Attended a marvellous book launch the other night at Dunedin Public Library. It was the kind of literary gathering Dunedin does so well - very crowded, friendly, noisy and full of news and gossip and catching up with friends, colleagues and acquaintances over snacks and drinks. Also a great way to meet people as everyone's individual networks intersect in interesting new ways. Kind of like Facebook - but in person!
The book was Sue Wootton's new poetry volume BY BIRDLIGHT and it was good to see publisher Roger Steele of Steele Roberts on one of his welcome visits to Dunedin, doing the honours.
Celebrated NZ poet Brian Turner gave an excellent launch speech and Sue Wootton also spoke well - I'm hoping that both Brian's and Sue's speech notes will find their way to the publisher's web site because even their prose seemed to be full of insight and poetry and I really felt that I hadn't heard such interesting poetry launch speeches ever before...
There's so much to know, about the cover image, about why the title is "By Birdlight", and Sue and Brian relished their subject matter and read beautifully, of course.
I'm a fan of Sue's poetry and it's a delight to have another book of hers to savour. One of the standouts of my early browsing through the poems is 'Orchard' - a tender and glistening memorial to the tragically killed young poet Rhys Brookbanks who was part of our Dunedin poetry community before he went to Christchurch to work at Canterbury TV.
There's a scintillating poem about Kandinsky's synesthesia, that I was much impressed by when I first heard Sue read it (at one of the Circadian Rhythm poetry evenings), including lines like:
the impossibility of settling on one colour for the wind -
Roger also spoke to the crowd and pointed out just how many well-known NZ writers were in the audience to celebrate Sue's launch. Just to name a few, apart from Brian Turner of course, we had Emma Neale glowing from her recent win of the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Prize for her manuscript 'The Truth Garden'; novelist Laurence Fearnley, winner of the 2011 NZ Post Fiction Award for the best NZ novel of 2010, The Hut Builder; legendary poet Peter Olds who has just published Skew-Whiff a terrific fine illustrated edition of his poetry with Otakou Pess; Paul Sorrell whose most recent book is getting much deserved attention and admiration - a guide to the Central Otago 'rail trail'; author Penelope Todd who has launched out into a much needed and audacious online publishing venture; poet Rhian Gallagher who has just published a new volume Shift with AUP; author Paddy Richardson; distinguished literary elder Vincent O'Sullivan was also there, along with too many more poets and writers and academic authors to name - there was such a crowd I didn't even get to see everyone who was there.
(Some of my writer friends, I was reminded, are fans of the gorgeous Tabbyssinian Agency Cat, and politely asked after him, which is why I have recently posted some new portraits of him ;)
Brian Turner (left) listens while Sue Wootton addresses the guests at her book launch