Saturday, 18 July 2009
I love reading poetry, but when I read poetry written by fellow New Zealand poets I am left with a mish-mash of feelings. Among them; envy, defeat, admiration, inspiration ... The envy is self-explanatory as the poetry is always excellent, I feel my own could never be as good; so I feel envious - a 'why can't I write like that?' feeling ... is that envy? I guess it is.
Defeat because, again, it is so good why do I even want to bother to add my paltry efforts to the grand pile? Then admiration because I can't help but sit back in awe. And finally inspiration - thank goodness, because that is what gets me up from where I lie floored by all the skill and exquisite turning of words and phrases; all the ease of language and new ways of putting ideas across; all the quiet humour ... to embrace the motivation and spur to keep on writing myself.
Sometimes a thought, memory, connection or just plain astonishment is triggered by another writer's descriptions. For example, Tim Jones' poem about the keas in the Gore Gardens (already I have written a response to this haunting poem) and all other southern evocations he calls up in both his poetry collections - as well as a range of other subjects. Or the stunning poetry about Antarctica in Bernadette Hall's, 'The Ponies'.
And in 'Calypso', Bob Orr's marvellous evocations of Auckland ... a place I have only visited briefly, and a very long time ago ... that caused its harbours to materialise before my eyes.
Elizabeth Smither's way of describing the small things in a garden, or city, that other people may only glance over and dismiss, inspire me to look again at the vein of a leaf and take up the challenge to put what I see into words that compel the reader to take notice. Cilla McQueen's almost deadpan, yet extremely clever, surprising and fresh, descriptions as always leave me smiling. Jenny Bornholdt's easy and sweet squeezing of juices from out of everyday life, its hardships, its tiny defeats and joys, makes for extremely pleasurable poetry. And Fiona Farrell's intelligent exploration of place and home and of Irish ancestry in her latest collection, 'The Pop-Up Book of Invasions', triggers wake-up calls and responses in the sleepy recesses of my own brain where ancestry and questing connect.
And all the other New Zealand poets (there are whole constellations of them out there!) do a similar work on my writer's brain and imagination. I salute them all. Thanks also to all the publishers who stalwartly publish New Zealand poetry, despite what must be less than satisfactory returns; because let's face it: how many of the general public reads it? So good job people - poets and publishers and all.
Part of the reason I go for walks is not only for the exercise and space to think, reflect and plan - but to explore and discover. I always try to have my camera with me because you never know. Yesterday I was delighted by what I found at the edge of the inlet at low tide. (All the photos posted here are the result.) More poetry. It's enough to make me want to Smither a leaf, Orr a barnacle and Jones a seagull ...