On August 4th I was handed the New Zealand Poet Laureate tokotoko in the company of my old friend Cilla McQueen and a gathering of friends, family, and the terrific people from the National Library. Then a crowd of us went and had a long, celebratory lunch. On Friday 12th I went to Dunedin for Ralph Hotere's 80th birthday celebrations and on Sunday joined Bill Manhire and David Eggleton for a poetry reading in Ralph's honour. A good time was had by all. On Friday 19th I went to Wellington for the launch of Peter Black's extraordinary book of photographs, I loved you the moment I saw you. More good times.
The following Friday it was back to Wellington for the launch of my novel The Catastrophe at Meow, followed by gigs from poet John Newton's band The Tenderizers and Damien Wilkins's The Close Readers. The good times were still very good but getting tiring. This Friday in Auckland is the launch of Haka at the Auckland Centre of the National Library of New Zealand, then up to Whangarei with Donna for the Northland Spring Book Fair on Saturday, she to talk and sign copies of her novel Surrender, me to give a poetry reading. I'm sure we'll have a good time. There's more to come - Going West Books and Writers Festival at Titirangi the following weekend, always an enjoyable event.
What I'm noticing is what began on August 4th. I'd have been at all the events this month, and would no doubt have enjoyed them just the same, and felt just as agreeably clobbered, but I've begun to be gently nudged into public view as a poet, and this will take a bit of getting used to. But in the spirit of good will I've encountered this month, taking my cue from the encouragement I've had, I'm posting another section of 'Shadow Stands Up', the sequence of poems I'd just begun to write when I heard about the Laureate award. Nudging it out into view.
Please don't squeeze me until I'm
yours reads the greengrocer's sign
on his ripe avocados
whose enticing location
in a tilted tray on the
footpath outside his shop says,
we live in a country of
ripe words, which is why the im-
print of memory may be
all that mars the surfaces
where the outlines of trees can
seem to rise up at any
time and become the shadows
of runners circling the park
a green Link bus goes past with
me in it, thinking, 'How can
I know what memory is
going to offer me unless
I can feel it's ready to?'