Poetry Monthly

Welcome to 2018 & exciting literary adventures!

By Gill Ward 

I’m thinking of the Readers and Writers – New Zealand Festival 8 – 11 March this year. So good to have it taking place in Wellington.

There are brochures in the libraries, and if not there will be some in the information site over by the Mediterranean Food Warehouse. I’ve seen them in cafes as well.  The events/sessions are very reasonable and there are many free events too.

We even have a Kapiti session at Mahara Gallery 4-5 pm on Friday 9th March, with two successful graphic novelists, Mimi Pond (USA) and Brent Williams (NZ). Of course you’ll find it online too WWW.festival.co.nz. That know-all Google will direct you!

Poets to the People, again

Our Poets to the People programme flies into action on Sunday 25th February 4pm to 6 (last Sunday of the month as usual). As always it will be at our perfect seaside venue – High Tide Café, Marine Parade, Paraparaumu, where Leigh and her staff look after us so well and so generously.

Michael Keith has worked tirelessly on behalf of Poets to the People for 4 years and is now moving on owing to other commitments. We acknowledge and appreciate all the work he has done with Elizabeth, especially organising the anthology, thank you Michael!

Hence this month’s email from me and I’ll pick up the reins again with Elizabeth who is really keen and efficient and has already lined up poets for most of this year.

Our February poet is Harvey Molloy a significant part of the New Zealand poetry scene with two published poetry collections and his poems have appeared in NZ Listener, JAAM and Takahe, and he is a previous winner of the New Zealand Poetry Society’s international poetry award. His poem The last surrealist was chosen in the 2011 Best New Zealand Poems. Molloy has taught in Secondary and Tertiary education including Assistant Professor at the National University of Singapore, and studied at University of Florida, Victoria University and Massey University.

New Zealand writers and writing are an important part of our cultural environment here. Many of our well known poets write prose as well as poetry, some we think of as either a poet or prose writer give us an almost equal portion of both genres. It appears that if you are a writer, writing is a need.

Is Katherine over-cooked?

Katherine Mansfield has been revealed to us through many means but the overriding way has been through her own almost obsessive writing.

Even though she moved from place to place, different countries and towns and was very ill she tirelessly documented her own life as well as writing letters, diaries, prose and poetry.

Reading the journals she left, so meticulously transcribed by Margaret Scott and Vincent O’Sullivan is rewarding. But! What more do we need to know?

Three well researched biographies (Tomalin, Alpers and Meyers) are absorbing and informative reading. Literary scholars have written about her connections and influences with Russian, New Zealand, and a book has been written about the Chinese view of Katherine Mansfield.

The ethics of John Middleton Murray

Katherine Mansfield and John Middleton Murray

New Zealand poets have written about her or referenced her in poetry. Novels have been written about her. Although Katherine had begged her husband John Middleton Murray to ‘leave all fair’ –  the title of a film produced by John O’Shea in 1985.

Her words :

I should like him to publish as little as possible …He will understand that I desire to leave as few traces of my camping ground as possible …. All my manuscripts I leave entirely to you to do what you like with …. Please destroy all letters you do not wish to keep and all papers …. Have a clean sweep…. and leave all fair, will you.”

Murray saw fit to publish anything he chose and write a considerable amount about her himself including publishing all the letters he wrote to her. Here I will make an acidic comment that when I read them I felt they were written for publication at a later date.

However, Mansfield has become a National Icon books have been written about clothes she wore, houses she lived in, the diseases that surrounded her in Wellington, places she visited, people she knew. Sometimes you could get the impression that she is more important than her writing. I own all of Mansfield’s writings and by a quirk of fate have the original Wellington Evening Post which contains her family death notice and obituaries.

National icon — but over-cooked

A shopping list, perhaps?

I dare to say that (I think) we coming close to ‘over cooking’ Mansfield. When I was thinking of writing this I though it ‘might get me into trouble’ but then I thought again ‘who will it get me into trouble with?’ and when I tried to imagine who those people were I realised I didn’t care.

Are we now waiting for The Intimate Confidences of Katherine by her hairdresser , or Mansfield the Musical, perhaps –  Notes from the corner dairy: The Shopping Lists of Katherine Mansfield.

Let us admire the writings of Mansfield, read what she has written and find her that way. Read about her life and give her a rest there is plenty out there already. As a friend said, Mansfield is New Zealand’s Elvis, and I add, she has left the building – leave all fair.

The man on the Day’s Bay wharf

When I had this discussion with another friend he sent me this comment, a little story about a man sitting at Days Bay.

‘He just wanted to converse himself with the lady in question on a human basis. As if she was still as she was once…prior to being “rediscovered and reinvented”

And then here she came, tripping down the causeway of Days Bay wharf arm in arm with another of her oft maligned ilk – that epitome of a tragic literary figure. Oh tragic, tragic. That lovely lady of pain/suffering and non recognition…Robyn Hyde.  

Why ‘Hello Ladies’, he smirked, hoping secretly that might acknowledge, at the very least, that they were somebodies amongst his world of nobodies. Yet they just kept on walking…right off the end of his wharf and outa sight. Just the way that things do.

It is so difficult to reclaim them. You have to keep on going down to the sea again. It’s a lonely sea and a sky. As they say.’

Although Mansfield’s prose is stronger than her poetry, she wrote poems from a young age which gave us another perspective into her life.

I will finish with a poem that tells us about Katherine in her own words…


The man in the room next to mine

Has got the same complaint as I

When I wake in the night I hear him turning

And then he coughs

And I cough

And he coughs again –

This goes on a long time –

Until I  feel we are like two roosters

Calling to each other at a false dawn

From far away hidden farms


Keep calm and keep on reading