Finishing on a high

The final PoARTry@Olveston event was the Questions and Artists session chaired by Janet de Wagt. Take a look at the pensive, thoughtful looks on faces and you’ll realise Janet posed some interesting questions. They were ably answered by the panel – Pauline Bellamy,  Anna Reid, Kiri Mitchell, Jenny Longstaff, Rob Piggott and Peter Gregory.

Questions and Artists

Questions and Artists

One curly question – What would you do if you won Lotto? 

The answers ranged from, buy better art equipment, build warm comfortable  2 bedroom apartments for solo parents, form a political party and overthrow the government, give some away, give up work and concentrate on art…….

And no, I’m not identifying who made which comment!

The afternoon concluded with afternoon tea (scones, jam and cream) once again provided by my good friend Elspeth. Many thanks to Janet and the artists for coming along and making the final event such a success. Special thanks to Jenny Longstaff for her invaluable help, prior to, and throughout the exhibition.

If you’re interested in following the 2014 Poems in the Waiting Room exhibition, A Palette of Poetry, you might like to keep an eye on this  blog.

Thanks for stopping by.


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The end of my Olveston experience

DSC03215Tomorrow marks the end of PoARTry @ Olveston and my Olveston residency. It’s been a wonderful experience for me. This was the first time I’ve written a collection of poems on one subject and also the first time I’ve ever placed time constraints on my writing. Managing both these ‘firsts’ has boosted my confidence!

Olveston events

Some of the events that took place at Olveston during my residency

I’m going to miss the wonderful walk up to the house, the cheery greeting from whoever is on reception, the hellos as I meet staff along the corridors and the seclusion of my writing room – the lighthouse. I’ll miss the freedom of wandering in and out of rooms, and the wonderful access I’ve had to the house records.

Olveston treasures

These are a few of my favourite things

Thanks to Jeremy Smith, Olveston’s manager, for granting me the freedom of the house, providing my writing room, and allowing me the use of the Drying Room Gallery for the exhibition. Thanks to all the staff for being so welcoming, helpful, friendly, and accommodating. Without your support the residency wouldn’t have been so successful.

The writer'r room

The lighthouse writing table

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The exhibition is almost over

Only two more days until the PoARTry @ Olveston exhibition finishes so if you haven’t visited yet get yourself along to the Drying Room Gallery (in the basement of Olveston) between 10 and 4 tomorrow or Sunday.

Olveston whispers



Olveston whispers1










Pauline Bellamy has taken a children’s verse I’d written about Olveston, Olveston Whispers, and created a booklet with my verse and her illustrations. It’s on sale in the Gallery and is suitable for adults or children. The illustrations are classic!

Rob PiggottRob Piggott created two artworks in response to my poem, Roses by O’Keeffe. Come along to the Gallery and find the other work. We’ve separated them so there’s no competition between the two – they each deserve their own space. And it’s about 50-50 at the moment in the ‘liking’ stakes which will interest Rob. I wonder if he thought one would have attracted more interest than the other? I’ll have to ask him when he appears on Sunday at the very last event, Questions and Answers.  Janet de Wagt will be talking to some of the local artists about their works, the poem they chose and other arty questions… from 1.30 on Sunday in the Drying Room Gallery at Olveston. This is a free event but phone Olveston 477 33 20 to reserve a seat.

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I want to dance

I want to danceThis circular urn  was the inspiration for my Olveston residency.

On March 19 Barry and I attended a performance in Olveston’s Great Hall by the internationally renowned Slovak Cellist, Jozef Lupták.

During his 60 minute recital I noticed the urn beyond Jozef on the windowsill. The way its handles were positioned it looked as though it was all ready to dance and twirl off the windowsill but the cello music was so heavy the urn sat grounded.

After the performance I couldn’t get the urn out of my mind and I wondered what stories the other treasures in the house might tell. So a chat with Jeremy, a proposal, a plan and the house was opened up to me.

If anyone had told me at Jozef’s concert that in five months time Shona MacTavish would be the urn for me in a dance performance I would have thought they were crazy. I still find it hard to believe it really happened. Terry has a copy of Sunday afternoon’s performance so I’m looking forward to seeing the replay.

not quite perfecAnd since I’m revealing all tonight……. My  Not quite perfec poem was inspired by this vase in the Card Room. I was reading about it in the house inventory where someone had mentioned it was a second as it had slumped during firing.  It’s stunning.

And now moving on to perfect…… Here’s Maxine Burney’s pastel response to my poem, The Writer’s Room.

Lighting Dark SpacesforRos

Lighting Dark Spaces

Below is Anna Reid’s Leaning in and out of conversation which is a line taken from my poem,  Main St Arrowtown. I wrote the poem in response to the  painting in the Olveston library, Main St Arrowtown. So it has been a truly circular process from a painting to a poem to a painting. There are flecks of gold leaf in the painting, on the edge of the paper and the frame  (this photo was taken before framing) picks up the gold colour again.

Leaning in and out of conversation    Anna Reid

Leaning in and out of Conversation      Anna Reid

There are only three more days until the exhibition closes. It’s open daily from 10 – 4 so come along to Olveston and have a wander around the Drying Room Gallery.

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Another sampling

It was very quiet in the Gallery today – I think I had more visits from Olveston staff than the public. I’ve always got writing to work on and with Anthony Ritchie’s Expressions playing  in the background I was very content. Barry usually arrives mid morning with a very welcome hot chocolate or a snack so I’m set for the day.

annaI took this photo in a back room before I moved Annie Lambourne’s sculpture into the Gallery.  Using kitchen utensils Annie has created this amazing sculpture in response to a poem I wrote called, Olveston!  Well there had to be a poem by that name didn’t there! And staying with the kitchen theme ……..

sheryl………here is Sheryl McCammon’s response to a poem I wrote about the kitchen utensils and canisters. There is a shelf in the Olveston scullery which looks exactly like this. Sheryl’s attention to detail is amazing; the printing on the canisters, the shading and she’s even noted the slight rusting on some of the tins.  And talking of noting…….

…..below is Allan McMorran’s clever response to my poem, A note from the Steinway.

alan piano

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Filming at Olveston

Kellie Post and Tohora Te Maiharoa are Film and Television students from Aoraki Polytechnic. Their latest assignment is to produce a news story from around Dunedin and Kellie chose the opening of the PoARTry exhibition. Tohora came along to help with the camera while Kellie conducted the interviews. They’re seen above, in the background, interviewing one of the local artist’s, Anna Reid. Kellie and Tohora’s presence added to the terrific atmosphere at the opening. I hope they both get top marks for their assignments.

Kellie interviewing

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Artists responding to poems

Olveston 4seasons Catforros

Janie Porter          SOLD

Janie Porter created two artworks in response to my poem The Four Seasons. Both attracted a lot of attention but in the end they could only be sold once and they’ve both been claimed. They’re going to the same home which pleases me as the cat definitely belongs with the house.

final Olveston 4seasons

Janie Porter      SOLD


Laura Gregory – A Mask for a Poet in Residence

Laura has picked up some wonderful details from my poem The Poet in Residence. If you hear keys jangling………The group pauses outside her roped off rooms……… the resident poet searching for lost words……….

Hut for Dorothy     SOLD

Kevin Dunkley – Hut for Dorothy     SOLD

Hut for Dorothy was the name of my poem written in response to Pam McKelvey’s work of the same name in the Otago Sculpture Trust’s 2014 Olveston Exhibition. And the painting above is Kevin Dunkley’s response to my poem. I love the way this exhibition has worked – with many art forms responding to other art forms……..  artworks conversing!

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Not a poetry reading but a performance


Shona MacTavish

 This afternoon’s advertised poetry reading at Olveston was very misleading. The poems weren’t read, they were performed. And it was a performance of the highest standard with  Louise Petherbridge, John Watson, Joan MacDonald and Jocelyn Harris  delighting the audience with their wonderful dramatic renditions of my poems. Katrina Selbie and  Heike Cebulla-Elder, two of Terry MacTavish’s  colleagues at Queen’s High School, were both stunning in their delivery and vigorous performances. Sarah Latta and Johanna Leach, two of Terry’s pupils from Queens, read with flair and passion.

RehearsingSarah Latta and Johanna Leach rehearsing.

Shona MacTavish was reserved for the finale. She was a vase in my performance poem, I want to dance. Shona’s facial expressions, flailing arms and high kicks absolutely delighted the audience. Sincere thanks to Anna Petersen for coming along and playing her cello – my  favourite instrument. When I wrote the poem for two voices, a dancer and a cello, I never imagined it would ever be performed. It was just a whim of mine. I mentioned it to Terry in passing and well,  Terry MacTavish is a miracle worker!

Anna on her cello

Anna playing her cello

When we were planning the afternoon my only request to Terry was to keep it very informal.  I discovered today that Terry ‘does informal’ extremely well. She had the audience in fits of laughter with her introductions, her asides, and her persistent mention of my book.  I hadn’t asked her to ‘sell it’ but she did and Barry was kept so busy with sales he missed out on the afternoon tea.  My friend Elspeth catered for 40 with homebaking – she is a star. And she’s offered to do the same again for next Sunday’s event and finale – Questions and Artists.

Terry entertaining

I met Kiri Mitchell  for the first time today. Her drawing, which I featured in yesterday’s blog, was sold this afternoon as was a Peter Gregory vase and a Jenny Longstaff photograph.  So a very pleasing day for the artists, a wonderful afternoons entertainment for the audience and another fantastic day at Olveston for me.

Kiri Mitchell and Jenny Longstaff

Kiri Mitchell and Jenny Longstaff

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A sampling from the Gallery

Dutch girl knitting a sock


Dunedin artist Kiri Mitchell’s wonderful response to my poem Dutch Girl knitting a sock which was my response to the Olveston painting Dutch Girl by Jenny Wimperis.


          Dutch girl knitting a sock

Our mother never wore clogs or clothes
other than those appropriate
for a minister’s wife.

But she knitted
aran and fair isle jerseys, cardigans,
jackets, hats, mittens, gloves,
and balaclavas.

And she knitted
test patterns, wool shop samples, and
40 years of socks, 4ply grey,
for our father.

Even when
her fingers were rheumatism knotted
she knitted baby shawls, hooded
jackets, toddlers’ jumpers.

After she died
our father shunned shop socks,
and quietly taught himself to darn.

I was still working on this poem when my father died so he never got to read it. But I can imagine his reaction to the artwork. He would have shaken his head in wonderment at the talent and been ever so quietly ‘chuffed’.  Thank you Kiri, it’s a very special addition to the exhibition.

3.00pmJenny Longstaff’s wonderful response (photography/digital graphic) to the poem Olveston afternoon which opens with the verse

3 o’clock St Hilda giggles, shrieks and mumbles
filter through the hedge. And they’re so positive,
everything is like, he said, like I know, like, like.



Peter Gregory’s blue flower bowl (porcelain with crystalline glaze) created in response to my poem about the Flowers @ Home exhibition.

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A snowy day at the Drying Room Gallery

Olveston in the snow

OK I admit it, the footprints are mine. There was no one about so I had a bit of a dance in the snow!

 I turned up at the Gallery this morning in layers and layers of clothing and my snow boots. They were the first item to be discarded and left to dry in the Drying Room Gallery, of course.

It was quiet because Olveston is on the hill and the hills were no go today for vehicles. The upstairs Olveston staff kept popping down for chats and I welcomed their company. A Dunedin couple and their Nelson friends called in after they completed a tour of Olveston. They were something special – enthusiastic, happy, interested in everything, even asking me where I slept during my residency! I had to explain it was a residency in name only and I actually slept at  home.  Then the lovely Nelson lady and I discovered we had both attended South Otago High School – although we hadn’t met as there was a small age difference of 20 years! They enjoyed my poems and were calling out to each other, come and look at this one would you, and had a roar of laughter over Roses by O’Keeffe. This was my response to the painting, of the same name, which hangs at the bottom of the stairs leading up from the Great Hall.

Roses by O’Keeffe

the proprieties
with a batch of nudes.

an outcry,
he returned to roses,
but they too dropped their petals,
another disrobing.

Showing the way

And just in case visitors can’t find the Drying Room Gallery in the basement I’ve made these signs ( wooden posts courtesy of my good friend John Bellamy) to guide you down the garden path.

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