Thursday, 6 March 2014

Commonwealth Poets United trip to New Zealand

waving to friends in Iraqthe sunrise, and the first of 26 episodes of Big Bang Theorymorning in Dubaias close as I could get to the end of the runway in WellingtonCuba StGregory O'Brien
thoupInternational Institute of Modern LetterskitWaikawa Beachlooks like the skerries off Fitful Headpoet, hustled by weka
blowfishpaua, circular saw shell, poetryGlenn Colquhoun, reading at ValhallaIMG_5291South Crater, Tongaririo Northern CircuitEmerald Lakes
i like these guys. A kind of gentianArgentinian woman, showing me how far she can spread her toes. Far.pukekoBill Manhirebiggest fish supper everubiqitous flax

I wonder what long haul air travel across time-zones does to body, soul and mind. The world is a scalp with two crowns. Coming home go back in time and brush its fur the wrong way. Halfway between Melbourne and Singapore abandon hope of arriving ever. The guy in the seat behind me has unfairly long legs, and big feet which intrude into my footwell. I wake from a two hour sleep, find his feet between mine and kick them violently and deliberately until they retreat. Long legs and I avoid each others' eyes as we get off the plane in Singapore. Terrible to travel through the equator for the first time and not even get outside, which is why Changi is my new favourite airport: they let you smell the air. Upstairs and out into the cactus garden. It is midnight and 26 degrees. The sky is stifling, orange and smells like a wood-fired oven. Under the clear skies of Kapiti Island and the Tongariro Alpine Circuit, Orion was upended as if diving for pearls below the horizon. Here I couldn't find my way to a single constellation: the fainter stars obliterated in smog. I clapped the flask-shaped trunk of a ponytail tree. A friend of mine quotes a friend of hers: 'the soul travels on horseback'. So what happens while your soul is catching you up? Empty, you fill up like a well, mostly unmediated by language. For a while language is a almost purely sensual phenomenon: birds, places, rhythm, phonetic novelty and familiarity. (To 'whakapapa' is to 'redd up kin'. It's pronounced 'fokkapapa' or so, and was the name of the village I began my walk through the mountains.)

With big thanks to all the folk who put me up and in touch and showed me around: Frances Hendron and Robyn Marsack, Bill Manhire and Marion, Greg O'Brien and Jenny Bornholdt, Chris and all the students at the International Institute for Modern Letters at Victoria University, Glenn and Olive and Amey, Dinah Hawken and Bill, James Brown, St Benedicts and St Catherine's Schools, Radio New Zealand, Unity Books, the nice folk I met on the Tongariro Northern Circuit and the Shetland Society of Wellington!

2 comments:

Heather Waikato said...

I have just read (quite by accident) 'The Moult' Thank you. I am lost in admiration
It transported me (a Kiwi living in the UK) back to the New Zealand beaches of my childhood,
If you get to the tip of the North Island (Cape Reinga) you will doubtless be told that when people die in NZ their soul rushes up there, over 90 Mile Beach, past the Cape and into the boundless Pacific.
A great comfort to know this

Jen Hadfield said...

thanks, Heather. I had a wonderful time…just too short! Yes, I heard about 90 Mile Beach. Hope I'll get there one day, in body or spirit!