Terra Australis Incognita

Nicola Easthope Click to

EasthopeNicola Easthope lives with her partner and young daughter on the Kāpiti Coast of the North Island. Her first collection of poetry, leaving my arms free to fly around you, was published in 2011 by Steele Roberts. In 2005, she won second prize in the Bravado International Poetry Competition, and was a finalist in the 2011 World Wide Fund for Nature “Ocean:Views” competition. Recently, one of her poems was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. Nicola performs her work in the Wellington region and was a guest poet at the Queensland Poetry Festival in 2012. She is involved in the Kapiti Coast-based group Creative Coast.

The bay opens with inland promise. We haul our wind
and stand in for it. Smoke ascends from the shore –
I think this a favourable opportunity.

Two canoes coming in from the sea: one under sail
and the other worked with paddles. The ocean
is like a millpond – trust me, you will come to no hurt.

Beneath these cliffs of such looming –
first to be touched by light –
work your paddles alongside us.

I order a musket to be fired over your head.
You do not deserve a bullet through the heart.
You do not deserve to be unhappily

killed but you trust your paddles rather
than our promises. The cliffs are crumbling, the Indian lies
dead upon the ground. Terra australis incognita –

the subject of much eager conversation.
At Young Nick’s Head
there is no access without permission.

The Marines march carrying
a Jack before them.
I want you in my possession.



312038_2518689804241_238942567_nNote: This “found” poem was inspired by an exhibition, Possession, by Jean Loomis, a New Zealand printmaker (Pataka Gallery, Porirua, 15 December 2011 – 26 January 2012). Possession visually comments on events that have taken place since Captain James Cook’s visit in 1769 to Turanganui a Kiwa – renamed “Poverty Bay” by Cook.

Most of the excerpts for the poem come from two of the prints, entitled “The Marines marched carrying a Jack before them” and “Is this Terra australis incognita?”, which in turn originated in Cook’s diaries of 1769. Two of the phrases come from the artist herself. I have changed the tense from past to present.

Photograph by Dave Buckton. Used by permission. 


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