Writing Teachers Newcastle – Hunter Red: Corpus

It was a beautiful winter’s day in Newcastle where our small group met to engage with Hunter Red: Corpus at the art gallery.

Corpus is defined in several ways – it can be a collection of written texts, the entire works of a particular author or a body of writing on a particular subject. It is also an anatomical reference to a main body or mass structure.

This exhibition interrogates the body across platforms such as painting, photography, sculpture, works on paper and video work. All are unified by themes of the body represented in different and arresting ways – as controlled, out of control, stolen, the abject or ‘other’.

The overarching exhibition theme of red is loaded with symbolism and tactile metaphors. The colour also provides audiences with an exploratory experience in the Gallery space with works of art that evoke life, death, blood, reproduction and mortality.

Always welcoming, the generous gallery staff had prepared showbags with brochures of upcoming events for us, and I was delighted to find a zine ‘developed by the Newcastle Art Gallery Youth Reference Group’ in response to the exhibition.

Feeling pleased with the success of the MAAS program, I decided to gather poems as stimulus for this meeting and included:

We spent a good forty-five minutes viewing the exhibition, gathering words and ideas, and I found some pieces spoke to me of my past – childhood and nursing. Our usual writing space was unavailable due to the installation of a new exhibition, and so we headed to Coco Monde for coffee, writing and sharing.

I stood transfixed and felt the sheer freedom watching these two girls in red: The Escape by Deborah Paauwe, 2015. Who doesn’t remember a time when life seemed simple – or is it just that our memories successfully block out the hurt and anxiety?

cross stitch and ric rac girl
arms linked
heads shaking – sheer joy:
curls and strands flick
across faces
hers? mine?
We run a bit, hesitate
stop, half-turn
dreaming: for or against?
chocolate or toffee apples?
milk or coke?
swim or sunbake?
school or work?
We let them float by.

The Red Cape

                      inspired by Dorothy Parker

I always saw, I always said

I always wanted that

nurses’ cape.

Winter weight, swinging

at hip height,

Enfolding arms

an armour for the

night’s walk home.

Blood on silk: Blood alcohol content (detail) by Fiona Davies, 2014.

The natural pattern of dripping blood, soaking and spreading into gauze grows heavy in my hand. Keep up the pressure. Maintain a calm facade. Remember the details to write up later – a statement for others to justify the time of slower, ever more slowly dripping.

A dropper of distilled alcohol – gin,

or some such –

spreads the pain further and deeper,

not cleansing

but a rubbing raw

a re-opening of wounds

and memories.

Stitches incomplete


porous bandage

patching my heart

keeping me in a semblance

of whole.


* featured image: Looking for Felix by Dani Marti (plastic beaded curtains, 2000)

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