Poetry Day, Otaki

Posted on Aug 16, 2017 | 0 comments

I don’t remember when I first started reading poetry for my own pleasure but at Greenmeadows School in Standard One I remember learning The Highwayman (Alfred Noyes) and another one with the first line …Do you remember an inn, Miranda?  When the entire standard one class said this line in unison and our voices went up at the end and ended in a series of little squeaks it was one of life’s truly hideous moments.  Like a knife being scraped across an enamel plate.

The teacher wanted us to ask it like a question so she encouraged our voices going up the scale but the reason I remember only that first line and yet – if pushed – I could probably remember all the seventeen verses of The Highwayman is because it had story and drama and those two ingredients always draw a response both from kids and adults.  Although when the whole class said it in unison the result was equally gruesome.

Then  when I was doing the first part of my degree, as an extra-mural Massey student I was introduced to John Donne, considered the greatest of the Metaphysical poets.  I remember that he got married to Ann More and was immediately put in jail and from there he wrote…

John Donne

Ann More


However, it all ended happily.  I can’t remember the first time I read a poem written by a New Zealand poet but it was some time earlier and it was probably Ursula Bethell.  She’s the one I remember anyway.  I lived in Hawke’s Bay when Jim Baxter and Lou Johnson held poetry readings in Hastings.  Louis Johnson worked as a journalist for the Hawke’s Bay Herald Tribune.  I trundled over to hear them and a friend and I watched as Baxter chewed an apple all through Johnson’s reading.

Then the 70s and a lot of women’s poetry began to be published in Aotearoa.  Not before time.

A long time and a lot of poetry reading later I spent a year in Lynne Davidson’s poetry class at Whitireia, an experience I loved.  She’s a good poet and there were good ones in the class and poems were shared, read, while we looked at form and tried to write some poems for the collection we had to hand in at the end of the year.

But the rest of it is reading, listening, finding my way, not making hasty judgements, making hasty judgements, knowing that a line is perfect but its in the wrong poem.

How these experiences led to me and my courageous students in my current Poem-a Week Workshop into organising a session to celebrate National Poetry Day in Otaki is unclear but they did and we are.  So if you’re in Otaki on Friday August 25, between 5-7pm, come along to the Maoriland Hub on Main Street and read us a poem.




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