October

waking slowly, you smile

and colour bursts across the hillsides,

fat, furry bees investigate your sleeves

The clocks went forward on the weekend here in NZ and now we live with the illusion that it takes longer for the darkness of night to settle over the land. Of course night and day come and go as they’ve always done – it’s just that we’ve adjusted our schedules to look at it differently.

And the land – she had started to wake – with trees opening their bright green hands, and blossoms everywhere – except now we’ve just had a dreaded cold snap.

I fear Spring is shivering in the rain and I wish I could wrap her in my arms and keep her warm.

February 2019

filling the space,

every window shows your face,

your multitudes, your bright insistence

February calendar post at last!!

Why has it taken so long – no idea – beyond printer not working, going back to work after summer holiday, and putting my time into painting.

Anyway – here ‘tis. This is my world, my green view – this is what I see if I feel like a spot of daydreaming.

And now that the cicadas have come out in force at last, I wonder if a big shiny insect might have been a better image. Still – they need the trees and trust me – they are all over these.

the day begins

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surfacing from the dark
feet cold on the hard floor
black sky softening
trees a muted green
birds waking, calling, invisible

she is there, waiting
but she turns her face away

All this week, hoping to catch a glimpse of her promised glory and now, there are only moments between clouds when she shines.
Before this week, her face would have been welcomed. It was all romance and possibility and a sense of the future. Now, I can’t wait for her to leave. I am waiting, I am wanting, I am denied.

street lights fluoresce a pale orange
a row of miniature suns
marking a runway, a landing strip

see – here – here you could land
you could bring yourself to earth
and let me hold you
and let me be held

scaffolding surrounds the house
a white plastic chair glows in the half light
the stream is full with the run-off from the hills
and birds call
birds call
and the trees are moving

5.30am update / buildings are closed / people evacuated / sea life threatened / seabed raised / the weather is clearing with a forecast of morning showers / southerlies / 15 degrees

she hasn’t moved
I am waiting for her to drop
to slide behind the hills
but she is contrary, stubborn
hanging still as clouds pass by
like so many unsuccessful suitors

at least I see her
but I wanted so much more
I am disappointed
that she waits til now to show herself
all week, going about her business undercover
a beautiful anarchist
creating chaos
mad woman of the sky
you have betrayed us all

clouds glow apricot pink
and draw attention to the left
yellow eyes watch from across the room
a shadow, a black cloud
full of anticipation and patience

6.00am parliament / questions / earthquakes / recovery / entry to the drift

There has been enough waiting and as the sky lightens, I return to warmth and comfort, shining one small bright light into the darkness. And I read “This moment is all there is” and I think, here it is, synchronicity at work.

this book of light
is full
and slow to respond
full of dead poets
Rumi, Tuwhare, Cohen

There has been so much loss in so little time. Storytellers and singers, poets and priests, all are slipping away. The ground moved and we looked to the heavens. The rains came, and our tears were added to the flood. Myths abounded as we looked for reasons to explain the unexplainable. The moon that came too close. Too much moon, too much gravity. Facing the inevitability of time and the pain of too much love, too many memories.

Whatever the cause, the reality is – the very ground we walk on has proved unstable. We have a fragile peace between aftershocks when we take a ragged breath. We do not know if it will be safe to breathe out…

the black shadow sits heavily across belly and hips

6.40am Kaikoura / slow cooking using bricks from the house

bricks re-purposed
from a broken home
necessity brings invention
disillusion gives way to hope
disenchantment never quite took hold
the sun has risen
the cat is fed
and so

 the day begins

(the result of a writing workshop with Pip Adam – to focus on the details of one day – Friday 18 November 2016 – to observe, record and then transform. This is the result of the writing done the following day, Saturday 19 November. Still working on it – currently in prose, fewer “voices”, and managing to get past 6.40 am 😉)

©ClaireGriffin2016

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

torn apart

12.02am was a lesson in humility
who am I
to think the earth
could feel my pain
and make the heavens
weep with me

she is not a reflection of my emotions
she is her own sovereign being
and last night she tore herself apart

there is a fury
she has held in check
grief she has suppressed
pain she has denied

last night
all was unleashed
pent up energy released
her heart broken open
and spread before us

there is a madness in her rage
she rends her clothes
and tears her hair
she breaks her own body
and lays it at our feet
she has become a distorted, twisted thing

my beautiful country
you have torn yourself apart
what are you telling me?

we may be homeless
she is broken
we may be confused
she is broken
we may be distraught
she is broken

it may be her only way
to shake free from us

my beautiful country
you have torn yourself apart
what are you telling me?

she has called on her power
the wild pulse of life
to tear open her own skin
to bleed rivers enough
to flood the land
and lay bare the truth

she is not gentle
she is not kind
she is a wild thing
who tolerates us

she is more Lillith than Eve
she is Papatuanuku grieving still for Rangi
she is Persephone rising after slaughtering Hades
she is Mis raging in the wilderness

she is telling us
she owns her body
she owns her pain
and she can cast us off
in a heartbeat

©Claire Griffin 2016

And then came this… just when I was in the heady space of imagining the significance of a rare astronomical event… On 14 November a 7.8 earthquake hit.

I had to face my sentimental wishful thinking, my need to personify the earth as a beneficent mother. She is not a reflection of my emotions. She is her own sovereign being, and this morning she tore herself apart.

The previous poem was put on hold, and this seemed so much more appropriate.

super moon

the eye of the universe draws nearer
she turns towards us
watching side on
like a great white whale
surfacing, curious, yet wary
she brings a gift to us
her own body, her luminous skin
she has come from the depths of space
to show what it looks like to be whole
she has come to bring light to our dark night
she has come to bring hope
she has come …

Monday is the night
of the perigree full moon
a supermoon

our pain, our cries of disappointment
and anger have been heard
and we have woken the spirits of our world

©Claire Griffin 2016

I was working on this almost three weeks ago, and was planning to post on Monday 14 November, the night of the supermoon.
However, Sunday night, early Monday morning, New Zealand was hit by a major earthquake, and my notions of a benevolent moon seemed naïve and sentimental. I’ve been a bit distracted ever since.
I never really finished this – but it fits with a few pieces that have emerged from the events of the last few weeks.

12 November – revised 1 December 2016

 

winter wind – green gods

winter wind
blows in from the north
bringing mist and cloud
to lie low over the hills

and as the wind shifts
green gods are revealed

the thin mist is swept apart and
mythic trees step forward
out of ancient times
to stand for a moment
in the present

before the wind turns
and they walk back into the past

© Claire Griffin 2016