Biography and memoir

Fields of Gold

Pam Morrison & Annie McGregor

In the wake of news that her only sister, Annie McGregor, had terminal cancer, Pam Morrison began to write a journal. Very soon it became a shared container; a form of slow dialogue between the two, and a way to capture the mystery, beauty and bewilderment of their lives.

Over the following year, the ritual of shared writing provided a safe place for naming what was otherwise too tender to be spoken.

Pam and Annie’s journal, Fields of Gold, takes the reader on a transformational journey. Its honesty, its eloquent, gutsy prose and imagery sound and resound deep within. This is a glorious, tragic, strong-hearted duet sung in celebration of life’s multiplicity in the face of death.

With a foreword by Rita Charon, physician, literary scholar and the Founder and Executive Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University.

Done

Annie

Sunday 20 April 2003

Last night the kids were here. There was music playing, the sounds of whistling and chopping, cooking noises, recipes being changed. I was in front of the fire under the mohair rug. And I tell you what: I was in heaven, or pretty close to it, about five kilometres away. Sometimes I wonder: why didn’t I come to this place earlier? Then I remember — oh, that’s right!

Graham says he’s noticed some frailty in me. And there is, at times. In the mornings sometimes, the tears come — just pop out. This morning they came. I wet Graham’s pillow. But they weren’t hot tears. They were cool by the time they hit the pillow. And I think, it’s only ten days since I had the treatment. I was told I would feel terrible. But I haven’t been trampled by an elephant; I’ve been trampled by a sheepdog.

Red handle-less cups with yellow spots

Pam

Sunday 18 January 2004

Life has been far from straightforward. At times I feel like I’m in a paper boat, bobbing on a current, which takes me anywhere it pleases. At other times it’s felt like I’m under an ever-changing sky. I look up and find there’s been a dramatic shift. And I’ve had absolutely nothing to do with it.

I’ve been wrestling with the question of how to give expression to my own needs and feelings when I’m with Annie. A week ago I was feeling dismantled and, consequently, distant from her and me. Lots of crying.

Now, three days on, I think there is no place for any of this while Annie is alive. I was almost appalled that I would take any measure of sorrow into my interaction with her.

And now, as I write that, the pendulum has swung again. How could sorrow not be present? And so the sky changes. My boat sails on.

Teapot with yellow spots drawing

Done

The Linen Waya memoir

Melissa Green

Passionate about poetry and seeking guidance to write her own, Melissa Green embarked on a Masters program at Boston University in 1981 and immediately caught the attention of her teacher, Derek Walcott, and his friend the Russian Joseph Brodsky. Giants of American poetry and Nobel prize winners, they recognized in her a literary peer with an innate and dazzling talent.

In a parallel reality, Melissa was living a knife-edge existence, her life an unpredictable and embattled odyssey between poetry and despair, a pendulum-swing between fervent, luminous writing and sudden, ferocious bouts of suicidal illness. In a black shipwreck of a house, she hid away for years, caring for her demanding and difficult grandmother.

That she survives is our blessing; that she has retrieved poetry from the abyss is a timeless boon. As poet Zireaux writes:

…having travelled to the outer reaches of human experience … with a fine-tuned lyre and Odyssean strength of purpose, Melissa Green reports her discoveries back home, in the language they demand.

In The Linen Way, Melissa walks the reader along the thin, perilous path between poetry’s affirmation of life and the unwelcome ghosts of hope apparently lost; a linen way, perhaps, but wrought also of fire and sulfur and the ironmonger’s hammer.

Read an excerpt.

A reader’s review

Carolyn McCurdie, author of The Unquiet and 2013 winner of the NZ Poetry Society International Poetry Competition, says:

Here I am, standing on the tallest roof-top, bellowing into the largest megaphone I can find, to rave about The Linen Way by Melissa Green. What adjectives will do the job? I’ll try: luminescent, brave, beautiful. I’ve never read such a powerful testament to poetry. It’s as essential here as oxygen, as love.

For her, it was life and death. Suffering from mental illness, living in a cruel, unloving family, Melissa made her first suicide attempt aged eight. Books, words, poetry kept her alive, gave her meaning and passion before the next sucking surge of nothing. There is courage here beyond my understanding.

This is also a testament to gift. Melissa Green’s own gift of language declares itself on every line, but she also stands witness to the tenderness, faithfulness of great poets and therapists who reached out to her, pulling her back to life and to her true writing self again and again. She was mentored by Derek Walcott, who gave her tough-love guidance, and his relentless belief in her. The Russian poet Joseph Brodsky sat for hours with his arms around her when she was at her lowest points. I will never read the poetry of these men in the same way again. They gave her the persevering, unconditional love that was so lacking in her early life, making this a soaring song of hope from someone who began with none.

When I finished reading this, I felt I had been given a gift, as if Melissa Green had pressed some small thing into the palm of my hand for my fingers to curl around in recognition. I’ve read it twice, and each time I’ve felt a little changed by it. I’ll read it again. It will change me further.

Message to the world: buy and read this book!

Winged Sandalsan essay

Martin Edmond

Having tried it before, he swore he wouldn’t again: Martin Edmond was a reluctant taxi driver on the streets of Sydney — three times taking up a trade like Charon’s, ferrying souls to keep himself in writing time. In this essay he explores the history and challenges of the profession, carrying the good, the bad and the delinquent through the underbelly of Sydney. He describes his ambivalence, coping with tedium, with idiotic or unsavoury behaviour and with his own early disinclination to work as a servant; how he made an accommodation with himself, finding a parallel in writing — and ultimately transforming his practice, allowing him to serve his clients with a kind of grace:

Thus it makes perfect sense to treat them as honoured guests; and to do all that is in your power to bring them safely, happily, perhaps even changed, to their destination.

Edmond is the sort of writer that makes you feel smarter, more creative and more civilised simply for having read him. Landfall Review Online

Martin talks about his work.

Martin’s website