I received a letter from Rosalind in 2009 congratulating me on PitWR. At that stage she was still living in Oamaru but we met up on one of her frequent Dunedin trips. This led to her offering to deliver the cards around Oamaru which led me to invite her to become a PitWR trustee. Since then Rosalind has moved to Dunedin but she still delivers our Oamaru cards if her trips coincide with our distribution dates. We regularly meet for hot drinks, a good old chinwag, and a tasting of each other’s latest poetic efforts.
I grew up in Dunedin and attended university here before travelling in Europe for 3 years. On my return I trained as a primary school teacher and taught for many years, mainly in North Otago. In 1991 I set up the Music for Children Trust, and from then until 2006 I travelled round Otago teaching music in primary schools and pre-schools. I particularly enjoyed going to remote areas like the Maniototo or Omarama or Mt Cook, where I would spend a week at a time taking music with all the children in the school. In 2006 I had a change of direction and now concentrate on translating German, which has been a love of mine since studying it at high school and university. Although I moved back to Dunedin 3 years ago, I still have my house in Oamaru where I lived while teaching in North Otago. The house with its sea view is my favourite place to write, though like most people I carry a notebook everywhere and jot down ideas whenever they occur to me.
My father was a professor of English and passed on his love of poetry to us. I’m very grateful that I grew up in a household where poetry was highly valued; like so much else, I took it for granted at the time, only much later realising what a privilege this was. My favourite poets are too numerous to mention, but recently I’ve enjoyed reading poetry by Michael Swan, Bill Sewell and Ruth Dallas. I admire economy of words and am always trying to pare back my own writing to the barest essentials.
My 2 poems. The first is about meeting a friend after an interval of many years, and the way we seemed to pick up exactly where we had left off. The second is about an elderly Sri Lankan woman with Alzheimers who had been a dancer and a musician. Hearing music always elicited a response from her even when nothing else did: she would start beating time on the counterpane, or sometimes sit up on the edge of the bed with her hands swaying and dancing to the music.
We were listening to records
when you slipped out to the dairy.
You remember the calendar
on the kitchen door? While you
were gone, someone altered it.
I did not notice this, wandering
through strange, spine-tingling
landscapes of Schubert, Beethoven.
First days, then months and years
were soundlessly removed.
You returned, surprised
to notice the new date.
We turned over the record,
ready to hear the next movement.
You ride lightly on your mind now,
travel to far places beyond our reach;
yet at the first touch of music
instantly you are here with me,
and when hands and eyes dance
shrunken skin is graceful as a girl’s,
eyes are wells of light.