Always Song in the Water: An Oceanic Sketchbook

Gregory O'Brien

Author: Gregory O'Brien
Format: Paperback, Ebook
Pages: 264
Published: 12 September, 2019
Availability: Out of stock/print
Specs: 24.0cm x 17.5cm
ISBN: 9781869409340

Available in Ebook

Beginning in Northland and heading into the blue beyond, Always Song in the Water is a book of encounters and epiphanies, a dinghy ride through New Zealand’s oceanic imagination.

Every spring on Gregory O’Brien’s front lawn, on a ridgetop in Hataitai, an upside-down dinghy blooms with flowering clematis. In this book, O’Brien takes his metaphorical dinghy to the edges of New Zealand – starting with a road trip through Northland and then voyaging out into the Pacific, to lead us into some under-explored territories of the South Pacific imagination.

With creative spirits such as Janet Frame, Ralph Hotere, Robin White, John Pule and Epeli Hau‘ofa as touchstones, O’Brien suggests how we New Zealanders might be re-imagining ourselves as an oceanic people on a small island in a big piece of water.

Always Song in the Water is a book of encounters, sightings and unexpected epiphanies. It is a high-spirited, personal and inventive account of being alive at the outer extremities of Aotearoa New Zealand. ‘This is my field notebook, my voyaging logbook,’ Gregory O’Brien writes, ‘this is my Schubert played on a barrel organ, my whale survey, my songbook.’

Among the many artists whose work is featured are John Pule, Robin White, Phil Dadson, Fiona Hall, Euan Macleod, Laurence Aberhart and the Sydney-based painter Noel McKenna, who produced numerous works specifically for this book.


More about Gregory O'Brien


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Always Song in the Water is like a splendid tapa cloth left out to dry on the salt of Oceania. It admits all-comers into its wet and capacious tapestry – shoes, seabirds, icebergs, painters, whales, stranded pianos, poets, horses, ghostly containers, dinghies, oil spills, surfboards, reef knots and travelling saints – and so lays claim to a hospitality as vast and ancient as Oceania.’ – Sudesh Mishra, University of the South Pacific