Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Eastbourne by Helen Jacobs

It is to the island
and the coastlands
that the shifting light
tethers on a fluid line
weaving water and sand
and rock.

The point of going away
is always to come back –
thrice deny, and you
come back

to the shells of your sandheaps,
allow that there could be
an old spirit or two
or simply an old love affair
with the harbour playing you in.


Climbing to the houses
you look down to where
yachts gather, to the path
of the ferries, to all
the usual traffic on the rim,
and you are caught in
the particular pattern
of this moment’s water movement,
this wind flurry, this shadow
darkening green to grey,
and you cannot leave it
because the evening will be
different, and tomorrow will be
different, and the sky has
so many ways of passing before
you, and you cannot gather
all this into imagination so
you must stay.


The wide open coast lends itself
to the wind, moods of high spray
over the scrub and frayed flax.
You walk here with your ears wool-
covered, hands in deep pockets,
crouch into a rock or low bush
with your sandwiches.

But on the days of endless blue
there are three white lighthouses
to choose from, the sea a slow swell,
a fishing boat sitting distant,
and you walk to one lighthouse or
the other over sand, clay, rock,
rhythm your steps to a remote clarity
that you can only paint –
or stare at;
in the stillness of the sun
count seven seals, or the houses
on the other shore, and take home one
fingernail-sized shell to code it all,
this question of where the heart lies.

posted with the poet's permission

Editor: Mary McCallum 

Not long before Christmas last year, the people of Eastbourne (NZ) packed out local bookshop Rona Gallery to launch Eastbourne : an anthology (Mākaro Press). The woman launching the book was former mayor  Elaine Jakobsson who writes as poet Helen Jacobs. Her poems 'bookend' the 300 page book, and Elaine had flown north from Christchurch especially to be there. 

After Elaine's launch speech, there were readings from the book, but the last to read was Elaine herself, and Eastbourne is the poem she read. For all who live here it is a taonga — a gift — something to return to as much as the place itself — and the perfect ending to this book of place. 

I speak of Eastbourne with such warmth because I am the publisher at new press, Mākaro, and one of the editors along with Anne Manchester and Maggie Rainey-Smith. Helen Jacobs (now in her 80s) was one of our wonderful finds. The collection of writing — poetry, fiction and creative memoir by 96 different authors — and drawings by local artists, evoke Eastbourne of the imagination, taking readers into the place bay by bay, from Point Howard to Pencarrow. There is classic writing by writers like Katherine Mansfield and Robin Hyde, high profile contemporary writers like Steve Braunias and Lloyd Jones, and fresh new writing from talented locals and visitors like Avi Duckor-Jones and Sarah Laing. 

Elaine Jacobsson was born in Patea in 1929. She came to live in Lowry Bay in 1954, and stayed in  Eastbourne for 36 years. Following an involvement in community activities and environmental issues she was elected Mayor of Eastbourne in 1980, and appointed to the Planning Tribunal in 1986. Since 1984. she has published six collections of poetry, the most recent being DRIED FIGS (2012). 

Elaine/Helen's work has been published in many magazines and anthologies including ‘Yellow Pencils’ 1988, ‘Oxford Anthology of Love Poems’ 2000, ‘Essential NZ Poems’ 2001, ‘My Garden, My Paradise’ 2003, ‘This Earth’s deep Breathing’ 2007, ‘Our Own Kind’ 2009 and in numerous Canterbury anthologies. She retired to Christchurch in 1994 where she has been active in the poetry community and the Canterbury Poets Collective. Visit her at helenjacobspoetry.wordpress.com. 

What a pleasure it was meeting Elaine! And huge thanks to Robyn Cooper who looked after her so wonderfully when she came for the launch. 

One of the joys on working on Eastbourne for us editors was the joy of finding writers from the past life of the community we hadn't expected or known much about, and giving their work more time in the sun. Part of Elaine's speech at the launch of Eastbourne is worth recalling for its acknowledgement of this:

By casting the net generously to gather in retrospective writers as well as current, prose writers of every category as well as poets, this book will have a wide and lasting appeal, and will convey something of the complex nature of writers within the same environment, and something of their attachment to living here, something of the nurse bed of their inspiration. 
And it achieves more. In this age where all is floating in a cloud, dispersed in a sea of twitter, it brings together and gives anchorage to the writers — a tangible centring. 

This is our first post of 2014, at another place where writers and readers can be centred, and find anchorage. Do join us here at Tuesday Poem every Tuesday to meet another poet and poem. In the sidebar, 30 Tuesday Poets post a Tuesday Poem of their own each week — either by themselves or a poet they admire. Check it out.