For Outrider Poets, Jenny Powell & Kay McKenzie Cooke; aka J&K Rolling; poetry reading tours, 2014 – 2016 go to J&K Rolling’s Outrider Whistlestops
November 9th, 2018
A Wonderful Waikouaiti Welcome
We had a most wonderful time in Waikouaiti. The audience of locals was very receptive and engaged.
We loved hearing their poetry and feedback as well. The poetry just kept coming! And all of it was quality. It was perhaps the biggest response we’ve had yet to the open mic. segment of our readings.
We always finish our readings with a discussion and it was interesting to hear what the Waikouaiti people had to say and to answer the questions they asked. We were assured that poetry (and writing) is alive and well in this wee town. There was even some interest in organising a regular poetry writing group.
The library itself has a welcoming atmosphere. It is obvious how invested the librarians are in the community and in providing a library that fits the small town of Waikouaiti like a glove.
I was particularly taken with the library’s window seat with its pastoral view. I could imagine sitting here losing myself in a book.
As always, Jenny and I are interested to hear of what is going on in the writing world in these rural areas – out in the outskirts. There is always something happening. There are always writers to be found. There is always poetry.
The rule of thumb in these towns tends to be – ‘If you want to see what we’re up to, make the effort and come and see for yourselves’. With a bit of give and take, this is always a pleasure. Bring something and go away with something. It’s an unwritten rule of country life. And this is exactly what J&K Rolling set out to do. Bring poetry in order to find it. And we are never disappointed.
In the outlying regions, there is always an understated hive of activity in the arts and there is always talent, always some surprise.
And always a cuppa.
‘What happens on tour, stays on tour’ … an adage invented as either a plausible protection of privacy, or an excuse to misbehave and get away with it.
In our (J&K Rolling’s) case it is more about who would believe it anyway? Each time we break city limits, the trail quickly becomes flowered with serendipity and magic, with signposts (invisible to others) that confirm our resolve to keep doing what we do, even if to all outward appearances, it achieves little.
Our trip to Owaka was no exception.
On the way, a detour out to Kaka Point – Aotearoa poet, Hone Tuwhare’s home for many years – proved this. Which was the point; pun intended.
Hone’s Otago University qualification on the wall of the Kaka Point cafe …
In fact, as soon as we turned off at Balclutha to head east, following a small blue truck with the number plate QUAX (no doubt a nickname; rural communities are rife with nicknames as stamps of approval, fond derision or otherwise) we knew we were in the zone where to expect the unexpected becomes the norm for J&K.
We were staying on a farm out of town a little, with a dear old friend of mine – old in the sense of length of friendship – who during her ‘country service’ as a young teacher, met and married a local lad, and has remained ‘forever after’ in the district.
Hearing about the deep, rich history of their family farm, family trees and connections that span centuries and oceans, as well as more recent connections through music and teaching, became the theme of the night. As we sat talking there in the original homestead where four generations of the same family have now lived, I felt the sense of home and belonging that filled that house from the foundations to the rafters.
After a good night’s sleep it was time to hit the road back to the township of Owaka where we were to set up our stall in the recreation grounds. As long as we took the right turnings, we’d be fine. However with J&K, this is not always as straight forward as it sounds and we did in fact take a wrong turn … which is pretty normal for us. We have been known to get ourselves lost more than once trying to head in or out of small towns – even small towns with only one main street.
But in the end we got there and set up our POETRY stall in our allocated spot. Both of us had prepared for the stall with poems written on cards and posters etc.
Note the large Clydesdale horseshoe. It caught the eye of more than a few people – I trust not at the expense of the poetry …
It was a first for us to sell poetry in this way and it was going to be interesting to see how our stall would fare among the array of stalls there.
… J&K right next door to the Search and Rescue. How appropriate.
And on the other side of us, the Labour Party (a NZ political party) stall with an assortment of jams, relishes and pickles for sale.
We said we’d read poetry on the half hour every hour and had sent out an invite / challenge for Cavalcade riders to contribute a poem as well. However, we suspect the riders in the Cavalcade were keen to rest up before the Hoe-Down later that night, so poetry was far from their minds. The experience of riding the trails would have engendered some poetry in those with a leaning towards written expression, I’m sure. Maybe one or two of those fine country lines will surface somewhere on a future J&K trail somewhere in the hinterlands … you never know.
We did manage to catch some interested ears. At one point I simply basked in the sound of Jenny reading her horse-themed poetry as background – much like a piano player in a busy cafe – to the relaxed chatter and musings of passersby.
And then at midday, the parade of horses (which seemed to go on forever). A wonderful sight.
Not all of the 600 horses that had taken part in the week long (or more) treks from various points in West Otago and Eastern Southland to this town of Owaka, were in the parade, but those that trotted past provided a sight that gladdened hearts. Including the hearts of J&K who (as you might already have guessed) have a very soft spot for horses.
Especially Clydesdales …
Competing against C&W music and a VERY loud loudspeaker the MC used, was a challenge for J&K. We wondered if positioning ourselves in the middle of the gathered throng and providing some free-range poetry would work?
Jenny also decided to give away to any children interested, a wonderful little poem she’d written about horse’s lips. The response was immediate and in no time at all she had given away all the poems.
Speakers held by crane
Late afternoon it was time for J&K to pack up and hit the homeward trail.
The Owaka Market Day (with the added attraction of a Cavalcade) experience will be chalked up by us for its difference (was our Poetry Stall the first ever Poetry Stall at a market?)
It will be remembered for the connections we made and for the re-connections (both of us were delighted to catch up with people we hadn’t seen for years) for the interest and novelty of reading poetry at a fair, for the challenge and interest the venue of a market day provides for poetry reading and for the entrenched, practical, solid, hard-working, rural community atmosphere of a town like Owaka: a town that rewards hard work and a town that doesn’t stand on ceremony – as the young woman in the local cafe says when she greets customers, “We are pretty informal here”.
Mostly though, this J&K Rolling venture will be remembered for the poetry of horses.
A Bit (more later)
J&K Rolling the Outrider Poets at the Market Day with our Poetry Stall. It was a magical day. An enthralling experience in more than one way.
Goes without saying that the horses were the ones who stole the show.
(This is a quick illustrated report for now. More later).
MARCH 1st, 2018
Tomorrow Jenny and I head off for J&K’s next outrider adventure in the small town of Owaka; gateway to the Catlins.
There is a Market Day in town on Saturday to help welcome the 500 horses and riders of the Goldfield’s Cavalcade, due to converge at midday on the small town. The Cavalcade is made up from various groups of horse riders that have set out from different parts of the Southland and Otago.
And J&K are taking part in the Family Market Day with a Poetry Stall selling poetry posters, cards, books etc. As well, we will be reading poetry on the hour every hour and inviting people to read their poetry.
Our tagline Breaking City Limits for Fine Country Lines says it all.
We set out with the goal of bringing poetry to the country, and finding any poetry there to be discovered. Always, always, we achieve just that – surprises and serendipitous events adding spice to all the various whistlestops we have made over the past four years.
So much that happens creatively in the hinterlands, happens under the radar. City folk just don’t get it. Get it? You have to go – break city limits – in order to find the gold. So that is what we do.
Over the years, horses have become a feature for J&K. We keep the horse theme going (like a running gag) and make it part of our persona. This time the presence of 500 horses can only add a pretty big WOW factor to our venture and up the ante.
Tell you all about it when we get back.
Back On Track
The photo above is one of several magnificent statues placed on museum island, Berlin, depicting horses and riders in battle.
Horses are very much on my mind at present because in two weeks time, with Jenny Powell, I’m going to be attending the Owaka Cavalcade Market and Family Day, when 500 horses taking part in the annual Goldfield’s Heritage Trust Cavalcade, rides into town.
These photos were taken in the winter of 2016, in Luggate, after J&K Rolling had rolled into Wanaka to take part in the National Poetry Day events there.
J&K Rolling, Outrider Poets, will have a stall at the market with poetry cards, books and other poetry paraphernalia for sale. We will also be reading poetry there; on the hour every hour. We have invited riders in the cavalcade, and anyone else interested, to bring along a poem and take part.
For our Poetry Stall, I’m using leaves to print paper that will be used for poetry cards etc.
My d-i-l Kate came up with the idea. With baby granddaughter on board, we have been busy collecting leaves and other bits of flora, packing them between paper and then boiling the stack up with vinegar and an old horseshoe. (There’s more to it of course, but I’ll leave it at that for now).
After being boiled and then left to steep ...
The great unveiling … We were thrilled with the results …
All ready for a poem. One about horses, of course.
Jenny Powell is no doubt also cooking up some treats for the stall and I know she’s got a few horse poems up her sleeve as well.
Gold In Lawrence
Our visit to Lawrence in April was gold!
Through the efforts of a contact in Lawrence – our friend Jeanne Bernhardt – Graeme Furness kindly offered us his studio (Exit Studios) as a venue. He also invited his musician friend Mike to join us for the night of music and poetry.
One of many such historical buildings that line the main street of Lawrence; a town with a history of gold mining.
We were thrilled when Jeanne asked this guy if we could hitch a ride on his horse drawn wagon. How apt for J&K Rolling!
Graeme Furness’ amazing studio, Exit. If you’re ever in Lawrence or passing through, do pop in and have a look-see.
We were overwhelmed by Graeme’s generosity and the time he put in to get ready for the event. Not only was the space perfectly set out, but food was provided as well! Plus he’d made sure that the town was plastered with posters to advertise the event.
Graeme is not only an artist and builder of beautiful wooden coffins (hence the name Exit Studios) but a very fine musician to boot!
Graeme’s friend Mike is a fantastic musician too. The quality of talent found in small towns and rural areas, constantly astonishes and delights both Jenny and me when we visit these rural districts.
It was beyond cool to have Jeanne as our guest reader. She is such a gifted writer – such a breath of real. ( Under-rated in New Zealand’s writing world).
Jeanne made us feel very welcome in ‘her town’. Her passion for the town of Lawrence and her fondness for its residents, is very clear. Hearing her extol Lawrence’s virtues – the smell of its country air, the relaxed feel, the dark, starry skies at night – helped J&K’s appreciation for the town of Lawrence to grow as well.
As well as the high quality music and poetry (Jeanne also read some of her prose) we also had a taker for the open mic. segment. A local raconteur-in-verse (and a mite controversial verse at that). His clever poems have a political slant and were delivered with aplomb and a certain cheek. There were some intriguing backstories to his poems about local political contretemps and conspiracies.
Exit Studios art
You don’t have to be an e.t. to live in Lawrence, but it may help?
Jenny looking in Exit Studio window. There were some beautiful wooden bowls and we couldn’t resist buying a souvenir each.
Au revoir Lawrence – we’d love to come back.
Let’s see if we can make that a promise J&K can keep.
Our latest venture: