wonderful to relate

posted by Michele

We were in Hawke’s Bay last weekend for a family wedding, a year on from the big ceremony at Matahiwi and the presentation of Jacob Scott’s laureate sticks. So it was a blast to find out some months back that my Australian niece and her Kiwi boyfriend were planning to get married in Hawke’s Bay where his large family has its headquarters. We were happy indeed to gather at Clearview Estate, just down the road from Haumoana, for the wedding which brought people from far and wide and was a high-water mark for both families.

The matua tokotoko was along for the occasion and was passed from speaker to speaker at the reception. It seems clear that the more this and the other laureate sticks go hand to hand, the greater their mana becomes. The wedding speeches were eloquent and moving, and of course the groom’s father knew Jacob Scott and is a published poet himself. These are the things you find out at weddings.

My part in the speeches was to read a poem written a few weeks ago and soon to be the last-but-one component of the collection that will be published in late June as Mirabile Dictu. It’s fair to say that of many wonderful things that have happened in the course of the laureate year and a half, none is as wonderful as the story that brought us all to Clearview for Almitra and Joel’s wedding.

wonderful to relate

my brother leaves a message    call me
something has happened    is it an emergency
or terra incognita waving about in the trees
closer than anyone imagined    a daughter
he says when I call him back    I have a daughter
and she is twenty seven years old

this takes a bit of explaining    and when
he has I ask is there a photo    did you take
some photos    the files arrive as we talk
I open them and there she is    someone
who looks like all of us    and is most surely
herself    the stranger who is his daughter
our niece    and now eldest of five cousins
it takes a long time to work out
the delicate shapes that might be    and when
it is done    she comes to meet us
more photos more talk    we have given her
our grandmother’s rings    she gives us
the gift of herself    if we will have her

that part is easy    and now there’s
a wedding in the air    they will tie the knot
with his people and we will travel again
to Te Matau a Maui    this time
with everyone on board    and in a vineyard
at the far end of summer    with strangers
who have made us welcome    my brother
will give away his daughter    knowing
she has made us into something bigger
and more precious than anyone
could have imagined    she is herself
and she is one of us    for her
we will travel the miles to Haumoana
looking at the windy sea    thinking about
long ago family weddings and how this one
is adding its quota of surprises
and serendipity to the story we thought
we knew    mirabile dictu we say
wiping away a sneaky tear    such wonders
and everybody talking    we are here
with a million champagne bubbles
bursting miraculously against our lips
wish us well    we are going to a wedding

How the story circles: our grandparents were married in Woodville in 1924 and my father was born in Hastings a year later, so there is a family connection to the Bay that just got a whole lot stronger.

Top; (left) Five cousins at Clearview, 14 March 2009, (right) Joel Watson and Almitra McQurade
Bottom: Henry Nelson Leggott & Janet Rintoul Elder, Woodville, 1924

Chalking with Mr Harlow and all

posted by Michele

It was chalking day on campus last week as this year’s Poetry off the Page cohort fanned out with poems to put into public space. With them was Michael Harlow, 2009 Burns Fellow and holder of the inaugural Caselberg Residency, in Auckland for the launch of his new book, The Tram Conductor’s Blue Cap (AUP). Student chalkers became Harlow ‘translators’ and were encouraged by Michael to co-sign the poem that went down outside the university library during the busiest part of the day. Elsewhere other chalking gangs were taking Harlow words up steps, across a road and around a parked bus. It was, said Michael, the best pre-launch a book of poems could hope for; and he finished the morning by taking requests from the class who by then had very close knowledge of some of his texts. Later we went to look at the range of poems that had made it to the pavements and were already wearing off under the tramp of feet.

The weather gods were kind to us this year and nobody had to watch their chalk poems vanish into gutters. Down by Old Government House digi-poet Helen Sword chalked graphics for her Stoneflower Path. And at the bottom of the OGH drive, hot and dishevelled but perfectly happy, I finished chalking a poem that traces the journey made by 24 year old William Leggott to Aotearoa in 1865.

Photo credits: Tim Page and POTP

Maggie Rainey-Smith on 'Houses by the sea'

posted by Michele

Wellington writer & bookseller Maggie Rainey-Smith has blogged about last week's event at the National Library, 'Houses by the Sea – Celebrating Robin Hyde'.

You can read her post on Beattie's Book Blog.