Saturday, July 07, 2007

Love letters dissolving in the rain

It’s raining again. It seems to have been raining every day for weeks. I am particularly sensitive to rain this winter because I am writing fragments of poetry in chalk around Whangarei, and they last only until the next rain, though a sheltered spot might remain legible through a swift shower.

Officially, my chalk poem fragments are teasers for Love Letters at Your Feet which will involve about 15 of my love poems written in chalk along the hidden paths and quirky concrete structures of Cafler Park, as part of the Mid Winter Art Festival. Unofficially, I am practicing chalk legibility, training my thighs for extended squatting, indulging my poet’s ego, healing the bruises on my heart, meditating on non-attachment, playing at transgression and offering gifts to friends and strangers.

Sometimes I pay attention to the weather forecast and their usually spurious promises of sun or showers, and sometimes I try to interpret the arcane code of scudding clouds, and sometimes I go out with my chalk even though the pavement is wet, the sky is grey and I know it will be raining again soon.

When I am organised enough to be responding to the forecast I’ll usually have some fresh text prepared to copy onto suitable surfaces. When a spontaneous urge to write in a rare dry spell coincides with having enough chalk with me, I usually end up adapting something from memory or making it up on the spot. It has turned out to be very freeing to know that what I am writing is ephemeral. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just legible (and spelled right). And if the rain washes it away over night or in the next hour, well, that just means the surfaces are being cleared for me to write on again.

In two weeks, weather permitting, it will be a different story for the Mid Winter Arts Festival. I have chosen a selection of love poems that I wrote between 1987 and 2007 and I have persuaded some friends to come along and help me chalk them around Cafler Park. I know which poems I want written where: the sundial, the wishing well, the amphitheatre, the old swimming pool ledges, the footbridges, the paths that wind aimlessly through the shrubbery and the lovely smooth asphalt around the new Library.

If the weather is too dire on 20-21 July then my alternate day for Love Letters at Your Feet is the following Friday the 27th, which just happens to be Montana Poetry Day. And whether or not it is raining during the Mid Winter Arts Festival, I welcome visitors at Te Kowhai Print Trust, at the Quarry, where I will be setting type and printing on the Arab press from 9-4 on Sunday 22nd. Examples of my letterpress prints and artist’s books will be on view and available to buy.

A rare moment of sunshine in Whangarei, at the Quarry entrance.

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