For poets, Jenny Powell’s & Kay McKenzie Cooke’s; aka J&K; poetry reading tours, 2014 – 2016 Click Here J&K’s Outrider Whistle Stops
Milton In May
What better place for poetry than a town named after the poet John Milton and lined with streets named after poets?
“There is nothing that making men rich and strong but that which they carry inside of them. True wealth is of the heart, not of the hand.”
— John Milton
Lo and behold! Upon researching the town, we came across a link to a writing group. Milton had a writing group! Who knew? One that meets in the community rooms run by the community’s Project Bruce. We got talking with them and were invited down to meet the group who meet on a Saturday afternoon.
They then invited us to hold a reading, followed by a discussion session with them sometime in May. We opened, as we always do, with the invite to those attending to share their writing. We were hoping to hear some creative and interesting work and (of course) and we were not disappointed. As always we are astonished at what writers come up with in the small towns of Aotearoa New Zealand.
The painted wall outside Milton’s community centre on Shakespeare Street.
We enjoyed our time with this group of enthusiastic writers. We will always remember the the group for its interest in writing, its enthusiasm, charm and warmth. Our time with them will always hold a special place in our hearts.
Thanks to the remarkable Tina who organised promotion of the event, and also to Kim from Project Bruce
Afterwards, we had fun ‘losing ourselves in paradise’ as we chased down street signs.
All is not lost, the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and the courage never to submit or yield.” ― John Milton, Paradise Lost
Read up about the town Milton HERE
from the Wiki link above; Michael Palin describes Milton in his 1997 book Full Circle as a “small inconspicuous town”. He goes on to say “Yet nowhere has looked more like Britain. A gothic spire rises from a red brick parish church. There is a Salvation Army hostel, A Cosy Dell rest home and an advert for ‘Frosty Boy’ lollipops – ‘Often Licked, Never Beaten’. The gardens, and fields beyond could be straight from my Yorkshire birthplace. At around the time of my birth.”
Apparently the saying, “Every cloud has a silver lining” could well have come from John Milton’s line: “Was I deceived or did a sable cloud Turn forth her silver lining on the night?”
May Milton and poetry continue to prosper.
Another link: Things to do in Milton. Might be an idea to add Poetry to that list.
Colour It Poetry
Finally. J&K made it to Tapanui for a poetry reading that has been in the pipeline now for over two years. We have had to postpone three times. The lovely staff at the library did not give up on us and neither did we give up on them. At last it was possible for us to achieve our dream of reading in this small town, snuggled below the Blue Mountains on the east and the Pomahaka River to the west. It’s a town neatly positioned right on the border of West Otago and Southland.
The two-hour drive to Tapanui was achieved under clear, blue skies on a spectacular Spring day, with nodding, roadside daffodils and in green-as-green-can-be paddocks, jittery lambs jumping about like stiff-jointed, wind-up toys.
Lunch in illy’s.
Now, writing this a week later, I’m thinking, ‘Why didn’t I sample the custard square illy’s had in their cake cabinet?’ It looked the real deal. I believe the cafe is becoming renowned for it. Should I ever pass this way again, illy’s custard square will be on the top of my list.
Still with time up our sleeves before our scheduled poetry reading at the library, we did the usual J&K sneaky explore of surroundings. Such meandering usually sparks off the J&K serendipity factor. And this day was no exception.
The day of our poetry reading at the library, just happened to be the day of the announcement of Queen Elizabeth’s death. Fitting then that we found the very red-white-and-blue emporium on the main street of Tapanui, closed.
For Jenny, who is of Welsh blood, a concrete dragon painted red.
If I had my way, every town centre would have a bell. Very tempting to walk up and make it clang. I wonder what would happen if I did? The words, “Where’s the fire?” comes to mind.
And surely every town should have a moon stone.
And a Dr Snow …
The moon stone captured moon-girl, Jenny’s interest. And we were both touched to read that the moonstone was placed in the centre of Tapanui in memory of their Dr Peter Snow, well known for his work with and study of chronic fatigue syndrome.
Horses are still a theme for J&K and have been since the early days (yes, we have been reading poetry in rural places long enough now to have earned the right to use the tagline, ‘early days’.) When asked, a pleasant-mannered businessman agreed to take our photo. “I’m not a local,” he said, so he couldn’t tell us if there were any gift shops – apart from one he knew which had closed.
Tapanui, like multiple small towns everywhere, has suffered from the impact of Covid. A few places had closed up. However, I got a sense that the heart of the town was still beating strong and getting stronger.
At illy’s, where there were some locally-made gifts, we did what we always do and sought out a memento each to remember Tapanui by. Supporting local all the way.
Then it was time to stop our all wandering and curious-cats exploring and wend our way to the library, where we were warmly greeted by Melissa and Sara. We were sad to miss Raewyn, who wasn’t well that day. They offered us, and those who had come along for the reading, a friendly cuppa and some home-baked chocolate truffles (made by Sara, I believe.)
We met the locals who had come along to hear and read poetry, immediately engaging with them in relaxed chat that covered a range of topics. (Not unexpectedly, the Queen being one of the main topics.)
Poetry followed. As always, Jenny and I were very interested to hear what the locals wanted to discuss on the subject of what poetry means to them personally.
It was easy to see that the people attending had a love and enthusiasm for poetry and what it can achieve as a form of expression for those who engage in it. Some expressed an interest in forming a local poetry group. Such a positive response lets jenny and I know that we are achieving what we set out to do, as a poetry reading duo, ten years ago.
On our way out of town we dropped a novel into one of the two Lilliput libraries they have there. We also left some poetry at the library. Spreading the word.
They want us to go back. Wouldn’t that be nice? I hear a slice of custard square calling me.
The Covid 19 virus has seriously impacted on J&K’s plans. We know we are not alone in this, but I just want to note that this virus has been a factor and has scuttled many of our plans.
However, we would like you to know that the J&K Poetry Readings held in fringe places, outlying stations & intriguing & interesting, rustic, vital & rural places, have not ceased. We will continue to make plans with the hope that at some stage (or in clear patches) we will eventually attain the All Clear for future visits to YOUR PLACE.
Let us know if you think your place (wherever in the world you are) could benefit from the two of us bringing our poetry to where you live, as well as hearing the poetry of where you live. Get in touch via email: kmckcooke @ gmail. com (no spaces).
J&K are celebrating our 10th Anniversary this year! Bring out the balloons and ribbons and cake.
ROLL ON, 2022 – I can’t wait to see what this year will bring for J&K On the Road Again.
September 9th 2022: J&K are scheduled to visit Tapanui Library, West Otago. Watch this space for farther details.
Despite our best efforts, J&K did not manage to achieve a reading in a rural area (the lovely West Otago town of Tapanui being our main target). Nevertheless (albeit as Jenny and Kay rather than J&K) whenever a Covid-clear path emerged, we grabbed the opportunity it provided and managed to participate in quite a few other events in 2020
For more about the events outlined below go to COMING EVENTS PAGE
Jenny launched her beautiful poetry book, Meeting Rita (Cold Hub Press) at the Dunedin Public library and I was privileged to take part in this. It felt like a J&K moment for sure.
We were also delighted to be invited to participate in a Ruth Arnison project called Birds’n’ Words where poetry and photography resulted in a popular display held at the Dunedin Botanical Gardens.
We also read poetry at the Inch Bar with Richard Reeve. Another highlight was being part of a Glottis poetry reading organised in Wellington by Nick Ascroft.
To finish off the year, we participated in a (delayed) National Poetry Day event with lots of other readers; music added. As part of this large gathering of poets celebrating poetry, Jenny and Kay experienced the thrill of reading one of our poems to a jazz piece composed especially for that poem by jazz composer, Bill Martin.
J&K enter a new year 2021 (our ninth) with plans already underway for an interesting year ahead.
Starting with a bit of a name change. We have moved on (rolled on?) from the nomenclature of J&K Rolling. We now call ourselves J&K (with On the Road as our tag.)
J&K’s first adventure begins in March when we read in Tapanui library on Friday 5th at 2.00pm. Sadly due to New Zealand going into a precautionary Level Two, this event was cancelled with a possible re-schedule later in the year.
Due to Covid 19, from April, J&K plans have been Postponed.
Bakehouse, Millers Flat
When J&K went to Glenorchy last year, they passed by Millers Flat, a small Teviot Valley settlement hunkered down beside the Clutha River and decided to take a quick detour from the main highway, go over the blue bridge and take a look at the newly renovated bakehouse in the village.
I was particularly interested because my sister-in-law, Hilary, is a member of the group responsible for getting the Bakehouse restored – for many years, it was a labour of love for this small group.
While there, we decided that it would be a great venue for one of J&K’s poetry readings.
We set off for Millers Flat Saturday morning, on the way stopping off in another mill-town, Milton. We always think of this as the poet Peter Old’s town. We wanted to get a photo of ourselves under one of the street signs named after writers. Because Milton.
Was it the reflected glory of such eminent writers that made me blind to the turn for Central and Millers Flat? Or was it the cute video I could hear Jenny playing on her phone, of her small granddaughter being praised and encouraged by her mum for good eating? But then I never really need any reason to miss a turning. And it has become a J&K running gag. Our trademark, this ‘getting lost’ on the way to, or out of, places.
We just had time for a quick lunch in Lawrence, then on to Beaumont, Rae’s Junction and Millers Flat. And over the blue bridge.
Hilary, who was responsible for making the arrangements for the reading venue and advertising the event (for which J&K are truly grateful) did breathe a sigh of relief to see us walk in. We were cutting it fine
We started with Open Mic. and were treated to two lovely poems by Russell. Space fantasy, golden weather and the particular slow, deep flavour unique to country life, are what remain with me from these poems.
Next we were treated to a poetry duel. Two poets with opposing views on some trees – one poet wanted them to stay and one poet wanted them gone. Each poet had a poem which reflected their particular viewpoint. It seemed symbolic that here we were in a valley, and here there were two sides. “With a river in between,” someone quipped. After they read one poem each, the poets then read a second poem each, alternating the readings. A real duel. But friendly fire and no casualties. I believe that afterwards, they had a pint together over at the pub.
There was some discussion about how well suited poetry is for expressing views safely. Politics or protest aired via poetry. It’s certainly not a new thing.
Afterwards we went to Faigan’s Store and Cafe next door for a cuppa and a chat. We find that such chats top off our country readings nicely. It’s then we discover more about the heartbeat of a place. We did suggest that they start up a poetry group, as we found out that there were several poets-in-hiding! in Millers Flat.
Jenny and I came away from Millers Flat feeling invigorated, inspired and even more charged up for the year ahead. We cannot guarantee we won’t take any wrong turns on our journeys, but one thing we have learned in our many road trips, there are always signs to point the way ahead. If we look. And we always do.
Thank you Millers Flat. Thank you Campbell’s Bakehouse. May all your loaves of bread rise and bake to a golden crust.
Jenny wrote an account on Facebook which I quote here:
‘It was another J & K day to remember. Serene autumn weather, great company, and embraced in the rural heart of Millers Flat we were privy to the power of poetry to express and contain emotions and beliefs, even in something of a poetry duel in open mic. Our full house in a perfect setting were open to all kinds of poetry. For some, this was their first experience of listening to poems. And after, an elderly lady retrieved from her memory, a poem she had learnt at primary school. Someone revealed they wrote doggerel. Someone wrote prose. We love encouraging all forms of writing. It really is a privilege.’ Jenny Powell.
November 1st 2019
End of the Road – Glenorchy
For an account (with pics) of J&K’s epic road trip to Glenorchy at the head of the lake at the end of the road … Head to This Page
February 13th, 2019
Poetry in Port for
Jenny and I were excited to be invited out to Port Chalmers library for a poetry reading and Open Mic.
We were welcomed by local poets who read and charmed us with readings of their own poetry. This is what it is all about.
A lively discussion followed the readings and conversations about writing (and especially poetry) finished off a worthwhile evening of poetry and people at Port.
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: