The Poetry Scene At Year’s End

Kapiti is a great place for poetry

By Gill Ward

poetry-5The end of the year and I often think about the dawn of 2000 AD. What a place the world has become. How we need a little dose of calming poetry these days.

Kapiti is the right place to be for poetry.

People write poetry, read poetry, perform poetry, discuss poetry and books are published by local poets: check out the Kapiti Writes selection in Paraparaumu Library.

At High Tide Café on Marine Parade there has been a stellar collection of visiting guest poets this year. Each one has been different and has much to offer.

Helen Rickerby featuring at High Tide

helen-rickerbyFor the last turn of the year, on November 27, we can look forward to another fine poet, Helen Rickerby. Helen is a Wellington poet who has published four collections – her most recent, Cinema (2014), took its inspiration from films and film-making.

Previous collections are

  • Heading North (2010), a poem sequence that road-trips from Wellington to Cape Reinga
  • My Iron Spine (2008), which features biographical poems about women from history
  • Abstract Internal Furniture (2001), in which the mythic and the everyday meet.

She’s currently working on her next collection (working title: How to Live), in which she attempts to grapple with the big philosophical issues, but does not promise to answer them.

Helen is also the managing editor of Seraph Press, a boutique publishing company with a growing reputation for publishing high-quality poetry books.

(Thank you to Michael Keith for the above information.)

Helen has agreed to talk a little about her publishing experience and will answer questions if people have them.

The talented and fascinating Philp Larkin

philip-larkinI am reading about Philp Larkin at the moment.  Having owned and read Letters To Monica and also Andrew Motion’s Biography of Larkin, I have been rereading Larkin’s Collected Poems edited and introduced by Anthony Thwaite, which reawakened my interest in this complex man.

Consequently I bought James Booth’s book Philip Larkin Life, Art and Love. (Bloomsbury2014) This book links Larkin’s poems into the context of his life. It is fascinating reading and I am reading it in conjunction with Larkin’s poems.

The collection volume being a sort of poet’s companion as I read it along with the biography. Check out the library for Larkin and remember with the library smart-card  books are able to be borrowed from several other regional libraries. His poetry is unlikely to disappoint you!

The amazing Sam Hunt with a new collection

Sam Hunt (Photo Jeremy Rose)
Sam Hunt (Photo: Jeremy Rose)

Sam Hunt’s recent collection Salt River Songs (pub. Potton and Burton) is so rewarding!

Sam never ceases to amaze.

He inherited his prodigious memory from his mother who could quote the whole of the 193 lines of Lycidas off by heart and I believe Sam knows over 3000 poems by heart, his own and other poets.

On the back cover the poems in this book are described as ‘unflinchingly honest and moving’. They certainly are.

The poems meet aging and death head on with an air of familiarity.

It is as if Sam knows death, dying and aging with the affection of slightly bothersome brothers. I loved it. Rock on Sam!

Writing poetry in their spare time!

Reading about Larkin, who was a librarian all his life, put me in mind of other poets who held down day jobs while they managed to become internationally famous poets. Look at this! William Carlos Williams – doctor, Wallace Stevens insurance executive, Charles Bukowski – a mail man (so was James K. Baxter – our mailman when I lived at home actually), Robert Frost a teacher but also a failed farmer, T.S. Eliot a bank clerk, and Pablo Neruda a diplomat.

As Richard Langston said ‘poetry makes thin children’.

And this by a poet worth noting, who became a noble prize winner and still has a full time job.

Tomas Transtromer – Day Job: Psychologist

Tomas Transtromer (PhotoThe Guardian)
Tomas Transtromer (Photo:The Guardian)

The 2011 Nobel Prize winner has been balancing his writing with his work as a psychologist for over 50 years. Tomas Transtromer published his first collection, 17 Poems, in 1954 and graduated in 1956 from Stockholm University with a degree in psychology.

Since then, he’s split his time between writing and psychology, and he now works as an occupational psychologist for the Swedish government.

Along the way, he’s worked at the Institution for Psychometrics, as well as Roxtuna, a youth correctional facility–and he also went on to become Sweden’s most famous poet. He now has New Collected Poems out translated by Robin Fulton (Bloodaxe Books UK 2011).

Use your local library to get poetry books!

librariesDon’t forget there are forms in the library for requesting a book to be purchased for the library. If you are successful and they are able to find the book you get first dibs on it.

It’s a good idea if people besides me request poetry books – it will illustrate the demand. Go for it!

Our last U3A NZ Poetry course for the year was this week. Members brought along a poem to share one they had written or one they chose because they liked it.

The last lines from American Poet, Mary Oliver, The Summer Day, struck us all,

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild precious life?

To finish, words I liked from Thomas Hardy

The business of a poet and novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things, and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things.

Hope you like it too. Let’s put ‘sorriest’ back in the language – heaven knows there’s plenty of opportunity to use it.

Season’s Greetings, and may 2017 be marginally above average for you.

A realistic wish…

Gill Ward