NOWHERE NEAR by ALICE MILLER

 |   |  1 min read

NOWHERE NEAR by ALICE MILLER

The first time I went back to Britain as an adult (or at least a late-teen) I wrote in the journal I was carrying that “England is full of dead people”.

Graveyards in villages, St Paul's and other such monuments, churchyards covered in tombstones, large areas where ancient battles were fought and the soil had been nurtured by the blood, bone and flesh of the dead . . .

Most of Europe and Scandinavia is like that, the earth soaked in the blood of hundreds and thousands of years of history. Some places wear the legacy a little more lightly than others (Spain, Italy and the Scandi-countries – the latters noir-literature aside – come to mind) but others are burdened by the weight of it all.

Germany – the result of kickstarting two 20thcentury wars of expansion, and the Holocaust – is a nation freighted and often bowed by its legacy and the nexus of that nation is Berlin, the city that was so divided for so long during the Cold War.

Back then people didn't go to Berlin for pleasure. Consider David Bowie who abandoned the snowflake soul of America and cocaine to record in Berlin. The result was the austere Low and Heroes albums.

New Zealand poet Alice Miller lives in Berlin so almost inevitably most of the short, pointed pieces in this collection bear the weight of history, death, lost voices and meditations on the past that occupies the present.

That said, there is an elegance and acute observational quality to these pieces: the ancient stones hear the voices of the past and the present; the writer is reflective and embedded in all of this but at times allows herself “to sing my way out”; she acknowledges that old adage that even in the midst of life there is death but “I'm not dead, either. To be not dead” . . .

And yet, “some day soon we may get to test our wings”.

Not everything here is located in that Europe of old ghosts, dark castles, snow, deep woods and graves, here too are pieces emotionally located in America and New Zealand.

But this can be a deep, penetrating, thoughtful journey into unknown and unknowable territories which the poet, with economy and allusion, sketches in with hard lines but leaves the spaces for the reader to fill.

“ . . . it is astonishing to be

alive, we say, which means

it is astonishing to be here

among these future dead . . .”

-from How to Forget


Nowhere Near by Alice Miller (Auckland University Press) $25

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Writing articles index

ALBERT WENDT INTERVIEWED (1991): Shaping a life in words

ALBERT WENDT INTERVIEWED (1991): Shaping a life in words

The beer cartons were dumped on the writer’s verandah “like an hermaphroditic orphan.” Inside were random jottings, diary entries, what appeared to be short stories, poems and... > Read more

SLEEPING WITH GHOSTS by DON MCcCULLIN: War -- and something approaching peace

SLEEPING WITH GHOSTS by DON MCcCULLIN: War -- and something approaching peace

In one of those excellent but buried television programmes, various photographers who were in the Vietnam killing zones told of the stories behind some of those images imprinted on the... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

The Master Musicians of Jajouka: Brian Jones presents The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka (1971)

The Master Musicians of Jajouka: Brian Jones presents The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka (1971)

Some albums have auspicious beginings and a messy legacy. So it is with this album recorded in Morocco in 1968 by Brian Jones, then of the Rolling Stones. By the time the album was released... > Read more

GUEST MUSICIAN DANIEL BOOBYER on being old school and making a vinyl record

GUEST MUSICIAN DANIEL BOOBYER on being old school and making a vinyl record

My new release Time Killed The Clock was sort of an unplanned birth. It mysteriously crept into existence with the first track of the same title being recorded on my trusty Pioneer cassette... > Read more