Fiona Farrell

Fiona Farrell

Fiona Farrell

I’ve been to a couple of poetry readings when Fiona Farrell was one of the guest poets but I haven’t actually met her yet. Fiona’s poem which appeared in a poetry card has been a long time favourite of mine – a very happy poem that never fails to make me smile. When I asked Fiona for permission to offer her poem to the exhibition artists she replied……

I’d be absolutely delighted for my poem to take part in this! It sounds terrific. If the poem isn’t selected, that will be just fine too – but I shall cross fingers that someone likes the look of it. It’s always so interesting to see what artists or composers or film makers make of something I’ve written: so unexpected. Thanks so much for the invitation.

Fiona didn’t include any photos but I’ve added a couple I took some years ago when we walked the Banks Peninsula Track. The first photo was taken when we went out for a stroll at night with Francis from Flea Bay Cottage. Our young lads were ‘blown away’ by such a close up view of these small penguins in their nesting boxes. The second photo was taken as we left Otanerito Beach House. This is the landscape that Fiona lives, breathes, and writes in! Every day we walked the track we would say, THIS is the highlight and couldn’t imagine it could get better, but we were wrong…… If you ever get the chance to enjoy the Banks Peninsula walk – take it.

White flippered penguins in nesting boxes

So without further ado, Fiona Farrell’s contribution……….

Here’s a little bio: Born in Oamaru, presently living at Otanerito on Banks Peninsula. Three collections of poetry, two collections of short stories, six novels and two non-fiction titles relating to the Christchurch quake. Various awards including the Burns Fellowship at Otago in 2011.

Leaving Otanerito on Banks Peninsula

And you’d like a memorable poetry reading incident?

A poetry reading. A winter night in a small gallery, with 27 poets lined up and my daughter is with me and at 15, she and a boy who is also there with his mum are the youngest in the room by at least a decade.The poets are supposed to read just one, but they choose long ones, and one gloomy bloke I’m sure is running one poem after another hoping no one will notice. So it’s 9.30pm and we’re only half way through and my daughter heads off to the loo and doesn’t come back for ages. When she does, she says that she’s been helping the boy climb out the window in the loo to escape: it was small, but he was desperate and he’d got stuck. As images go, that struck me as wonderfully poetic…

And a poem…..


My youth was glass
pip of my heart
on gut and vein
for all to see.

Dark currents bore
me west then south
to boom and shatter,
a wall of grey shingle.

I wriggled through,
and  dropped into
my life.

Bird pipe
flax rattle
mud suck
green leaf
spinning on water.

Suspended in my
small pond I lived
my hundred years,
forgetful of the sea
beyond the bar,
knowing only
dimple of rain
soft blur of star.

Growing thick as your
leg on shreds torn from
dead sheep, snapping
at flies but never taking
proffered bait.

I have lived as you have
lived: cautiously.

But now I am old and the
sea knocks at my head and
there’s a taste to the water
that was not there before.

I cannot eat cannot settle
guts shrunk to dry rattle.

I turn head on to the current
and swim against the stream.

My eyes see more clearly now
than they have ever seen.

They have become rimmed
with blue, so that I may see
in the dark that lies ahead.

My brow has flattened so that
I may move without impedient
though the dark that lies ahead.

My belly is heavy, frilled with
eggs. 20 million strung on velvet.

I am become lean,
and full of purpose.

I cross the bar on a moonless
night, skin scraped blood raw
on sharp shingle. Drop back
into the dark, into the ocean
where everything moves faster
and the lights confuse.

I find my path, my body
freighted with millions.

I am heavy with the future.

I bear it along the dark path,
through forests of kelp and
booming cavern. Following
the taste in the water and the
stars, marking left and right.

I swim north, then east. One
undulating muscle, one blunt
head barking at the moon.

I swim to the place where it is
right to burst. Heave and writhe.
Torn flesh.

Egg dances to sperm.

The water glitters like
broken glass.

And now that’s done.

I drift upon the surface.


Old bag.

Skin for gulls.

Old bag.

For further information about Fiona go here


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