beautiful monsters: It's that time of the year again

October 31, 2005

It's that time of the year again

the time when I throw my heart into a few sheets of paper, and leave my fate for the next year in the hands of the Gods, or at least Bill Manhire and Damien Wilkins.

Description of Project

I propose to write a series of poems about:

A sapphire ring

two Japanese vases

the name of a hill in Wanganui

a pie funnel, made at Hawera, “the approved popular pie funnel, it carries away steam and leaves the pie crust as light and flaky inside as on the surface”

a thermometer from a milk pasteurizing plant

a signed copy of a collection of short stories

an ornate brush and pan for brushing crumbs from the table

a strut from an early aeroplane

a newspaper advertisement dated 15/11/1916, showing a car going up the Paekakariki Hill "Hills level themselves under the wheels of a Chevrolet"

four Chinese nesting tables

a clothes brush, engraved with the initials PC

a Cobb and Co Royal Mail Passenger Coach ticket dated 22/6/08 Westport to Reefton return: £1:10:0

a cairn in Rangitikei

a diary from the first campervan trip in New Zealand

leaves from a bay tree planted in 1866

a scythe

a silver tankard

two wooden plates

a field magnifying glass

a may bush

a copy of Every Man His Own Mechanic

and a locket made out of two ha’penny coins.

These are some of the artifacts we have, the remnants of the lives of my ancestors, from the settlers who stepped onto Petone Beach in 1840, to my grandparents who died this year.

I am intrigued by this collection of objects. Many of them are ordinary, practical items, others are precious objects that were saved for and treasured. Some of them bring with them detailed stories, others have only barest of details. Some are mundane glimpses of everyday life in New Zealand while others are part of momentous events (the siege of Parihaka, the flu epidemic, Gallipoli, the Napier earthquake, D-Day… Some I can already relate to, others are quite remote.

One of my favourites is my great-great grandfather Henry Bodley, was a type setter with the Evening Post, until he got lead poisoning. His doctor advised him to drink lots of milk, so he started a dairy and milk delivery business in Thorndon. I love typesetting… maybe it is in my blood. His wife’s trip to New Zealand on the Star of India in 1874 was the happiest time of her life but she missed the bluebells in the woods back in England.

I am just as fascinated by the stories I don’t know anything about. What did John Bryce’s wife, Elizabeth, think about the Parihaka affair? What went on in the kitchens, the bedrooms, of these ancestors? The artifacts we have are a tangible link from which to explore their lives and how their stories have resonances in my life.

Posted by Fionnaigh at October 31, 2005 09:32 PM | TrackBack

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