The Rope Walk is launched!

Before I blather on about the launch of this fine, artisanally-produced book THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN ORDER ONE. GO ON. SUPPORT NZ POETRY AND INDIE-PUBLISHING. 

On the weekend, I attended my darling friend Maria McMillan’s (I wrote a bit about Maria HERE) book launch at the Aro Community Hall. This is her first book and it’s with Seraph Press. It was a wonderfully warm-hearted event. The large turn-out and delightful people who attended were testament to Maria’s standing in the community.

This is my favourite photo of the event, because it wouldn’t have been a Maria event without a lot of tea & Maria’s favourite colour is blue – the lovely Crown Lynn colour glaze cups belong to the hall – a lucky coincidence! I associate Maria with tea and then another round of tea and then maybe some more tea but perhaps some toast this time, too….more butter please! I think I would like a giant ‘community-hall’ teapot for one-fill afternoon teas with all my mates. (Having said that – I’d probably have to boil the kettle five times to fill one. This is a teapot designed to go with a Zip boiler. Anyway, I digress….)


(by the way….two cups of tea were drunk in the writing of this blog post.)

Maria’s partner Joe Buchanan designed and letter-pressed the cover of the book, including the drawing of the ship on the cover. It is indeed a beautiful artifact with great attention played to paper, card, pressing, stitching. Book as objects d’art. But it is not all style over substance….the poems, an invented family history across multiple generations, starting with the first settlers are rich, detailed and poignant. For a chapbook, this collection is dense and satisfying. It has the heft of a full collection in a chapbook size.


Here writer Pip Adam (right) pulls her characteristic making-a-joke face and Maria displays her new shaved undercut…


(At the launch, a man called Ian (who I am told used to work at Aro Street Video) came up to me and (gently) accosted me for writing this blog only for my friends and not including enough context and links. If you are reading this, Ian, thanks for the feedback and I have resolved to take more care with both from here on in! Leave a comment if I’ve failed to do so in this post.)

Given our long writing history together, I felt all puffed up with pride during the launch…getting misty-of-eye during Maria’s speech, and feeling outright joy to see her signing books at the sale-table. This is the moment every writer longs for! (I remember how wonderful and weird it felt for me at my launch.)


There were flowers everywhere – gifts from her friends. These ones on the piano were just a few of the gorgeous bouquets everywhere. Here is Maria giving her speech.


Here is Maria with Kirsten McDougall who launched the book and gave a thoughtful and celebratory speech.


Here is Maria talking while Seraph Press Editor Helen Rickerby looks on…I liked this shot because you can see HR’s trademark stripey tights:


Here is Helen Rickerby again with writer Helen Heath who is doing a bit of unsubtle product placement:


Congratulations, Maria and Helen, on a wonderful book and a delightful launch. x

(Maria blogs HERE. )

Finally, writer Janis Freegard bidding me (and now you!) farewell in her fantastic panda-with-paws hat/mitten ensemble. Janis always has the best accessories!



win Graft!

I went to a lovely poetry event in Paekakariki last Saturday – the launch of Lynn Davidson’s ‘Common Land’ (VUP) and a local celebration of the recently launched ‘Graft’ by Helen Heath (VUP). Both poets were interviewed by Paekakariki poet, Dinah Hawken. It was a lovely laid-back affair with mood-lighting, a traditional ‘hall supper’, wine, tea and live music after the poetry. Quite relaxed and wonderful!

Here are Dinah Hawken, Lynn Davidson and Helen Heath:

Here are two of my dear friends, whom I love very much and who will probably kill me for putting a photograph of them on the internet:

Here is a random shot of some people enjoying the night – I wanted to show you the beautiful rose-lamp! :

Helen writes a bit about it her launch HERE, with links to Helen Rickerby and Graham Beattie’s accounts of the launches, also.

Congratulations, Helen, on all the ‘graft’ that went into this terrific book. It has certainly paid off – what a great achievement!

‘Graft’ is rich and carefully-crafted book. There are affecting and emotional poems about the terroire of motherhood and grief. There are sad/funny/sad poems about a composite character from the Hutt Vally called ‘Justine’. There are playful and moving poems about science and scientists. In short, there is a lot going on in this slim volume and it is a dense, satisfying read.

If you would like to win a signed copy of Helen Heath’s  ‘Graft’, leave a comment telling me what your favourite poem by a New Zealand poet is. (New Zealand residents only, please.) I’ll randomly draw  a winner in one week’s time. Good luck!

Here’s to charmed evenings in little town halls, with moody lighting, poetry, live music and home-made lamingtons! I could do that every Saturday…



The David Merritt Experience

I met David Merritt late last year when a colleague introduced us. We had a coffee and talked poetry and chickens and politics and I was very impressed by his dry, self-effacing humour and sharp-as-a-tack brain. When you talk to David it isn’t like the tennis of usual conversation: my turn, your turn, my turn, your turn, in measured thwoks….it’s more like chasing a snake through the grass – sometime he is right there, present and gleaming and you’re close – so close! and then he slips off into some elusive (but usually hilarious) tangent and you’ve lost him again.

He’s a poet – a unique one, in that he makes small books out of the waste of other books (usually Reader’s Digest Condensed Classics which he rescues by the box-load from Dump shops because they don’t sell.) He tours the country, sitting on the street, making books, talking to people and selling his books out of a little wooden drawer ‘for the price of a good cup of coffee’.

Last night he ended his latest tour of the country in Palmerston North (he lives kind of near by in Mangamahu) so I went along and it was a grand evening out.

His performance is more ‘experience’ than typical reading, because he shuffles around the room, interacting with people so there is no illusion of the line between poet and audience, taking requests, talking and poking fun, laughing at himself and generally filling the space with his gentle, delightful presence and aroha.

The night reminded me of a parlour performance I attended by the incredible actor Warwick Broadhead – there was the same invitation to people (not literally, but invoked) to engage, to be more present in their lives, to challenge what they are being offered and turn it into something better.

The local ‘support’ act was Rob Thorne who does amazing things with Nga Taonga Puoru and effects pedals. Then David was accompanied by Chris Heazlewood (formerly of King Loser) on guitar playing incidental music between and behind the poems. The guitar playing was subtle and interesting and enhanced the poetry very well.

There is no doubt from his poetry that David is a romantic – nature is beautiful and pure, jobs are for sell-outs, the disenfranchised are heroic, relationships with women are either high-romance or hate – however, I am entirely susceptible to this manner of romance, so heartily enjoyed it and found myself crying at one of David’s ‘barbaric yawp’-style poems exhorting the reader to shoot him if he finds himself in a litany of deadening situations – the kind that probably most of the audience dwell – suburban housing, day jobs etc.

I had a great night and went home fizzy with ideas and inspiration. If the David Merritt Experience passes through your town – I reckon you should definitely make the effort go. It is entertaining, involving, funny, moving and much, much better than anything on the TV.


snail mail is love in action

Late last year I did a mail swap with ROSE BEERHORST, the eldest daughter of the wonderful BEERHORST FAMILY. Rose and I have been ‘friends’ on flickr for a number of years and I have very much enjoyed her and her family’s photos there, and their blogs. In fact, I’m slightly obsessed with them and their pure-living, home-schooling, art-making ways.

Unfortunately, Rose’s package came in the middle of my work maelstrom of late last year, so I didn’t record it upon arrival. The other day, though, cleaning out a drawer, I came upon some of the wonderful things she sent me. (Just some of many!) (Sorry about the average photographs – I took these late at night, tired and impatient…)

Some of her terrific home-made patches:

A ‘zine she made for an art project about ‘Patchwork’, more as being representative of her political beliefs than in the literal sense. This quote was on the back of the ‘zine and I like it very much:

And, how wonderful and quirky is this, a ‘love’ bean – which is a real bean which has somehow had things stamped into it. It is the cutest thing I’ve seen in a long time and I love it:

Thanks so much, Rose!

My next project is to write a letter to Rick Beerhorst, as he has declared on his blog that he always ALWAYS replies to snail mail, making him a rare beast in this digital age, and so I intend to put his declaration to the test! I love snail mail!


the garage sale

All summer, as I went through the house room by room, cupboard by cupboard, this corner was full of a growing pile of stuff for a garage sale.

It grew and grew and sat there in the corner – reminding me to keep clearing out and to try not to accumulate so much in the future.

Sometimes I would put things on the pile, and then take them off again. Usually I returned them to the pile. The strings of attachment – tugging, twanging.

On Saturday we had the garage sale. The finale for the summer of decluttering.

We sold heaps and made just over $300. Given the most expensive thing was $30 and most things were priced at $1, this might give you some idea of how much stuff we got rid of.

Without wanting to sound ungrateful to the people who came along and bought our stuff, lining our pockets…some of them were very eccentric! Firstly, we had people door-knocking the night before – wanting to get a first look. We politely told them to come back in the morning.

Then in the morning, although we advertised the garage sale as starting at 8am, people starting arrive just after 7 and many of them stood, in the fairly brisk windy weather, at the gate while we set up, waiting and calling out to us to let them in. Now, that’s keen.

There were the two women who had a physical fight over a rusting enamel jug, whacking me in the chest in the process, because I got in their way.

There were the record collecting people – who were all great, actually, but quirky as anything. Especially the older guys who reminded me very much of Harvey Pekar, in his comic strips about collecting ‘sides’.

There were the hard-core hagglers, who pick up five things costing a dollar and say – ‘Would you take $2? How about $3?’

But like I say – we are grateful they came! And spent their hard-earned money on our unwanted possessions.

I sold a lot of my records. It was a big decision to sell my records and I thought I would feel quite pained to see them go, but the morning was mostly pain-free – the only pang I felt was when someone bought my Velvet Underground record. Pang! Pang! Bye, bye iconic Andy Warhol banana. Then off it went down the driveway and I was $5 richer.

Now the corner, which had started to ressemble the trash-heap from Fraggle Rock is clean and clear and empty. I mopped the floor and placed this chair in the corner and a deep sense of peace came over me.

All around the city are people pleased as punch with their bargains while here at my house, I am happy about my empty corner, my lightened load.




crafternoon tea

At work (City Library) we’ve been running ‘Crafternoon Tea’ on Friday afternoon where local craft enthusiasts can bring some handiwork, we provide a bit of afternoon tea and they can meet each other, sit and knit or sew and gossip. It’s not a new idea – I stole it from similar things in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. I don’t know who turns up in the bigger cities, but one thing I’ve been surprised about here, is the mix of ages we’ve had – which I think is fantastic. The ages mix so well! At one point I was a little nervous that the older ladies might be offended by the hand-work of my punky friend Alice. She knits ‘c**t-cloths’, cloths for washing ‘downstairs’ – pink cotton cloths with the word ‘c**t’ knitted into them. However, the older ladies just laughed and laughed and one said: ‘Oh good idea, dear, after all you wouldn’t want your c**t-cloth ending up in the kitchen by mistake.’

We’ve had all ages from teenaged girls doing super-hip craft, embroidering ironic things on to tote bags and knitting giant scale cowls…to women in (I’m guessing) their late seventies, like the lady in the photo above. I’ll call her Celia, which isn’t her name – but I don’t know how she’d feel about me writing about her here so I’ll give her a psuedonym.

Celia is hilarious.

That tablecloth she is working on in the photograph above – she said: ‘Well, I’ve been working on this for nearly 20 years, but I lost it for about 10 years. I found it again just before Christmas when I was looking for some buttons in my craft room. When I started doing it, I was doing it for my mother, but of course she carked it in those ten years it was lost, so now I’m doing it for my daughter.’

When I offered the biscuits around (Chocolate digestives and wine biscuits) Celia said: ‘Oh it’s so nice to see some plain biscuits on offer. I don’t eat chocolate any more, you see. About ten years ago, I was just getting fatter and fatter because of my terrible sweet tooth so I said to chocolate – ‘I’m finishing with you, chocolate!’ and I’ve stuck to that. After all, when you finish with a boy, that’s it, you don’t look back. So why should finishing with chocolate be any different?’


Today is Crafternoon Tea day. I hope Celia comes!


the stay at home mother contemplates flight

My friend Bryan Gibson, who is a talented musician and photographer, ‘bootlegged’ me reading my poem ‘the stay at home mother contemplates flight’ at my Palmerston North book launch and made this movie, featuring his guitar-playing. He put this together the very night of the launch! I love having creative friends who will do things like this just for fun.

You can watch it HERE.

(I think I like his guitar better than the sound of my own voice. I have cringe about how nasal my voice is.)

When I saw this mattress in our local park I thought a) hobo bed and b) how do heavy mattresses end up in parks?