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there’s still no real security, except
in some stunning
moment in practical tempestry when
one is seen as one would see, is read
like Shakespeare by flashes of lightning.
~From Night on Water by Jennifer Maiden
Field Notes' Creation
Field Notes was conceived as a 5 minute documentary series that approaches some of Australia's most talented writers through the preoccupations of their work. As the title suggests, the founding concept of the perspective is the idea of Australia's literary writers as an endangered species, with these short films offering a last glimpse of them in their natural environs, or at characteristic moments of thought and speech. This ironic perspective is further enhanced by presenting the short films as if they were archival footage - looking at Australia's literary species through an affectionate gaze as a peculiar and compelling being.
The featured pilot episode offers a portrait of one of Australia's best-known and most prolific female poets, Jennifer Maiden. Her daughter, Katharine Toohey, is a constant presence in her poetry, as an interlocutor, sounding board, both voice of reason and innocence, and also, in some sense, as a muse. We sought to capture this intimate relationship between mother and daughter in the film because it provides a privileged insight into Maiden's poetry. The setting was the Napean river in Penrith, which is Maiden's home teritory, and another important presence in her poetry.
Field Notes formed part of the MCA exhibition Avoiding Myth and Message, which focused on points of convergence between the visual arts and literature. The film is the result of boiling down five hours of rich footage, leaving out much of the interview material, and showing only an excerpt of the poem 'Night on Water'. As a gesture toward the recovery of the lost material of this delicate species, we have provided the full version of 'Night on Water'.