breathing and tried to absorb his sleeping abilities. I wondered when John would get the letter, what day of the week it would be. How he would open it, what he would say. And think. His reply came a week and a half later. It wasn’t till I opened the envelope that I knew what it was. His message was succinct and precise, thanking me for my help and telling me that I tried my best. I hadn’t tried at all. On a frosty Thursday in June, I finally found an outfit to match my unmatchable brogues. I thought about John. He’d be out by now. In those five years I had done so much and he had done nothing. I beheld myself in the bathroom mirror and witnessed signs of my thirties approaching. Had he changed at all? I considered what he might be doing. If he had a family to see. Whether he’d reoffend. Whether he made it through at all. Looking back, he was my favourite prison caller. We were the same but different. Both inconspicuous human beings, rarely noticed, often overlooked. Always wanting to break out but never knowing how. Under that veneer, he was just a person who needed another person. Like me, like you. Because in the end, when you dissolve away our surface that’s all we really are. I felt like I knew John but I knew nothing at all. He was still a faceless someone, a real person who had lingered as fiction in the years since we spoke. I never asked him what he was in for. I couldn’t, really.



Mirage | Arizona Is that water? Rory asks. —Yes.

Yes, it’s water. A lake.

Or it’s a field of black panels harvesting the sun.



I iambus: mother father brother sister letters spelled out eaten with a soup spoon iberian: mother’s mother’s father has a street with his name on it the sign casts its noontime shadow reaches across the meridian and into the ocean igniis fatuus: I would follow the only light screw-top held and ready night blurring the edges

to reach me

with an open jar of every little thing

illapse: footsteps in the corner of a room moving from sound to air nobody there illude: abandoned cigarette stub onto a kitten’s forehead


burns a circle scar now the cat that holds my gaze


Out of This/The Expression from a poetical work entitled ‘K’ This is what I want. And nothing less … Journal entry (14 October 1922), from The Journal of Katherine Mansfield (1927) today’s meeting dream-whispers the intimate acceptance of Katya’s cello / her word rhythms gently resonate / she climbs the persimmon tree and someone calls for her for Katya for she loves being lost in the green shower of her renaissance & a man at the bay collects stones for her cleans them takes them like shiny mementos for their mantelpiece their windowsills where he shows them to the monarchs which grab at their nervous reflections like glitter in a glass orb / this Sunday on the beach children from the street play cricket & a dog chases a stick’s shadow into the lake as a boy i could kick a ball until it rained i could watch Katya until she went out
of sight out of the picture i hung of her on my wall / as a woman she stands beside the sweet-pea trellis polka-dotted in blossom bush orchids about her hair a mamaku locked onto her shoulder / from this shoreline Tumatauenga kissed the missionaries & made them cry Katya kissed her father too & when she kissed the philosopher’s stone i had planted in the garden it rolled over & over with her words trapped in water / she dried them out like raisins for the picking / as a woman she writes / LM’s letter is a congestion of love songs from a London summer / at Te Wairoa mud
steps onto the verandah smells of Tarawera’s afterbirth / Katya plaits her hair in the burnt-grey sun / plays petanque in her garden / studies a bee-sucked buttercup the anatomy of a conversation she last had with her brother / & while it rains we read Chekhov / we strip off & swim through the alphabetical gabble of the lake we feel Ngatoroirangi’s lungs haemorrhage / his hands scoring the hills the valleys old wounds on people’s faces
he spits fire at the night / suddenly Katya revises her work on someone else’s summer



anti-aconite Supposing it to be the proper charm I spelt it out. But maybe my pronunciation caused a shift in the meaning of a key word & rendered it inoperable. Instead of the largesse I had hoped for, I now have only these small fragments to bring to you. There is still a little life in them, maybe some remnant magic. Perhaps if you were to breathe on them …



From Quite Little Ones something falling doesn’t know where it’s falling What we know is often only because of a framework, which is only ever made up, due to thinking. When I look at the chopped cabbage, taste it, fresh or boiled, I have such certainty that something real is occurring. I want to say that this event too is framed, yet my training reacts completely. Again I look out of the double-door windows, a fondness of mine. I notice the increasing dark, although that likely sounds a bit nonsensical; perhaps I can say that the fern fronds are hands that stem from a single arm, like that of a practised card player, relaxing his grip—or that the dark is due to the daylight as it seeps or drains away. But these sentiments, as you quickly gather, entangle, confusing thought: that does not know itself beforehand, lacking a frame. Even this previous paragraph has me drifting, meaning that thought mesmerises and one may consider oneself unduly astute. Why do we insist that writing has to have some object—a purpose, a thing, a sense of audience—to attend to? Sometimes I prefer words scattered like confetti over a convivial scene and not worrying (or it mattering) what pattern is left on the ground. A slight smugness here, smartness, more than any actual display of intelligence or of insight, has me looking a trifle silly. But also such words do suggest various human qualities, whether positive or negative, and as such we remain understandably nervous of them as abstractions. The interesting thing about them is that they are not quantities, because experiences come concretely one at a time only, and although there may appear to be a light thread running through them linking them, in comparison the beads (of experience) are themselves huge and dominate the attention—it’s what’s in them constitutes the thread, a kind of unspoken necessity. And the ‘beads’, quite discrete, are quality events (one bows to breakthrough thinkers and meditators, as I do), we experience qualities, mind and body, in consort, as they are struck struck struck, with nowhere to turn. 157


Judge’s Report An assiduous reader of poetry for any competition at least needs to be on the lookout for poems that shine a light in the world’s ear, and that use language to go beyond the charms of invention to the wonders of discovery. Poems that work at making the invisible visible. ‘One of the gifts of poetry is to extend and bewilder, and is to deepen and give wonder,’ as Seamus Heaney has it. In making my selection, I was looking and listening for the kind of language that breathes life into the search for some kind of reach for meaning. The primacy of words scored in their sound and sense to arrive at some kind of discovery of how mysterious we are to ourselves and the world. First place goes to ‘Luthier’, a poem so alive in its language and clarity of images unfolding, one out of the other, that it is exemplary of the fact that whatever else poetry is, it is the music of thought. At once a tone-poem meditation and a ‘creation’ story, in which the ‘Luthier’ is a double—called or uncalled—for the archetypal ur-Poet, Orpheus. A composition very artfully arranged, its formal shaping seems just right to me. And it has a kind of roughly hewn elegance about it and the physicality of the language that makes it such a fine pleasure to read aloud. Song. Second place goes to ‘Four Photographs from a Window’. Another kind of graphic-song here. A quartet of photo-‘shots’ that make up this poetic arrangement that reminded me again and again in the reading of the discovery by the great Turkish poet Ara Güler, that: ‘You know, I’m only trying to grab a piece of life. Telling a story I write photographs.’ Here, a poem in which each strophe/‘shot’ is on a search (on the hunt, you could say) for that deep, archetypal relationship to the natural world. A poem then of celebration accurate to its truth-telling. And note the unobtrusive but deftly deployed pattern of off-rhymes throughout that contribute so much to the poem’s music. A further six poems are Highly Commended: each in its particular voice158

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print amiably jostling for a well-earned place at the top of the list. In each case, poems that went beyond the limitations of merely reporting back on the sentiments of experience. Rather, poems that wanted to discover and reveal that something other—the poem’s other ‘story’ (however brief or elusive). And in all cases in varying measure, attention to language/words as the ‘onlie [true] begetters’ of what may turn out to be an ‘idea’ in search of meaning. Michael Harlow

Winning entry: ‘Luthier’ by Sue Wootton Runner-up: ‘Four Photographs from a Window’ by Jessica Le Bas. Highly Commended: ‘The Choirmaster’ by Carolyn McCurdie; ‘Molecular Knowhow’ by Jillian Sullivan; ‘Dreaming of the Moon’ by Michael Morrissey; ‘Self-portrait’ by Karen Zelas; ‘West Wind’ by Jillian Sullivan; ‘Another Sunny Day’ by Pat White. The winning and runner-up poems appear on the following pages. All eight poems are published on the website of the Caselberg Trust. Entries for the Caselberg International Poetry Prize for 2016 will be invited from 1 June to 31 July next year.



Luthier He has the guitar in mind. In his quake-rocked studio he leans over the quiet grain. Listen: rain falling on Vancouver Island. Six flitches of Sitka spruce with which to summon sound. This spruce conducted breeze and storm for centuries, never knew a day to pass in silence, recognised her guests by footfall and by wing-rush: squirrel scurry, spiral of ants on the sap route, beaks and claws and paws, all that patter and flutter and slink. Summer-heated cones clicked open, slow-baked, while the high tips waltzed close to the sun; and in blind winter the whole tree threshed, screaming Alaska at the gale until the branches bowed to the weight of a white, creaking shush. This for a thousand thousand moons. A brief age then: of rumbling, of shouts and engines and a bedrock shimmering that teased loose the grip of roots, and briefer still the day and very brief the act and when the act was done, the wood was mute. He splits each flitch and pauses. He hears the stuck scratch of needle-sharp leaves upon a long-gone sky. He has the guitar in mind and in hand. He leans over the polished grain. He loves the shape of her, he loves her song. Listen: rain falling on Vancouver Island. His fingers threading strings.



Four Photographs from a Window Ida Valley—early morning The first is a shot in the dark, buttoned up and black suited One flash finds night before daybreak Dawn is a rich merchant in an alleyway The second shot in monochrome, like a century aged; before the thought of light. All is shadow and suggestion. A cliff face. A fist of trees Like a shot, the third undresses the tussocky flat, bare to the river’s dark cleft. Naked and pink and blushing. They lie, reconciling The fourth is a gunshot wedding party Garlands and lace; birds caught in a madness of violins. There is a warm bride rising. A bouquet shot through with gold and sunlight in flight, above the Hawkduns.



Endless Sea The ice-strengthened motor yacht Endless Sea powers south of Tierra del Fuego into the Antarctic Ocean. Phyllis leans on the guard rail and watches the seabirds dip and soar above the waves, her heart pounding with excitement more and more as the temperature plummets. The rail is now rimed with frost, and the deck covered in grit to prevent the passengers sliding on the ice. An albatross glides over the ship’s wake—a wandering silhouette against the sun that doesn’t quite set—gliding over gigantic wave tops also silhouetted, like a range of mountain peaks. Phyllis pulls herself off the rail, her gloves leaving a deposit of suede fibres and a few tufts of lambswool from the wristbands. She flew out the day of Melissa’s wedding. It had been coming for five years. The five years since Melissa left home. She had started putting more time into her painting and had exhibited every year for the five years. She had sold quite well—developing a line in abstracted doors and gates, arches and porticos that spoke of possibilities, journeys, fresh revelations. But after five years she realised they weren’t going anywhere. When Melissa announced she was getting married, Phyllis sat down and made a list of things she wanted to achieve. The top one was ‘adventure’ and, after much thought, she decided on a trip to the Antarctic. She wanted to see a new landscape—to be inspired by a different light, to find meaning in the beauty of the place, in nature itself, in humanity’s place in it. The second thing on the list was leaving Henry. There was no way forward with him. The doors and gates and all the other portals kept beckoning, but he kept her from moving through them. She told Henry as Melissa drove away with her new husband. She flew to South America that same evening. She had no intention of returning to him. Her real life was beginning now. The first ice they see is a white crag, like a slice of glass fractured and split, sharp against the featureless grey sky. The next day they see the underside of a 162


whale’s tail flip high out of the water before disappearing beneath the iron grey swell. The others gasp, but Phyllis wonders how the creature can live in that ghastly cold darkness. The guidebook tells her icebergs are fresh water, split off from glaciers that terminate at the Antarctic coast. Sea ice, which they haven’t seen yet, is the frozen ocean breaking up. Antarctica is 14 million square kilometres, double that in winter. Helmut, the German adventurer, is standing next to her. ‘Do you ever feel,’ she says, ‘when you’re on a high place, a compulsion to jump? That’s how I feel about the water.’ ‘If you jumped in you would quickly die,’ he says. Phyllis goes below. Her bid for freedom has come down to a nauseated huddling in her bunk against the cold. The windows of the cabin have iced up, as the sun shines through them the frost, settled in long white feathers, glows gold like a strange midnight forest alight with wildfires. She tries to make something of the events of the day. Blue and white is all that comes up, and the way she really wanted to hurl herself into the sea, and yet feared it. She understands the ship’s name, the sea that has no end as it swirls around and around the last wilderness (as the guidebook says). She writes a quick description of the whale’s tail. It was white on the underside, although nobody could tell her what species it was. Helmut took photos; perhaps he would identify it. She tries to sketch it from memory, but that doesn’t capture the complete silence, until the ridiculous oohs and aaahs shattered the peace. More icebergs every day. And then the mosaic of the sea ice—the sun riding low and metallic in the sky, burning across the sheet of ocean broken in paving stones of ice. It looks like solid paving, except for the subtle heaving of the water beneath. The light merges towards a point above the horizon. Everything is cold, from the soft snow frosting on wind-hollowed icebergs to the ghostly translucent fragments of ice just below the ocean surface. Here, though the sky is still light grey, the sea is deep radiant blue, as if from somewhere sunlight has got in and stained it. Penguins gather together, riding on an ice floe. They are so tiny, the scale of the landscape becomes real. It looks as if you could cross the sea ice, as on stepping stones, in thirty seconds. But the penguins look half a mile away. The ice floes are eroded just under the sea surface, their submarine ledges 163

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aqua blue in the low sun. An iceberg rolls. Its flat top reaches to the sky and suddenly the swell tips it and it rolls, its massive hidden self lurching into view as it settles with a crash and a huge surge onto another side. Spumes of seawater mount the air. The southern ocean greets the ship head on—smashing across her bows like a giant waterfall spilling itself directly onto the deck. The sea lashes the window in Phyllis’s cabin as she lies on her side, all her organs sloshing around in her body. She heaves the contents of her stomach into the bucket again. The cabin pitches around her and her head explodes again as a cleaver enters her skull and slashes down, as far as her eyes. The shadows of the waves cast on the wall, black against the endless and relentless bronze sun. The sun watches her all the time. It is unblinking, barely moving in the sky, and it knows it has defeated her. ‘Even I,’ it says, ‘have no purpose but to make sure your skull explodes behind your eyes and you wish yourself in hell for relief.’ Helmut and the American woman slap their arms happily against their sides. ‘That was a good blow,’ the American woman says cheerfully. The other passengers squeal in delight with each sighting of life. A seal sunning itself on the low outlier of an enormous glacier shaped like a sandy beach. An orca fin two metres tall. Helmut stops slapping his arms and takes a picture of the American woman. Phyllis imagines the woman tipping over the rail, her bright white hair that whips in the wind as a fringe around her furred hood, slipping beneath the iron grey surge. ‘Nice morning!’ the woman calls to her. Phyllis smiles in return. Close to the ice the air is even colder. Ice falls away under the sea, endlessly falling. The ship moves closer and closer. The sea is dead calm. Icebergs perfectly reflected. But beneath they spread their arms—monstrous tentacles to trap and ensnare—Leviathan, monsters of the deep. The floes and the bergs and the monstrous mountains of snow and ice. The sea breaks through and pitilessly sculpts the ice into wild architecture of hills and valleys and arches and holes and cones and sound shells. There is one, not far off like a breaking wave—if she could just get out and touch and see and taste and feel and disappear into the freezing water. This alone is real. 164


The ice blue, the deep, the frost, the endless moving ocean endless ending. The glacier terminus is hundreds of feet high. The splinters the size of houses, the falling ice the impact of a demolition ball. The deep, cold fissures of dark blue. Worn fissures that look like organic forms—the whorls of trees—or perhaps she just longs for signs of warmth. Dripping daggers of ice. The others cheer as they see their first glimpse of the Antarctic mainland. The indifference of the black mountains. A perpetual wilderness of ice and snow. There are places where no one has ever stepped. The mountains hunch their ice-covered backs, completely oblivious to anything of man. Mountaintops, too steep for snow and ice, rise black to the sky, great skirts of ice at their bases, veils of ripped cloud trailing from their peaks. We have no place here, she thinks. We have no place anywhere. I have no place anywhere. There is nothing. This all means nothing but cold and darkness and pitiless sea. She feels the ache in her throat of tears, but she does not let them fall. If she started she would not stop. She skypes Henry. ‘Henry,’ she says. ‘Henry, I want to come home.’ There is a delay on the line. She hears his words before his face jerks into movement. ‘Come home, Phyllis. I want you to come home.’ It feels like defeat. Outside the wind is whistling through the ship’s rig. A normal night on the Southern Ocean. The great dark beneath, Leviathan awaits.


Landfall Review Online Reviews posted since September 2014 (Reviewer’s name in brackets) September 2014 The Bright Side of My Condition, Charlotte Randall (Lawrence Jones) Empty Bones and Others Stories, Breton Dukes (Nicholas Reid) Who Was that Woman Anyway? Aorewa McLeod (Hilary Lapsley) Three Plays by Robert Lord, Phillip Mann (ed.) (Helen Watson White) The Thin Boy & Other Poems, John Gibb (Michael O’Leary) Things to Know, Andrew Strang (Michael O’Leary) The Continuing Adventures of Alice Spider, Janis Freegard (Michael O’Leary) The Good Husbandwoman’s Alphabet, Cliff Fell (Michael O’Leary) Gutter Black: A memoir, Dave McArtney (Rick Bryant) Peter McLeavey: The life and times of a New Zealand art dealer, Jill Trevelyan (David Eggleton) October 2014 Waha: Mouth, Hinemoana Baker (David Eggleton) Dark Sparring, Selina Tusitala Marsh (David Eggleton) The Art of Excavation, Leilani Tamu (David Eggleton) The Bond of  Time, John Puhiatau Pule (David Eggleton) Versions and Translations, Bill Direen (Jan Kemp) Cloudboy, Siobhan Harvey (James Norcliffe) Gathering Evidence, Caoilinn Hughes (Siobhan Harvey) Page Stone Leaf, Dinah Hawken (Siobhan Harvey) Citizen of Santiago, Gregory O’Brien (Denys Trussell) Ruby Duby Du, Elizabeth Smither (Denys Trussell) The Speak House, David Howard (Denys Trussell) The Families, Vincent O’Sullivan (Michael Morrissey) The Demolition of the Century, Duncan Sarkies (Tasha Haines) I Believe You Are a Star, Peter McLennan (James Dignan) November 2014 Essential New Zealand Poems, Siobhan Harvey, James Norcliffe, Harry Ricketts (eds) (Michael Morrissey) Edwin’s Egg and other Poetic Novellas, Cilla McQueen (Lynley Edmeades) The Limits, Alice Miller (Harvey Molloy) Flying Kiwis: A history of the OE, Jude Wilson (Nicholas Reid) Carnival Sky, Owen Marshall (Patricia McLean) Landscape with Solitary Figure, Shonagh Koea (Elspeth Sandys) Glam Rock Boyfriends, Raewyn Alexander (Philippa Jamieson)

December 2014 Encounters: The creation of New Zealand, Paul Moon (David Eggleton) Changing Times, Jenny Carlyon and Diana Morrow (David Eggleton) The Mighty Totara: The life and times of Norman Kirk, David Grant (David Eggleton) Peace, Power and Politics: How New Zealand became nuclear free, Maire Leadbeater (David Eggleton) John Key: Portrait of a prime minister, John Roughan (David Eggleton) Greer Twiss, Sculptor, Greer Twiss, Rodney Wilson and Robin Woodward (Andrew Paul Wood) ANZAC: Photographs by Laurence Aberhart (Nina Seja) Heartland, Michele Leggott (Tim Upperton) Born to a Red-Headed Woman, Kay McKenzie Cooke (Richard Reeve) The Lonely Nude, Emily Dobson (Sarah-Jane Barnett) Raspberry Money, Alison Denham (Sarah-Jane Barnett) James Cook’s New World, by Graeme Lay (Brian Clearkin) February 2015 White Ghosts, Yellow Peril: China and New Zealand 1790–1950, Stevan Eldred-Grigg, with Zeng Dazheng (Denis Harold) The Naturalist, Thom Conroy (David Herkt) Tenderness: Stories, Sarah Quigley (Christine Johnston) Purgatory, Rosetta Allan (Tasha Haines) Cowboy Genes, Wes Lee (Thom Conroy) The Glove Box and Other Stories, Vivienne Plumb (Thom Conroy) Astonished Dice, Geoff Cochrane (Jimmy Currin) March 2015 Ko Te Whenua Te Utu: Land is the price, M.P.K. Sorrenson (Nicholas Reid) Beyond the Imperial Frontier: The contest for colonial New Zealand, Vincent O’Malley (Nicholas Reid) The Red Queen, Gemma Bowker-Wright (Emily Brookes) Horse with Hat, Marty Smith and Brendan O’Brien (Robert McLean) Tree Space, Maria McMillan (Robert McLean) Remnants, Leonard Lambert (Robert McLean) Halcyon Ghosts, Sam Sampson (Pat White) Dear Neil Roberts, Airini Beautrais (Pat White) Ranging Around the Zero, Terry Locke (Pat White) Cinema, Helen Rickerby (Tim Jones) Bird Murder, Stefanie Lash (Tim Jones) Feathers Unfettered: 25 New Zealand birds, Karen Zelas and Jan FitzGerald (Tim Jones) Spoonbill 101, Rangi Faith (Vaughan Rapatahana)



Self-Portrait by Martin Edmond

The Grass Catcher: A digression about home by Ian Wedde (Victoria University Press, 2014), 288 pp, $40

You can’t change the past: how often do we hear this said, usually with great confidence, if not absolute finality? Its ubiquity as a sentiment, or statement, doesn’t alter the fact that it isn’t true. We can change the past; and we do, on a daily basis. Every time we remember, or re-remember, we make subtle or broad changes to the past; memory, it turns out, is not a place where indissoluble records are kept, but a palimpsest which we re-inscribe over and over again. It might be objected that memories are all in our heads: but where else is the past? Yes, it lingers in documents and archives, in objects that have endured through time, perhaps even in rocks and stones; but only in our minds are we able to make out of these things the construction we call the past. When William Faulkner said the past is not gone, it’s not even past, that is what he meant: in a profound sense the past is ever present and its prime location is our own consciousness. One of the best ways of changing the past is by writing about it; even though there is an all-but-indescribable sadness


that attends the exercise. I don’t mean the melancholy that reminiscence brings but something more intrinsic. Writing down memories is akin to writing down dreams: the aura that surrounds those ghostly narratives that we tell ourselves while sleeping inevitably dissipates when we attempt to find words for their images. Maybe not completely, but the strangeness of our dreaming life is rarely accounted for after waking. In much the same way, the half-inchoate memories of childhood, once recounted in words, may lose some of what made them precious. It is, I suppose, the way that words work to define the undefinable or at least to offer some kind of precision where before was mostly suggestion. On the other hand, writing down memories can also have the effect of expanding the past. Some of this expansion is the result of concentration, focus, even obsession: we fill in the bits we don’t know or can’t remember; but we also find that the effort involved in recovering one memory leads ineluctably to the recovery of others, so that the past becomes, paradoxically, more than it ever was before. This expansion is magnified when we interrogate the memories of others, visit the actual locations of childhood experiences, consult photographs or other documents. It has something fictive about it; much in the way we fill in the gaps in dreams, we augment the traces of the past, not so much to complete them, perhaps, as to fit them into a satisfactory order. The past of memoir, then, is artefact as much as it is testimony.


Ian Wedde, in his memoir The Grass Catcher, is preternaturally aware, as you might expect from such a sophisticated writer, of the pitfalls, ambiguities, paradoxes and seductions of memory; his progress, while it starts in the womb and is, in a general sense, chronological, is by no means linear. His reconstruction of childhood and adolescence—the primary focus of this book—is also a meditation upon the processes of that reconstruction, with a weather eye out for the obfuscations, the willed self-delusions, the errors that partial recall can visit upon a narrative. No memory goes by unscrutinised; none (with the possible exception of his olfactory recall, which is both intense and in some sense primal) is accounted pure or unmixed; he makes, for instance, a working distinction between ‘real’ and ‘confected’ memories. The first are those in our own minds; the second, those we have taken on board from photographs, or out of the anecdotes others have told us or told about us. Although roughly chronological, the narrative does not proceed in a timebased sequence. Rather, it is constructed around the evocation and examination of things of the world as a way of bringing into consciousness the memory traces they hold. The first of these talismanic things is the grass catcher of the title: one of those canvas receptacles, in a wire frame, that used to hang off the back of old-fashioned push-and-pull hand mowers. This was stowed on the back wall of the garage of the house in Blenheim where Wedde did his early

growing up, and his specific recall is of the way the headlights of the car lit up the grass catcher when the family returned home at night from a trip somewhere. It is a typically ambiguous image: the grass catcher both as itself and as something else entirely, something other-worldly, looming and threatening, that cannot quite be put into words. Not all of these aides-mémoire are objects; they can also be places or people. One, which has some affinities to the shadow side of the grass catcher, is a film: The Creature from the Black Lagoon, which the author sees while living in what is now called Bangladesh in the 1950s. This is associated with a real drama, a fall into the pool below a waterfall, which leaves the young boy injured both physically and psychologically. The physical injuries are not as serious as the psychic wound: Wedde attributes to it both the inception of his writing of poetry and an alteration in his behaviour of which he is not proud. He became adept at soliciting sympathy for his perhaps imaginary ailments and predicaments; concomitantly, the determinedly outward-looking and somewhat delinquent life he has led, running wild with his twin brother Dave, becomes infected with an unhappy kind of introspection. This brings up the question, always crucial in memoir, of self-portraiture. Wedde is hyper-conscious here, as he is with respect to the way memory does


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or doesn’t work: in this case, of the difficulty of embarking upon an act of self-portraiture in words. A painter, after all, has his or her own visage in the mirror as a guide to the making of an image of the self; for a writer, no such guide exists. No matter how many photographs you consult, they will only show a version of how you were in the past; and, in the way of photographs, they will be open to multiple, perhaps infinite, interpretation. Writers, by their very nature, are skilful at the manipulation of words, and words can lie. The great temptation of literary selfportraiture is a construction of your own character, not as you are, or were, but as you wanted to be and as you now want to be seen. A painter’s error, if such a thing can be, in any rendition of the self, may be apparent in the work; a writer’s untruth can be hidden in the artful assembling of a simulacrum. Further, a reader with only the words to go by is not really in a position to evaluate their truth or falsity; a memoir writer is, by definition, a sole witness. Or perhaps not. Wedde has his brother at his side, sometimes metaphorically, sometimes actually, throughout the progress of  The Grass Catcher, which retells almost as much of Dave’s memory as it does of Ian’s. They are, you might say, partners in crime, as they were a gang of two in their childhood and youth. Dave acts as a warrant for some memories, a corrective for others; often enough, he has an entirely different version. The way these two points of view


interlace with each other and with the contested reality they share is one of the great charms of this book; Dave, even though he is gently, assiduously veiled from view as an adult subject, is a vital character and the book is richer for that. Much of Wedde’s self-portraiture takes place in opposition to his brother; they are, if not exactly mirror twins, certainly opposite in temperament: a classic introvert/extrovert pair, with Dave, as the older twin, the more outgoing. Wedde is pretty tough on himself, especially in the middle sections of the book: his manipulative behaviour with respect to his mother, his overeating and weight gain, his physical afflictions and compensatory victim mentality are retailed with what has to be seen as unflinching honesty. I mean, why would you say such things about yourself if they weren’t true? By the same token, he also depicts himself as highly sensitive, alert, intelligent and unfailingly curious about the world and the mind: all qualities we might recognise in the poetry of his adulthood. The Grass Catcher is subtitled ‘a digression about home’, a curious formulation: a digression from what? Can a whole book be a digression? Perhaps there is a subtle displacement here: the Wedde boys—there were just the two of them—didn’t really have a home in any conventional sense. The Blenheim of early childhood was soon succeeded by the sojourn in Bangladesh, where their father had a position as a factory manager; after that, the boys were


sent to boarding school in England and only visited their peripatetic parents on holidays or other odd occasions. Often enough, they boarded with a local family in lieu of visits ‘home’. Home, as many of us might understand the term, was never really theirs. It was a relative not an absolute concept. It inhered in objects as much as in places. Or in memories. Or, crucially, in people. The relativity of the idea of home animates much of the writing in this fine book; which, in time, becomes focused upon the matrix of the parental relationship: is that where home lies, or lay? Is that where it was lost? Wedde has said in interview that during the writing of this book he ‘realised how little I really knew about my mother’s and father’s lives when they were first married’. However much he managed to find out— and there is quite a lot—speculation as to the true nature of one’s parents is endless and ultimately unsubstantiated. William Maxwell, in Time Will Darken It, wrote memorably of this phenomenon: There is nothing so difficult to arrive at as the nature and personality of one’s parents. Death, about which so much mystery is made, is perhaps no mystery at all. But the history of one’s parents has to be pieced together from fragments, their motives and character guessed at, and the truth about them remains deeply buried, like a boulder that projects one small surface above the level of a smooth lawn, and when you come to dig around it, proves to be too large ever to move, though each year’s frost forces it up a little higher.

Wedde is circumspect about his personal and professional life as an

adult, and respectful of his brother Dave’s privacy, but he does attempt to solve the parental conundrum. Both portraits are affecting, if incomplete; together they suggest that Chick and Linda pursued a mode of living quite unlike that of contemporary helicopter parents, who attempt to live for and through their children. The Wedde parents, by contrast, had a life, or lives, of their own and appear to have lived them to the full. The larger family background is also beautifully, if fragmentarily evoked, especially the early years, in the 1940s and 50s, in and around Blenheim and in the Marlborough Sounds. And some of the wider, more tenuous, context. It is poignant the way the memoir begins with Dave and Ian curled together in the womb, and ends with their mother in Auckland, dying in a flat in which she has, mysteriously, chosen not to hang the curtains. Wedde’s prose is a high-energy construct, mixing acutely rendered sensuous detail with intellectual, sometimes philosophical, speculations that are intensely realised, sometimes to a point of difficulty that hovers on the edge of obscurity without ever quite crossing that cloudy border. His account of his return to Bangladesh in 2005, during which so much detail of the earlier years, in the 1950s, was recovered, is a wonderfully evocative sequence; it is no wonder that the English scenes that follow seem a bit pale, a bit washed out, in comparison. It’s also the case that the


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earliest memories seem the most vivid, but that’s at least partly because later experiences seem to require a circumspection that childhood does not: another example of the author’s discretion perhaps. If to write about the past is to change it, fixing in words what was previously a floating world, it is also an act of generosity—to readers, I mean. This is not one of those writer’s memoirs that says: here is how I became the resplendent creature I am today. It is too multi-faceted, too disparate in its terms and concerns, too in love with the world, you might say, to serve such a purpose. It brought to mind one of the suggestions of American physicist John Archibald Wheeler: that we as observers make the universe we see and that those parts of the universe that have not yet been observed do not, in a sense, exist— certainly not in terms of the human fetters of past, present and future. By turning his mind to his own past, and to that of his family, friends and interlocutors, Ian Wedde has illuminated a rich and various world that did not exist before he wrote it down; we, as readers, are the lucky beneficiaries.


Whatever the Facts by Maggie Rainey-Smith

What Lies Beneath: A memoir by Elspeth Sandys (Otago University Press, 2014), 224 pp, $35

In the title of this memoir What Lies Beneath is a sub-text familiar possibly to many families from a particular time in New Zealand’s social history when infidelity, unplanned pregnancies and adoption all required levels of complicity and manufactured truths to keep up appearances. And so, the lies beneath the surface. This is not an especially new story, but each time in the telling, it is new and painful and the damage unique to each family. Memoir as a form allows a writer to cast a wider imaginative net than an autobiography. There is not the same constraint for evidence, proof and dates. In this way, the emotional landscape is navigated perhaps more creatively and, who knows, perhaps in the end more truthfully. I read this memoir twice—the first time as a reader, the second as a reviewer. Both times I was challenged in the early chapters with the author’s choice to not only re-imagine her parent’s past prior to and after her conception, but to place conversation and thoughts into this reimagining. The second reading, I will admit, I was more able to ‘let go’ of my annoyance and see more clearly how this particular form of recollection, using


family myths and truths, is a reasonable device for laying out the foundations of the story. We are told, in the present tense, that Elspeth Somerville Sandys was born in 1940, her mother unmarried, and her conception the result of a brief one-off encounter with a married man (pillar of society, a reputable dentist and advocate for dental health). His wife just happened to be pregnant at the same time and also, sadly, very unwell with yet undiagnosed cancer. On hearing of the ‘other’ pregnancy, her biological father applied for a fellowship to join a team researching fluoridation in Washington for three months—hoping to escape the repercussions (or so, in this telling, it is imagined)—indeed Sandys goes so far as to write: ‘This is the life, my father tells himself, as the gates of the New Zealand Embassy on Observatory Circle swing open. Fancy free, anonymous, and money to burn.’ It’s a tricky balance to strike in recreating what leads to an infidelity to which only two people can really bear witness, and then to add private thoughts to this as well as actions. But, on balance, it does generate a compelling story once you allow the author this licence. There is also the painful moment when the betrayed wife Olive, both pregnant and seriously unwell, is finally told the news and it appears she insists that they should adopt the illegitimate baby. It’s not quite clear if this is true or imagined. It must be assumed that somehow the

biological father thwarts the adoption by his own wife of his unwanted child. ‘Whatever the facts, one thing is certain—nine months after my birth, I stopped being Frances Hilton James and became Elspeth Sandilands Somerville.’ Her adoptive mother, Alice, appears never to have wanted her in the first place and this manifests in their very fractured relationship. In contrast, her older adopted brother, it seems, can do no wrong. Added to this is the tragic background of her adoptive mother, which doesn’t entirely mitigate her behaviour but perhaps goes some way to explaining her later serious mental health issues. Her mother frequently vanishes from Elspeth’s life at crucial moments in her development from childhood to adulthood. She is treated with ECT and Elspeth is told, the first time her mother ‘disappears’ for months, that it is some sulphur medicine that has disagreed with her. Many people from this era will have recollections of similar experiences, no doubt, where mental illness was not socially acceptable and excuses were made (similar to the way young women were ‘sent away’ to have illegitimate babies) … but it struck me, on reading this memoir, that these experiences were compounded and made all the more painful and traumatic because the author was never entirely sure of her mother’s love. This is both a personal memoir and an important slice of New Zealand social history. It is the story of an adopted child and ‘what lies beneath’, and the story of


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her adoptive family, the father a Somerville and a well-known business figure in Dunedin, the adoptive mother of the Alley family; her uncle was Rewi Alley. There seems to have been quite a perceived social divide in this marriage. It’s also fascinating to read about her adoptive father, who was sixty-eight when Elspeth came into his life. He adored her and she adored him, and she speculates carefully about his supposed celibacy: ‘ “Your father lives in a different world from other men,” my mother announced. “A higher world … He has nothing to do with the messy business of sex.” ’ I did briefly wonder (pure speculation on my part) if the mental illness her adoptive mother suffered from wasn’t exacerbated by these unusual circumstances: ‘Today, no doubt, someone hearing those words would attach a label, a habit I deplore, since in my experience labels obscure rather than reveal the essential nature of a person.’ I particularly liked this response from the author, and felt rightly put into my speculative place. This theme recurs later when she looks back at the relationship of her fairy godmothers: ‘Auntie’ Connie and ‘Auntie’ Joan, who lived together. ‘Were these two putative aunties lovers? It’s the kind of question we ask nowadays but would never have thought to ask back then.’ Both women had lost fiancés in the Great War. Sandys writes: ‘Today we are more inclined to attach labels. But I’m glad in retrospect that I grew up seeing my fairy godmothers not as creatures of a particular sexual


persuasion but as magical beings, with their own closely guarded secret.’ Along with Joan and Connie, there were other influential women, some of them her actual aunts who offered sanctuary and affirmation. They must have provided a much-needed buffer to the rejection and criticism from her adoptive mother. It wasn’t until she was in her mid-forties, living in England, her second marriage having come to a painful end, that the author began her journey of discovery to uncover the identity of her birth parents. Even so, the state still tried to thwart her and it was the devious quick thinking of a lawyer friend that gained her access to this information. It was very moving to read that after her second marriage, and living on the other side of the world, having barely heard from her adoptive mother, the author falls into ‘a pit of grief ’ on hearing of her death, and yet is still able in her pain to understand the courage and pain of a woman of whom she says: ‘The saddest woman I ever knew was also the bravest.’ Sad as this memoir is, there is also a sense of privilege. Sandys was adopted into one of Dunedin’s more illustrious families and raised amid music, books and culture. The family had a crib at Wanaka which, although primitive by today’s standards, was certainly a luxury, and the holidays there roaming free with her brother sounded almost idyllic. The homes the author inhabited as a child loom large in her recollections, bearing


witness to both her joy and her sorrows. School was the one place where she felt at peace, despite some nasty episodes where she was picked on because of her dubious origins and being ‘adopted’. I also noticed that contact with her adopted brother, the favoured son who seemed to have a much happier childhood, seemed to drop off as the memoir progressed. It left me wondering whether they fell out at some stage and I missed it. When Sandys returns to New Zealand to begin the search for her birth mother, it is her cousin Jack she turns to. In the end it struck me that the most powerful theme throughout this memoir is the legacy of pain caused by the lack of affirmation and love from the author’s mother(s), and the ongoing ramifications for her in forming adult relationships. She describes herself as someone always trying to please. But, too, it is the story of a New Zealand author, and Sandys describes the influence on her own writing of these formative years. It seems, interestingly, that in her early fiction she anticipated some of the truths she was yet to uncover. Sandys has published eight novels and two collections of short stories, the promotional blurb says. I haven’t read any of her fiction, but naturally now I am intrigued and inclined to want to. The memoir finishes with appendices featuring facsimiles of her birth certificate and related adoption documents. Which, in the end, is a factually poignant summary.


A Dialectical Strain by Tim Corballis

The Critic’s Part: Wystan Curnow art writings 1971–2013 by Wystan Curnow, edited by Christina Barton and Robert Leonard (Adam Art Gallery, Te Pātaka Toi, Wellington; Victoria University Press, Wellington; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane: 2014), 512 pp, $80

Let me start by making a distinction between, for want of a better way of putting this, two types of artistic temperament. Alternatively it could, I suppose, be a distinction between two ideas about how art should be done, or the account of a sort of choice that artists face about how to proceed. These are, to be sure, either extreme of a continuum; they are also surely only two of many more kinds or ideas or options. All the usual worries and complications about binary distinctions, then—but let me make the distinction anyway. It is, I think, familiar enough. On the one hand, there is the artist dedicated to art above all else, while on the other there is the artist for whom art is subordinate, and only emerges as and when the rest of life allows it. The first might once have been the male artist, easily angered at interruptions from the family, or leaving the house each day to go off to the studio


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as if it were his corporate office; while the second would have been the woman, sitting from time to time at the kitchen table to add a few sentences or brushstrokes amid the chaos. Let’s not make too much of the gender distinction, and not only because women have long since argued for the right to rooms of their own. All kinds of other questions relate to this sort of distinction, though: is art a job or a hobby? A role within society’s divisions of labour, or something that emerges afterwards or outside of all that? Does it have a proper place or does it just pop up here and there? Is it important or trivial? Or, indeed, is it important the way a job is important, or important the way the unimportant aspects of life are important? I know this is all just a bundle of stereotypes and abstractions, different distinctions and questions collapsed into one another as if it were all just a matter of this or that. I also know that there might be plenty of kinds of answer— dialectical or deconstructive ones, say— that refuse to take sides or that take both at once. I think such distinctions are useful, however, as a way to begin thinking about the kinds of issue that arise when you write about art. This is partly because criticism often ends up thinking about the kinds of value works of art have, their role and their place. Critics, among other things, can end up putting art somewhere—perhaps in histories and schools, or perhaps in the proximity of other artists; perhaps


locating it in some relation to the audience or viewer. They assess the importance and the role of artists. They can end up, in short, giving artists a job. This is certainly the case for Wystan Curnow, at least in his role as critic, at least some of the time. He is quite explicit about it from the very start of this book—which, as it is a chronological selection, means almost the very beginning of his career as a critic. He insists, following his US doctoral adviser Morse Peckham, on the artist’s need for ‘psychic insulation’—on the need, that is, to build something up around the artist to allow her to do her job. A room, to be sure; but also a set of institutions and practices, ranging from patronage and government support, through galleries and museums, markets and collectors, to the work of individual critics. All of these are collectively responsible for giving artists their jobs: assessing, justifying, funding, talking, while the artist gets on unimpeded with their work. This is a division of labour, then, that also has a part for the critic. In 1970s New Zealand, the milieu in which Curnow the critic cut his teeth, those institutions were weak. The practitioners of high culture here, at the time, struggled to justify and support themselves, in the absence of others who would justify and support them. Enter Billy Apple, on his 1975 New Zealand tour. A better test case of Curnow’s thesis could hardly be wished for. Apple’s work—site-specific pieces, erasures and alterations within the space of the


gallery—was met with ridicule from the press, discomfort and obstruction from galleries themselves, and incomprehension from the large majority of critics. Curnow records these reactions, which range from the snide to the vitriolic and show the New Zealand establishment of the time, such as it was, in a very poor light. He then gives his own account of the works. Curnow is, as throughout the book, a great interpreter, and Apple’s work of this era strikes me as brilliant (and, to my mind, far richer than his later, ‘art as commodity’ work). The story of Curnow’s critical relationship with Apple is a long one. In short, however, the shock of that first tour—of the encounter with a hostile and philistine public—led Curnow to take on, for Apple’s subsequent visit, the role of ‘insulating’ critic right from the start. It is a role that seems at times like agent, at times like collaborator, with some of the ‘critical’ texts included here also serving as wall texts for Apple’s shows. This is consistent with an emerging art world in which boundaries such as that between artist and audience—which is often but not exclusively to say, performer and audience—were being broken down. It is a curious feature of the book, and one that I will come back to below, that Curnow participates in this dissolution of boundaries even as he advocates a certain kind of protective cordon around art itself. Returning to Billy Apple in 1975, one point to make is that he arrived in New Zealand from another context, a New

York art scene in which his work did not raise anything like the same kind of attention. It is, as Curnow acknowledges at one point, perhaps too comfortable a place for the artist—though the consequences of that comfort and the positive alternatives to it are not elaborated here. A third way between metropolitan comfort and antipodean philistinism? In any case, we arrive now at one of Curnow’s major themes: the difference between here and there, cast primarily not in terms of cultural influence, imperialism, resistance and provincialism, but in terms of the various local contexts for the production, consumption and distribution of art. This is, in its own way, a theory of the antipodes: the context without contexts. What institutions, what understandings are available in New York that are not available in New Zealand? The first, to be over-simplistic, might be the institutions and contexts of modernism, so that the New Zealand postmodern has to do different work than merely dismantle an existing edifice. Something must be, we might say, established and disestablished at the same time. Such readings of New Zealand art (as with, say, Stephen Bambury) are frequent here, and impressive. Curnow’s sensitivity to contexts of all kinds is, in fact, one of the best things about him. Art is discussed in terms of its galleries and other spaces, its sites and non-sites, as well as its national and cultural, indigenous or colonial contexts and the ‘scenes’ from which it emerges.


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Much of this is simply appropriate, of course, for ‘post-object’ art that, following the gestural arc implicit in Abstract Expressionism, leaves the canvas and frame, and indeed the gallery itself, investigating and colliding with its own places and settings. This emphasis on art contexts is the focus, not only of someone who has absorbed ideas of ‘psychic insulation’ from his postgraduate student days in the States, and not only of someone who understands site-specificity and so forth, but also of someone who has (like Billy Apple, and in a way like Len Lye) been away from New Zealand and come back. It relates to a kind of culture shock, the shock not of the arrival overseas but of the return to a limited, provincial home. The kind of complication that arises in the background of this book is, then, one that arises out of a collision (or dialectic) between the two different ideas of the artist that I started with. Art— especially of the ‘post-object’ variety— often refuses after all to be insulated fully from its contexts, its ‘life’. Curnow cites approvingly Kerouac’s habit of ‘sketching’ in public, and Frank O’Hara’s tendency to stop and write a poem in the midst of everything. Indeed, Curnow’s own art writing occasionally emerges from a similar practice vis-à-vis the performance works it responds to: pieces written in situ and not subsequently edited. These are in no simple contradiction with ‘psychic insulation’. After all, Apple’s 1975 disruptions of the gallery context would have been safely


possible only with the insulation from a larger, institutional and social context; while O’Hara’s poetic practice is possible only within the supportive milieu of the New York poetry scene, we might suspect. But there are certainly two urges at work here: the critic’s urge to ‘protect’ the artist, and the artist’s urge to break out of any stable role or place. My sense is that ultimately Curnow’s emphasis on ‘psychic insulation’ must be opposed to art’s own tendency to address the objects and practices of both its institutional and its ‘non-art’ contexts. Should such art really, then, exclude exposure to the context of everyday opinion—to that wide section of our cultural context that quite understandably retains, I suspect, an ‘older’ notion of aesthetic possibility (beauty) removed from the ugliness of everyday life? This tension can be brought out in another way. The back cover has a quote from Curnow (which, incidentally, I failed to find anywhere in the book itself ): ‘… finding words for the “silent text” of the painting or sculpture … this is the critic’s part’. The phrase ‘silent text’, intentionally or not, recalls the theorist Jacques Rancière—for whom ‘silent speech’ or ‘mute speech’ is one of the central terms for the aesthetic. And indeed, Curnow turns to Rancière in the final essay of the book, a contemporary follow-up to all those 1970s worries about high culture in New Zealand. Much, of course, has changed: the institutions, the market, the contexts, the


psychic insulation—all that is much more developed now. Instead, there is the now familiar set of worries about what art and creativity, in their ascendancy, have been co-opted for: a tidy settlement with managerial and advertising culture, essentially, as encapsulated in Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello’s influential Weberian text The New Spirit of Capitalism. But Curnow retains a hope and a role for critical art, by appeal here and there to an idea in Rancière that art can somehow alter the ‘division of the sensible’, the ultimately political arrangement of categories and roles through which we perceive the world. This is all an overly quick (and I think common) use of Rancière, taken from his thinnest volume, The Politics of Aesthetics. It is accurate enough as far as it goes, but Rancière is also much more: an arch anti-sociologist who would have no truck with Peckham; an enemy of divisions of labour of any stripe; and especially, the anti-elitist enemy of all thinking that refuses to make the ‘short voyage to the land of the people’. The artist’s or intellectual’s search for an embodiment of the people always meets with some basic and popular, indeed in some sense ‘anti-intellectual’, refusal. It is this that art can, at best, register; it is this, not some critical stance of the artwork or artist, that disrupts the division of the sensible. This is the ‘silent speech’—it belongs to the (perhaps mythical) people, and to find words for it is to betray it.

That Curnow misuses Rancière in one essay is no great failing. However, Rancière offers a powerful counterargument to Curnow, an argument for an art that does not hope for insulation, and that cannot fulfil any political promise, but that is ultimately vulnerable in the face of popular nonconsent. There is much of interest in Curnow’s book: ephemeral pieces, and the artists and milieux they represent, given longer life between heavy covers; a great deal of detailed and expert interpretation. On most pages there is nothing to object to, and much to be stimulated by. My doubts concern something else: a background assumption, a defensiveness, an inflated hope, concerning art’s importance. What if (dare I ask) the philistines have a point?




by Denis Harold Then It Was Now Again: Selected critical writing by Murray Edmond (Atuanui Press, 2014), 324 pp, $45

Where to begin with Murray Edmond’s Then It Was Now Again—a selection of literary reviews and studies spanning forty years, from 1973 to 2014? I began with an article on the founding of Wellington’s Downstage Theatre in the 1960s, a seemingly dry topic, but Edmond’s analysis of the considerable ‘number of accounts’ of the theatre’s history drew me into a literary thriller in the guise of arcane cultural history. The initiators of Downstage were ‘insurrectionary and subversive, yet linked to international avant-garde innovations’, but ‘in less than two years’ the ‘New Zealand Players heritage had won through and taken control’. Edmond cogently argues that mainstream conservative theatrical forces triumphed, in a journal article based on his doctoral thesis on the history of experimental theatre in New Zealand between 1962 and 1982. Edmond, in another essay, ‘Lighting Out for Paradise’, equates experimental theatre with the Commedia dell’Arte tradition in contrast to the text-based, academic tradition he labels Erudita, one of his


own few uses of ‘academic’ jargon. Edmond, though a belated academic, does not suppress but harnesses his formative experiences as an economically insecure worker ‘in a search for a committed grassroots theatre which works and moves outside the theatre establishment’. There are twenty-four items in this book, most originating as reviews in literary or academic journals, but several written as introductions to anthologies that Edmond helped compile. The items transcend their occasions, and now, carefully selected, coalesce into a stimulating cultural record. This is a traditional text but also a hypertext—it is the reader’s task to join up some of the latent connections. One key article is on Freed, the influential five-issue literary magazine published from 1969 to 1972 that Edmond was involved in and that he regarded as an ‘insurrection against the power structure of New Zealand literature’. Most of the contributors’ leanings were ‘New Left/anarchist’. Edmond in this essay aims to ‘get the record straight’ about the founding of the magazine, contending that if you do not record the facts, then other people who do not know them will endeavour to pass off their assumptions as true. C.K. Stead with his ‘authoritative voice and his eternity-penetrating prose’ wrote in an essay that he was ‘sure’ Ian Wedde’s ‘presence must have helped to trigger off ’ Freed. Edmond establishes that this assumption is not correct. Elsewhere (in


his preface to the anthology The New Poets), he takes Stead on in regard to Stead’s criticism of some of the developments in New Zealand poetry in the 1980s: ‘in attempting to name what will restore a clear overview and act as a measure of literary standards, Stead is forced to fall back on the rather vague and worn-out favourites of “the notion of excellence” and something called “talent” …’ Although the pieces in the book are arranged in four sections, themes crisscross a broad chronological movement from youthful certainty, tilting at times into bravado, towards principled maturity. Edmond’s politics are clear. He refers in a 1986 interview to that ‘stinking old herring of the right pretending they don’t have any politics—that they just do it for “art” or “rugby” or “the economy” as though those were neutral, factual concepts’. In his preface to The New Poets: Initiatives in New Zealand poetry (1987), an anthology of new poets of the 1980s that he co-edited with Mary Paul, Edmond explains that ‘there is no longer any consensus, any clear overview about what is poetry and who should have the power to say so’. There are different ‘categories’ of poets: the traditional, romantic, egocentred kind of poet who ‘characterised the mainstream’ of New Zealand poetry; the recent and growing numbers of feminist and Maori poets; and the postmodernist (not that Edmond uses this term) poets for whom ‘language is a commodity in which poems can be found

or out of which poems can be arranged’, although this did not mean that such work is ‘devoid of personal feeling’. In his 1986 interview Edmond described his evolution from a ‘finding your voice’ kind of poet to one who aimed to use ‘as little of my own language, of my own voice, as I can, and when I do, to make it as much like the language that is around me, which keeps me afloat’. In two separate texts (1980 and 1988) Edmond defends, analyses and celebrates the poetry of Kendrick Smithyman as an exemplar of modern New Zealand poetry. In his advocacy, Edmond indirectly provides a manifesto of his own practice: Smithyman is useful to us because he is so staunchly himself—stubborn, resistant, wry, individual, resourceful and inquiring, for whom ‘everything is mystery’. He does not particularly care to protect himself with style or rhetoric or easy conclusions or overblown emotions. [Smithyman’s poems] tend to make more sense the further one goes, reading. Lines, ideas, references recur in seemingly separate poems. After the manner of the talker, monolinguist, there is a tendency for all poems to become one poem.

He also alludes to a ‘dispute which grew up around [Wellington poet] Lauris Edmond’s review’ of one of Smithyman’s books. He notes that there is ‘a lot of irony in Smithyman. I think Lauris Edmond missed this fact.’ Murray Edmond has intriguing things to say about New Zealand drama (which he teaches at Auckland University). In one notable piece he tracks down a surprisingly ‘gothic’ heart to Renée’s


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social-realist 1930s Depression-era play Wednesday to Come. In other items he employs his experience as a poetry anthologist to unpick various anthologies of poetry, investigating the changing politics of the genre. He is especially scathing of the 1997 Oxford University Press An Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English, edited by Jenny Bornholdt, Gregory O’Brien and Mark Williams. Approached by Oxford in his ‘capacity as an academic’ with the offer of a free copy of the Pocket Oxford Thesaurus if he filled in a questionnaire on his choices for the book, Edmond ‘threw this letter in the bin’, and the follow-up letter as well. He considered that the publisher’s aim was ‘to commit teachers of New Zealand literature, especially large Stage One classes, to the contents of the anthology, and so guarantee mass sales to students’. Subsequently, he received proofs of some of his poems to check and return, despite no permission having been sought. He discovered that other poets were treated in the same way. There were many other difficulties. Edmond concluded: The Oxford anthology fails to come to grips with the last three decades of anthologymaking and of cultural change. I am sure the editors did a lot of reading, but there is no evidence they did a lot of thinking. The introduction says as much: ‘We started out with no fixed idea … We took the view that the question of identity calls for no assertive, anxious or prescriptive statements.’

The climax of Edmond’s book is a 28page tour-de-force entitled ‘Then it was now again: New Zealand poetries and


colonial histories’, the first half of which is also the title of the book, an indication of his pride in this essay. The phrase is borrowed from Janet Frame’s novel Intensive Care, which also provides other quotes that set the agenda of the essay. Frame states that: … two times can live together and the one doesn’t know the other one is living because if you’re in one time whatever would make you want to think there is another there going on through the light of day and the dark of night.

Edmond explores in a more intuitive than analytical manner examples of revisionism in New Zealand history and poetry, together with the possibility that history and poetry inform each other. Two notable recent examples of reevaluations are: the Land Wars of the nineteenth century, and the poetry of Robin Hyde. Edmond has published a dozen or so books of poetry, which have gained him a reputation as one of the significant poets of his generation. In 1994 he published The Switch, a book-length poem in 49 sections throughout which phrases, rhythms, characters and styles recur in a variegated way that demands a number of readings. The effort is rewarding: this is a well-crafted work not reducible to a few catch-phrases. It is a poem that is not embedded in one poet’s ego but in the rich and varied language of a culture. Anyone appreciative of Eliot, Pound, Smithyman et al would not be nonplussed by Edmond’s approach. Some of the voices and echoes in The Switch are of


early twentieth-century European poets exploring language in radical ways, such as Tristan Tzara and Christian Morgenstern. In Then It Was Now Again, Edmond reprints a letter he wrote to the editor of New Zealand Books about a review of The Switch that appeared in issue 15 in 1994. Edmond said in the letter: There is an unstated politics and theory behind New Zealand Books. Experimental work of any kind is outside its compass—as Jane Stafford’s foot-stamping proprietorialness makes amply clear. She wants to stamp out certain kinds of work and take possession of the field … Her demonstration of a lack of basic literary general knowledge, her inability to read tone, and her ignorance of and inattention to form and measure are in fact all to the point. Her review trumpets these things, they are badges she wears with pride.

Stafford had begun her review by stating her position: ‘I teach a secondyear university course in modern poetry where one of the chief requirements of the lecturers is to prevent panic.’ With ‘tutelage, students whose experience of poetry is very limited—we don’t read poetry recreationally as a society—can relax’. She went on to say, ‘I feel angry’ about Edmond’s book, which to her smacked of ‘a smart-arse elitism that was one of the negative hallmarks of high modernism’. Stafford went on to say: I can’t think of any useful association with either Tristan T (not Tristan Shandy [sic], nor Tristan and Isolde), or Morgenstern (Margery Morningstar?). Possibly (quite possibly, I’m afraid) they are the names of Edmond’s cats, in which case, as purely private references,

they have no business here. But there is a more sinister possibility. A kind and more literate friend suggests that Tristan T may refer to Tristan Tzara, the Dadaist poet …

With his response to Stafford’s review, Edmond provides his literary thriller Then It Was Now Again with one of its pivotal chapters: adventurous poet bludgeoned, perpetrator caught in the act and on a charge of attempted literary gatekeeping. Stafford’s review is not yet available online on the New Zealand Books website, although two-thirds of past issues are already accessible. One hopes it will be available soon—it is a gem. The shiny black covers of  Then It Was Now Again are stylishly in keeping with its contents. On the cover is a black-andwhite photograph focusing down Auckland’s west-coast Piha Beach towards Lion Rock. The figure of the author stands side on before the rock, the silhouette of his cap and ponytail echoing its shape. His head has a nimbus of light—presumably the setting sun, for this is the west. Edmond in his final essay in the book discusses ‘the west’ as a cultural symbol in New Zealand, even though this is a symbol more associated with the USA. (I am reminded that this west coast of the Auckland region was a productive stamping ground for Allen Curnow and Colin McCahon.) Edmonds’ head is tilted as he writes with pen or stylus on paper or tablet. On the back cover we see what he is facing: a darkish seascape with lines of waves coming in (or going out) with keywords from the book faintly pulsating in the sky. Inside


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the covers are matt black front and back endpapers—a suitable portal. Atuanui Press of Pokeno have created an elegant


and a thought-provoking publication.

A Canny Perceptiveness by Nicholas Reid

Dumont d’Urville: Explorer and polymath by Edward Duyker (Otago University Press, 2014), 671 pp, $70

Sometimes the match of biographer and subject can be ideal. Edward Duyker is a polyglot Australian of mixed Dutch and Mauritian descent. He has written numerous works on European exploration of the Pacific, including biographies of Marion Dufresne and Daniel Solander. Honours and awards have come to him from both the French government and Australian academe. A full biography of France’s most distinguished nineteenthcentury navigator, Jules-Sébastien-César Dumont d’Urville, is well within his range of interest. It is also fitting and proper that Dumont d’Urville: Explorer and polymath should be published by a New Zealand university press, given that its subject three times visited New Zealand and gave his name to geographical features. Almost predictably, the dust-jacket shows the famous lithograph, taken from Auguste de Sainson’s drawing, of d’Urville’s ship Astrolabe just making it through French Pass off the South Island. This passage could be read as either expert seamanship or foolhardy risktaking on d’Urville’s part, but either way it was a striking feat.



To state the obvious at once: this is a capacious work: 510 large pages of text, dotted with fine coloured illustrations, are followed by 170 closely printed pages of notes, bibliography and index. It is a work of undoubted and original scholarship. In his introduction, Duyker declares his determination to correct the errors of d’Urville’s earlier (mainly French) biographers, too many of whom assumed that most of the explorer’s personal papers had been destroyed during World War II. Duyker has been able to track down and access many of the supposedly lost papers and hence creates a sort of ‘resurrection’, especially in matters pertaining to d’Urville’s family life, and the relationship of d’Urville’s wife AdèleDorothee (nicknamed Adélie) with his mother. The legend was that the two women were constantly at war. Duyker satisfactorily proves otherwise. The things for which d’Urville is best remembered are fully chronicled. His three circumnavigations of the Earth (one under another captain’s command), including major voyages around the Pacific. The genuinely scientific nature of his voyages, as concerned with hydrography, botany, zoology, astronomic observation and what we would now call anthropology, as with mere exploration. The fact that d’Urville invented the terms ‘Melanesia’ and ‘Micronesia’. His discovery of what had happened to the Lapérouse expedition, which had vanished in 1788. The voyage when he first charted that part of the Antarctic coast which he named after his wife,

Adélie Land, so that later ornithologists named the region’s diminutive birds Adélie penguins. And after all this, the final irony of the great explorer being killed (together with his wife and one of his sons) so close to home, in a railway accident outside Paris in 1842. There are odd or forgotten things here. It was d’Urville who, as a young naval officer in 1819, first spotted the Aphrodite of Milos which was then whisked off to Paris and still lives there as the Vénus de Milo. After the revolution of 1830 it was d’Urville who was chosen to escort the deposed Charles X into exile in England. While painted portraits of d’Urville show him dressed stiffly in officer’s uniform, Duyker tells us that he had a casual style and habitually wore sloppy old clothes and a battered straw hat on the poop deck, disconcerting those smartly dressed English naval officers who met him. Duyker details the secret orders d’Urville was given, for two of his voyages, to find an appropriate place on the Australian continent for a French penal colony. This (ultimately fruitless) quest has some New Zealand resonance. Duyker judges that in 1840, when d’Urville was in New Zealand waters, and even before he knew of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, he had given up on the idea of French settlements in either Australia or New Zealand, calculating reasonably that they were too far from French lines of supply to be maintained. His correspondence also shows that he was sceptical of the Nanto-Bordelaise Company’s choice of


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Akaroa as a suitable site for settlement. Paradoxically, d’Urville’s mere presence was a factor in hastening formal British claims of sovereignty over New Zealand and unclaimed parts of Australia. The ‘polymath’ part of this book’s title is fully justified given d’Urville’s copious notebooks and diaries and articles in learned scientific journals; his fluency in French, English, Spanish, German, Greek, Latin and Hebrew; his voracious reading and authorship and ambition to write commentaries on Chinese literature. On one voyage he whiled away the time in his off-hours writing a novel, Les Zélandais ou histoire australienne (first published in 1992). Duyker credits him with ‘canny perceptiveness’ (p. 100) because, in an age before anyone knew about tectonic plates, he realised that the flora of the Falkland Islands revealed them to be a detached part of the South American continent. Thus much for the wealth of sheer information contained in Dumont d’Urville: Explorer and polymath, to which, as a reader, I must add that some sections are wonderfully readable. Highlights are the chilliest chapters in the book (Chapters 24 and 25) concerning the battle the two little corvettes Astrolabe and Zélée waged with the Antarctic ice. And for purely prurient reasons, the best anecdote in the book (at p. 376) has d’Urville lurking chastely in his cabin while Polynesian women swarm over his ship selling themselves to sex-starved sailors once they have left behind the puritanical terrors of Methodist-controlled Tahiti.


But, perhaps unavoidably, there is a negative side to a large chronological biography like this. Edward Duyker (who adopts the old-fashioned custom of prefacing each chapter with a literary epigraph) wants to record all things of note, which means that there is a relentless march of facts. As each of d’Urville’s voyages is fitted out, we are given paragraphs listing, and giving potted biographies of, his more prominent crew members. D’Urville, as botanist and zoologist, collected specimens assiduously. After his first major voyage, he brought back to France examples of 3000 plant species from the Pacific and 1200 insect species. Again, paragraphs recording much of this are, though necessary, something of a lexical trudge. Apart from the cataloguing and chronicling, Duyker’s strongest suit is his contextualising of d’Urville in early nineteenth-century French politics. Born in 1790 to a very Catholic Norman family of royalist sympathies, d’Urville weathered Napoleon’s dictatorship, the return of the Bourbons and the 1830 revolution that disposed of them. As Duyker shows, this had a major impact on d’Urville’s circumspection and prudence in his public dealings as a naval officer. He had to accommodate himself to changing regimes. Duyker sees him as a tolerant man whose opinions gradually became ‘republican’ and ‘left-wing’. But, as a careerist, he placed national politics second to his own advantage. He gave material support to the 1830 revolution


but, writes Duyker, ‘There can be no doubt that d’Urville was soon disillusioned with the July Monarchy. This appears to have partly stemmed from his lack of promotion under the new regime’ (p. 304). It is possible that his wife thought he placed her second to his own advantage, too. Neglected in the long years of his absence and enduring the deaths of some of their children, Adélie appears to have had a nervous breakdown. There are two questions that still bother me after reading this book. First, while d’Urville was clearly a great navigator and seaman, was he always a good commander of men? It is clear that he rubbed many of his colleagues up the wrong way. He and his superior, Louis Isidore Duperrey, lived in mutual detestation during his first Pacific voyage aboard the Coquille. Later, his subordinates the Lesson brothers were to write very critically of d’Urville’s leadership. His ambition could be excessive. There are intimations that he curtailed his first Astrolabe voyage so he could rush back to France and enjoy the fame of having solved the Lapérouse mystery. Of course it is inevitable that there will be some bitching in the wardroom when men are cooped up together for years on a small sailing ship, and criticisms are to be expected even of good commanders. Even so, I wonder if Edward Duyker is being a little generous in so easily dismissing all d’Urville’s contemporary critics as either inaccurate or self-interested.

The other question has to do with the matter of race. Duyker claims early in his introduction that Dumont d’Urville’s attitudes to race were enlightened for his times. D’Urville ‘believed in the fundamental unity of the human species and he never had any abhorrence of miscegenation, calling such attitudes “stupid prejudice” ’. He enjoyed a long friendship with Jean-Baptiste Lislet Geoffroy, the scientist who was the son of an emancipated black slave. Often Duyker praises d’Urville for such things as his ‘ethnographic sensitivity and precision’ (p. 453) in calling the South Island ‘Tavai-Pounamu’ as he mapped its coast on his third visit to New Zealand. But then Duyker has to apologise (Chapter 14) for d’Urville’s demeaning comments about Aborigines, and for his racial-epithet-laden outbursts against Vanikorans when they would not assist him (Chapter 19). He also has to accommodate the fact (Chapter 16) that d’Urville ordered his ship to fire upon the shore fortifications of  Tongans whom he accused of theft. More drastically, d’Urville carried out a lethal revenge attack on Fijians (Chapter 28) who had earlier slaughtered (and eaten) a French crew. Duyker is probably right. For his age, d’Urville’s racial attitudes were enlightened ones. His actions were no worse (and no better) than those of other European navigators of his time. But they still have to temper our heroic image of him, which, by and large, this book is able to maintain.



What the Body Can and Can’t Do by Siobhan Harvey

The Land Ballot by Fleur Adock (Victoria University Press, 2014), 95 pp, $30; Parallel by Jillian Sullivan (Steele Roberts, 2014), 62 pp, $20; Surface Tension by Joy Green (HauNui Press, 2014), 88 pp, $20

The meaning of life: since poets first gave voice to story, they have sought to explore and explain the nature of our existence. Some have proffered the influence of religion, some the stars, the environment or the sciences. Three recent collections by New Zealand poets, Fleur Adcock’s The Land Ballot, Jillian Sullivan’s Parallel and Joy Green’s Surface Tension use the body, its organs, emotions, interactions and navigations as agencies for understanding our being. In doing so, like a triptych in a way, each collection offers an analogous as well as an individual picture of what it means to live. The Land Ballot is prolific poet Fleur Adcock’s nineteenth collection of verse, and comes just a year after the publication of her previous book, Glass Wings, which, like the latest, tenderly explored issues of kinship, ancestry and memory. The title refers to a 1915 land auction that provided the author’s


grandparents with a piece of Mount Pirongia bush. It’s a matter that anchors much of the book, as seen in the early poem ‘The Pioneer’: The way the land ballot worked was like this: if your name came up you might be offered the block you’d applied for or another, which you had to take, or you got nothing. Meanwhile you looked for something else to do … When they heard, he rushed hot-foot to see it: his hundred and fifty acres of bush at Te Rauamoa, halfway along the road (if road it deserved to be called) from Otorohanga to Kawhia. As if to meet a new mail-order bride he strode off, perhaps quaking a little (things turn folklore if you wait too long). He went by train to Otorohanga and then walked—it may have been twenty miles. At one point he had to cross a river; unable to swim, he waded through it. One mile road frontage of native forest, to be transformed somehow into pasture, waiting on that mountainside. Up he trudged.

While this poem—and the collection as a whole—offer the author’s interpretation of her grandparent’s experiences, it also articulates geography as a signifier of identity, historical and contemporary. Later poems in The Land Ballot such as ‘District News: Te Rau-amoa’, ‘The Fencer’ and ‘The School’ are as topographical as they are ancestral. Life is family, Adcock tells us, and family is land; even when that land is a terrain 19,000 kilometres away, as it is in a poem such as ‘Migrants’:


Further back there were Sam’s Aunt Mary and her husband, Mormon converts, embarking under sail on the first part of their trek to the Salt Lake Valley, or Promised Land. The first afternoon out from Liverpool, in a storm, their five-month-old baby died. The Saints were all prostrate from seasickness— not a woman on board able to stand; the three Elders had to lay the child out and stitch her into a sack for the deep, while Mary writhed in her bunk, clutching her emptied stomach and full-to-bursting breasts …

Wherever the setting, these narrative poems remain personal, and this touching accessibility, it seems to me, is Adcock’s greatest poetic gift. As a string of latter verses—‘Cousins’, ‘Eva Remembers Her Little Sisters’, ‘The Hopeful Author’ and ‘Reconstituting Eva’—illustrate, in bringing the past and its sceneries to life, Adcock makes characters and their all-too-true human heartaches ‘real’: She showed no sign of liking us, my sister and me, her only grandchildren, that we can think of. No reason why she should, except that it seems to be usual; but we visited, ate her stew and washed the dishes afterwards. Grandpa was jolly enough, and we had another grandmother for normal human purposes. Eva left us out of her will because of our shocking morals: no thoughtful little legacies ‘to my beloved granddaughter’. Disapprobation was her norm and ‘aggrieved’ her default status.

How baffled she might look to hear I’ve kept her prayer book (the one she used at Drury, parading as an Anglican to please Sam). What’s more—no thanks to her—I was given, years ago, her gold brooch.

For Fleur Adcock, it’s this, the body (of terra firma; of the past; of whakapapa; of normal and abnormal ‘human purposes’) that gives meaning to life.

* Ida Valley-based author Jillian Sullivan has had an eclectic writing career thus far; it includes four novels and the engaging manifesto on being creative, Fishing from the Boat Ramp (Steele Roberts, 2011). She has won the Tom Fitzgibbon Award for children’s fiction, the Maurice Gee Prize in Children’s Writing and the IWW Kathleen Grattan Prize for a Sequence of Poems. It’s the work that took out the latter award that forms the basis for her first poetry collection, Parallel. The book’s first poems, ‘Masks’ and ‘Time Passes’, illustrate just why Sullivan was victorious in the prize: she’s a poet of evocative language use: Time Passes I know this because of the puppy. When I say Sit he sits, when I say Down he lies down. He is a black and white sphinx: his white paws horizontal his black eyes hoping up at mine. I track him from marram grass to driftwood, he lollops on top of the tyre wall, runs madly after seabirds. Far out into the wet-slicked mud I hear his paws splatter seawater.


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I didn’t know this about dogs: how you love them and so you watch them, your mind stays where it is safe: sea glass scallop shell heron the way a red boat leans for the tide.

If there’s something impressionistic, colourful and inventive about Sullivan’s diction, her way with words is but a vehicle to articulate the intricacies of relationships, especially those charted by families. ‘The Mirror’, ‘Passed Down’, ‘Purl’, ‘This One’. Here are poems that examine not just the bond between parents and children, but how family connections begin: This One Here, at the doorway, we stand unbidden. A rug, a chair, a bath, the bed. I touch my daughter’s hand. We all have a room we enter through and a room from which we’ll leave and some, by grace, get to share the room where another goes or stays. This is her room. In the kitchen and hall the midwives, disguised as ordinary women, drink tea and do their paperwork. This palace placed on earth for new arrivals.

For those women who choose it, to exist is to have a body that can carry and deliver another life into this world. Not that Parallel is gender exclusive. For, as might be expected given its title, there’s a later suite of poems that consider the role men play in the family dynamic. Verses such as ‘The Crepe Myrtle Tree’, ‘My


Stepfather’s Ashes’ and ‘My Father’s Clothes’ offset traditional perceptions of masculinity (strength, objectivity, inexpressiveness) with a far more reasoned, nuanced and authentic portrayal of masculinity, especially masculinity within family relationships, as the conclusion to ‘My Father’s Clothes’ demonstrates: When I visit now she still has my father’s clothes: every shirt, every pair of shoes. Once she let me stand in his wardrobe while she softly closed the door. That tree outside the window, a cherry blossom I helped my father plant. I put an orange-red leaf in his coffin where she kept him in the sitting-room, where she stood by him and stroked his face.

Like The Land Ballot, Parallel bears witness to acceptance of the body—its associations, legacies, lineage and progeny—as the key to a rich life.

* As its title suggests, Joy Green’s first collection, Surface Tension, navigates interactions that are fraught, edgy and unwavering. Like both Adcock and Sullivan, Green is concerned with how people connect and the intriguing interplay that results. Her book is divided into three sections that indicate the overarching theme: ‘Below the Surface’, ‘On the Surface’ and ‘Above the Surface’. In poems like ‘Splenius Capitis’, ‘Skull’, ‘Abdomen’ and ‘Vertebral Column’ the


opening section mines the intricacies of the internal body, its cavities and organs: If I tighten every muscle I can still bend over backwards, when occasion— when family— demand it. I can still be flexible. The trouble is, once there, I’m sure that standing up (for myself ) —turning upright again— will shatter something unfixable. I get sea-sick looking at the world from this improbable angle. But, really, Doctor, what’s a little discomfort compared to the crushing alternative?

The internal bodily workings that keep us alive are also our shared territory with other people; it’s this tenet that sustains the opening elements of Surface Tension. It also acts as a springboard into ‘On the Surface’, which begins with the titular prose poem: Sometimes, when the world is looking the other way, I am gorgeous. My eyes and hair shine, I have a glow I walk with my shoulders back, more graceful than any ballet. I am a goddess—not that anyone would ever know. When glances fall on me, I stumble, stutter, spill— become clumsy and clownish, my radiance fades. It doesn’t matter. Another glorious moment will

sneak up on me, when life’s dull tirades grind me so far down that I need to be lovely again. I keep my beauty, like treasure, in a velvet box ready to be applied, a secret balm for secret pain— a shield against time passing, a curse on clocks. Remember, when you look, the surface that you see is only your impression. It never was me.

There are poems in ‘On the Surface’, such as ‘Kite, Herbertville, 2009’, ‘White on White’ and ‘How to Dance’, that expand the first section’s investigation of the body into an exploration of its reaching out towards others, a ‘random meeting,/ a meaningless touch’. In the final section, ‘Above the Surface’, Green’s poetic assessment of the corporeal transfers into its journeying. While poems such as ‘Seduced by Sky’ and ‘On the Other Hand’ consider ‘in cosmic terms/ who will care/ what I/ do?’ others, such as the six-part meditation upon migration, ‘Baggage’, reflect the search for psychological belonging in the face of geographical unsettlement. As with Adcock and Sullivan, the meaning of human existence is mediated through what the body can and can’t do: what it believes and achieves. All in all, Green’s contribution to such poetic imagining is extensive, meaty, and well supported by the author’s poetic prowess. Fleur Adcock’s The Land Ballot, Jillian Sullivan’s Parallel and Joy Green’s Surface Tension offer powerfully comparable and distinct explorations of the human and


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humanity. Sometimes, the poetry-scapes of these books are family, sometimes strangers; often they are personal, often they are profound. By all means read them individually, but, given how much associative territory they examine, delving into them as a group might be the way to go.


No Normal Woman by Tina Shaw

Vera Magpie by Laura Solomon (Proverse Publishing, Hong Kong, 2013), ebook only, 81 pp, HKD$ 98

Wellington writer Laura Solomon, in this Fay Weldonesque novella, looks at female entrapment, in marriage and in the literal sense of being imprisoned, via the unlikely and sometimes unreliable narrator of Vera Magpie. The story blithely opens with, ‘I have murdered three husbands.’ Vera is currently in prison for being a bit too enthusiastic in knocking off her latest husband. Like many women who kill, Vera is a product of her own flawed past. This is the story of  Vera’s life from childhood, and in particular her experiences with abusive men. Raised in a lighthouse under dubious circumstances, young Vera is abused by her stepfather and bullied at school. She responds by turning mute, and wetting her pants. ‘The lighthouse began to smell like some Barcelona alley.’ When her mother discovers the abuse she kicks out the stepfather. Bill the fisherman moves in and life begins to improve, helped by the regular provision of smoked mackerel. From early on, there is an interesting mix of childhood fantasies of adult life and reality, bringing into question which



is which. Vera makes friends with Ingrid at high school, and the girls form a band. ‘Ingrid did the vocals from behind the drums, like Karen Carpenter, only without the anorexia.’ They call themselves the Devon Duo and experience some success: easily a possible dream scenario in Vera’s offbeat life. Vera gets a job in a laundromat in London and paints in her spare time: ‘great vistas that I saw in my mind; barren red rocky outcrops like the surface of Mars, jagged Carpathian-style mountains, snowy, crystalline expanses, with the sunlight glinting dangerously off the snow’. There is humour in the juxtaposition of Vera’s grandiose landscapes and the prosaic reality of her working life. Fast-forward to the present day, and lawyer Libby Clements is going to defend Vera in a retrial, using Battered Women’s Syndrome as a defence. Vera is studying English literature in prison. The essay topics seem to comment on Vera’s own life as a woman: ‘Sexual politics in Pride and Prejudice’, ‘Gender politics in the novels of Margaret Atwood’ and ‘Innocence lost in twentieth century literature’. This perhaps offers an alternative framing of  Vera’s experiences; there is the unspoken question of whether Vera would have been more fulfilled as a woman if she had remained unmarried. Just as Vera finds redemption (and some answers to the big questions) through education, so too her new friend Shirley—also in prison for murder— expands her horizons. Previously a

hairdresser, Shirley takes inspiration from Vera’s example and starts studying genetics, though when she gets out she’ll stick to the hairdressing. ‘Genetics is just a hobby—something to occupy my mind.’ The narrator’s jokey tone lightens the darker aspects of the novella, as the husbands get knocked off. The first one, Gary the plumber, turns into an abuser once they are married. ‘A normal woman would simply have instigated a divorce, but I was no normal woman. I made him one of my special steak, kidney and death cap mushroom pies.’ Then Vera meets Harry Fennel, IT manager, and they get married. ‘A cake as big as a house. A big meringue of a dress with a train as long as Lady Di’s. A big sloppy kiss to seal the deal. I thought I had finally landed on my feet, thought all my Christmases had finally arrived, come chugging into the station. Then I found out about his cocaine habit.’ No man is perfect, it seems. By the time Vera’s life finally looks rosy, we have to start wondering about her sanity as she knocks off husband #3 for apparently no reason except that she has miscarried twins; as if it is Larry’s fault, she poisons him. It is unfortunate for Larry that Vera has acquired a taste for murder. There is a happy ending for Vera, in the style of one of her own fantasies: the dream becomes reality after all, and there will be no more men—too tempting to knock them off.


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A four-volume boxed set containing over one million words and edited with scrupulous care by John Weir. non-fiction, August, h/b, $200

photography Matt Bialostocki

future Landfall editor swots up

Gary Baigent Clive Wilson’s Renault, Brand New (Bought from Growing Strawberries) but Rolled Twice within a Month, Chancery Street, Auckland 1963.

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Rope Euan Macleod 13 APRIL – 2 MAY 2015

Euan’s exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue with a short story by Damien Wilkins and a short essay by Gregory O’Brien


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Charles Brasch (1909–1973) was a leading poet of his generation and a pre-eminent figure in the development of the arts in New Zealand. This is the first-ever selected edition of Brasch’s poetry. ISBN 978-1-877578-05-2, hardback, 150 pp $35


In this latest collection David Eggleton is court jester/philosopher/ lyricist and a kind of male Cassandra, roving warningly from primeval swampland to gritty cityscape to the information and disinformation cybercloud. ISBN 978-1-877578-93-9, paperback, 122 pp $25


‘[Iain Lonie] wrote a body of poems on love and grief and the searing currents of remembrance that, in New Zealand writing, stands alone.’ — Vincent O’Sullivan. ISBN 978-1-927322-01-7, jacketed hardback, 390 pp, $50

GRACE JOEL An Impressionist Portrait JOEL L. SCHIFF

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We are counting down to

The Kathleen Grattan Award for Poetry 2015


The biennial award is for an original collection of poems, or one long poem, by a New Zealand or Pacific permanent resident or citizen. Previous winners: Siobhan Harvey, Emma Neale, Jennifer Compton, Leigh Davis, Joanna Preston Entries close 31 July 2015. Results will be announced in Landfall 230.


The Landfall Essay Competition 2015 PRIZE: $3000 cash and a year’s subscription to Landfall Recent winners: Diana Bridge, Tim Corballis, Elizabeth Smither, Philip Armstrong, Ian Wedde Entries close 31 July 2015 Results will be announced in Landfall 230


Ivy Alvarez was born in the Philippines and grew up in Tasmania. Her poems have appeared in Poetry Review, Poetry Wales and Best Australian Poems (2009, 2013). Her first poetry collection, Mortal, was published by Red Morning Press in 2006. Ruth Arnison’s poems have appeared in various journals, ezines and anthologies in NZ, Australia, the UK and the US. In her spare time she edits Poems in the Waiting Room, a project supplying free poetry cards to rest homes, medical waiting rooms and prisons. Sandra Arnold has a PhD in Creative Writing (Central Queensland University). She is the author of three books and her short fiction has been published and anthologised in NZ and internationally. She was awarded the 2014 Seresin Landfall Writer’s Residency. Nick Ascroft is a poet, author, editor and publisher who recently returned from the UK to live in Wellington. Sandra Bell is a poet and singer/ songwriter who has had two books of poems published, one by Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop and the other by Kilmog Press. She has released four albums of her songs. Dreams of Falling, from


legendary Dunedin label Xpressway, will be re-released in the US on vinyl next year. Peter Belton is an Invercargill-based artist, art tutor and writer. Peter Bland lives in Auckland. His Collected Poems 1956–2011 appeared from Steele Roberts in 2011. Also that year he received the Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. Iain Britton’s Hauled Head First into a Leviathan (Cinnamon Press) was nominated in the Best First Collection category in the Forward Poetry Prizes 2008. His work was also included in the Shearcatcher Poetry Anthology published by Shearsman Books in 2012. The collection photosynthesis was published in 2014 by Kilmog Press. Victoria Broome is a Christchurch-based poet who works as a mental health counsellor. Owen Bullock has published a collection of poetry, sometimes the sky isn’t big enough (Steele Roberts, 2010), two books of haiku, and the novella A Cornish Story (Palores, UK, 2010). A former editor of Poetry NZ, Kokako, Spin and Bravado, he has also edited anthologies for the New Zealand Poetry Society. He is currently


completing a PhD in Writing at the University of Canberra. Bronwyn Calder lives in Auckland and works in legal publishing. Her story ‘Endless Sea’ won the Graeme Lay Short Story Competition in 2014. Previously she has had stories published in journals and anthologies and has self-published a fantasy novel. Stephanie Christie enjoys exploring how her work takes form in different settings, including recent word installations at the Japanese Garden of Contemplation and outside the museum workshop in Hamilton. She has a day job as an adult literacy tutor. Christina Conrad is a poet, filmmaker and artist whose poems, films and theatrical monologues have featured in numerous festivals and print journals around the world. Tim Corballis is the author of three novels, as well as numerous essays and short stories. In 2014 he was awarded a PhD from the University of Auckland, focusing on aesthetic theory in Antipodean contexts. He is 2015 Victoria University Writer in Residence. R.H.I., a pair of novellas about psychoanalysis and communism, is forthcoming from VUP. Wystan Curnow was born in 1939. His most recent book of poems, The Art Hotel as a Scene of Reading, published last year by Split/Fountain, documented his 2012 collaboration with architect Dino Chai. The Critic’s Part: Wystan Curnow: Art Writings

1971–2013, edited by Christina Barton and Robert Leonard, was published in 2014 by VUP. Isaac Devenport is an Auckland poet. He is currently majoring in creative writing at Auckland University of  Technology. Doc Drumheller was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and has lived in NZ more than half his life. He has published 10 collections of poetry. He lives in Oxford, Canterbury, where he edits and publishes the literary journal Catalyst and teaches creative writing at the School for Young Writers. Adam Dudding is an Auckland-based writer and a journalist for the Sunday StarTimes. Martin Edmond was born in Ohakune and lives in Sydney. His Battarbee and Namatjira, a dual biography of the two artists, came out from Giramondo in 2014. Wednesday’s Child, a memoir, will be published by Bridget Williams Books in 2015. Anna Forsyth is a New Zealand poet based in Melbourne, and author/editor of over 50 titles. Her poems appear in FourW, Blackmail Press, n-Scribe and Enamel. She also moonlights as musician Grace Pageant. John Geraets holds a PhD in English from the University of Auckland. He is a past editor of the innovative writing magazine brief, and has published five books of poems.


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Rata Gordon was born in 1988. She enjoys playing in the spaces between writing, dancing and drawing. Her poems have appeared previously in Landfall, Poetry NZ and JAAM.

been published in Best New Zealand Poems, Evergreen Review (US), Meanjin (Aust) and Stand (UK). Her creative non-fiction has been published in Landfall, Pilgrimage (US) and Segue (US).

Denis Harold is an editor and researcher who lives near Dunedin.

David Howard’s The Incomplete Poems was published by Cold Hub Press in 2011. He held the Robert Burns Fellowship in 2013, and the Otago Wallace Residency in 2014. He is the editor of A Place To Go On From: The collected poems of Iain Lonie (OUP, 2015).

Siobhan Harvey is the author of the 2013 Kathleen Grattan Award-winning poetry collection Cloudboy (Otago University Press, 2014). She is the co-editor of Essential New Zealand Poems, and her poetry

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LANDFALL 230 Edited by David Eggleton To be published November 2015 See landfall/submittingwork.html

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Jessica Le Bas is a poet and a writer of fiction for children. Her poetry collections include incognito (AUP, 2007) which won the Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry, and Walking to Africa (AUP, 2009), shortlisted for the Ashton Wylie Award. She lives in Nelson. Gary Longford is a poet, a fiction and nonfiction writer, and author of 31 books. He is also a painter. He divides his time between Melbourne and Christchurch. Tina Makareti is of Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Ati Awa, Ngāti Maniapoto, Pākehā and Moriori descent. She won the Nga Kupu Ora Fiction Award 2011 for her first short story collection Once Upon a Time in Aotearoa (Random House, 2010), and won the Award again for her first novel, Where the Rēkohu Bone Sings (Random House, 2014). Owen Marshall is a short story writer, novelist and poet. He won the 2013 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Achievement in Fiction. His latest novel is Carnival Sky, published by Random House in 2014, and his most recent collection of poetry is The White Clock (OUP, 2014). Robert McLean is a poet, critic and reviewer currently working as a teacher in Vietnam. His poems have appeared in a wide variety of publications in NZ and internationally. Rob McLeod is a Wellington-based fulltime artist and painter.

Alice Miller currently lives and works in Vienna. She held the Grimshaw Sargeson Fellowship in 2014, and her first collection of poems, The Limits, was published simultaneously by Shearsman and AUP in 2014. Sean Monaghan works in a busy public library. His stories have appeared in Landfall, Takahe and elsewhere. He was the Grand Prize Winner in the 2014 Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest. Justene Musin has been published in Snorkel, Quadrant, Colloquy and Fifty Word Stories. Her script ‘Truthtellers’ was nominated for best unproduced feature film script in the 2013 NZ Writers Guild Awards. She lives in Auckland. Emma Neale is an author, editor and occasional creative writing tutor living in Dunedin. She has had five novels and four collections of poetry published. A new collection, Tender Machines, is due out from OUP in 2015. ‘The How Do We Begin’ is an extract from a longer narrative (working title: ‘Billy Bird’). Stephen Oliver is the author of 17 volumes of poetry. He has travelled extensively and has freelanced as production voice, newsreader, radio producer, columnist, copy and feature writer. After 20 years in Australia he returned to live in NZ. His latest volume, Intercolonial, a book-length narrative poem, was published by Puriri Press in 2013. Claire Orchard lives in Wellington. Her work has been published in various print


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and online journals, including Sport, Landfall, Hue & Cry, JAAM, 4th Floor, Turbine and Penduline Press.

Tina Shaw is the author of six novels, the most recent being The Children’s Pond, published in 2014 by Pointer Press.

Bob Orr is a poet and an Auckland Harbour pilot. His most recent collection of poems, Odysseus in Woolloomooloo, was published by Steele Roberts in 2014.

Jeena Shin was born in Seoul, South Korea, and graduated in Fine Arts from the University of Auckland in 1997. She lives and works in Auckland. Her latest public art projects are architectural sitespecific murals at the Herald Theatre foyer in the Aotea Centre and the Peach Pitt Diner in Karangahape Road.

Dean Parker is an Auckland-based playwright and screenwriter. He has also written occasional pieces for newspapers and magazines. Maggie Rainey-Smith is a Wellingtonbased novelist, short story writer, poet and reviewer. Nicholas Reid is an Auckland poet, historian and teacher, author of three biographies and two general histories. Two of his poetry collections have been published. He runs the literary blog Reid’s Reader. Sue Reidy is the author of three novels and she is also a short story writer, poet and artist. She lives in Auckland. Simon Richardson is an artist who was born in Southland and grew up in Central Otago. He lives and works on the Otago Peninsula. Terence Rissetto is a philosophy graduate from South Auckland. He has had work published in Landfall, Huia Short Stories, Blackmail Press, Penduline and Bold Monkey. In 2014 he was selected for the Te Papa Tupu programme organised by the Māori Literature Trust.


Elizabeth Smither is a New Plymouthbased writer and poet. She won the 2008 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Poetry. Her most recent poetry collection is The Blue Coat (AUP, 2013). Louise Wallace is the author of two collections of poetry: Since June (2009) and Enough (2013), both published by VUP. She is based in Dunedin this year, as the Robert Burns Fellow for 2015. Ben Webb (1976–2014) was a Dunedinbased artist and printmaker, who also spent some time living in Berlin. Pat White is a poet, essayist, memoirist and artist. His collection of memoir essays, How the Land Lies: Of  longing and belonging, was published by VUP in 2010. He held the 2012 Seresin Landfall Writer’s Residency. He is currently working on a volume of new and selected poems.

Sue Wootton’s work includes three collections of poetry (Hourglass, Magnetic South and By Birdlight), a children’s book called Cloudcatcher, and a short story collection called The Happiest Music on Earth (Rosa Mira Press). Her most recent publication is Out of Shape, a letterpress portfolio of poems hand-set and printed by Canberra letterpress artist Caren Florance (Ampersand Duck, 2013). Her website is Mark Young is the Australia-based author of more than 25 books, primarily poetry but also including speculative fiction and art history. His latest collection, Hotus Potus, was published by Meritage Press of California in early 2015. Karen Zelas is a Christchurch poet, playwright and novelist, and the fiction editor of Takahē. Her first collection of poetry, Night’s Glass Table, appeared from Interactive Publications (Brisbane) in 2012. She won the 2013 Playwrights Association of New Zealand Playwriting Competition with her script Poverty and the Muse.

CONTRIBUTIONS Landfall publishes poems, stories, excerpts from works of fiction and non-fiction in progress, reviews, articles on the arts, and portfolios by artists. Written submissions must be typed, with an accurate word count on the last page. Email to landfall@otago. with ‘Landfall submission’ in the subject line, or post to the address below. Visit our website landfall/index.html for further information.

SUBSCRIPTIONS Landfall is published in May and November. The subscription rates for 2015 (two issues) are: New Zealand $50 (including GST); Australia $A52; rest of the world $US53. Sustaining subscriptions help to support New Zealand’s longest running journal of arts and letters, and the writers and artists it showcases. These are in two categories: Friend: between $NZ75 and $NZ125 per year. Patron: $NZ250 and above. Send subscriptions to Otago University Press, PO Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand. For enquiries, email [email protected] or call 64 3 479 8807. Print ISBN: 978-1-877578-90-8  ePDF ISBN: 978-1-927322-42-0 ISSN 00–23–7930 Copyright © Otago University Press 2015 Published by Otago University Press, Level 1, 398 Cumberland Street, Dunedin, New Zealand. Typeset by Otago University Press. Printed in New Zealand by Printlink Ltd.


Simon Richardson, Mila, 2014, 90 x 60 cm. Black and white charcoal on toned paper.