The rain is dampening down the day before it has even started, but I plan on reading books in bed, making fish tacos for dinner, eating cheese scones and writing some more poems for children. I posted Claire McLintock’s cancer thoughts from Canvas on social media and felt so many connections. YES to living each day fully. It may be sleep or dream or reading or writing. But the choices I make – I know some of you might think I am crazy busy but I’m not – mean I live in a state of unbelievable happiness, calm and strength. It is like a miracle, and that I love words helps no end.
Claire and her husband are selling fundraising TShirts for Sweet Louise with Workshop.
This morning I was thinking about how important conversations and connections are when you are cut off from ‘normal’ life. I can’t imagine getting on a plane for a long time, or laughing in a crowded cafe. Or even going to festivals and launching books. But I can imagine connections and conversations through the exquisite reach of blogging. Even doing my own secret writing!
With these words drifting in my head, I read Janet Newman’s email. She writes:
Reading Robert Sullivan’s Rākaihautū there [on reawakened Poetry Shelf] and Anna Jackson’s response made me think of a poem I wrote after another poem from Tūnui / Comet. My poem reflects on the loss of productive farmland to lifestyle blocks, an old issue that is finally starting to seep into national and political consciousness. I thought you might like to read it.
I loved reading Janet’s poem – and I love how conversations and connections keep rippling out from Robert’s poetry, from the poem that relaunched Poetry Shelf, and from Anna’s. Poetry has the power to forge links with who, where and how we are in the world, the way we connect with and care for the land, the way we connect with and care for our own wellbeing. It is wonder and it is joy.
Goodbye Kukutauaki Road
“… there’s only a certain percentage of elite soils in this area, or even around the country. And once those are gone, they’re gone forever. You can never get them back.”
––Pukekohe farmer Stan Clark
my old friend.
I know how far you travel.
Back to my no-gear,
pedal-brake bike tyres
catching in dull gravel,
turning in smoky dust, Dad milking Jerseys
in a walk-through shed: six sheds, six houses
and a sheep farm at your end.
Back to war veterans clutching
marbles in your land ballot.
Back to Te Rauparaha’s boundary:
Kukutauaki Stream near Paekākāriki,
a snare for catching kākāriki.
Out west, sunsets
over Waitārere Beach. East, rainbows
over the Tararua Range, colourful
as your jam-packed letterboxes jostling with wheelie bins
for shoulder space.
Yet why do I see your bitumen shine
as loss my friend, your slick curves
as a black cow and our vehicles slide down
your spine all the way to Wellington,
coast nose-to-tail through the gully. Return
to pūkeko stalking lifestyle blocks, kererū
ghosting rural retreats.
I wave as my car swings past
your long, blue sign. Bye, bye
no exit Kukutauaki Road.
(after ‘Hello Great North Road’ by Robert Sullivan)
Janet Newman is a poet and scholar. Her debut poetry collection is Unseasoned Campaigner (OUP 2021), the manuscript of which was shortlised for the 2019 Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award. Her poems have been anthologised in Manifesto Aotearoa (OUP 2017) and No Other Place To Stand (AUP 2022). Raised on a Horowhenua dairy farm she now farms beef cattle. She holds a PhD in English from Massey University for her thesis Imagining Ecologies: Traditions of Ecopoetry in Aotearoa New Zealand (2019).