Well it’s happened. The Summer King has been officially Launched.
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.
One Reply to “and a time was had by all”
Congratulations, Joanna. I look forward to reading your book!