Thursday, 14 August 2008

Lunching with Michele

[Photo taken by Gregory Wood]

"I hear you've done an assignment on one of my poems?"
Here I am. I am face to face with my favourite poet and one of my literary idols, Michele Leggott. And she's talking to me. Me! So, of course, my mind goes blank at the all crucial moment, robbing me of anything even mildly intelligent to say. Of all the times my mind chooses to stop working (and it does it with alarming regularity), why now!!

Bumbling idiot act aside, this experience of meeting Michele was one of the most outstanding and inspirational experiences of my entire life. For those of you who are not familiar with contemporary NZ poetry, Michele Leggott is our current Poet Laureate, a massively accomplished and brilliant poet. Her poetry publications include:

Like This? Poems. Christchurch: Caxton Press, 1988.
Swimmers, Dancers. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1991.
DIA. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1994.
As Far As I Can See. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 1999.
Milk & Honey. Auckland: Auckland University Press, 2005; Cambridge: Salt, 2006.
Journey to Portugal. Collages by Gretchen Albrecht. Auckland: Holloway Press, 2007.

She came to Massey's Albany campus to give a lecture in the Chancellor's Series and what a treat it was. She read us five of her poems which are all the more beautiful when read out by their author; showed us her tokotoko (the ceremonial stick each Poet Laureate is given, each personally designed for them by Jacob Scott) and then spoke about her writing and its current connection to journeys.

If this was the closest I got to Michele Leggott ever again, I would die a very happy woman. However, our wonderful lecturers Mary and Jack arranged for us to have lunch with her afterwards. Which was where I found myself, directly opposite one of the women I admire most, barely able to remember my own name, let alone the poem of hers I had written about. It was of course, a woman, a rose and what has it have to do with her or they with one another, a poem I have read many times and love dearly. My most sincere apologies to Michele for my appalling memory.

Over lunch, our group had the opportunity to discuss her work, her teaching, her Laureateship and inspiration with her. I think the two things that stood out for me the most of all of the things she said were that she takes her inspiration from her journey through life (including trips to the shops as well as Portugal) and that, when I answered her question "Are any of you here writers?" with "I try to be" she said, "No, you say, YES, I am a writer."

So, YES. I am a writer. And I have Michele Leggott to thank for a boost of creative confidence. It doesn't get much better than that!

Poet Laureate Blog
Michele Leggott Author Page at NZEPC
Michele Leggott NZ Book Council Page

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