double you into zed zed

If you were able to look in our direction from the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, our sun would appear as a fourth point of light in the constellation Cassiopeia, transforming the W into a Zig Zag. This supposition fills me with confusion, not least because you can't see Cassiopeia from the southern hemisphere, where I am. This is clearly stupid of me, since I'm not in the Centauri system either ... although sometimes I want to be.

Cassiopeia was the mother of Andromeda, and boasted that both she and her daughter were more beautiful than sea nymphs, the Neriads, which made their father, Posiedon, so angry he sent plagues down upon the Phoenecian kingdom of Ethiopia that she and her husband, Cepheus, ruled. The god sent a monster, Cetus, to destroy the kingdom and an oracle said the only way to appease it was to sacrifice their daughter Andromeda. So they chained her to a rock ... until Perseus came and saved her.

Andromeda is the nearest galaxy, as opposed to the nearest star, to us. A mere 2.5 million light years away.

So what am I on about?

It's partly a fascination with trying to get off planet and to see, looking back, what we look like. This statement may be modified and applied to the self. But it's also about the strange concatenation of these ancient stories, told in the stars, and our modern astronomical knowledge. How - why - do these two things relate so strangely and intimately to each other?


... in the funpark of the mind, his favourite ride was the oneiric panopitcon.


over reading? or reacting ...

I know you're not meant to reply to reviews but, after all, why not? Or, why? I just want to make a few points re: the (otherwise accurate, in matters of fact I mean, not opinion, that's not my business) below: one, I haven't read Aldous Huxley's essays and he's not cited in the book, two, Waimarino County is not to my knowledge full of references to other literary druggies, three, I'd never heard of the de Quincy piece the reviewer says I've imitated, four, my interest in Rimbaud is an interest in his prose, not to his supposed or actual drug experiences, five .... I'm clean! Drug free! Have been for years! If you except an occasional glass or three of red wine, that is. And the odd puff on a joint, if I'm lucky enough to be offered one. Now, where is that church key ...?
Listener reviews WC


last summer in centennial park

Liamh wearing my hat & glasses, Jesse examining foot; photo by Julia Wright


& another thing

I learned from another friend that the Malay and Bahasa word luka means wound ... this suggests another possible meaning for Luca Antara (for it is pronounced with a hard k): the wound between. The wound between what? Between mind and page, perhaps; or the two natures (Bugis and Portuguese) of its main proponent, Manuel Godinho de Eredia; or between that part of the world and this (I mean S E Asia and Australia). Given that part of the book is a quest for understanding of its title, it is strangely satisfying to have come, serendipitously, at last, to this explanation.

the dust of light

A friend said to me the other day that if you have a sealed box, which is empty, even perhaps a vacuum, but into which light may enter, you will find that, after an indeterminate period, dust will gather within. This dust, he said, is a dust of light. It is energy become matter. Since he told me this, I have begun to see a luminous dust everywhere. It coats my fingertips while I'm sleeping, it dances, with Brownian motion, before my eyes when I squint at the sun, it is all over the golden windows of this apartment. My friend also believes gravity to be a kind of sentience. He says that, in time, we will understand that what keeps us anchored is in fact a fidelity we cannot help but feel towards that part of ourselves that is as yet inchoate, which our awareness has not yet illuminated. When he talks like this I feel myself begin to float, not away, but into an empyrean where the dust of light streams towards the future.


Magic Hour at KSO

The photographic shoot is on reclaimed land near warehouse sheds, at dusk or just before. The usual palaver, faces shiny in the arc-lights, magic hour obscured by the buzz of ambition and clouds of pheromones. Out there, partially submerged beneath the dark water, is Kenneth Slessor Oval. The girl is hanging on your lapel, soliciting - what? A smile? A sexy, sulky look? Or perhaps just the blank you feel, seeing the dome of your head reflected in a reflector. You brush her off and wade out into the night, surrounded by crowds of people, some boarding an ocean liner for the cruise of a lifetime, others simply trying, as you are, to return to the City. A performance enacted by robots under the auspices of the peak funding body draws bureaucratic applause, you flip open your mobile phone and place it before you on the table so that you can switch between the action on the stage and its tiny complement on the screen. Now you are walking through a long, bright tunnel, now you realise, with a sudden shock, that many of those around you are in fact aliens, their skin a rind of pinky-orange chain mail, very strange but non-threatening ... and how is it you can tell the human from the alien and others can't? They change back and forth without warning. Someone hands you a magnifying glass with which you can, they say, without fail, distinguish one from the other. Except it doesn't work, these creatures, whatever they are, have minds of their own and seem afflicted by an inability to control those inadvertent metamorphoses. So on you go, through the bright-dark corridor, surrounded by humans who might be aliens, or cyborgs, or robots, while below the faint outline of Kenneth Slessor Oval fades, washed by seaweed, scattered with the luminous bones of dead sailors, starred by pearls that were his eyes, consumed in a slow rumination of grazing sea horses.


Arete Again

Last week I was trying to explain to my kids about Odysseus getting his men to tie him to the mast so that he could listen to the Sirens sing, and afterwards took down from the shelf my copy of The Odyssey to check the story. This book belonged to my father, it's a Penguin classic, translated by E V Rieu ... in fact, it was the very first Penguin classic, published in 1946, although Dad's copy is a 1952 reprint. He also had its companion volume, The Illiad, bought and inscribed with his name and the date, August, 1950. Lovely old books, browning and fragrant and disintegrating.

I'd just been reading a collection John Fowles' occasional prose, which includes a long essay in which he elaborates on his view that The Odyssey was written by a woman - he held this in common with Robert Graves and Samuel Butler and, who knows, maybe he's right. Anyway, I read the bit about the Sirens and then, for some reason, curiosity I guess, turned to the front and started to read from the beginning. How long since I had? When did I last? Don't know, doesn't matter, I was gripped from the start and have been reading it ever since. With intense and unalloyed pleasure. Particularly in the intricate and wonderfully non-linear structure of the story-telling.

Then, a couple of days ago, I finally reach the point, about a third of the way in, when Odysseus arrives in Phaeacia, where he will tell the story of his wanderings to the King and Queen and their company. The King is called
of Alcinous and his wife, the Queen, on whose mercy Odysseus has been instructed, by Athene, to throw himself, is called ... Arete. The name I heard called in a dream a week or so ago, and wondered who or what it meant. It is in this sequence that the assembled company is entertained by a blind bard singing of events at Troy, which does make you question what kind of a homage this is - Homer speaking of himself? Or another, speaking of Homer?

But The Odyssey has been in my mind for another reason, I've been writing a film treatment called The Return, set on a remote NZ farm in 1948 and also, in flashback, on Crete in 1941. The plot is pretty simple: a man who is thought to be dead returns to find his brother has married the woman he loves and is the de facto father to the daughter who is actually his. The brothers were involved in a fatal misadventure on Crete in the hiatus between the evacuation of Greece and the German paratrooper invasion and this has changed things forever between them. The drama plays out on the farm in a manner I like to think of as Rural Noir.

At one point, I had the returned man sitting outside the rabbiter's hut where he stays, reading a copy of The Illiad. Then I realised two things: the E V Rieu translation, which I want to use if and when the film is made, wasn't published until 1950; and The Odyssey is more appropriate to the story I'm trying to tell. So I changed it. Now, here is what the translator has to say of the circumstances in which it was made:

I began on the Odyssey three years before the Second World War started, and completed the first draft as France fell. Home Guard service intervened, and I could not finish the job till 1944. Even so, its revision was undertaken to the sound of v1 and v2 explosions and the crash of shattering glass - an accompaniment which would have chimed in better with the more warlike Iliad, and which, I hope, is not reflected in my style. Actually, I went back to Homer, the supreme realist, who puts his magic finger every time on the essential qualities of things, by way of escape from the unrealities that surrounded us then - and still surround us in a world of fantastically distorted values.


The extra extraordinary


is one year old today