Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Poem: On Not Being Charles Lindbergh

On Not Being Charles Lindbergh

Snow on the ground
cold outlines the curves of our thighs
making love with socks on
thinking about
Charles Nunsegger and Francois Coli
missing over the Atlantic
with ten days’ supply
of caviar and bananas.

*****

I've been a bit slack lately about sending out requests for permission to use poems - so one of my own again today. I really need to get those requests going as I'm running short.
This is an odd wee piece which was included in Flap: The Chookbook 2. Yes, it's a winter poem really, and it's not winter here, but never mind.

I received some newspaper clippings from the Wyoming State Library regarding the obituary of my greatgrandfather's brother who emigrated to Cheyenne, Wyoming from Scotland and died in 1927. On the same page was a fragment of an article about two missing French aviators, so out of curiosity I looked them up on google and found that they had tried to cross the Atlantic a few weeks before Charles Lindbergh made a successful crossing. They were never found. So this poem celebrates those who tried and failed, the unremembered, the also rans.

(You can purchase Flap online at Fishpond by following the link above).

For more Tuesday poems visit the main hub site and check out all the links in the sidebar.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

One Year On




People have an instinct to leave flowers in a place where something terrible has happened, by the roadside where there was an accident, in front of a building where someone was shot. It's not like bringing flowers to a grave where the body has been laid to rest. These flowers are not the same. Someone dies a horrible death, and suddenly the bouquets appear. It's a desperate instinct to leave a mark of innocence on a violent wound, to mark the place where that last twitching nerve of innocence was stilled. ..
Flowers were the very first thing we needed. Before bread. And long before words.
--Anne Michaels in "Winter Vault"

Yesterday as part of the commemorations of the earthquake anniversary, flowers were cast into the city's rivers, and placed in all the road cones around the city (and we have a LOT of road cones, with all the ongoing repairs to underground drainage).

My daughter's comments on the first anniversary of the quake are here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tuesday Poem

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the February 22nd earthquake - not our first earthquake, but the one in which people died. The September 4th (2010) quake, though larger in magnitude, now seems more like a dress rehearsal.

Some of the Tuesday Poets have commemorative poems. Others - not based in Christchurch - have lovely poems on other topics. For myself, as I don't have anything appropriate, and don't really want to post anything else, I have decided to skip a week. You can explore all the Tuesday Poems by visiting the main hub site.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Winter Incident, by Jan Hutchison

Winter incident

A man and a woman
trudge towards the estuary.

Snow falls.
Reeds are bare in the wind.

Silence sinks below the fabric
of their overcoats.
Thoughts are in pocket linings.

They pass a caravan on the verge
then skirt an upturned bucket
with cast-off peelings.

From out of the gloom and scrub
a pukeko struts up to them
as if it were asking a question.

It flicks its tail up and down
stretches its long neck forward
flutters white under-feathers.

Afterwards, either the man or the woman
will remember the pukeko
with wings folded to its body
remember the bird running to the marshes.

The other will remember half-moon
turnip peelings.

"Winter Incident" appears in The Happiness of Rain, Jan Hutchison's new book from Steele Roberts. I was fortunate to attend Jan's book launch last week, a very pleasurable and well-attended celebration. It was difficult for me to choose a poem from the book as there are so many that I enjoyed, with their finely observed detail, particularly of the natural world - though, as can be seen in this poem, people also make frequent appearances.

Thanks to Jan for permission to publish her poem here. She sent me the following rather brief and modest bio:
Jan Hutchison lives in Christchurch.
Her work appears in a variety of publications, including Quadrant, Australia and on-line Snorkel. She came first in the Takahe
International Poetry Competition for 2011. The Happiness of Rain is her third collection.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Visiting the Ancestors

Visiting the Ancestors

We come to Aberdeen in the evening,
plan to stay the night
and pass through Dundee the next day
to visit the ancestors.
We didn't count on North Sea oil.
Rows and rows of B & B's in grey granite
all have their signs out : "No Vacancy"
The big hotel offers us an executive suite,
three hundred pounds a night, too flash for us.
Finally we find a phone booth,
drive south on the motorway,
leave them all behind.
Machines whirring at the Verdant Works
where great grandfather William is busy spinning ropes.
Young Edith skips in the street outside the "steamies"
where her mother does the laundry. Her big sisters
rolling hoops on the cobblestones.
The smell of marmalade wafts towards us from Keillor's factory.
Newsboys are calling – Scott lost in the Antarctic,
and away in the south the rigging creaks as his ship
makes its slow way back to rest at anchor here.
It’s crewed by great grandfather Samuel's navy mates
from the days before a wife and children anchored him to shore.
Later his son will meet the girl from Dundee
and make her his wife, but for now
they all disappear into the night
as we drive past Dundee in the dark.

copyright Catherine Fitchett

first published in Takahe no 74

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site

(Thanks to my daughter S for assistance with the new layout of my blog. The header was put together from photographs of a sculpture situated at Paihia School in the Bay of Islands. More on the sculpture in this story

Sunday, February 05, 2012

When to Fake an Earthquake

Sage Cohen is a poet, writer and teacher who blogs (very entertainingly) at The Path of Possibility. A year or so ago, I received a copy of her book "The Productive Writer" which I intended to review on my blog. I read the whole book - but last year, I wasn't being very productive. In fact I was hardly writing at all (though I did send out a number of submissions of old work). And, well - it is hard to talk about being a productive writer while being unproductive.

I continued to enjoy Sage's newsletters, and a few weeks back, her post When to Fake a Head Injury, jogged me into action. I had started writing poems again, though sometimes only a line or two a day. I re-read the book and gathered my thoughts together.

I didn't have to fake an earthquake last year. In fact, at last count we have had around 9,500 earthquakes, including one magnitude three or more on average every four hours. But that wasn't what was stopping me from writing. We were without power for two days, and without running water for a week. But never without pencil and paper! No, the reason that I wasn't writing was - well, I just wasn't writing. Clearly, my experience shows that no amount of hints on being a productive writer will substitute for the will to start. And when, early in the book, I found suggestions of how one might structure writing time, given three hours a day, I thought maybe this book wasn't for me. I was wrong.

I realised as I got further into the book that there is something in it for everyone. Whether you are writing full time or fitting it in during coffee breaks at your day job - whether you are a poet, novelist or non-fiction writer - there will be something that you can find useful. For instance, since re-reading the book, I have vamped up my systems for keeping track of submissions and publications. I have also found Sage's discussion of "platform" helpful in thinking about the things I do in my writing life, and how they fit together - going to local open mic events, taking part in Tuesday Poem, entering competitions and submitting work. Which possibilities are worth pursuing and which don't really fit my goals?

I can recommend the book, and also Sage's blog. You can, if you wish, have new posts sent to you regularly by e-mail. I do!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Earthquake Update


This afternoon I headed up the Rapaki Track for the first time in nearly a year. It's a popular track with mountain bikers, joggers and walkers. However after the February 22nd quake (2011) it was closed for many months due to rockfall hazard. On December 23rd, at midday, the announcement was made that it had reopened. And then two hours later, there was another quake, and one an hour after that, so it was again closed.

It seems that all the issues have been resolved, although there is still this sign at the start of the track. Many other tracks are still officially closed. For instance, the valley track in the gully below, where my favourite grumpy faced rock resides (at least, I hope it still resides there and wasn't a casualty of the earthquakes), and where a lone piper used to be heard practising from time to time.

On the Summit Road at the top of the track, there is a substantial road barrier - not one, but four rows of orange poles, then some heavy concrete barriers and a locked gate with a very official looking sign:


You can't quite read the small print in the photo, but it warns of a penalty of a very heavy fine or up to three months imprisonment, under the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act (some section or other), for ignoring the "No Entry" warning.

I used a lot of zoom to take this photograph:


This is on the other side of the Summit Road from the top of the track, it is the end of the cliff which used to be a popular rock climbing area. I very much doubt that it will be considered safe enough for rock climbing for a long time.

In other news, a link to my daughter's post on the process of her earthquake-related house repairs - now nearly completed. And as for ours - well, today we had an assessor sent by our insurance company. Seven months ago, the EQC (government natural disaster insurance organisation) assessed the house. And they have now decided that it is over the cap - (see explanation below) - so they passed the claim over to our insurance company. How this took seven months to decide I can't quite fathom. I guess it just sat in a pile of 100,000 or so other claims for that time, not being looked at. Today's assessor agreed that the damage was well over the EQC $100,000 cap - though he also told me that the house had "stood up pretty well". In other words, along with the chimney that fell down, the front of the house that needs to be jacked up, and a few doors that don't open or shut properly, there are enough cracks in ceilings, wall linings and exterior cladding to add up to a considerable sum to fix - but structurally, the house is not in any danger of falling down - unlike some.

For those overseas readers who are unfamiliar with the New Zealand earthquake insurance system - after the big 1931 Napier earthquake, the government set up the Earthquake Insurance Commission, which was supposed to cover damage to private houses (not businesses) from natural disasters. It is funded by a levy on all insurance policies. But the annual levy, and the limit on cover, were last reviewed in, I think, 1989, so have rather failed to keep pace with inflation. This means that EQC will cover damage up to $100,000 (plus GST - a type of sales tax) which in 1989 was the full cost of the average house. So, for the Christchurch earthquake, the system that is running is this:
Damage under $10,000 is paid out in cash and you organise your own repairs.
For damage between $10,000 to $100,000, Fletchers, a big construction company, have been appointed to oversee the repair process. This is to avoid having lots of "cowboy" contractors and price hikes due to the overwhelming demand for tradespeople. Fletchers then appoint subcontractors to do the repairs (the process my daughter has just been through).
And the third level - if it is above that, the $100,000 is paid either to your bank, if you have a mortgage, or to the homeowner, and the insurance company takes over from there.

I'm not too disturbed that we are over the limit, I had long suspected as much and wondered why no one had said so before. In fact, I think in some ways it will be easier to have only the insurance company to deal with, and not the rest of the bureaucracy. As to when anything will happen, along with most of the rest of the population of Christchurch, I have no idea. No doubt some time before I die, if that's not unexpectedly soon!