The photo above is one that I took in late 2013, at the National Gallery of Victoria, of a flyleaf from an album by the artist and poet Huang Shen. This particular image is accompanied by a poem titled ‘Red Orchids’:
The newly-ripe cherries scatter like coins of elm seeds.
It is also April in Yangzhou.
Last night red orchids in the thatched hut burst into blossom.
Worrying about the wind and rain, unable to sleep.
Huang Shen, 1687–1768
The exhibition was Three Perfections: Poetry, Painting and Calligraphy.
When I entered the exhibition space, I was met with a very distinctive scent. Later, I came to realise that it was the smell of pine resin, often used in the making of Chinese calligraphy ink.
I watched a short film on Chinese calligraphy, watching the characters loop on and stain paper, echoing and manifesting breath and brushstrokes onto rice paper.
Later, I came to write my poem, ‘Painting Red Orchids’, which you can read on this page.
This poem was longlisted for the University of Canberra’s Vice-Chancellor’s Prize 2014, and is now the title poem for my third book.
Painting Red Orchids will be launched on 16 April 2016, Saturday, at 3.30pm, at Gleebooks. It will be a double-header with the wonderful Anthony Lawrence’s Headwaters. Anna Kerdjik Nicholson is launching Painting Red Orchids and David Malouf is launching Headwaters. Details of the launch here.
Come and celebrate with us, listen to some poetry, and say hello. I hope to see you there.