Tuesday, July 22, 2014

News from the Island by Tracey Sullivan

I met the weaver today
scalloping burnished gold
onto tamed hanks of lacebark,
porous and sunbleached
tissue thin strips of lathed bone.
He was cold, the weaver,
but he talked sunnily enough
of commissions and 
traditional uses for the bark 
- bandages and summer cloaks -
as spring sun sparkled crisply 
on the bay.
He gave me news of the cloak
I coveted
everyday last summer.
Visited. Lusted after. Loved.
I knew its rightful home
was here
on the too white walls
of the newly painted shack.
Black falls spiked with red
the wayward beauty 
of a waterfall, or hair.
And then it was gone
- to Olive.
And my heart learns again 
the consequence of uncertainty
the outcome of inaction
and the opposites of those.  

© Tracey Sullivan

Published with the permission of the poet

Editor: Claire Beynon

Tracey Sullivan is a New Zealand poet currently living in the Netherlands. Her work has appeared in print and digital form in New Zealand and on radio in the Netherlands. In 2012 a chapbook of her poetry, "a place on earth", was published in Singapore by Math Paper Press. She is currently working on a full collection. The internet is a remarkable tool with the ability to link people from all corners of the globe, often in surprising ways. Tuesday Poem is evidence aplenty of this! Tracey and I were introduced online via a mutual friend and while we've not yet met in person I have been fortunate to spend three nights in the 'newly painted shack' she references in today's featured poem. The shack is a magical place set amongst native bush on Waiheke Island, a forty minute ferry ride from Auckland. I can see why the place calls her; a shell-encrusted pathway leads through a forest of tree ferns and trunk-hugging fungi to the cottage. Night times are a call-and-answer conversation between silence and sound, insects and air. Pukeko fossick on the wooden deck at dusk. After dark, the balcony's lichen constellations shine. Tracey's writing is vivid and adventurous, intimate and contemplative. On the one hand she invites us to observe from a distance and on the other, to come right on in. Look through both ends of the telescope, she seems to be saying. Bold notes echo and dissipate across familiar and unfamiliar landscapes. I was especially moved by one of Tracey's recent poems, 'Spiegel Im Spiegel', whose title was borrowed from Estonian composer Arvo Pärt's composition of the same name. (I learned this week that this poem was highly commended in this year's New Zealand International Poetry Competition - the judge was our 'own' Tim Jones!).  Affection and restraint are woven through Tracey's 'News from the Island'. She is - and, by proxy, we are - both the observer and participant in this story. She offers us a portrait of master weaver Te Ao Marama Ngarimo and, too, a glimpse of his creative process, the outcome of which is a cloak whose 'wayward beauty' she 'coveted everyday last summer'. I found myself intrigued by details inferred as well as stated in this poem - the weaver's relationship with the natural world, for example, and the integrity of his chosen materials. Cloaks are garments of ceremonial importance as well as mantles of status and protection. The weaver was 'cold'; we are not told his age but might not 'old' be implied here? Certainly, his creative competence implies a man of maturity, mana and experience. It seems to me the word 'omissions' is cleverly embedded in the lines 'he talked sunnily enough/of commissions and/traditional uses for the bark', the more so after we've read the poem through to its closing stanza where we find the writer simultaneously challenged and at ease with her questions. It seems she holds both the weaver's skill and her own deliberations with similar affection. And who is Olive? A name and word I love, Olive evokes for me images as various and far apart as New Zealand's bellbird, Popeye's beloved and the garden of Gethsemane.  A day or two ago, Tracey sent me the following paragraph -"For me this poem is about finding a path, often between opposites, finding balance, making sense of loss and longing. The poem is full of contrasts: warmth and cold, presence and loss, external and internal, wildness/passion and the constructive taming of those. The literal story is of a change meeting with the Waiheke-based artist Te Ao Marama Ngarimo, whose work I admire. He worked as we spoke. I was struck by the time-consuming preparation of natural materials, the meticulous detail that goes into his weaving and how much life, passion and love is reflected in the finished work. I have spent quite a lot of time on Waiheke Island over the last few years. I am never ready to leave. It is part of the balancing act. The need to walk between pragmatism, judgement, decisiveness, and desire, emotion, connection. Making mistakes sometimes. Finding the path as you go."Yes. Thank you, Tracey, for agreeing to be this week's featured poet. TP readers can enjoy more of Tracey's poems on the Blackmail Press and Whitireia Polytech sites.

This week's editor Claire Beynon is an artist, writer and independent researcher. She is the founder and curator of a global arts initiative titled Many as One. Her studio website is being given a major and long-overdue overhaul. She blogs here

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Unknown said...


Helen Lowe said...

I love the sense of possibilities lost: I think we all know that sense of regret.

වයලීනෝ ( දර්ශන ප්‍රභාත් ධර්මවර්ධන ) ( ප්‍රභාශ්වර ) said...

on the too white walls
of the newly painted shack.

nice one

Kass said...

"...the consequences of uncertainty..."

"...wayward beauty..."

...such lovely lines and all of them coming together to produce a graceful, yet meaningful poem.

Melissa Green said...

Lovely poem, Tracey, and a fine assessment of it, Claire. Thank you for bringing this beautiful work to our attention.

Helen McKinlay said...

Thanks Claire and Tracey. A lovely read. 'The wayward beauty of a waterfall or hair'...love that line and also the image which you have added them to.

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Penelope said...

Such a strong ending to the poem.

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