13 January 2020

The Datsuns - Poetry Noise Abatement Notice

Back in 1999 I used to have a regular meeting with Kai Jensen where we'd discuss poetry and our latest efforts. One day Kai ask if I'd stand in for him at an event as he had to be somewhere else. I agreed but was slightly wary of the circumstances. Apparently the local Waikato University had organised a concert from a 'heavy rock' band that was just getting established. It was to be filmed and broadcast on the University TV channel. My role was to recite poetry between the band's items - and here is the bit -  I was to do the recitations naked in an outside bath.  There was no way I was going to sit naked in a bath with heaps of drunk students and wild musicians - at least shorts were going to be worn. The band was called "The Datsuns".

The Datsuns (photographer unknown - stolen from Wikepedia Website)

So the day arrived and with some trepidation I turned up at the venue a large suburban house used as a student flat. Rain was imminent and the TV crew said the concert would have to be held inside - their gear was too valuable to expose to the rain. The bath couldn't be brought inside so that let me off the hook. The band arrived, set up their gear and then drove off. They arrived back and set to work. I was amazed at the intensity of their music. Students crawled out on hands and knees to offer the lead guitarist their backs as a footstool. I was wondering what everyone was on! I did my bit here and there between items. It was all good fun.

Then the noise police arrived. Even though it was a weekend afternoon the neighbours had had enough. It was near the end of the concert so the band packed their gear and took off.  Normal occurrence they said. The last I heard, they had toured Australia and UK - without me! They left me being issued with the noise infringement notice. It said we must stop the noise and if not we could be taken to court and fined up to $10 000. I hoped the students would not keep up a noise after I left. As I left I saw the neighbours skulking in the shrubbery. I think Catherine could hear the noise at our place.

I have a feeling that I was the first (if not the only) non-musical poet in NZ (the world?) to be issued with a noise abatement notice. My claim to fame!

Here is one of the poems I recited - it had been for unit I'd done at the time as a task for an MA at Waikato Uni.

Agememnon on the Eve of Battle

The airmail edition
of the Paris Tribune
thumps onto the wall
of Agamemnon’s tent.
On its front page
a photo of tomorrow’s victor.
The time warp machine
malfunctioning again,
news coming in
before it has happened.

Just not good enough.
He consults the Penguin
Dictionary of Historical Slang
before saying “beep”-
the remaining papers
will need rounding up
and the image of Achilles
excised before the troops
see it in the latrines
tomorrow morning;
best not to have him
too confident on the eve
of the showdown.
Can’t have the wrong man
dragged about town
by a wild horse.

Just then he hears the click
of Xtra signing in
he sighs when he reads
Sender: Bill Manhire
Subject: Hector
bugger this poet-laureate
with his free wine
and making himself at home
up on the hill with Andromache.
Drinking Cab Sav again,
he guesses.


It was making him suspect
his agent’s credentials;
everyone knew this was not
an Icelandic saga,
despite a retreating icesheet
and the scarcity of mammoths,
and what about this visionary
intelligence …

     “… a wooden horse
up to its hocks in a high tide
outside some city gates
men who descend a ladder
into waves of tears,
all for a Trojan woman.”

Well, the last line made sense,
the only sense
from a poem-quoting seer.

Why don’t his E-mails
mean anything any more?

Agamemnon’s sword hand
grabs the mouse
the cursor hovers over
the delete button…

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