Tuesday Poem – The Silence of Drought

Out in the tide we stand and listen.

Listen to the sound of no birds singing

of insects gone quiet

of the distant burr of machinery.

There is a faint sniff of smoke in the air

from Nelson’s forest fires.

A bee is dying on the sand

close by

a pool of salt water.

(c) Helen McKinlay

These words came about because I have been increasingly disturbed by the eerie silence at the beach each day. The weather dry and still. Usually there are so many small sounds from birds and insects that I take them for granted and had to stop and think ‘what is missing’?  And yes bees and most other insects who live on land, need a good supply of fresh water.

My granddaughter found a small bird comatose in my garden. We gave it some water and it perked up and flew away. I’m so glad she learned this lesson. It is so easy to ignore the needs of this earth and its non human creatures.  I am ashamed to say it is only in recent years that I have thought seriously about insects and birds needing fresh water. As far as I know only a few sea birds can drink salt water. But then again I have been lucky to have fresh water always available, plus, I have been evacuated several times in my life due to flooding. And no doubt in a few months I will be complaining about the heavy rains, not the lack of them. Well I hope I will! Meanwhile I am making sure there are wet places in my garden for insects and birds.  Our monthly rainfall rate at present is 0.8milimetres!

It is a known fact that insect numbers are decreasing worldwide. See this article in The Guardian




Tuesday Poem – To you who follow, by Helen Bascand from her new book “time to sing before the dark”

We have broken things,
in particular, this sky –

not content with steeples, thrust
our dwellings higher, raised a maze
of fences, stolen the backyards.

We are the generation collecting
a second family car.

So we leave you the highways.
You will get there faster, miss
the byways, the shepherd
on his four-wheeler, shifting mobs, the farmer,
his lumbering cows ambling by – you’d smell
the sweet heat of their hide.

Or will you picnic by a river, idly
pick a stone to read its rough
smooth message?

Please God, we leave you beaches.

Will you stand ankle-deep in sea, watch
a shoal of silver fingerlings dart and weave

like a silken scarf caught in some liquid wind?

Helen Bascand 1929-2015

To those who follow, is published with permission from Joanna Preston, Helen’s friend and literary executor.  It was Joanna who completed the task of editing and assembling Helen’s fifth and posthumous, poetry collection. “time to sing before the dark.” This book has yet to be launched so we are fortunate to share this taste. Joanna sent me three poems to choose from. Thank you! I chose the above for its powerful and loving farewell to us all.
One sees immediately that Helen Bascand’s poetic language sparks with originality, for example from the poem ‘Sleep and Wake,’ about the Canterbury quake…
the groan of a split earth,
a woman birthing, a new river
carving, squeezed in a valley between
the rock walls. The floor creaks.
I have now received a copy of the book itself. Reading it, I felt overwhelmed by a voice that is strong yet sensitive; fearless, yet not foolhardy in her approach to life, clear but with a deep understanding of life’s mysteries.  Someone with a powerful sense of where she is from and where she is headed. ‘One dandelion head in it’s withering time.’ Helen doesn’t need harsh words to write about tough times. Her authenticity comes from the fact that she is not afraid to write truth with beauty. The two are inseparable. She is also a perfect example of the ‘show don’t tell’ that many writers struggle with.
Biography in Brief: Helen Bascand 1929-2015, was a stalwart of the Canterbury poetry scene – a long-time member of Airing Cupboard Women Poets, one of the founders of the Small White Teapot Haiku Group, and the author of four previous poetry collections. She was working on the poems of time to sing before the dark when she died. What a loss she is but how thankful we can be that she chose Joanna as her literary executor. This is a book made with love…an affair of family and friends. It shows.
To read about the book and /or order a copy go here. 
To read Joanna’s thoughts on editing her friend’s book go here.
From banana boxes to a beautiful book. A wonderful achievement.

Press Release From ‘Grandma’ re Grandma Joins the All Blacks

No poetry today. Grandma and I have decided to come out and celebrate!


Grandma in celebration mode

‘Grandma’ is delighted to see that she has been included in the short list of 20 books for New Zealand’s favourite bestselling NZ book title, for the last decade. She nearly fell off her chair when she found out. The booksellers made up the list and it’s all about the books booksellers love to sell most. Helen, that’s me, is rather overwhelmed by such an honour and had to have two tablespoons of Grandma’s curative marmalade to calm her down. However, she, that’s me, would like to say that there were a lot of people involved in the production of this book…Australian illustrator Craig Smith, Harper Collins NZ, designers, printers, the lovely booksellers who sell these books and who organised this event in celebration of Bookshop Day on the 27th October. ‘Most of all,’ adds Grandma, ‘thank you to  all of you readers out there.’ So congratulations and thank you everybody for the part you have played in it’s success. To read about the other Grandma Books go here.

This story begins with Grandma’s plans to be a ‘good grandma.’ She even takes her knitting when she goes to watch the All Blacks in training. She sits and waits and knits but where are the boys? They’re hiding in the change room. Luckily, there’s nothing wrong that a dose of Gran’s marmalade can’t fix.
Next morning however, the team refuses to get up. The coach asks Gran for help. ‘They need a break,’ she tells him. She puts her granny chores aside and leads the boys off for some fun and adventure. By Friday, their enthusiasm is restored. But on Saturday when Gran arrives at the stadium to cheer them on in the big match, disaster awaits. The captain has chicken pox. Grandma takes on yet another challenge as she dives into the fray, marmalade, boots and all.
Published by Harper Collins NZ, October 1st, 2007 and many times reprinted.

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