Sunday, July 26, 2009

Montana Poetry Day

Americans have a National Poetry Month. New Zealand poets, being far less ambitious, have a National Poetry Day. (The title Montana Poetry Day has nothing to do with the state of Montana, but the fact that it is sponsored by Montana wines).

Actually though, there are so many poetry events coming up here in Christchurch that it feels as if we are having National Poetry Month after all.

We kicked off with the launch of Marissa Johnpillai's chapbook on Wednesday, and on Friday - the day itself - Joanna Preston launched her new book, The Summer King. Joanna was lucky - and hardworking - enough to win the inaugural Kathleen Grattan award, which comes with a prize of $16,000 for a book length manuscript, and publication of the book by the Otago University Press. I've had the pleasure of hearing many poems in the book before at local poetry readings, and it was a pleasure to hear some of them again, and to take the book home to enjoy them at leisure later. Joanna's poems are never ordinary - she has a way of picking subjects which are slightly offbeat, and illuminating them with precise and perfect words.

Besides launching the book, she planned a wonderful event by inviting four other poets to share the evening. Each of them spoke about a poem by another poet that was a "touchstone" poem for them, and then read some of their own poems. I'm in awe of the way that each poet was able to speak intelligently and at length about poems and poets that had influenced them. I'm inclined to think that if asked, it would take me a lot of thought to get past "well, umm... because I like it..."

I'm fascinated too, by the range of venues local poets choose for their book launches. This was one of the more congenial - upstairs at local bar, The Twisted Hop, in a space that was just small enough to be friendly and just large enough not to be too crowded.

If you'd like to buy Joanna's book, do visit her blog - click on the link above - I'm sure she'd be delighted to tell you how you can buy a copy.

(Joanna - I thought I would find it on Fishpond, but their website tells me none of their regular distributors have stock available - I'm sure they would be happy to stock it if you let them know how!)

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