Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Red Door

Red door, Poplar St in the Lichfield Lanes area.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Surfacing Again

For a while, I was struck by spring fever - making the most of the first of the warm weather to get out in the garden, and pursue other projects. I didn't intend to take more than a few days break from blogging. But for many reasons I did take a longer break, and what it comes down to is that I have enough routine obligations in my life, without imposing another one on myself.

Still, I don't want my many loyal readers (two or three, I suspect) to think I've disappeared into a dark hole.

When I started blogging I came across the Daily Photo Blogs from cities around the world. It occurred to me it would be cool to post a daily Christchurch photo, but I resisted the temptation, knowing that it would be hard to keep up the once a day routine. Instead, Michelle took up the challenge, and I have been enjoying her vision of our city here.

I still like to get out from time to time and explore parts of the city I haven't really discovered properly. Last weekend I did just that, taking a stroll through the Lichfield Lanes area. These are supposed to "revitalise the inner city". Which means that there are a lot of bars and restaurants, and that at midday on a Sunday it is very quiet, almost deserted.

There are some rather quirky wall decorations

and I wasn't the only person taking photographs.

More photos to come.

And on a different note, when I arrived home from work today, I found I had won $200.00 worth of book tokens in a prize draw from North and South magazine. That's about six to eight good quality paperbacks worth (books are dear in New Zealand) but still a very nice amount to dream of spending. Doing the happy dance !

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Virtual Book Tour: At Night the Dead

Welcome to the sixth stop on Readwritepoem's Virtual Book Tour.
I have to say that I found Lisa Ciccarello's chapbook At Night, the Dead challenging to review. My poetry tastes tend towards what is often described as "accessible" although not too accessible. I found the sections of this book a little more mysterious and confusing than my usual poetic reading matter. If another member of my poetry group had brought them along, I would certainly be asking many questions - what do you mean here? I don't understand this. Why did you use this word?

The work is unusual in that it appears to be intended as a whole, since each section - apparently from the layout, a prose poem - has the same title. This is not the action of a poet who might publish any of them separately. The first starts with an air of menace -
You lock the door. You lock the window. You dream of the dead.

Initially, the sense of the dead being a threat that is somehow not quite defined is what I took from the book. Then I read Jill's review in which she says the dead love us. I went back to re-read and found that there too.

The dead need someone to smile at

Their love is just a little series of letters

The sections are full of very striking images. The moon is a plug to stopper the dark, it is a coin on the eye of the dead, it is an ember. The sky smells like tea.

There is a good deal of repetition. The dead, the moon, salt, coins, the dark. I feel the poems walk a fine line between being darkly obsessive and merely repetitive and boring. Sometimes they wobble a little, but never quite fall off the tightrope. In fact, on each re-reading, I notice details that I missed the first time, and they grow richer. In "accessible" poems, this happens less, because they offer a clear picture which we understand on first reading, and put all the pieces in place. With these poems which I find harder to understand, the mind at first rejects the details that don't fit the initial picture. Words change their meaning - salt appears to be symbolic, but what is it symbolic of? Does salting the sills keep the dead away, or does it feed the dead?

You salt the sills from the inside...
The dead...have no salt. Each one takes a grain of salt

The music of the poems also interested me. The sound does not always appear to flow smoothly. It is sometimes chopped up into many short sentences

A heart is just soil. Ask anyone. A heart is blinks. A long blink is a scream. A longer blink is sleep. All night a scream. There must be someone else

At other times there are long sentences with many clauses in which it is difficult to find a place to take a breath.

Regardless, when certain fish then jumped their eyes were coins made luminous by the luminous coin of the moon which was part of the earth almost recently enough to still remember the heat.

It is not that it is unmusical, but that to me it resembles modern music (modern "classical" music, that is, not "pop") - sometimes fragmented, sometimes discordant, not always easily singable but more exciting and compelling for its surprises.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

On Holiday with Laptops

There are two reasons for going on holiday. One is to visit new places, take part in new activities and do all sorts of fun stuff that you wouldn't do at home. The other is to do all the relaxing that you don't have time to do at home. Technically, you could take a holiday at home and do that, but you would see all sorts of things calling at you, like the garden that needs weeding, so it's more relaxing to go somewhere else.

I suspect most people fall on a line somewhere between the two extremes - for me, I'm a little closer to the "doing new things" end of the continuum than the rest of my family. Or at least, so I believe.

I don't own a laptop - my computer is a desktop Mac computer which I like very much. I'm quite happy to leave it home when I go on holiday. Picture this - four people in a hotel room (timeshare, actually), three of them absorbed by the contents of their laptop computers, and me with a book. Only I finished the book, eventually, and anyway, I'm not used to having time to read a whole book uninterrupted, and I get restless.

So here's what I did on everyone else's "rest day"

I went for a walk up the hill through beautiful native bush

The view from the top, firstly towards the small town of Russell across the bay ( you can see the ferry heading from Russell towards Paihia)

and secondly towards Waitangi, where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed in 1840 (Most of the buildings are in fact the Copthorne Hotel, the treaty grounds are behind that)

and later in the day, after school was out, I went over the road and indulged my curiosity about the sculpture in the school grounds

The sculpture by Martha Meyer and the children of Paihia School was inspired by a long list of artists, including Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Antonio Gaudi and Friedrich Hundertwasser. Hundertwasser is the artist responsible for New Zealand's most photographed public toilet which is in Kawakawa, a small town near Paihia where we stayed.

And here it is:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Travels with Tammy

We were accompanied on our travels by a Satnav system with a friendly female voice, who my daughters promptly nicknamed Tammy. Once our destination was entered, the screen showed that we had to turn left in about 200 kilometres, so it was straight up the east coast of the island.

Tammy was all you could want in a best friend and guide. Always calm, she told us "in 200 metres turn left", and then as the turn approached "turn left". But if we made a mistake, she never berated us. Instead, she recalculated, and either told us to "turn when possible" or found a different route for us. Never a regret about past actions - just "how do we get there from here?" Even when we confused her by diverting from our route to find a restroom, or a KFC store.

Once in a while, though, Tammy was wrong, and we had to trust our instincts. According to Tammy, this is not a road (her screen showed us driving across country):

(It was too new to show on her map).

On the other hand, Tammy thinks this is a road:

This is the vehicle ferry across Cook Strait, which shows as a toll road. Just out of curiosity, we asked for an alternative route with no tolls, but she failed to find one. She must have failed to consult these men who sailed their van across, perhaps inspired by Top Gear

Tammy does not think this is a road:

or this:

but in fact both are legal highways. The first photo is of Ninety Mile Beach, which is actually only 55 miles long -still by far New Zealand's longest beach. We drove up it after a careful check of the tides. The Satnav screen showed us surrounded by water, and after a while Tammy stopped saying "turn when possible" and merely showed a dotted red line connecting us across country with the nearest road she could find. Tourist buses take this route every day, but there are signs warning cars they proceed at their own risk. But my husband is a confident driver, and we made it with no problems after a careful check of the tides. In fact, we drove too far up the beach having missed the turn off up the stream, and asked directions from a friendly fisherman. The second photo shows the route off the beach up the Te Paki Stream. You can see the tyre tracks we were following disappearing into the water (shallow, fortunately). It's the only place I've ever seen a road sign which says "Caution Increase Speed". (To avoid getting stuck in the sand). Then, near the top where you emerge onto a properly formed road, there is a sign sticking out of the stream which warns "Caution Oncoming Traffic" which made the girls crack up with laughter.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Thematic Photographic: Shiny

Here's a shiny fellow, and his female friend, that I met on my travels. Sadly, he put his tail down before I could manoeuvre myself to take a front-on shot (I think my daughter has a great one, though, I must check)

for more "shiny" photos head on over to see Carmi.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Home Again

Actually, I've been home for a few days. However, we arrived home on Sunday evening, and I was back to work first thing Monday. And then there was the backlog of mail, and e-mails, and laundry to catch up on. Not to mention a couple of engagements on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. So I have hardly had a spare moment since I returned.

I'm just beginning to sort, label and edit my photographs.

I intended to do some revision of old poems while I was away, and maybe even write some new ones. I took a fat folder with me. But somehow, once I was there, I didn't want to write. We did a fair bit of sightseeing, and on "relaxation days", I did some reading, and some walking locally. In general, it was a time for what Julia Cameron calls "filling the well".

Now I'm back, and wanting to write, but without the time. Maybe this weekend...

Here's a small taste of where we went. More to come