Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Tuesday Poem: Wind by Madeleine Slavick

all night the wind
changes its mind


This delicious snippet of a poem was dropped around Greytown by 'guerrilla' poet Madeleine Slavick as part of the Greytown Arts Festival over the weekend -- and she persuaded a bunch of other poets, including myself, to do the same. She's like that: likes poetry to walk around on legs rather than let it quietly sit in the corner embroidering. Madeleine's from the States but has lived in Hong Kong for some time; now she lives near Masterton.

So we poets walked the streets rolling poems like cigarettes and sliding them into hedges, slipping them flat and upright between bottles on shop shelves, sticking them with cellotape to maps and onto shop signs.  Madeleine's best 'drop' was down the front of poet Pat White's artist wife Catherine Day. It was this very poem on a small square of blue paper and it sat there on Catherine's chest for the rest of the afternoon.

Madeleine took delight in saying to the locals gathered at cafes, 'Short blue or long white?' And they chose either this little wind poem on blue or a longer poem on white. Sometimes she started reciting. I think Featherston-poet-formerly-of-Belfast Simon Fleck might have recited some too.

I was proud of my 'drops' -- especially the one between the feathers of a metal moa (following Madeleine's lead) and one slid into a summer top on a posh shop mannequin. The shop owner looked a little startled but said it would be fine for now. When I passed by five minutes later, it had gone. Taken or binned? I only posted one poem all over the place - Translucent which is about crossing the Rimutakas - you can see it in the post before this one. But I made it nice - used an old tin box of paints and painted white lightly over the poem (for the clouds) with a dash of blue where it talks about the blue sheep truck. Very, um playcentre.

John Horrocks didn't print off his poems off like the rest of us, let alone apply paint, he simply took a pair of scissors to one of his books of poetry. Very Dada. Madeleine was disappointed he didn't do it in front of people on the Main Street of Greytown. There's a poem -- hack! -- and there's another one -- snip! What he did do was stick a poem about slaughtering a pig onto the butcher's sign, which made Madeleine laugh a lot.

Saradha Koirala slipped a poem called Amsterdam, printed on white, into a hedge -- and a mother with a pram stopped, read it, and carefully put it back. I saw and said, 'take it!' She said, 'Oh it's so Amsterdam' and took it. The poems in the hedge went quickly. Somewhere I have a picture of them that I'll post here. Tim Jones marched manfully around Greytown distributing what looked like over 100 poems. He seemed more proactive about pushing them into people's hands. It must be the way he does it, he's got a large and friendly smile, I didn't see any being binned.

After we'd been guerrilla poets for an afternoon, we gathered at the Town Hall with other poets and did what poets normally do: read poems.

I love to think about where our 'guerrilla' poems have gone. I'm guessing some are still sitting there, on maps or statues or between bottles of chutney in the deli. Others might be on people's fridges at home or tucked inside a baby's pram. I'm not sure if Catherine's still wearing hers. I'll have to ask.

Madeleine Slavick's poem is published in Something Beautiful Might Happen ~ poetry by Madeleine Slavick, photography by Shimao Shinzo (Tokyon: Ushimaoda 2010)


Madeleine Marie Slavick said...

A lovely recap of that day, Mary. Thank you.
I liked these drops:
--in the collars of 2 dogs
--taped across Marilyn Monroe's lips in a statue
--attached to tree branches outside the Town Hall
And yes, I love language.
I love it alive, doing something good for all of us....

Mary McCallum said...

Yes! the dogs - lovely (they might have seen the 'wind' reference rather ambiguously) - and the ones in the tree looked so pretty.... my daughter was incensed about the way we added to Marilyn btw. X

AJ Ponder said...

Mary - you bad girl - bombing the day with words - next you'll have a spray can out and...change your mind.

Helen Lowe said...

I like it!

Tim Jones said...

I'm very tempted to let this description of my manfulness stand, and drop it into the conversation in a laconic fashion when next called upon to do manly things, but the reality is that I distributed ... hmmm ... 103 A4 sheets of poetry by asking shopkeepers and cafe owners if they would distribute them for me! One cafe owner was discriminating enough to scan the poem before deciding it was worthy of his cafe, but otherwise, everyone was instantly accepting - including Stephen King's brother.

Elizabeth said...

Oh, it sounds like you had a fab time, Mary! I love the 'short blue or long white' query and the poems in the hedge. Would love to see some photos :)

John Horrocks said...

Chopping up my book - pure laziness but am considering writing a 100 000 word manifesto to explain why.e.g. to capture temporality/ the physical deconstruction of the creative object/ allowing the observer to enter the process/ truthiness .. please stop me, someone!

Madeleine Marie Slavick said...

Tim, one shopkeeper came out of her shop and asked for more poems. Simon and I gave her some short blue + long whites.

John, I'm gonna cut up one of my books someday, and give pages away, will let you know how the deconstruction goes.

Gaye, you couldn't join us on the day, but we all thank you for the wonderful idea of 'Free Poetry'.

p.s. I think M Monroe liked the company.

Helen McKinlay said...

It sounds like enormous fun Mary.thanks for your great description of the day.It's the sort of happening that might spread very quickly. Love the book chopping...very radical.

Penelope said...

I came upon this a week late, and have to ask whether you are aware of the tradition of poems on dog's collars. A royal dog had the following:

I am His Majesty's Dog at Kew;
Pray tell me, Sir, whose dog are you?

By Alexander Pope, no less.

Sounds like you all had a good time, and the different methods of distribution are quite interesting!

Mary McCallum said...

Poems on dog collars!!! now there's a grand idea... food for thought ....