Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Rob King donates money from Waiting for Birds to Dementia Wellington



Image credit: Mākaro Press. Dementia Wellington Chief Executive Anne Schumacher receives the $1030 cheque from poet Rob King in Wellington today.


Poet with Alzheimer’s donates $1030 in royalties to Dementia Wellington

Lyall Bay poet Rob King lives with Alzheimer’s but it hasn’t stopped him publishing his fifth poetry book, Waiting for Birds, which launched in March and has already netted him over a thousand dollars in royalties – money he donated today to Dementia Wellington.

King’s collection gathers together new and previously published poems written over 50 years in England, where he was born, Scotland, and New Zealand, where he moved 12 years ago. He decided to donate his poetry royalties to Dementia Wellington to show his appreciation of their support through workshops and community outreach. He also donates the proceeds he receives from his watercolours.

The Chief Executive of Dementia Wellington Anne Schumacher, who received the cheque from Rob King in Wellington this morning, is delighted. She says the poet, with the support of his partner, Ali Laing, is an inspiration to others living with dementia.

Waiting for Birds is a true testament of Rob’s determination to keep doing the things he loves,’ she says. ‘Rob is a brilliant example of someone truly living well with dementia, staying active and engaged in his community and continuing to pursue his passions. I am delighted that his book is proving to be so popular and we are very grateful for his generosity. The money will go towards helping more people live well with dementia.’

Presenters at this year’s Dementia Wellington symposium received a copy of King’s book as a thank-you gift, and King and Laing sold a number of copies to people attending the conference. It’s also been selling in bookshops, including the poet’s local – The Children’s Bookshop in Kilbirnie – where the book was launched.

Rob King worked with Mary McCallum and Paul Stewart of Wellington’s Mākaro Press to bring Waiting for Birds together. Many of the poems are about people Rob had met over his life – from neighbours in Yorkshire, where he grew up, to the homeless he worked with in Scotland, to locals waiting for the train in Ngaio.

‘Rob’s eye often falls, and his ear tunes, to eccentrics and people who are a little different and often on the fringes of society,’ McCallum says. ‘He has a humorous and compassionate take on the world and a poet’s eye for detail. His poems are never maudlin or self-pitying but instead celebrate life as a “dishful of stars”.’

‘As we worked with Rob on the book, his memory loss became more pronounced,’ says McCallum, ‘but working with the poems kept some of his memories in front of him. When Rob was sent the final proofs of the book to read and sign-off, he was unable to read for himself, so his partner, Ali, sat with him one afternoon and read the whole collection out loud. She said she was anxious about this, but as she went on she warmed to the task and enjoyed the way the poems brought back memories of times past for them both. Ali said there were many laughs and a few tears (all hers).’

Mary McCallum says Rob is a great ambassador for people living with Alzheimer’s, showing what’s possible, and how to live with humour, hope and optimism despite a dementia diagnosis.




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