Notes for “Children of te Marama”

Children of te Marama is a fictional history, a meditation on migration and homage to the dispossessed. It is a semi-linear, reverse chronological story tracing the narrators history deep into the past. In doing so, it oscillates across the planet, from St Helier in Jersey, one of the British Channel Islands, to St Heliers in Auckland, New Zealand, among other undefined but implicit locations. It also switches between the dream world and the perceived reality. There are contrasts between longshore fishing both in Jersey and New Zealand and the boat fishing of the cod banks off Gaspé, Quebec. The narrative is held together by the Moon, mentioned in the three languages of French, English and Te Reo (the Maori language).

Repetition and cycles become important in this piece. With a target word count of 300, repetition may seem an unnecessary luxury, but it is essential to build the troubled atmosphere hinted at in the nightmare of paragraph two. The piece builds echoes between Jersey and New Zealand with the references to ormer (which are Jersey shellfish) fishing and paua and pipi (which are New Zealand shellfish) collection, both at very low tides. The movement between the two worlds is tackled by the changing asterisms, particularly repeating the two crosses and also repeating Orion as the cooking pot, both in paragraph six. The repetition climaxes in the repeated use of “My ancestors” in opening of the last four paragraphs, a technique which alludes to genealogy, heritage and recognition. In particular, the final three one-line paragraphs are intended to give formal, perhaps ceremonial, possibly obsessive lineage that extends to the land, the sea and the heavens.

The dispossessed are also central to this piece. Apollo Korzeniowska was the Polish freedom-fighter father of Joseph Conrad, the son with an anglicised name, a sign of a dispossessed writer. Resistance and revolution is also reflected in a different combination by the Jersey tower, built for defence against revolutionary France. There are hints that the narrators ancestors were instrumental in dispossing others as conquerers. There are rather less obvious hints of the European transgression of the Pacific and the resulting dispossession of the peoples of that ocean in the travels of James Cook to view the 1769 transit of Venus and to proceed onwards to lay claim to the great Southern continent. The dispossession of the Sun by the Moon and the consequential dispossession of the birds by the bats is just as subtle.

But it is the Moon that holds this piece together. It is the Moon that drives the nightmare, it is the Moon that drives the tides, it is the Moon that drives the fishing and it is the Moon, la Lune, te Marama that drives the use of the language in this piece.

These are the main drivers in this piece. There are other forces at play as well, some of which I have already forgotten, some of which I never conciously inserted and some of which are so obscure, they are probably never going to be noticed. Is the piece fictional? Yes, absolutely, but it is also based on real-life histories, real places and real emotions. Hopefully, it is as complex, disturbing, confusing and distressing as the process of dispossession and migration. Hopefully it is like seeing the world from a place outside the planet, from the Moon. Hopefully it is as comforting, redemptive, restful and as exciting as finding a new home. Hopefully, this has been managed in 300 words.

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2 Responses to Notes for “Children of te Marama”

  1. Thank you for this – it is rare to find someone speaking so coherently about what drives their writing and when yours is so individual I needed (much benefitted) from reading this having come here from the Language>Place Carnival.

    • martininwhangarei says:

      Many thanks for your kind comment. I appreciate that what I write can be difficult so try to provide notes for enquirers. I also hope it helps to improve readers own practice.
      Its good to know users of >Language>Place have found their way here.

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