Thursday, 24 July 2008

samosa, coffee machine and drizzle

The Otago Collective poetry reading nights have started up again. The readings are fortnightly - which means two weekly, American readers :) and held in Dunedin through the winter and into spring at the Circadian Rhythm restaurant in St Andrew Street. The format is an open mike session followed by the night’s featured poet.

Here is the line-up:

Location: Circadian Rhythm Cafe, 72 St Andrew Street, Dunedin ~ fabulous organic, vegan and gluten free food, local beer, and fair-trade coffee.
Time: 7.30pm (for 7.45pm start)
The following readings will be on:
August 6 - Reader: Diane Brown (Compere: Emma Neale)
August 20 - Reader: Bill Direen (Compere: Richard Reeve)
September 3 - Reader: Sue Wootton (Compere: Poppy Haynes)
September 17 - Reader: Jenny Powell (Compere: Kay McKenzie Cooke)
October 1 - Reader: John Hale (Compere: Cy Mathews)

Last night was the second of the readings, and a cold drizzly night. Robert and I toddled along to arrive a little before the proceedings started, and ordered a meal from the selection of yummy Indian food. (I highly recommend the samosas.)

Poppy Haynes was the featured poet for the night. Her satisfying, lithe, well-worked poetry was delivered supremely well. Clarity of form, substance, style and delivery were the hallmarks of her fine poetry, as well as an attractive lingering on details and mood. Quality stuff.

Dunedin benefits from being a University city. In the dozen or so years that I have been part of its poetry scene, I have seen some incredible young poets come and go (thankfully some have stayed to add new blood to the base.) There is always a mixture of young and old(er) at the poetry readings, which makes for an interesting smorgasbord. I am always inspired, despite myself. 

Last night the mood I was in that needed spiting, was that of a dried-up, deadbeat poet (that is not to say a dead Beat poet) without substance and no well of inspiration to plunge into.

I talked to T and she reminded me that last time we talked, I was working out at the Albatross Centre and writing a novel. Six months later I am working at a childcare centre, writing almost no poetry and with the so-called novel on hold, probably until I retire. How things can change.

An impression I got from last night is that the poets from the university are fresh, confident, self-assured and like policemen and pilots, incredibly young. Also not nearly as grunge-y as university poets used to be ... Even a poet that verged a little on the grunge side, really wasn’t - sharp in his black-and-white chequered scarf, long black coat and with a Byronic, piercing look. He delivered a memorised twenty-something-versed rhyming poem all about the night before Yule. He said he’d also performed the poem at a recent mid-winter, medieval festival. (I seem to recall there being some mention in the poem of a pig being stuck with a knife, but the most memorable thing about it, apart from the awesome, flawless delivery, had to be the excess of alliteration.)

I spoke a little with S. We seem to share the common ailment of scattered writing at the moment, but reassured each other that at least we were writing. Janet Frame’s goosebath method is serving us both well just now.

Even though the civilised pleasantness of last night (ably run by Jacob Edmond) was enjoyable, partway through the night I couldn’t help remembering the more weird, crazy days with (alternatively) Nick Ascroft, James Saville-Smith, Richard Reeve et al as mcs, and when the readings were held in dark and dimly-lit side-or-back-rooms, as opposed to a cheery, warm, brightly-lit restaurant with a fitful coffee machine. They were days of mad, raw poetry by alternative, edgy, grunge and/or punk poets. I even miss the dictionary man (who used to open a dictionary at random and begin a truly awful ad-lib spiel on whichever word his eye fell upon.) And that is saying something. But maybe now it's the turn of the aesthetes. Which is fair enough. It's all interesting. It's all good.


Becky Willis Motew said...

What a great description of the personnel, past and present. Yes, we have to give the aesthetes their turn, I guess. But I think I would have loved the older ones, and so wish I could have witnessed Dictionary Man.

Keep working. It will come.

Mama Llama said...

Sounds like a wonderful event. I appreciate your "american-ese" translations (grin).

Although I enjoy writing, I would never read my own poetry in front of others. I would much rather read that of others, make it come alive--I suppose I am funny that way.

Keep us posted!

Be well, Kay!

Catherine said...

How long are they going on for? And who are the featured readers each time? I have a hankering for a holiday - though I'm not sure Dunedin in winter is quite the best destination. Actually, I was thinking of heading south early November and taking in the Oamaru Victorian heritage celebrations. All plans a bit vague at the moment. (And there is the Christchurch Writers' Festival coming up as well)

rel said...

Sounds like a delightful evening with the added bonus of past recollections.
When I haven't the impetus to write, I remind myself of the situations where I meet someone I know and their name a illudes me. Forcing myself to remember rarely works. In time it will come.

Anonymous said...

Chuffed to hear the poetry readings are still going strong. Felt a sad wee tug at the thought of a frosty Dunedin night surrounded by fellow poets as I sit here melting in 40 degree Ankara heat too hot to think let alone write!

Joyce Ellen Davis said...

Ah, yes! The coffee-house poets! There must be some still around--but I don't know where. We used to have readings at a grungy little place called The Painted Word. It was fun. I had a HUGE nosebleed the last time I read there, with a bunch of scary poets on motorcycles, from California, on their way East. Just passin' thru.

We drove by there yesterday. The Painted Word is gone, but the grungy building is still grungy....

Nice post. Thanks. It brought back memories.

Kay Cooke said...

becky - I enjoyed reconstructing ... there was more I could have described, but less is more ;)

mama llama - Even tho I do it- it sort of goes with the territory of being a poet - I am not a fan of reading out loud in public. It's a case of okay, I'll do it but it doesn't mean I have to like it!!!

catherine = It would be great to see you if you do make it down. I have posted the programme. Had originally intended to do that but forgot. Thanks for the reminder.

rel - Thanks - wise words, so true!

donelle - I thought of you too in your red coat and lovely smile. Missed you!!! (Richard wasn't there either. )

joyce - Ah!!! So it's universal!!! :)

Unknown said...

Sounds interesting and productive too. You're definitely getting there!

Clare Dudman said...

Yes, I think I know how you feel about this. When something becomes organised it feels completely different and loses something (as well as gaining somethin, of course), and sometimes it is hard to know which I prefer.

Sounds like you have a wealth of creative talent in Dunedin!

Kay Cooke said...

barnara - Thanks for the encouragement.

Clare - Same! Yes, Dunedin is known for its writers artists etc. Must be the drizzle!!! :)

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