On Monday I went straight from work to the launch of local poet Bernadette Hall's latest book, The Lustre Jug. It's her ninth poetry collection and it seems to me they just keep getting better and better.
Bernadette spent six months in Ireland on the Rathcoola Residency and the first half of the book consists of poems from that time. Though born in New Zealand, her father was born in Northern Ireland, and her mother's family came from Southern Ireland. So she had an affinity with the country before visiting there.
There is poetry that is very "accessible" as for instance most of the poems on Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry series. And there are poems that seem to set out deliberately to confuse and mystify. The poems that appeal to me the most lie in the middle - as these do. There are complexities that reward careful re-reading, but they are clear enough to offer some immediate pleasures, too. They are warm, compassionate, intelligent, witty, and fierce, sometimes all at once. Bernadette is also a great tutor. She taught the first poetry course I ever took, and is one of the instigators of the Hagley Writers Institute which is an excellent course here in Christchurch that bridges the gap between hobby classes and university level Creative Writing courses.
Here is a link to one of the poems from the book, Leda at the Billabong, which appeared in Best New Zealand Poems 2008.
The event was held as part of the Christchurch Arts Festival. On the upside, that meant we had a great venue. On the downside, it meant that we were unable to linger and chat after the formal part of the event, as another event was booked in the same venue. However, as I left, another local poet approached me to tell me that she had found her family all listed on my online family tree. A few questions revealed that we are related - approximately fourth cousins. It always excites me to make new family connections - a small unexpected pleasure to top off the evening.
(For photos from the book launch, visit Joanna's blog, A Dark Feathered Art, here). I planned to take my camera but was running late for work in the morning and it wasn't where I thought it was.