15 November 2013

Poetry Conference in New Zealand

Barbara Smith, Marion Baird, BLS,
Mere Taito and Jenny Fraser (l to r)

Five poets from Hamilton attended a national poetry conference (the first for a long time, if not ever) in Havelock North, near Hastings in the North Island (Te Ika a Maui or 'the fish of Maui') over the weekend of 2nd/ 3rd November 2013. The conference started on the Friday night with readings from the NZ Poet Laureate, Vincent O'Sullivan, followed by the first of four plenary sessions, each of 12 poets. Over the next two days the one hundred poets attended three more plenary sessions, two poetry group sessions and three panel discussions involving 'current approaches to getting poems published', 'form and content in contemporary poetry', and 'what editors are looking for'. And we all heard a great selection of excellent poems.

The conference was extremely well organised. Despite apprehension at the very full programme there were no heads seen to be nodding and the conference was marked by enthusiastic collegiality, intensity and humour.  The sessions were divided by five minute breaks at which everyone resumed their conversations from the last break! The venue also was good with room for attendees to get up from their chairs to talk, eat, drink and relax within seconds of the break being declared. Many were the friendships made and renewed.

I was lucky enough to be in the last plenary session, ably chaired by Maris O'Rourke.  The spirit of the conference was evident in the enthusiastic and copious exchange of emails between all of our participants. Well done Bill Sutton and your band of ready slaves : -) - and thanks from me.

Oh, and the Hamilton gang enjoyed their journey, one another's company - the whole caboodle.
Here's one of my poems:


I see you now, wind
bending branches
flowing across the slopes
of tussock

you make sounds
and when I hear you
at night, driving rain
against my window

the sound of you
through my aerial
reminds me of the moan
of you in rigging

you make sighs
on balmy days,
thunderclaps on ridges
what moves you, wind?

your absence
a lack of nodding
amongst flowers
part of that rare total hush

and you carry the must of earth
that tells the sailor at night
that he is nearly home
from the sea

you lift spume from waves
as I descend another trough,
cause spindrift between
waves of sastrugi

you flutter my flag
lick sweat from my brow
cause birds to fly
you are the very air I breathe

and I have learned
to hide from the chill
of your brisk southerly
embrace the warmth

of your nor-wester
relish your easterly
from the sea

I need you, wind
cool me, warm me
buffet me, feel me


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