Solrun Hoaas spent formative years in China and Japan. She discovered theatre as a student in Oslo and Kyoto, where she also trained as a Noh mask maker. An award-winning film-maker, her work was experimental, exploring cross-cultural themes. Her short film At Edge was a discovery of the Australian bush through the eyes and voice of the poet Judith Wright. The film can be purchased from Ronin http://www.roninfilms.com.au/feature/753.html Solrun submitted work to Mascara Literary Review four months before her death in December 2009. This is the bio she submitted to our editors:
Melbourne-based Solrun Hoaas has returned to poetry after years of filmmaking. Her poems appear in Going Down Swinging , Holland 1945, Arabesques Literary Review, Softblow Poetry and Writing Macao.
The Tailor from Noumea
My favorite winter coat
was made by a tailor from Noumea
at ninety-four, yellow cravat
beret cheekily cocked, crooked smile
wide as a welcome.
My coat one of a kind
patchwork of the finest fabrics
remnants from a factory long closed
midnight blue and grey wool blends
mustard suede for rubbing elbows
elegantly tailored, inside pockets
lining stitched with equal care.
The pattern was his own design
fashioned for civilian internees
sent from the northern pearling towns
and scattered Pacific islands
to incarceration at chilly Tatura.
Undaunted, he set up a sowing factory
for women in the camp, and there
the coats were made, all uniform
in maroon-dyed heavy wool,
to keep them warm through five
or more long wartime winters.
The tailor himself, born a Japanese,
was shipped from New Caledonia –
his first involuntary visit to Australia –
as a civilian, but enemy alien.
A lifetime business left behind,
his French no currency here,
he made the best of his confinement.
And when the war was over,
and he was ‘repatriated’ – not home,
but to impoverished Japan, a stranger there,
he started up again, stich by stich,
his handwritten sign in Yokohama,
still there –
‘Murayama, Tailleur Elegant.’
He had retired, but showed me around
the remains of his small factory,
ends of fabric still on the shelves.
One day a heavy coat arrived by mail.
A tailor-made Tatura model, lined and
multicoloured in thirteen different fabrics.
I wear it often, cloaked in memories of
his cheeky smile, wide as a welcome,
and tales of proud resilience
to injustice, his story still untold.
I am standing at a castle.
There is a map of an archipelago.
This is where I want to go.
The quickest way to get there
is to sail around the world.
I try to open the door of the castle,
but can’t work out which key to use.
There are so many on my key ring.
A Eurasian girl walks past and
opens it for me. Easily.
She has her own key, bent in a V,
and shows me how it fits
in the hole. She hands me
her key and a guidebook.
I step through the door.
I am standing on a cliff
with a steep drop to the sea.
A man and a child were with me
and have gone back down.
They called me. I didn’t answer.
Wonder if the old walls might crumble.
I should have been dead at eight
if logic governs destiny.
A heavy wooden platform fell on me
in the camelia garden at Aotani.
But maybe many years ago,
before a war had devastated
a thriving shipping port
and the ruined owners of a
Swiss-style Japanese mansion
were forced to sell my childhood home,
their platform held an orchestra,
violinists, sax and piano players,
as guests flirted and danced.
Why it was propped up outside
along the wall I still don’t know.
Most days it held up God’s word,
sermon, cross and organist.
As often, it was my incurable
curiosity that got me into strife. I pried
a wooden stopper loose at base.
Precarious already, the platform toppled.
I still remember the thud, the cries,
the breath squeezed out of me.
My mother’s amazement that
I was not dead, not even a tiny rib
crushed with the sudden impact.
‘She’s a tough little girl,’ they said.
But even now I hear the gasp,
a moment when breath was suspended
and feel the ponderous weight
of that preacher’s platform
crushing down on me.
What music of ancient delight
was it, that carried and lifted its weight?
My nights are star sand
sifting too slowly
through the hourglass
of diminishing dreams.
They could cut through
a mangrove forest once,
clearing a path to
a shimmering source.
Now, haunted by hollow accounts
and birds of credit pecking
at each lidless moment,
capturing the pitiful sandman.
Nothing left by morning but
drained waking and
the shamisen serenades
of a tousle-headed fisherman
with a towel around his head,
who says, ‘You’re hard
to take with chopsticks.’
Peardrops on eyelids
swollen with purple curses
the taste of tart guitarstrings
too taut, snapped
brittle as bone ballads,
a yellow weeping violin
the azure blue smells
of early morning
synthesis of sleepless nights.
Bones of flimsy fibres,
my algae entwine the body
locking it in a brutal embrace,
every step inviting a bolt
of lightning to strike jolting
flames into tender joints.
Better sing for your breakfast
than beat your head
against the bedstead,
waking fibrous with myalgia.