Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei
Seek the treasure you value most dearly: if you bow your head, let it be to a lofty mountain
I am Kay McKenzie Cooke, the daughter of the late Donald Patrick McKenzie and the late Shirley Alison McKenzie (nee Lee) and the oldest of their seven children.
Through my mother’s line, I am tangata whenua and as well am of Scottish and English descent.
Through my father’s line, I am of Scottish and Irish descent.
Ko Takatimu te maunga. Ko Waiau te awa. Ko Takatimu te waka. Ko MoiToiToi toku tipuna, Ko Kai Tahu, toku iwi, Ko Kati Mamoe, Ngati Kohungunu, toku hapu, Ko Te Runanga o Waihopai, Oraka Aparima, Hokonui Runanga toku marae, No Otepoti ahau, Ko Donald Patrick McKenzie raua, Ko Shirley Alison McKenzie (nee Lee) oku matua Ko Kay Frances McKenzie Cooke toku ingoa
My maunga / mountain, the Takitimu range, my awa / river is the Waiau, Southland, my ancestor is Moitoitoi, the maraes I affiliate to are Waihopai, Aparima and Hokonui. My iwi is Kai Tahu, my hapu are Kati Mamoe and Ngati kahungunu.
I live in Dunedin with my husband Robert. Our children are now adults with families of their own. We are grandparents to eight grandchildren.
I spent my formative years in the small seaside town of Orepuki, located on the south-western coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Here I was introduced to wild weather and the craft of writing; my mother encouraging me from an early age to write a weekly poem or short story for the children’s page of the ‘Southland Times’. I was also an avid reader. I feasted on a plethora of Enid Blyton and fairy tales; but ‘Anne of Green Gables’ by LM Montgomery, remained my favourite book and became a touchstone.
When I was ten years old, we moved inland to Otama Valley, Northern Southland, a green and lonely valley-landscape twenty miles away from the township of Gore. After four years as a pupil at the small, two-roomed, country school of Wendon, I attended Gore High School. At this age I enjoyed reading the poems of such poets as John Keats, Dylan Thomas, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Robert Browning, W.H. Auden, T.S. Eliot, Christina Rossetti and Eleanor Farjeon. Writers such as John Steinbeck, James Baldwin, the Brontes, Jane Austen, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Madeline L’Engle, Francoise Sagan, were favourite authors at this stage.
In the early 1970’s I left my Southland home to attend Dunedin Teacher’s College in Otago. I continued to read both prose and poetry. Sam Hunt, Fleur Adcock, Hone Tuwhare and Alistair Campbell were among the poets who provided me with my first taste of New Zealand poetry.
In the mid-seventies, I entered into a teaching career and marriage. After two years overseas, my husband Robert and I returned to New Zealand. Parenthood followed in the early eighties. Through this time, I continued to write sporadic, sparse pieces – mostly poetry or descriptive journal-type writing. As well, I was a faithful keeper of diaries; the now old-fashioned concept of the Five Year Diary being a favourite way of recording.
Sometime during the early-nineties (at the same time as starting up and running a childcare centre, thus adding to the crazy-busy nature of my life at that time) I decided to take writing seriously, attending evening writing classes run by the well-known Dunedin teacher, the late Charles Croot. As well, I completed several Otago University English Department papers. Among these was a Writing Workshop Paper taken by lecturer and writer John Dolan, who encouraged me to submit my first poetry m.s. to Otago University Press.
In the 90’s and into the dawning of the 21st century, I read nothing but poetry. Among my favourite poets at that time (and most have remained my favourites) were: Fleur Adcock, Alastair Campbell, Elizabeth Nannestead, Virginia Were, Lauris Edmond, Ruth Dallas, Cilla McQueen, Bernadette Hall, Fiona Farrell, Rachel Bush, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Les Murray, Judith Wright, Amy Clampitt, Denise Levertov, May Sarton, Elizabeth Bishop, Louise Gluck, Linda Pastan, Marianne Moore, May Swenson, Diane Wakoski, John Dolan, John Dickson, Paola Bilbrough, Jenny Bornholdt, Anna Jackson, Dinah Hawken, Jenny Powell, Rachel McAlpine, Joanna Preston, James Norcliffe, David Eggleton, Tony Beyer, Graham Lindsay, Hone Tuwhare, Peter Olds, James Brown, Geoff Cochrane, John O’Connor, David Karena Holmes, Richard Reeve, Nick Ascroft, Martha Morseth …
In 2002, my first collection, ‘Feeding the Dogs’ was published by Otago University Press and won the Jessie McKay prize for the Best First Book of Poetry, awarded at the NZ Book Awards, 2003. My second collection, ‘Made for Weather’ was published by Otago University Press in 2007. My third poetry book, ‘Born to a Red-Headed Woman’ was published by Otago University Press in May, 2014.
I am presently editing my fourth collection of poems.
Recently I have branched out into novel-writing, finishing a m.s. for a novel called, ‘Craggan Dhu’.
With Dunedin writer Jenny Powell, I am the ‘K’ component of the J&K Rolling poetry-reading duo. We travel to rural areas with our poetry and invite people from the rural communities we visit, to read their own poetry. ‘Breaking City Limits for Fine Country Lines’, is our by-line. 2018 is is our fourth year of operation. Go HERE to read about our ventures.
You can contact me on my email : kmckcooke @ gmail. com (without spaces).
Why call this site Cuttings?
One of my poems is titled, ‘Cuttings’ and it refers to the cuttings caused in the land when roads or railways are put through. Paving, finding, discovering, exploring, seeking, pushing … a way through, is one perception (among others) that I have about this journey called life.
The word ‘cuttings’ could also refer to pieces cut out from a newspaper or magazine – pieces of writing that interest one enough to cut them out. Pieces one wants to keep, to put into a scrapbook or to file away – most likely a dying past-time in these days of online journalism and information bytes. In my case, such cuttings – kept or otherwise – will most likely turn up on my blog in th e form of photos and words.
Cuttings also refers to pieces cut from plants which one wants to propagate. Life is all about growing. We never stop. I am now of an age where life is slowing down and I am slowing down with it. But, I trust, still growing.
‘Kia hora te marino,
Kia whakapapa pounamu te moana,
Kia tere te Karohirohi i mua i tou huarahi’
Translation : (May the calm be widespread,
May the ocean glisten as greenstone,
May the shimmer of light ever dance across your pathway).