Courtney Sina Meredith

rushing doll

Deep down

I can feel myself talking, with my hands. Funny, on the bus on my way into town I had both hands in my pockets gripping change. Now my hands are dancing through the air, flicking invisible satin ripples up into the corners of the ceiling. I’m talking about my play, something unearthed from the seabed, my seabed, yes – poetic to imagine myself as having land and oceans and depths alike to the city of Atlantis and there is where I had to prise Rushing Dolls (my play) from the evil clutches of erm, the source of all things? The unforgiving creative ‘spring’ that I have seen dry up in a nano second only to be replenished days later with inane un-spring-like cautionary tales, blunt objects, swimming ideals, basically rubbish.

This is an interesting moment to have in the middle of an important meeting, I stop to imagine, mid-flight (speaking with my hands) how wonderful it is to believe that everything is there, deep down. It makes my head spin. Perhaps my ex on the other side of the world is desperately sorry – deep down? Perhaps the production of mediocre art that no one can properly critique because it is speaking to a political or social narrative that we all agree is very trendy and cutting edge or important (so therefore artistic responses are very trendy and cutting edge or important) is actually interesting deep down! I might be wrong about a slew of morons dotted across my life line, when you look at my palms you can literally see them guffawing. Maybe, everyone is talented, deep down?

After the meeting I read through my play at home, I turn the pages and breathe in the scent of the book, I look at my photo on the back cover – I decide that young woman interests me. Is she consistently effective in hauling, skyward, ancestral treasures passed down through generations? Is she interested in where it comes from, or simply grateful. Does it matter?

There is a lot of stillness, booming silence, between creating something and having the desire to develop and edit and ruthlessly kill off characters, ideas, brand new towns and their requisite heavens. Getting Rushing Dolls match fit is exciting, I have a new little team that give me a sense of community around the characters, people who know them and love them like I do. It feels strange and brilliant to realise that we are very close to finding a home for this work, a bit like when you are standing just in the right spot one day to see the light hit the trees in golden bliss, as though you have lived your life not a second ahead or behind, you timed everything perfectly for this one imperfect awakening.

 

 

Forever

It’s been forever since I checked in.

Mostly I’ve been listening to The Kills, enjoying the strange new sun, encountering doom less often, learning how to untangle my doubts from the footpath. Chatting on skype, organising my life through my phone, missing the alerts, over analysing fairly simple occurrences, falling into season 5 ‘Good Wife’ addiction, losing my cool with google maps, getting fish pedicures, freaking out over claims the fish carry viruses, flip flopping in love, flapping out of love, flying straight back. Taking photos of anything I eat that includes something green to show my mum her little girl is looking after herself, finally starting to notice the abundance of fences, wondering if the fences keep the children in or the adults out, or the gardens in and the dogs out, or the basketballs in and the traffic out? Wondering a lot. Wandering down familiar roads recalling when they were strange. Counting how many months I’ve been away on both hands. Stretching my hands out looking for signs of wisdom, following the lines of my palm into the air, onto my wrist, out past the street. Eliciting conversation in terrible places, surveyors outside Sainsburys, cat woman shaking on bus, lost tourists. Clingy symmetrical vines. Treating mango like hunks of gold, like Charlie treated chocolate, talking about ‘home’ as though I am living in exile, a refugee of paradise. Understating my homesickness with the aid of said flip flop love and my discovery of half-pints, now there’s a way to drink a lot in polite little bits. Uncovering a mass of unresolved fears, joy, ideas, tendencies, habits, meeting people two years younger than me and hearing myself say ‘enjoy it’ as though I am 100. Reading my poems wondering who wrote them. Writing new poems wondering who reads them. Articulating brand new truths in a daring, happy fashion. Gormless revelation of poet as living creature. Wondering a lot. Using the self checkouts at express supermarkets, feeling very pleased with myself. Walking through markets feigning confusion, oh no, here I am at the Turkish delights, I am so confused, I guess I will get some (brilliant!) getting used to meeting more Kiwis than I ever did in New Zealand. Getting doubly used to strange urges for jafas and pineapple lumps, I never had these urges at home. Getting triply used to the complexities of home, to return to leave again, to become a home of my own and for that to be just fine. Divulging in great rants new age truths, happiness bar graphs, Ted talks that have changed my life (in the last week) why I can’t stop watching the live stream of the Pistorius case, how much I finally understand the effort it takes to be miserable, how little effort it takes to smile, the absence of enough words to track the insanity of love, how fond I am of falling, how much I want to fail forward, how little time I’ve spent on the outside of my ideas, what it has been like to drown in the promise of ones own abyss, the ships there parting space like waves of lacquered black, and it was cool and it was real to swim down to the bed of myself, all those times to prise unearth some grain of buried fate.. look look.. look at this flake of gold I pulled myself a part for, see how it catches the light?

Working on a dream: old year resolutions

I love Bruce Springsteen, his song ‘working on a dream’ that he played as an opening act for Obama got me thinking today. In case you haven’t heard it, here’s a favourite line of mine:

Now the cards I’ve drawn’s a rough hand, darling
I straighten the back and I’m working on a dream

It’s traditional come December for most of us to start thinking about the year ahead, the next harvest – what we hope to achieve and so on. I’m quite inspired by the notion of working on a dream, and instead of looking forward, today I’m looking back and I wanted to share with you some of the best moments, memories and friendships – a few old year resolutions!

1. I’m thankful to have the right to marry my girlfriend, in my own country. It astounds me how many people are willing to pipe up against the dreams, aspirations and civil rights of their fellow countrymen – but those very people will not show the same vigour of passion and energy when it comes to simply making their communities better places to be. If you have the courage to judge strangers, wouldn’t it be amazing to see that courage channelled towards positive causes too? One can only hope, and I do.

2. I have a dear friend in Indonesia, a brother more than a friend, his name is Mikael Johani and like me – he has the same poetry bug that we both can’t recover from ;) When we met in early 2012, comrades within the same poetry festival, I remember watching him perform some works and my heart was flying a bit. He had this amazing tattoo on his arm and it wasn’t finished, a handsome prince. On our last day together, I put my malu on his tattoo and I knew we would be bound for life.

fregata

Mikael being an incredible human, surprised me a month later with this image. Needless to say I was blown away! As he turns his arm, you see the frigate birds are flying the prince into the future. I will always be a part of him, and he will always be, a part of me. That’s an incredible friendship I reckon!

6985849568_14db48ef3d_b

3. In a recent job interview I was asked what the most important thing is to me, conducting myself professionally, it was one of those strange out of body experiences – I heard myself say ‘responding to opportunity’ and I realised much of my life has been built on this premise. So what does it mean to respond to opportunity? I think it has something to do with faith, something to do with follow through, and a lot to do with passion. Every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around.

4. I write about my family a lot, what I probably don’t share enough – even with myself, is the immense hardships we’ve come through to be who we are today. I met up with a friend last week, it struck me from her impression of my writing that things must be beautiful and rosy all the time. I’m proud of the battles we’ve won, I’m proud of the fact that I can always talk to my parents no matter what – that doesn’t mean that I’ve always understood the world like that. There was a time when I couldn’t be completely open and just myself, I thank all the higher powers for getting me through long periods where I did suffer in silence. I think about my own internal wars with anxiety, depression and many dark clouds that I waded through. Looking for the light means being the light. That’s my greatest realisation of this year and one thing I’m so incredibly happy to finally understand!

5. The privilege of trial and error, this is a big one – living in a world where I can try, fail and get back up again for another round is an immense gift. We forget in our little first world bubbles, what a gift failure is – what an opportunity it is to test and extend yourself. I’ve never been big on numbers, I love words, but I’ve decided to strengthen that part of myself and how glorious that I can? We have little idea what it’s like to be within the confines of a life without ample food and water, shelter and love (and wifi~!) it isn’t about changing the world – it’s about changing attitudes. Being conscious of the fact that you are living someone’s dream, that someone somewhere – falls asleep in squalor every night just wishing they could be clothed, cared for and understood the way you are – that is a truth that comes with a responsibility to treat your existence with tenderness. The more amazed you are by your own working limbs, your crazy mind and changing moods, how bountiful and whole your time on this planet has been – only then can you begin to comprehend the profound struggle of others, and maybe, just maybe, you might choose to do something about it.

6. I have a partner who drives me nuts, some days we’re like a symphony, other days it’s how I imagine under water metal would sound: cray cray! I read somewhere that you shouldn’t expect your needs to be met by anyone but yourself, under any circumstances. I can see how that ideal gained traction, and why so many people have a preference to believe in an extreme user-pays neo-liberal existence that exceeds market mentality, over flowing into our personal lives and how we engage with others. I can interpret just how clean cut it seems, how safe to imagine that any bad feelings are your own, along with the good ones. The difficulty is, humans aren’t solitary creatures. I like to think of myself as being a solitary jungle tiger, but the reality is far from it. I absolutely look to have some of my needs met by my partner and when they are, it’s a bit like Christmas and New Years rolled into one. I am learning what it means to love someone, and you don’t love them alone – every time we fight my mother knows about it, and on the weekend when she surprised me with flights to Budapest for my birthday my best friends immediately knew about it. I am just another human, trucking along trying to make sense of things. I don’t know when I will publish my next book, or when I’ll have my next residency, or international tour, or the next time the BBC might interview me to 40 million listeners. What I do know is how soft and vulnerable I am, packaged into black boots, black Ray Bans, black tights and a very London black coat. If a bomb fell, I would fall with it too, and if the earth shook I’d be dancing on the walls. And you know what? That’s actually great. It takes humanity to work on things you can’t see or explain. I hope all of your dreams come true, if you make an old years resolution list – you might be surprised to see just how many already have :)

Happy old year! x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My new BFF!

I’ve never been one for public displays of affection, but when you meet a force of nature that just, seems to clear away all the clutter in your life – you get a new perspective on what it means to be! I just knew I had to share this with the world!

Photo on 2013-12-03 at 16.23

Dyson and I kind of met by chance, it turns out he’s been living downstairs from me for a while. As soon as we locked eyes, I just got this feeling like, he was going to change my life.

Photo on 2013-12-03 at 16.21 #2

We get on like a house on fire, I can tell him anything – seriously! And he just listens! 

Photo on 2013-12-03 at 16.24 #3

Dyson is really smart, this is my ‘wowed’ face after learning about his culture – it turns out he comes from a big family of clean freaks! Is he Polynesian or what?! ;)

 

 

 

 

Believing in something real

I visited the grounds of a local church today, it happened upon me, one minute I was walking past a shop and then I spied some trees. I wanted to pay my respects to a statue for fallen soldiers, there were fresh flowers and little hand written notes. Walking to the centre of the garden, a few homeless guys walked past, one of them smiled at me and came and stood by my side while I read the plaque. He had a few teeth missing but a nice warm coat and huge brown eyes. He cleared his throat like a kaumatua and took his beanie off, bowing his head and surveying the bright wreaths. After a few moments in silence he turned to me and asked to see my hand, a few other people in the small park were looking over concerned. I could see men on the church steps huddled together, their eyes squared wondering if my new friend was about to take off with my bag, or stab me in the side and take my Ray Bans.

I showed him my hand, my tatau, that’s what he wanted to see. He reached out gingerly, his fingers were tobacco stained. I told him it was ok to touch the birds, he barely let the full print of his index finger rest on my knuckle, but he said he was daring himself to, because unlike my birds he would never know the sky. He hadn’t been on a plane before, or sailed across the sea, he had no idea what the sea felt like, or what it looked like, from the sky. I told him about my culture, my family and what the symbols meant. He started nodding, stepped back and put his beanie back on “oh you are lucky, you believe in something real.” Then something extraordinary happened, he thanked me for being kind, he said kindness was greater than food “you have a culture, you have something real that believes in you.”

He went to walk away and stopped for a moment, looking back, “you know, everything is close for you, I just live here, this is all I’m going to be. Most people just want to be warm, but you might have a family and people who look for you at night if you don’t come home. Don’t forget how close you are little sister.” And he walked away, puffing on a smoke shaking his fist at the sky.

 

 

 

 

I am as long as the road

I am as long as the road from my house to your country.
Interweaving depths a soul a fly.
My valour is on offer: a word
A bruise of sky
Afloat. What do you make of the cold? Now that both hands tap out
long white lies.

 

 

 

 

Wisdom from my shopkeeper

I always say morena to the local dairy owners on my way past. Regardless of whether I need to top up my oyster card or ask a quick question about the buses or to have a general whinge about the cold weather, they always have something kind to say and today was no exception. I’ve been sick lately, I came down with a fever. The last few days have consisted of tummy aches, whoozy spells, fatigue and a general self loathing ‘oh why are you sick? you can’t be serious?’

When I popped my head into the dairy this morning on my way to grab a coffee, I was met with looks of concern ‘we haven’t seen you for days? we wondered if you were sick or had moved on?’ I told them about my whoozy spells and fatigue, the raging fever and strange dreams. The man of the business, the top dog who is calm but commands respect, shared a great nugget of wisdom with me, it wasn’t what I expected from him. I can hardly imagine him sick and vulnerable. I learned that with great mana, comes great vulnerability:

When winter comes my nose blocks right up. Here, at the top. I feel everything change. The world changes. I become very heavy and I wheeze. Do you know that feeling of being underneath yourself? Feeling weighed down? I get like that. I become very scared. When I go to sleep I miss India, night time in India the house is a ghost, nobody moves, you have everybody you care for under one roof. When the cold comes here, I go there, to the ghost town in my mind and I get scared that I am going to pass out of this world. I cannot breathe, my mind goes away from my body. When I wake up in the morning I feel lucky to be alive, alive to go back to the place in my dreams, in my own body, one day. 

 

 

 

The kindness of strangers

I walked past a man checking his bank balance today and I swear on my grandmother’s grave I didn’t mean to look at the screen, but I did, and for a fleeting second I saw that he had less than five pounds. He said ‘no Christmas’ to himself, and shook his head. This man was just like you and I, he had no signs of being homeless or down and out, he looked tall and strong, competent and handsome. You could tell just by looking at him that someone loved him.

It is thanks to tidbits of strange and wonderful advice from beautiful black mamas on trains, in charity shops, at bus stops, walking pretty on the way to church and staring me down on footpaths only to break into laughter when I smile at their scorns – that I knew what to say. I’ve noticed that the problem is immaterial, it doesn’t belong between warm bodies, there is no room for a problem, no time for sorrow or hardship – there is only the dazzling present.

Standing drenched in Soho, road workers walked over to see who’d won the bet as to whether I was Arabic or not. Learning where I was actually from, and hearing that my family were very far away just like theirs – they went into elaborate detail about how to get a good job in a supermarket. The staff at my favourite cafe understand that I go there to be closer to my family, strangely, because cafes remind me of my mother. Not only do they give me staff discounts on my coffees, which are already very cheap, they keep my spirits up with funny stories and cocktails on the house now and again. When I walk into shops and the assistants are young women of colour, I don’t get followed around for fear of having something been taken, I get shown around with garments pointed out to me that are great for my wide hips.

I’ve been nurtured by incredible strangers, like the few bus drivers who have let me ride the bus free, shaking their head at my coins ‘you keep rising sister, one day you pull out notes!’ and the hard days I’ve walked London with tears in my eyes, praying to be struck down by lightening only to hear the universe call out from the mouths of cheeky boys ‘where’s your smile beautiful? show it off!’ I looked for coats in various charity shops and met the most wonderful people, one man asked me to help pick out shoes for his wife, he was a street cleaner on his break and he wanted to cheer her up seeing as it was getting so cold. One woman was looking for professional clothes, she was about to start her first office job at the age of 62, her dream since she was a girl in Ghana. I have realised that living has nothing to do with being alive, it’s what you’re living for that gives you life.

I stopped and waited behind the man at the cash machine. When he turned around with his eyes low, I gave him a big smile and I pointed at the sky, ‘it’s grey now, but you remember how blue and bright it was?’ He smiled back and nodded, walking away with a little bit of me and all the kind people of this land that have acknowledged my heavy, rising heart.

 

 

The problem with happiness

Happiness is the enemy is a quote from Niki Lauda, he goes on say it weakens you, suddenly you have something to lose. I revisit the idea often, it’s not that I agree but maybe that I understand the difficulty in striving for something never stopping to imagine how it might feel to actually have the thing you are striving for. In that sense, the idea of happiness is imperative to success, not so much the realisation of happiness, but the intangible desire of inhabiting a reality you made with your own achievements. It might be an overhang of capitalism, consumerism, probably.

The problem with happiness might be the belief that it is a kind of filmic destination, a stage in your life cycle, an environmental shift that justifies all of your hardships. I came across a saying lately that as long as you want what you have you will always have what you want. It echoes Dorthy’s sentimes in The Wizard of Oz: if i ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own back yard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with. Is that a religious afterglow? Maybe it’s a practical solution to a historical problem, I mean – what were all of those wars really about? If people had literally stayed in their own backyards we might be sitting in a very different present.

One of my first lecturers at university warned against the impending dangers of over-qualification, he was convinced that once we all had under graduate degrees we would need post graduate degrees to compete in global markets and so on. Maybe the problem with happiness is that it no longer belongs to the individual and the marketing of institutional happiness is prevalent to the point of gross exhaustion. I have been at those dinner parties where people smile politely listening to someone talk about how they are ‘happy taking life as it comes’ only to see the vultures circle when the ‘happy’ person excuses themselves and the bittersweet ambitious robots (I admit to being one) can’t help swapping perplexed banter – ‘truly? happy with what? taking life as it comes? where’s the drive – where’s the excellence?’ and the awkward silence that follows, realising that the ‘happy’ person has chosen to be happy. The rest of us, we have chosen to delay happiness – we want it to be hard won and very, very shiny.

I have always had designs on bliss, it used to mean having the freedom to meet my own needs, on my own terms. That structure mostly worked when I was single and reasonably carefree, my needs were the responses to personal necessities. Developing a second life as a creative, and a third life as a professional, triply complicated my initial processes. Entering into a relationship where I realised I had little control over my raving-bigger-than-the-universe feelings of love further complicated my happiness so I outsourced that part of myself to be managed externally on account of my achievements in the physical world. My inner landscape proved to be a kind of pseudo war zone, part of me constantly campaigning for a glorious future, and the rest of me fighting to eclipse my long term goals with counter arguments of the soul, the poet, the lover frequently bombarding my pragmatism and logic.

The more I fell into love, the more isolated I felt from myself, the more terrified I grew – noticing my vulnerabilities, my new found and seemingly involuntary actions of placing someone else’s needs above my own. I chartered my happiness on the page, the page has always been my point of anchorage, it is the one place that all parts of me honour with equal measure. My creations of Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick, Rushing Dolls, Blue-Crowned Lorikeets and the many swirling themes of dramatic feminine strength, beauty and power – gave me points of light, like stars in a very dark sky to navigate myself towards. I had no idea at the time, that my stars, the stars I needed, the motifs and strength of my ideas would one day give energy to others.

The ‘others’ are people who I admire and deeply respect, I have met many different souls, some are very successful people who are lonely in their bliss, or people disconnected from their authentic selves finding the strength to search for their own points of anchorage. I identify with them all, the range of emotions in my work comes from the truth of my own experiences, my own problems, with my own perceptions of happiness. I believe we are all blessed in unique ways, there is a detailing to every person that makes them special, the more I contemplate my path, the good and bad, the more I come to acknowledge that our differences are characteristics to be celebrated.

I read somewhere recently that you shouldn’t expect your needs to be met in a relationship, I wonder how that statement applies to the relationships we have with all the different parts of ourselves and the long years we spend trying to reign ourselves into one cohesive whole. We imagine this whole to be educated, loved, free and successful. We imagine that once everything fits together and we know who we are, completely, a wave of euphoria will wash over us for the rest of our days, we will be fully operational, our full potential having been unlocked.

If it true as I have heard many times, that the person you want to be is just a decision away, the problem with happiness might be the variety of people to become, the spectrum of vocations on hand, the and-or mentality of dating as an individual pursuit whereby you meet your own needs and the other person adds value to, not a missing piece to, who you are. I would like to do everything at once and looking over my life I often have. It used to pain me hearing teachers at college preach about applying yourself completely or your future would be all doom and gloom. In reality, the days continued, the world kept turning, regardless of how well I did in a test, or if I failed another test miserably. Whether I had the boyfriend of my dreams, or a close relative passed away, the cruel and delicious world continued.

As a poet it’s a part of my job to be something of an open wound, nobody is too concerned with page after page of how great life is and how love is easy and how death is just a fact of nature – no – people want pages that bleed, that intersect between sex and culture, that challenge and alarm and give the world mystery. I want that too, in a way I cannot explain. There is a profound happiness in translating my soul to others. There is a profound truth in inviting rawness and emotion into my heart to create with integrity of feeling. The problem with happiness might be how limiting it is to have one word, one piece of string, to wrap around the earth’s surface, one idea to salt an open wound the size of Mars. I might just challenge Niki Lauda and find something to lose that weakens you into happiness.

Finding myself without meaning to. At all.

I grew up wanting to grow up. The front lawn of our family home in Glen Innes boasted grandma’s spectacular garden, and the rest was fair game for bull rush and my uncle’s cars. I wasn’t preened to reach my early 20s and take off overseas to ‘find myself.’ Fair or not, as a young woman of colour, growing up as a teen it wasn’t unusual for people to smile when I answered pointed questions that yes – I was still in school and no, I didn’t have any children. I never found these assumptions prejudicial, I was proud to be ‘growing up’ and I was used to encountering an ongoing litany of – where are you from dear? or – are you going back to your island for christmas? comments from taxi drivers, teachers, my friend’s parents and even my partner’s family – I took those social cues as my norm, perhaps an unwarranted, unfair norm – but my norm all the same. I never complained about being asked if I spoke my ‘own language’ the people asking had genuine grounds to create new ground – they came from a different world.

When I decided to leave New Zealand and move to London it seemed like a natural progression for career development. I wasn’t looking for an OE, and I especially wasn’t looking to ‘find myself’ something only my privileged peers had been cultivated to expect. I was quite happy with what I found of myself in my family and my community. During my late teens I admired and pitied the hordes of young middle class – off to retrieve themselves offshore. They had apparently left themselves in places they had yet to venture, they were waiting in Brazilian foliage, they were ready to pounce in the shadows of New York, the rest of them lay somewhere dormant and far away in the arms of a stranger  – the boss of their dreams –  a professor, a mentor, an other – somewhere else was their self.

My life has been a series of collective truths, I went to a high school whose principal was married to the daughter of my grandmother’s best friend. I went to the university my mother and my aunties went to. I worked where my father worked. I published my book with good family friends. I lived a life that was more like a plait than a path – it was a conscious advance of a village, people who looked like me, who loved me, who shared the same blood and or values.

The moment I left New Zealand I left that plait behind, and unwittingly, I have found myself – in unusual places, in unimaginable situations and inside of moments where I feel most vulnerable and alone. I look back at the land where I come from and I realise that land is more love than mud, more intimacy than ocean, more closeness than mountains. I don’t see Aotearoa when I close my eyes, I see the people that have made me.

It can’t be simply financial when viewing why it really is such a rarity to meet other young Polynesians in London, I understand now – our heart’s desire, our essential collective truth, is found where we are born – inside of the familial construct. I say I have found myself, because it is a self a part from ourselves. Still my ‘self’ is generated and encouraged by the love of what is behind me and the truth of what lies ahead for us all if I can manage to create new paths for the younger ones in my family.

I have always considered myself to be explicitly independent, the reality is far from it, consider my works as an artistic being and you will uncover writings that illuminate my experiences of my culture. If you consider my career path to this moment, you will see an undeniable social slant towards creating opportunities for others. It seems, all of the nights I spent writing alone, I was writing my way into something collective, I was focused on presenting a new platform from which young brown women could stand, and share in each other’s truths.

As I venture into the private sector and I begin to create my own identity away from the pack, I am actively seeking to hone the parts of myself that I deeply respect in others. In my strength and resilience I find my grandparents, in my opinions and confidence I find my parents, in my humour and positivity I find my aunties and uncles, in my openness and kindness I find my siblings and my cousins. When I am navigating my new self, in a sea of selves, interestingly – I find the ones I love again, and again. Isn’t life a bit beautiful and funny like that.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 305 other followers