Poetry process by Professor Christopher (Kit) Kelen and what a week it’s been, poetry process enthusiasts… there we were, up above the Arctic Circle, experiencing the midnight sun … first on land (over the water) … so mainly I was inspired to draft just from where I was, just writing things as they were in the moment for me:
1286 midnattsol we went to see the midnight sun 8.vii.19 Teigan － Hadsel Øye, Vesterlån we went to see the midnight sun on the other side of an island nearby we went to Teigan － on Hadsel Øye, in Vesterlån it is so much brighter than you’d imagine bounces along runs a ring delivers pinking stillness like breath held for a non-event flowers make the most of it especially tiril tunga somebody’s tongue caught the colour this sun leaves winged ones wondering but a traffic in fish goes on throws shadows on turf roofs, on the water fields of fresh mown, lit green, yet to yellow such shadows in the mountains tree casting this way, that this is the everyday unending one cannot but be awed the moon was up for company paled at the very thought and must not look at the main attraction or see it in everything seared of course I forgot sunglasses ironic at the time because I was writing a story about them but it’s well past eleven and you wouldn’t think here comes the Hurtigruten/ Coastal Express in night that is not and there’s another little vessel flag of a country no one will know comes chugging into view what luck to have set sail in this a herringbone calligraphy feint moon ended this is the way beyond the world in through windows hereabouts and shone along a beach as if this last first searing set islands here on fire now east and west were rise and set in all the innocence I knew it’s not as if this makes any sense but somebody knows how it goes anyway everyone here’s up and doing still there’s so much to do! so many falling down farms and houses embarrassed, all hours show this sun still stands makes spectacle of itself and of us all part of the village came out specifically lazy grass bears lounge under their ledges the old troll woman high over scree is still trying to get some sleep it was the sun would never set rising for us now as if a fire were lit beyond to dip and lift that we’d behold sky of changes as if as if the sea was set the sky was cast a mood and some for mauve for azure run out of colours to call a little east west bounce along to run a little world around how few were watching this and did the midnight sun see us? a question you’d sleep off all along it was behind us following the car except when out in front alongside and on the up and up from now a magic in the golden glow rests on a roof as good as sleep brighter than the dream * then a few days later at sea, though the sun seemed higher at the lowest there 1290 midnight sun at sea 11.vii.19 on the Hurtigruten’s MS Richard With Svolvær (Lofoten) and onto the Norway Mainland The sun was shining on the sea, It made the billows bright, And this was odd, because it was The middle of the night. － Lewis Carroll aboard and in pyjamas now we have 360° waving shores smell fish up all night first time for years for this beyond romantic slow coasts in a shining we of the underwisp called to cloud among mountains see first come so far was young Pytheas now the ancients have come to bucket this too midnight on deck moment seared into seeing the pinking dip and up sun daisy call it day again morning, so to say, dozes with fog an hour of breakfast still come through Pillars of Hercules which of us will be so remembered from a text forever lost? how many cameras will fall overboard? that’s luck in a wishing sea *
travel is important to the process of poetry, but perhaps ironically in the sense of demanding presence to one’s here-and-now and now I’m in Macao, on my way home, and a little jetlagged on the way…. more later on jetlag and Macao and how these inspire poetry… but meanwhile Geoff Page’s review of my Poor Man’s－ Coat Hardanger Poems appeared in a place I will not mention, so I drafted Geoff a poem about my process in response:
1293 my déjà voodoo a little poem for Geoff Page won’t ever be finishing itself a piece of work one might say but cut and come again head like the song you know already tree and stone and stream and sky out of the blue clouds come over just for instance or music sets off hard line through a fog of chord all the familiar crew these rag and bone creatures were sometime my pets run the circus now it’s only in echoes we live only through the mirror we find what’s to give midnight’s that glimmer where the dream forgets me leave inklings where I’ve been, will be I can’t remember here a stretch so slow of the imagination might not notice you’re among the most familiar things where always you have been before in picnic woods of somebody’s porridge old friend sunlight shows glad that you’ve already met so many I hope you’ll come again all of us are waiting here that the journey might begin *
There were also pieces last week about Norway and the oil (before and after), a kind of a long life cycle poem about a Norwegian (Nynosk) kids’ rhyme, a picture book text for kids about magic sunglasses and going through a troll and coming out the other end, and also a little piece for my field guide to Australian clouds… and then there’s the list of what I thought I had been supposed to be doing at the beginning of the week… perhaps also I should say more about drawing and painting and how these relate to writing on a daily basis… but obviously we don’t have space for that here right now … the point is that the process is full of surprises!
Christopher (Kit) Kelen (客遠文) is a well-known Australian poet, scholar and visual artist, and Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Macau, where he taught Creative Writing and Literature for many years. Kit Kelen’s poetry has been published and broadcast widely since the seventies, and he has won a number of prestigious awards over the years, including an ABA/ABC Bicentennial Prize in 1988; and in 1992 an Anne Elder award for his first volume of poems The Naming of the Harbour and the Trees. He has also won Westerly‘s Patricia Hackett Prize and placed second in Island’s Gwen Harwood Prize. In 2012, his poem ‘Time with the Sky’ was runner up in the Newcastle Poetry Prize, an award for which he has been frequently shortlisted. In 2017, Kit was shortlisted twice for the Montreal Poetry Prize and, for the second time, won the Local Award in the Newcastle Poetry Prize. In 2018, he was longlisted for the ACU and University of Canberra’s Vice Chancellors’ prizes. Volumes of Kit Kelen’s poetry have been published in Chinese, Portuguese, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish, Indonesian and Filipino and Norwegian. The most recent of Kelen’s dozen English language volumes is Poor Man’s Coat － Hardanger Poems, published by UWAP in 2018.