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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The Opening

the opening2

The Gallery really was the Theomin’s drying room – the pulleys are still in place!

The day is nearly over and it’s been a long one. Within half an hour of arriving at Olveston this morning a camera man and reporter arrived from Channel 39. I’m not fond of cameras and I’m definitely not comfortable talking in front of them so I was pleased I had little warning and panic didn’t have time to settle in!

theopening6With Jenny organising the kitchen and food and Barry and Elspeth on dishes and replenishing food I had a wonderful carefree time at the opening, chatting to people, meeting one of the artists for the first time, and generally enjoying the evening.

Peter Gregory's vases and the exhibition book

Peter Gregory’s vases and the exhibition book

Sunday afternoon is going to be a real treat. Terry MacTavish called in tonight, on her way home from Parent Teacher interviews, with news of Sunday’s line-up….

My Readers are Louise Petherbridge, John Watson, Joan MacDonald, Katrina Selbie, Heike Cebulla-Elder, and some of my Tempest girls (Sarah Latta, Johanna Leach, Amber Little ) with maybe Kameron Crozier from Kings.  My mother Shona is doing a guest spot for the Vase poem!

If you want to come along, ring Olveston  477 3320, and book a seat. It’s free and it’s going to be a wonderful afternoon.

Peter's pot

Hellebores from my garden looking very content at Olveston in a Peter Gregory vase

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What’s happening in the gardens

DSC03931Peter Gregory called in to Olveston on Sunday to deliver his exhibition pots. They are glorious. He also brought some extras for me to use as vases during the exhibition.  I had a  wander around the Olveston gardens to see what was in flower.

DSC03940crocusThere were plenty of dainty just poking their heads out of the ground plants


and large flowers on the rhododendrons

but nothing suitable for Peter’s vases. I’ll check my hellebores tomorrow and see if they fancy a trip to Olveston.

All the artworks have arrived so tomorrow is the official ‘hanging’ day. The day where I place and position and reposition all the artworks until I feel I’ve given them the best home possible, just until they’re sold of course!

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A note from the Steinway

Pascal playing the Steinway yesterday

Pascal playing the Steinway yesterday

The Olveston Steinway was quite happy to be the subject of a poem.  After several failed attempts I gave up and acknowledged the Steinway was right all along. It had to be a rhyming poem.  So in honor of the drawing-room Steinway……..

A note from the Steinway

I want to

lock away my keys
tell them not today please

say I’m out of tune
unless it’s Claire de Lune

answer the can can chant
with no you can’t can’t can’t

make ragtime out of bounds
I’ll not entertain those sounds

absolutely refuse chopsticks
say kindling’s not in my mix

insist they lay off my pedal
Steinways aren’t made for heavy metal

say this firmly without a quaver
one day when I’m feeling braver

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The Steinway sings


If there are any pianists in a tour group they’re frequently invited to play the Steinway before they leave the drawing-room and continue on upstairs. Today the pianist was playing for ages so I popped downstairs to ask Astrid what was going on as this pianist must be holding up the whole group.  She told me he wasn’t in a group he’d made arrangements to come in today to play the piano.  I waited until he stopped and then introduced myself to Pascal Harris. I kept our conversation short as I wanted him to carry on playing. When the Steinway is played the atmosphere in the house changes – the house comes alive and you can almost believe it’s breathing! Pascal has just returned to Dunedin after being away for several years. If anyone is looking for an accompanist or a piano teacher get in touch with me and I’ll give you Pascal’s number.

I dropped some PoARTry @ Olveston posters at a couple of schools last week and was pleased to hear today that one school has already made a booking to tour  Olveston and then they want to come on down to the Gallery afterwards to see the artworks, and the poems too!

If any other schools are interested in bringing a class or several classes to  Olveston for the exhibition, for a tour, or combining the two,  just ring Olveston – 477 3320 – to arrange a date.


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