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Colin

A poem by Bill Manhire in response to Colin McCahon


<P>This poem, recorded on 15 March 2014, was read as part of the Walk with Me: McCahon Series of events at Te Papa. Colin McCahon is one of New Zealand’s most celebrated artists. His sweeping multi-canvas work <EM>Walk (Series C)</EM> (1973) is, in part, an imagined walk along Muriwai beach with the New Zealand poet James K Baxter. Te Papa invited poet, artist, and curator Gregory O’Brien to select eight poets to write poems inspired by McCahon’s work: Bill Manhire, Dinah Hawken, Hinemoana Baker, Ashleigh Young, James Brown, Vincent O'Sullivan, John Pule, and Paula Green. </P> <P><BR><STRONG>Colin</STRONG></P> <P>McCahon said jump<BR>and now we all</P> <P>jump, sort of,<BR>sometimes, anyway</P> <P>look, it’s hard<BR>to lift</P> <P>when you haven’t<BR>got the energy</P> <P>nor the musculature<BR>nor the gift,</P> <P>it takes a pack<BR>of courage</P> <P>to shift<BR>the Mustang in the drive</P> <P>the one with<BR>the painting in it</P> <P>with the man<BR>jumping over onions</P> <P>each onion a file<BR>of fine lines</P> <P>across the face<BR>of the man</P> <P>who stares at the canvas<BR>and really can’t resist</P> <P>*</P> <P>and the further the eyes<BR>jump, Colin</P> <P>told me, the firmer<BR>the feet</P> <P>on the ground:<BR>Muriwai, 1969</P> <P>(big tidal sound)</P> <P>we felt shellfish rising<BR>from beneath</P> <P>our feet. We were their<BR>sky and they</P> <P>our firmament.<BR>No one was</P> <P>going by<BR>which I think</P> <P>gave Colin<BR>much of his advantage</P> <P>* </P> <P>which leaves, I suppose<BR>the Norfolk pine</P> <P>3 kids calling<BR>50 feet high</P> <P>as if they could<BR>touch the sky</P> <P>as if the ocean<BR>were their father</P> <P>as if they<BR> would rather</P> <P>*</P> <P>sit on <BR>the empty</P> <P>beach<BR>write ‘walk</P> <P>with me’<BR>then vanish</P> <P>into the aloneness: <BR>oh that feels</P> <P>fairly<BR>solitary all right</P> <P>that feels like<BR>the dark landscape</P> <P>&amp; the horizon<BR>we have heard of</P> <P>&amp; the light.</P> <P><BR>© Bill Manhire</P> <P><BR>‘Colin’ was originally published in Bill Manhire’s book <EM>What to Call Your Child</EM> (Godwit, 1999)</P>

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Bill Manhire reading at the McCahon Series: Poetry Reading. Photograph by Michael Hall, Te Papa, 2014

Bill Manhire reading at the McCahon Series: Poetry Reading. Photograph by Michael Hall, Te Papa, 2014