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 


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 by necessity scuttled many of our plans.

We are thinking of taking a slightly different approach from here on. There will still be the goal of taking poetry to the outlying areas of Aotearoa, but we want to include the more unusual, the alternative – even what might be considered as ‘impossible’. We are thinking of reaching farther afield; going deeper. We see ourselves as older, experienced poets with a lot to offer others who also place poetry as an important component of their way of life and expression, but who, for whatever reason, do not have the same opportunity or benefits as those in larger towns and cities do to regularly share or experience poetry with others.

Let us know if you think your place (wherever in the world you are) could benefit from the two of us visiting where you live and both reading our poetry and listening to your poetry. Get in touch via email: kmckcooke @ gmail. com (no spaces).



J&K enter a new year (our ninth) with plans already underway for an interesting year ahead.

Starting with a bit of a name change. 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.

March 7th

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.

Millers Flat local, Betty, was the one with the initial idea and passion to get the Bakehouse restored and up and running again

While there, we decided that it would be a great venue for one of J&K’s poetry readings.

Just like a good loaf of bread, an idea that started small in November 2019, and after a bit of yeast and kneading and with the right ingredients, was fully baked in March, 2020. J&K reading at the Bakehouse.

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.

Jenny chose Thomas Gray, arguably his most famous poem being, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. And fittingly, there’s a church spire in the background.
I chose Shakespeare.

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.

Milton, 13 ks back that-a way, Kay. Nothing for it but to turn back and take the right turn towards Lawrence and Millers Flat. Luckily we had time to spare.

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.

Country-style gingham tablecloth took my eye …

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

J&K at Port library by stairs

Jenny and I were excited to be invited out to Port Chalmers library for a poetry reading and Open Mic.

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We were welcomed by local poets who read and charmed us with readings of their own poetry. This is what it is all about.

People at Port
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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

Jenny & Kay by poster

We had a most wonderful time in Waikouaiti. The audience of locals was very receptive and engaged.

Jenny reading

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. 

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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.  

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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. 

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I was particularly taken with the library’s window seat with its pastoral view. I could imagine sitting here losing myself in a book. 

K at library

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.

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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.

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In the outlying regions, there is always an understated hive of activity in the arts and there is always talent, always some surprise.

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And always a cuppa.

Jenny & Kay

March 7th

Free-Range Poets


‘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.

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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.

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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.

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Especially Clydesdales …

Jenny reads
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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?)

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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”. 

J&K Owaka

Mostly though, this J&K Rolling venture will be remembered for the poetry of horses.

March 6th

A Bit (more later)

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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

Cavalcade Escapade

Huntly Palmer tin

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

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The photo above is one of several magnificent statues placed on museum island, Berlin, depicting horses and riders in battle. 

Berlin horse

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.

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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.

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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 ...

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The great unveiling … We were thrilled with the results …

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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!

Lawrence sky

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.

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One of many such historical buildings that line the main street of Lawrence; a town with a history of gold mining.

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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's studio

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.

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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.

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Jenny reading

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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.

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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

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You don’t have to be an e.t. to live in Lawrence, but it may help?

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Jenny looking in Exit Studio window. There were some beautiful wooden bowls and we couldn’t resist buying a souvenir each.

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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:

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J&K Rolling’s Outrider Whistlestops