it's cilla

It's official – the NZ Poet Laureate for 2009-2011 is Southland's own Cilla McQueen, from Bluff. We in the north remember the warmth with which Cilla welcomed a gang of 22 poets to her home ground for the BLUFF 06 symposium. We remember the fabulous hospitality of Te Rau Aroha Marae where we stayed and where Cilla launched her CD, A Wind Harp, with that inimitable smoky voice and backing from the Blue Neutrinos. Then there was the trip to Rakiura (Stewart Island) for the second leg of the symposium, a big reading in the community hall at Oban. Cilla, we will never forget the south, and from all points north we salute you and extend our love and good wishes as you begin your laureateship. Arohanui!

Rob Allan, Tusiata Avia, Jeanne Bernhardt, Hilary Chung, Kay McKenzie Cooke, John Dolan, Jacob Edmond, Martin Edmond, Murray Edmond, David Eggleton, Cliff Fell, Brian Flaherty, Paula Green, Michael Harlow, Bernadette Hall, Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, David Howard, Alison Hunt, Michele Leggott, Bronwyn Lloyd, Therese Lloyd, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Emma Neale, Richard Reeve, Jack Ross, Helen Sword and Lisa Williams.

Here is Cilla's poem from OBAN 06, the online anthology that was compiled and launched during the symposium:


Diesel sounds aromatic
magenta, oxblood,
mineral smooth
any how as boronia

swivel that levers
a shoepolish lid,
key curls oily metal.
Poetry takes you apart,

puts you back different
as this day's passage
on shapeshifting water,
one to another island

swift as the stroke
of a pen the toothed strait
on the whale's path
chewed through, islets

scattered between,
text in motion
gimballed on muscling
swells, word-ware, cargo.

Bluff, April 2006

Images from top:
1. Cilla McQueen and Richard Reeve check the marine forecast en route for Rakiura on the Foveaux Express, 23 April 2005
2. Early morning at Te Rau Aroha Marae, the wharenui carved by Cliff Whiting
3. View from the harbour at Oban

Photo credits: Brian Flaherty and Alison Hunt

Molly again

In September last year Michele wrote about Mollie the Ohakune elephant. To mark the end of Michele's laureateship, writer, blogger and crafter Bronwyn Lloyd made the Molly you can see here.

You can read more about this Molly on Bronwyn's blog.

the last two and a half months

posted by Michele

The final stretch of the inaugural laureateship was as busy as the rest of it. Here is the date list:

20 April Guest speaker and reader at Devonport Rotary Club meeting.

29 April MC for LOUNGE #7 (note:PDF) ten readers doing five minutes apiece, one of the biggest readings to date with over 70 people packed into the Old Government House Lounge, Auckland. Photos here (note:PDF).

11 May Launch speaker for Chris Price’s new book of poems The Blind Singer at the Gus Fisher Gallery in Auckland. Chris performed with partner Robbie Duncan and pianist / composer Jonathan Besser. Graham Beattie blogged the occasion here.

18 May Guest lecture and reading for Jack Ross’s stage two Life-writing course at Massey University, Albany campus. We discussed researching family history by means of the treasures from Papers Past.

27 May MC and reader for LOUNGE #8 (note:PDF) at Old Government House, Auckland. Photos here (note:PDF). LOUNGE will resume August-October with another three readings. The series is archived here.

2 June Launch of Phantom Billstickers poem posters in Auckland with Tusiata Avia, James Milne and others. View the video Poem Posters to the World and look out for further poster runs as the Phantoms sort almost 400 poems sent to them for consideration.

11 June Workshop at Stanley Bay School, Devonport, to launch the community project A Million Poems for Matariki.

17 June Guest speaker and reader at the University of Auckland’s Schools Partnership dinner, ‘A Hint of Gold.’

19 June Launch of A Million Poems for Matariki at Devonport Primary School.

24 June Start of Matariki 2009 and launch of Mirabile Dictu at the Devonport Public Library.

30 June Launch of Mirabile Dictu and Michele Leggott / The Laureate Series at the National Library in Wellington.

7 July Guest poet for Poetry Live with musician Jonathan Besser at The Thirsty Dog in K Road, Auckland. We excerpted a quartet of poems from Mirabile Dictu and presented them as ‘dog dove elephant parrot.’

Coming up

22 July Celebrating the new laureate with the National Library and Phantom Billstickers in Wellington.

24 July Reader with Murray Edmong, Bob Orr, Ian Wedde and others at Poetry Central 2009 at Auckland Central City Library. The event celebrates John Newton’s The Double Rainbow, a fascinating enquiry into James K Baxter’s impact on the tangata whenua and the young people who came to Jerusalem in the 1970s.

26 July MC and reader with Helen Sword and Sonja Yelich for A Million Poems for Matariki: Reading at The Depot in Devonport 1-3 pm, where some of the 1000-plus poster poems will be read and book prizes given away.

2 August Guest speaker for Retina NZ meeting in Parnell, Auckland.

7 August Workshop with Poukawa School in Hawke’s Bay. More poems, more posters, more chalk!

a sky-ful of poems

posted by Michele

A Million Poems for Matariki brought more than 1000 poster poems from school children and others to the streets of Devonport, Bayswater and Belmont last week. The community coordinator, Maire Vieth (who took these and some of the chalking photos posted earlier) spent the weekend before last blu-tacking the posters in 75 local shops and community spaces.

At the end of next week the posters will be taken down for a poetry reading Sunday 26 July 1-3 pm at The Depot in Devonport. Everyone is invited to come and read a poem for Matariki (their own or someone else’s) and book prizes will be given away. Maire plans to have the posters bound into volumes that will be presented to the Devonport Library to commemorate the project.

listen up

posted by Michele

A recording of Michele reading 'letter to dulcie jackson', from Mirabile Dictu and the third New Zealand Poets / The Laureate Series CD, is now available for your listening pleasure.

the book and the cd

posted by Michele

It’s done and (almost) dusted! The laureateship is finished (long live the laureateship) and in Wellington on Tuesday 30 June the book and the cd were launched in style at the National Library. Chris Szekely, head of the Alexander Turnbull Library, was MC for the evening, introducing Sam Elworthy, Auckland UP’s publisher and Ian Wedde, who launched Mirabile Dictu. Congratulations to Ian who is the just-announced 2009 University of Auckland / Creative NZ Writer in Residence at the Michael King Writers’ Centre.

Elizabeth Caffin, long-time director of Auckland UP and publisher of my books 1991 through 2005, then launched the third cd of New Zealand Poets / The Laureate Series, a selection of my work from Like This? (1988) to Mirabile Dictu. My thanks and admiration go to Robbie Duncan and Chris Price of Braeburn Studio for their dedication to the task of getting quality recordings from the difficult situation of a sight-impaired poet reading from a touch screen laptop. It seems to work, but only after much technical ingenuity on Robbie’s part.

The finale of the evening was a words and music performance by Robbie, Chris and I of ‘letter to dulcie jackson,’ my grudge poem about the frustrations of learning to touch type at the end of last year. I still don’t type fast or very well, but the poem is a lot of fun to perform, especially with the addition of musicians and Aesop, the talking keyboard on loan from the Foundation of the Blind. ‘letter to dulcie jackson’ is in Mirabile Dictu and on the cd.

letter to dulcie jackson

dulcie jackson is someone
I want to meet     she waits
at the close of lesson 15     undecided
about the quote on her alterations
which is higher than she expected
but even to talk about this
I have to leap ahead
or look at some of my fingers
how long will it take I wonder
to get it all together     dulcie
I wish I was there with you
we would lift a glass     a real glass
to those weird characters I met
along the way     the builders
with their bright blue bricks
the child who cut the cherry cake
and the burglars hiding
by the blackberry bushes      they are
so sweetly idiotic      they deliver
the vehicles carefully      dulcie
can you have a word with them please
we need q z x      the numerals
the commands and all the punctuation
dotted about the stalls at the village fair
this silky tie really is stylish
they say they study their salary
she yells as fiery tigers terrify her
dulcie     I have just one more thing
to say to you      !@#$%^&*()      !@#$%^&*()
cabbages in a row      grilled fish      or maybe
the tester tasting the fatal tarts
I am writing this with my eyes
closed      I am writing this
with my eyes xlosed      trying hard
to picture your face above
my belief that beef is the best buy
dad’s red leather shed in the suburbs
and some of the sillier circular saws
are you pretty      do you have
a soft heart      certainly your best
foot went west some time ago
I saw it making tracks with
one of the huge baboons we loosed
from the metropolitan library     see
what I mean      nothing is innocent
this year the dairy sells yeast
your vegetables were halfprice
at the market yesterday     I had
no o no n m p or w but they have
to be here so I skipped the dumb lamb
cucumber formalities and let them in
woo moon now poop mow noon moo
they have received their velvet jackets
my eyes are still closed      what
will happen when I remove
the slinky covers      dulcie will you be
all smiles and jiggles      waiting
impatiently for the poem of the universe
to begin its fevered song      the pitch
of the upright piano is almost
perfect      opulent purple poplin drifts
across the canopies of the bazaar
usually they live very active lives
he suggests a dull red rug at the hut
zebras and gazelles arrive with axes
zebras and gazelles arrive with bazookas
dulcie is your dirigible
capable of adequate evasive action


James Fryer's cover design for Michele Leggott / The Laureate Series
Scenes from the launch: Ian Wedde, Michele, the performance