A generous portrait of an artist at the height of her powers of perception. In these poems, sketches and song lyrics, crafted over a lifetime, we come to share in the adventure of stepping out of what Fairhead calls the “house of orthodoxy.”
A generous portrait of an artist at the height of her powers of perception. In these poems, sketches and song lyrics, crafted over a lifetime, we come to share in the adventure of stepping out of what Fairhead calls the “house of orthodoxy.” What binds these pieces together is her exuberance and the sense that we are always at the beginning. Again and again, one feels a sense of things just beyond the range of the senses, waiting for us to catch up with them. In each landscape she describes, one feels her sensibility in sympathy with it, finding a place in it. As she remembers and argues with herself, mourns and celebrates, we find ourselves accompanying her on this voyage of discovery with our own full attention. However difficult the terrain, we are always made aware that “despair is not the deepest place you may go.” Assessing all she has learned (and, even more importantly, unlearned), she notes: “One thing / —wonder— / has endured the test— / and that saves the rest.”
“I want to be buried in open ground
or have my ashes cast over West Coast land
have some wild creature
tread me deep
into that sand and loam
I want to return as rock
Barbara Grenfell Fairhead is an artist, writer, poet and lyricist. She was born in the United Kingdom in 1939 and has lived most of her life in South Africa. After her first visit to New Mexico in the early 1990s it became her second home. She made many extended visits over a period of twenty years, staying in her casita close to Black Mesa. Many of her poems and haiku were inspired by that landscape, as well as some of her prose writings, and her trilogy of novels. She lives in Cape Town.
Her most recent book: Rio Abajo Rio/River Beneath River – a poetically written, post-creation myth, that speaks to the earliest times of our species unfolding, a creative projection of a time when language was still in formation.
KIN is a powerful record of one person’s lifetime of family relationships, friends, lovers, pets, literary enthusiasms, and religious and philosophical cogitations. Barbara Fairhead’s creative skills are apparent in a range of verse forms and in short passages which are more poetic than prosaic. Her finely wrought haiku signpost every nuance of the complex experiences to which the reader is introduced. Whether she is engaging with ‘the watchful dead’ or scanning waves as they ‘run their long rolling whiteness across the bay,’ Fairhead is a poet in every fibre. ‘Heretic to the last,’ she is engaged in ‘living (her) dying’. Rather like one of her heroes, Karen (Out of Africa) Blixen, she has the independence and resourcefulness to be herself. Geoffrey Haresnape
Poems imbued with a deep-seated reverence for the natural world; poems charting journeys through longing and grief. There is much that moves, consoles and surprises me within the generous tapestry of Kin. The several haiku included in the book – often in conversation with other striking, longer poems or passages – are especially arresting in their distilled clarity and precision. Thematically rich and varied, deeply lyrical and finely crafted, Kin reveals Fairhead as a remarkably versatile and fearless writer. Probing, vital and reflective, her work is marked by an intense awareness of transience and death and thus, conversely, of beauty, and of what it means to be alive. Eduard Burle