Artist’s statement

 

At times — although not always — my poetic practice is enacted as a way of taking even ordinary difficulties and, by attending gently and creatively to them, make of them something different, something new. Writing is a way of ‘speaking’, but being less transmutable than speech, it can inscribe into something meaningful what threatens us with annihilation by its sheer, grey meaninglessness (Stewart 1993: 31). It makes something that a reader might respond to, enacting a dialogue of recognition. We all experience dark times, conflict, difficulty and pain: this is part of being alive. Poetry allows me to stay with these feelings, to recognise and shape them in a more positive way through which, perhaps, pain is transmuted. Whether this effect is ‘therapeutic’ is not, however, the main reason for writing this poetry; my focus is on making what is obtuse — not understood, not even known but only sensed as traces of memory and powerful emotion — into poetic form. Without this articulation from experience to aesthetic form, without the process enabling an experimentation with form and language, the process would remain ‘confessional’ and perhaps healing, but it would not satisfy my intention and desire to make something new. It is this newness that is the truly healing aspect of such poetry, as the poetic practice and writing enacts creativity rather than depression.

 

The poems here are based on my immediate personal experiences, memories, associations, and on encounters with the creative arts of other practitioners and artists. Through these engagements, in dialogue with the works of others, I like to think that my poems might join a community of expressive artists who want to shape experience into something that is more pure and meaningful, using their artistic and poetic practice to enhance knowledge of self and others — and hence creating work that just might increase what seems too often to be the limited quantum of empathy in the world. These poems involve embodied processes of writing, thought and feeling; they bring the elusiveness of memory or fragmented, partial knowing into a present state of language and form that is far more than its origins.

 

 

 

 

returned

 

like a homing pigeon

to the garden of a house of locked doors:

mother father departed, their coats with fur collars

for European winters —  

a child alone in midsummer

escaped from the billet of another’s care —

comes back like a cat to its home,

to pink columbines and wisteria,

dressed in shorts, shirt and sandals,

the familiar grass prickly brown:

the windows of the house are shut,

the suburb an utter quiet — she can remember

the weight in her — it had happened before,

made her eyes film, the sunlight redundant:

now again like a peach-stone in her stomach

out of sight and mind:

she dips bare feet in the swimming pool,

peach-pit sadness

in the shade of the mulberry tree

red stains on fingers, her mouth

the sour fruit: in the silence of the garden

eleven-year old heart

breaking — a fine-feather tearing

faint as the drift of a leaf from a mulberry branch

dropping onto the paving below.

 

 

 

 

Highveld morning in Health

 

Green of rain on leaves all night:

then after-time of darkness

pre-dawn, voices of sparrows,

early weaver birds dart, black-masked

feathered brilliant yellow:

the morning is new and clean

as water — you can smell

chlorophyll, juice of grass blades

the sky softened by the rain.

 

 

 

 

Brave Face

                                                For my mother d. 2013

 

A small flame in the storm

this flutter each day and night —

skin loosens, joints tighten to drums

in the light before daybreak

the road seems narrow.

Some days, feathers moult the wooden floor,

her eyes lighter, voice a whisper, the heart

opens wide the ink-prints of its pages.

 

On the path outside a bird on papery grass,

dead feathers limp, still glossed, blue-black

not yet stiffening — this dry late-winter afternoon

I think of tenacity, of dust.

 

 

 

 

White Lines III

 

i

 

as from great height, look down on how we run

                                                striving, awkward parallels

                                                the messiness of crossings

                                                like rain-soaked roads where

                                                mud never dries — I drag

 

my feet, suddenly light with shock:

                                                over and over each life

                                                losing itself.

 

we are wet and pure, our naked wrists

                                                expose themselves again

                                                like leaves after rain

                                                intensely yellow with the gloss

                                                of rain —

 

as if we are weaving a nest and the yellow shapes

                                                gleam like pieces of foil amidst

                                                sodden threads and grasses,

                                                as if our bright eyes are everything

                                                pushing through darkness 

 

with hope our ant-like paths

                                                manage to climb past the rifts

                                                of our losses: how to tell

                                                in words not sound enough,

                                                the crash of the inner pounding?

 

lines on a canvas, slashed — dried paint caught in a net of moment

                                                in hot thrust: if we had

                                                no language nor sound,

                                                would we be brutish only

                                                or still run the patterning earth

                                                with irregular, broken

                                                lace-work?

 

 

ii

 

in this night of silence

                                                i cannot deny words unless

                                                like a drying hibiscus flower

                                                i am ready to fall — but nothing is dry

 

about this green coursing. the clouds passing the moon

                                                tell me i will not be here always,

                                                nor my feet on this muddy path footprinting

                                                the wet grass: one day

                                               

sky and leaves will close over like doors to a verandah

                                                moss on terrace stones

                                                will change to white, then pink,

                                                then green again with time –

 

so the slow tongue-driven, thought-driven words attempt

                                                to fill and deepen

                                                the eyes’ bright windows –

                                                a tentative dialogue.               

 

 

Based on later viewings of Tony Tuckson’s, White lines (vertical) on ultramarine, AGNSW, a painting which has triggered a number of my poems as well as the title of my last book.

 

 

 

Works cited: 

 

Stewart, S 1993 On longing: Narratives of the miniature, the gigantic, the souvenir, the collection, Durham, NC: Duke