For starters, it was absolutely packed. Martin and Lisa (who own the joint) reckon we had over 200 people, and the waiting staff were working like mad things ferrying pizza and pints and beakers … incredible. I kept meaning to take some photos, but there was no way I could get enough clear space. It would have been just a melange of elbows and backs and hair. And that would also have required me to have some time when I wasn’t either at the microphone, or lost in a crowd being vigorously congratulated (which was lovely, except I wasn’t able to really enjoy basking in it until the chances of disaster had passed …) (About half an hour ago, in other words).
We’d had a nice, clear plan of how things would go. We knew there were plenty of people wanting to read (you wonderful people!), so we’d decided there would have to be a ballot. We weren’t sure what to use to draw the names out of – a bag was too boring. And none of us really went in for hats. Someone suggested a chamber pot, and someone else a pint-glass. (Don’t mix the two.) Then the brilliant suggestion: a road cone! We had two mayors coming – Lianne Dalziel, mayor of Christchurch (bonus – read the text of her speech here), and Kelvin Coe, mayor of Selwyn District – so the option of liberating a road cone for the night from somewhere nearby was quickly dismissed. Instead, I went out and bought one. Passing approximately seventeen million of the damn things on various side roads, footpaths, car parks and intersections as I went. But never mind: mine is shiny!
The other thing worth noting is that we had contributors who flew in specially – Bill Sutton from Napier, Keith Westwater from Wellington, Judith Paviell and Dean Walker (separately) from Nelson, and Lorraine Ritchie from Dunedin.
And we were worried people from Christchurch might not want to come out to Lincoln!
It was one of those nights where things just worked. Ok, not the timing – we started late (of course), and ran over time without being able to hear more than a dozen or so people read (sigh). And there were no lamb ribs (argh). But none of that really mattered. Everyone was happy – full of joy, and pleasure, and community, and a deep love of this art of ours. (And mighty fine beer.) The book looks great, people seemed genuinely honoured to be part of it all, and I was hugged by so many people that I thought I’d pop. I can honestly say it was the best, most enjoyable book launch I’ve ever been to.
Since the launch, I’ve had so many people contact me to say how much they enjoyed it. And apparently people have been going to the Lab and saying the same thing, which is wonderful. (Gratuitous plug: I’m teaching poetry classes out there this year – check the Workshops for 2016 page!) And we sold a really good number of copies, which is also wonderful.
We’re going to be doing more readings in various places throughout the rest of the year, to keep the momentum going. So if you didn’t get a chance to read at the launch, keep your eyes open, because we may be reading in a library or bookstore near you! And if you’re curious about the media coverage so far, there’s an article from Essence North Canterbury, two from Central Canterbury News (about and then at the launch), and radio interviews on Sunday Morning, and Writers Block, with more to come. (What can I say? Jim and I are strumpetting ourselves fairly shamelessly.) And if you want to get your hands on copies, the best way – the one that will contribute most to the charity side of things – is to get one direct from the publishers. (Download this form with all the details.)
There were a lot of thank-yous said on the night, and I did get a bit Jeff Fenech at the end of it all. But I want to say them again.
To all the poets who entrusted us with their work. Your belief in the importance of the project was the ultimate catalyst for everything that followed. I’ve lived with your poems so closely for the last few months, I feel as though they’re almost a part of me. I suppose they are, in a way. Which makes us family, in a way. And may explain why I now feel a bit empty-nesti-sh. Thank you.
To Martin and Lisa and all the staff at The Laboratory, who worked your backsides off the whole night. Most people would be horrified by the thought of a crowd of poets descending on their place of work, but you all seemed to enjoy it, which is humbling and inspiring. Poets get used to being told that no-one likes poetry, so it was a beautiful thing to see you listening with such enjoyment as the poems were being read. There was one moment I’ll treasure for a long time, when I looked sideways and saw what looked like all of you standing behind the counter, leaning in, listening with such pleasure to the readings. I wish I could have photographed you. I had to blink back tears. Thank you.
To our anonymous donor, who underwrote the cost of producing the anthology. That one gesture acted like a wave of a magic wand, and undid all sorts of knots and potential obstacles. Again, the faith you had in the importance of the project is something that is beyond words. It meant that it would definitely happen, and now, not ‘someday’, or after months if not years of jumping through hoops and filling out forms and begging and pleading. You saved us years. Thank you.
To all the organisations that gave us discounts and access and who generally helped us with the behind-the-scenes business of creating an attractive visual object – Caxton Press, Fairfax Media, the New Zealand Defence Force, and anyone else I’ve forgotten – thank you.
To Jim and Glyn, who did much of the heavy lifting as far as the work of editing went. You made it fun. (Stressful, but fun. And the stressful bit was nothing to do with you.) I’m astonished that we managed to go through the whole thing at such speed without causing each other any bruises along the way. For your forbearance, your dedication, and your desire to be part of it all – thank you.
And lastly, to Sarah from the cheese shop. I blame you for this. You were the first one who asked me if there was a book of these poems being put together, because you wanted one. There were quite a few other people who added their voice to yours over the last four years, but you were the first civilian, and prodded me into thinking that there might be a wider desire for these poems than just the literary community. So thank you.
Go well, little book. You have certainly been launched.