Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Preparing for an Exhibition

All the talk today is about this.
Helen who lives in the house I used to live in,
who cooks in my kitchen, makes paper clouds
where we ate, alights on the word translucent,
but moves on – via the deception of clouds –
to what she wants to say all along,
the word I’ve been avoiding perhaps because
I say it vainly every day: clarity clarity clarity
until it sounds like a horse running
down the road without its rider. Helen
doesn’t hear the horses, she only hears the lick
of gauzy rain from gauzy clouds:
ity ity ity
and is already imagining how hers might be –
layers of paper like onion skin. Really,
she wants to stop the dissembling. See the clouds,
you can touch them. Live in them, even.
Clarity, then. Not just the brilliance
of the tui clawing flax flowers outside
the kitchen window –
black feathers like embers, the comedy
of its throat, ty ty ty as it sucks –
but the way through to other side of the tui and
the flax where a luminous idea resides.
The tenderness of light.
Here at last in plain sight.

With thanks to ‘Meditation at Lagunitas’ by Robert Hass

Yes, I have been Preparing for an Exhibition - for nearly three months now, ever since Helen Reynolds invited me to join the Workbook Collective for a Fringe Festival Exhibition Translucent Landscapes. 

There are nine artists (installation, oils, video-media etc), a composer, and me, and we aim to fill up an abandoned optometrist's premises in Ghuznee Street with works that evoke and react to light in various landscapes from the vast to the intimate. We open this Thursday night with readings and music (my son's in the trio: mandolin, guitar and violin), and then we're open daily 11-6 pm until March 22.

Our joint blog explains better than I can what everyone else is up to. My poems are gathered in a limited edition book The Tenderness of Light with the creamiest paper - and they are, without my expecting it, really a sequence of poems about summer in the Wairarapa - a place we go to every year, where we grow things, where there is a Barn, where I write... The poem posted here was a huge challenge because it was about ideas as much as a moment and a feeling - Robert Hass' brilliant poem was a direct inspiration, and I have Tuesday Poets to thank for that: Sarah Jane Barnett and Elizabeth Welsh - both huge fans of his - who have posted a few times on Hass.

The process of writing to a theme for an exhibition has been hugely challenging and stimulating - from working intensely over summer trying to get poems down on the page, to the intense editing process which included unexpected and hugely helpful feedback from two poets I admire - both Tuesday Poets -- Bryan Walpert and Helen Rickerby, to working through how to present the poems (for this I am grateful for the generosity of my printer friend Martin Schaenzel), to the time now when we are working intensely together to make the exhibition happen.

Today, for example, I took young Eddie to the premises to clean the windows and help him get a poster up on the outside wall, I found out about mobile eftpos and credit card zip zap machines, and negotiated with a real estate company to remove a 'For Lease' sign from a key window. I also met with the printer who's printing my book and discussed/designed our next move, and then I hung around a bit supporting the other artists I guess. They're an amazing lot - full of ideas and energy and playing with 'stuff' in a way that reminds me of Playcentre - which I loved when I took my children there. It's such fun to be back.

The print button will be pressed tomorrow on The Tenderness of Light, and then in the evening friends will gather at Helen's house to hand-sew the binding. That will still my nerves, I think. Do come to the opening if you're in town.

5.30 pm Thursday March 1 at 75 Ghuznee Street, performances at 6 pm. Wine and nibbles. Open daily after that until March 22 (11-6pm).

I recommend you check out the Tuesday Poem hub now - a terrific US prose poet is featured thanks to Susan Landry.


Melissa Green said...

Oh, Mary, so much work, such concentrated attention, but what joy to have it all come together. And then to have The Tenderness of Light at the end of it all. So much congratulations are due, Mary. I hope your hands and heart are indeed stilled as you sew your precious book tonight. Wish I could visit your exhibition. xo

maggie@at-the-bay.com said...

Good luck on Thursday with the launch.

Penelope said...

It's great that the exhibition dealing with light will be at an abandoned optometrist's place: imagine all the people worried about their fading sight who have been there over the years, being assessed and buying implements to help them catch the light. Best wishes for Thursday (and the rest of the exhibition.)

AJ Ponder said...

Good luck Mary, nice poem but what really made me laugh was that being with the artists reminded you of playcentre. I had images of play-dough, paint and sandcastles...and it didn't quite mesh with the elegant book I saw beginning to take form.

Elizabeth Welsh said...

What an amazing community event to be a part of, Mary - I'll add my 'good luck' to the list of well-wishers for the launch. And how am I to get my hands on the stunning limited edition collection, may I ask? Is it orderable? And I can see Hass here - can see 'a word is elegy to what it signifies', can see 'the luminous clarity of a general idea'. Bravo!

Helen Lowe said...

Love "the tenderness of light"

And best for the exhibition.

Catherine said...

Beautiful poem - what a shame I can't visit your exhibition to see the book in its intended setting.
I loved Playcentre too - both as one of the very first Playcentre children in the early 1950s, and as a Playcentre mum.

Piokiwi said...

Hi Mary, what a wonderful distillation of what it's like to swim towards an unseen point of creation, and then to have that breakthrough - it's all going to happen! Congrats on the exhibition and hope to see it during my brief time in Wellington.

Harvey Molloy said...

Lovely poem, Mary. Will we be able to buy copies of the book?

Mary McCallum said...

Thanks everyone for comments - lovely and supportive as I hurtled to the finish line last Thursday. All over now - the book and exhibition launched! I will post on both on Monday and have a link to where copies can be bought.