Kuita et le feu

Cina a appâté Kuita avec son maka feke

 

Elle l’a attiré de son cachot sous-marin

son domicile dans le grand wasawasa

 

Kuita a tiré Cina

dans les profondeurs de l’océan Pacifique

 

*

 

Le géant pleure de honte

 

Ta’uvala tissé de tentacules

 

Les tentacules qui avaient lacéré la taille de Cina

laissant sur son ventre des cicatrices

qui ressemblent aux motifs ancestraux

 

*

 

enfermés dans des pans de temps

de feux qui s’enflamment

de chair qui brûle

de cœurs qui se brisent

 

Son maka feke

a détourné la vision de Kuita

a démêlé ses bras

Il l’a accueillie dans son cœur

 

*

 

Il était difficile de se quitter

Ils se séparaient en se fondant

comme les îles

d’Uvea Mo Futuna

 

Kuita a relâché le maka feke

Il a coulé dans sa mer aux profondeurs insondables

Cina s’est élevée en spirale

s’échappant de son monde sous-marin

 

*

Au sa soro

J’y renonce

 

Les échos des abysses

 

Kuita utilise ses tentacules découpés pour tisser un Ulumate

Il grave le mot

« Cina »

dans les murs de sa grotte

les ventouses remplies de dents tranchantes

qui grattent des symboles sacrés

Bati Ni Qio

Des fourchettes des cannibales

jusqu’aux dents des requins

qui descendent sa colonne vertébrale

Des chemins ancestraux

décorés de motifs de Masi

Des histoires ancestrales

qui décorent la peau

Une créature mystérieuse de l’océan

 

*

 

Kuita sombre encore plus dans la fragilité de sa coquille cassée

Il remonte au moment où

Degei a relâché Turukawa

 

Il n’arrive pas à croire

que Degei l’a laissée s’évader

 

Kuita n’arrive pas à croire

qu’il a laissé partir Cina

 

*

 

Cina est remontée à la surface tout près de son waqa

ancré au même endroit

 

Elle a surfé sur les vagues jusqu’à la terre ferme dans son canoë

rinçant son corps élancé dans le wai tui

 

*

 

Meke vula sur le sable blanc

sous la lune noire

 

*

De retour à son bure

Elle protège leur fils

Qio

Un cadeau du Mata ni siga

 

Qio

 

Il est toujours un bébé requin

Il est vuku aussi

Mais il ne le sait pas encore

 

*

 

Preprint later published as:

Kamali, Daren and Speedy, Karin. 2017. “Kuita and the Flame/Kuita et le feu” (poem translated by Karin Speedy), Francosphères, 6(2), 95-102.

Glossaire

* Kuita: le poulpe en fidjien

* Cina: la lumière ou la lueur en fidjien

* Ta’uvala: une ceinture faite d’un fil de noix de coco

* Maka feke: un leurre tongan pour attraper les poulpes

* Uvea Mo Futuna: Les îles du Pacifique Wallis et Futuna

* Masi: le tapa (tissu d’écorce) fidjien

* Ulumate: la perruque d’un guerrier

* Bati ni qio: les dents d’un requin

* Mata Ni Siga: Les yeux du Soleil

* Meke vula: une danse de la lune

* Vuku: intelligent ou talentueux

* Bure: une case fidjienne

* Qio: un requin

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The Night Before Waitangi Day

I wrote this poem when living in Sydney. I always felt like I was living in exile there. It was February 5, 2015, the night before my birthday, the night before Waitangi Day. I was feeling nostalgic, thinking of home and the Treaty (Te Tiriti o Waitangi) and what it means in different places and to different people. Also imagining the links and disconnect between the two settler colonies of New Zealand and Australia. It seems an appropriate poem for National Poetry Day in Aotearoa.
______________________________
The Night Before Waitangi Day
 
Birthday Eve
In Poihakena
No holiday tomorrow
This country does not stop to reflect
Upon what has been
And what might have been
And what could be
Written between the lines
Inscribed in blood
Across the way
In Aotearoa
 
No time off to
Contemplate what was
Translated
Creatively?
Faithfully?
Culturally?
No,
Erroneously.
Dangerously.
Colonially.
 
All a bit slapdash
Really.
Never mind
Not important
The power in the hands
Of those writing
The history
And all that.
Fudge it
A bit
The natives will never notice.
Besides
They won’t be here long
To relate their version
Their history
To question
To protest
To speak
Even.
 
Absence
Silence
Extinction
Progress
Taming
Homogenising
Nation building
Or some such
Developmental bullshit.
Wasn’t that
The plan?
 
Not so different here.
No treaty though
No celebration
No day off work
No discussion
No critique
A non-event
Almost.
 
Birthday Eve
In Sydney
Time to remember.
(c) Karin Speedy 2015
First published in “Piercing the White Space”, Blackmail Press 41, November 2015,

A Trip to Australia

799px-Uluru_(Helicopter_view)-crop

I’m flying over Australia. It is 4pm in Noumea and 7am in France.
Are writing and living really compatible?

Way down below I see four murky-green, oval lakes. A patchwork of enormous fields – brown, green, ochre and purple. Roads criss-crossing as far as the eye can see. The work of Titans: this continent is not of human proportions. The earth is red, ailing, it drags itself crawling towards the ocean, desperately, as if it has been on a long quest:

Drink, I want to drink you, she said, immerse myself in you. Look at me, I am dried up, cracked and broken down languishing here like this. I was a red desert.

I was a sierra divided into squares and triangles. A skeleton carried me.

Finally, I see you. At first you are like a dream, a mirage, a galaxy curled around itself, boiling hot swamp, silver mirror, desert of salt and white mud. I surround you, you act cool, like the sky or a milky way that fell to the ground by mistake: who put you there? And why?

The birds are flying too low, and you are too white!

And these roads are too empty and my destitution is solitary. My children gather together on the lovely coasts, the gulfs and the bays hemmed with foam, from where their sails take off in graceful swarms of butterflies.

They have built proud cities there, at the very doors of my distress.
Sometimes I call out to them: the wind, that red demon, blows from the desert and covers them with a shroud of my colours.
It covers the sun with bloodstained clouds. Then, they think about their land.

When I am alone, I get bored, I take the wind’s quill and I trace hieroglyphics on the sand.
Nobody sees them.

Or else, using the wind’s force, I take the mallet and I sculpt the earth: a phoenix, wings spread, a zebra, head lowered, a grotesque pelican and then, weary of it all, I give up – they no longer have any sense these lines, traits, scarification, the scabs of my heart lying open to the winds…

Death is blinding, like a sun without energy, a liquid sun, an immense ball of mud and salt.

The sun pumps out the last traces of water. Soon, not a single drop will be left. A new desert forever: I love you and I am killing you.

(The temperature is increasing: I feel it through the plane window which is burning to the touch). It is 6pm. We’ve now been flying for two hours.

The magic starts to fade.

This desert is a giant, breathing effigy, an anatomical plate. I see its veins, nerves, diverse humours and circulations, lymph and living flesh with its keloid scars of reddish-brown and other white marks (burns perhaps?). Its imperfections: warts, wrinkles and the bumps and scrapes of our good old earth, seen here as we can never see it anywhere else.

Here, she is naked, skeletal, laid bare.
Here, she survives, solitary, hostile, barren, and all her passions are etched on her skin.

Here are the long, black streaks of her suicide attempts. Here is her hair, dishevelled like that of a bolting thoroughbred mare, spirited, when she dreams of her wild love-making.
(Does the earth dream?)

Here is the embryo, that minuscule dot, that labyrinth of new-life-carrying vessels.

(Does the earth dream too of all the embryos, animal or vegetable, like a woman dreams of the stranger forming [strange mystery, monster or marvel] in her womb?)

Here is the placenta, the irrigated matrix of her dream. Here she is going tirelessly in search of food, the manna of the desert, she is looking by casting out, in all directions, her arteries, veins, arterioles and nerves, as delicate as the finest of leaflets.

Look! An outpost shining unusually brightly: microbes standing guard! (Is this the role of men in the desert?) And, all of the sudden, she casts out again further and further, the smaller river then the long, silver river woven from her demands.

For she is greedy, not for herself but for this gestating dream, a dream that she must carry to term.

She stretches out her legs, rips herself open and scratches around herself to bring back to her belly the substance of her chimeras. By searching so hard and wanting it so much, voilà a watering hole, a tiny one, then another, two, three, four, and then no more.

She sculpts the shapes of her desire and her weariness.

Calm returns. Until a new madness takes hold of her: to give birth to her fantasies. Or else go and drown herself in the other immensity, the Pacific Ocean, another great creator of fantasies.
When the earth cries, traces remain, chiselled on her cheeks and shoulders.

The earth trembles and breaks in two.

At 6.20pm: Uluru.
A crater like a hollow breast (perfect circle, very big), with an erect nipple in the centre. And all around, the earth’s great witching hour – she sends her couples in relief into a frenzied jive.
A man embraces her, she seems pacified. Pause.

Further in the distance: a group of rocks, an enormous flock of stones are grazing in solitude.

The foreground is clear: the first one is a woman lying down, pregnant, waiting for her merciful release with her face lifted toward the sky.

Further away again: men huddled together in the foetal position. Are they awaiting death?

Yet more mountains. A woman, her head raised, her long hair flying in the wind. Or that other woman, with a bird on her head, who is violently attacking a monster or is it a man? With contempt and disdain.

And then more: intertwined paintings and sculptures.

And more again: large canvases, a flight of colours, in matching shades, in a volley, violent slashes of colour or a profusion of pastels.

A dragon lying in a dried-up swamp of fire, another phoenix with a flaming crest, wings spread and the train of its long tail (or is it clutching a snake in its claws?)

And still more: a squad of little clouds of light, the first for hours! They move forward, or rather it’s our plane that is moving away from them, but their shadow remains still.

We’ve now been flying at nine hundred kilometres an hour for two and a half hours over this desert.
She (the earth) tells me her story, she writes it, draws it and sculpts it for me.
And her story is also my story:
When, oh when, poor things of this world, will we reach the sea? The water?

Floating veils of clouds go past, like curtains that we pull.
Like water spreading between these steamy isles… Like fog drowning the valley… And now it’s the sky’s turn to tell me his story, his struggle and his suffering.

A great gust of cloud arrives.
I feel nauseous: it is drizzling outside.
Suddenly, I open my eyes: fantastic scenery!
The earth has become the sky, the bottom is on top, everything has been inverted.
All of this is in me, all of this is mine:

So I throw out my octopus tentacles towards you. On this earth, so many gigantic serpents come slithering out at night and hide in her bowels by day!
Monsters from the dawn of time, they climb out to destroy the creature in the black of night.
As for me, I throw these huge green and black rings out to you, eye of the day.
Suddenly, I tense up, overcome by an icy pain that climbs in a wide, circular motion towards my heart. Once again I have lost trace of you, and my stealthy black chargers break free, dispersing in all directions. A faint light radiates the horizon: could it be You?

My tears of salt and blood have dried on my flat cheeks: where is my splendour?
I am she of wind and fire. My breasts have dried up. My emaciated belly is barren!
And yet I conceal gold and diamonds and the powerful uranium that promotes men to the level of gods and the rarest minerals of all the colours of the rainbow.
My misery and my strength.
My death is rebirth!

 

Written by Hélène Savoie translated from the French by Karin Speedy

© Karin Speedy 2010

Reference

Speedy, Karin and Savoie, Hélène. Les Terres de la demi-lune / Half-Moon Lands. Bilingual edition, Translated and with a Critical Introduction by Karin Speedy. ISBN: 978 2 296 11771 6. L’Harmattan: Paris, 2010. (280 pages)

Cuttings From a Pacific Garden

Today is National Poetry Day in Aotearoa! New Zealand is celebrating poets and poetry. Here is a poem I wrote in 2011 at a hui in Wellington on Pacific literature. It speaks to roots and renewal, themes that were very important to me at that moment and it pays homage to some of the most influential New Zealand and Pasifika writers. Poets, I love you!
800px-Frangipani_flowers
Cuttings from a Pacific Garden
 
For Albert Wendt
 
I cried for Alistair Campbell last night
I cried for Alistair Te Ariki Campbell
and his house perched
on that windy mountain
overlooking Kapiti Island
and Te Rauparaha.
 
How solitary.
No, I wouldn’t have lived there either
but he had Meg
almost to the end.
 
You introduced me to him, actually.
More than twenty years ago now –
can it really be that long?
I loved him from the first page.
When I say I loved him
I mean his words
his poetry
his magic.
 
I cried for Alistair Campbell this morning.
At 5.27am
my tears had formed little pools
in the indent and crevasses of my Novotel pillow.
 
I thought of those cuttings in your garden
so obviously symbolic
yet utterly disarming.
 
They have grown, survived, thrived.
They are us, all of us
who have loved
Alistair
and Hone
and Epeli
and John Pule
and Patricia Grace
and so many others
and you, of course –
writers from our part of the world
whose stories and poetry
speak to us in rhythms familiar
who speak to us
touch us
move us
make us cry at 5.27am in the morning.
 
Just like those precious yet hardy cuttings
from Alistair Te Ariki Campbell’s garden
you nurtured us and
let us grow
strong.
 
Last night
the new generation of Pacific poets
held their Te Papa audience captive.
Their voices
joyous
angry
questioning
poignant
proud
beautiful.
 
Last night I cried for Alistair Campbell.
Last night I also smiled for those poets
and all of us
cuttings from your garden.
© Karin Speedy 2015
First published in ‘Piercing the White Space, Blackmail Press, 41, 2015

Malabar Woman

Sometimes we can be quite surprised by the seething raft of connections and currents running through our work and which can touch us in our everyday lives. Quite by chance, one of my friends had posted on Facebook the very famous poem À une Malabaraise by icon of French poetry, Charles Baudelaire, just as I was writing a paper on the forced migration of Malabar workers from La Réunion to New Caledonia. It hit a nerve. It infuriated me. The gaze of this young, white, Frenchman, however full of spleen and revolution he may have been, upon the body of the Malabar (Indian) woman seemed such a textbook example of a certain type of leery colonialism, that I immediately had to respond. If he had been standing in front of me, I would have slapped his smarmy face. Instead, I wrote this poem. Yes, yes, I know he was critiquing France by trying to say it didn’t hold a candle to (a perfectly exoticised) Reunion Island. Still, if he were here, this is what I would say to him over a glass or ten of absinthe

 

Malabar Woman
Baudelaire
you pervy bastard
objectifying
exoticizing
eroticizing
velvet-eyed
wide-hipped
dark-skinned
Beauty

She whose bare feet
caress the dirt
as she saunters
sensuously
toward the market
her delicate arms
laden with fruits
of the tropical
persuasion
hurrying home
to that benevolent
Master

Is it you
in your dreams?
Does she light
your pipe?
Chase away
those pesky
mosquitoes
that so torment one
in the colonies?
Does she sing to you
in a low
throaty voice
thrilling
in its
Otherness?
Do you visit her
in her hut
as she lies
vulnerable
on her mat?
Oh Baudelaire
you really aren’t
that romantic
are you?
Painting such a cliché
dredged from
a white man
Fantasy

And then once you
have had your
exotic
erotic
poetic
moment
with she of the
flimsy
filmy
go on
you might as well say it
transparent
sari
you cast her off
like a used hanky
to fall into
some eager
Sailor’s
arms
And you imagine
a foul
fetid
future
for the girl who once
kept her Master
in fresh water
and his house
smelling of sweet
perfume

You relocate
dislocate
suffocate
incarcerate
the flesh
of your belle
Malabaraise
You decorate her eye
with nostalgia
for her life
in her natural
habitat
fulfilling
her natural
role
subservient
servant
of
Empire

But her body
now for sale
on the grey streets
of Paris
was never free
will never be free
at home
or in exile

She is Beauty
she is coolie woman
she is the subject/object
trapped
in your poem

Let her be
Baudelaire
let her be

©Karin Speedy 2016

Ghosts in the Archive

Almost nothing

Louis Joubert

Louise Joubert, Hunters Hill archives

yet

if you close your eyes

see with all your senses

you might just make them out

Tiptoeing across the ledgers

dancing in the margins

playing hide and seek

between the lines

Sometimes you catch their gaze

staring back

through the eyes

of a slightly blurry

sepia print

smiling hopefully

mum fishing at magenta

Fishing at Magenta, Nouméa, c. 1930, Photo: Chris Vidal

wondering

if you will be the one

to unleash their glory

or their pain

If you listen with all your heart

those imperceptible shuffles

will take on the rhythm of speech

and they will whisper softly

of their travails

of their triumphs

image

Haja Fatima, Photo: Karin Speedy 2008

 of their tragedies

And like a conjurer

you will make them appear

bring them to life

write their stories

re-inscribe them into history

Then they can sleep

©Karin Speedy 2016

 

 

 

 

Interconnections and Mobilities: the Pacific Francosphere

Call for Abstracts for a Special Issue of Francosphères
Interconnections and Mobilities: the Pacific Francosphere

Within nationalist, border-focused frameworks, the Francophone Pacific has been painted as isolated and cut-off from its neighbours due to its linguistic difference. However, French-speaking islands have long established Indigenous connections with other sites and peoples both outside of and within the Pacific. These ancestral and historical connections, often linked to widespread ocean-going mobilities, continued throughout the colonial era and were important in the shaping of populations, cultures, languages and relationships in the region. While these links have been somewhat eroded by the uncompromising imperatives of nation-building, there has been increasing interest in rediscovering and reviving these connections and creating new pathways of exchange between linguistically diverse Pacific spaces.

This special issue of Francosphères invites contributions that reflect critically on the Pacific Francosphere as part of a dynamic, interconnected, transcultural space of moving bodies, ideas and texts. How do Francophone islands connect/intersect with each other, with other Indigenous, Anglophone or Hispanophone spaces in the region or with other Francospheres beyond the Pacific?

In the first instance, we are calling for 250-300 word abstracts for papers in English or French that engage with the theme of this special issue. Please email your abstract and brief bio to the Guest Editor, Associate Professor Karin Speedy, Macquarie University, Sydney: karin.speedy@mq.edu.au by 30 June 2016.

If your abstract is selected, you will need to submit a completed 5,000 word article (including bibliography and footnotes) by 30 September 2016. The articles will then proceed to peer review. The special issue will be published in December 2017.

For more information about Francospères, please visit the journal’s website.

Call for Abstracts Francospheres