Monday, January 30, 2012

Tuesday Poem: The Bird, by Victor Hugo

Be like the bird, who
Pausing in his flight
On limb too slight
Feels it give way beneath him
Yet sings
Knowing he has wings.

- Victor Hugo
(translator unknown)

I walk to and from work most days, if I can get up early enough (it takes about half an hour each way). On my walks, I often find myself not noticing my surroundings, as my mind goes its own way. So I try to counteract this tendency and deliberately notice what is around me, jotting down half a dozen small observations per day.

Last week I noticed a sparrow land on a dandelion stalk, which promptly bent itself horizontal under the bird's weight. The sparrow ended up perched over the gutter like a tightrope walker, before it flew off. I thought there might be poem material there somewhere - then coincidentally, a day or two later, I found the above on the internet. You can see it as a rather charming Youtube video - I tried, but failed, to embed it, so you will need to click on the link.

From my google search it seems that this is the whole poem, although most of Victor Hugo's poems are longer. If I am wrong and anyone can enlighten me as to the rest, please leave a comment.

Victor Hugo (1802 - 1885) was a poet, playwright and novelist. Within France his fame comes first from his poetry, but outside France he is best-known for his plays, Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Year in Photos: September to December 2011

Somehow January seems to have raced away on me, but I didn't want to abandon the "year in photos" series half done. So here is a very quick round up of the rest of the year.

September (after returning from holiday);

I started hill walking again

The "Earth from Above" photo exhibition was part of the Christchurch Arts festival.


We had a minor flood.

Which soaked these flags - displayed on a pre-school fence for the Rugby World Cup

The new temporary "Restart" shopping mall opened

But the city's water reservoirs still have earthquake damage that needs fixing - hence, water restrictions this summer.


I took the opportunity to walk into Cathedral Square (the temporary walkway has now closed again, as there are ongoing demolitions)

I took a weekend trip to Wellington, where I had the uneasy feeling of being among high rise buildings for the first time in a long while - here the new reflects the old.


I visited the Antarctic Centre. The penguins are there because they have injuries which mean they are unable to be released into the wild.

Made the traditional Christmas pudding..

Even the most temporary buildings were getting into the Christmas spirit.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Piano, by D H Lawrence


Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

D H Lawrence 1885 - 1930

I bought quite a few poetry books last year, including the Penguin Classics edition of D H Lawrence's "Selected Poems" which I picked up at Scorpio Books' annual sale. I haven't read it all yet, and previously I was familiar only with "Snake" which we studied at school - not long after the release of his novel "Lady Chatterley's Lover", some thirty years after his death, to a storm of protest over whether or not it should remain banned.

The earlier poems in the book are rhymed metric poems, as in "Piano", from the collection "New Poems" published in 1918. At a quick glance, I prefer these to many of the later, free verse poems - not so much because they are rhymed and metric as because some of the later ones seem a little petulant - full of claims such as "bats are disgusting" and "how beastly the bourgeois are".

This poem is more quietly nostalgic but not without interest. I find it particularly striking that in contrasting the great black piano and the classical singer with the old upright piano of his home, it is the humble childhood to which he ascribes "glamour". And the image of the child sitting under the piano and pressing his mother's feet I find very appealing.

D H Lawrence was born into a miner's family in Nottinghamshire in 1885, the fourth of five children. He wrote novels, plays, short stories and poems. He travelled extensively in Europe, Australia, America and Mexico, and died from tuberculosis in the south of France in 1930 at the age of 44.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday Poem: White



white is proud
she scorns light's caress
returns all gifts
has no form
does not possess
her own shadows


the baptismal gown
the daisy chain
the picket fence
the clean sheet

the fallen petals
the spider’s web
the far mountains
the ghost moon

the sharp fang
the winding cloth
the sepulchre
the bleached bones

I have been tidying up my computer files - initially, a relatively simple system of filing my poems and recording submissions was fine, but over the years the number has grown and the information is scattered, so I have started recording all published poems on one spreadsheet.

"White" is a poem from some years back, first published in Takahe issue 50. I always wanted to make it three sections, but the third didn't want to be found, so it remained at two.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site. (Check out the blogs listed in the sidebar).

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Year of Photos: August 2011 part 2

At the end of August we went for ten days to Queensland - first to Bargara, near Bundaberg for a few days and then a week in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast. I have far too many photos to post all of the halfway interesting ones - I found when selecting that I was drawn most to the wildlife photos. It turns out that on holiday, I like to photograph birds. lot.

First though, one for Carmi since his Thematic Photographic theme this week is "after dark". This is taken in the centre of Bundaberg - not a very large place, but the home of a well-known brand of ginger beer, and a similarly well-known brand of rum.

Now for some Australian birds:

A magpie - I think

One of the many species of honeyeater


We photographed these baby birds for quite some time, trying to get a good shot. The parents were flying in and out, feeding them. Unfortunately the only shots that I managed to get with the parents in action were blurred.

And some other wildlife:

We saw the goanna when we took a cruise through the Noosa Everglades, and the dingo was spotted on the beach at Fraser Island, where we took a four wheel drive safari - it is all sand dune territory and the roads are very rough.

The sea eagle was perched on a tree in the everglades, too.

Just for variety, a sign from the art gallery in Bundaberg:

And a sunset to round things off:

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Year of Photos: August 2011

Engineers appeared in our area, checking the soil strength for rebuilding.

There was a craft fair in town:

I found a new area to walk in, which included this beautiful garden:

where I photographed this fellow:

These two were captured at twilight, closer to home:

We had a second big snowfall (this street is near my work - I walked there as it was easier than driving through the snow)

The central city was still cordoned off:

At the end of August we flew away on holiday for ten days, but that deserves its own post.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Year in Photos: July 2011

In July I attempted to take photos that weren't earthquake related, such as these smiley balloons (because we could all do with a smile or two)

and the postmen's bicycles lined up outside their depot (something about items in a row that attracts me)

I took another trip out to the seaside suburb of Sumner to see how Shag Rock had fared in the June quakes - not very well:

and to look around the little shops and galleries there

Bandaids were appearing on buildings around town:

This sculpture, erected at the end of 2010, framed the earthquake damaged and cordoned off High Street:

And at the end of the month we had the first of two big snowstorms - almost monochrome, but the Portaloo and orange road cones add a touch of colour.

I ended the month with another smiley photo - I found this one outlined in twigs when shovelling snow in my driveway.

The Year in Photos: June 2011

Back to the year in photos series:

June was the middle of winter, and I didn't take many photos as the light was mostly gone when I finished work for the day.

Demolition started on our local supermarket which made rather a nonsense of the "welcome" sign.

Demolition of other buildings in the city was revealing interesting graffiti previously hidden.

More large earthquakes struck on June 13th causing liquefaction to appear in the streets again.

But many rallied to help, including this "earthquake dog" spotted in a nearby street.

The scaffolding round the historic Provincial Council Chambers, erected after the February 22 quake, was a tumbled mess of pick up sticks after June 13th.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Knox Church, Bealey Avenue

Knox Church in Bealey Avenue featured heavily in news footage of the February 22nd earthquake as it is on the edge of the area that was the red zone cordon. It provided the backdrop for much of the commentary on the badly damaged state of the city's many old Anglican churches - despite itself being a Presbyterian church. Much of the brick cladding had fallen off. Since then, almost all the rest has been gradually taken down. The structural supports and the fine timber ceilings, however, are largely undamaged and I understand the church is to be rebuilt. In the last few weeks, the building has been lit from within at night as a sign of hope for the future.

At a media briefing today, scientists finally revealed what we had begun to suspect - that aftershocks may go on for decades (9500 so far). As the briefing came to an end, fittingly, a 5.0 aftershock struck.

It was a long rolling shake, not one of the jolting ones that are much more adrenalin-producing. These days, we don't seem to be bothered much by anything under about 5.5. Even the animals at Orana Park, apparently, are not bothered by the quakes any more. The rhinos which initially were very unsettled by it all, nowadays just lift their heads for a moment or two as if to say "oh, another one?" and go on grazing.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Port Hills Walk

My first long walk of the New Year today. With many of the tracks closed due to rockfall hazard, I had been itching for variety. The City Council promised that the Rapaki Track would reopen before Christmas, and they were true to their word. The press release announcing its reopening was issued at noon on December 23rd. Within a few hours we had had two more major shakes, and the track was closed again.

There have been walkers and joggers using it regardless - but I hesitate, not so much for fear of rockfall, but out of the knowledge that if something did happen while I was up there, the chances of ready assistance would be lessened due to the numbers of users being so much fewer. Today I headed up the Mt Vernon farm track instead, as I had found that it is open. It is longer and steeper than the Huntsbury track where I have been doing most of my walking, as it starts pretty much at the valley floor, instead of being accessed by a road that goes a good way up the hill. When I reached the top, I walked along the summit a bit and came down the Huntsbury track, and back on the roads to where I had left my car.

I found myself setting my feet on the hard ground, feeling its solidity and marvelling at the fact that it is not always so. It seemed difficult to believe that the ground could split open and boulders could come crashing down the hillside, but that has been the case in the last year. I've been inside buildings for all of the major quakes - either at home or in my office, which is in my boss's home. So I haven't experienced the terror of being on the seventeenth floor of a swaying building, or in a crowded supermarket, or under a crumbling parapet. And I haven't seen, as many have, the ground ripple and wave as if it was as fluid as the ocean. There was only one shock - about a 4.0 - when I was in the garden, and the railway sleeper I was kneeling on bucked like a horse trying to throw me, just for a moment. I felt it rather than saw it. In my mind, it's not the earth that shakes, it's the house, which is a lot easier to cope with, I think.

The flax in the top photo, like me, is between years - one stalk bears last year's dried husks, and one carries this year's flowers.

I tried to photograph the hawk, not very successfully as it was too far away. I'm pretty sure it's a hawk (kahu or Australasian harrier) but if anyone thinks otherwise, leave a comment.

Christchurch is "road cone" city since the earthquakes. This one has been decorated for the season.

Monday, January 02, 2012

The Year in Photos:April & May 2011

My April and May photo files include plenty of photos of damaged buildings (many of which have now been demolished) but also show that I was seeking out distraction of a more positive nature where I could find it.

In April the army were still manning the central city cordons:

but the Botanic Gardens were open:

and autumn colours were being to show:

I managed to find a walking track on the Port Hills not too far away which was still open:

I visited the Riccarton House craft market:

A certain wedding caused neighbours to celebrate by decorating their fence:

In the carpark of our local supermarket, now being rebuilt, the gulls had taken over as the bumps and hollows caused by the earthquake turned into a bird pond with sandy beaches:

I didn't take many photos in May, but couldn't resist this shot of an earthquake damaged building, revealing the giant papier mache mushroom stored in the shoe shop attic:

Portaloos were still common on the streets, due to damaged sewer systems. Thousands of residents were using either portaloos or chemical toilets. The portaloos came in many different colours - this dark blue one had been turned into a Tardis

and I took this photo, the icon which denotes the Windmill Centre, a shopping area in Riccarton, just because I liked the colours: