This morning I had to hustle to catch the 10 a.m. ferry to Waiheke Island for the Waiheke Book Festival: Words on a Small Island. As usual I met wonderful people along the way. Waiheke is a convoluted island with lots of inlets and beaches. A small village is about a 10 minute walk from the ferry landing. If I had more time (and less rain) I would have done some of the tramps. Very intriguing. It was easy to find the Artworks Centre and Theatre and join the festival of words.
Waiheke is an island full of weekenders and retirees who are creative and hold strong opinions. It reminded me of another wealthy bohemian enclave–Carmel. The organizers did a terrific job with creating an inspiring atmosphere. They wrote quotes from writers on every window and surface and they designed a brilliant set for the interviews with writers that reused an old bach (holiday beach house).
We heard from a wonderful poet, Jenny Bornholdt, whose painter husband Gregory O’Brien with Euan Macleod were the artists in residence for the week prior. She read to us a poem called “Big Minty Nose” that I liked very much. Then we had a lunch break and a chat with the painters in the gallery next door. I had time to stroll through the charming village before the main event: Lloyd Jones! I have pushed Mister Pip on many of you. I love his other writing too: At the End of the World We Learn to Dance, Hand Me Down World, and Book of Fame. I was worried that he would be a jerk and then I would not like his work so much. I am happy to report that he is a lovely man and you would be thankful if you were seated next to him at a dinner party. The last author was a woman from South Island: Laurence Fearnley (The Hut Builder). She was very shy and at the same time eager to share about her writing and read to us an intriguing passage about the Mackenzie Plain.
Then we all went down to the Barn for strawberries, wine tasting, crepes and poetry reading. The barn was full of paintings by Euan and Gregory and poems by local poets.
This was written on the wall by Gregory O’Brien:
The well-balanced poem a chair-like being
there are, he said, four legs to stand on:
be romantic, be passionate, be imaginative.
And never be rushed.
A local poet, Pita Rikys (which sounds Dutch and is actually Maori), read a poem that was inspired by a book called Dark Night Walking with McCahon. This is the excerpt that was written on the wall:
I AM a man of art,
in the silos of my consciousness of my own silences.
dreaming my loneness.
I AM the heir apparent,
still crucified on several crosses,
both totem and teko teko,
I will stand fast,
and my portents and signs will
as visions forever true to me.
Other suggestions, to read later:
Frank O’Hara (poem) The Day Lady Died
My Heart Goes Swimming (Love poems) by Gregory O’Brien and Jenny Bornholdt
Rocky Shore by Jenny Bornholdt
No Ordinary Sun (Son?) poem by ??
Ursula Bethel, poet
Essays by American Eliot Weinberg
The Messenger (translated from the French novel) by ??
Then on the way home I was reunited with my friends I crossed over with on the morning ferry. Two couples in their 50s/60s from Toronto, originally from India. On the way over Meenaz Kassam told me about her work with nonprofits in India and teaching at the American University in Dubai. I shared with her all of the New Zealand writers I have been reading as she has 3 weeks of vacation ahead and is looking for good Kiwi writers. Then on the return trip her husband and the other man in the party who is a doctor (we didn’t exchange names), told me about their study of future trends and what they think will happen with China and India. From that conversation, two more recommended books:
The New Asian Horizon by Kishore Mehbubani
Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid by ? Bazahad.
It had turned cold and the women went inside, but the gentlemen kept me company and the conversation lively since I could not leave the outside air for fear of becoming seasick. (I did feel a little icky by the end but recovered quickly.)
They truly admired the beauty of New Zealand. In spite of the occasional shower, it was a beautiful day. And the bay and Waiheke looked stunning. I hope they have a super tour of New Zealand.
Today is Guy Fawkes Day and tonight there are lots of parties and fireworks. There was also a drunk driving checkpoint on Tamaki Drive (as the bus approached Mission Bay). It was clever as they stop all traffic and they have a kind of mobile RV/lab where I am sure they are able to test your blood alcohol on the spot.
I asked a few New Zealanders what Guy Fawkes Day is all about. They mumble something about Guy Fawkes blowing up the British Parliament and then confess it is just an excuse for fireworks. The fireworks here are serious–rockets mostly.
I will not be getting much sleep till late tonight. I do not mind because I have some good books to read!