Monday, November 29, 2010

Tuesday Poem

The Tuesday Poem community is an initiative by New Zealand writer Mary McCallum, and others , to post a poem every Tuesday. Thirty writers each post a poem on their own blog, and each week there is one post on the main Tuesday Poem hub site.

I have finally taken the plunge and joined them.

This week, the Pike River Coal Mine disaster has been much on our minds here in the South Island. And so, I thought of Jim Brock and his book The Sunshine Mine Disaster. Jim is an associate professor of English at Florida Gulf Coast University, who blogs at Gods and Money. He has kindly allowed me to post a poem from his collection this week.

Of course, each mining accident is different. The Sunshine Mine Disaster took place in a silver mine in Idaho. There are similarities but there are also differences, nevertheless it is a fine collection of poems. Some address the disaster more directly, others are concerned with the miners involved. I was attracted to Aubade because although we don't have elk here, we do have deer - not native to New Zealand, but introduced for hunting - and I'm sure many of the West Coast miners would have been keen hunters in their spare time.

Aubade: Good Daylight

If a man doesn’t like to rush,
and I don’t, he can spend a half hour
in the dry-house: pull on his t-shirt,
overalls, wool socks, steel-toed

rubber boots, helmet, belt,
battery pack and light, a denim
jacket. And still time to make
good daylight at 6:30 a.m.

in Big Creek Canyon. Most
Mays, on the ridge above the Crescent
Mine, you can see ten or
twelve head of elk below the snow

line. It’s easy, in this work,
to think of cave paintings, when
you see wildlife in the dawn’s
light, before pounding the face

with dynamite, mucking out
the rock, clearing the new ground.
But I don’t like that kind
of confusion. Extraction counts

for nothing, save the pay dirt.
And those paintings are just some
lines, guttural and round, copies
of animals that had come out

of nowhere and had nowhere
to go on this slow earth. Today
three elk appear, two females
and a calf, feeding off

the greening bitter-brush. To the
calf, I say, “Grow fat, bastard,”
as I measure the distances of two
Octobers with a thumb, a hair



Footnote: My own poem, Blue, is the Tuesday Poem at Helen Lowe's website this week.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quilts in the Library

The library where we had our book launch was hosting an exhibition of quilts this month. I was too busy the day of the launch to look, but I went back later.

These quilts are made by the members of the Refugee and Migrant Quilt Group. Each quilt had a card displayed with it telling the name of the maker and something about her. The women are from many countries, predominantly Asia but also Egypt, Jordan and Latvia among others. The group is a place where they can learn not just sewing skills, but English, and in addition make new friends. The quilts range from very simple to more comples - here are a few details from some of the more complex ones:

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Big Tent Poetry

This week's prompt at Big Tent Poetry was a wordle.
The words offered: hung, ash-pit, forklifted, boiler, nib, clunk, hand, awake, resurfaced, passed, cupped, lush.
I let them sit in my mind for a couple of days until I came across this post at one of my favourite science blogs, The Artful Amoeba.

This is the result (I worked in most of the words)


When he hears the clunk of the blade
in soft soil, the bulldozer driver climbs down
to find a massive bone. This soft earth
cupped in a hollow in the mountains
is now revealed as the site of an ancient swamp.
Lush grass bordered its edges.
Animals blundered in, bogged down,
while the peak hung above.
Work now stops. The driver moves to another job,
experts are called in to see
what has resurfaced.
Later, the driver returns
to read the story, written
not with nib on paper,
but in rows of exhibits - ancient grass seeds,
fragment of an iridescent beetle,
wood marked with glyphs by the teeth
of a prehistoric beaver. He passes
rows of bones - sloth, salamander, bison -
to gaze at the huge tusks,
imagines himself at the controls
of such a beast,
all that opposes him
forklifted and tossed lightly
into the air.
He raises a hand in salute.


It's rough, but I'm not too worried about that. Lately, I've started revising old poems from a year or two back. I've discovered the "housework method" of editing is remarkably successful. I read over and think about the poem for about ten minutes or so. Then I leave it alone and go and do housework. (Gardening works too, or a walk, or a long soak in the bathtub if actual work doesn't appeal). Somehow my subconscious keeps on working at the poem and I figure out what needs fixing, and how to fix it. So I'll probably put this one away for a year or so as well, and then come back to it.

To see what others did with these words, go here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What's a Doorbell For?

When I got up this morning, I went outside to collect the newspaper, and found a card from the courier service on our back doorstep. They had tried to deliver a parcel but we were "unavailable".

So I phoned to arrange an alternative. On Wednesdays and Fridays I work near the courier depot, which is on the other side of town. so I asked to pick it up at the depot, hoping it would be there by late afternoon when I was on my way home. I called for it about five fifteen, but it hadn't made it back to the depot. That courier must be having a long day, since it was around seven thirty when he left the card.

At that point, I thought that I had better try and get it redelivered tomorrow, because otherwise I couldn't pick it up until Friday. When I asked for it to be redelivered, I said "and please ask him to ring the doorbell". That's when I found out that the courier drivers are not allowed to ring the doorbell!. Apparently, they got too many complaints from shift workers that the courier driver woke them up by ringing the doorbell.

Well, from my viewpoint, if you have a doorbell, it is so that people can ring it. (Especially in a large house like ours, where we just don't hear a knock at the door). And if you have a parcel sent by courier, you are paying extra for prompt delivery, not to make the recipient run all over town trying to collect the parcel. Shift workers should disable the doorbell if they really don't want it rung. And then the rest of us can get our parcels delivered promptly.

There is now a large message left for the courier driver that he is to ring the doorbell on the instructions of the customer. Hopefully, all is now well, until next time at least. And I will take delivery of the parcel, whatever it is, in the morning.

End of small rant :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Paper Butterflies

It was sunny yesterday, so I went to take a photograph of the paper butterflies mentioned in the poem in my previous post:

(actually they weren't paper, but some sort of fabric - just as well given Saturday's heavy rain)

and while I was there I noticed the sunbathers on a nearby roof:

These houses are part of Urban Rooms - a scheme that provides reasonably priced accommodation for medium term visitors - those staying a month or more, often international students studying English in Christchurch. They really brighten up the area!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Poem

Just when you thought it was safe
to put the jars back on the shelf,
the wine in the rack,
the books in the book case,
there is another tremor.

Just when you thought it was safe
to hang the pictures on the wall,
plaster over the cracks,
build castles in the air,
the earth is shaking again.

The city is all falling bricks and blossoms.
You keep a torch by your bed,
water in the cupboard,
stack heavy books along the foot
of the walls, put Blu-Tak under everything,
tie cupboard doors shut.

Your chimney has toppled,
your neighbour's house is off kilter,
your friend's buisness has shut its doors.

And then, just when you thought it was safe
to mope in corners, dress in black,
put on your gloomiest face,
there is music in the park,
the first strawberries of summer,
the generosity of strangers,
sunlight sparkling on fountains
and you drive down the street
past a tree filled with paper butterflies.


I thought it was time I wrote something for Big Tent Poetry, but instead of writing to their prompt I chose something else. I'm not doing the November poem a day challenge but I have been following the blogs of several who are. A few days ago the prompt was Just when you thought it was safe followed the next day by "a stacking poem". I've been resisting writing an earthquake poem - I'm sure we will be inundated by earthquake poetry at all the poetry readings in Christchurch in the next few months - but this prompt seemed made for an earthquake poem. I'm sure this is not the best I have to write on the subject, but it's a start.

The photo at the head of the post is a church I passed yesterday when I took a different route home from work than usual. I shot it through the mesh of the safety fence surrounding the grounds. I was going to photograph the tree full of paper butterflies, but there wasn't any parking nearby. I may manage to do so later in the weekend, if it stops raining.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Poetry Quote

Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo - Don Marquis

A quote that particularly appealed to me in light of our recent book launch!
You can receive writing quotes in your in box each day by sending a blank e-mail to:

Christchurch: A Safe Place to Park Your Car

On the news tonight: Tauranga is the most dangerous city in New Zealand to park your car. Apparently there are more than 200% more claims for damage to parked cars in Tauranga than anywhere else in New Zealand. About a third of these happen in supermarket car parks.

Christchurch is the safest place.
Unless there is an earthquake and this happens:

Not a very well-timed piece of news, perhaps! And I was going to say that we had had a quiet few days, but there was another small aftershock while I was typing.
Although it's good to know that we have courteous drivers.
(On the other hand,it was reported that nine out of ten people who ding parked cars don't leave a note on the windscreen).

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Earthquakes in Black and White

The council has sent contractors to repair the cracks in our street. So, instead of cracks a few millimetres wide (some of which were caused by the earthquake, and ran straight across the street - and some more irregular ones which may or may not be earthquake related) we now have wonderful calligraphic lines in black tar. An example above.

I was trying to think of which photos in my files might loo good desaturated for Carmi's black and white theme, since I always shoot in colour, and then I thought of these lines and strolled down the street to take a few photographs.

We had quite a restful week, earthquake wise. And then I started to tackle a heap of ironing, a bit at a time. After the first couple of times, I found myself thinking "Do I really still need to put the iron away each time? Since we don't seem to have had any aftershocks for a while?" Fortunately, I decided that I really did. Because we had about three in the night, one of which woke me at one thirty in the morning, and another equally strong one late afternoon today - either of which seemed potentially strong enough to topple an iron left out on a tall narrow ironing board. Probably by the time the aftershocks really stop (I'm told they could go on for a year), it will be an ingrained habit to put it away every time.

Somewhere I read that the count is now around 2900. Of course, apart from the scientists, nobody here is still counting. And there are plenty I've slept through, or not noticed through being in a moving car or other such place, or out of the country for two weeks - but no doubt if I'd counted I'd be up to a few hundred.

People are complaining of the slowness of the assessment process for insurance. I can understand that those whose houses are uninhabitable want it sorted. But for minor damage, I suspect slowness is a good thing. Not all the cracks in our walls and ceilings were there straight after the first quake. I'd like to think that by the time the assessors come around, all the damage that is going to appear will have finished appearing.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Flap: The Book Launch

It has been a busy few days, starting with the launch of our poetry book Flap: The Chook Book 2 on Saturday.
Well, actually, starting before that, since this was a co-operative effort, and there was catering to be done. So evenings last week, and Saturday morning, were spent baking mini-muffins, ready for the launch at 1 p.m.

We had a great time and it was a welcome diversion from aftershocks of which there were quite a cluster on Friday evening and Saturday morning. I'm beginning to realise why one never reads much mention in the newspapers of the duration of aftershocks, which apparently can go on for months. Because after all, what is there to be said? Reporting that "we had another aftershock" simply becomes repetitive in a very short time. And we have all long since lost count of how many.

There's a bit of a shortage of structurally sound function rooms in Christchurch at the moment, but fortunately the room we had booked at the lovely modern Christchurch South Library was undamaged. We sold books, our MC Fiona Farrell gave a warm and generous speech to launch the book, we thanked all the many people who had a part in its production - cover design, layout, printers, Creative Communities for grant funding, and the support from the library staff. Then we each read two poems from the book, and then we relaxed and celebrated.

From left to right: The Poetry Chooks: Victoria Broome, Christina Stachurski, Catherine Fitchett (myself), Barbara McCartney, with Fiona Farrell our MC and editorial advisor.

Lynda who took these photos didn't stay for the readings and speeches, I am still waiting on photos taken later from my husband as he took them in RAW format and so I can't import them directly onto my computer.

Helen Lowe is featuring poems from the book as her choice for Tuesday Poem over the next few weeks. Here is the first of her selections : Victoria Broome's The Foreign Office

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thematic Photographic: Electric

This photo may not appear at first glance to have anything to do with Carmi's theme for this week - Electric.
Reefton is a tiny town on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, just an ice cream stop for us on our road trip last February. However it was once a busy gold mining centre, and later a centre for coal mining.

The reason I posted this photo was that in 1888 Reefton became the first town in the Southern Hemisphere to be lit by electricity. You can read more of the history of Reefton here.

(The book launch was a great success. I will post about it when I have gathered my thoughts a little. Looking forward to a much quieter week next week).

Thursday, November 04, 2010

More on the Book Launch

I have been spending most evenings this week baking mini muffins for the book launch on Saturday. I think the family is going to be well-fed on the rejects - the too cooked or not cooked enough, and the ones where I left out the baking powder!

I like Alison Holst's cook books very much, but she insists on using self raising flour which is not really a New Zealand thing. Why pay a lot more for self raising flour when you can just buy regular flour and add the baking powder yourself? The trouble is, a couple of times, I forgot to add it. On one of those occasions, I realised a minute after I had put the muffins in the oven, so I pulled them out, scraped out the mixture, stirred in the baking powder and put them back. They are OK but a bit chewy when over-mixed. And the ones that didn't have baking powder at all taste not too bad, but they look sad and flat. I still have Friday night and Saturday morning to bake a few more batches!

I have been asked about purchasing the book overseas. At the moment we are handling all the sales ourselves, so you can e-mail me at upsidedownpoet at gmail dot com to order a copy. You can post a personal cheque in any major currency, or pay through my husband's Paypal account. I can calculate the appropriate exchange rate if necessary. I am also looking into what I need to do to have it available online at Fishpond, New Zealand's on line book store.

Two of our group will be interviewed on Plains FM's Women on Air programme on Saturday morning (actually they have recorded the interview already, but it will play on Saturday morning). It's possible this will be available as a podcast, if so I will post the link.

Congratulations to Victoria, one of the group, who has been shortlisted for the Kathleen Grattan poetry award.

And here we are on the Christchurch library blog.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

More Yellow

I think I may have posted some of these images before, but yellow is my favourite colour, and I couldn't resist sharing a few more.

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Part of History

I came across this photo when I was searching through my files for yellow images. I decided to post it, not because I think it's a particularly good photo, but because this building (photographed last year) is now history, having been badly damaged in the earthquake. It was demolished shortly after, and there is nothing there but a bare plot of land.

There is some discussion about using at least some of the bare plots as gardens until such time as they are built on again, instead of the default option of temporary parking lot. I hope this eventuates, the city could use the beautification.

I spent part of the weekend walking round the house with a pen and paper listing all the cracks in ceilings. These are mostly a result of aftershocks, rather than the original quake. And some were there before, but trying to remember which is a challenge. After all, most older houses have some settling over the years. I think that most of the damage is probably surface, as a result of the ceiling panels flexing in the shocks and tearing the lining paper. But we will put in an insurance claim and have it assessed to be sure.

For more yellow photos, visit Thematic Photographic here