Tuesday, January 31, 2006

note for 2006

stop explaining forget
backstory and

much fuel
do you need

to play free
with the

Saturday, January 28, 2006

black and white - shadow

Watching some Hitchcock tonight - as one must from time-to-time. This one was Shadow of a Doubt, from 1942, said to be Hitchcock's favourite movie.

Interesting for many things, including the fact that a lot of it was shot on location, unusual for the time (the locale being a place called Santa Rosa, apparently real). Annette was, as she always is, entranced by it's true black and white nature. As she says, also truthfully, "they don't make pictures like this anymore". The lighting was always the important thing in these pictures, especially so-called 'noir'. I would bet that these days if you ever get the odd new black and white movie, it's probably desaturated colour rather than true B&W. As any photographer would know, the blacks must be black and the whites white. It's hard these days to get hold of good black and white still film (though Ilford came back again), so I suspect true black and white movie film may not even exist, or not in any quantity. Such a shame.

This film, as many black and white pics I remember from the dim dark past, was such a joy to watch. Something crisp and clean, but also dark and murky about them. Something true which is lost in colour (which has other virtues, of course). A good script as well, but that's another thing again.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

a garden visitation

There’s a little bit of grandeur
in the garden under clouds

It springs from rain buds
and the contrast in flanks of washing

held in straggling lines of wear

Petals plump and pink
skin-like, as light envelopes and hallows dust

At edges of glass webs there’s form in waiting
as this sun casts its own light shadow

into an emergent zona rosa

Hurts the head I’ve travelled in
too hard, and faster than it’s built for

oh, le don de rĂªves that passes through
its own poem

an unlit cigarette also dreamt in the hand

Placed on a table that’s moved in the night
from wakefulness, Ashkenazy tells it

in symmetrical strokes, this thought, that thought even
without smoke, that pathfinder, its lyric turnabout

airy, forgetful, of fall it’s come from

geting back up

One of my resolutions this year is to spend less time sitting in front of the computer. It is partly a health (ie body mechanics) issue - I have an ongoing lower back problem - and partly because I really ought to be doing other things, like walking, for instance, or having a life.

So, less blogging but not no blogging. Interesting, my osteo calls my lower back region 'boggy'. I replied it wasn't just a bog but a veritable quagmire, ie 'quaggy', which I thought sounded better than 'boggy'. But I don't want boggy to be abetted by bloggy. I'm also walking around more at work and other places.

It's a holiday today, for some reason, so I may post something else later.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The production of doubt.

What lies before already exists.
The future does not exist.

The past is ahead and alongside.

Each stone on the road you tread
resists your claims to it.

A book is composed of many problems in the making.

I wonder, then, if or should I have a recognised style.

What is my sign?

how do we know these things?

We don't.
We walk.
We don't.

The skin, lichens.
Dust in the mouth.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

the traverse

Each day fills full
heaves a word past blot
with much to tell
on each strange street
not without love
nothing will tell
on our groove
until we can be still.

Forget how to time
night’s wee tomb
or what is home
must be warm.

We can’t say one
but picture stone.

That talk about morn
each day’s small pain
too late to return
to mistimed noon.
Strange how we burn
skin to rosy bloom
the holes in the sun
turn age to crime.

If only we’d seen
the leaf’s green hem
without heat’s harm
in a car’s long dream.

No cloud obscures
the drape of flowers.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

more on eden street

Martin Edmond's comment below on the ordinariness of the Janet Frame Eden Street house encourages me to post a pic of the current exterior.

Still pretty ordinary (nothing wrong with that) and the garden was lovely the day we visited.

Photo: Jill Jones
Listening to Jimmy Smith. A best of CD thingie. 'Got my Mojo Working' was one of the first records I ever bought. Sure, The Beatles were the very first (hey, I was a kid) but it was pretty early on in my vinyl collecting career.

It's still downstairs somewhere.

'pottering without guilt'

(a line once attached to a Patrick Cook cartoon)

sixteen ferneries

days without
television - and so ...

has no
angles no size

mountains trees
and no smell

to speak of
apart from
something ...

sixteen days without -
instead poems

and air aloud
with water

referrals gone phut

It's not a huge big deal but I am having trouble with the referral service TrueFresco. I had that nice little list of visitors on the site but it disappeared late last year and no amount of effort in getting it back seems to have an effect. It was free and now I think they want me to pay, but their site won't recognise me (because I'm already registered as me) so I couldn't even do that if I wanted (which I don't). La La.

I can't be bothered wrangling with them anymore so can anyone suggest a better service, ie. one that works? Is it just me? Prolly.

Many thanks in advance.

Friday, January 06, 2006

frame for poetry

While touring around the South Island of New Zealand just before Christmas, we arrived at the coastal town of Oamaru and stayed the night.

New Zealand novelist and poet, Janet Frame, lived for many years in Oamaru as a child and teenager, and a Trust has now purchased one of the houses the Frame family lived in - at 56 Eden Street. It is open for public viewing, which is precisely what we, as ‘public’, did. The house is not being restored as such but rather, being ‘reframed’ (apparently Janet Frame’s words). So it has the look and feel of how it must have been during the 1930s and 40s. I was given the privilege of sitting at Frame’s old desk, looking out of the back window, and a typewriter (remember those?) on which I composed an on-the-spot response to the place and our visit. I won’t publish that here but it was a sobering experience using such a device again after all these many years. I rather liked it, the effort of it.

Here are a couple of shots, one of the bedroom the Frame girls slept in and one looking from Janet's writing desk out into the backyard and up the hill where she played:

Photos: Jill Jones

Apart from Framiana, Oamaru is worth a visit as it has many historical buildings made of the most lovely white stone and a number of artists and artisans now live there. [And if you’re into penguins, you can view blue penguins (we call them fairy penguins in Australia, or ‘Aussie’ as the Kiwis say) or yellow-eyed penguins at Oamaru as well as at a number of other spots along the coast. The blue penguins are ‘big business’ in Oamaru and it costs to visit the penguin colony’s viewing amphitheatre, on which tour companies have some kind of stranglehold. We went to the free (very windy) yellow penguin hide and saw three little guys come ashore in the evening. They’re the rarest penguin in the world, apparently. They’re bigger than fairy penguins and pretty plucky. We saw another from a hide at Sandfly Bay (on the Otago Peninsula) running the gauntlet of time, tide, sea lions and fur seals and make a way up a very steep cliff. It took ages, seemed to be a lot of thought and dithering at least to our human eyes, but it made it.]

Anyway, back to Janet Frame. After leaving Oamaru the next day we drove further down the coast, and deliberately sought out the old mental hospital at Seacliff, just north of Dunedin. Janet Frame entered Seacliff as a voluntary patient in 1947. She was mistakenly diagnosed as schizophrenic, and remained in mental hospitals for eight years and was subjected to over 200 electric shock treatments. Seacliff is now, apparently, a backpackers called The Asylum (pretty tasteful, eh).

We could not gain entry to the site – ‘no sightseers’ it said on the closed gate - but saw parts of the old buildings and grounds from the road. I was happy not to go any closer, it seemed a very dark place.

Here are some shots I took from the road:

Photos: Jill Jones

By chance, some days later we met a man who had been a psych nurse during the years Frame had been incarcerated. He told us of plenty of darkness and cover-ups of the ultimate kind.

After getting out of Seacliff, having escaped having to undergo a leucotomy at the last minute, Janet Frame wrote:

“From my first moment there I knew that I could not turn back to my usual life or forget what I saw at Seacliff. ... I saw people with the eyes of hurricanes surrounded here by whirling unseen and unheard commotion contrasting strangely with the stillness.” (from An Angel at My Table)

She also wrote in an earlier article in the New Zealand literary journal, Landfall (March 1965): “When I was discharged I knew (though I was repeatedly urged to 'adapt' 'mix' conform') that unless I devoted my time wholly to making designs from my dreams…I should spend the remainder of my life in hospital - or perhaps, as had been planned for me while was a patient, there would be a leucotomy and the dreams of those who cared for me would be realized: I would 'mix' 'conform', become a 'useful member of the community'.”

I was also given a book of poems by the New Zealand poet, Peter Olds, - It Was a Tuesday Morning: Selected Poems 1972-2001 - which has a number of poems relating to Seacliff, the place and the institution. I’m glad to have made an acquaintance with the work. He writes of ‘A dark night/ the kind only Seacliff can give’ ('A Visit to Clifton House').

I was already toting a copy of Frame’s The Pocket Mirror, from which I read aloud to Annette on Christmas day in Dunedin. This is one of the poems I read out.

Dunedin poem

Here I’ve gone down with the sun
written syllables till time has surprised me
with the fact of his consistency.
I love not you but the sun’s going down
so easily.

Soon will the days be dark? Will the mists come,
the rain blow from Signal Hill down Northeast Valley
that in winter lies in shadow?
I never remember the sun, in Northeast Valley.

The tramlines are torn from their sockets.
Things do not suffer as we supposed.
People suffer more than we supposed.
The buses tread softly, jerk to a stop, the doors slide open.
I climb in, traveling to where
Down a long street lined with flowering cherry trees I walked
nineteen years ago
to stare at the waves on St Clair beach.

- Janet Frame, from The Pocket Mirror.

More information about Janet Frame.

Here is a poem by Frame about another of her desks, the famous Landfall desk.

Information about the the Janet Frame Eden Street Trust. The pics of the house shown are obviously older. The house is now surrounded with a lovely front garden.

Some days after seeing the Seacliff site I wrote this:

Old hospital hidden
within barred windows
below the trees air thins
sea moans
dark green leaving
and ghosts
who died by fire
electricity, scalpel and the strap

No more screaming
birds leave the land

There’s the gate
there’s a sign ‘no sightseers’

What would you see
a backpackers called The Asylum

To bed amongst
takes more
than I could lean on the gate
thinking of the years
they held Janet down

I'm back

Well, it's 2006 and I am now back from journeying, safe and a little dusty from the mountain tracks.

I will rethink Ruby Street, as I've always done, just in the doing. When it's not worth doing is when I'll stop. I am still in the midst of a lot of thinking.

Thanks to responses from Martin Edmond and Matt Hetherington about my wee crossroads. I will restore the comments facility pretty soon and let what happens happens.