02 April 2020

What You Leave Behind: my tribute to Jeanette Fitzsimons


I was asked to write a poem in tribute to Jeanette Fitzsimons for her Wellington memorial service. That service, along with so much else, has now been postponed, but here is the poem - with thanks to Jenny Campbell for suggesting the whakatauki that precedes it.

This poem was published as part of Coal Action Network Aotearoa's tribute to Jeanette Fitzsimons - Jeanette and I were members of the Coal Action Network Aotearoa Organising Group, and here is the full tribute, which has some wonderfully-written pieces about Jeanette.



What You Leave Behind


Whakatauki


Ehara i te tii e wana ake.
It is not like the ever-renewed shoots of the cabbage tree .


Death is final & irrevocable. The tii or cabbage tree is hard to kill, because new shoots spring from apparently dead branches.




The final movement of the last quartet

stumbles to an end. The players

raise their bows from the strings,

stand, incline their heads,


And wait as the silence stretches on.

The hall is empty. Only microphones

connect them with the world. Where

are you, where have you gone?


Gone from the valley, gone from the hill.

Gone your prodigious memory, your mind.

You were not a kind person, you told me once.

But your forte was kindness in action.


You planted a thousand thousand seeds.

Stony ground devoured some. Others

were taken by drought, swept away

by sudden flood and rising sea.


Yet hundreds still grow, seedlings

sheltered so long by the mighty parent tree

now spiraling upwards in the clearing

made by your fall from the canopy.


Silence in the hall, silence on the Hill.

The air lies thick and curdled.

In our lungs and in our bones

we feel the cost of consequences rise.


All voices end. Yours lives on

in wisdom, friendship, in example.

Be kind. Speak clearly. Be unafraid.

Block the gates of power and greed.


The players leave. The music hides

between the pages of the score.

Alone on stage, one music stand,

one violin, one bow, one empty chair.

18 February 2020

Blackball Readers and Writers Festival 2020

I'm very happy to have been invited to take part in the second Blackball Readers and Writers Festival at Queen's Birthday Weekend.

Below is info about the Festival from Paul Maunder. Check out Paul Maunder's blog for a lot of very interesting thinking on climate change, just transition and many other things!

As someone who lived for 18 months on the West Coast as a child, I'm especially pleased to be going back to the Coast for this Festival.



The second Blackball Readers and Writers Festival will take place at Queen’s Birthday Weekend, running from midday Saturday 30th May to Sunday evening. This year’s theme is activists, renegades and recluses. It will take place once again in the beautiful setting of the local school.

To begin the festival, biographer, Pat White and editor and environmental writer, David Young will ‘recover’ the work of Greymouth born, Peter Hooper, poet, teacher, novelist, environmentalist and mentor to young writers. Choosing to stay and write on the Coast, he was in some ways, a tragic figure.

After a break, Caroline Selwood will interview Sandra Arnold, whose work includes two novels, a book on parental bereavement, a short fiction collection and her third, recent historical novel, The Ash, the Well and the Bluebell. To conclude the afternoon, Pat White will then read some of his own poems.

After dinner, Paul Maunder’s Waiting for Greta, a remake of the theatre classic, Waiting for Godot will be performed.

Sunday morning, Paddy Richardson will talk with Becky Manawatu, whose first novel, Auē, dealing with ‘kids, gangs and curdled masculinity’, has been very well received. Elspeth Sandys will then speak with David Young about her extensive writing life with a focus on her latest work, A Communist in the Family: Searching for Rewi Alley, a story that combines family memoir, biography, history and travelogue.

After lunch, Paul Maunder will talk with Nicky Hager, NZ’s best known investigative Journalist, whose books have uncovered environmental, political and military skulduggery. How did his work begin? What is the role of the journalist-writer, what is the methodology, what are the ethical issues?

The afternoon will conclude with a panel discussion with two writers, their source material and their motivation, chaired by Kennedy Warne. Tim Jones, whose latest novel is a Cli-Fi book, Where We Land will be joined by Kathleen Gallagher, whose recent novel Inangahua Gold is inspired by local history and environment. The festival will conclude with a dinner at which people can read a letter of importance in their lives, part of the festival’s aim to resurrect the art of the letter. A wide range of accommodation is available in Blackball.


Registration: wkcultur@gmail.com
Full festival: $80, including lunches and Saturday dinner. One day: $40. Session: $20