In 2007 Bernadette Hall was awarded the Rathcoola Fellowship and spent six months living in rural Ireland in Donoughmore about 25 minutes from Cork. The Lustre Jug, a collection of poems arising from this experience, will be launched at the 2009 Christchurch Arts festival. It is published by Victoria University Press. Bernadette has five poems in Moonlight: New Zealand poems on death and dying edited by Andrew Johnston (Godwit-Random House 2008). She is also included in the anthology Twenty Contemporary New Zealand Poets edited by Andrew Johnston (Victoria University Press and Carcanet) which is due out in the middle of this year. Settings of three of her poems are included in a new CD, Songs by the Dunedin composer, Anthony Ritchie. She is a founding staff member of the Hagley Writers’ Institute in Christchurch.
Hall comments: ‘Several years ago when John and I were visiting family in Queensland, we took a trip out to Green Island, off the coast from Cairns. While there we visited a crocodile farm. At one point a tiny croc was laid across my hands, its mouth securely bound up with sellotape. This, plus the sight of Oscar, about 5.5 metres long in his pinched up enclosure, gave me a very real sensation of the reality of “crocodile”. In the poem this is overlaid with a newspaper report of the tragic and horrific death of a woman tourist who, on the assurance of her tour guide that it was quite safe, entered a billabong which in fact was home to several of the creatures. The cruelty that underlies much of Romantic sentiment, notions of power and responsibility and the manipulative possibilities of art and religion, the way we walk on thin ice day to day even in the most gorgeous of settings, the gap between the onlooker and the protagonist which fills up with inauthenticity, all these “big questions” seem to be niggling away under the surface of what I see as basically a comic text, jetblack of course. I hope that at first there’s laughter, or at least a smile from a reader. And then an “oh oh” and a sense of discomfort. Then more questions, poetry for me being more about questions than anything.’
Poem: Leda at the Billabong
nzepc—New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre: online work
Turbine 06: Bernadette Hall interviewed
Scottish Poetry Library 2008: Mukluk, with introduction by Gerrie Fellows
ka mate ka ora6: Hone Tuwhare tribute