Sunday, August 16, 2009

death of a poet, yes. death of a culture? maybe.

While the infantile New Zealand print media STILL talk about the ruckus on the school boy rugby field, and the reactions of two principals who should know better; or laments the greedy people who so love not working and having children in poverty that they have enjoyed spendy benefits for years ($1000 p/w with eight children - could you do it?), other things have happened. People have been born (you'll have to scroll down, sorry); people have died. In particular, poet Alistair Te Ariki Campbell has died.

Campbell was eighty-four. He is survived by five children, and a body of work that extends over fifty years, and still haunts the reader with its relevance, power and pity. When I was sixteen, I chose this one as my lyric piece for my grade 7 Trinity College Speech and Drama exams:

Purple Chaos

'Chaos is purple,' you said.
'A painter's phrase,' I said,
'Chaos is a colourless force,
tossing up stars, flowers
and children.
and has no beginning,
and no end.'

But lying in bed,
washed up,
I know you are right.
You were talking of something else,
you were talking of death.
Purple chaos has surged through me,
leaving me stranded -
a husk,
an empty shell,
on a long white swerving beach.

Something has died,
something precious has died.
It may have been a flower,
a star,
it may have been a child -
but whatever it was, my love,
it seems to have died.

Haere ra, Te Ariki. Your Meg waits for you, as do many of your old friends. In 2000, Campbell spoke at the funeral of Lauris Edmond, reading a poem he'd written in her memory. It concluded:

"It will be back,
with the songs of birds,
to light up your house,
restore laughter to your children
and grandchildren.

Love never dies.
Love never dies."

Now that's all the news that's fit to print: love never dies.