Monday, November 12, 2012

NZ Poetry Archive Road Trip: Hawke’s Bay

 Wellington poet/publisher and archivist Mark Pirie reports for Beattie’s Book Blog on the Hawke’s Bay Live Poets Society, a lively regional poetry group.

In October, as an invited guest for the Hawke’s Bay Live Poets Society, I gave a talk on the Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa and was guest poet there.
Accompanying me was the co-founder of the Poetry Archive Dr Michael O’Leary who had agreed to join me in a joint presentation on the Archive.

We had a good drive up from the Kapiti Coast, with the latest Dylan album Tempest as background along with The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street – a favourite album of ours with its raw fusion of country, soul and blues boogie. The drive lasted for just over four hours. It took in Palmerston North, the re-opened Manawatü Gorge, Woodville and Dannevirke.
We had a good stop in Woodville where we had lunch at a café and checked out the old railway station now disused. Michael is an admirer of all things rail and used to work for NZ Rail in an Otago track gang.
We took a few fun snaps in front of the Woodville Station mural.
Nearing Hastings and just past Te Aute College and Pub, we changed to The Doors’ LA Woman. Jim’s lyrics: Well, I just got in to town about an hour ago, took a look around to see which way the wind blow...
Arriving in Hastings, we had dinner at a nice Thai restaurant that used to be the Cat & Fiddle Tavern, where (in Keith Thorsen days) the first decade of Live Poets readings took place.
The new Live Poets committee includes former Labour MP and poet Dr Bill Sutton, Chairperson Carole Stewart, Marty Smith, Dave Sharp, Marie Dunningham and the poet-dermatologist Dr Ian McQuillan. Bill and Ian shouted us dinner (on behalf of the committee) and then we all headed over to their monthly reading venue at the Hastings Community Arts Centre in Russell Street, near the town centre and sculpture park.
A smallish but appreciative crowd was on hand, about 30 people. Sometimes small audiences get the best responses and you get a chance to talk to people during the night.

Michael and I gave our talk on the Poetry Archive. We emphasised the importance of collecting our national poetry wares for public display similar to the arts council assisted Poetry Library in London. We stated we were always on the lookout for new additions and every kind of poetry was acceptable to our project: privately printed material to mainstream publications. We noted the lack of interest from some universities (so far) in what we’ve been doing. We received a great response to our talk.
Next, poets from the Hawke’s Bay read. There must’ve been at least 15 readers and it was a very supportive environment MC’d by Bill Sutton. There was a break to remember a recently deceased member Allen John (88). His daughter Kerin John read Allen’s last poem, a tribute to his late wife Myra, discovered on his computer. This again as Michael pointed out was a fitting reminder of the importance of having a Poetry Archive. Michael also read in the Open Mic. I liked a number of the poems I heard such as Laura Morris, a younger poet, whose poem I admired. Our doctor-friend Ian read a nice piece of light verse on the frustrations of passing lanes.

I finished off the reading with about 20 minutes of my own poetry. I first warmed up by reading Harry Ricketts’ fine elegy for Louis Johnson. I had reprinted my broadsheet tribute to Louis for the occasion. (Johnson lived in Hastings 1959-63 working as a journalist for the Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune and running his Capricorn Press there.)
These days I try to vary my readings with a broad cross-section of what I’m capable of: movie poems, imagist poems, minimalist poems, dramatic monologues, or stand-up comedy. A wide repertoire seems to capture people’s attention. I had a good response and people came up to buy my books after and congratulate us on the Poetry Archive initiative.

I would recommend this reading venue to fellow poets. The Hawke’s Bay region is rich in its wine trails and although we didn’t stay long enough to take in the scenery, others might have the time to do this.

The next morning, we met Bill Sutton for breakfast in Napier at his place before setting off for second-hand bookshops. A great little bookshop turned up called The Little Bookshop. Packed with NZ poetry, we took a box back to Wellington with us. This included Louis Johnson's Capricorn production of James K Baxter’s Two Plays: Jack Winter's Dream and The Wide Open Cage. The owner discounted the price as a salute to the non-funded Archive initiative.

On the way back, we called in to the NZ Rugby Museum at Palmerston North to show Stephen Berg, the director, a photo of my rugby playing Grandpa. Stephen discovered through a magnifying glass on a team official’s ribbon that the club photo was for SFC (Sydenham Football Club).
My Grandpa turned out to be a reasonable player (a tall forward) for Sydenham in Christchurch and College Rifles in Auckland, so another avenue for me to explore in the future. He was part of the star-laden 1927 College Rifles team that included former and current All Blacks and Auckland reps.

Plans are now afoot for more Poetry Archive road trips outside the main centres of Auckland and Wellington in the North Island. I joked about this becoming like the TV show River Cottage Road Trip without the cooking recipes.

Thanks to the organisers of Hawke’s Bay Live Poets for a wonderful evening.

Facts about the Hawke’s Bay Live Poet’s Society:

The Hawke’s Bay Live Poet’s Society meets once a month at the Hastings Community Arts Centre in Russell Street.
Guest poets have included Sam Hunt, Alistair Paterson and Glenn Colquhoun.
There is an open mic whereby members share a poem, usually one only on guest poet nights.
The society has a membership of 130.
The top turnout for the Society this year was 75 people (25 readers) and their average number of readers since 1992 has been 19 per meeting.

No comments: