Monday, February 23, 2009

Love Letters to Hamilton

Kids and mums reading poetry in the White Garden

Months ago, when I was first invited to chalk poetry at the 2009 Hamilton Summer Garden's Festival I was living in Australia with every intention to still be living there in 2009. I took the gig as a ride home for summer holidays in NZ. Yet sometime between arriving in Melbourne at the beginning of December and leaving Whangarei at the beginning of February I had decided I was going to settle down and make my home in Hamilton.

Stream Walk with Gaye Jurisich's beautiful, mysterious installation of blue plastic hanging over the water

So by the time the Festival rolled round, and there were heavy rain warnings, I could postpone my chalk installation because I don't have to go anywhere. I live here, I can just wait for the rain to pass and write my love letters in my own good time. Those of you who have been following Bibliophilia for a while may remember the first time I did Love Letters at Your Feet we did it twice because it rained, hard, in the middle of my writing.

Huge pumpkin, about a metre diameter in the Kitchen Gardens

The weather cleared on Sunday which was the Family Fun Day of the Festival. The Gardens were full of families with small children. As the day progressed I found I invariably had an audience for my writing, often a group of kids following me and reading the words out loud in unison. Which was lovely and funny, but I became acutely aware of the 'adult themes' (as they say) in many of my love poems. Though my sexy poetry is nothing like as explicit as what kids will see on Shortland St at 7pm every night, I still felt uncomfortable about my juxtaposition with the Teddy Bears' Picnic.

Hot honey in the White Garden

Luckily I had decided that this time I would include lots of pieces from my very long poem/play, 'Fall' which is a translation of the Bible's Song of Songs into a modern day romance between a couple of middle-aged public servants living in Wellington. It's a bit raunchy, but no more so than the biblical version so I didn't feel so worried about corrupting the young.

My beloved texted his desire and I trembled to the core of my being.

When I rose, to go to my beloved,
nectar ran off my hands
pure nectar off my fingers
onto the keypad of my phone.

Actually, quite a few parents commented on the excellent teaching moments afforded by having their children read my poems aloud. I had lots of feedback from people as I was writing. Except for the woman who told me she thought I was a vandal (and it did seem to many people that writing on public property, even in chalk, might be an illicit activity; but I guess they hadn't read my listing in the Festival programme) everyone was positive, or at least politely curious.

I am a house and a door for my children

but for my lover
I am a silk tent flapping.

I have a number of methods for writing on the ground, which I alternate as different parts of my body become too painful to continue. I squat, either bobbing up and down as I move rapidly along the path or else sidling in a sort of squatted waddle, which must look pretty funny to watch. Any lengthy squatting is hard on the front of the thighs, and after writing 21 poems over two days I now walk like an ancient and arthritic old lady and cannot lift myself in or out of a seated position without moaning in agony. So I also sometimes sat down to write on the ground, and shuffled myself along on my bottom like a baby that hasn't learned to crawl yet; leaving the palms of my hands raw from the rough concrete (and very impressed than my denim shorts survived this punishing regime). Very occasionally I would stoop, bending from the waist to write, but mostly when working on a low ledge like the lawn sampler rather than at ground level. I attribute the few twinges in my lower back to minimal indulgence in this pose.

Deja Vu around the Lawn Sampler

All the pain (including a bizarre huge blister on top the knuckle of my right index finger) was worth it because I got to fulfil my dream of transforming my favourite park in the world into a book of my own poetry. I reckon I may have offered a few kids (and adults) another way to think about poetry than boring schoolroom obscurities. Making, and reading, poetry with your whole body is exciting!

Crystanthemum Walk

If you can get to the Hamilton Gardens before it rains, here's where to go looking for my poetry:
  • Rhododendren Walk
  • Camellia Walk
  • Stream Walk
  • Crysanthemum Walk
  • Woodlands Walk
  • English Country Garden
  • Japanese Garden of Contemplation
  • Chinese Scholars Garden
  • Italian Rennaissance Garden
  • Herb Garden
  • Kitchen Garden
  • Lawn Sampler
  • American Modernist Garden


Amy said...

Oh I wish I could have been there! It sounds just great and wonderful! I have never heard of anything so creative here in any of our parks. I love that you love what you do so much. I yearn to create something ohter than comfort for others.

Kakariki said...

You are so cool! I wish my visit had coincided better, hopefully next time. Well done lovely!