The venue for the launch of author and poet John Adams’ latest collection of poetry is within walking distance of his home – where not so long ago I sat at the dining table as he talked through some of his poems, and his book of short stories – the Elbow Stories. I started reading the latter as I settled into a wide-awake flight to Australia – the first short story freaked me out so I’ve arranged for an independent review of the Rumpelstiltskin Blues by someone younger and hopefully more sophisticatedly literate.
I’ve started with the venue because I couldn’t find it. Despite my decreasingly recent absence from central Auckland I can usually remember where previous haunts and homes are and how to get to them. Saturday mid-day as I drive through Ponsonby (like the dodgems with expensive cars) I’m searching my memory for the West End Rowing Club. I have a long-term memory vision of a wood-panelled room with black and white photos of yesteryear somewhere at the bottom of a Herne Bay hill near water. Where this vision has arisen from turns out to be mysterious as the star of Jess’s Underground Kitchen tells me that the Club is located in Avondale. I ring the other star of the day – he doesn’t answer so I leave a message. Then I drive round the corner to the home where I find John’s wife Usha sorting out food trays and friend from rural primary school days Ron, poised to point me down the road to the Herne Bay Petanque Club- it used to be the Bowling Club.
I manage to squeeze Ron, the food trays and the tray of goodies he is carrying into the back of my car – and we trundle down the road and walk into the building which on reflection could never have been the Rowing Club of my memory. A contemporary is pruning a rose growing on the traditional metal pole and wire fence – I confirm what’s she has been told – “it’s a book launch”
I’m not the first or the last to arrive. When I’d hit the Auckland traffic and crawled the persistently dug-up Southern Motorway and then endured the frustrating stationary state caused by the never-ending stream of cars belting up from the Papakura/Karaka on-ramp, I thought it would be over before I got there.
There are fashionably formica tables set up down the window-side with copies of the glowing, warmly coloured cover of the latest Adams’ effort. Books are being bought – books are being sold.
Don’t Judge Me – a band of Adams and a cohort of talented legals and associates – has its gear set up under the board also confirming I’m in the right place.
And, in terms of the invitation – combined birthdays and book launch – there’s a table of food and two birthday cakes. One has “70” on it and I internally glower at the unfairness of nature. The 70-year-old Adams looks about 15 years old – an appearance which intensifies when you see his slight shorts and jandals-clad body, laptop bag slung over shoulder like the diligent schoolboy he once was, off to Auckland University in pursuit of his doctorate. The other cake is for Brandon, who confesses his birthday isn’t until the following week – who cares – it’s a very big, delicious looking cake!
Don’t Judge me play a set allowing for stragglers to straggle and those of us already near the food and drink to fortify ourselves – I’m driving home so it’s glasses of water for me. They don’t test for gluttony so I try the sandwiches, and the arancini and the tiny mushroom tartlets and of course in the interests of review two pieces of chocolate brownie. It all rests on top of the enormous pork and coleslaw something I gnawed my way through at the fabulous Jess’s Underground Kitchen.
Publisher Roger Steele opens proceedings. I push towards the front fringe of the crowd and hold up my iPhone – Hanna Ellis shows me how to take close-ups! John is sitting at/on the cajon for this and the intellectually intricate speech from Brandon. John reads. Don’t Judge me plays some more. Everyone talks.
I recognise many faces in this crowd and, some recognise me. I see someone I thought was dead. I don’t attempt to engage in conversation inside – I’ve recently formally established something I’ve known for years – I can’t isolate conversation in a noisy room. I wander outside where I talk with a fascinating young woman lawyer who works with Waikato Tainui.
I’m thinking of leaving when a woman tells me we were “at school together”. It turns out to be slightly more entangled than that but it’s great recollection as it’s about 50 years since the class I was in was banned from having winter heating for wrecking the gas stove making toasted sandwiches on it. As luck would have it she’s just completed a further career course – as a proofreader. That could be useful to ARTbop until I realise I write like I talk and that could take a careful proofreader to the edge of insanity. I offer to advertise her abilities. As we are saying our farewells I’m introduced to one of the “children” of the family. She is holding a copy of the Adams’ publication. I suggest (at least twice) that she could write a review for ARTbop. It would be a nice gesture as John reviewed the Tauranga Writer’s 2016 anthology Byline.
In true country-girl spirit I wrap some of the delicious arancini, sandwiches and tartlets in a napkin (and yes two more pieces of chocolate brownie) – to sustain me on my journey homeward. I avoid newly opened tunnels and shuffle back through College Hill and up Hobson Street to join the southern speeding vehicles – and let out a sigh of relief – I”m leaving Auckland (again).
(And as a final word: I acknowledge those who helped make this a function worth travelling to Auckland for. The grandparents on “duty”, Paul and his wife who ensured catering and tidying up was done, the talented and indefatigable Usha Patel and of course JoJo’s catering (that was the name on the pristine white boxes)
Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.
The Rumpelstiltskin Blues is published by Steele Roberts Aotearoa publishers, Welington New Zealand. Their website says:- “We are a small independent company focusing on quality non-fiction and poetry — naturally we’re also happy to publish popular bestsellers. We’ve been publishing since 1996 and have won several national book awards. Our list includes art and poetry, business, Maori, children’s, humour, self-help, current affairs and general books. We are interested in adventurous projects and in co-operating with other NZ and overseas publishers (see our bookshop for a detailed listing). At the end of 2014 we had produced around 500 books.We have many exciting and excellent titles to come – please stay tuned to our website, and keep in touch. http://steeleroberts.co.nz/
John Adams is an Auckland writer, author of Briefcase (AUP, 2011), winner of the Jessie Mackay Prize for Best First Poetry Book published in 2011, and the Elbow Stories (Steele Roberts, 2013).]
John’s band (a sextet) plays original compositions, song and spoken word “Don’t Judge Me” is available to play at private and public functions.
John Adams can be contacted at email@example.com
THIS FRIDAY 25TH AUGUST 2017 IT’S NATIONAL POETRY DAY IN NEW ZEALAND! There are a number of events around the Bay of Plenty. ARTbop has published the advertising for some of these on the ARTbop facebook page. But you might like to take a look at what’s happening in Rotorua, Katikati, the Tauranga Writer’s event at the Mount Social Club, Mount Maunganui – Stand and Deliver and the poetry of David Merritt at The Incubator, Tauranga.
ARTbop has also created a random event “mouthpieces” – spoken word poetry which will be heard on Friday 25th August in and around Whakamarama and Te Puna. Interested in participating in this flash mob approach to sharing the spoken work contact Rosemary Balu at firstname.lastname@example.org or 07 571 8722
AND don’t forget on Saturday 26th August 2017 at the Tauranga Art Gallery you will find the Zinefest!
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