It was a packed room in Tūranga, Christchurch Central Library, when renowned Canterbury poet, Bernadette Hall, launched Contents Under Pressure, the debut poetry collection by poet, editor and writer Gail Ingram. Gail describes her book as a novella told in poetry.
“It’s set post-quakes, and is about a mother under pressure who sneaks out one night to graffiti an Eastgate Mall wall. She’s got two teenage children – one suffers from severe depression, the other has drug issues.”
The inspiration for the mother’s graffiti is taken from an image of grains of sand, magnified 250 times. “The mother sees each grain as something tiny but beautiful and individual – separated yet all on the same beach,” Gail says.
“It’s a metaphor for Christchurch post-quakes – we were experiencing the same things in the same time and space. The mother wants to acknowledge the beauty of individuals, but also how we’re all, in some way, disconnected and broken.”
Gail says that much like poets reach for their pens in response to trauma, graffiti artists reach for their spray-cans. “Making art is a way to try to understand what’s happening in our lives and a way that we can begin to heal. The mother’s graffiti is an expression of love for her city, but it’s also a protest against the suffering caused in times of disaster.”
All of the illustrations in Contents Under Pressure are by Gail’s daughter, Rata Ingram.