new zealand electronic poetry centre


Alan Brunton



Retinas expand

Kieran Monaghan

I first met Alan in 1995, while working with Sally on The Bathhouse, which was being performed at Vic Uni with students from the Russian department. The first show I worked directly with Alan on was The Ooboo Dooboo Show in early 1996. From then on my working relationship with Alan consisted of about ten shows, performances, musical events and recording a CD. The scope for play was wide; instruments used ranged from the conventional to car parts, brooms and stones, squeaky toys, and any accessory that we fancied. The music swung from swampy jazz-styled riffs to punk rock anthems. The experience was extraordinary and unique.

It is only now, since Alan’s death, that I realise the personal significance of my relationship with him. I looked forward to the opportunity of being with him again in that creative space, that is now lost. I looked forward to catching up with him, sitting around his table with a cup of tea, just talking; that too is now lost. I reflect on the many firsts I achieved during the time I had in Alan’s company and I thank him for his part in those moments. I thank him for just being around, so I could see him as a vital and robust inspiration. I thank him for exposing me to a world of amazing things, for sharing his knowledge and experience to help connect meaning and context to events. I thank him for the uncomfortable, frustrating situations that challenged my internal safety zones. Not always pleasant or reasonable. But ultimately rewarding.

I have heard some now refer to Alan as a genius. I am unable to comment on that, as I feel neither worthy nor able to make that judgement. However, the loss I felt on the day he left brought lit candles and tears. I realise how important he was to me. Acceptance has not come easily; I still feel the hole where he should be. The surf club is still there, the street lamps continue to glow, and the bus stop has been altered but remains where it always has down the end of the Parade in Island Bay. The only change to this picture is a hole in the air that is Alan shaped.

A photo of Alan is blue-tacked above the computer in our house, beckoning for action, some full-hearted involvement. An open challenge for a new idea. What next? What now? Move AND go forward.

One of my lasting memories, from the 8 years that I worked with Alan comes from the 1997 play ‘City of Night’. Towards the end of the show came the magnificent apocalyptic scene of Alan in the near silent dark, wheeling a large metal sculpture. An iron bird transported in flight by depravity in a trench coat. If my memory holds, its wings moved, flapping slowly via the employment of primitive machinery. Beneath the beak of this Iron Age raven was a crucible, for the purpose of holding flame. A little bit of the sun trapped momentarily during the theatrical blackout. Retinas exposed by expansion, we are absorbed totally in this moment. Alan in glow, hunched and fully present.

then it passes
we are left in the dark
waiting for the lights to go on
but not before
the triumphant gospel sings exultations to the heavens.


Last updated 06 December, 2002