When I die (or, if I dare hope, before) I want to have a Wikipedia entry like James K Baxter’s. Specifically, I want that tiny little line on the right-hand side that says Occupation: Poet.
We can all dream, can’t we?
Emily and I went for a walk to the Botanical Gardens yesterday (somebody could have warned me it was the Teddy Bears Picnic. Children, everywhere! Some clutching armfuls of furry friends, some dragging large, dirty Pink Pathers, some with a pram of their own dedicated to Bears of all shapes and sizes, all with vacant black beady eyes. (The Bears, not the children). If I’d known, I would’ve taken Blue. Sure, he’s 22 years old, with bald patches and a hole in his head where the stuffing’s leaking out, but I tell you, that Bear’s got a lotta love left in him. He would’ve won all the prizes.)
Anyway, on the way back from the Gardens, we walked past a wee alleyway in Thorndon, and I explained to Emily that there’s a Writer’s Cottage up there. You can apply to live there for a year rent-free, and write. That sounds like heaven to me. I guess you’d still have to do a wee bit of work, eating is unforunately neccessary, but if you were lucky enough to sell the writing, then you’d be home free.
Like I said, we can all dream.
In truth, I’m not at all like Baxter. At 16, he wrote to his friend; ‘I was very loath to expose my verse to the private or public eye, as I had sensed early the morbid fear of poetic expression which so many have.’ And yet, here I am, defying that morbid fear as openly as possible. (And yes, I believe many people are still uncomfortable with poetic expression, Probably because they are philistines).
In fact, *gasp*, I don’t really even like his poetry. But I can accept that he was one of the leading poets in our short history, and many people do adore him. One site calls his “unanimously New Zealand’s greatest poet. I beg to differ.
Personally, if we’re getting into NZ poets, I’m more of a Hone Tuwhare, Glenn Colquhoun, Aroha Harris, David Geary (please read Death of a Fence Post Modernist), Katherine Mansfield fan. (Yes, I know, several of them are or have been New Zealand Poet Laureates. I’m so mainstream in my attempt to be alternative). I’ve tried to find fresh blood, but nothing has grabbed me as yet. Perhaps I need to go backwards instead of forwards. (Yay for more Tennyson!)
That said, I shall leave you with some Byron. (And not She Walks in Beauty, that one has been flogged until gasping by pretenders to the throne of poetical understanding, and adolescent sweaty men trying to propose romantically and fucking it up big time).
This is from Don Juan.
But words are things, and a small drop of ink,
Falling like dew, upon a thought, produces
That which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think;
‘Tis strange, the shortest letter which man uses
Instead of speech, may form a lasting link
Of ages; to what straits old Time reduces
Frail man, when paper – even a rag like this – ,
Survives himself, his tomb, and all that’s his.