Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Hope by Dinah Hawken

It is to do with trees:
being       amongst trees.

It is to do with tree-ferns:
mamaku, ponga, wheki.
Shelter under here
is so easily

You can see that trees
know how it is
to be bound
into the earth
and how it is to rise defiantly
into the sky.

It is to do with death:
the great slip in the valley:
when there is nothing left
but to postpone all travel
and wait
in the low gut of the gully
for water, wind and seeds.

It is to do with waiting.
Shall we wait with trees,
shall we wait with,
for, and under trees
since of all creatures
they know the most
about waiting, and waiting
and slowly strengthening,
is the great thing
in grief, we can do?

It is always bleak
at the beginning
but trees are calm
about nothing
which they believe
will give rise to something
flickering and swaying
as they are: so lucid
is their knowledge of green.

                                       Editor: Keith Westwater

I first met Dinah when I was accepted for her course 'Writing the Landscape' at the IIML at Victoria University of Wellington in 2003 (Tuesday Poem poet Tim Jones was a fellow classmate). I was immediately struck by Dinah's hugely impressive poetry-writing skills and her ability to create a safe writing-critique class environment, something very important to novice writers.

Dinah read 'Hope' to our class and I chose it for Tuesday Poem because it encapsulates so well the emotion and feeling engendered in its title. I also love the way the poem's pace, theme and language echo and capture this feeling.

Victoria University's web site (http://www.victoria.ac.nz/vup/authorinfo/dhawken.aspx) states that, "She is the author of five books - It Has No Sound and Is Blue, which won the 1987 Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Best First Time Published Poet, Small Stories of Devotion; Water, Leaves, Stones and Oh There You Are Tui (2001) which collects the majority of the poems from her earlier books along with a substantial group of new poems.

One Shapely Thing: Poems and Journals was published in April 2006. It was one of three titles shortlisted for Poetry in the Montana New Zealand Book Awards 2007, [as was a sixth title, The leaf-ride, in the 2012 New Zealand Post Poetry Awards].

Dinah was named the 2007 winner of the biennial Lauris Edmond Award for Distinguished Contribution to Poetry in New Zealand."

'Hope' is published on Tuesday Poem with permission and was first published in Water, Leaves, Stones, Victoria University Press, 1995.

This week's editor Keith Westwater is a poet from New Zealand and the author of Tongues of Ash, published in 2011. Visit his Tuesday Poems at his blog and the other Tuesday Poets using our blog list.


Mary McCallum said...

Quintessential Dinah. Lovely, grounded, hopeful. Thank you Keith, and for the story behind why you chose it. Everyone I know who has attended Dinah's class says how affirming and encouraging it is - I think about that when I take writing groups myself, how importance trust is in sharing one's writing and improving it.

Michelle Elvy said...

Oh this is gorgeous. I like what you write about the pacing, the movement. It works its way through so quietly, so deliberately -- with that hope nestled in the trees. Such a wonderful longlasting set of images. Thank you for this. I really love it.

Elizabeth Welsh said...

Oh, this is just beautiful. That final paragraph really hit me - the measured pace of 'It is always bleak at the beginning'. Phenomenal words. How amazing to have taken a course with Dinah. Thank you so very much for sharing, Keith & Dinah!

Ben Hur said...

Yes, she's a fantastic poet. A real sense of warmth pervades her work.

Helen McKinlay said...

This is a poem to be read and reread.
Each time I see more...
'trees are calm
about nothing
which they believe
will give rise to something
flickering and swaying
as they are: so lucid
is their knowledge of green.'
The idea of being calm about nothing..the ideas of waiting ...keeping on...waitng for new seeds...so true so empowering. Thank you Dinah for writing it and Keith for posting it.

Millie Locke said...

Have just been searching for an online version of this poem to send to a friend

I love this poem - Have read it at a funeral..... and quite often share it

The line' the great slip in the valley when there is nothing left reminds me of seeing these vertical breaks in the forest on a trip to Doubtful Sound in 2007 ... It seems to me she really knows what she is describing.... it really does take time for regeneration but it happens
Dinah Hawken is my favourite NZ poet