Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Michele Leggott & a Journey To Portugal

We sat
outside a café
on the quayside
drinking flat white coffees

talking of Portugal
Last year, when I was back in New Zealand, I finally met Michele Leggott, one of my favourite people, my favourite poets. We had corresponded for about seven years, ever since the first stirrings of the anthology Big Smoke: New Zealand Poems 1960-1975 which she co-edited with Murray Edmond (Martin's cousin) & the late Alan Brunton. Her initial letter talked about the anthology project, & asked, extremely politely, if she could rummage through my past.

Those few lines, & her on-going support & correspondence, were the prime trigger for my getting back into writing after 25 years of silence. She got me to look at my old poetry, provided me with copies of stuff I hadn't seen for years, edited & oversaw the selection of my early poems that appeared as The right foot of the giant in 1999, dragged some new poems out of me to accompany the launch of Big Smoke in 2000, provoked some more, curated a selection of N.Z. poetry for Jacket #16 & generously asked me to contribute, the first new poems I had published in 27 years, kept on being supportive as I scratched around, learning to stand on my own feet again, to regain my poetic balance. She was instrumental in my having an author's page posted at the New Zealand electronic poetry centre, in inviting me over to launch the page at the nzepc's 3rd birthday. She was the one who suggested having Martin Edmond as my interviewer in an email Q&A saying we would probably like one another which we did, immensely. &, through her own poetry, she gave me the gift of making the reading of other people's poetry joyful once more. I cannot thank her enough for what she has done for me over these years.

I don't think I have ever looked forward to meeting someone as much as I looked forward to meeting Michele. & I'm pleased to say that the friendship that developed through our correspondence was strengthened by being able to share the same places at the same time. She met me at the airport, we read together on stage, we walked around the North Shore esplanade, I even danced at a party she had – some things you don't forget, though the lungs & legs ain't what they used to be.

& we talked. About all sorts of things, in all sorts of places. The quote at the top of the post, from a poem I wrote shortly after I got back to Australia, is about one of those times, in late afternoon, on the quayside in Auckland, she waiting for a ferry to go in one direction, I for & in another. We spoke of Portugal where she'd recently been, at a writers' conference. It was a journey that held importance for her.

I enjoyed hearing her talk about it. I enjoyed even more the long wonderful sequence she later wrote about it. & now that enjoyment can be spread even further, because her Journey to Portugal is on-line in the latest issue of Jacket.

1 comment:

AlexG said...

there is a joy in this entry that brought tears.

huzzahs to Michele for her role in yr comeback Mark.

& to both of you years more of work & friendship...