new zealand electronic poetry centre

Bernadette Hall

online works

A selection of book covers and comment by Bernadette Hall

I have been very lucky in having artist friends who often seem to love my poems more than I do. I suppose our process is a collaboration but it’s never been one where I have wanted to be in charge. I’d much rather let the poems themselves tickle new responses and new art from people who are close to me.

Heartwood : I taught with Joanna Margaret Paul at St Dominic’s College in Dunedin in 1971. She became one of my dearest friends. Her untimely death in May 2003 was a huge loss. I am currently editing a collection of her poems for publication. With customary generosity, Joanna gave me the original drawings for Heartwood as a gift. Now there is something desolate and full of grief in the bare bones of the leafless tree.

of Elephants etc : Joanna and I often made excursions to Akaroa when she came to stay with me in Christchurch. The cover and the title page drawings are of the hills, the volcanic rim, across the harbour from Akaroa, behind Wainui. I remember her sitting on the verandah, with a drawing pad on her knee. A bee tumbling upside down over the open face of a camellia alongside.

The Persistent Levitator : At the heart of this lovely, complex painting dreamed by Greg O’Brien is a motif from a painting by Chagall, a couple, embracing as they float mid-air. Maybe he is flying with her, or trying to anchor her, trying to keep her feet on the ground. Or vice versa. I now live with John on a stony beach like the one in the picture. Maybe in 1994 Greg was dreaming my future.

Still Talking : I have long admired the paintings of Jacqueline Fahey. Like me she was brought up a Catholic and she too fills her art with the drama and complexity of everyday life. I am the oldest of three sisters. I love the intense conversation of the sisters in the painting, the way one makes a connection, touching the other’s arm with her elegant fingers. They love each other but they sit apart at the table, their eyes cagey. This is a complex alliance in the jungle.

Settler Dreaming : I first saw Kathryn Madill’s art in the Forrester Gallery in Oamaru. A dear friend, Sandra, had ordered me to drive down to see the work. ‘She’s painting what you write,’ she’d said. And it was true. I love the Southern Gothic quality in Kathryn’s work, the exquisite beauty, the sorrow and the danger. I gave her carte blanche with the drawings and the design, thank goodness. The book was shortlisted for the 2002 Spectrum Print Book Design Awards thanks to her.

The Merino Princess : Kathryn designed this book too, the font, the colours, the little installations that head each chapter, the cover image. Her husband Bill Nicholl took the photos. We wanted a luminous, pale book to contrast with the dark of Settler Dreaming. I love the hopefulness and vulnerability of the young girl. The way her beautiful shoulder slopes round the book and fine hairs drift from the knot of her hair.

Bernadette Hall

Last updated 22 June, 2005