Tag Archives: Kay McKenzie Cooke

Poetry Shelf Lounge: Kay McKenzie Cooke and Jenny Powell celebrate David Eggleton’s Poet Laureate Weekend at Matahiwi marae

David Eggleton at Matahiwi Marae (photo Lynette Shum)

Last weekend David Eggleton celebrated his New Zealand Poet Laureateship at Matahiwi marae accompanied by Charles Ropitini, whanau, friends, National Library staff (including the Library’s empathetic Laureate champion Peter Ireland) and poets (Jenny Powell, Kay McKenzie Cooke and Michael O’Leary). David was presented his tokotoko carved by Haumoana carver Jacob Scott. On the Saturday evening Marty Smith hosted Poets Night Out at the Hasting Events and Arts Centre, Toitoi.

The National Library also announced that due to the restrictions Covid has placed upon David’s Poet Laureate plans his term would be extended for another year. David has gifted Aotearoa a richness of poetry in printed form, but his appearances as a performance poet are legendary, inspirational, charismatic. He is appearing at the Christchurch Word Festival late October and will now be able to bring his poetry to the people over the next two years, as was his aim. Wonderful!

Two of David’s guest poets – Kay McKenzie Cooke and Jenny Powell – share their experience of this special weekend.

Jenny Powell and Kay McKenzie Cooke

David’s tokotoko is called Te Kore, meaning ‘the void’. The dark maire has a natural hole near the upper end. When he received it his body straightened, as if a spiritual and physical source of creativity became one.


Like the tangata whenua of Matahiwi marae, the tokotoko radiates what is needed. I held it on the way to the evening poetry reading in Hastings and again on the way home. Did it matter? Yes.


The void. The beginning, the creation, the end. Here it was, playing out in a bend of time and words. In the before of my ton weight suitcase, organisational order, waiata to practise, transport logistics, food and food. In the then. Matahiwi marae in its glory of green bounty, Māui hooking us into his welcome, kuia hooking us into love. River flow of oratory, Poems of the south, of love, of colour, of rapid fire Eggleton resonance and the moon beaming in story and song.


In the leaving, small children bound on fields, frail elders offer blessings, words spiral, tears flower. In the meeting house, enduring peace of the deep void.

Jenny Powell

Matahiwi marae (photo Katrina Hatherly)

After Being Introduced

Naturally, there are many other memories but maybe I particularly remember David’s grin, Fieke’s calmness, Jenny’s silver boots, Peter’s careful attention, the humour and innate sense of arrangement from the National library trio (Joan, Lynette and Katrina) and Michael’s Fleetwood Mac black hat and white t-shirt emblazoned with the words: A Hard Day’s Night.

~*~

Friday:

Michael, Jenny and I practice our waiata for David. E Tu Kahikatea. We sing it out in a patch of sun cut to the shape of a motel’s open door. We are kind of happy with how it sounds. Jenny’s top notes, my more middling muddle, Michael’s lower notes verging on bass, all blending to invoke a tree standing braced for whatever will come at it, bolstered by those who stand close to protect and the togetherness of all this conjured up in the final lines.

~*~

Our first chance to meet the National Library trio: Lynette, Joan and Katrina, is at tonight’s dinner. They exude friendliness, kindness, humour, order and care – and that’s just on the first take. There’s room for even more to surface as the weekend unfolds. (Such as the Joni incident – but I am jumping ahead of myself and anyway, it’s probably one of those you-had-to-be-there episodes.)

~*~

Saturday:

Jenny and I are on the hunt for breakfast early and surprisingly enough for us, we manage not to get lost. Go us! As we look out from our outside table onto Havelock North’s shiny newness, including a fountain and locals setting up stalls for a market on clean concrete, a brittle breeze reminiscent of Ōtepoti’s nor’easterly, licks at our ankles.

~*~

Outside the Matahiwi marae gates, that same cold breeze niggles at our backs and shoulders. Charles our te reo-speaking representative, tells us the moon is in a benevolent phase – all augurs well – and points out the maunga, the mountains, in the distance. He names them and tells us the meaning of the name – which, sadly, I promptly forget. However, I do notice that after being introduced, the mountains appear to draw a little nearer.

~*~

More people arrive to join the waiting group. David’s no-fuss whanau flock quietly together. And then the pōwhiri begins, a karanga calling us to proceed in safety. Wings of grief beat in my chest like something fighting waves of memory.

~*~

We are welcomed with kōrero, karakia, by tīpuna, voice, mountain, awa, spirit, wairua, with love, aroha. Charles responds with an operatic kōrero sung on our behalf in te reo, laced with waiata that soars and rolls in an awa of pride. We line up to elbow-hongi, covid-style. A kuia at the end of the line grabs each of us into a hug.

~*~

The unwrapping of the tokotoko begins with a blessing by Jacob, then revealed and handed to David by the carver. Made of maire, it is tall and straight, yet shapely. It is black with a small sweep, or wave, of brown. Pango and parauri. Somewhere, silver glints. The carver tells us it speaks of Māui and his brothers, of boldness and spirit. Of stirring, mischief-making, mixing things up and pitting against. It has weight. Mana. David tests its strength by thumping the ground with it. He appears satisfied. He smiles.

It is time for Michael, Jenny and me to sing our waiata. Unfortunately, all of the previous day’s blend and timing takes flight leaving only the unpolished, rough side of the päua, shy of colour and magic. It’s a pretty rough delivery. No matter. It’s done. The tree still stands. It takes more than that to fell a kahikatea.

David’s son does a far better job, calmly, confidently singing a self-composed song that soothes, charms and rocks like a waka launched on to slowly moving water.

~*~

Saturday night, David, Michael, Jenny and I make poetry the winner at Poets Night Out at the Hastings Events and Arts Centre, Toitoi, in all its glory and glamour; sumptuous flower displays, laser beams creating a dancing landscape on ceiling and walls. The event is bookended by two beautiful young singers and linking it all, Marty in shimmering gold jacket delivering her diamante introductions.

~*~

Sunday:

Mōrena. Back at the Matahiwi marae, we are hugged. Fed. Allowed into more stories. Humour sparks. We are told a little more of the coming into being of David’s Poet Laureate tokotoko; its name, Te Kore; its character, its insistence not to be firewood, but instead a walking, talking stick with fire to fill any void in its belly.

~*~

As we make our reluctant farewells, a kuia gifts Jenny and myself quiet words of encouragement to take back home to Ōtepoti with us. She loves our poetry. She may write some herself now. She particularly loves the way Jenny speaks her poems. I feel there is more she wants to say. Deeper things. But there is no time left.

~*~

More farewells outside the marae as we get into cars. Some of the good-byes are to people we will see again. Others, maybe not. As the car I am in moves away, I notice the maunga, the mountains, have moved. I watch as they fade back into the distance.

~*~

Jenny Powell has published seven individual and two collaborative collections of poems. She is part of the touring poetry duo, J & K Rolling. Jenny is currently in the Wairarapa as the RAK Mason Writing Fellow.

Kay McKenzie Cooke’s fourth poetry collection, titled Upturned, was published by The Cuba Press, mid-2020. At present she is far too busy to write. A predicament she hopes will not be permanent.

David Eggleton is a Dunedin-based writer, critic and poet. His first collection of poems, ‘South Pacific Sunrise’, was co-winner of the PEN Best First Book of Poetry Award in 1987. His seventh collection of poems, ‘The Conch Trumpet’, won the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Award for Poetry. He received the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Poetry in 2016. His most recent collection of poetry is Edgeland and Other Poems, with artwork by James Robinson, published by Otago University Press in 2018. He is the current Aotearoa New Zealand Poet Laureate.

The New Zealand Poet Laureate Blog

Piece by Peter Ireland on NZ Poet Laureate site

Photos by Joan McCracken, Katrina Hatherly and Lynette Shum from the National Library and Jenny Powell and Kay McKenzie Cooke

Poetry Shelf interviews Kay McKenzie Cooke

 

 

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Kay McKenzie Cooke, Ngāti Tahu, Pākehā, is an award winning poet and short story writer. Her debut collection Feeding the Dogs was awarded the 2003 Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry at the Montana NZ Book Awards. She lives in Dunedin, and spends part of her year in Berlin. Kay’s new collection with The Cuba Press Upturned is an evocative tribute to family, place, childhood, nature. The poems address attachment and kinship, love and grief. Some poems are southern based while others navigate Berlin. The poetry is a celebration of life and that celebration is of great reading comfort.

 

 

Paula What were the first poetry books that mattered to you?

Kay  The first poet that comes to mind is Dylan Thomas. I have this idyllic memory of me at thirteen years old sitting under a silver birch tree reading his poetry. It was on a particularly sunny day at Wendon Primary School in Northern Southland. This may well be a false memory! But the delicious revelation, surprise and impact of Thomas’s particular brand of poetry, is not.

Enid Blyton was an early influence (typical 1950’s-60’s child I guess.) I also loved Walter de la Mere and I remember a book of poems by Christina Rossetti featuring in my childhood. And A.A. Milne.

Dare I confess that Rod McKuen was a poet I adored for a (very) short time in the early ‘70’s?

 

Paula  What poetry books are catching your attention now?

Kay  Another Confession: Lately I have been so buried in my own poetry I haven’t been able to really take a look at what else is out there. There is such a rich seam of recent poetry to be mined. I would not know where to start. I have a lot (a lot!) of books and poets to catch up on. Both from new poets and from established favourites. And that’s just in Aotearoa.

Wild Honey is one I’ve been enjoying as a treasure to dip into. And the latest Landfall (239) as well.

Oh. Does Joni Mitchell’s beautiful book, Morning Glory on the Vine, count? That’s the book I got for my birthday recently and which I’m also dipping into at present.

 

Paula What else do you like to read?

Kay Autobiographies, biographies, modern novels, murder mysteries, non-fiction books about nature. Historical books. The classics.

 

Paula  Any standout poetry events you have attended either as an audience member or as a participant? Do you enjoy performing your work?

Kay  Jenny Powell and I have formed a poetry reading duo called J&K Rolling. We take poetry out into southern rural areas and discover what poetry is to be found in these places.

After five years of us travelling to many varied rural areas, I have a heap of memories of poetry readings performed in halls, art galleries, libraries, show grounds and even a restored, historical bake house. I enjoy performing poetry in such venues and at these low-key events with a small, attentive audience. It’s deeply satisfying.

The Bluff ‘06 organised by nzepc is a standout. Twenty-two poets from all over Aotearoa took part in poetry readings in Motupōhue / Bluff and in Rakiura / Stewart Island.

Reading in Paris at the Chat Noir in 2013 is a poetry reading I will always remember and treasure.

Another more recent reading organised by Jim Gedddes at the beginning of this year with David Eggleton, Cilla McQueen, Richard Reeve, Jenny Powell and myself reading in the Eastern Southland Gallery, is another memorable occasion.

Again – too many to list here. They’re all wonderful events. I feel privileged to have taken part in so many.

 

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One day, back when

everything was only as big

as the span of my forthright steps,

the world shattered into hailstones.

 

from ‘Hail’

 

 

Paula Your new collection Upturned is assured, pitch perfect on the line, multilayered yet runs with sweet economy. What matters to you when you write a poem?

Kay  Thank you!

I guess where and how the line ends is important to me. I like each line to chime. Also how a poem begins and ends matters to me. I guess that it does for all poets.

I favour shorter poems. I used to write haiku. Maybe this is where my love of the succinct and economical comes from. Redundancy is something I try to avoid. I like to write tight poems, but not corset-tight.

 

Paula In the poetry of others?

Kay  For me, poetry needs to have music that I can pick up as a tune. A consonance. And I do like poems to, in some way, tell a story.

I like poems that surprise me, with unexpected imagery. Poems that take me somewhere; that go somewhere.

It’s important, personally speaking, that they make sense even if that’s not on the first reading. There needs to be some point at which the real poem emerges from any ‘camouflage.’ This revelation always feels like a special treat.

Some poems I’ve read recently are tending to the lengthy, the clever, startling, oft-times irreverent and angry or edgy and crude. They’re sometimes surreal streams of consciousness with lines that dance, burst, curse, swirl, meander, fly, divert and segue. Sometimes these scattered lines are safely tethered to a subject – sometimes dangerously free-falling. I’m left startled. Is it good? It’s different. To use an old-fashioned term, even rather fetching. Taking off in new directions. Poetry as performance. Poetry using 21st century vernacular. I can’t keep up. Then again, I don’t need to. It’s all good. All is well.

 

The cotton dress Mum made for me, purple daisies

on black, with puff sleeves, was not the ballgown I longed for

in real satin, electric-blue. And my hair. Too high. Too

stiff. Set with hairspray.

My partner, Maurice, with no idea how to dance,

was not the partner I preferred.

 

from “Many moons ago, Maurice’

 

 

Paula I kept musing on the idea of poet as gardener, memoirist, musician, traveller, daydreamer, archivist as I read. What were you as you wrote this collection?

Kay   I think you may have covered it, Paula.

I guess I was me being all of those at different times … plus chronicler. I like the word chronicler with its connotations of recording time.

I am aware that my poetry falls into poems about memory, place, childhood, whanau, tīpuna / ancestors, grief, daily life, ageing …

I think I am most pleased at your idea of ‘musician’. It’s a nice thought to think of my poetry as a kind of music.

 

I visit her iron-fenced bones

as the sea thumps

below the cliffs of the cemetery,

 

and I name her: Mary Frances Reilly,

my great-great-grandmother,

and use whatever is left of her

 

in me

to picture first the girl,

then the woman.

 

from ‘Name her’

 

Paula Poetry as keepsake? Family is so important in these poems.

Kay   Keepsake is another word I like. It makes me think of a locket. Something treasured and kept safe; kept close.

When one experiences, as I have, the sudden death of a parent at a young age, keeping hold of memories becomes a way of surviving that brutal shock. It’s a way of holding on to a life that has seemingly (or literally) instantly disappeared into some unattainable, unreachable void.

To think someone leaves this world without any trace or memory of their place in it, is an unacceptable thought for me. I just can’t abide the thought of ‘no trace’. Of time itself sweeping away all aspects of a life or valued experiences. And so in my poetry I record. I chronicle. I keep.

 

I’d sat and read a whole book.

Time-wise we are all losers,

fooled back into memory.

Back then, eating a blackberry’s beaded cushion,

my tongue, my teeth, boring down

to its core,

its tiny wooden heart.

 

from ‘Blackberry days’

 

 

Paula I love the structure of the book. Can you tell me about that?

Kay   The poems are divided into four sections. The ones about Berlin were of course easy to place into the one section. However, in order to prevent having too many nature, landscape or place poems together; or bunching-up childhood memories, grief poems, or family poems; it seemed pertinent to switch and mix them around a little. To a certain extent, chronological aspects also had to be taken into account – poems from before and after the Berlin experience for example.

The team at The Cuba Press (especially Mary McCallum) helped me with the structure. The result is pleasing. I like how the different poems speak to each other and how one poem often leads naturally on to the next – sometimes just by the natural extension of an image, key word, idea or impression.

 

Sing old kettle of slung light

that spins on through

this backyard

that could be the last kitchen

or the first. Old kettle, singing kettle,

let the heat of the days rock you.

 

from ‘Sing,sing, sing’

 

 

Paula Reading your poetry is a sensory experience. Do you have motifs you are particularly fond of?

Kay  Yes! I do. And I have to watch that I don’t over-use these favourite motifs.

Mary helped me with that as well. She asked if I realised how many times I use the motifs of air, sun, sky, water … and I also realised that I needed to take out a few too many stones, grasses …

I am perhaps a little too fond of nature’s motifs. Birds are a motif for me as well. They, along with deer and horses, are members of my spirit-animal world.

 

For days now

the unpegged washing of snow

has lain in the mud of Dunedin’s hills

 

where a giant hawk of cloud

lifts off, its talons

Mount Cargill, a sag of grey.

 

from ‘Nor’esterly’

 

Paula I am reminded of Ruth Dallas’s attachment to the land in her poems, she made herself at home in her beloved south as she looked through an urban window. I have seen it in Sue Wootton’s poetry too. How does the land matter? Do you have go-to places?

Kay   As a child brought up in the country way down in the same beloved south, I believe the spirit of that southern rural landscape is in my blood and firmly rooted in my innermost being. As deep as it can go. Even living happily as a city dweller for nearly fifty years has not diminished this relationship I have with this land; this integral part of my being.

Despite its buried streams running underground, Otepoti / Dunedin (as I believe is the case with all cities in Aotearoa) has never lost its relationship with the land. A strong identification with nature is part of its character as a city.

Being tangata whenua has its influence on my relationship with the land too – especially with Murihiku. Nothing needs to be conjured. It’s just there. Even on those days where I don’t leave my house – or even my writing room – my relationship with the land is still a beating heart.

Of course, actually going to places is a helpful and enjoyable top-up of the actual. There is nothing to match looking at a mountain close up, or smelling the seaweed smell of a favourite beach or hearing a mean sou’westerly whining in power lines.

 

I am eating the language of the ocean

on this last day of summer, Sommer,

eating the language

my granddaughter speaks.

She does not care

what they are, foxes of squirrels, Fuchs or Eichhörnchen –

it is simply her favourite dress

 

for now anyway, as she eats potato cake

with apple sauce and hardly ever looks at me

drinking her in with my eyes.

 

from “Foxes or squirrels’

 

Paula Home is so important but so too is the wider world in your writing. What changes when you write about or from elsewhere?

Kay  When I am somewhere unfamiliar, it can manifest as dislocation. This is reflected most in the poems about Berlin which I wrote during and after lone trips there to stay with my son, his wife and their two small children.

While there, I felt something that was akin to homesickness. Keeping a journal helped to chronicle what was happening, both internally and externally. Then once I was back home again, the material in the journal with all its ramblings, jottings and sketches, was what I drew from for the Berlin poems. The many photos I’d taken also triggered poems and helped me to remember cityscapes, trees, pavements, people, sensations and emotions.

 

Paula The Cuba Press has published Upturned along with two others written by poets at an older age (Rachel McAlpine’s How to Be Old and John Tāne Christeller’s Fragments from an Infinite Catalogue). What has changed for you as a poet across the decades (if anything?)? How does age change things?

Kay  As a young child I wrote poems about fairies. As an adolescent and young adult, about coffee and rain. As a young woman, descriptive pieces about what I could see in front of me – some of which were written as haiku.

Then in my late thirties, I started to study poetry, reading nothing but poetry for ten years.

Writing-wise, this stage was excruciating. I remember often being brought to tears because I couldn’t properly put down on paper what was in my head. Then one day – or so it seems – I hit my stride. I found my voice and I was away.

Age-ing is certainly a weird experience. Some part of me thinks it’s all backwards. The older we grow, the younger we feel. We don’t look the age we feel inside. I can’t explain. Maybe it’s time to write some poems about it.

I remember when I was young, I loved reading personal accounts about what it was like to reach the age of eighty. This gives me hope that there may be a younger audience interested in reading about what it’s like to be old.

I am sometimes tempted to feel out of step with younger writers. Doubt threatens to creep in, until I remind myself that everyone is relevant. One of the features that make the regular Dunedin poetry readings so valuable, is the lively cross section of ages and stages of those that attend and read. All are accepted. All are represented. No-one is made to feel redundant or irrelevant, no matter the age.

 

Paula Were there poems you found hard to write? In terms of doubt or of subject matter – you do face grief and loss, along with joy?

Kay  They are not hard poems to write, the ones about grief and loss. They seem to emerge from a place in me that is never empty. Rather than being hard to write, it’s almost like it’s hard to stop writing about these subjects. Poetry heals. And as long as we have stuff to heal from, poetry is there to help with that. Of course it needs to be achieved without maudlin or sentimental cliches. Isn’t there a saying about when describing a funeral, you don’t describe the tears mourners are weeping, but instead you describe the flowers on the casket? Something like that.

 

Daughter

 

My daughter told me about how Ace got run over.

She said that all along she knew it wasn’t a good idea

to let the dog run along beside the car,

but that Kris told her he’d seen his mates do it

and it’d be okay. ‘He should’ve listened to me,’ my daughter said,

‘but he’s too “she’ll be right”. Always with the “she’ll be right”.

Said I’m just being paranoid.’

Then, of course, what she thought would happen

happened: the dog’s leg slipped under the car’s wheel.

 

She asked me to help her take him to the vet

and carried him to the car like a baby.

‘A twenty-kilo baby at that,’ she said,

‘equivalent to twenty bottles of milk.’

The dog sat in the back seat

with a tartan rug draped over his head

like a Highland shawl, underneath, his face

all screwed up like an old person

trying to remember something.

 

In the waiting room, my granddaughter and I

decided that from underneath, the turtle in the tank

looked like a grenade with legs,

its cake-rack-patterned

tummy the shade of milky custard,

its head a thumb. The vet’s X-ray showed

that Ace’s injury was just a sprain.

Afterwards we had a cup of coffee at Rhubarb.

 

‘What’s more,’ my daughter said, referring back,

‘he hasn’t said sorry nearly hard enough.’

On the way home, from the top of Roslyn,

the sea is distant, kidney-shaped,

and my daughter said, ‘Don’t you just hate it

with the sky all white like it is today and no sun?

We may as well all be locked inside

a chilly bin.’ And I think: Daughter, it has to be

one of the most beautiful words.

 

Kay McKenzie Cooke

 

 

Paula Is there a poem that has particularly worked or mattered to you?

Kay  The poem about my daughter. She is extra-precious to me because she was adopted out as a baby and we reconnected – or found each other – twenty-three years ago now. (I write more about this in my third book, Born to a Red Headed Woman.)

The poem, called ‘Daughter’, is a slice of life that highlights for me the relationship my daughter and I now have. A relationship I treasure at a very deep level.

 

Paula  Has Covid 19 affected you as either reader or writer? Did you write any poems in lockdown?

Kay  I wrote about four poems – mostly about birds. Birds became highlighted for me during that time of lockdown. Possibly because they were symbolic of a freedom to fly or rise above all the fuss, worry and fear.

I thought I’d write screeds. But I was too busy editing Upturned with Mary to write new stuff. Too busy to even take notes from which to write poems from later.

Whatever I write about this strange time may not even be in the form of poetry. We’ll see after I’ve processed it all.

 

Paula  What do you like to do apart from writing?

Kay   Watch Netflix and listen to true crime podcasts.

I like to walk and take photos. Spend time with whanau. Go on roadies south.

Watch birds. Pick up stones and shells. I like reading – can’t wait to fully start reading again, to catch up on new poets and read new books from established poets. And add to my murder mystery reading. I’ve spent a whole year just on writing. It’s time to read. It’ll be my summer project.

 

Paula  If you could curate a festival poetry reading, drawing upon any time or place who would you invite?

Kay   I would invite: John Keats. Dylan Thomas. Gerald Manly Hopkins. Marianne Moore. Diane Wakoski. John Dolan. Wendy Cope. Fleur Adcock. Cilla McQueen. Ruth Dallas. Talia Marshall. Jeanne Bernhardt. Nick Ascroft. Richard Reeve. David Eggleton. Jenny Powell. Tony Beyer. Matsuo Basho.

 

 The Cuba Press page

Kay reads and responds to a poem

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf poets on poems: Kay McKenzie Cooke and Rachel McAlpine read and respond to new poems

 

 

 

 

Kay McKenzie Cooke reads ‘No Longer Applies’ from Upturned, The Cuba Press, 2020

 

Kay McKenzie Cooke, Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe, lives in Dunedin. Her fourth poetry collection Upturned has just been released from The Cuba Press. Her website and blog can be found here.

 

 

Upturned cover.jpg   How-to-Be-Old-cover

 

 

 

 

Rachel McAlpine reads ‘Reading a paper book’ from How to Be Old The Cuba Press 2020

 

Poet Rachel McAlpine lives in Wellington and is 80. She blogs, podcasts and draws (badly) as well as writing poems. How To Be Old, her latest collection of poems, will be launched by Fiona Kidman at Unity Books on Tuesday 21st July at 12.30 pm.

 

The Cuba Press

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf connections: two poems from Kay McKenzie Cooke

 

cricket during lockdown

 

The ragged monotone

of a cricket’s refrain

is childhood’s waist-high grass

and boredom. It is last chances,

 

eternity, the beige of neglected summer lawns.

Through an open window

I hear its shrill register

competing

with the sporadic wash

of reduced traffic noise

and my granddaughter’s tearful protests

against an afternoon nap.

 

This cricket’s front-leg click, rub, whirr,

is an irksome useless key

turning a music box

with a loose spring

that cannot be wound any tighter.

I find myself counting on it to be

 

today’s measure of time. Even when

everything turns, re-turns,

the cricket will keep

on. For now though, it is

my stop watch.

 

 

 

above the line

 

Above, a black-backed gull

grifts the high way

only gulls trawl,

a sky- valley current

that streams between

beach and harbour.

 

I look up, see its chest

feathers ironed white by light,

its black wings

rowing west

towards today’s catch:

 

fish entrails, road kill,

mud crab. I note

how it hauls its cargo

of intent, watch

until it disappears

behind the tips

of trees, envision

 

the movement, the trail

it leaves

behind, that caught

rude disturbance

of time’s dead air.

 

Kay McKenzie Cooke

 

 

Kay McKenzie Cooke is a Dunedin writer. The Cuba Press are publishing her fourth poetry collection which is scheduled for release in June 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kay McKenzie Cooke shares photos and comments on Dunedin’s farewell to poet, John Dickson

 

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At times last night’s memorial poetry reading for John Dickson felt like friends gathered in a room together, having a quiet drink and reminiscing about their friend Dixie.
Fitting somehow that it was held in the Crown Hotel. Is it because the beloved Crown is such a Dunedin venue – non-pretentious, down-home, verging on grungy, established, under-stated, historical, storied – as if all the people who have frequented, hosted, performed, chatted and imbibed there have left behind some invisible imprint of themselves?
At other times the night took on the air of a formal poetry reading befitting and honouring a much-revered poet.

 

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Poet Richard Reeve opened proceedings by reading poems from John’s last book, Mister Hamilton.

 

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Jenny Powell read John’s famous Miles Davis poem; her delivery a tour de force and much appreciated by John Dickson aficionados present.
I read some of my own poems – poems about Dunedin and its streets and poets; poems which I hoped would reflect in some small way a poet I admired.

David Eggleton read two of his own poems, introducing his reading by saying he first met John thirty years ago and remembers, among other things, his gift as an entertaining raconteur of circular stories.
Richard spoke about how he got to know John in 1996 when he was a student and recalls their complex discussions about poetry, admitting that probably neither understood what the other was talking about. He also mentioned the value he placed on John and

Jenny’s friendship, and their visits to his Warrington home (which John dubbed as ‘bucolic’).
Richard also mentioned that in the 1980’s, John and Cilla McQueen ran poetry readings in Dunedin, which were attended by poets such as Hone Tuwhare and Bill Manhire.
John’s gift of friendship was mentioned many times – so much so that it became a feature of the night.

Max Lowery spoke about his friendship with John over many years and his regard for him both as a person (a friend, a flat-mate) and a poet. Towards the end of the evening, a quiet and reflective mood filled the room as Max talked about the photos of John that he had put up on the wall, and shared the memories that they evoked.

Alastair Reid also spoke of his close friendship with John, allowing someone like me, who didn’t know John well, insight into his individual take on life, his love of life, his curiosity about life and his love of learning, right to the end.

Alastair Galbraith also spoke about John’s dry humour, his laconic, unpretentious way of always just being himself. In particular, he spoke about John’s reading of his poetry. How amazingly deliberate and almost mesmerising it was. He recalled memories of recording

John reading his poetry and had the cds available for anyone wanting to buy them.
Richard read an excerpt from a twenty-eight page (yes, that’s right; twenty-eight page!) poem John had sent him as a response to a (much shorter) email Richard had sent him when the Irish poet Seamus Heaney died, thus treating those of us there to part of this poem’s dazzling, sweeping trains of thought.

Flatmates, poetry-reading mates, fellow poets, friends … all recalled John’s sense of humour and uniqueness.

Over and over, John Dickson’s warmth, regard, his gift of inclusion, of friendship, his intelligence and extraordinary complexity and depth as a poet, came through what people said and read.

Dixie will be greatly missed.

Kay Cooke, July 2017

 

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