As feared, the weather in Christchurch was horrible. After a week of surprisingly pleasant weather (this has been an unusually cold, grey and wet winter so far), Friday quickly degenerated into scuds of sleety, spitty showers. And a high of 8˚C. Oh joy! And access to the function room was via an external staircase. (Double joy!)
But it would seem that the gods of weather have a soft spot for book launches (or were temporarily deposed by poetry-loving goddettes), because the skies cleared mid afternoon, and by nightfall the weather was dry. Very cold, but dry.
Most of the details of the night are still a blur to me. I can remember that we thought we’d arrive 45 minutes before, and have plenty of time to put up posters; reorganise the room; listen too some non-appropriate music (I was looking forward to “Ride of the Valkyries”) … but in fact we were followed up the stairs by the first couple of people, who wanted to make sure they got their seats early. And I can remember thinking “X hasn’t come after all … or Y … or Z … argh, no, it’s going to be a disaster!!” only to be informed by my Other Half that the room was full to overflowing (and it was), and it was time to begin. He brought me a beer; told me to take up my station inside; and we were underway.
It really was a great night. Wendy Harrex (my publisher) spoke, as did a member of Kathleen Grattan‘s extended family, then Jim Norcliffe laid it all on with a front-end loader. Then it was my turn. I think I managed to avoid boring everyone to death – I indulged myself, and read the full Venery sequence, which I’ve never had the chance to do before. It was probably the best reading I’ve done – it felt … really really good. No need to gasp for breath (unlike usual), nothing but the poems and a room full of people who were all giving a damn fine impression of being exactly where they most wanted to be.
The second half of the programme – the readings and “touchstone poem” talks – were great too. A good mixture of styles and voices, and no-one went over time! And the audience seemed to be really interested too, which is always good. Helen Yong talked about Carol Ann Duffy’s Away and See; Sean Joyce about Jaques Prévert’s Barbara; Bernadette Hall talked about Sharon Olds’ poems on (grand)motherhood; and James Norcliffe about Wallace Stevens’ The Emperor of Icecream. And it all worked so well – like sitting in on an interesting conversation,without having to do any of the conversational work yourself. A perfect way to wind up a delightful evening.
As a final compliment, at the end of the evening the lovely bartender came up and said that she’d really enjoyed it too, and if I wasn’t planning to do anything with the posters (I had some of the poems printed as A3 posters) she would love to have them!
The downside (and trust me, I can always find a downside) is something that I am quite ashamed of. I managed to screw up the spelling of three people’s names when I was signing their copies … to make it worse, two of them even spelled their names as I miswrote … I have no idea how I managed that, and I feel absolutely awful. Of all the things to stuff up! Especially given how much it’s plagued me – I had my entire primary school class trained to chorus “a”, whenever teachers called me “Joanne” … (Unfortunately I can’t remember who the three people were, so I haven’t been able to do anything about it yet. But if you’re one of the three, or know one of the three, please get in touch – I’ll replace your copy with one that is inscribed properly.)
Now to try and return to normal life. Whatever that is!
It’s really real, and it’s really happened.