Poetry of Place

Taieri Mouth, New Zealand. Photographed in January 2006. Taken by James Dignan (User:Grutness); Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA 3.0

In the first month of his landscape architecture degree at Lincoln University in 2000, Nigel was tasked with selecting a piece of New Zealand writing and using that as a basis for producing a mixed-media item using the Landscape School’s latest scanner.

He told me about all this yesterday after reading the Theme: Woven post that I’d published. He still has the scan on his computer so I had a look at it and his take on “weaving” intrigued me. I decided it would make an interesting blog-post to follow on from what I published yesterday.

New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax) at Orokonui. Taken by Liz

So, going back to 2000…

Nigel found that Baxter’s poem At Taieri Mouth resonated and he then came up with the idea of weaving together some words, flax leaves (Phormium tenax) and a fishing net. He had no access to a fishing net so he drew a basic one. He scribed selected lines of the poem onto some real flax leaves and then constructed the item – it was about two inches thick. He experimented with the scanner until he got a result with sufficient depth of field to keep the integrity of the story he sought to convey.

** Click to Enlarge **

bianca woven flaxTaieriMouth

At Taieri Mouth – James K. Baxter

Flax-pods unload their pollen
Above the steel-bright cauldron

Of Taieri, the old water-dragon
Sliding out from a stone gullet

Below the Maori-ground. Scrub horses
Come down at night to smash the fences

Of the whaler’s children. Trypots have rusted
Leaving the oil of anger in the blood

Of those who live in two-roomed houses
Mending nets or watching from a window

The great south sky fill up with curdled snow.
Their cows eat kelp along the beaches.

The purple sailor drowned in thigh boots
Drifting where the currents go

Cannot see the flame some girl has lighted
In a glass chimney, but in five days’ time

With bladder-weed around his throat
Will ride the drunken breakers in

O’Sullivan, V. Ed. 1979. An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

Further Reading
For a photo of the Taieri River near the Mouth, taken as part of a homage to Baxter:

Homage to Baxter Resonance XI – Taieri River near the Mouth 1994

Quick Link: To Large Size Version of Resonance XI

Compiled by Liz with assistance from Nigel; Exploring Colour (2018)

8 thoughts on “Poetry of Place

Add yours

  1. What a stunning haunting poem Liz especially those last 6 lines, so happy to have read this and equally happy to have discovered Nigel’s hidden talents. He managed to convey so dramatically the slow moving haunted-ness of the poem, almost like it was created/captured underwater with the flax leaves either weaving through the net or being strangled by it and waiting to be strung across those cold drunken breakers. Thank you for much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was hoping you’d make it as far as this one Dami! I loved the thoughts you’ve shared here and read them to Nigel. I’d also told him that I’d been taken by the underwater look! He says you’re probably the one apart from me who ever understood it, not that many people have ever seen this until now – just teacher and classmates! Its just been sitting on his computer!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting post, Liz, and good title. I do like Nigel’s creation, and more so after reading Baxter’s poem. I’m glad you included your photo of the flax. I was not familiar with it and never would have imagined that is what it looks like.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Ellen! I made up the title so I appreciated the compliment thank you. Yes, this is the New Zealand flax. Grows particularly well down south here. Commonly grown as a hedge between road and farm paddocks, you see long lines of them. In nature these grow very densely around swamp or marsh edges. They have tall flower stalks that attract our songbirds for nectar. Maori use the leaves and fibre extensively. There’s a lot of flax grown in public plantings in LA.

      Liked by 1 person

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