Dear Featherston Booktown
Thank you so much for inviting me to the fabulous Wairarapa to perform and feast on the words of others, to stay in a cosy cottage where it was quiet and pitch dark at night (so I felt right at home) and where Virginia cooked me crepes with ratatouille that were so fresh and herby and melted in your mouth (just what I needed after a long day travelling with a thousand hiccups), to touch base with David and his fabulous Hedley’s book stand that stocked poetry gloriously galore, to wander around the bookstalls crammed in the hall and discover some gold-nugget books,
to eat the best afghans ever with my best mate Selina Tusitala Marsh in the Supper Room, to hear Selina woo the Fish-n-Chip eaters with her sensational knotty Mophead work in progress, and hear her stories about performing for the Queen, to arrive early the next morning and hear Biggsy, Selina and Ben Brown talk in the “on the couch” session
to do a two-hour poetry workshop with local children and their mothers and get them all zinging and shining with poems (will be posting poems from this on Poetry Box soon)
to drive over to Greytown and eat the tastiest tofu dumplings ever, and then head to Martinborough to stock up on wine and relish for the family and to have dinner with our new reading ambassador Ben Brown and other authors and really click with Ben’s wisdom and approach to writing and working with children, and to eat a big fresh fruity breakfast to stock up my empty energy tank so I could stay up late and hear our national treasure John Campbell MC True Stories Told Live, and hear Renee’s wit and daring at 91 with a hilarious deadpan tale of action and “pot” plants, and then Anahera Gildea’s daring (at half that age) as she laid down a challenge for the rows of white men in the Anzac Hall photographs and for us, most definitely for us, and reminded us to bust up our immunity to the undercurrent words and images that surround and shape us if we are to move forward as a nation, and I just loved her for her words, and I wanted to hug her close, and it got me thinking of all the women in Wild Honey who had struggled to speak and to be heard as poets and as women for a century, and I thought YES! this is my festival highlight
and then downstairs to my late night Collision event between old and emerging poets and there I was hoping I would last the distance old woman me and not be nodding off in my chair next to my best mate Selina but I held up Wild Honey and said this book was my book of communities and connections just like a poem is community and connections just like Booktown is community and connections as are the bridges between readers and writers, and I shared a poem from my secret project and all that stockpiling self doubt that had accumulated over the past year in my hermit state just flitted off like moths to the light
and I got to hug all the Show Pony poets and talk reviews with Rebecca Hawkes and it felt like a transfusion of poetry love
and how good it felt to hear Tayi Tibble and Sam Duckor-Jones read from their new books and earlier on to hear Rachel McAlpine, Vana Manasiadis, Helen Rickerby, Carolyn DeCaro and Emma Barnes make poetry spark from whispery to loud
and to see gift-to-us Tara Black comic-stripping the sessions!
and to barely sleep but to keep on my feet and somehow do a poet’s response to the four sublime poetry finalists in the Ockham NZ Book Awards and shuffle on the spot and say this year it is too close to call but that I will dance for joy whoever wins (Mohamed Hassan, Nina Mingya Powles, Hinemoana Baker, Tusiata Avia)
and to wish I had had the stamina to talk to all the people who wanted to talk to me instead of scurrying back to the cosy cottage or the back seat of my little hire care like an awkward mouse needing to reboot
and to feel sad I was too spinning-out-tired to hear the Show Ponies again especially when I heard how magnificent organiser Freya Daly Sadgrove was
and to somehow drive over the glorious Rimutaka mountain range on Monday morning with mist and cloud and spine tingling views, and go to Good Books and fill a box with book treats and talk books with dear Jane Arthur and meet author extraordinaire Eamonn Marra
and then and then
to find my way home.
Thank you Mary and Peter Biggs, Mary McCallum and the Booktown crew for your special festival, rich in community and connections. I had a wonderful time.
Unity Books’s Marion Castree, poet Vana Manasiadis and I toast the end of the festival with green tea (for me) at Featherston’s wonderful Royal Hotel
(Poetic Licence: too tired to get words and photos and sequence of events in right order!)
What an inspired way to sum up this joyful festival: with a love letter. Perfect, Paula.