Tuesday, 19 August 2008


The Paekakariki gig went well, lots of friendly people, the rehearsing paid off, a smooth presentation, everyone comfortable with the mike, thank you Hinemoana, (that's her on the photo, introducing us. You can visit her website on http://www.hinemoana.co.nz/, and find out more about her - hear her sing !)

It seemed to me that the audience didn't always get the point of the more complex works that were presented. Discussed it via email with Elizabeth Smither, my mentor, and she wrote back among other things:

"...the problem with listening to poetry, especially in its more complex forms, is that the poem moves on while the listener in the audience is still absorbing the last image which has passed..."

Elizabeth suggests making the written version available on broadsheets, so that people can take them home and pin them up. I like that idea. But someone else said that not all her poems were ready for print. So there you go, no easy answers.

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Serendipity plays its role: the book by Borges which I took from the library is not his poetry. The title was hidden by that bar-code sticker that is always in the way of either the title, the author's name, or the overall design of the cover (Why the scanning system could not be designed with the bar code in a different place is beyond me. Philistines are alive and well.)

Second thoughts: the actual title is This Craft of Verse (Mihailescu, C.-A., ed. (2000) Harvard University Press) - I wouldn't have noticed it wasn't verse even if I had been able to read the title.

The book consists of six lectures which he gave in English (he had an English grandmother) at Harvard in 1967, about poetry. They were taped and forgotten about, then rediscovered - when enough dust had gathered, to paraphrase the editor C.-A. Mihailescu.

It's lovely to know that one is reading the poet's own words. There is a chapter about metaphor, another about translation, another about the music of poetry...

All written in a style which is charmingly modest, a modesty which must be at least partly an assumed stance. Mihailescu himself says

"One cannot quite take at face value Borges' claim that he is "groping" his way along, that he is a "timid thinker rather than a daring one", and that his cultural background is "a series of unfortunate miscellanies"..."

I wonder what the Americans made of that, modesty not being a muscle that is flexed very often in their world.

Haven't finished it yet, reading slowly and enjoying it heaps. Shall buy it as a gift for someone.


Petri Liukkonen is a mysterious Finn, a librarian in the town of Kirjasto, Finland. He or she has become famous on the Net for creating an award-winning website entitled Books and Writers where he/she posts the biographies of famous writers in slightly accented English. I wrote playfully to Petri the first time, having noticed that both Bodil Malmsten and Per Pettersen - both well-known Scandinavian writers - were missing, and received a serious, considered email back. They are now apparently on the waiting list. Realising recently that Elizabeth Bishop was also absent, wrote to him and have just received a courteous email back - Elizabeth's bio will be posted soon, Petri has just returned from holidays.

And for those who might like to know: Katherine Mansfield is listed, as are Janet Frame and Keri Hulme.

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And now back to work.

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