Tuesday, 25 February 2014

New Book Announcement

 The cover of my new book - the artist is Michael D. Cooke

It's getting exciting now. My new book is just about there. It has its cover, its blurb; it has been issued its ISBN number. My publisher, Rachel Scott at Otago University Press, has sent me the New Book Info. with its announcement that the book will be available in bookshops in April. We are looking at the launch being late April.

Born to a Red-Headed Woman
Kay McKenzie Cooke
Otago University Press
Paperback, 210 x 148 mm, 72 pp
ISBN 978-1-877578-87-8, $25
See below for ordering information

Order all Otago books from Nationwide Book Distributors/ www.nationwidebooks.co.nz/ books@nationwidebooks.co.nz/ Ph: 03 312 1603/ Fax: 03 312 1604

As the announcement hasn't a handy link, I am unable to post it directly on to Facebook or Twitter. Instead I am cutting and pasting it into this blog (and eventually on to my website) which I will then place on social media. Oh the intricacies!

Below is the blurb followed by an excerpt from one of the poems in the book, 'lost in my own green light'. (The title for this poem comes from the song,  'Lost in Paradise', sung by Sergio Mendes and Brazil 66).

'Using the extraordinary capacity of music to revive the places and people from our pasts, this poetic memoir springs from over 50 song titles or song lines and spans more than four decades.
Laconic, wry, subtly philosophical, Kay McKenzie Cooke’s new collection carries us from her rural Southland girlhood in the 1950s and 60s to the bitter pressures of adopting out her baby as a teenager in the 1970s, and to her present as grandmother, mother, wife and author.
A plain-spoken honesty, a sensitivity to the natural world, a gentle humour, a deep sense of how the richness of our relationships lodges in ordinary rituals and routines: all combine in a quietly moving autobiography.
Born to a Red-Headed Woman is documentary, vivid, ever grounded in the workaday detail of farming, the changing decades, family, city life and job. Yet at times the language peels right back to the tender nerve of major, formative losses.
If Cooke’s observations of the daily are the simple melodic lines that seem to coast on the surface, beneath that runs a rich bass line of meditation on time, on meaning, how to live a life true to oneself, and to familial love.

'lost in my own green light'

Laying a curved trail behind me
like a river in the long, gold-tipped grass
under a plain sky
not yet written on by weather,
heading for the middle,
safe from the peril of edges,
the dilemma of borders

Another way I can let people read this NBI (new book info.) is by sending it via email. However, this has proved a little patchy. Some of the email addresses I have are no longer current. The emails that have landed safely seem to have been received kindly with many people responding warmly. What lovely friends and family members I've got. (I am hoping other friends and family I no longer have an email address for, will see this on Facebook or Twitter).

 Aside from this minor frustration, I am buoyant. This book has had a long gestation. I started submitting it for publication in 2010. It has benefitted by the wait ... I have changed and added, tweaked and padded, which has in the end made it a stronger work. I opted early on to follow my Irish great-grandmother's advice and practice Patience and Perseverance (pronounced in a Derry accent as: 'Pay-shuns and Per-severance'). It has paid off.

The next two months are shaping up to be busy ones. Weekend vsits to see family, birthday parties, trips and poetry readings and of course the launch, all being part of the occasions planned.

The photos of the late-summer roses interspersed between the words on this post, were taken by me on Sunday, at the Dunedin Botannical rose garden.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Takoyaki, Japanese Peonies & a Whole Lot of Lake in Between

This stall at the Frankton Market that we went to on Saturday, reminded us of our trips to Japan to stay with our son & his family. Our son has cooked takoyaki for us a couple of times. Lovely to have this connection and to be reminded of special times.

Having a sand-pit for the children to play in is a great idea.

A sit and a coffee and a relaxing conversation while thinking about the wares available for purchase - honey, bread, jewellery, clothes, beer, vegetables, jams, cheeses, plants, gifts ...  

 Later that day in Queenstown, while on an uphill-walk in the warm sun, I stopped to take a photo ( it was a great excuse to have a breather as well) of this healing clinic's sign. I was very interested in their offer of Age Manipulation!

The view I got from the top of the hill, before dropping down to where we were staying with Robert's parents. Robert's father's joke is that our son (who at present lives on the other side of the hill from them) can now officially say that his grandparents are 'over the hill'.

  Jenny among the Japanese peonies in Granny and Granddad's garden.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

By the Side of the Road

After taking this photo, I became aware of a well-dressed, elderly man standing on the side of the road. He remarked, almost peevishly I thought, "I'm a rare bird." Maybe he thought I should take his photo too. I laughed and walked on. (Although I had to agree with his self-description - you don't see many 70-year olds on the side of a road with their thumb out, hitching a ride home).

There seemed to be a theme to my walk - perched birds bordered by a dreamy-grey and distant city-scape.

The architecture of wooden railings, posts, rooves and machinery, also became a feature; solid forms pressing and impressing against a soft background of mist.

Resting birds,
skeletal forms inside a frame 
of feathers,
as strong as they are fragile,
as light as the low cloud
they swim through.

With the patience of a fisher, this tern waited and watched for its chance to dive for food.

At this time of the year, the flowering shoots and pods of flax (harakeke) are strong and vital, with a dark-red hue. By the middle of winter the fronds will have hardened into brittle black, the stalks dry and grey. 


My eyes are often drawn to how the shape of the cabbage tree (kouka) appears to inform and / or enhance the style of New Zealand's architecture.

Painted bus-stops.

This is a favourite of mine. I am hoping that this bus-stop gets a re-touch rather than painted over with a different scene. I am rather fond of Moonfish.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Not Letting The Grass Grow On Your Roof

Usually when we go to Queenstown we stay with Robert's parents, this time we stayed with our son and his partner who are living in Queenstown for the first part of this year.

From the deck of the house they are staying in, you can look over Lake Wakatipu towards Cecil Peak ...

and his brother, Walter Peak. Kā Kamu-a-Hakitekura is the Maori name for both peaks.

'Maori overlanders first came to this area via the valley systems of Southland and Otago in search of food, fibre and stone resources. They hunted the large, flightless moa and they discovered sources of pounamu (greenstone) at the head of Lake Wakatipu. Expeditions into the area continued up until the middle of the 19th century, but permanent settlement was generally limited to seasonal occupation. A few groups stayed two or three years before returning to the coast.
The Gardens Peninsula was the site of a Moari Pa occupied by the people of the Katimamoe tribe. Maori tradition tells of the first woman to swim across Lake Wakatipu -- a distance of some 3km. Hakitekura, daughter of Tuwiriroa, a Katimamoe chief, asked for a kaueti (firestick) and a dry bunch of raupo. She bound them tightly in flax to keep them dry. Early the next morning, determined to out-swim all the girls in the village, she set out across the Lake. Hakitekura navigated by keeping an eye on Cecil and Walter Peaks whose tops, touched by dawn's first light, "twinkled and winked" at her; hence their name Kakamu-a-Hakitekura (the twinklings seen by Hakitekura). She landed on Refuge Point (Te Ahi-a-Hakitekura) and lit a fire, which is why, so the tradition goes, the rocks there are black to this day.
In 1860 William Gilbert Rees and Nicholas Von Tunzelman came to the area to develop its pastoral potential. They burned much of the beech forest and shrubland to open up grazing land. Later, trees such as Douglas fir, larch, sycamore, willow and poplar were planted to "enhance" the "barren" landscape. Fir has been favoured by local conditions and is now rapidly invading the alpine tussock lands. Today, wilding tree control is necessary to protect the natural landscape'. (This information was found on Queenstown Directory and Information Website)

Ready for breakfast Sunday morning.

Chris' job for the next while is with the wilding control that is mentioned in the information above.

Unlike this roof we spotted in Glenorchy, Chris and Jenny will not be staying long enough to let the grass grow on their roof.

This was a section in Glenorchy that Robert's parents used to own and where we as a family, when our sons were small, once pitched our tent. 

From Glenorchy, we drove to the entry to the Routeburn track. At the entry point to the track, there is now a free camping spot run by DOC, NZ's Conservation Department. 
From there we walked through a forest of red beech to Lake Sylvan.

Chris has had experience as a tour guide in this area and knows a lot about the plants and wildlife. I always learn something new. This small sapling is a Celery Pine so called because its celery-shaped leaves smell of pine. 

A keen photographer, Jenny always hears a camera getting ready to take a photo. (Robert and Chris were too busy looking for fish ).

Lake Sylvan contains small native fish and brown trout. The fish were easy to spot in the clear water.

It was peaceful sitting in the mossy shade and listening out for birds. Among the birds we saw, were fantails (piwakawaka), bush robins and the rifleman (titipounamu) which is generally considered NZ's smallest bird). 

Summer moss, as dry as toast.

In order to keep on the right track, we were following the orange plastic pointers.  The blue arrows, on the other hand, indicate where traps are located to catch stoats. If stoats (an animal introduced to New Zealand) were left to do their thing, they (along with cats and rats) would in a very short time annihilate New Zealand's bird population. 

If you are enticed by the idea of  forest walks and / or adventures in a mountain-and-lake resort, you might want to pay a visit to Queenstown, New Zealand. And if you need somewhere to stay that is affordable and welcoming, think about booking in to stay at the hostel Jenny and Chris are running during their stay in Queenstown. Here is the link.

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...