stepping through

don’t let me know when you’re opening the door
close me in the dark, let me disappear
this time tomorrow I’ll know what to do

soon there’ll be nothing left of me
nothing left to release
who can I be now?

I don’t know who I am
here, there’s no music here
I’m lost in streams of sound

here, am I nowhere now?
everything has changed
it’s the beginning of nothing

the trees die standing
the night was always falling
I’m walking down

it’s nothing to me, nothing remains
I don’t stand in my own light
there will be no tomorrow

I’m stepping through the door
and the stars
look very different today

©arrangement-clairegriffin2017 (all text by DB)

Ever since the beginning of last year, I’ve been meaning to make a found poem using lyrics by David Bowie. So this year, I committed to getting it done. This poem is not what I expected – I was imagining something strange and wild and colourful – but I kept being drawn to these words. Natural enough I suppose, since I started this just a day or two after the anniversary of his passing.

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Low – I think this was the first Bowie album I bought – quite possibly based on the cover alone. I thought he was just the most beautiful creature I’d ever seen. Then I worked backwards, buying everything I could find. I watched his music videos, and the movies he was in, and I marvelled at his ability to transform, to use costume and makeup and gesture to convey different personalities.
His work helped this shy, insecure 18 year old to recreate herself, and showed her how to use appearance as a tool to enter into the world. I’ve remembered that ever since, that transformation is possible, that our selves are fluid and we can present ourselves to the world in different guises.
And, that the confidence gained from that can then begin to re-work the inner self.
Thank you with all my heart – starman, bluebird, Mr Jones xxx

feeling conflicted and affirmed – why do I write?

On Friday 9 December, I went to a concert, the result of which surprised me and led me to reflect… This is about the influence of another poet and my own writing.

Ten years ago the poems of a well known (but sadly departed) New Zealand poet, Hone Tuwhare, had been set to music and performed. Now, many of the original composers and singer-songwriters had gathered for a one-off tenth anniversary performance of the works. A celebration of the poet, and a tribute to those who were no longer with us to perform, Graham Brazier and Mahinārangi Tocker.

One of my favourite poems, “Rain” was performed by Don McGlashan. His interpretation and singing a perfect fit for the poem. I cried. The woman beside me cried. It was one of those moments – the music set the tone, an expectation, a plaintive longing, and then the words followed, intimate and sensual.

Tuwhare had a way of bringing the natural world into direct connection with the human, through devices of personification and metaphor, and a way of speaking directly to the elements, for example: I can hear you making small holes in the silence/rain… and I should know you by the lick of you…” 1, “… the lone tree guarding the point from the sharp-tongued sea…” 2, and “We are stroking, caressing the spine of the land… Squirming, the land wriggles in delight…” 3.

As I listened, I was aware that my breathing was shallow, my chest was tight. My emotions shifted from initial recognition and connection, to a feeling of affirmation, and the tears came. I accepted that my tendency to animate the natural world, to give voice to trees and birds and the land, was a valid way to write. I’d always wondered. Here were Tuwhare’s words on stage and accepted by hundreds of people. It was a validation.
(And possibly a point of origin. I was first introduced to his work when I was 15, at school. Perhaps what I absorbed then has informed my subconscious ever since).

But then, something unexpected happened. I had felt such a strong connection that I cried, but then I began to question whether there was really anything left for me to say. It was as if Tuwhare had said it all, and quite possibly with this one poem. I left the theatre feeling as though I should just throw away my pen. I knew this was an over-reaction, but still, it made me question what I was doing, and whether I really had a voice of my own.

Later, I realised I needed to take my ego out of the mix. If I am true to myself, I don’t write to compare myself to others, to be recognised, acknowledged as clever, or unique, however satisfying that might be. I write because it is something I can do. I write because I like it. I write because it helps me understand myself. I write because it’s a creative process and I am bringing something into being that didn’t exist until I placed one word after another. I write because it’s been with me since I was a tiny child. I write because when I’m writing I feel as though there is nothing else I should be doing.

Today I re-read many of the pieces I’ve posted here this year. I’m surprised by how much I’ve done, since this is the first year I’ve committed to writing like I really mean it. There are pieces I love, pieces that could do with some editing, pieces that are a bit self-indulgent, pieces that might be better off as prose. But its done and its here and its mine, and if Tuwhare’s work in any way lies behind some of it, then I’m happy and grateful to have his influence, and to have him as one of my poetic god-parents.

So after feeling conflicted, I’ve cycled back to feeling affirmed. I’ll keep writing because others have told me that I can say things in a way that means something to them. So I’ll keep writing for them, and for myself, because it makes me feel real.

1: “Rain” from Come Rain Hail, 1970
2: “Friend” from No Ordinary Sun, 1964
3: “Papatuanuku (Earthmother)” from Making a Fist of It, 1978
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An early burst of assertiveness,
“Do not change the words but if they are not spelt right correct them please”,
written when I was about seven at the end of a poem of questionable merit
(though it showed I had managed to master rhyme and rhythm at that young age).

©Claire Griffin 2016

darker (r.i.p. L.Cohen, sincerely)

tears fly
like a thousand birds
into a midnight sky

I hold your voice
in the palm of my hand
my skin vibrates
with every breath

your words surround me
confront and shelter
the essence of what it means to be male
expressed in every husky rumble
and nuanced vowel
my very bones are shaking
as your low tones reverberate, resonate

my dreams are waking
from the dread I’ve carried
that you’d soon be gone

its been nothing but rain and fog
for two whole days
while you climbed the stairs
to your tower of song

I’ve lit a candle
I’ll keep it burning
I don’t want it any darker

©Claire Griffin 2016

 

a deeper impression

my body holds me close to the earth
I’m grounded, weighted
no risk of losing myself
of being overlooked
of drifting away

when I was younger
I was insubstantial
innocent and inconsequential

oh, but I could dance

I could lose myself in the music
it would carry me and I could fly

now walking leaves a deeper impression
air moves to give me space
leaves bend but may not straighten

my body has caught up with my mouth
full and curved
but it is heavy now, and its harder to fly
my hands the only slender thing about me
as they dance across the page

I am present, barefoot
feeling the wild pulse of the earth
light passes over and around me
my shadow stretches and contracts

gravity is drawing me home

 

© Claire Griffin 2016