Monday, September 20, 2010

Eastern Washington

This poem is from a trip I made from Seattle when I was living in the USA for a year.  Many years ago, now, but the words bring it all back. I was a young woman, shy, a foreigner, married to someone I didn't love. New Zealand, home, happiness - all seemed very far away.

Eastern Washington

Rattlesnake country, they said -
harsh, sterile outlines of land,
and at earliest morning
the heat palpable.

Driving from the coast
we had watched the sun rise,
and caught a white glimpse
of Rainier,
over another mountain's shoulder;
had passed through the Cascades
(high, ragged peaks,
greenness of tree and lake,
fertile, water-lush,)
into this desert, sun-dried place.

We had to carry the boat
the last half-mile
to the tiny, struggling lake;
insects dry-hasped their songs around us,
and I could taste the dryness,
dust in the sun's mouth.

Rattlesnake country, they said.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Thematic Photographic 115: Letters & Numbers

This theme made me think of some photographs I took on a visit to Gallipoli earlier this year:

New Zealand graves at Anzac Cove

Ataturk's moving tribute to the foreign soldiers who died in his country
Chunuk Bair: words which have stayed in my memory
since my stepfather took me to Dawn Parades when I was a teenager

You can join in Thematic Photographic here


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Unexpected Hiatus

 (Warning: Rant follows)

Today I was given a gift: a day off work which I didn't ask for and didn't want.  It's actually an expensive gift for the recipient, because it's going to cost me a day's salary.  But I had no choice other than to accept it.
I could have felt annoyed and angry (I do), and harboured resentment (I am).... for one thing, I don't like being told what to do by people for whom I have no respect, but also because:
I don't believe that strikes achieve anything other than to set the strikers up for vilification from members of the public, particularly those who have only been told, thanks to the press, about the requested salary adjustment ("demand" in journalese), which at 4% is actually irrelevant and which, even if granted, would not go anywhere near even touching inflation.  What are far far more important are the negotiations around our conditions.  NZ teachers are paid far less than in any other OECD countries (see article and table in this morning's NZ Herald).  And teaching in this country is very much an aging profession.  How on earth can we hope to attract young people into teaching, AND keep them in it, if they are poorly paid and expected to work so very hard??

I love my job. On weekdays I work an average of 10 hours a day, and 5-7 hours over the weekend.  People who really think that we work from 8.30 until 3.00 5 days a week and have all of those long holidays to swan around doing nothing just..... well, they leave me speechless.

There have been some good things about today.
  • spring is finally making some headway, and it is possible to believe that there will eventually be a summer

  • the tomatoes which I bought yesterday prove to actually have some flavour, and made a delicious lunch when sliced thickly on some warm wholemeal (Vogel's) toast which was liberally slathered with hummus
  • I just picked up Paul Auster's Invisible, which I have been meaning to read for months
  • if the rain holds off I should have time to take the dog for a much-needed walk (longer than the usual twice-daily blats around the block)
I've also managed to get quite a few reports done.  Yes, yes, I know, I should be showing solidarity with my colleagues by not doing any schoolwork at all today.  The opportunity to get through some of my 79 senior student reports was simply too good to let pass.

And.... I've had time to write this post.

Kia ora

Friday, September 10, 2010


My muse has deserted me. Well, to be truthful, she/they were never here.

I have always wanted to be 'creative'.  I used to write poetry; I have started, and never finished, short stories, articles, possible novels. I have attended classes in painting, ceramics, weaving, drawing, photography. My lack of success can't be because I am totally lacking in any sort of talent .... can it?
The closest I've come to any of the Muses lately was in Turkey earlier this year:

Ephesus, April 2010 - Nike

The Muses in mythology were the fickle goddesses who inspired literature and the arts; they were the origins of the knowledge found in stories, lyrics, paintings, drama.  There were 3 of them ... or 9.

In one myth, King Pierus of Macedonia, had nine daughters named after the nine Muses, believing that their skills were equal to the demi-goddesses'. On his daughters' behalf, he challenged the Muses to a competition - which resulted in a loss for his girls, and a transformation into magpies for being so cheeky:

" ............................ beneath their nails
Feathers they feel, and on their faces scales:
Their horny beaks at once each other scare;
Their arms are plumed, and on their backs they bear
Pied wings, and flutter in the fleeting air: "
(Ovid, Metamorphoses Bk V)

Rosso Fiorentino's depiction of this event is in the Louvre Museum:
Of course, the word Museum itself comes from the same origins as muse: via Latin from Greek mouseion 'seat of the Muses', based on mousa 'muse'

Of course #2 - while I'm typing this post, I'm listening to one of my very favourite bands:

Kia ora

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Rain by Hone Tuwhare


I can hear you
making small holes
in the silence

If I were deaf
the pores of my skin
would open to you
and shut

And I
should know you
by the lick of you
if I were blind

the something
special smell of you
when the sun cakes
the ground

the steady
drum-roll sound
you make
when the wind drops

But if I
should not hear
smell or feel or see

you would still
define me
disperse me
wash over me

Hone Tuwhare 1922-2008 

Hone Tuwhare, one of New Zealand’s most celebrated poets, was born in Northland, in the Hokianga, in 1922.
At age seventeen Tuwhare went to work at the railway workshops as a boilermaker. He became a fully certified boilermaker and a member of the union, where he was recruited into the Communist party. When the Russians invaded Hungary in 1956, he gave up his membership of that party.

Tuwhare wrote his first poem when he heard that his father had died. He was already 42 years old when he published his first book, No Ordinary Sun, in 1964 - the first collection of poetry to ever be published by a Maori poet. The title poem makes clear his feelings about the effects of nuclear testing in the Pacific

Tuwhare’s work has been called a mixture of working class language, the bible and Maori korero (narratives), ‘as if you are in church and in the pub at the same time.’

In 1999 Hone Tuwhare was named New Zealand's poet laureate.  He was a great poet, a warrior, a taonga.

See the obituary published by

Miniature book by Dave Wood

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Haiku by Buson

How beautiful haiku can be ... the feeling caught in time, like a photograph of a baby.