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Tapa Notebooks


Graham Lindsay was presented with a Tapa Notebook at nzepc’s 3 rd Birthday symposium in July 2004 where he was a guest poet, recorded live and studio readings and was part of the Sunday excursion to Rangitoto. In July 2005 the notebook was returned to UoA Special Collections and Graham wrote the following introductory note.



I felt really honoured to be presented with my tapa notebook. Stephen Innes's choice for me turned out to be a good one too. The cover looks to me to suggest a cosmological scene or one to do with navigation, a dark star seen over the shoulder of a solar flare or above an outrigger sail.

I decided to use my notebook to present a selection of notes from my time as the 2004 Ursula Bethell / Creative New Zealand Resident in Creative Writing at the University of Canterbury. Michele indicated some graphic elements would also be welcome so I began sketching signs on roads and pathways on my cycle route to and from the university.

I've been keeping notebooks for ages, but I've never tried to develop a handwriting style. Occasionally, I've been impressed when a 't' makes a sort of mast or the looping tail on a 'g' looks pretty wild. But I've always considered notebooks as places to catch thoughts and language rather than aesthetic objects or places where thoughts are completed. I usually go back to see what still interests me to see if I can do anything more to it to make it publishable.

So the idea of making a selection from my notebooks, even though it seemed straightforward, caused various performance anxieties, like having my teaching inspected, or replicating a 'spontaneous' conversation.

Which is why I thought Murray Edmond was onto it when he used a ringbinder for his 'tapa': if he made a mistake, he would be able to have another go. I'm not saying he did, just that he could.

In fact I was given two tapa notebooks, I used the other one to do dummy runs in. (It has a cover that vaguely looks like a handmirror with a pixie face in it.)

I did some drafting on my computer too. Though I often went back to the original wordings and constructions because of not having an open-ended amount of time. In the interim I came across this quote from Toss Woollaston: 'Smoothing over work you have just done is going backwards. Tidying up is the devil—you don't touch that in painting. If relations are wrong you make huge alterations, you don't tidy up—you repaint the whole thing every time you touch it.' (From Gregory O'Brien's book Lands & Deeds). I think that's relevant? Also I roughed out a layout on my computer.

I had thought about making my own 'tapa' notebook using locally made paper and learning how to bookbind. I had thought about learning calligraphy. I've always admired my father's handwriting, he used to transcribe his favourite poems by Chinese poets onto a newsprint block. He had a beautiful hand. I've hankered for years to have a go at painting my poems. These thoughts were all part of that. When I accepted Michele's invitation to meet a deadline though I had to get on with it and so the originally intended format was retained.

The title The Priests of Nothingness comes from a quote, which I have included in the notebook, about these Japanese monks called Fuke monks who used the flute as a meditation tool. As the quote says, 'They would walk through the streets . . . trying to play the one note that would enlighten the world.' That's partly what I think poets try to do. I think poets are priests of nothingness.




Last updated 8 July, 2011