Thursday, 29 August 2013

A Saturday Poetry Reading in Invercargill

... a rather blurry photo I'm sorry -  of Jenny, Rebecca (side-on to the camera) and the first of the audience members to arrive at the Invercargill library. I lost my camera in Gore (since found) so had to rely on my phone camera ...

Not all of the seats were filled at the Invercargill library. However, those who attended were both engaged and engaging. We had a lively Open Mic. with quality poetry being read. Cilla McQueen (NZ poet laureate of 2009 - 2011) was there and was persuaded to read in the Open Mic. as well.

... photo taken by Jenny Powell ...

Thanks to Rebecca Amunsden for all her hard work organising the venue for us.

... it was great to catch up on Cilla afterwards ...

After the session, rather than questions from the audience, we had a relaxed, general chat and catch-up; largely about Invercargill's burgeoning 'poetry scene' and the potential there for it to grow even stronger than it is now.

... a train painted on the window of Old Post Cafe in Gore ...

Images of steam trains had been following us all the way through Southland, it seemed. We thought it confirmation that J and K Rolling's motif (seen below) of a steam train, was the right one.

We decided on the way home to Dunedin from Invercargill,, that we would drop into the Eastern Southland Gallery (personally speaking, another appropriate thing for me to do on this seemingly serendipitous tour, seeing as this building was the old Gore library and one of the poems I read out at the Gore reading was about this library). We had heard from one of the audience members in Invercargill that there was an excellent exhibition of the painter James Robinson's work as well as work by Dunedin sculptor Peter Nicholls.  If anyone is in the vicinity I'd urge you to go see this exhibition. (Oh, what the heck; why not make  a special trip to Gore? We did and can vouch that it is well worth it).

We were glad we had taken the time to visit this exhibition. The work exhibited was cool - beautiful to look at and (as far as the the wooden sculptures were concerned) to touch. It seemed a fitting and delightful end to J and K Rolling's Whistle-stop Tour of Southland.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Poetry Reading, Winton

'Creamota Dan' on the wall of Gore's historic Flemings mill, now no longer used to make rolled oats ...
After the reading in Gore was over and we'd thanked Penelope and the Gore library for all their support and enthusiasm, it was time for lunch. Penelope recommended the Green Room cafe; a cafe situated in part of St James Theatre.

Gore Gardens 
To have lunch there seemed as appropriate as our dinner at Howl at the Moon the night before. Jenny's mother and my mother had both worked in picture theatres. I had just read a poem at the reading that made reference to my mother's employment in the late 60's, making ice creams at Gore's St James Theatre. However the Green Room's popularity meant there were no tables left for us. We ended up having lunch on the top floor of that good old Southland institution, H&J Smiths. We took a table by the window that looked out over Gore's tidy streets with their hanging flower baskets.

... Gore's Main Street; this photo was taken at a different time, one an early autumn day ...
After a light and tasty lunch, it was time to head off to Winton for the second poetry-reading event on Jenny and my (J&K Rolling's) Southland Whistle-stop Tour. We had a little over an hour to get there. As we passed through the riverside town of Mataura, I realised that from now on, this plain, functional meat works and paper works town, had been transformed for me by Jenny's 'Southland poetry'; in particular her poem where she imagines Marilyn Monroe in Mataura.

... Jenny reading her poetry in Gore library ...
The turn off to Winton took us into the heartland of Southland, or Central Southland as it is known. Like Otago (and other provinces in New Zealand) Southland is divided up into the points of the compass: Southern, Western Southland, Eastern Southland, Northern Southland and Central Southland. I don't know if it's as defined now, but back when I grew up in Southland, each district had its own distinct character.

... road in Orepuki, Western Southland
Western Southland (where I spent the first ten years of my life) had an early history of gold-mining and settling the land. Occupations were largely connected to services such as the railway, dairy factories etc. and forestry, fishing and farming (dairy and mixed-farming) were well established. Both the residents and the land, sported a wild, south-coast rigour. Strong, affable communities were made up of descendants of early settlers from Scotland, England and Ireland, as well as tangata whenua; they were tough people with a robust sense of humour, who knew how to both live and play hard. In the 1960's, rugby and netball (called basketball back then) were the established main sports. As well as sport, the church, the pub, horse-racing, hunting, fishing and community groups and networks were important.

When we moved from our little town of Orepuki, Western Southland to Otama Valley in Northern Southland, it was like moving to a different country.

The wild coastal flavour was replaced by a light-filled and gentle inland landscape of rolling hills; tussock-covered at the top; surrounded by tidy and verdant plains. Rivers cut across these plains and at that time were clean and good for swimming and fishing. (These days, because of the run-off from dairy farming, the rivers struggle to remain clean - it is a New Zealand-wide problem). The farming tended to be crops, with sheep and cattle farming. In contrast to the more rugged, working-class Western Southlander, Northern Southlanders appeared a little more refined and prosperous. Around where we lived, for example, there were clusters of good-living, church-going people who didn't drink or party. 

... a dog called Tussock ...
In Northern Southland, horse racing and deer hunting, was replaced by gymkhanas and dog trials. Basketball wasn't played either; instead it was hockey. I was forced to put my treasured basketball away and instead take up a hockey stick. Not that I minded. The weather too was different - more definite: sunny and dry in summer and frosty and snowy in the winter.  

Behind Orepuki, Western Southland, looking towards Princess Range  ...
As Jenny and I motored towards Winton, I tried to describe to her some of these characteristics of Southland as I knew it back in the sixties.
Deep, green paddocks flashed by us as we zipped along country roads largely empty of traffic. Then before we knew it, there we were in Winton – but where was the library?

... typical shop-fronts in small town New Zealand ...
Once we found the library, we were treated to another friendly, warm greeting; this time by librarian, Raewyn Patton. Again, just as in Gore, we were overwhelmed by the work that had gone into highlighting and promoting the event. When we saw the banner Raewyn had made and put up for us, we were tickled pink! How kind that was and how good it made us feel – we felt both valued and (I hope this doesn't sound too twee) rather humbled.

As in Gore, the people were open, unassuming and attentive listeners, with some takers for the Open Mic. A portion of the audience were made up of regular members of 'Bookworms' - a community writing and reading group run by the library. The Open Mic. segment of the programme was opened by a particularly stunning, very powerful poem, written collaboratively on-line, it was about bullying. It was read out by one of the poem's writers, a senior high school student. 

We were leaving Winton feeling encouraged and welcomed.
Before we left, we had a look around Merv and Milly's – a fashion outlet shop as both of us wanted to buy something as a memento of Winton and its warm reception.

From here it was a short trip through misty drizzle, into the city of Invercargill. We settled into our accommodation, catching up on the news of the Seddon / Wellington earthquakes and meeting up with Rebecca Amunsden in Zookeepers Cafe. She was our Invercargill contact and had organised our reading event in Invercargill for the next day, Saturday.

to be cont'd ...

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Poetry Reading, Gore

I am a big fan of journeys. This weekend I went on a journey with my friend and fellow-poet, Jenny Powell. We left Dunedin late Thursday evening on a soft and warm winter's day, splotches of spring already smudging trees, gardens, verges and flower pots.

We have called ourselves (our venture) 'J &K Rolling'. So there we were, rolling south on a whistle-stop poetry reading tour we had organised with three libraries. It was happiness too for us that we had been successful in our application for funding for this Whistle-stop Tour; funding from the organisers of NZ Poetry Day and from Booksellers, NZ.

As we drove south, the land opened out into Southland's deep greens and the sky widened above us. I was travelling into very familiar territory. Southland is my home-province and where a lot of my poetry is centered.

The next morning was NZ Poetry Day and our welcome at the Gore library was warm. One of their librarians, Penelope Perry, had started corresponding with us back in April when we first mooted the idea with her of Jenny and me reading in libraries in Southland as part of Poetry Day. Straight away she had been supportive and keen to accommodate.

... on each seat, a brochure and a poem...

She had a well-prepared venue ready for us and seemed to have thought of everything.

What we heard from the Open Mic. segment of the event was entertaining and fresh.

One of the poets read poems that were packed with rugby, racing, beer and deer-stalking; it was poetry my father would have appreciated. True, heartland, grass-roots, rural poetry shot through with country pragmatism and humour. It's poetry that deserves a genre of its own and probably high time more of it made its way into books.

Jenny's reading was entertaining and clear, sprinkled with her trademark drama. I particularly enjoyed hearing her tantalising re-imaginings of Gore and Mataura. She takes the risk of bringing a sense of fun and fantasy to her material, expressing ideas that the listener / reader may not otherwise have entertained. She uses an underlying wry humour to highlight where vulnerability and edginess meet. Her Southern woman poem was a hit.

When I introduced my Waikaia school-bus poem, one of the audience piped up. "I used to go to high school on that bus too," she said. I asked her when and we established that she was travelling on the bus at the same time as I was. "I'll talk to you later," I said. It turned out that we kind of knew each other when we were school-kids. She said that my description of the bus (and other poems too) were immediately identifiable; it was part of her story too.

We were left feeling buoyed by our warm reception in Gore.The next place on our agenda for the day, was Winton, a small town that lies in the heart of Southland.

... to be continued ...

Friday, 16 August 2013

J&K Rolling through Gore and Winton, Southland

Thanks to Raewyn Patton from Winton library for the photos of me and Jenny Powell today in Winton library where we read to a receptive and warm audience. We were immediately wowed by the welcome we received in both Winton and Gore.
Invercargill tomorrow.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Rolling South - J& K Rolling's Whistle-stop Tour


About to head off now on the first leg of the trip. Leaving Dunedin (in a car, not a steams train sadly) on a mild winter's day heading south to spend the night in Gore, then the reading tomorrow morning in the library.

Hoping to have time to post as we go. 

Friday, 2 August 2013

Bubbles & Fireworks


After we'd been at Steve and E's place for a few hours I realised I hadn't taken any photos. That's okay, Steve said, forgetting to take photos can be a sign that you are having too much fun. It was true - to arrive in Kyoto (almost a second home now) and be able to hug everyone (there's nothing like it - all that lack-of-hugs that 2D Skype-ing stores up in your cells, at last allowed out!) meant no room for taking photos.

Picnic in the playground (with bubbles) ...

... bubbles were on the list ... (see below what else was on the list) ...

... Steve making yakitori; grilled chicken ... a favourite ...

The two grandchildren had made a list each of what they wanted to do when Grandma and Grandpa were there ... fireworks was on the list. The Japanese word for fireworks is hanabi - pronounced a little bit like 'honeybee' and literally means 'fire flower'. Consequently one night we had some sparkler fun just outside the door, bucket of water at the ready to dunk the hot metal sticks in once all their sparkle had fizzed.

The timing of our visit coincided with Gion festival  (a 1200-year old festival!) so we were able to participate with SEAR (code name for our Kyoto family) in some of the events. (Read more about this amazing festival and procession of floats HERE )

The large floats that make up the procession take about a month to construct in place on the street. They are about a storey high ...

... and have huge wooden wheels.

On the day (17th July) they are pulled by teams of men dressed in traditional costume.

... waiting for the bus ... love the kimono and the smart phone ...

Robert and I joined in with what has become a family tradition for SEAR and went 'down town' (E and the kids wearing traditional costumes) to see the floats all lit up and ready to go in the procession the next day. There was a night-carnival atmosphere, with stalls set up selling food, drinks, games of luck and crafts (the usual side-shows you'd expect at any carnival).

... on the way to meet Dad at work before heading to the carnival ...

... Steve standing beside the 'boat float'. One year he was invited to be part of the team to drag this float through the streets ... 

The weather was extremely humid. Steve said it is even more humid in August. I found July was quite humid enough for me thank you very much! The heat (like a heavy blanket you couldn't throw off) was overwhelmingly draining. The paper fans that were being given away throughout the festival events, were well used! A towel around the neck is another aid as is the umbrella to keep the heat off your head. Also E's magic home-made 'pink drink' - soooo refreshing!

Robert went to the procession and saw some of the floats being dragged by. I was suffering from the heat (turned out to be a bit of dehydration and lack of salt) so stayed back at the house in front of the cooling fan with E and the kids ...

The sign by Sanjo (third bridge) signifies its historical status and part of the famous Takaido highway

A coffee and green tea cookie in a very welcome cool spot ...

In the background (you can see the white lanterns) is one of the floats on the side of the street ...

... Golden Temple (and down the road believe it or not, is Silver Temple) ...

... people throw money to try and at least hit the bowl and make the 'ding' sound, but even better, to get the money into the bowl ... 

Because SEAR couldn't be part of my 60th celebrations in Paris, they made up for it by treating us to a lovely dinner on Pontocho  - my favourite Kyoto street; a historic, cobbled street running parallel to the Kamo river and lined on both sides with restaurants, their doorway and entrance paraphernalia (lanterns, altars, bells, ornaments, plants, signs and hangings etc.) crowding the narrow street.

We had dinner at one of the restaurants with an outdoor deck specially constructed for summer, then taken down again in the winter. (A's energy typically too much for the camera). 

The coloured squares are ceramic trays with sauces to dip the kebab-style food that was brought to us. The food was an endless supply - when we figured we had reached our penultimate piece of fried meat or fish, we let the waitresses know and she would signal to the chef not to cook any more.

Sitting with SEAR (... the R component of SEAR stretched out on a seat fast asleep) out on the deck in the warm twilight by the quietly flowing Kamogawa, hearing the occasional clip-clop from zori (traditional wooden sandals) on the paved river walkway below, was simply magic.

Our time with SEAR was brief but fulfilling. The best part was spending family time with them; reading to the kids, playing lego with them (also on the list) giving them breakfast so that the parents could sleep on (a grandparent's privilege), talking together, eating chocolate together, drinking E's plum wine, laughing together, eating together (sushi train, stall and market fare, home-cooked meals ...) walking together, experiencing the fun of a carnival together, picnicking together and generally catching up on things skype can't provide.

... drawing on the glass doors with special crayons that are able to be wiped off when finished ... I thought these were a great idea - must get some for the Dunedin grandchildren ...

All good things come to an end. We bid a sad good-bye to our family in Kyoto and headed for the airport. Our holiday and travels were over. For now.

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...