Last Sunday (October 11) we launched my debut collection of poems, The Death of Music Journalism. We were there at Meow for a 4pm start. Dr. Blue kicked things off with some guitar and singing – a little blues and some soulful tunes to guide us in. Dr. Blue is also a poet so he took to the mic for a couple of poems. It was a great start.
I wasn’t about to shrink down the back – I seem to stand out in any crowd and for years I felt like I had a target painted on my back anyway. So I decided I’d MC the event. It was also my great pleasure and honour to have such wonderful talent to introduce – it wasn’t just about my book, it was about creating an event and sharing some poems and music with an audience.
The next guest was poet Freya Daly Sadgrove. She read from her excellent collection, Head Girl. Which I recommend you get right now. If you haven’t already. Frey’s poems are funny and sad and outrageous and wonderful. I love them. And she is a great performer of her words.
Next up was Rachel McAlpine. Rachel is a force. She’s written almost every kind of word that needs to be written, across so many disciplines and genres – poetry, novels, plays, non-fiction. She read from her recent poetry collection, How To Be Old. It’s also a marvelous collection and one you should read and buy. And read again. And buy for more people in your life.
Since Rachel’s book was also published by The Cuba Press I thought she’d be the best person to introduce our publisher, Mary McCallum. It’s one thing to host and MC your own book launch. It’s quite another to introduce the publisher and then the book-launcher to speak. I decided I needed to sit that one out. And Rachel, of course, was great at doing those honours.
Mary spoke about what a pain in the arse I was to work with – which is correct and fair. And how I challenged almost everything about the way they normally work with poets. (Hey, it was my first time!) She also spoke very kindly about the work and about the other work I’ve done in my previous life as a music reviewer. You know, before music journalism died.
Mary then welcomed Pip Adam to the stage to officially launch the book.
Pip is one of the greatest writers in New Zealand. And she lives in my street! So she’s also one of the greatest neighbours in New Zealand. At least as far as I’m concerned.
Pip’s knowledge of literature, her ability to deep-read and her kindness and generosity in giving that time and in the way she prepares any sort of evaluation (from formal book reviewing in print and on radio to speeches at book launches) is of constant amazement to me. A humble star.
She said some very kind things about my writing – but what made me most pleased was how deeply she understood the work. More deeply than I did. She said:
“The old ways of writing about music are gone, and I think Simon’s book gives us many reasons to celebrate the death of music journalism. I’d like to make the possibly controversial suggestion that this isn’t a book about music. This is a book, instead, about a life lived alongside and inside and outside music. It’s a book that is acutely aware of the ways music changes us on a cellular level – on the ways it infiltrates our closest and most fleeting relationships and can change the way we look at the world. This is what I love about the poems in this book, they feel like a way of talking about music from inside a life – a life with all its overwhelm and mundanity, a life of success and failure, and of complicated and passionate love and straightforward petty resentment.”
She also said:
“The Death of Music Journalism is a great book. I haven’t even touched on the ways Simon’s writing is exciting in a conventionally poetic way – his play with rhyme and form make this an even more compelling and beautiful read. It’s such a great marriage of form and content. It’s heartfelt and hilarious with a precise and brilliant balance of cynicism and deep committed sincerity.”
So that was a hard act to follow. I walked up to the stage, the audience so warm and engaged. They’d had such a great show already. It had been a party. An event. A gig. A show. And that’s what I wanted it to be.
I said some words and thanked some people. It was a pretty funny speech actually. The classic written in the minutes before I got there style that is the way with writers and events most often. But it was my night and it was unlikely to fail at any rate.
I then read some poems. And astonishingly, remembered to stop reading some poems. It was all over in a blur. The 90 minutes of event-time had raced by. I signed some books. I said some more thank yous. Had a few nice, brief chats. Some people thanked me. We got some photos – with the publishing team. With some friends and family. And then I walked home in the rain.
Elated. The book lives. It lives. It’s out there.
You can say what you want about my poems…they can’t hear you.
My thanks to James Ogle for the many great photographs