Sunday, June 22, 2008
Until I saw the talented director, Jane Campion (The Piano) and screenwriter Laura Jones' beautiful film adaptation of Frame's three volumes of autobiography, An Angel at my Table, 1990, several years ago, I was totally unfamiliar with Janet Frame(1924-2004), leading New Zealand writer of novels, short fiction,
A twice contender for the Nobel Prize in literature, her works were noted for their explorations of alienation and isolation. Frame's early years were traumatic. Her childhood was marked by poverty and the drowning deaths of two sisters, and in 1945, while studying to be a teacher, she suffered a breakdown. Misdiagnosed
with schizophrenia, she was in and out of psychiatric hospitals for ten years. In 1951, while Frame was still interned, New Zealand's Caxton Press published her first book, a slim volume of short stories titled The Lagoon and Other Stories.
The work won the Hubert Church Memorial Award, at that time one of the nation's most prestigious literary prizes, and thankfully resulted in the cancellation of her scheduled lobotomy. Frame was awarded the title of Commander of the Order of British Empire (CBE) in 1983 and made a member of the Order of New Zealand, the country's highest civil honour, in 1990. She also held foreign membership of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, received honorary doctorates from two New Zealand universities,
and achieved recognition as a cultural icon in her native country. Her collection of poetry, The Pocket Mirror, published in 1967, is absolutely brilliant.
I Do Not Deny the Sun
I do not deny the sun
that denies me.
I leave the door open,
wheat on the table,
apples in the pantry.
I was warned from the first hour
that the sun did not care,
tearing seasons with his tongue
while maudlin snow ran down his cheeks;
that he snored in a deep white bed
and waking did not as we do
--tell his dreams and embrace callers.