Emma Neale was the guest reader at the last of the Octagon Collective Poetry Readings for the Spring Season held at 'Circadian Restaurant' on Wednesday 17th October.
What I have found intriguing about these readings has been the variety, not only of readers, but of audience as well. We had the regular attenders who never missed a night, those who attended a little less regularly and those who attended sporadically; sometimes just the once as a friend and/or admirer of the guest reader. This creates an ever-changing, colourful border of annuals around the steady perennials. It also means that the atmosphere for each reading is charged a little differently.
On the 17th the atmosphere seemed upbeat, cheerful, friendly, with maybe a little uncertainty lurking in the background. This in part reflected the students that were there because of Emma. Emma is lecturer for a poetry workshop paper at Otago Uni and some of her students were there to take part in the Open Mic section. Their poetry was attractive, polished and held tenderly by the writers who owned their work with gentle pride. Some of the readers read for the first time, but such was the support relayed and confidence instilled by Emma, the nerves didn't show. The poetry was given the delivery it deserved. I especially enjoyed Marion Jones' reading. However, not all the readers there were from Emma's class. Another reader whose reading I enjoyed, and who isn't associated with Emma's paper, was Martha Morseth.
Like her students, Emma holds her poetry gently and yet with an understated confidence. I was pleased to hear her read some poems from her upcoming publication. Each of her poems is polished smooth; each holds a central truth the poem is designed around. The poems I enjoyed most were about the fascination that the relationship between mother and child creates. Emma is able to isolate herself from the intensely personal and from this removed position, sum up an all-too familiar, all-too engrossing situation. The result is pure poetry. She has an adept writing eye and hand. Her poems are deft and economical; pure gems. As well as being a talented writer and poet, Emma is also a thoroughly likeable person. I look forward to her newest collection, out soon.
I enjoyed Poppy Haynes and Rhys Brookbanks mc-ing. It's good to have young, fresh-faced (I bet they'd hate me saying that!) people involved in the poetry readings. I also liked Poppy's descriptions of Emma as a teacher - how she cared for each poem the students wrote, taking them home with her to mull over, caring for them, watering them and then giving considered suggestions back to the writer as to how to improve and work the poem towards the perfect. Who could ask for anything more?
The next Octagon Collective Readings will start up again in March - April 08. Until then, I feel confident that all Dunedin poets will be squirreling away their summer efforts in readiness for the great unveiling in autumn. Or is that far too grandiose of me?