01 November 2009

Watching for Smoke launch, and my Poetry Society reading

I’ve been a bit quiet lately. While this has partly been because my computer is still being fixed (Dad has replaced so many bits of it, in order to find out what wasn’t working, it’s going to end up as a different computer altogether), mainly I’ve just been recovering from a whole bunch of things, including the launch we had for the latest Seraph Press book, Watching for Smoke by Helen Heath (and getting lots of books made beforehand), and the reading I did at the Poetry Society the day after.

Watching for Smoke launch

This was lots of fun. I’d gotten a bit anxious because instead of arriving an hour beforehand to set up, as I planned, we got there with 15 minutes to spare due to a girl falling off her motorbike close to our place, and my kind friends bringing her up to the house to have a cup of tea and attend to her grazes. I needn’t have worried though – there were already people in the kitchen putting jam and cream on pikelets, and my team of family and friends helped us finishing setting up in record time (thanks guys!).

Being in an old church hall (St Peters in Paekakariki), and with treats such as the aforementioned pikelets, it had the feeling of a ‘ladies-a-plate’ sort of event, but in the best possible way. Kids ran around, or danced to the fabulous music of Dan, Stefan, and another musician whose name I’m afraid I didn’t catch.

Dinah Hawken launched the book. As well as being a poet admired both Helen and myself, Dinah is Helen’s supervisor for her MA in creative writing. (Helen will be putting the finishing touches to her portfolio, perhaps at this very moment.) Dinah said lots of lovely things about the book and about Helen’s poetry in general. She also said that she kind of wished that all poetry books could be just little books, like this chapbook, rather than having to be larger volumes. While I’m a fan of larger poetry books too, there is something very satisfying about the smallness and concentration of a chapbook.

Helen then talked and read a few poems, including one not from Watching for Smoke which she read especially for her father. We sold quite a few books, but I still have a few left (and a few left to make – though not too many). If you want to buy one, I’ll sell them to you for $15 direct – just email me at Helen.RickerbyATparadise.net.nz. Unity Books in Wellington will have some soon, where they’ll be $20.

Voyagers event and my reading at the Poetry Society

It was a bit of a busy day – immediately before my reading I attended the Wellington event for the Voyagers New Zealand science fiction poetry anthology publicity tour. (This must be the best-publicised book in NZ in recent history – and it’s actually published by an Australian
company.) Co-editor Tim Jones, who was MCing, kindly let me read first, so I could sneak off early to get myself together. I was very sorry to have missed most of the other readers, but I did end up really needing the time to get a bite to eat and, mainly, spend ages mucking around with my friend Angelina’s computer to get the datashow working. Actually, I didn’t muck around with it much, it was mainly my new heroes Angelina and Poetry-Society attendee Lonnard, who finally beat it into submission – or rather facilitated communication between the computer and the projector.

As always, the reading began with an open mic, and I thought it an especially good one. One of the highlights was Harvey Molloy reciting 'Caedmon’s Hymn' in Old English.

Everyone was wondering what I was going to do with the datashow, but I started off my reading low-tech, so they had to wait. I read some of my new poems that are playing with various ideas related to cinema, and then I showed them my wee video poem, ‘Calling you home’.

The main thing I used the datashow for was just to show an image while I read my poems. I’d tried this at my reading in Palmerston North in May, and it seemed to go well. So I expanded it a bit this time and while reading poems from My Iron Spine about women from history, I showed an image of the woman the poem was about (except Marie Curie, for whom I was unable to find a picture before my borrowed computer refused to connect to the internet any more that afternoon). So I had pictures of Kate Sheppard, Minnie Dean, Emily Brontë, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath. My final poem was ‘Artemisia Gentileschi’, which is basically talking about her life while talking about her paintings, so it was really great to be able to have people look at the paintings while listening to the poem. It made a lot more sense to a lot of people, and I think helped them to get the funny bits (there are one or two) in the middle of what is mostly a fairly grim, raw poem (it gets much more hopeful at the end).

We had quite a lively question time, and my favourite question I think, was ‘Did you realise that all those women looked like you?’ I didn’t, and I still don’t really think they do.

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