Thursday, August 7, 2008

A poem of laureates

Look at this wonderful photograph by the Dominion Post's Maarten Holl of the first ever public reading by our five living poets laureate.

From left, Elizabeth Smither Michele Leggott (the current laureate), Jenny Bornholdt, Brian Turner and Bill Manhire with their exquisite tokotoko, or ceremonial sticks. The one belonging to the late Hone Tuwhare was also included on the night.

Up to 200 people watched the poets read at the National Library in Wellington on Monday night but I wasn't one of them. It was a cold, wet night and I was too tired to light the fire let alone drag myself the 30 mins back to town. I hope they'll get together again next year as Michele Leggott suggested and I'll go even if I have to crawl in the door.

This photograph makes me feel very proud of our country - to have five such poets (all so different) and to elevate them like this and recognise their brilliance is a wonderful thing. They look so ordinary and so kiwi, really: Liz, Michele, Jen, Brian and Bill. Who would think they'd write words that put together stop your breathing sometimes?

Meanwhile, any better suggestions on a title for this post? I am referring to a poem with five very different stanzas, of course. Not a well-known form, but could be interesting...
Terrific post on the event at the blog Opposable Thumb which refers to a 'palpitation of poets.'


Anonymous said...

Gee wish we had even one poet laureate in Oz...but you guys get 5 - we are bigger than you - no fair....!

Mary McCallum said...

Hi Gondal-girl -- in fact we only have one in any given year. They move them on like the US poets laureate. So Michele Leggott is our current poet laureate, the others have held the post in previous years. But, yes, nice to have a bunch of them like that.

Mary McCallum said...

just had a thought... how about a lyric of laureates?

The Paradoxical Cat said...

Marvellous photo.

I'd like to suggest 'a regalia of laureates' because 'regalia' evokes the glorious robes of high office, but also because of the habit of our best poets to regale ya with their fine verse.

Other options might be 'garland' 'stanza' and 'rhapsody' - but maybe there is no better than your 'lyric of laureates'.

Mary McCallum said...

regalia of laureates
garland of laureates
rhapsody of laureates

all lovely, paradoxical cat, thanks! i think 'regalia' is especially fine

how's the writing coming along?

Mary McCallum said...

I just discovered a great write-up on the laureate event on the Opposable Thumb blog which refers to 'a palpitation of poets' (added it to the post too.) Here's the link:

Anonymous said...

Doesn't a ghazal (Phyllis Webb-, Andrew Johnston-style) have five stanzas?

A ghazal of laureates doesn't really have that ring though.