Sunday, September 20, 2009

The right key

These two images just about sum up what I’m doing at the moment. One is the contents of the top right hand drawer of William Colenso’s desk. It is held in the Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery, behind the scenes. The drawer is full of keys. As a biographer I am spending my days trying to find the right key to the right drawer.  At night I do it in my dreams.

The other image is the lining of the drawer. It is soaked in ink, from this inveterate writer of letters. I look at these blots and see them as a landscape I need to read. It appears at the moment unintelligible or at least the blots and splashes remain unconnected. I have to ‘read’ them into a picture. 

I am also following on behind the physical evidence of someone who is no longer here. So for me, last Thursday, finding the desk Colenso used to write on, then opening the drawers, was to experience a strange, almost kinetic feeling of connection.

Now all I need to do is find the right key...


  1. I had a strange sense of connection when sitting at Janet Frame's desk at Eden St in Oamaru. Is it something about feeling the reassuring solidity of a wooden surface, and knowing their elbows leaned on that surface too while they pondered the eternal question of what words to write next?

  2. I agree, there's something so centred in a writer's desk and you feel you might be getting near to the hum of their secrets....a kind of low sound you have to listen to very carefully.......or is it just imagination? But then, what's imagination....?

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