MARK TREDINNICK (BA (HONS), LLB (HONS), MBA, PHD) is a celebrated poet, nature writer, writing teacher, and essayist. After many years living and writing along the Wingecarribee River, southwest of Sydney, Mark lives now in Picton (on the Wollondilly), and he travels widely in Europe and America as a poet and teacher. The winner in 2011 of the Montreal Poetry Prize and in 2012 of the Cardiff Poetry Prize, Mark is the author most recently of Bluewren Cantos (Pitt Street Poetry,2013) and Almost Everything I Know (Flying Island, 2015). In 2013 he edited Australian Love Poems.
His fourteen books include Fire Diary, The Blue Plateau, Australia’s Wild Weather, and The Little Red Writing Book. Mark’s other honours include two Premiers’ literary awards, the Blake and the Newcastle Poetry Prizes, the Calibre Essay Prize, the Wildcare Nature Writing Prize, and a shortlisting for the Prime Minister’s Literary Prize. His third major poetry collection will be out in late 2015 from Pitt Street Poetry; a fourth, Walking Underwater , will come out in the United States from Hip Pocket Press; and he is at work on a memoir, Reading Slowly at the End of Time.
A nature writer, and a chauvinist, like Thoreau, for landscapes that shape us rather more than places we shape, I had written too often in the past years against the garden. But one lives and sometimes learns, and this year, as the Kevin Taylor Legacy Creative in Residence with TCL, I learned how to love a garden and how a garden can love you back. (To life.)
One of the poems I wrote this year puts it this way:
Is the future planted in the past; change is most
Of what a garden grows. Never still, never
Done, it thrives, if it thrives, by learning how
To live with what it’s got. Among plants you learn
Not how things will turn out, but the grace to let
TCL, it turns out, is “a timbered choir” (Wendell Berry’s phrase); TCL is a garden. I grew in the forest of the company I kept there—the fine, skilled, creative and passionate people whose work is place-making, who tend the relationship between the human world and the green world around us. Among them I remembered how to thrive.
Early in the year, I ran workshops for the firm on the poetics of everyday functional prose, on grammar and syntax and style. I had proposed to make some poems in response to and as part of one of the firm’s projects, and in August, we settled on The Garden of the Future, a new garden the firm is commissioned to make for the Bendigo Botanic Gardens. Through October and November, I wrote a suite of ten poems, parts and pieces of which may find their way into the new garden.
My poems play with ideas TCL dreamed up in response to the client’s brief: adaptation; resilience; aridity; play and chance and the unsettling of norms; the past and the future; a new green wealth to replenish a site made poor by gold; and the garden as conference of plants from biomes across the planet already adapted to climates like Bendigo’s and likely to prosper in that place on earth, along with endemic plants, in the drier, harder climate to come.
In time we’ll make those poems into a chapbook, illustrated by some artworks made by members of the firm. In the meantime, on Friday 9 December, TCL displayed my poems on banners and hung them among the art works made by everyone at TCL in response to some older poems of mine. That work was astonishingly accomplished, and it felt deeply humbling and inspiring to see my work responded to so thoughtfully, with such care and deep attention. The office became a gallery, and the Christmas Party the opening of an exhibition, a forest of sculpted thought and word.
As I’d hoped, my work for the firm became work with the firm. An ekphrasis. A garden. A future.
When they cut me down at the end of my time, when they bring chainsaws to halve me and haul me from the forest path where I’ve fallen, they’ll find one growth ring in me, more richly coloured, wider than the rest. That will be the year I, this Ent, stopped and remembered my name in the sacred grove that is TCL; that will be the year, though my weather was rough and the soil, at first, unpromising, that I flourished and took on flesh again and leafed out again and breathed the world in.
If I dropped some leaves, I hope they keep saying the forest that grew them; if I dropped bark, I hope it mulches every idea that grows at TCL.