Poets to the People of Kapiti
“The defrocked priest of New Zealand literature” is how Gill Ward said poet, Vincent O’Sullivan, had been described by a fellow poet. O’Sullivan read at Lembas Café in Raumati South last Sunday. He delighted the crowd with his poems and with his generosity and willingness to share some of his poetic wisdom: “Poetry is a game”, he said, “something you get pleasure from … [but] … you can’t write without form … [and] …discipline … Rhythm is the very core of poetry…”
O’Sullivan joins an impressive list of published and award-winning poets – several dozen since 2007, when Dinah Hawken set the poetic ball rolling at Lembas – all at Gill Ward’s invitation. Others have included past Poet Laureates, Bill Manhire and Jenny Bornholdt; her husband Gregory O’Brien and Denis Welch from Wellington and, closer to home, Kapiti’s Glenn Colquhoun, Julie Leibrich, and Martin Sanderson who, with his wife, Wanjiku Kiarie, was guest poet shortly before his death late last year.
From 4pm on the last Sunday of each month – February to November – poetry lovers pack into Lembas; and the café stays open longer especially for the poets, thanks to the willingness of Gail Lewis and her staff to work overtime. Proceeds from a koha entry pay for the guest poet, and last year contributed to the publication of a volume of poetry aptly named Poets To The People and dedicated “to the loyal audience and poets who perform at Lembas”. For it is not only guest poets who recite poetry at Lembas; each occasion starts with an “open mic” for anybody who wants to share a poem they’ve written.
Poets to the People is not the first poetry group on the Kapiti Coast, but it is the most enduring. It all started after a suggestion by Kapiti poet Lindsay Rabbitt to invite established poets to read to local poets and interested people. It has continued largely due to the dedication of Gill Ward, the dynamo who keeps it all going: she manages each session, never fails to make apt and encouraging comments after each contribution to the open mic; invites each guest poet, publicises their visit, introduces them and thanks them. So passionate about poetry is Gill that she also runs a U3A poetry group in her own home – and that’s as well as being the Garage Sale Queen of the Kapiti Coast – and the inspiration for the film Second Hand Wedding. Gill is a local treasure.
Maureen Birchfield, a fan