Friday, 21 September 2007


This first sequence of photos are from my library and are of the St Clair playground mural. The mural was painted in the 80s or 90s, and if I am correctly advised, is about to be removed due to large-scale renovations happening to the St Clair beach frontage. The paintings on these walls are no doubt part of the collective memory of a lot of twenty-something Dunedin-ites.

Another poetry reading at 'Circadian Rhythm'. This time Bill Direen was the m.c. and Scott Hamilton the featured poet. It smacked of an invasion from the north - of cerebral wavelengths. Bill's journal 'Percutio' was launched, and those contributors who were there read their contributions.
Some of the audience looked bemused. Some laughed quietly at Bill's comical takes on poets and poetry. (For example, near the end of proceedings he posed the question, "Anyway, what is poetry?" And then answered himself with a string of intriguing definitions, among which was the strange: "It's lying down.")
The night had a smidgen of the poetry slam about it - maybe as close as Dunedin ever gets to such a thing. The Circadian Rhythm didn't exactly rock; however it might be fair to say it juddered a little at the mild mirth, the muted catcalls and snide heckling.

The fact that both Bill and Scott (from what I can gather anyway from their respective website/blogs) are punk-refugees, may have something to do with the mysterious timbre to the night. I felt slightly left out, I have to admit. There were snarly undertones I couldn't hook on to and in-jokes I never got. I felt old and dim. Subtle references and dangerously intelligent remarks, tend to go over my dull head. In comparison, I am slow. I've never been able to keep up with the clever ones in the class. I guess I've always been something of a try-hard nerd. I don't know what category I fitted into at high school. Never clever enough to be a nerd, never pretty enough to be popular, never sporty enough to be sporty, never radical or political enough to be a feminst, a hippie or a punk ... I guess bespectacled, quiet bookworm (librarian?) was the closest I got to any title. (I bet you anything no-one remembers me!)
I read three short, unimpressive poems. I realised afterwards that I didn't introduce them, so they were over and done with in the space of two minutes. I'd call them poems from my dead-poem zone. The muse has deserted me at the moment. Maybe that happens after a book launch. The muse believes you've got enough to go on with and does a runner. I miss my muse - whatever that is. Person? Persona? Symbol? Figment? Pretension?

But how on earth did I get on to all that? ... I am trying to tell you about the poetry reading ...

Scott Hamilton's poetry I found to be grounded, interesting and almost-narrative. I liked it. The subject matter hints at the subversive. His poetry can sometimes segue, then end in an unexpected and abrupt manner, which I also like. He admitted to being a fan of Dr Who and sci-fi; an influence which I think adds an interesting edge and depth to his poems. He read in a non-bombastic, slightly self-deprecating manner. We like that down here. He was good value.

Peter Olds read again. The first reading he did was as a contributor to 'Pecrutio'; his classic poem about South Dunedin's pie cart. Between stanzas, Bill Direen read the German translation. Nice. Very nice. I could've listened to more of that.

Phoebe Smith also took the podium to read some of her conversational, quick-witted, entertaining, dramatic (in the sense that each poem could be a short act in a play) poetry. Seamless, articulate, clever, funny and easy to listen to. Her delivery is that of a consummate performer, which is not surprising given that she's a well-known Dunedin actor.

David Eggleton also read - no poetry event in Dunedin is ever complete without him. I noticed the heads of several listeners keeping the beat. David's a rapper of old. Even before rap, he was rapping. Some would say ranting - and indeed, have. But rapping is probably kinder.

Sandra Bell, also read a South Dunedin poem. I relished the references in one of her poems to a misty Mount Cargill, a large hill that slightly looms on Dunedin's horizon. As we left, it was good to catch up briefly with N who was outside, her glass of wine sitting on a parking meter. N actually lives on Mount Cargill and she verified that for half the year it is indeed covered in mist. She lives there in a hut. She invited us to come visit. One day I will. I hope someone there will give me directions, otherwise knowing my sense of direction, I will spend days lost in the mist searching for her.

Before I start work at the Albatross Centre, I still have the week ahead and the first three days of the next week at the early childhood centre. Of course I will miss the staff and the children and their parents. I am not heartless. However, there are things I will not miss. After more than twenty years in this sector, I am well and truly ready to go on to something else.
Lovely L (who is on holiday now, so I won't be working with her again) gave me a bottle of wine yesterday as a good-bye gift, as well as a gorgeous bunch of yellow roses.

Yellow roses are dear to me. They remind me of how my Dad gave my Mum a yellow rose every anniversary. Wine is also dear to me, but for very different reasons!

This morning I treated myself and ran a hot bath. I also made a pot of tea in the teapot S brought back for me from Japan,

to have on hand. ABM thinks that a bath is good for the plumbing. He believes that it's possible that when all that the water is let out, it clears the pipes of any unwanted, potential blockages. As he is a science teacher, he's usually right about such logical and reasonable premises. And I am happy to oblige if a long, hot bath is part of the theory.
While in the bath, I finished Diane Brown's 'There Goes Another Vital Moment' - a deliciously frank read about her experiences in Europe. She went there with her partner, Philip Temple, after he was awarded the Berlin Fellowship. Interspersed with these impressions, is her angst as a parent of teenage son back home. I could identify with a lot of the frustration that being a mother of a teenage son causes, so well-described by Diane. Like me, she remembers former times with a sweet boy. Do mothers of sons ever get over the transformation of 'sweet boy' to hairy, non-verbal teenager? My experience is that they do go on to develop into wonderful young men; however, the remembered soft-skinned, affectionate boys who hug and kiss and give you butterfly-kisses on your cheek, is something never regained. If you let it, it can be heart-breaking. However, most mothers, Diane and myself included, do survive that stage. We recover and go on to experience the humour and energy and joy that fully-grown, loving sons offer.
How Diane's relationship with her partner Philip, another well-known NZ writer, weathered the stress of displacement is also honestly described in this book. The revelations are always subtle and more often than not, couched in descriptions of tense moments. I like the way Diane captures the incidentals and co-incidences, or serendipitous moments, such as the one that led to the title of the book. Those things that come across your path when you are travelling or journeying. I also enjoyed the references to the actual job of writing, and to the competitiveness as writers between her and Philip. It is an interesting and well-written book.
I also read a little more of Graeme Gibson's 'Bedside Book of Birds'. As well as the beautiful side - the myths and legends about birds - Gibson includes accounts, horrifying in their pragmatism, of people slaughtering and hunting birds, even as small as wrens and chaffinches. The bit I read this morning was about a young lad who killed and bagged about eighteen small migrating birds which he'd first lured, albeit in an ingenious manner, and then shot with a home-made sling-shot. Not for the squeamish.
I guess these accounts remind us of the blood-thirstiness we human beings exhibit towards the creatures we share this planet with. It is a good thing to add to the mix whenever considering our place in the food chain. It actually reminds me of my father - a man who truly admired and liked birds - but who wasn't, in his younger days, above killing the native wood pigeon, kereru, a NZ bird that has been protected since the early twentieth century. When talking about this recently with my mother, I said I'd never eaten 'pigeon pie', to which she replied, "Don't be too sure about that."

I am looking forward to doing a poetry reading in my old haunt of Southland - the province from where I hail. I will be reading at the Invercargill library on Sunday 30th, at 2.00 pm. The next Friday, 5th October, I head to the North Island to read at the Palmerston North library on the Friday night at 6.00 p.m. This is where my Mum lives, so it's an opportunity to visit her as well as startle a few unsuspecting residents of Palmy. Invercargill and Palmerston North aren't exactly the cultural capitals of NZ - which makes them all the more attractive. No expectations. Just the assurance that those who do come to listen are there for all the right reasons.



Mama Llama said...

Goodness gracious, Chief. You have a lot of reflections here. 1. I love to read your take on the poetry events, which this time seemed almost perfectly punctuated by pictures. 2. The image of you walking around lost in the mist--you caught me and I laughed. My first laughter of the day, first in perhaps a couple of days. Thank you. 3. Beautiful teapot. I love my Japanese ceramics as well, and o-cha always is better served out of them. 4. What kind of wine makes you whine? :) I'm a deep red Rioja or even a Malbec girl, myself, but will settle for a decent Cabernet. 5. It takes so much courage to embark upon such great changes, from the known to the admission of "too much of a good thing..." to finding something else to do and jumping at the opportunity. I could never imagine 20 years with preschoolers. Although I love the stage, I look forward to growing up and into new stages with my children. Plus, parental values are much different now than 20 years ago and that leads, often, to such different children... I'm sure you know what I am insinuating. 6. Your final highlight of the embracing of these changing stages and a mother's acceptance of the displacement hits me hard, as I grapple with the knowledge that today's pledges of eternal, undying love from the mouths of my babes will, indeed, evolve hurts. I ought not look ahead and instead simply embrace and enjoy the Today. Being the realist/borderline pessimist that I am, that proves difficult. Thank you, Chief, for your insights. I learn so much from you. Happy Weekend!

wendy said...

I love the owl on that tea pot.

I am very sure you went un-noticed..anywhere...ever.

Your words on not being "poet" enough, for some poets.. really helped me this morning. My poetry wokshop has been somewhat of a grind..

But you grind to sharpen, right?

wendy said...

add "Did not go...un noticed...

Sorry...still sleepy eyed.

ok...always sleepy eyed!

Kamsin said...

Have enjoyed catching up with your words. I was having a bit of a "I don't quite fit into any particular group of people" moment at work yesterday. Perhaps we never quite escape that old high school thing, maybe just learn it doesn't really matter. Anyway, I got over it quickly enough and went back to my paperwork!

Kay Cooke said...

mapiprincesa - Thanks for the wonderful feedback! You've made my day!

wendy - The owl is so sweet and I love it too. (And I knew what you meant about the un-noticed bit!)

kamsin - Ha! You've put it so well ... in the end, what does it matter when you're happy with who you are!?

Anonymous said...

Yep, I think that I , as well as my daughter, can empathise with your feelings about your High School days. What an interesting post. So many ideas - I'm sure the muse hasn't really left you. Cultural life in Dunedin, NZ sounds much livelier than in New Forest, UK. Getting to the end of my academic slog. It has to be in the post by Tuesday.

Unknown said...

This post has a real sense of change running through it - lots to take in and digest! You've been very busy indeed and I did like the pictures that accompanied the post too. I'm off to see what the Albatross thing is - intriguing! And congratulations I hope your new position gives you more time to write. And your modesty - CB :)))

Unknown said...

Now I am really impressed - guess what your next collection will be about ;)

Anonymous said...

Wow, CB - such a lot here and so very interesting. I find it difficult to read a lot of words in a blog it has to really engage me and yours does. Like Malprincesa I admire your patience looking after pre-schoolers - surely one of the most exhausting stages of human existence. I am sure your muse will return. I think it were always there it would be taken too much for granted - sometimes it fades away and comes back with greater vehemence than ever. I hope so anyway!

S. Kearney said...

Great words and images here as usual, CB! :-) Now, some news. There's a new writing project up at The Shameless Lions Writing Circle site ... a collective short story. I hope you can take part and promote it ... because you are the FIRST member of the circle I nominate to pass the project on. See the circle site for the details. :-)

kj said...

you are in transition, chief. it's not much and yet it's everything. don't go getting down on yourself--it's not allowed.


Joyce Ellen Davis said...

So, here we are, the bookworm and the hippie: friends! I can't imagine ANY poem you read being unimpressive. I love them all!

Loved the pictures.

Richard said...

This is an interesting Blog with beautiful images - I got here via Scott Hamilton's Blog 'Reading the Maps' - where he mentioned you mentioned him - and Bill Direen.

I also dont "get" a lot of stuff - don't worry about that. I was a "plodder" at school. I write a
lot of poetry (or have done) and read a lot: but I find much of it
very difficult.

Bill is whimsical and creative as far as I can see (I have only known him fairly recently) - thinks on his feet - probably some of the "references" were just things that came into his head at the time - he is a great writer as is Scott.

I have known him much longer.

He is widely read and has great appreciation of poetic beauty. he joins this to the historical and political; philosophical etc

Do you see Dianne Brown much or at all?

(She is wit and a brick!)

If so - give her my regards -

Richard Taylor.

Jan said...

Yes, as Clare says, you must be very patient.
One of my sons is teaching a class of 28 5/6 yr olds from tomorrow; he says he's looking forward to the challenge!
I tend to think that's exactly the right word..!

Kay Cooke said...

watermaid - Thanks and best of luck with your work.

cailleach - yes I think you're right - the next collection is already earmarked to be about the big birds - at least in part!

clare - Thanks for your kind words - I am hoping you are right about the muse too!

shameless - Oh! OK. An honour indeed. Thanks. Sorry about being so slow to respond ... I shall get on over there to take a look asap (time-wise things tend to be a little stretched for me thru the weekdays, so that's why I've been slow on the uptake.)

kj - Thanks KJ! :) Point taken and appreciated.

pepek - You are too kind - but then, hippies are! ;)

richard - Wow! Thanks so much for the wonderful comments. I have visited your site and I'm very impressed too!

jan - What I find hard is you don't get a break - you have to be 'on' the whole time. Exhausting! Hope your son enjoys it, all the same. And yes patience is a virtue in any work with kids ...

Clocking Out

 I have been neglecting this blog for some months. I think perhaps I should face facts and accept that it is indeed time to retire this blog...