The Poetry of Objects #3

DO YOU HEAR ME NOW?

…HISSSSSS…
(FADE IN FROM WHITE NOISE):

in the shade someone
turns
a knob
with a satisfying

*click*

causing a small beacon of light and sound
to spread within this room.
A lightbulb behind the dial.
Four glass vacuum tubes inside a Bakelite shell.

A woman’s warm voice from the valves,
a writer, reading verse about
humans becoming angels the hard way,
music beating behind her like wings through the house;
the beeps on each hour;
the bird every morning
singing from the magic box atop the fridge.

*click*

Do you hear me now?

If
there was a microphone
and
I spoke
who now would hear me say:

Close your eyes and forget the foamy white noise of the breakers,
close your eyes and feel the swell that lifts you,
Up you go,
and down…

now,
without looking, see the next wave nearing, and
as you rise with it see the one behind it,
and the next,
and the rest,
a procession of gentle waves
refracting around you,
lifting you.

Now-
see:

splash your hand on the wave and smaller ripples spread
in all directions from your radiance,
a signal riding up and along on the
smooth series of sine waves.

See
clouds in the bright blue casting fat drops wide onto the water,
each drop broadcasting ripples,
each drop the centre of expanding circles
that become lost in the noise of the ocean.

Kick
the depths.
Stroke
the surface.
You swim in broad frequencies.
Look
up at the hill.
The transmitter tower,
there.

Swim
for shore.
Time for home.

*click*
Do you hear me now?

Shelter
from the sun-shower under a corrugated iron roof.
See
the world outside wet and bright,
holes torn in the clouds where
the single visible point of radiance is blinding.
Up on the hill, the radio transmitter pushes swells into the air,
a radiance unseen to biological eyes
making great spherical onion layers around itself,
a series of smooth sine waves
carrying splashes and ripples coded for voices and music;
they fly straight through the iron and wood and the feature wall,
and you, not lifting you

but

in the shade someone
turns
a knob
with a satisfying

*click*
causing a smaller beacon of light and sound
to spread within this room.
A lightbulb behind the dial.
Four glass vacuum tubes inside a Bakelite shell.

A woman’s warm voice from the valves,
a broadcaster who recalls:
“slipping between the peaks and troughs,
a whisper in the whines and crackles
of the cosmic microwave background.”

The bakelite box hums to itself.

“Is this thing on?
Do you hear me now?”

Pause. Hum. Another voice says:
“Thank you, we’re coming up to the news at 9-”
but she murmurs:
“If my lips brushed the microphone would you hear
i love you
within the hiss and pop of
the dying down of the birth of the universe?

Do y-”
*click*

Get
me a microphone,
I want you to hear me say:
let my waves lift your body,
let my waves lift your soul, while
radiant angels splash in the medium of space/time and
throw voices into the ear…

(Fade out to white noise)
…hissssssssssss…

Aaron Compton, July 2021

Special thanks to Ro Darrall from Retro for supporting local creatives through Gizzy Local. This radio is currently for sale at Retro, 8 Ballance Street, Whataupoko. You can follow Ro on Instagram @retro.ro.gisborne or on Facebook.

The Housing Crisis & The Growing Divide

We have a housing crisis, it’s more problematic than you might think, and unless we have the maturity to make some sacrifices today we are sacrificing our future generations.

A Housing Crisis

The average house price in Aotearoa is more than $900,000, we have a shortfall of more than 100,000 dwellings, all urban housing markets are considered severely unaffordable by international standards, 500,000 Kiwis are in overcrowded housing situations, 300,000 households are on accommodation supplements, Māori home ownership sits at just over 30%, less than 50% of people in our largest city (Auckland) own their own homes, and 1 in 100 people — that’s 50,000 people — are living in ‘severe housing deprivation’ (sleeping on the streets or in cars, in emergency housing, temporarily staying at a relatives or friends, etc).

Our housing situation is driving inequality and it’s dangerous. The Fall of Rome, the French Revolution, the Arab Spring and Brexit, were all driven in part by inequality. Inequality is a key contributor to crime, violence, abuse in its many forms, and mental illness. It destroys social cohesion by eroding the bonds that make us feel like we’re all in the same boat.  

As it stands, the current housing system is growing the divide, creating conditions where those who own homes are witnessing their wealth grow — without having to exert any effort, and in many cases faster than their incomes ever will — while those who do not, watch the prospect of obtaining one become more and more prohibitive. Some people will choose to take on large and unprecedented sums of debt; many more will acknowledge that homeownership is out of their reach. At the same time, a growing number of hard-working people in this country are in unsuitable living situations, staying in cars, sheds, garages and overcrowded houses. 

Every week an article is written examining the various drivers of expensive housing in New Zealand: lack of supply, easy access to finance, low interest rates, investors, speculators, red tape, restrictive building codes and council rules, material costs and so on. And every other week an article is written with solutions to these issues: a tax, a change in regulation or policy, a homeownership scheme or a building programme. 

Why is it that despite our best efforts — that is, knowing the problems, having the technical expertise needed to address them, and making efforts to do so — the trajectory for quality affordable housing is only getting worse? Could it be that we are not addressing the heart of the problem? 

I believe it is timely to reexamine and update our values and beliefs that lie at the heart of both the issues and the solutions to our housing crisis. 

We are all in the same boat

We do not get to choose the circumstances into which we are born. We don’t choose our race, our gender or our economic position, and yet these circumstances have far reaching implications on our lives. We need to design our housing system so that every member of society, no matter who they are or where they are born, has equitable access to good quality affordable housing, along with fundamentals such as quality education, healthcare, and food, in order to lay the foundations for a strong future society. Our current system perpetuates unaffordable housing as the status quo, and isn’t good for the millions of individuals who are not in homes which they own or have unprecedented amounts of debt in their names.

We have to be fair

An expensive house or no house isn’t much of a choice. Why should future homebuyers, who are entitled to the basic human right of adequate shelter, be forced to pay ever higher prices for property that hasn’t necessarily had any real value (such as habitable space) added to it? Is it fair that those who have been on the receiving end of property sales have accumulated large sums of money at the expense of buyers? If large sums of money have found their way into the hands of current and previous property owners without any real value being added, wouldn’t it be only fair to look at how that money could be redirected and redistributed towards things that add real value to our society? Given our current state of crisis, we could begin by looking at how such money could be directed towards solutions to the housing crisis.

No pain, no gain

It is not possible for the average house to be both unaffordable and affordable at the same time. In order to move towards affordability, we’re going to have to give up our expensive housing. This will mean a sacrifice for some individuals who, relatively speaking, have more than others. 

It is not easy to give up something that we enjoy, even when we know the outcome of giving it up is better for us. Whether it’s giving up or reducing smoking, alcohol, or sugary drinks for a healthier lifestyle, or forgoing a social outing or sports activity to spend more time with the kids, all of these require some sort of sacrifice on one level in order to achieve a greater objective. The same is true when it comes to expensive housing. We will need to find and develop the strength within ourselves to overcome our self-interest for the benefit of all. 

The media

The tone of the conversation about housing and especially housing as ‘an investment’ needs to change, and our media industry needs to lead this charge. We need to critically examine whether it’s appropriate to talk about rising house prices as if it’s a good thing, when in reality, rising house prices also plays out as rising inequality, crime, mental illness and violence. Newspaper stories with headlines “Major urban centres continue to show strong gains” and “Cheaper suburbs leap ahead” could accurately be rewritten to headline “Major urban centres witness inequality and child poverty grow” and “Rents increase for already struggling families in cheaper suburbs”. Just substitute any reference to ‘rising house prices’ with ‘rising inequality’ and you have a fuller picture of what is going on.

Some hard choices 

We have some choices to make. We can allow our house prices to rise. We can watch as our homeless population grows, more people sleep in cars, and the prospect of home ownership slip away from more Maori and Pasifika families. We can build taller fences and put up barbed wire to keep thieves out as we further isolate ourselves from ‘the other’ — people in different socio-economic circles than us. We can witness our society become more and more divided. 

Or we can design our housing system to ensure that everyone, no matter who they are, has access to quality affordable homes, homes that they can own should they wish. We can make the price of property commensurate with the real value of property. We can stop concentrating wealth via property into the hands of a minority at the expense of the majority, and we can think about how wealth that has been obtained without creating any real value can be redistributed in a sensible fashion. 

Redesigning the housing system to be more fair and equitable means we are going to have to make some changes in our thoughts, attitudes, policies and practices. We are going to have to give up a system that is helping an increasingly small segment of society get ahead economically for one that is more holistic and considers the wellbeing of all over the wellbeing of only some. It may be hard in the short term but a more equitable society, a society where we all feel more connected and safer, one in which all human potential is given the chance to develop, is surely a society that we’d rather live in. 

Be sure however, that if we fail to make the necessary sacrifices soon, it is our future generations that we are sacrificing.

Story by Zane Sabour
Image Sarah Cleave

The New Adventures of MUSE

MUSE was formed back in 2002 by a group of women wanting to create a safe and nurturing environment for women to make music, perform, and encourage other women to make music too.

The story goes that Irene Pender (who now lives in Derry, Ireland) was sick of being drowned out by loud guy bands. As time went on MUSE came to be a musicians’ network for singers wanting to find accompanists, songwriters who needed singers, for women wanting to collaborate musically in general. Over the years it has been a safe space in which to experiment, to get experience performing and in which to enjoy the ‘womentorship’ of the MUSE Matriarchs.

Many of those original members are still here in Gisborne teaching and performing. One of the MUSE Matriarchs, Tanya Mitcalfe reflects that things have changed since then; it’s much more common to see a female musician performing on stage these days. But she is still a strong believer in creating safe supportive spaces in which for women to perform and have a go.

Many young women have been mentored through MUSE over the years and the Collective are proud of the recent success of two of their protégés, Jasmin Taare and Amy Maynard, who recently won the group section of Five Minutes of Fame on Māori Television.

MUSE hasn’t always strictly stuck to music, with comedy, poetry and satire providing some memorable moments over the years. Who remembers the ‘DIY Plastic Surgery’ performance in which Keren Rickard a.k.a. Professor Parsnips decked Tanya Mitcalfe out in cling wrap, painted her with Twink and used a vacuum cleaner to suck out her ‘undesirable’ attributes?

After a few years hiatus, MUSE is back and Smash Palace is hosting the Collective’s return tomorrow evening Friday August 6, 7pm. You’ll be able to catch up on what various MUSE members have been up to lately, (including Jasmine Taare!) and hear from some new members too, in a diverse celebration of women’s music.

As any musician is well aware, the audience has a huge role to play when it comes to performance and MUSE events are no exception – everyone is warmly welcome!

MUSE is always keen for new members, and as one of the most recent recruits Wendy Wallace attests, it is an awesome opportunity to work and collaborate with like-minded women to celebrate diversity, passion and prowess!

If you’re interested in finding out more head to the MUSE Facebook page.

Creative Kupu

What is Creative Kupu?

It is a mātauranga Māori focused initiative that offers accessibility to creativity for kids. The kaupapa of Creative Kupu is therefore guided by tāmariki in what they’re interested in writing, and in developing through a series of workshops and wānanga.  

Why am I interested in making this more accessible to kids here? 

In 2016 I was asked by my friend who was teaching at the time to write a play for their school in Papakura, South Tāmaki. They told me that their budget was small, and that the Ministry of Education asked for $1500 for the licencing rights to use the same old play that the kids didn’t know, and couldn’t relate to. I wrote Young Mana for a koha, so that the school could use the remaining pūtea to put on a cool production, rent out a theatre, have costumes and even a sound technician. 

Young Mana was written from my own experience growing up as an urban Māori in Tūranga-nui-a-kiwa, in Elgin. Although locationally different, my observations spent in Papakura showed me that economically and demographically, we were exactly the same.

I pulled in elements that I considered exciting, and had hoped the kids acting the parts would too. 

The genre of the play is fantasy, and utilises manu, kuri, taniwha, and the kiore to represent key characters. Mana endures a necessary journey in discovering his whakapapa, alongside the guidance of his Mum and a few friends.

Back in June I started 1-hour weekly workshops at my old primary school, Elgin. I wanted to bring the pilot of Creative Kupu, a series of creative writing workshops to Tūranga-nui-a-kiwa for my part in the ONO Project.

This seemed like a good opportunity for me to reconnect with the school where my creativity was first noticed.

Coming back into Elgin was nothing but a warm memory for me. This feeling was only continued when I was openly embraced by the Principal to come in and run these workshops. 

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t keen to develop a play with these kids. However, this time, I wanted to give the kids full autonomy over the story, and therefore over their creative pieces, so that the characters they would be ‘playing’ wouldn’t be from someone else’s perspective. 

Because I want them to be excited by whatever they create, I asked them to write down on a piece of paper the kind of creative writing they’d like to develop. 

I also asked the kids what they wanted to focus on, because I wanted to make best use of a short time spent at the school. We all know that creative processes take adults weeks, months and sometimes even years. Having 5 weeks; 5 hours to take the kids to a space of creating with purpose is difficult, and I’m sure teachers can vouch for me on that. 

When I introduced myself to these kids, I proposed that I really wanted to develop works with them, to keep in touch, and to see their mahi produced into something like the production shown above. 

I wanted to see what they would focus on, and figuring that out required trialling one out of the two top options, Songs and a Play.  

We started with songs, taking one kid’s suggestion to watch an exclusively PG video clip of their current favourite song, ‘Don’t Worry Baby’, covered by Tomorrow People. 

I had to tell them that the original was actually sung by a group of American men in the 60’s. 

They didn’t like that so much. 

I asked them to respond to the song, how it made them feel. 

And this one just cracked me up. This kid wanted to write their own song, but needed the teacher to write while they said the lyrics.  

“Girl can you hear the drums?

Girl can you hear the guitar?

Girl can you hear my heart? 

Girl do you know that you make me bad.

Bad, bad, bad. 

Girl do you need a Knight in shining

Armour?”

They later asked me if I could send these lyrics to Three Houses Down.

 This process was difficult because the song chosen didn’t interest the majority of the group. I would say 40% of the class actually enjoyed the song, while the remaining found it a bit lame. Creating their own lyrics would too prove a bit daunting, with many feeling whakamā around expectation. 

Lyricism is time consuming, requiring time to reflect on personal feelings and experiences. Some of the kids opened up about their feelings, but were reluctant to put that down on a piece of paper. The kōrero was pretty special, and still counts as process. 

I decided we’d give that a break, and trial something else the following week. 

In the next session, I decided to push songs aside and trial the play workshop. I thought that something we could get out of an hour would be creating a character – how fun I thought. Turns out that this required a bit of unpacking too, and that agreeing to them using their chromebooks would benefit some, while distract the remaining. Creativity comes in many forms, I decided. 

One of the kids showing me the drawings they had done in their creative writing book. The drawings were incredibly detailed, and involved illustrations I’m dubious would be of interest to kids. I have a feeling that an older sibling drew them, but still this kid’s interest in drawing is obvious to me.

Anime seemed to be a huge theme here, with this kid showing me a character they had “made up”. The character is Todoroki, who has the catch phrase: “It’s not your fault, we’re just playing on different levels”.

Pre-existing or not, the character sounded sassy, which I like. 

I thought for the longest time that these kids were super talented drawers, until I noticed them all folding their chromebook’s down so that they could trace pictures. Hei aha.

It was cool to learn that Dragon Ball Z was making a comeback.  

This kid had traced a video game character. They were telling me all about how unspotabble the character was, and so I suggested they could create a character that would be able to defeat them. We ended up just talking about video games. 

“My character is a girl. She loves drawing her name is Lia. She’s pretty (<3) her hair is blonde and her teeth are bright and white. She is 38 years old and if she was in a movie she would go on an adventure with her drawing book and pencil, and whatever she drew would come to life.” 

I was blown away by the imagination in the creation of this character. The idea that Lia could draw things to life excited me, and I wanted to understand how that would look. 

This is clearly someone who loves creative writing, and a student who might be interested in continuing onward with this kaupapa. 

The kids are on their school break currently, but when they return, we will pick up where we left off and continue developing characters, and moving on to placing the character into a scene.

Massive aroha to Elgin Primary School, to the Principal for entrusting me into this space, the teacher for their huge support and flexibility, and of course to these kids who willingly engage in their creative processes. 

Ngā mihi aroha,

Jordan Walker, Creative Kupu

Subscribe!

Sign up to receive The Weekly Roundabout for upcoming events, new Gizzy Local content & links to other good stuff to keep you connected in the best possible way.

Kia Ora! Thanks for subscribing :)

X