Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Miner's Cook by Meliors Simms

Flying in, the sea is dark and demanding.
Our island appears like a jewel and grows
green until we circle to land, 
then I see the red sore gouged at its centre
and my bile rises as the plane drops.
On the ground I am lost in the chaos
of unloading in a sudden dark that hides everything
beyond our beams. I’m looking for the bread,
fresh bread brought to last this first week
but by the time I’ve found it the loaves are gnawed to stale crusts
and I’m in despair with a hungry crew to feed.
I must push my fear and sorrow
out into the dark and be grateful when our neighbours,
the whalers, come over the hill with roast meat.
I stumble asleep among crates of food
and dream of home but when I wake up I’m still here
and a relentless dawn calls me to breakfast for thirty. 
For days of sorting supplies and learning a new kitchen,
fuelling men between their shifts,
all I ever see is the grassy slope sheltering our camp,
a wink of water behind us and a sky full of strange stars.
Finally there is time for a walk, up the hill
I see again the bleeding gash I am feeding,
and vomit into the grass.

Meliors Simms

No Mine is an Island - Meliors Simms 
Blanket-stitched, needle-felted recycled wool blankets 2011

                                                               Editor: Claire Beynon

Meliors Simms (NZ) is a woman of diverse talents; a 'radical crafter'*, environmental custodian, creator of exquisite hand-made and altered books, poet and fine artist of high integrity. 

I first encountered Meliors's books and meticulous needle-felted artworks about two years ago when a friend, knowing my passion for Antarctica, directed to me to Meliors's blog, Bibliophilia; I was awed and delighted by the familiar yet entirely 'other' world I encountered there. Crocheted coral reefs, embossed paper fossils, blanket-stitched oceans contaminated by woollen droplets of rust-coloured oil; a finely-contoured relief of a pristine Ross Island. . . I felt an immediate resonance with Meliors's work and with the ethos underpinning it.

In her artist's statement for You are an agent of change, Meliors explains her process in the following words - "The slow, accretive nature of my artistic practice is an analogy for both the natural world and human society. . . These ‘domestic arts’ also signify apparently unrelated individual human choices regarding food, housing, transport and energy; and their cumulative environmental impact. . ."

I chose Meliors's poem Miner's Cook for this week's Tuesday Poem for the way it exemplifies so much of what I understand her creative process to be about - namely, a call to re-establish the right relationship with our earth; a plea to wake up to the many covert and overt ways in which we cause our planet harm; in this poem and the accompanying artwork, No Mine is an Island, Meliors quite literally stitches into relief our blind disregard and wilful mismanagement of our natural resources. 

Miner's Cook - an image that might or might not have appeared to her in a dream - is a no-holds-barred poem of protest, lament and advocacy. This is work that is at once subtle and provocative, lyrical and confrontational. It serves as archive of our times.

"Look across the surface and down a mine that bleeds toxic tailings into the sea. Look within, beyond the obvious, behind the scenes. There is a complicated story underlying every thing we buy and all that we reject. The consequences of our consumption extend far, and sustain long, beyond our individual use. We cannot fence off ourselves from each other, or from the air, the earth, the waters of our world. Whether careless or deliberate in our choices, whether in denial or awareness, we do not stand alone. Let there be no mistaking: each imperfect stitch of cotton thread was made by hand, every layer slowly needle-felted from recycled blankets and un-spun wool. My materials are plants and animals but my finger tips became calloused from hundreds of hours pushing needles of steel, tempered from iron, mined from an earth left as scarred as my skin. . . " Meliors Simms

*Fellow blogger and Tuesday Poet Tim Jones posted an in-depth interview with Meliors in August. 

Claire Beynon is this week's TP editor. An artist, writer and novice filmmaker, Claire's blog - www.icelines.blogspot.com - is about to turn three; her first entry was written in October 2008 en-route to a field camp in Antarctica. 

For more Tuesday Poems, please follow the links in the side-bar to the right of this page.


Tuesday Poem now has 100 followers!
The 100th person to join our TP community is Salaq
 We will be sending Salaq a package of poetry books in celebration. 


Helen Lowe said...

I really like this poem: first it works "as" poem, while also managing to convey a tough message in a way that is emotionally strong. And it lifts the poem, and through it poetry, beyond the purely personal--territory poetry has appeared to nervously (self indulgently?)cling to through much of the past quarter century--into a medium that shows that it is also relevant to consideration of vital issues.

Great choice, Claire.

Great poem, Meliors.

Meliors Simms said...

thanks Helen!