At Joanna's book launch (see this post) I was offered a free double pass to a poetry event the following night, called Love Letters in the Margins. Not quite poetry, actually, but a fusion of poetry and music involving three bands, each with a poet appearing with the band.
I always accept free tickets! I planned to take my daughter, a contemporary of Marissa's, but she had to work, and the first few friends I tried were unavailable, so I gave up and decided to go alone. Which may have been just as well, because when I reached the ticket office at the Telstraclear Club where my name should have been on a list, they knew nothing about it. Since it was just me, however, they let me in for free anyway.
I thought I was entering what was basically a tent in Cathedral Square, but once inside I was astonished by the opulent surroundings - it was a polygonal space with plush upholstered wooden booths round the outside, and further polished wood chairs and tables on the floor in the middle. There was a bar and restauraunt service. The ceiling was draped red fabric with black scroll-like designs appliqued on - all very attractive.
The poets appearing with the bands were young local poets Marissa Johnpillai, Ciaran Fox and Ben Brown. I don't know their ages apart from Marissa, but their energy and style is what leads me to describe them as "young" as opposed to the more middle-aged and sedate sensibilities of many of the poets who read at the events I usually go to. Marissa read many of the same poems that she read at her book launch earlier in the week. What I like about Marissa's poetry is that it is positive and celebratory with none of the "angst" that often permeates the work of teens and twenty-somethings. There is a lot of food in her poems, and sex. It touches on her life both in Sri Lanka and in New Zealand, so has a touch of the exotic to it - but it also made me a little homesick for the Cuba St fountain in Wellington where I grew up! (Marissa spent a year studying for her Master's in Creative Writing in Wellington).
The main difficulty with Marissa's reading was that I felt the band, Le Mot Cafe, were a touch loud in places, making it hard to hear her words. It did help that I had heard the poems and bought her chapbook at her book launch.
The other bands weren't quite so loud. I'm not going to say much about the other poets, although I enjoyed their readings, because I haven't had the benefit of being able to read the poems before or after the event (perhaps I should have bought the CD).
I found the collaboration interesting. At her book launch, Marissa had also performed with backing music - the rather quieter tones of a flute. Some of her poetry, although far from all of it, falls a little flat on the page, and I feel it is definitely conceived as music as well as poetry - the intonation, pacing, and so on is integral to its success. Most of her poetry though is just as successful on the page as in performance. I did feel that in all three cases on Saturday night, the poets had written their work separately from the band, and each piece as performed seemed to be a fusion of first a poem read to music followed by a song which originally had no relation to the poem. Still, it seemed to work.
I've known Marissa for ages since she was a contemporary with my daughters at the Christchurch School for Young Writers, an organisation which runs Saturday morning, after school and correspondence writing classes for primary and high school age students. And this morning I caught up with another their fellow students when I saw her face in the newspaper - Jenna had been blogging as Tatiana Anymodel at Jezebel - here is her "coming out" post - it's a great read! And I have to say that the School for Young Writers was a great place (and still is) for nurturing young talented writers - I expect to hear more of both Marissa and Jenna in the future.