My unofficial National Poetry Day 2020 NZ was sharing poems with random strangers, finding a mythical book shop and buying outsider book-art.
The day began with printing and trimming the poems my friend Margaret Austin and I were going to share with city pedestrians. I was full of confidence having done this slightly daft thing once before, and Margaret launched into the project with enthusiasm.
We went into a couple of cafes but mostly we accosted strangers on the footpath.
“Did you know it’s National Poetry Day today?” (Of course not.) “Would you like a poem?”(Yes was the norm, No the exception.)
I approached people young and old, in hoodies, dresses, suits and visibility jackets, bearded, bald, beanied and ear-podded. I could not identify any discernible poetry type of person and to my astonishment, about 75% were positively enthusiastic! We were both asked quite often to read a poem aloud: these were highly personalised readings.
We gave away our 100 poems (and a few little books) in about 40 minutes. Next year, we could easily double that number because in Cuba Street at least, poems appear to be pop pop popular.
Phew! After a quick sandwich and coffee at The Milk Crate I went down a side lane that I had often hurried through but never paused to examine. It’s off Cuba Mall and doesn’t even have a name, as far as I can tell. Blow me down, there I found not only the phenomenal Pegasus Books, which I had been virtually unaware of until today…
… but also Roar! an outsider art gallery which I used to frequent until they moved… somewhere. Now they are tucked away close to Pegasus Books, just off Cuba Street. On a high, I bought a work by David Boyle, who continues to make me “read” books in new ways. His Books and Rabbit (?) will feature in a cat influencer post tomorrow. (Ursula is pondering her review as we speak.)
Finally I got to the Post Office and discovered that my book, How To Be Old, if parsimoniously packaged, would cost only $4 to post to Korea or indeed anywhere in the world beyond Australia and the Pacific Islands. Score! $4 is much less than the $9 that I expected, and this has excellent implications for people outside of New Zealand who want to order How To Be Old. Postage will not be prohibitive. Message for writers and publishers: good things come in small books.
So that was my National Poetry Day in Wellington, New Zealand. Appropriately happy, as now I’m officially a poet once again after years as (ahem) an expert in digital content. Welcome back, me! The old me, in two senses.