Friday, August 29, 2008

Return to Waimarino County

Martin Edmond

When I first heard Martin Edmond read some excerpts from his works during his lightning visit to Massey University on August 27, I thought he was reading poetry. His delivery was like that of a poet but he was reading prose. Edmond has written two books of poetry but of late writes non-fiction. This tall, tanned New Zealander is based in Sydney and is the son of the writer Lauris Edmond. He spent his childhood in Ohakune, which lies in Waimarino County almost under the shadow of Mt Ruapehu, and has recently published a book of essays called Waimarino County & other excursions

Autobiographical essays take up the early part of the book with the opening essay ‘Waimarino County’ dripping in decadent rural imagery. There is something of Eric Lee-Johnson’s artistic vision in Edmond’s descriptions of abandoned farmhouses; something of the melancholia of late Sargeson in the poverty of a region once left to rust (before the opening of the Ruapehu ski-fields revived Ohakune); something of Sam Hunt's On the Road as Edmond revisits small town stations next to the Main Trunk line. The following excerpt from the opening essay says it all:

A wagon load of shattered glass on a siding beneath a sky bright with rain. A two-stroke motor, whining like a mason bee in the cells of my prodigal mind. A cross-eyed railway clerk and an enormous Maori in a Swandri. Two kids ride by on bicycles, weaving between the steel girders holding up the corrugated iron roof of the station veranda. In a forgotten nook between the station proper and the toilet block, a sullen girl in a checked shirt and jeans is whipper-snippering the waist-high grass. Soaking wet stems churn in the teeth of the blade, . . .
The rain gets heavier. I can hear it now on the tin roof of the veranda, the single event inside an immensity of time on a small town railway platform in the back country on a wet Monday afternoon. What am I doing here. 
(‘Waimarino County’ p. 3)

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