Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Shooting Star, by Greg O'Connell

Shooting Star

It starts with the ocean in the sky, that sea
in outer space, dense shoals of debris

comet-fragments, asteroid-remnants, swimming
blindly into the Earth’s gaseous net. Each meteor

is finned flesh: silver scales, a gaping mouth,
a luminous flash. And we are the night anglers

who would hook each blazing fish. All our lives
we’ve known how to wish.

© Greg O'Connell

It has been a privilege over the past year to take part in a small poetry workshop group in which Greg O'Connell is one of the members. Greg has a background of writing children's poetry. From there he has expanded into writing poetry for adults also. His sense of word play and musicality extends into his adult poems, making them a joy to listen to. He is also a supportive and perceptive commenter on other people's poems, and his suggestions are always pertinent.

I am grateful to Greg for permission to republish this poem, which originally appeared in the Christchurch Press, as my Tuesday Poem this week.

Greg was born in Oamaru and has lived in Christchurch and the West Coast. A number of his poems have been published in the School Journal, and also in A Treasury of New Zealand Poems for Children, edited by Paula Green. He also travels to schools to present interactive performance poetry shows and workshops. There is a very full and interesting biography on Greg's website.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.

Thematic Photographic: Animal Planet

My favourite road trip stop is just north of Kaikoura, where you can stand on the road verge - State Highway 1, the main route from the bottom of the South Island to the top of the North Island - and look down on the beach just a few feet below, at the seal colony where these cute pups were lounging. It is the most accessible mainland seal colony in New Zealand, and perhaps in the world. You can also walk up a short track on the other side of the road to a waterfall, where the pups play while their mums are at sea. They swim up the creek to the pool below the waterfall.

Unfortunately for the seals, some people will try and spoil things. We observed one foolhardy pair walking between the seals and the water, flapping their arms and rushing them in an attempt to get a more lively looking photo. It's a pity they didn't get more than they bargained for. These are wild animals after all, and can definitely injure if they decide to attack. Looking down from the top of the low cliff is plenty close enough for good photos.

Thematic Photographic this week is celebrating animal planet. For more creatures, head over here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thematic Photographic: Rows and Columns

Carmi's theme this week for Thematic Photographic is rows and columns - so I went back through a year's worth of photos to see what I could find. First there was my quilt in progress, but I've posted that before..

so instead, I got my "ducks in a row"

and then there was the wonderful Pegasus bookstore in Wellington with its rows and rows of second hand books, with other quirky odds and ends scattered around..

a garden theme crept in - plants at the local garden centre

and colourful pots waiting to be reused at the nearby community gardens

and rural letterboxes are always good for a "row" photo.

For more rows and columns, visit Carmi here.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Revision

I used to think I was a fast writer, but I've realised that only applies to a small percentage of my poetry, and I have a large collection of failed attempts. A good deal of the writing I have been doing lately involves going back to my files and revising the old poems, the ones where I feel there is a spark that I really want to turn into a successful poem, even if the first attempt was pretty dire.

The worst advice I ever read was not to revise. Granted, this was in a book which was more about writing poetry as self expression/therapy than about writing as literature. Even so, I can't agree. The author seemed to think that to revise was to deny the initial emotion that led to the poem. In my experience, the opposite is true. I remember an occasion when I took a poem to my small workshop group and was met with somewhat blank looks. "What are you trying to say?" one group member asked. I launched into an impassioned defence/explanation of the poem, and she replied "well, why didn't you say so?" And so, I revised the poem so that it did say what I intended to say in the first place.

And that, in my view, is what revision is all about. To make the poem more of what it set out to be.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Changing City

Sometimes it feels as if we haven't just moved house, but moved to an entirely new city. I spotted this building while out to a poetry reading the other night.

I thought it was an old building that I hadn't noticed before, newly refurbished, although I was a bit surprised at its unfamiliarity. It turns out that it is a brand new building, a refreshing change from all the steel and glass going up around the city. It is an Indian restaurant, with a lovely wide open verandah in front, with murals at either end.

And then on the other side of the road I spotted this:

Somewhere to sit and watch the changing panorama of the sky?

Getting round the city can be challenging with constant road works. My daughter tells me that her bus route changes almost daily. I took her home last night after a family dinner. Towards the end of our route, we had to detour as the road I wanted to take (Ensors Road) was blocked by police cars with flashing lights after an incident of "car versus tree". It was quite a long detour, which would have been much shorter if I had known a block earlier that I needed to take a different route. I thought of a different route to take home, along Ferry Road, but heading back from the detour towards my daughter's house, there was a big sign up saying "Moorhouse - Ferry closed, take "Ensors-Brougham". Fortunately it turned out one lane was still open westbound, back past the accident scene.

I need to remember to leave for work early tomorrow, as there is a new road closure which will spill a lot of traffic into one particular intersection on my route. According to the SCIRT website 437,353 km of road has been repaired or replaced. This is 33% of the total that needs to be done. So we will be going for quite a while yet.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thematic Photographic: Vehicular, Etc

I took a lot of photos in October, when I was attempting to post a photo a day, so I hunted through them for "extras" for this week's theme. The vintage Harley Davidson was on display in New Regent Street, a Spanish Mission style street of shops in the centre of Christchurch, during Heritage Week.

The tram does a regular tourist circuit around the centre of Christchurch. Seen here in front of the Old Government Buildings, now converted into the Heritage Hotel. Ironically, this wing, the old wing of the hotel, survived the earthquakes due to strengthening work in the 1990s, but the new wing is still closed due to earthquake damaged, and I believe is likely to be demolished.

Finally, this shot because in Christchurch you are never very far from heavy earth moving machinery. (One day, all the road and sewer repairs will be finished, but not just yet...)

For more vehicular photos, visit Carmi's blog here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tuesday Poem: The Will

The Will

My father left me a boat:
The old red dinghy, slab-sided,
paint peeling, barely afloat.

Summers in the harbour
we sat, three small children
across the stern, one in the bow.
Older, we swam from bay to bay
in deep water, knowing
ourselves to be safe, my father
alongside in the dinghy, rowing.

My father left me a boat.
Sometimes when I falter,
reach for solid ground,
I think I hear his voice -
"Nearly there. Keep going!"
My father nearby
in his coffin boat, rowing,

- Catherine Fitchett

In the early twentieth century, and before that, it was common in wills for specific objects to be listed and bequeathed - a famous example being Shakespeare's second best bed which he left to his wife, Anne Hathaway. This poem was written prompted by an exercise in which we were to imagine something that might have been left to us. In fact, the family dinghy had rotted away and been dumped long before my father died, but the prompt allowed me another (much more concise) way to explore material that I had long ago attempted, and failed, to explore poetically.

"The Will" is included in the 2014 New Zealand Poetry Society Anthology "Take Back Our Sky" which launched recently.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tuesday Poem: Birds' Nests, by John Clare

Birds' Nests

How fresh the air the birds how busy now
In every walk if I but peep I find
Nests newly made or finished all and lined
With hair and thistle down and in the bough
Of little awthorn huddled up in green
The leaves still thickening as the spring gets age
The Pinks quite round and snug and closely laid
And linnets of materials loose and rough
And still hedge sparrow moping in the shade
Near the hedge bottom weaves of homely stuff
Dead grass and mosses green an hermitage
For secresy and shelter rightly made
And beautiful it is to walk beside
The lanes and hedges where their homes abide.

John Clare (1793-1864)

I've been intrigued with John Clare since reading Adam Foulds' Booker nominated novel, The Quickening Maze which includes Clare, along with Alfred, Lord Tennyson, among its protagonists. John Clare was born in Northamptonshire and was an agricultural labourer, but also a very prolific nature poet. I have taken the above poem from a recently acquired volume, "The Poetry of Birds" edited by Simon Armitage and Tim Dee. They note in the foreword that Clare wrote about 147 different species of birds. Quite an accomplishment. Sadly, he ended his days in a lunatic asylum.

I copied the poem quite carefully, so the odd spellings "awthorn" and "secresy" as far as I can tell are the original spellings used by the poet.

I took the photo at the head of the post a month or two back, I loved the way that the elongated leaf hangs delicately by a thread from this nest that I found in our yard. So I decided that this poem was a great excuse to use the photo.

For more Tuesday Poems visit the main hub site

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In the Round

I've been meaning to post these photos for a while. When we travel to the North Island, we like to stop at the Lava Glass Studio just north of Lake Taupo. On our most recent visit, we found they had added a glass sculpture garden (where photography is allowed, unlike the rules inside the actual gallery).

Carmi's Thematic Photographic theme, round and round this week gave me the excuse I needed to post some of the rounder pieces of sculpture.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tuesday Poem: The Wild Swans at Coole, by W B Yeats

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

W B Yeats (1865-1939)

The image above is an installation for Festa - the Christchurch Festival of Transitional Architecture. A line from a Yeats poem floating on the Avon river by the water wheel near the Worcester Street bridge. There was also an event at the weekend, which I didn't attend, where participants could write their own "words on water" - I'm not sure what with, but apparently the words would evaporate eventually, whereas the Yeats installation looks a bit more permanent.

I had initially thought Yeats must be a misprint for Keats, given that it is Keats who has as his epitaph "here lies one whose name was writ in water". But I found when I googled the line that it was indeed Yeats, from this lovely poem "The Wilds Swans at Coole".

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the main hub site.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Quilt Progress

It was the last day of a long weekend today. Instead of getting out and about in pursuit of photos, I spent the day at home - kitchen, gardening, writing and putting together the blocks for the quilt I am making for our king sized bed. It's a bit big to get the whole thing in one photo, given that it is held together mainly with pins. Now that I have all the blocks laid out, I will be able to get all the rows joined together, making it a lot easier to handle. I couldn't do that until I had all the edge triangles in place, as if I joined the long strips of rows together, there would be awkward angles left at the ends. There are a couple of borders to go on yet, but those will be just long straight pieces.

The walls of our bedroom are painted a sort of pale, greyed minty green. The paua shell fabric that I am using for the borders has the green in it, also purple, browns and other colours, so I have taken the colours from that fabric.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


This was another Festa event, this time for children - the opportunity to build a city out of Jello. It was all rather small-scale and low-key, but very colourful. The children that were there when I looked in seemed to be having a good time.

Festa on Saturday Night

Festa is the Festival of Transitional Architecture, which is a yearly event in Christchurch since the earthquakes. This year's big drawcard was Cityups, in which architecture students transformed two blocks of the city with lit up structures, there was dancing, night markets, street volleyball, illuminated carts to race and various other entertainments. It probably couldn't happen anywhere else - where would you find so much empty space in the middle of a city?

When I saw that Carmi's Thematic Photographic theme for the week was night, I knew I wanted to wait for this event before posting my contribution.

The structures were built with all sorts of novel materials - this one is blue water-filled balloons, which kept moving. I have better focussed shots, but I quite liked the effect of this one.

The structure on the left is constructed of plastic bottles, and the one on the right of road cones.

A busker dancing with lit torches. (Long exposure, so she has disappeared!)

The Strange's building is one of the earliest new buildings built since the earthquakes, and has won several major architecture awards.

Even the half demolished buildings look better at night..

The posters are part of a mental health campaign that has been running here for the last couple of years : "All Right". They encourage us to focus on the simple things, such as "when was your last moment of wonder?"

Flowers on Cashmere

I always enjoy passing this florist shop, both the building and the buckets of flowers outside are a bright spot in the landscape, but what is it with the tattered flag?

It's Christchurch, so there are going to be road cones somewhere. There are road works all over the city, fixing sewer lines, water pipes, and other damaged infrastructure from the earthquakes of 2010 - 2012.

(Saturday's photos, posted on Sunday)

Friday, October 24, 2014


Spotted in Sydenham today.


A quick walk by the Heathcote River at lunchtime yesterday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Old Stone House, Cashmere

It's good to remind myself that quite a few historic stone buildings have survived the Canterbury earthquakes. The Old Stone House in Cracroft, Cashmere is one of them. It is, however, damaged and closed for the meantime. In general, timber buildings survived a lot better than stone buildings as they flex better.

The gardens at the Old Stone House are looking great at the moment, when I have more time I will get back and have a proper look round.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Call of the Hills

I just had time after work to go to the start of the Bowenvale track (above) and grab a few photos. Just reminding myself that last summer I used to go for hour long walks up here in the evening. Now, if I can just find a free evening or two, I will be able to do it again.

The track fades out into a sort of spaghetti tangle further up. Supposedly one can walk right up to the Summit Road from here, but I haven't found the route yet. Time to try again soon.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Boat Landing on the Heathcote River

This is a canoe landing spot by the Heathcote River. I believe the posts were painted by local schoolchildren, though tried to check this online and couldn't confirm it.

I couldn't decide between a wide view and a detail, so I have posted both.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Classic Cars Outside the Heritage Hotel

It's the start of Heritage Week here in Christchurch and these classic cars (and others) were on display outside the Heritage Hotel in Cathedral Square. The Heritage Hotel was formerly the Old Government Buildings and was converted to a hotel in the 1990s, when considerable earthquake strengthening work was undertaken. This made it one of a select number of heritage buildings to survive the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 and after repairs, it reopened in 2013. The new wing of the hotel, however, is still boarded up and unoccupied. I'm not sure whether or not it is to be demolished.

Saturday: Tree Fern

Tree fern in our garden. I climbed up a ladder to get a photo from above.

Friday, October 17, 2014


Here are a few more photos from the last few days, for Carmi's Thematic Photographic theme - patterns.

This is a workroom at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology. The windows look directly onto the pavement on High Street, and for some reason the lights stay on when the students go home. I have always found the view into the workroom, with its row of garment patterns hanging from a rack on the wall, quite fascinating. These may not be quite the sort of patterns Carmi had in mind...

so here are a couple of photos of patterns from nature, from my walk at Travis Wetland (see yesterday's post)

dead leaves hanging on the trunks of cabbage palms

and the twisty, almost hexagonal branches of a species of kowhai.

The Gift of Water

When the second big earthquake struck Canterbury in February 2011, many areas were without running water supplies. Farmers drove tankers into town and stopped at schools and parks, where residents queued to fill buckets and containers. In some areas, old capped wells and springs burst open - inconveniently in the middle of living rooms, or more conveniently in front gardens, where some benevolent home owners rigged up pipes and taps so that passers by could fill up on clean fresh artesian water.

Eventually we had water running in our pipes again (I can still remember the utter joy of turning on a tap to find water flowing freely out of it). After even more weeks, we were told it was safe to drink without boiling first. And after another few months, the City Council were able to stop adding chlorine to the water supply in order to make it bug free.

Still, quite a few people seem to have developed a taste for the artesian water that flows from the springs. This one in the photo above is still flowing in Ernle Terrace, near the reserve where I went for a walk today. I never pass by without seeing a stream of people arriving to fill bottles transported there in car boots. Walkers fill their smaller water bottles, and those walking dogs will sometimes set down the dog's dish so that their canine companion can refresh himself.

It was a hot day, I hadn't taken a water bottle but I did stop on the way into the reserve and again on the way out to scoop water into my hands and quench my thirst.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Swans and Cygnets at Travis Wetland

I had a meeting to attend on the other side of the city, very close to Travis Wetland, so I took the opportunity to walk round the perimeter track and take lots of photos of the birds there. It turned out to be a great time to do so, being spring, with lots of cygnets, ducklings, and other youngsters. In the bird hide, the welcome swallows were nesting in the eaves, so were flying in and out really close to me.

The above is a taster (after I finish my photo a day project at the end of the month, I may go back and edit and post some of the extras). A pair of black swans with their surprisingly white chicks.