Poetry Shelf celebrates: Poets Laureate at National Library

An evening of poetry Laureates David Eggleton, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Ian Wedde, Cilla McQueen, Jenny Bornholdt, Brian Turner, Elizabeth Smither, Bill Manhire, Vincent O’Sullivan with MC Greg O’Brien.

On Friday August 6th, a number of our former Poets Laureate joined our current Laureate, David Eggleton, for a celebration at the National Library in Wellington: Jenny Bornholdt, Elizabeth Smither, Bill Manhire, Vincent O’Sullivan, Brian Turner, Cilla McQueen, Ian Wedde and Selina Tusitala Marsh, with MC Gregory O’Brien. After the launch of David’s new chapbook, Throw Net / Upena Ho’olei (handprinted by Brendan O’Brien), each poet read a couple of poems. I was so sorry to miss an event that honoured our poetry taonga with such joy and warmth and connection. Each Poet Laureate has delivered and is delivering a treasury of poetry. Their work has shaped and sustained me over many years, along with countless other poetry fans.

Mark Beatty took photos that I have kind permission to reproduce here. Peter Ireland, such a generous and careful guardian of our Laureates, has drawn our Poets Laureate together on a number of special occasions. I raise my cup of green tea to Peter, to the poets and to the National Library. Thank you. A galaxy of thank yous.

Peter Ireland sent me an email that took me right to the heart of the event. He has kindly let me share an extract.

‘I reiterated some key thank yous, offered thanks to the poets for allowing everyone to be a poet for an hour, for putting us in touch with the poet as listener, for making this circle complete. When I look at these pictures, I get a strong sense of things that weren’t clear at the time. I can cherish the presence of a group of poets unlikely to meet and read in this configuration again, though I will do my best to prove this wrong. I can hear the reading of Brian, Jenny, Cilla… voices that are us. With all the wonder and transience of a rainbow in the sky.

The group shot in front of Cliff Whiting’s Te Wehenga shows people obeying the photographer’s instruction. To look at each other. Actually, just that, to look at each other, to listen attentively, to join the community of poetry, to pour some good Te Mata wine. About sums it up.’ 

Peter Ireland

Poet Laureate blog. The blog is currently featuring The Poet Laureate’s Choice, August 2021,  a portfolio sequence of new poems from poets chosen by the Poet Laureate.

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