Heather McPherson — A Tribute from Poet Janet Charman

Heather’s hands Photo: Allie Eagle

The collection of Heather’s poetry some of us are presently compiling has the working title, ‘this joyous, chaotic place’, a quote from one of Heather’s own poems.

Within the protective walls of Aorewa and Fran’s Western Springs property, it seems that over a period of several years she set about itemizing nature’s sensational pleasures. And the generosity of the human interactions, past and present, she so enjoyed.

Among her recent work I found an aphorism, which, because I wondered if it was hers, I have Googled. It appears to be her own invention:

Good company makes good spirits, and good spirits
make good company…

As much as these words are a simple, warmhearted description, they are perhaps also, on Heather’s part, a ‘note to self’– a brave act of will.

She had so much to contend with as her health deteriorated. But whenever I visited, her sharp intelligence and her political astuteness were undiminished.

Attributes tempered in these late poems, to reveal the woman deeply loving of her family; secure in her lesbian identity; unbowed by fortune; and keyed towards fearless engagement with whatever life and the world, might show her.

There are no people
in your garden
poems you once said

so you away
I peered through
the trellis and brushed
past trees and greenery
routing sparrows mynahs
starlings thrushes
a pigeon once

and zebra finches
and curious blackbirds
rustling the grapes
and pecking windfall
apples and persimmons
hollow and stoking babies
up to winter weight

and among mortals
there’s no human in sight
in this middle universe

whose cicadas screech
incessantly and crickets crick
and I pick red and yellow

droplet tomatoes in
the centre of all our

burning summers

Heather McPherson, March 2010

Janet Charman

Janet Charman, who read this tribute at Heather’s funeral in January 2017, has an MA in English from the University of Auckland and was the Literary Fellow (Writer in Residence) there in 1997. She has supported her writing with work as a nurse, telephone operator and teacher. She and her partner have two daughters and live in Avondale, Auckland, New Zealand.

Spiral published Drawing Together, a collection of poems by Janet, Marina Bachmann and Sue Fitchett in 1985. Janet’s first solo collection of poems, Two Deaths In One Night, was published by New Women’s Press in 1987. She has since contributed to many literary journals and has published five critically acclaimed collections of poems with Auckland University Press: red letter (1992), end of the dry (1995), Rapunzel Rapunzel (1999), Snowing Down South (2002) and Cold Snack (2007), winner of the 2008 Montana New Zealand Book Award for Poetry.