BERNADETTE HALL’s fifth collection of poems, Settler Dreaming,
was shortlisted for 2002 Spectrum Print Book Design Awards, 2002, and
for the inaugural Tasmania Pacific Poetry Prize in 2003.
The Merino Princess: Selected Poems was published by Victoria
University Press in 2002. In December 2004, she went to Antarctica on
an Arts Fellowship, with her friend and collaborator, the Dunedin artist,
Kathryn Madill. Several of her Antarctic poems have already been published
in Sport and Landfall.
Recently she has edited Like Love Poems, a major selection
of poems by her friend, the poet/painter, Joanna Margaret Paul. This
will be published by Victoria University Press in March 2006. She has
also completed a commission to write poems based on the Stations of
the Cross sculpted by the Christchurch artist, Llew Summers, for the
Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Christchurch. She judged the 2005
Bell Gully National Schools Poetry Award and the 2006 Aoraki Poetry
Award. This year she is the Writer in Residence at Victoria University,
Hall comments: ‘When I returned from Antarctica, everything seemed
to have changed. It was as if I had brought Antarctica home with me
to Amberley Beach. My eyes were drawn to patterns of ice and snow on
the surface of the sea, in the clouds. As I walked along the track that
runs through a pine plantation near our house, near a lagoon, I found
myself thinking of the youthful explorers of the heroic age who had
suffered in the “white warfare in the south”, as Shackleton
put it, only to find themselves embroiled in bloody fighting in Normandy.
The immensity of Antactica, its hazardous beauty, the way you are conscious
of being “out of it” down there right at the end of the
world, dependent on each other for survival, makes the thought of war,
the tragedy and wastefulness of war, seem more terrible than ever.
Iraq and Afghanistan were in my mind, the civil war in Ireland, the
19th century land wars here at home. All wars merging into one. The
Israelis, the Palestinians. There has only been one war in Antarctic
territory, the Falklands war. Do you remember how belatedly we read
of Argentinian boys, not much more than children, underequipped, underclothed,
underfed, being stranded there? So much for the modern heroic.
Terror is the feeling of the victim, of the trapped animal. “A
war on terror” is a term that just doesn’t make sense. There’s
enough terror inside me, inside all of us, I suspect, without adding
to it. So that’s perhaps where the poem is heading, into the dark
plantation of our human fears.’
Poem: The History of Europe