I’d been looking forward to the launch of Apirana Taylor‘s new poetry book A canoe in midstream at Madras Cafe Books last night, not just because of the chance to have “a drink and a nosh-up and a talk” , the best bit of launches according to Taylor. That was all good but even better was getting to hear Taylor read.
He had all his multiple talents on show last night; actor, musician, raconteur and most of all poet. And he had the cleanest, shiniest shoes. Call me trivial but attention to details like that carry over into other things, like making sure the words in a poem are perfect and true.
The book was launched by Fiona Farrell in typically poetic fashion, as she talked about those ‘poetry moments’ when a poet’s voice comes back to us as we’re walking along a hilltop or attending a funeral. A scratchy recording of Yeats reading The lake isle of Innisfree in his quavery old man’s voice, James K. Baxter declaiming A small ode to mixed flatting or Margaret Mahy reciting Down the back of the chair.
We are uplifted, challenged and moved by these memories and the audience last night was given lots of opportunities to lay down some new ones as Taylor read in his unforgettable voice. If you ever get the chance to hear him, take it.