Friday, 26 September 2008


Hey folks. I've added a link to the right there, where you can vote for the next President of the USA. Not really, of course, but it's a place you can go to see who would win if the whole world really could vote. Take a look. And cast your vote. And spread the word.

And while I'm here: despite working my butt off all week, I actually managed to write a new poem last night. I rock.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Thursday morning

I'm feeling productive and virtuous this week. I've managed to do quite a lot of work (though still a long way to go before I feel in control of the emails) and had some much-needed leisure time as well. Last night I walked into town to attend the launch of Harvey Molloy's Moonshot (Steele Roberts). Harvey's a top bloke, with a diverse and interesting background that is reflected in the poems. He's an active reader (by which I mean he performs, rather than just reading, though I wouldn't call him a 'performance poet') and his poems are entertaining, even the serious ones.

While I was there I caught up with Clare Tanner, Managing Director of, with whom the Poetry Society is collaborating to run an online poetry competition. ($US1000 first prize!). She and I talked to Neil Furby, who used to be involved in Porirua's Poetry Cafe, sadly now defunct. However, Neil tells me the cafe Aunt Daisy's, in Titahi Bay, now has an open mic night on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Hoorah! I will get out there one month - though I can't say which one - when I can gather a friend or two to accompany me. I am so over going to things alone.

Anyhoo, I was lucky enough to be given tickets to the dress rehearsal of the World of Wearable Arts, so after the launch I headed for the TSB Arena (or whatever it's called at the moment) and met Wally and another audiologist and her receptionist who were also given tickets. It was a magnificent occasion and a spectacular production. It deserves all the positive publicity it gets. I couldn't believe it when the finale occurred and the lights came up - two and a half hours passed like blinking. My favourite moment? When Wally pointed out a particularly lavish construction and said, "That could have come from our house". I had just been thinking the same thing myself, and was working out how I could make the garment of mine it most resembled, even more interesting. I have some bling lying around somewhere...

Today should be just another working day, but I've got to pick Sylvia up from Onslow College (bus strike) at 3pm, and she has a doctor's appointment, so that'll be another hour. I'll take my book. I'm reading a Pat Barker (though the title eludes me for the moment), an English lit. fic. writer who always manages to put a psychological spin on her books. She's a favourite, and I'm reading her between indulging in what I confess is my current obsession - psychological thrillers of the Jeffery Dreaver and Michael Connolly nature. I stayed in bed until noon on Tuesday morning to finish The Vanished Man (Dreaver) because it was due back at the library that day. In the last month I've read 3 Dreavers, 1 Connolly, a Frederick Forsyth (the original master), and, for light entertainment, Jasper Fforde (The Fourth Bear) and Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors, short fiction and poems. Gaiman is a genius, but he can't write poetry to save himself.

Well, that's me more or less up to date. I'm enjoying judging the online poetry competition, and I get pleasure from hitting the no button for some of the awfulness that some people try to pass off as poetry, but even more pleasure when I read something I say yes to. If only because it's a far less common experience. Any halfway decent poet of my acquaintance could win this competition!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Mensa Annual Gathering & AGM

I planned to start early this morning, but when I opened my account, there were the postings from Tim, Helen, and Harvey for the last few weeks. Quick read-through, and now I'm up-to-date again.

Last weekend's Mensa Annual Gathering was fun. Interesting people to talk to and argue with, although there wasn't as much socialising as I'm accustomed to. The cocktail party on Friday night was highlighted by the making (by my dear pal Devon) of Long Island Iced Tea. If I have to confess to any failings, it would have to be a fanatical liking for this particularly alcoholic miracle. I made the second one myself - a cap of each liquor directly into my cocktail glass. Surprisingly, given that I hadn't eaten, this wasn't a seriously socially embarrassing mistake!

On Saturday we had the guest speakers I organised: Wally gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation on Alpine Hunting. Unfortunately there wasn't a proper screen available and we had to use a thin white sheet nailed to the (green) wall, so his gorgeous photos of the Southern Alps, including the fauna and flora, weren't shown to their best advantage. He was followed by Colin Craigie, who taught us some techniques to decode Cryptograms. These take up a large amount of space in our monthly newsletter, and I don't do them. Our third speaker was Simon Faulkner (spouse of my friend Anne), who is a Wind Engineer. He talked to us about the design and functions of wind turbines, with lots of lovely pictures. It was fascinating.

After lunch was free time, and lots of out-of-towners went off to see the sights - Te Papa was particularly popular. I stayed behind (I've been to Te Papa) and played a new game on PSP (that's Portable PlayStation, for those who, like me, are not into such things). We had 2 units supplied to us by Sony for trying out 'Echochrome', on the basis that we normally have a few teenagers at our annual gatherings. That wasn't so this year, and Sony had to make do with a few middle-aged women - not their target demographic, I'm sure! It took me about half an hour to figure out how to get the game loaded and started (opening the cassette door to put the game in was a particular challenge in itself). I never did work out how to choose which game I wanted to play, but I managed to stumble upon the tutorial, by pushing buttons at random, and then I sort of knew what I was trying to achieve. (I later brought the game home to let my 11-year-old grandson, Zac, have a go, but he found it too hard.) It was fun for a while, but I eventually got bored. Not addictive enough - I can spend hours playing online if I find something that grabs me.

We had a communal dinner on Saturday night, which was adequate, if not flash, and our AGM on Sunday morning. I had 2 reports to present: National Enquiries Officer (I answer the Mensaphone and emails from the website) and Wellington Area Coordinator. Some of us went out for lunch at the Silverspoon, Silverstream, afterwards, and that was it for another year. Roll on Summer Gathering 2009. The restaurant was great - fabulous food, and we got to sit outside without freezing or getting wet. I recommend it.

I also recommend the Silverstream pub, Hardware, as somewhere to go to watch the All Blacks stomp all over the Wallabies. It wasn't overly busy, but the crowd was there for the same reason as us - to cheer and whoop. A great evening by any standards.

Today I'm going to another meeting with Doug Wilkins, who is setting up the Pohutukawa Garret, a writing colony. It's an exciting concept, and I'd very much like the opportunity to have a Poetry Society presence in the complex. It's going to cost, in terms of a weekly rent, but it may be possible to get a grant for premises, if only I can figure out who to apply to.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Wellington City Council Literary Hui

Wow - 2 posts in one week. Dangerously like regularity.

I spent yesterday participating in a consultative arts hui run by a very experienced facilitator, Lawrence Green, for the Wellington City Council. Most of the time I felt completely out of my depth (nothing new), but my skills at creative mind-mapping came in useful, and I'm pretty good at putting things up on walls with drawing pins, so it wasn't a complete waste of time. The day essentially resulted in reminding Wellington writers of how hard it is to get the resourcing and information we need in order to thrive. There was a variety of suggestions for actions that could be taken to assist writers, and some of them were quite exciting (literary tourism, for example). Overall it was interesting to take part, but it was probably significant that a day that started with about 50 participants ended with around 20. Does this indicate that it wasn't interesting enough to stay till the end? That those who left had more important things to do? That those who left have no confidence in the possibility of an improvement of the artist's lot? I don't know. I stayed because I'm a persistent little devil, and I can't bear not to see how things turn out. In the event, I can't really remember what if anything I learned from the day, other than that others seem so much more in touch with things than I am.

So this weekend I'm off to the Mensa Annual Gathering and AGM, being held in the exciting city of Lower Hutt. The benefit of hosting this event is supposed to be that you get to attend without having to miss the comfort of your own bed, but as the venue is near Silverstream, and there's a bit of drinking involved on both Friday (cocktails) and Saturday (dinner and wine) nights, I'm biting the bullet and doing the sensible thing of living in. Sylvia will take care of the animals, and Wally and I won't have to fight over who gets to drink and who gets to drive. And, much more importantly, I won't have to get up early on Saturday morning to get there for Wally's talk at 10am. (Who was the idiot who scheduled such an early start? Oh, that's right - it was I.) Should be a fun weekend; it usually is.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Holy Moly! I've got a reader!

The lovely and talented Helen Rickerby has found my blog. That means I actually need to post on it occasionally. I went to Helen's book launch on Friday night (My Iron Spine, HeadworX), and bought my first book of poetry in a year (the last one was Sue Wootton's hourglass). I get sent heaps of poetry books, in my role as Editor of the NZ Poetry Society's bimonthly magazine a fine line. I usually skim through them before I send them out to reviewers, though I don't have time to read them all. For the most part I find them unmemorable, but a few have caught my attention. This is, of course, a very personal appraisal. I like poetry that I can read and enjoy the first time I read it, then come back and read it again and feel like I'm having a cup of tea with an old friend. I don't mind the currently fashionable way of approaching poetry as a multi-layered text with meanings that don't jump up and hit you in the face until after several readings. I just think that some poets make it possible to see in new ways without making you have to work for the privilege. And they are still poetic in their use of language and structure. In that list I include Billy Collins, Glenn Colquhoun, Sue Wootton, Claire Beynon, Lewis Scott and now Helen Rickerby. Jenny Bornholdt has very strong moments, but isn't consistenly accessible. I've heard Richard Langston read only once, at this year's Winter Readings at the Wellington City Gallery, and I think he might be in that list as well. They are all what I would describe as lyrical story-tellers: amazing choice of words and arrangements thereof in a narrative that leaves enough to the reader's imagination to be interactive, but not so much as to be better told as a prose story. I guess I'm not a fan of the Poem as Mystery. I like surrealism better in real life than in literature. So I'm probably out of step with current practice. Too bad.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

How to be a blogger

I've been chatting to Tim Jones, whose blog I read from time to time. He sets aside 2 specified times each week to post, and keep it all up to date. Great idea. And that's as far as I'm taking it.