So I promised a little more on the Hone Tuwhare event in Palmy North. (Hopefully this post will soon be decorated with photos).
Palmy library is unusual in that the ground floor has been built as a stage/theatre - with windows that look out onto the main street, so we were literally performing in a shop window. Before it all started Genny and Philippa (the librarians) enthusiastically moved the heavy CD stands out of the way of the central area and set the stage up with posh couches, a table and even library-branded bottles of water (I didn't drink mine - it's still unopened, as my souvenir). Disappointingly for Genny and Philippa, when the other poets arrived they agreed with me that they preferred to skulk unnoticed in the background until performance, so all the posh stuff got taken off the stage again.
Used as I was to tardy Auckland poets, I was surprised to see most of the 80 or so seats were already taken by ten to two, and more people were coming in, so more seats were put out. The motorbikes were still roaring past at regular intervals and could clearly be heard through the plate glass windows. Poor Glenn had trouble finding a park due to all the motorbike activity and arrived just in the nick of time.
Helen Lehndorf was up first. She was one of the first people to tutor me in poetry in 2005, and I admit we had a rocky start due to my big ego and Helen being overworked, but since then we've fallen into mutual admiration. Helen is one of those multitasking women who juggles husbands, babies, tutoring and writing all at the same time and makes it seem human and natural rather than the realm of superwomen. She is also humblingly humble about her writing, which I think is awesome, and her performance style, which I also think is awesome. My fave one was a little poem she write about editing Hone Tuwhare's poetry when she worked for Steele Roberts (apparently Hone's grammar was shocking).
And then Angela Andrews, about whom I've written about before, quietly blew us away with her work. The thing about Angela is that she's impressive, but she does it so quietly you hardly notice. It's an amazing skill to have: I love the stillness of her poetry, and the way the passion creeps up on you. That's the thing about watching others on stage. I always want to learn from what they do. Of course by this time I was getting nervous because it was getting close to my turn.
After me, Glenn Colquhoun was the person most of us had been waiting to see, of course. He's a veteran performer - one can see that he's absorbed something of the kaumatua stance, the way he can dominate a stage with his voice and command attention. After his short set, someone asked for "No Ordinary Sun" to be read, and he did it far more justice than any of us women could have managed. And I'm saying that without a scrap of irony, for once.
I was really impressed at the way the audience stayed around for what was around two hours of poetry - they really had come to hear the poetry. Lots of people stayed to chat to us afterwards as well. I was a bit bemused by all the attention - a few people wanted their photographs taken with us (well, Glenn) and I even fielded my first autograph hunter which prevented me from helping Genny, Helen and Philippa with the cleanup(ahem).
Afterwards the four of us headed out to a local Indian place (which was excellent, I must say) and I found out what librarians are like after two bottles of wine. It was a hilarious evening and I learnt more gossip about illustrious literary figures than I care to repeat... but I digress. It was wonderful actually to just be in the company of people who loved poetry, and writing, as much as I do. To be honest, everywhere I've travelled in the country over the summer I've found these little pockets of fellowship. It might be that I'm just a naiive beginner, but so far I've found literary circles to be far more willing to open up to a newcomer than, say, the closed ranks of the medical establishment. But maybe that's my old bitterness showing through and I should stop here.