April 12, 2012
The very best poetry readings are where you manage to discover something about your own work while in the act of reading; that is, you forget the notion of performance while performing. Happened to me on Tuesday at The Gods, where I found a pun lurking in one poem that I had not previously noticed, and had to swallow an inappropriate laugh. (They do breed like rats just released onto a Pacific island in my work, it must be said. Puns, that is.) I also enjoy the response of the audience. A good turn up it was too, for Melinda Smith, Russell Erwin and myself.
I wore a Vogon poetry shirt, as a little reminder that if it didn’t go well, there are definitely worse poets out there, somewhere in the universe. But it did go well, and some very intelligent questions were asked of the three readers after the readings. You can see Melinda answering one being put to her by Geoff Page in the last photo, while I try and disappear behind the microphone. (Russell was there too, but out of shot. He’s the one in the striped top above.)
Reading one’s work is fun, as is discovering the work of others in their own voices. Melinda’s tart, elegant and poignant poetry, Russell’s dive-in and discover expansive explorations, and whatever it is that I write made for a varied menu. I managed to put in a plug for humorous poetry, too, during the questions. And people were laughing during parts of the reading, and I think in a good way.
Now back to the serious, beret-ed business of writing some more poetry, having scuttled out into a public place for a couple of hours.
February 21, 2012
Watching Les Murray
(I am not making this up)
I went to hear a certain poet
the best known one,
the big one we own.
I wished I could draw
his gentle circles,
his particular infinity.
But I can’t draw.
Though there were pencils.
Giant ones. Three metres tall. Red.
I am not making this up.
So I sat and watched Les,
dwarfed by these giant pencils.
And if you don’t believe that,
you won’t believe this;
the place where he read
was called The Gods.
So I sat, a poet from Lilliput,
leaning on a giant pencil,
listening to God, or at least,
his Southern emissary.
I laid wistful eggs on the pencils.
In time, something may emerge,
and help me make something up.
I went to see Les Murray read at the Gods, a café/restaurant on the Australian National University campus on Wednesday, 15th February. Organised, as always, by the indefatigable Geoff Page. There are giant pencils attached to the walls of the café, as you can see in this appalling photo:
Les Murray is so very good as a reader, and I was impressed by how many humorous poems he read last week. I wrote the poem above about four years ago, when I was just starting to make contact with my fellow poets (but before my licence was issued, in the form of my first book). It recalls a much shyer Penelope, sitting in the corner, watching Les read.
Another poet at Les’s reading was Mark Tredinnick, who, as you may know, recently won the Montreal Poetry Prize for his poem, ‘Walking Underwater’. Mark is of course endlessly teased now by cruel people (who shall remain nameless) about how he is spending the prize money, but he takes it very well.
All in all, this was a wonderful night and it reminded me of just how good poetry can be. As Les Murray said, poetry is strong stuff, and it doesn’t need the crutch of prose to justify itself.
Easy for you to say, Les!
On a totally unrelated issue, my review of ‘A Tingling Catch’ : A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009, ed. Mark Pirie, Wellington: HeadworX, 2010 has just been published at Cordite. Those who were worried that I was going to write a post without mentioning sport can now breathe more easily. Although watching poets read (and listening to them, too) has aspects of a sport about it.