Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lunching with Michele

"I hear you've done an assignment on one of my poems?"

Here I am. I am face to face with my favourite poet and one of my literary idols, Michele Leggott. And she's talking to me. Me! So, of course, my mind goes blank at the all crucial moment, robbing me of anything even mildly intelligent to say. Of all the times my mind chooses to stop working (and it does it with alarming regularity), why now!!

Bumbling idiot act aside, this experience of meeting Michele was one of the most outstanding and inspirational experiences of my entire life.
She had come to Massey's Albany campus to give a lecture in the Chancellor's Series and what a treat it was. She read us five of her poems which are all the more beautiful when read out by their author; showed us her tokotoko (the ceremonial stick each Poet Laureate is given, each personally designed for them by Jacob Scott) and then spoke about her writing and its current connection to journeys.

If this was the closest I got to Michele Leggott ever again, I would die a very happy woman. However, our wonderful lecturers Mary and Jack (three cheers for Mary and Jack!!) arranged for us to have lunch with her afterwards. Which was where I found myself, directly opposite one of the women I admire most, barely unable to remember my own name, let alone the poem of hers I had written about. It was of course, a woman, a rose and what has it have to do with her or they with one another, a poem I have read many times and love dearly. My most sincere apologies to Michele for my appalling memory.

Over lunch, our group had the opportunity to discuss her work, her teaching, her Laureateship and her inspiration with her. I think the two things that stood out for me the most of all of the things she said were that she takes her inspiration from her journey through life (including trips to the shops as well as Portugal) and that, when I answered her question "Are any of you here writers?" with "I try to be" she said, "No, you say, YES, I am a writer."

So, YES. I am a writer. And I have Michele Leggott to thank for a boost of creative confidence. It doesn't get much better than that!


Gregory Wood said...

This is a heart-felt exposition which is a nice counterpoint to the more formal rendition of the event beneath it. For some reason I was thinking of Chloe writing those words, which often happens when one delves deeply into the psyche of a character for an assignment and becomes like them for a short while. Your courage in opening up to others is a mark of a real writer.

Kathmeista said...

Thanks for this comment, Gregory! When you say you thought of Chloe, do you mean you projected her onto my words or you thought perhaps I was channeling her? Interested to know, as this is how I normally write - and if you thought I might be channeling her that could explain why I connected with the book so much. Food for thought anyway. Also thanks for the vote of confidence, it's very much appreciated :)

Gregory Wood said...

Hi Kath, It is difficult to say whether you are channeling Chloe or Emma Neale. After all, Neale is the creative force behind a paper character called Chloe. Perhaps it is safer to say that you are channeling a type of characterization or a type of writing. Perhaps others might have a better view on this than me. Try emailing Dr Paul with the question; I would be interested in hearing the response. In Neale's book of poetry called 'Sleeve-notes' there is definitely a bit of Chloe in those poems but it is a step up in its intellectual thought from 'Relative Strangers'. So identifying too closely with Chloe might prove ultimately restricting in the long run.

Kathmeista said...

It's interesting that you say that, as I really don't think that I was channeling anybody when I wrote this - it's very much just me writing as I usually do. Check out my other blog if in doubt. Which isn't to say that I'm trying to claim my writing is anywhere near as good as Emma Neale's!! I should be so lucky :)