Saturday, 24 May 2008

Southern Lights

Southland's Dan Davin Literary Foundation is the heartbeat of Southland's literary arts. This month the members, in conjunction with the Invercargill Library, took part in organising an arts festival in Invercargill, and invited writers from Dunedin to take part. The invited poets (yours truly among them) duly headed south last weekend. Invercargill, has clean, wide streets, an informal, friendly atmosphere and is famous for its 'Bank Corner' where polar winds blow in straight from a wild Southern Ocean to knock over little old ladies and turn umbrellas inside out and back the right way again. A re-visit for me is always a trip home; Southland being my old stamping/stomping ground. These days it's looking just as tidy as it ever was, but maybe even more spruced up, and with a quiet pride perhaps best epitomised in the concrete, sculpture of an umbrella which also doubles as a sundial

and celebrates both Invercargill's light (the longest twilights in New Zealand) and of course its famous, green-paddock-inducing rain.

ABM and I had the pleasure of Emma Neale as a travelling companion. We stopped for a coffee and some lunch in Gore (where I was amused to note that what we would call paninis, are known there as toasties. No pretensions that side of the Clutha River) when lo and behold! some of the other poets also taking part blew in the door - Jenny Powell, Jeanne Bernhardt and David Howard and his partner E. It was so good to see them all - even if the context of Main Street Gore felt a little strange.
A benefit of writers getting together for festivals and the like, is the chat that goes on. As we sat over coffees and burbled on, J said it was important to celebrate where you're at and not fret over whether or not you are writing. Even if it takes two years to write again, so friggin' what? I needed to hear that. I could've turned around right there and then, completely happy in the knowledge that I'd heard all I needed to hear for the weekend.


After booking ourselves in at the arts-fostering apartment hotel 'Living Space' where we were all generously provided with a free room for the night, we made our way to the library with the other three invited poets, Peter Olds, Richard Reeve and Michael Harlow. At the library we listened to Southland poets reading their poetry. This was a real treat. Following this were tributes to Ruth Dallas, a noted NZ poet who was born in Invercargill and who died earlier in the year.
A hearty nosh at the Speight's Bar that night was followed by us doing our thing at a poetry reading, and the next morning the panel. Among other things, we discussed which poets we felt were inspirations for us; the state of poetry in the south; is there a southern voice? ... I guess the question about the state of poetry in the south; which included comparing south to north; provided the most reaction / response. (Some of us also at that point just realised that it was all being video-ed - oops!)
As J pointed out (from the audience) isn't it better to be free to be ourselves, to keep flying under the radar, rather than have all the exposure, with attached expectations, that the more northern lights 'enjoy'? (A little like being Indie poets I guess ... ) There was a lot more said, but I'll leave it at that - except to say I believe I can speak for all of us writers from the south and state that southern pride is alive and well. Anyway, isn't it part of being a writer to belong to some 'school'? East v West in America; Canterbury v Oxford in the UK? etc. etc. We poets can be a tricky, sensitive lot. Maybe defining our patch keeps us on edge and alert - which in turn keeps our writing vital.

Richard's third collection, 'Incontinents', was launched after the panel. Emma launched the book with a pertinent, insightful introduction. Richard's writing is awesome, and I do not use that term lightly. I am in total awe of his ability as a wordsmith.
Sunday afternoon I was side-kick for Cilla's poetry workshop, and again it was a pleasure to hear the southern voice coming through the writing, and to help spark some ideas as to how they can develop their writing and their voice. Cilla was just back from Dunedin after receiving an honorary doctorate from Otago University. Congratulations to another one of New Zealand's very best poets.
It was a great weekend, I felt privileged to have been a small part of it.



rel said...

I'm dripping with envy for your weekend excursion.
The weekend presently for moi is to travel north to Ottawa, Canada and follow my atheletic muse over hill and dale for 13.1 miles.
It may not be as literary an inspiration as yours was but then, one never knows from where the hiding muse will emerge. I do believe, however, that if the muse stays away for 2 years, I may well be writting Posthumously. ;)

Jan said...

This sounds superb, CB.
What a lovely time.
Good to call in again.

McDinzie said...

Well bugger big sis is a celebrity.

Did I just ryhme??? tee hee

Sounds like a great weekend....I dont have the same warm feeling for Invercargil...then I never saw it outside of being 11yrs old.

McDinzie said...

have you had a chance to catch up on djd entry?

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

What fun! And here am I still at home sitting on ice bags and heating pads! You are an inspiration as well as a crack reporter! Well, maybe that is the wrong word....

Hotshot! That's what I was trying to say.

Avus said...

Sounds like you had one good time.
The only thing I previously knew about Invercargill was that it was the home of Burt Munro of "World's Fastest Indian" fame. Now I know about the "Umbrella Sundial" - what a great concept - umbrellas are for dull, rainy weather, but here, when the sun shines, they can still be useful!

Mama Llama said...

I have been trying to recall someone was mentioning to me knowing of another New Zealand poet and I mentioned "knowing" you! Now I am wracking my brain in an effort to remember 1. who I met here who knows the author and 2. what the poet's name is, to pass this information on to you.

'Tis a small world, was the intention...perhaps smaller once I get my memory back!

Your trip sounds great. I am ready for mine. Sigh. Another month...

Be well, Chief. Thanks again for the pics!

Kay Cooke said...

rel - it was just a lovely get-together with some very down to earth, admirably gifted writers - and i don't include myself in that category- I was just a hanger-on!

jan - Hi there - good to see you here again.

mcd - Yep, caught up, and I agree to differ with you re In'gill. :)

pepek - I'll accept both!

avus - Invercargill has the famous Oreti Beach which you literally drive on to at the end of the road - and yes that's where Burt Munroe carried out test runs for his bike, as in the movie ...

mapi - what a small world! That's amazing ...

Unknown said...

Sounds like you had a very stimulating and reassuring time at the poetry fest in Invercargill, CB. It's always good to hear from other's that have been through the dry spots too - I like an odd dry spot meself. Sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy with poems, and want a bit of silence in me own head. Truth is, sometimes you can never win...

Tim Jones said...

I haven't been in Invercargill since 1988, but I lived there between 1964 and 1969 (aged five to ten), and your post brings back many memories.

On the "South vs North" thing, I'm in an odd position, being someone who lived in Southland and Otago for 30 years, but now lives in Wellington. Growing up in Southland provided a lot of the raw material of my poetry (and prose), but I may by now have been infected with a Wellington taint!

Becky Willis Motew said...

What a wonderful event and how lovely that you and ABM got to go!!! There's nothing like chatting with colleagues. It's the best. So glad to hear your talents are being recognized.


Kay Cooke said...

cailleach - I guess we have to have the dry spots in order for germination to be complete.

Tim - You should pay a visit to In'gill - it has changed quite a bit - although a child's pov is always a little different anyway ...
I believe the south island has provided grounding for many NZ writers.
I'm sure in your case any Wellington influence can't help but add good stuff. The icing on the cake so to speak.

becky - Oh well ... there are very many writers in our small country, so I am always just happy to be included as a very small mote when some dust is raised! ;)

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