To Auckland, my greatest collaborator


You’re a bit of a babe and I’ve been thinking about you a lot by the river.

Here in Iowa City as a writer in residence for one of the world’s most prestigious residencies, it occurred to me that we’ve been working together for a long time. I feel bad that I left your name out of the credits for my latest book. Is it enough that so much of my writing is about you, or based on you, or comes home to you? Is it enough that I think of myself more and more as an Auckland writer, that I’m proud to say I know you but I don’t know you, that I’ve only walked the pretty bits that make sense to my outrageously poetic sensibilities.

I only go to the North Shore for weddings, funerals and or to drop off my brothers should they have some kind of compulsory school activity, or to watch if that’s where cycling is scheduled for the week. I work in South Auckland but I think it’s more important to push for, encourage and put forth voices born and bred of the place. I began in East Auckland but bow my head to the leaders that never left. I’m at peace with my hipster transition from struggling student to well-meaning public servant, to full blown social commentator (isn’t that the tag line in italics beneath ‘writer?’) that yes, I live and love and write and lose my shit and find myself and panic about small details and fumble with the big picture and centre myself (I have the mindfulness bhuddify app and it really is a game changer) – in Central Auckland.

For all the heartbreaks you’ve staged and the terrible lovers you really should’ve intercepted given your powers of persuasion: weather, overpriced wine, ridiculously priced education, housing (c’mon, you could’ve at least priced out the assholes!) I forgive you. For all the awkward architecture – ever heard of a desire path? ever spoken to a human behaviourist about how actual people want to engage with actual design? do you have the slightest care for functionality? For the public art that is so understated I walk right past it, for the spoken word that feels more like emotional AA, for a job ‘market’ so barren my friends are all forward slashes: mother/ artist/ academic… barista/ DJ/ columnist… poet/ tutor/ retail-something-arather, I forgive you. My greatest treasures are entrusted to you. The bones of my grandmother, the ashes of my brother, all my dreams that you nurtured with sunlight, good people, and space. Between the two of us, your skills and resources significantly outnumber my own, and yet, you’ve never been a cocky bitch or made me feel lesser than. If anything, you’ve given me all the best bits of yourself.

Via an American childhood that I never lived – but absorbed through an excess of soaps, sitcoms, rom coms, music, fashion and politics (how my heart soared when Obama took office) it’s strangely safe to say that America feels in some ways, like family. Like long lost family. Some kind of extension of Auckland, like yet another chunk of motorway (God, you do love you motorways Auckland, if only they met their purpose and eased congestion). Sitting around American ideals, overhearing American angst at the gym – college girls that are mean girls just like the film – bitching about the ‘ugly’ friend and how every group has an ‘ugly’ friend, walking past ads for their perfumes, finding myself powerless to diners – from a thousand hours watching everything from shootings over pie, meetings re government conspiracies with a plate of hot cakes, reading the bible in a booth by the window only to be shocked when the villain appears. I think you’d get a kick out of this place, and like me, because we’re both nerds, the university library would make your eyes pop out of your head, I mean, there’s a freaking Emmy award at the library here, an EMMY! You may need to up your library game and procure an Oscar? It shouldn’t be too hard. Just batt your eyelashes and sparkle your waters.

There’s enough mental space to be found in the grass by the river (some of it as fine as the Domain) to reconcile my privilege that getting away from you means becoming something more than you, or taking on another layer that has little, if nothing, to do with you. I’m probably in denial that travel has done that to me already and one day I’ll have to face the reality that I’m in a new world I wasn’t born into but have arrived into. These are conversations we’ll have in summer with prosecco.

Like all band members, time apart is healthy for our creativity. Like all lovers, distance can bring closeness. Like all collaborators, there’s content to be found in the most unlikely places, and together we’ll weed out the meaning from the meaningless, and maybe make some great art in the process.




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