It's good to see new poetry events springing up in Christchurch. For National Poetry Day in July one of the local events was "Poetry for Pudding" at Borders Bookstore. This is now being trialled as a regular event on the first Friday of the month. It's an open mic night (without the mic) held in Gloria Jean's, the coffee area at the back of the bookstore - which led to pauses in the readings as we waited for the coffee machine noise to die down a little. The poetry, as is usual at these events, was mixed in style and quality. However, at the end of the readings, an "accidental" audience member stood up and commented that he had never liked poetry, but he thought all the poems read out were great, and he had really enjoyed it.
I suspect the group would have been bigger if it was not for the other poetry event of the evening. At 5.30 we had a poetry reading for New Zealand Book Month with four well-known local poets and one out-of-towner. The readers were Joanna Preston, Tusiata Avia, James Norcliffe, Frankie McMillan and Otago poet Brian Turner. This was very much a time for re-hearing familiar work, as many of the poets were reading from their latest books, several of which are on my bookshelves.
An evening of entirely new poetry can be hard on the concentration, and familiar poems often gain on rehearing. I do wish though that New Zealand was a slightly larger country with a slightly greater pool of good poets. I was glad of Brian Turner's presence as he read a number of unfamiliar poems, and I do like at least some new work added to the mix. This is not to detract from any of the readers - the standard of the poetry was high, and all read well. The complimentary glass of wine no doubt added to the good spirits of the audience. At the end of the evening Brian was awarded the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award for contribution to poetry, and gave a suitably surprised speech of thanks.
It was a bit of a rush to get from one event to the other, and most didn't attempt it, so perhaps next month there will be a larger number of local poets enjoying "Poetry for Pudding".