Even before the leaves suddenly started changing colour this week, there were signs of autumn. For instance:
- crocuses in my garden
- chestnuts to pick up, roll around in my palms, and put in my pocket to feel their satiny smoothness at odd moments
- mornings that are still dark when I have to get up for work (that will change when daylight savings ends in a week or so, but not for long)
- and of course the Canterbury Poets' Collective's autumn series of poetry readings.
There have been two so far. At the first I had the pleasure of arriving early to have a coffee and a bit to eat with Kay McKenzie Cooke, and to catch up on her news. Kay was one of the three featured readers, and I enjoyed her reading very much. She read from both her first two books (I have the second, but not the first) and also for her next collection which she is still working on - it promises to be another good one. The other two guest poets were local poet David Gregory and a visiting American, Mary Jane Grandinetti. David was rather too modest and only read a few poems. I would have liked to hear more of his tricksy word play. Mary Jane introduced us to short forms, in particular the fib. She edits two online journals for short poetry forms, the Fib Review and the Shot Glass Journal.
The second line-up of three guest poets included two local poets and one from Nelson. Robert Lumsden from, I gather, Singapore, was unable to make it so Sean Joyce substituted for him at the last minute. Sean has the wit and fluency of the Irish - his "Irish pantoum" was a great hit. Tom Weston was the other Christchurch poet, and again I enjoyed his intelligent and thoughtful poems. But Jessica le Bas from Nelson was for me the most memorable. Jessica read two poems from her first collection, but focussed mostly on her second book Walking to Africa. The poems in this book form a connected narrative about her experience of the mental illness of a daughter who became unwell at the age of fourteen. It is a powerful, moving and brave collection. I have to admit, after borrowing the book from the library, I didn't buy it. I thought that it might be one I couldn't face dipping into over and over as I do with most of my poetry books. I hope though, that it finds a wider audience than the usual poetry buying public. Jessica is an excellent reader although she commented that there are poems in the collection that are too difficult for her to read now.
Both evenings had the usual line up of open mic readers in the first half. There is an audience vote for the best, and since this is the twentieth year of readings, the best open mic readers will be the guest poets for the final evening in the series. It looks like being an excellent night.
And, also on the poetry front, I've pretty much decided to sign up for NaPoWriMo at Readwritepoem. I think it's time to remind myself that I can actually manage a poem a day, if I use my two fifteen minute coffee breaks. (Bad poems probably, but still poems, with potential for revision).