the view from the tower

arcite's day

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Great day at Otaki. Dad's lemon and orange trees are doing well though the Tuis have demolished the Kowhais. Dad, Roishan, Rory and my nephew Campbell (5) drove down to the beach, and admired snow on the Tararua mountains, the beauty of Kapiti and Mana islands and, visible in the distance, the peaks of the south island. Then dad said 'Why don’t we drive down to the mouth of the river?' and we said OK. So we drove down over puddles on the hard track along the beach but Dad wasn't concentrating and has never been a good driver anyway and the car got stuck in the pebbles. The kids started to cry. So we left the car, good job it was a lovely late afternoon, and we walked a while before we saw these guys driving a pick-up truck. So we stopped the car and this Maori guy with hardly any front teeth and a moko popped out with his pakeha mate and they agreed to give us a hand. We had a fun bumpy ride back to the car. After quite a bit of pushing we got the bloody car out and took the kids to the park. When I got home I saw this job for a position at the polytechnic and wondered if I should apply for it or not. I mean why not? Kiran starts her new job as a researcher for the Justice department on Monday.

...arcite at Thursday, September 30, 2004...

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

It poured all the time I was at the marae. I learnt my mihimihi and how to do powhiri as well as the marae's kiwa (protocols). Good to know that I'm 'tangata whenua' at the marae, so next time there's an event I just go inside and welcome the visitors rather than wait to be welcomed on. My pronunciation is a lot better though I still need to work on that tricky r. Going up to Otaki today to see Mum and Dad and then I need to get on and start preparing for teaching my classes next week.

...arcite at Wednesday, September 29, 2004...

Monday, September 27, 2004

Ako Pai Marae

I worked last night on a new poem 'Pluto.' Not sleeping that well. Kiran bought season 4 of Sex and the City with my book tokens. Memories of Singapore. Watched Live Forever about Brit pop last night. God, 1995 seems like another workld now; a better world I guess. I'm off to the marae for a sleepover tonight for a Te Reo session so I'll be back tomorrow. Need a little more energy. We all sleep together on the floor of the marae, traditional Maori style. Arohanui.

...arcite at Monday, September 27, 2004...

Sunday, September 26, 2004

This is the time. And this is the record of the time. A letter to Hebrews: don't worship angels. Wrote 'The good Shepherd': I am appalled by much of my own writing; its darkness, even drearyness, the sheer bloodyminded miserableness of it. But when you write you can't be hoping too much. 'The Astronomer's Hell' at least is lighter. Swept the path. Sunny days. Every man. Everyman for himself. All in favor say I. Big Science now seems so prescient; so totally 'the next twenty years.' So what the current prescient work? What is that we have now that indicates exactly which long haul road we're on?

...arcite at Sunday, September 26, 2004...

Saturday, September 25, 2004

day of atonement

I garden all day and listen to music. My neighbour prunes my trees. I go into the grove and turn myself inside out. I wait for the secret space. I wait and wait and wait. The kids walk to the diary and my PC gets a virus. I'm still waiting.

...arcite at Saturday, September 25, 2004...

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Hmmm...The French Lieutenant's Diary in the latest Granta looks interesting. So 80s.

...arcite at Thursday, September 23, 2004...

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Today I'm 43. I certainly feel a lot younger now than I did last year. I'm kind of enjoying my life. I'm training to be a teacher, I like where I live, I have a happy family life (well, as much as anyone). The big issue for me now has to be completing the book for which we have a contract. I'm a student at a college of education so there are hours of classes, assignments and a range of subjects I have yet to learn. Is it really feasible to write a book during this time? We still have one year to go. So I'm going to have a try, keep trying, keep trying to write...

Which reminds me that yesterday I continued to work on my poem 'dealing in futures' chopping out the first verse, adding more lines until I decided that no way is this going to be ready by the month's end for the competition. I tweaked 'Decision' and will submit that instead.

Presents so far? Over the weekend I received a book tokens worth $50 from my Indian in-laws (not spent yet) and a Te Papa diary from the lads. I also received a hallmark card from my folks ("Son you are loved. Not a day goes by that you're not thought about and wished only good things") inside Dad writes "Many happy returns. Have a lovely day. Love you dad" and Mum writes "Hi Arcite. Have tried to contact you a few times but no reply. Glad that you are not in communications. Never mind will try again. Have a lovely Day. Mum." The card unsettles me somehow in a unreasonable, childish way, given that I feel that I call my parents about six times more than they call me. We are just not close, I'm afraid.

Last night I meditated and thought "what matters isn't enlightment, or God, or realization, or Duty (Hindu dharma, such a drama, end up dry and rarely a charmer), or lots of money" but the good. The good as in the caring, the sustaining, the loving, the nurturing, the compassionate, the awake. Am I a Platonist yet? And that good cannot be absolute must has to be bound to intentionality and to a state of being (grace or bodhicitta). The good knows no law. I think this along with the sense that we are all in flux and connected is my only spiritual understanding--but, hey, at least I'm trying to work it out now for myself rather than just reading a lot of dumb books or mouthing words or pretending a la my 20s, 30s.

...arcite at Tuesday, September 21, 2004...

Friday, September 17, 2004

School's out! Yes, the holiday's begin here--after all, one great bonus of being a teacher is the holidays. So Arcite has come home to an empty house, cracked open a cheap Tuborg lager and blogs.

Two weeks teaching in a low decile school. How do I feel?

Brilliant. Happy. What have I done today? A performance poetry class on Jabberwocky and a class reading of Billy Elliot. Teaching drama iz de bomb (Am I sounding Boston Public yet)?

I'm finding teaching high school more satisfying than teaching tertiary. Part of this is the new emphasis on drama. I don't have that ennui that I had in Singapore, that sense of setting suns. The kids today went ape when I gave them sticks, empty milk bottles, empty ice cream containers to make sounds for Jabberwocky. they were rude, noisy, boisterous, loud. They enjoyed themselves and then some of the slowest readers in the class got up--after shouting and nagging--and had a bash at the poem. I can tell that they are enjoying this class.

Yum yum. Lager. Yum.

...arcite at Friday, September 17, 2004...

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

I wish my Maori was better--the Te Reo course will help. My ear for languages isn't that good, to be honest, and I can say most Maori words just fine. For some reasonI keep mangling 'Morehu' (Mawerehoo) -- a lively character in my drama class. I've apologised to him after class and he's been good natured about it but it will not do it just will not do and I don't need to be told by anyone that this ain't good enough. The problem isn't the vowels it's that tricky R right bang in the middle of his name coming after the O and before that always short e (the U is always 'oo' as in moon). Anyway, I've got it about 90% right but my mentor is tough and she's gonna note it after class tomorrow because basic Te Reo is not an optional extra at this school. Full stop. I do find this a little funny though--god, like, it's like this is my own name from hell. The nemesis of the name! You don't ever want to take this too seriously but you know I am being watched. I'm sure that during my Te Reo intensive at Ako Pai Marae any such difficulties will certainly be less amusing. Why couldn't we do the Te Reo earlier on anyway?

Morehu means 'survivor' in Maori. I have NZ citizenship and I can't even pronounce his name. Yes, that's pathetic but it reflects the sort of education I had after coming from the UK (no Maori at all) compared with the sort of education my kids are getting. Roishan visited Ako Pai todayw ith his class.

...arcite at Wednesday, September 15, 2004...

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Fantastic class today on performance poetry—a part of the NZ drama curriculum. I used the Beastie Boys Intergalactic—with printed lyric sheets—for a group performance work. And the kids didn't give me a hard time—for once—and really loved it. What’s great about teaching 14 year olds is that there's this moment sometimes when they work as a group and flash on to the pure pleasure of words, rapping, beats, movement and suddenly see 'poetry' as already belonging to them. I was very nervous about this class as I’m developing the whole unit but it worked so well that now I’m buzzing.

Why is NZ good (patriotism)? Coz most 14 year olds read a novel version of Billy Elliot, or similar text, that skirts around gender though the dreaded ‘g’ word is never used. My mentor at the college—who loves vocab tests-- was telling me how proud she was of her kids for not making a big issue of the other g word 'gay' (Miss something btw)—and she also feels that a kid in the class is obviously 'gay' and the text speaks to him. And my mentor looks to me like a crusty English-teacher mam-type Anglican. I’ve said this so many times on this blog: as a Buddhist, I say God bless thinking Christians! I’m a card-carrying dharma fan, man, don't send me no spam, but in my book they along with non-cynical whatevers are the backbone on which the world rests, wakes up, and stands tall. (How school-teacherish is that?) Of course, she could worship SATAN.

...arcite at Tuesday, September 14, 2004...

Monday, September 13, 2004

...arcite at Monday, September 13, 2004...
All day it rained and I watched the rain in between my very busy day teaching at the high school. How much slowly distant rain seems to fall than the rain just out your window. The school is surrounded on one side by panelbeaters, small factories, car yards and on the other by gorse-covered hills.

Worked on 'glyphs' for just a little while between chores. Chip, chip, chip. Returned A History of Psychiatry to the library. Yes, I'd read it but will the next book ever be written? I suspect that it actually might not be feasible at present.

Rory (6) is going for a special lunch with his principal and some other kids because he's an outstanding student and was awarded a certificate from his school. Good lad.

...arcite at Monday, September 13, 2004...

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Yesterday was the third anniversary of 911. And it felt horrible because I kept flashing back to that terrible day--hearing the news in Singapore, crowds of people on my beloved Orchard Rd watching the 'America at War' CNN coverage on giant screens, the sheer magnitude of the evil of the attack, the suffering of the New Yorkers, the Pentagon dead. I look back at the last three years and curse Bush--after 911 who but the heartless would not feel sympathy for the suffering of the American people? But what followed seemed to have little to do with that day.

...arcite at Sunday, September 12, 2004...

Friday, September 10, 2004

I just clicked on 'next blog' and was taken to a blog created by an old student of mine at NUS. Weird, lah. Terrible blog!

...arcite at Friday, September 10, 2004...
Soundtrack: some girls (radio edit) rachel stevens

Moves and lines, steps
your arms fling a gesture
again, again
and there’s this bootstomp glitter
sweeping time, thunking
always better with champaigne
oh to be a girl again

(and twice today when I’ve tried to write I’ve been interrupted as if to write was a call for conversation even though I’ve said, no interruption)

friday night kid, chill
i’m so tense and wound up
crabby nebulae, nova to blow
time to get to bar bodega….
kick it!

...arcite at Friday, September 10, 2004...
learn to live without sleep. "im in luv with jacquess derrida read a page and I know that I need ta take apart my baby's heart/I'm in love." Do not rap call the roll in classes devoted to performance poetry. give up on sense. wait for spring. all the words turn to clouds. all the clouds float in sequence. just ignore them. yawn. no words--

...arcite at Friday, September 10, 2004...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

"...come disconnect the dots with me honey honey come disconnect the dots..."

  1. I'm out of shaving cream
  2. I can't believe how much some high school teachers teach: all the time
  3. I'm teaching performance poetry to 14 year old next week: Dahl, of course
  4. Good art teachers improvise with keen eyes and ears
  5. Most high school teachers are better at teaching that their tertiary counterparts
  6. Poverty, low self-esteem and racism are evil
  7. All that corny stuff about positive vibes coming from the heart is true
  8. Art history is an underappreciated subject--we still favour words
  9. Schools are total institutions--but so are families
  10. On a clear night in Wellington you can see the double stars in Scorpio with the naked eye

...arcite at Wednesday, September 08, 2004...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

I taught my first high school class at a rough school and what an interesting experience it was.
My career path is fractal, wasteful, multi-hued but never boring.
I was very happy with my drama class--they all did the exercises, drew the characters and developed them--I thought behaved well.
But the real teacher insisted that I leave the room whilst she berated them for talking when I was trying to get their attention. Oh, big deal!
I was actually a little miffed at this--after all, I had encouraged group work and performance. Which they did--so why was total obedience to the master needed? Beats me.
So a couple of 14 year olds talk while I'm talking and don't snap to attention. I thought they were generally pretty well-behaved. Remember: I come from an Aspie house & from Oldham, Lancs. We don't do perfect. Talking a little does not equal disrespect in my book--the kids were fine.

...arcite at Tuesday, September 07, 2004...

Monday, September 06, 2004

Lovely family dinner last night at One Red Dog. Ah, Twin islands Pinot Noir ’02.

Worked on ‘Glyphs’: adding, cutting, elaborating, extending. Poetry seems to take more time to grow than ever before even though the initial sketch is always unthought, immediate. New title: “Dealing in futures.”

Reading Elizabeth Smither’s journals. So encouraging to hear her talk about a pile of rejection slips received while she was a writer-in-residence.

I’m increasingly interested in poems that explore a central image or cluster of related images—this is what characterises my best poetry.

A scene or exchange between two people. No witnesses. Neither person discusses the exchange with anyone or ever refers to the exchange again although the exchange is significant. What do we call this sort of incident? I’m interest in the private incidents which are never spoken or told to another. What kind of event is that? Surely this is not the same as that hoary chestnut of the repressed. Not to speak or mention something--is this not perhaps also a type of power or magic over the event by not sharing it with another? What are the ethics or limits of what needs or does not need to be spoken?

Good talk with Kiran yesterday re. The book project. Either we get more speed on it this month or we let the project go and give the publisher plenty of warning. We have more than a year to go so it is not too late but it’s been hard finding the time to write.

My first drama lesson tomorrow—most people don’t teach on their first teaching Experience but the drama teacher is unwell and I’m happy to jump in to teach drama.

...arcite at Monday, September 06, 2004...

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Rory's birthday and he's got a model train set, an aircraft carrier, a PC Railroad Simulator, a scrapbook dedicated to collecting information and trivia about your family and some chocolates. He's very happy.

And it's good ole commercial father's day but as I got the DVD of Lost in Translation I ain't complaining…

Someone should tell Google NZ that the Olympics is over. Does the rest of the world still see Olympic-themed graphics on Google?

...arcite at Sunday, September 05, 2004...

Friday, September 03, 2004

I send four CDs off to Uncle Brittle (but no single yet, Nuncle, as I haven't been down the shops). As I'm teaching for the next two weeks at Hillfort High I thought it best to get them off to you.

In the post, Brittle sends me a welcome compilation. I haven't had a chance to play it all yet, I tend to replay the first ten tracks & take it slow, but some shine on first hearing:

Dry your eyes. The Streets. This is getting a fair whack of commercial play here given the number of times I've heard it as part of the incidential soundtrack to my life that plays on other people's radio. Nice video, too. When you think about men upset, not many songs come to mind and those that do are often polemical; eg. The Cure's brilliant 'Boys Don't Cry' and the overblown 'Real Men' by Joe Jackson (oh dear.) Masterful understatement and pathos here as our heartbroke hero fumbles with the empty language of consolation: "plenty more fish in the sea." I will be listening to A Grand Don't Come for Free on the strength of this writing. Me and Roishan used to laugh a lot at 'Geezers Need Excitement.'

Blue Jeans. Ladytron. You can't get further away from The Streets than this cold, robotic, impersonal, frosty, mechanical, ludicrous song. If vacume cleaners made pop then the Hoovers would rock to Ladytron. Such fun! Kraftwerk in Camden; so very London suburbian Grammar school chic and let's not be snobby and northern prole and nod & say that there's nothing wrong with it at all..

Toutes les Nouvelles Parlent d'Hier. Orwell. God, I should practice my French after I finish next term's basic Te Reo course--though with my family trying to improve my abysmal Hindi would be a good idea. Anyway, my schoolboy French reads this as "All the news talks of yesterday" or, better still, "All the news is of yesterday." Then the song just blurs. Great song, very 60s Cream, a track from which speeds in a plane towards the King of Brittle.

More later, kittens. I have to shower and get ready for performing arts. Wish I'd slept better. Hey I didn't tell you what happened in last week's P. Arts class. We all had been working in pairs on developing a drama/dance class. The usual gruelling regime. Then at the end of the four hour marathon (with break) we we're asked to share our thoughts on the exercise we had worked on with our partner. One woman, Rita, freaked out and said "I felt totally fucking humilated and dominated by my partner. I'm a dancer and she's a drama person and she just took over and I felt like complete fucking shit...etc etc." I have never heard such an outburst in all my life and we all sat around the studio looking gobsmacked in a trackpants & sweats as we chugged water and tried to re-hydrate. Bizarre. Then the teachers go into damage control about how this can happen when you're working on projects, etc. I kept quiet but said to the woman who received the abusive criticism--who is strident and does talk a lot--that I thought that Rita should have chewed her out outside the class rather than blowing up in front of us. Don't spoil the performance. There are only three guys in Performing Arts (I'm such a girlie boy, ha ha--it's the dance component that the kiwi guys can't handle) and as we'd been split into groups of three I was the only bloke in this lesson. Ha ha. I hated their dance exercise anyway as it was so complicated and exhausting and I can't bloody dance for my life though I'm doing well at drama and mime.

...arcite at Friday, September 03, 2004...

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

This is for Doug!

I sent them poems off to Baravod and this morning I got an email saying
Issue #3 is full but we'll consider them for issue #4.
So I sent a polite reply saying "Great but please let me know ASAP if you
don't find them suitable."

I'm not really annoyed but I'm a little miffed. Now, if you have a deadline,
say Sept 1, then really aren't you supposed not to start selecting material
until all the work comes in? You see, now the poems may well sit at Baravod
for a good long year until they make up their minds. I know that these are
small mags run but enthusiasts, good on em, etc...but now the poems have gone
into poetry limbo unless Baravod is doing well and intends to speed up its

...arcite at Wednesday, September 01, 2004...