Not poems, but something to share and celebrate anyway, by two hard-working members of the Auckland writing community…
Trisha Hanifin, The pine-needled earth
Pine trees form a windbreak between the farmhouse and sheep paddocks. As a child Leonie climbed into the lowest branches and jumped to feel the joy of being airborne, for the satisfaction of landing unharmed on the pine-needled earth.
In the bathroom the curtains billow and slap against the wall. Leonie sits on the edge of the bath. She leans over and puts her cheek against the hand basin while she waits for Lucy to arrive.
‘How was the trip?’
Lucy pours a glass of water. ‘Chucked up all the way.’
Leonie rubs her eyelids and sees pine needles lying on top of dry soil. Beneath them the edges of tree roots are smooth, like washed bone.
‘I don’t want another kid,’ Lucy says.
Leonie tried to talk about it once. Owen had been watching a fishing program. While she spoke he looked at snapper being held up to catch the light before they were weighed and tagged.
‘You’re always so tense,’ he said, ‘so insistent.’
‘But it has to be the right time.’
‘The right time for who?’
Leonie dreams she is lying on a bed of pine needles. The sky is vast. Clouds morph into children’s faces. She is a leaf, dry and light. The wind picks her up; blows her high above the trees, into the heart of the sky.
In the morning, she takes the ladder and climbs into the tallest pine. She wants to be airborne again, to feel the satisfaction of landing on the pine-needled earth.
Leanne Radojkovich, The Onion
Ana lives with her Uncle and Aunty. Uncle has fat frog eyes and unwashed, uncombed hair. He eats nothing but soup because of his delicate stomach. Aunty never says a thing. She stands on a lean as if one shoulder carries an enormous weight. Her other shoulder constantly trembles. She resembles a moth with a wing plucked off.
Every morning Uncle slurps his soup, complaining, “Too much salt! Too much salt!”
When Aunty goes to market, Uncle drops the spoon in his bowl. He stands close to Ana. He smells of armpits and garlic.
Ana ducks away. Grabbing her shoulder bag she runs out of the house to the track at the end of the village that twists up into a steep treeless mountain. In spring orange strawflowers burst through cracks in the rock, but now they are shrivelled stalks crunched into dust beneath her feet. The sun rises as she climbs higher. Her shadow falls in front of her, growing longer.
She stops at the dry plots of land she tills for Uncle, opens her bag and pulls out a chunk of bread wrapped in a cotton square. Chewing very slowly, she gazes down at the village.
When she has swallowed the last crumb, she takes an onion out of her bag and lays it on a rock. She lifts her skirt and pisses on it. Later, she’ll take it home, chopping it into Uncle’s soup, wiping away her smile when he exclaims, “Too much salt!”
Images and stories posted with permission from the authors.
Note about these postcard stories:
The Miles Hughes Achievement Award was granted at the beginning of November. Trisha Hanifin spearheaded this Auckland initiative and Leanne Radojkovich worked tirelessly with Trisha to ensure the highest integrity for the award (with others, too: James George and Anita Arlov, to name two).
The award was set up to honour the life and work of Auckland writer and devoted indie publishing enthusiast Miles Hughes, who passed away earlier this year. The judging panel for the competition consisted of Trisha and Leanne, and they added me to the mix as well. Together the three of us tackled the difficult task of assessing the varied applications, all of remarkable quality.
The award holds in its highest regard innovation, involvement and perseverance in the current writing and publishing climate. Miles epitomized these three qualities in his writing and publishing life and they form the basis for judging the award. The awards were announced November 9 in Auckland at a celebration well attended and festive by all accounts. Winners were:
James Russell — first
Louise de Varga & Gus Simonovic — second equal
Michael Botur & Raewyn Alexander — third equal
Ellie Baker — highly commended
From the MHAA press release, a little more about the winners:
Ultimately, James Russell won for his imagination and drive in publishing and marketing his Dragon Brothers Trilogy of children’s books, for writing a free ‘how-to- guide for others interested in indie publishing, and for his achievement in selling 6,000 copies of his books in 140 stores throughout NZ.
Second place-getter Louise de Varga created the successful Auckland Independent Book Festival held in Devonport this year (and is already taking bookings from stallholders for next year’s event), as well as self-publishing her book Kapowai the dragonfly’s birthday.
Joint second place-getter, poet and performer Gus Simonovic, was commended for his entrepreneurship in creating a wide range of innovative spoken word events for local writers and audiences, and recently published his poetry collection Allowed and Aloud.
Third place-getters Raewyn Alexander and Michael Botur have also supported fellow writers. Their published books include Botur’s short story collections Hot Bible and Mean, and this year Alexander published her third novel Glam Rock Boyfriends.
Highly commended Ellie Baker has also succesfully produced and marketed her nonfiction book, The Emotional Challenges of Immigration, and is involved with writing groups in South Auckland.
Interesting to note (thanks for pointing this out, Leanne) is that the winners cover a wide range of genre and style: children’s picture books, short stories, poetry, novels and non-fiction. That’s pretty neat to see!
I heard from Trisha and Leanne that Bronwen Hughes and Miles’ children and grandchildren attended the November 9 celebration, and were happy to see such creativity in Miles’ name — even if the celebration was a positive one mixed with sadness and fond memories of this wonderful individual. And an added bonus: the talented Cailtin Smith contributed to the festivities as well!
The postcard stories were presented at the event, too — and I’m grateful to Leanne and Trisha for sharing these with me in this form to share today.
Thank you to Trisha and Leanne — two hardworking and inspiring Auckland writers who’ve given heaps of time and energy to this wonderful new literary award. I’m honoured to have been a part of the opening year celebrating Miles’ creative life.
Tuesday Poem is a collective of poets who share poetry on a weekly basis across borders and time zones. At the TP hub this week you’ll find “The Room of Books” by Rethabile Masilo.
For more Tuesday Poems, go here.