Tag Archives: Kathleen Gallagher

10. Christine White’s ‘Water, Water, Water’

It’s ace to work with Christine White, the Throat of These Hours composer, because her work makes me re-hear Muriel Rukeyser’s poems. It also enhances the play, helps me explore ideas about the connections between poems and theatre and when a play becomes a musical. And it was a beautiful surprise when Chris sent me a link to what she’d written about Kathleen Gallagher’s film Water Whisperers Tangaroa (see also 7. Kathleen Gallagher – Poet, playwright, filmmaker).   Here’s the beginning of her post, with a link to the rest on her blog, MOLLY PLANET: RAW FOOD – RAW SOUND [discoveries and experiments]. Many thanks, Chris!

Water, Water, Water

Headman Mark Franco Winneman Wintu, North America

“It’s almost like if you want to put a tourniquet on your arm, that’s what
you’re doing with these dams, you’re putting tourniquet on your arm, and
then your fingers die – and you wonder why your finger’s died. It died
because you cut off the flow of blood. Water is like the blood in our
body…the water is the blood of Mother Earth. You cannot do these
things to it.”

– from Water Whisperers / Tangaroa (WickCandle Film – www.wickcandle.co.nz).

Mike O’Donnell Sculptor, Potter

“Ohinemuri was called a designated sludge canal once. It was so tragic that
everything got dumped in it – all the mining stuff, cyanide waste, the
community dumped its’ waste. It dumped its sewerage. That was the
attitude you know – this attitude we have inherited. On Sundays they
would stop the mine and they would all go to church. And then on Mondays
they would open the mine back up – and the old people would see
thousands of mullet and fish swimming with their heads out of the water
’cause they couldn’t swim in Ohinemuri any more. It was deoxygenated
from the cyanide. And I remember Uncle Tiki Rakana just saying it just
made us wonder about their spirituality. They go to church on Sunday,
and then they destroyed the water of Mother Earth, of Papatuanuku – they
destroy it on Monday.”

– from Water Whisperers / Tangaroa (WickCandle Film – www.wickcandle.co.nz).

I am lucky enough to be involved in a composition project with film-maker/playwright Marian Evans (http://wellywoodwoman.blogspot.co.nz/), in which the poems of Muriel Rukeyser are to be set to music. These will be  performed in the context of a play which explores the dynamics of three women in Aotearoa/New Zealand and examines issues of water conservation, health, and the experiences of creative women in finding/expressing their own voice.

Rukeyser (1913-1980) was a poet, feminist, bisexual, activist, Jewish woman from New York. I’m not very good at describing writing but her poems have stood out to me because of their confronting nature and honesty, particularly for the era she was writing in. I am inspired by her activism and also feel a closeness because of my visit to New York last year – it is a place that gets under the skin for sure.

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7. Kathleen Gallagher – Poet, Playwright, Filmmaker

Kathleen Gallagher & Mike Single on camera, filming the Hurunui River – one of the four principal rivers in North Canterbury – for Water Whisperers/ Tangaroa 

Two things affected me last month. First, the proposal to increase irrigation in Canterbury, a New Zealand region with many major rivers which are depleted and degraded, probably best known outside New Zealand as the site of major earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Second, Sandy-the-Frankenstorm that devastated Haiti – where there was also a major earthquake in 2010 – Jamaica and Cuba before it hit the United States. I felt deep sadness first, then a desire to help, so offered support where I could. And I thought it might also help to protest about the Canterbury irrigation, and about climate change, but wasn’t sure what was best to do.

So I focused on what I had to do: an essay about New Zealand women directors, the garden.

The next draft of Throat of These Hours, my play about poet and activist Muriel Rukeyser (1913-1980, ‘beautiful Muriel, mother of everyone’ according to fellow poet Anne Sexton ) and two women in a Wellington radio station, was waaay at the back of my mind – it’s ten days or so until I start up again with my writing buddy. But then I received an interview with Muriel that I’d wanted for ages. In the interview, from the New York Quarterly, she says

…a lot of things have killed and mutilated people I love. I will protest all my life. I am willing to. But I’m a person who makes, much more than a person who protests…and I have decided that wherever I protest from now on…I will make something – I will make poems, plant, feed children, build, but not ever protest without making something. I think the whole thing must be made again.

So I began to think about the relationship between protest and making, how they create a whole. And that took me back to Muriel’s book The Life of Poetry, where she writes about the fear of poetry, and its capacity to provide a place where all kinds of imagination can meet and change us, change the world. She saw her long prose works as footnotes to her poetry. And she was a film editor, too, who found that working with film was ‘a terribly good exercise for poetry although many [poets] have been seduced away to writing for film’. She also wrote that –

The work that a poem does is a transfer of human energy, and I think human energy may be defined as consciousness, the capacity to make change in existing conditions.

I began to understand the links between poetry and other ‘making’ and protest; and to think about people who work to make ‘the whole thing’ again, and for whom writing poems is part of that process. And came back to Canterbury poet and playwright Kathleen Gallagher, who makes films, most recently a trilogy – Earth Whisperers Papatuanuku, Water Whisperers Tangaroa, and Sky Whisperers Ranginui, and before that Healing Journeys He Oranga He Oranga about eleven cancer survivors and Tau Te Mauri Breath of Peace about how Aotearoa New Zealand became nuclear free and antiwar. Continue reading