Monday, November 09, 2009

A Week of Poetry

There was a feast of poetry to enjoy in Christchurch in the past week - if I'd been so inclined, I could have gone out to poetry events on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings and again on Saturday afternoon. As it turned out, I was way too tired on Wednesday evening for an event that started at 7.30 p.m. and, I was told, wouldn't really get going until around 9 or 9.30. This was the launch of Catalyst #8, a local poetry magazine that leans towards publishing younger poets (although not exclusively). A pity, because I'd seen a friend's contributor's copy, and it is a beautiful production.

I also passed on Friday evening's "Poetry for Pudding" , an open mic event (although when I went last month, we had to manage without a microphone). And on Saturday afternoon, the New Zealand Poetry Society launched their anthology - although the NZPS is based in Wellington, there were so many Christchurch poets included that they held the launch here. I, however, spent a very productive weekend in my garden, which left me feeling a bit stiff by Sunday evening. (I'm not sure if the garden actually looks much better to the casual observer, but I at least know what I achieved).

That left Thursday evening which I did manage to attend, believing it was probably the pick of the bunch. (No slur intended on the poets at the other events). Thursday's event was a fund raiser - "Poets for Samoa" - which featured some of Christchurch's best Pasifika and Palagi (white/European/ethnic designation of your choice) poets. It was the initiative of Christchurch born Samoan performance poet Tusiata Avia who read alongside Danielle O'Halloran, Ben Brown, James Norcliffe, Bernadette Hall and Fiona Farrell. The evening was chaired by Samoan playwright Victor Rodger, who did an outstanding job of introducing the poets, and of describing his time in Samoa after the tsunami with a wonderful mix of seriousness and humour.

I hadn't heard Danielle O'Halloran's poems before. We're a small country, and I've been to a lot of poetry events, so it's a pleasure to discover a new (to me) writer. Though I'm fairly familiar with all the other readers, some of the poems they read were less familiar to me. In particular Fiona Farrell read a newly written poem, "Falling" about her experience of waiting late at night in Heathrow Airport for a delayed flight, and seeing tsunami images on the television screens in the departure lounge.

Good poets are not always good readers and performers of their work, but these six were all excellent, whether leaning more towards the "reader" or "performer" end of the scale. An excellent evening, which raised the highly creditable sum of $700 towards tsunami relief.

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