Erebus voices

animation, cardiogram: Lisa Roberts
Sydney 2008

voice and words: Bill Manhire
Poet, Wellington, New Zealand 2008


We broke apart.
Yet we are here and we are whole.

Bill Manhire, New Zealand 2008


During the conference, Imagining Antarctica,
in Christchurch, September 2008,
Bill Manhire read his poem, Erebus voices.
He wrote this poem for the 25th anniversary
of the Erebus air disaster.
Sir Edmund Hillary read it
at the commemorative service
held at Scott Base, Antarctica.


When Bill read his poem, Erebus voices,
his words and gestures suggested perspectives,
that came from Mount Erebus itself
and from the souls of the people who died.
In the poem, Mt Erebus speaks and the people respond.
Connections are made between past and present,
between the living and the dead.

As he read, his whole body rocked gently,
towards and away from his audience.
His gesture evoked a physical sense of
our connection with Antarctica.

By setting up a dialogue
between the mountain and the dead,
he composed the physical details
of separate human lives
as parts of the physical world as a whole.

Hearing the voices of the mountain and the dead,
I could empathize with those who fell,
and with the mountain that holds them still,
frozen, yet warm, in Antarctica.

I sense opposing feelings, balanced in harmony,
between heat and cold, love and death.
The even rhythm of the lines
suggests no division.