This year’s National Poetry Day poem is a classic New Zealand poem by a rediscovered New Zealand poet, Stella D Capes.

PANZA researcher/archivist Mark Pirie recently noted the poet in one of journalist and writer Pat Lawlor’s memoirs More Wellington Days (1962), with her poem tribute to New Zealand’s famed writer Katherine Mansfield, dated 1949, and written in Capes’ 30s. Her name was not known to PANZA.

Stella Dorothy Capes (née Bryant) was born on 1 August 1913 and died 20 November 2003 at 90 years old. She was said to be active in Pukekohe as a poet in 1949.

A letter in the Auckland Star, 8 August 1931, states she was a member of the Peter Pan Club in Auckland and showed wide reading and literary knowledge as a girl. In fact some 33 results are returned in Papers Past for Stella Bryant of Huapai and Manukau Road, concerning competitions and prizes and letters to the Auckland Star and short stories or poems published as a girl.

She married the market gardener Vincent John Capes in Auckland on 11 March 1939.

After her marriage, Stella appears on the Franklin Roll 1946-1963 and the Albany Roll 1978-1981.

The deaths of Stella and her husband both occurred in 2003 in Tauranga, so it is presumed they retired there to live. It is not known what happened to her poetry or how long she continued to write it after her early promise as a girl.

A search of the National Library online catalogues shows her correspondence with Pat Lawlor is listed in Tiaki, yet there appear to be no printed book publications of her poetry in New Zealand Library or the British Library catalogues.

This is the full text of Stella D Capes’ poem tribute to KM reproduced from Pat Lawlor’s book:

You sought the clear beauty
Of the white moon;
The vision of the bright star
In its timeless vigil;
Strove for the clarity
Of spring waters,
Leaping from the bush-clad hills.

Oft, as the blue petals,
Of the tall delphinium,
Delicate your artistry,
Tender as the uncurled fern;
Then—like the rapier—
Deep, thrust your words
Probing the truth you knew!

Stella D Capes, Pukekohe

 

Katherine Mansfield. Ref: 1/2-002594-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22601543

 

I reviewed Andrew Fagan and the People’s Admiral of the Narrow Seas, their previous gem, for the Poetry Archive in 2011. Get Light from that disc is one of my all-time favourite Fagan pieces like Now You Know from his ’90s Blisters solo album.  Since then Fagan did a solo poetry/spoken word disc in 2018 and did gigs with UK performance poet John Cooper Clarke on his poetry tour to New Zealand.

Now Fagan and the People have returned after a 9-year absence with much good indie and low-fi tunes and there is anarchic fun behind it. I doubt they knew of the COVID-19 lockdown coming worldwide when the album was officially released in February 2020 but the inside photo of his band in full PPE gear fits the times as does the album’s title Act Normal. Well, we do try to.

The title track Act Normal is a good pub anthem and crowd pleaser on a Saturday night: “They’re almost here so scull your beer / Act normal …”. I would describe these latest tunes as uplifting, looking on the brighter side of life, “just endure it and you’ll be fine/ Just enjoy it and you’ll be fine.” (You’ll Be Fine). The track Someone More Gorgeous Than Me probably rivals Rod Stewart’s Do Ya Think I’m Sexy. No mean feat and just as funny as Stewart’s. Elsewhere Fagan’s songwriting gift comes to the fore again on tracks like Fuse to Ignite, which is a great piece of songwriting, unique and poetic. Darryn Harkness does solid work on guitar, keyboards and saxophone throughout and is a sound collaborator.

There is much variety here with harder edged tracks (Something’s Going to Happen) and slower pop/acoustic melodies (Move On), and the final track On Channel Me (a satire of celebrity living on social media and reality TV) comes in four versions. Take your pick: rock, low-fi, electro pop or dance/trance. I can imagine the dance/trance version of On Channel Me (“places to go and people to be … I’m on Facebook”) being approved of by John Lydon who teamed up with Leftfield back in the ’90s. I used to thrash their Open up, “burn Hollywood burn…” as a student dee-jay on Radio Active in Wellington.

Andrew Fagan and Jordan Luck have been my favourite two frontmen besides the likes of Shayne Carter and Martin Phillipps. The Mockers still tour every two years around NZ, most recently with Midge Ure. The Mockers and Fagan’s best lyrics, My Girl Thinks She’s Cleopatra or One Black Friday, have always stood up to most in NZ, from Flying Nun to Finn Brothers, The Exponents to Dave Dobbyn.

Overall, Fagan and the People’s Act Normal is essential for these times we are in, and should give long-term fans much enjoyment as well as those new to his music. Don’t miss out on this one, and try to get yourself a copy of Admiral of the Narrow Seas, if you can.

CD reviewed by Mark Pirie for Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa website

Mark Pirie is a Wellington poet, publisher, PANZA member, and a former dee-jay on Active 89FM (1993-1996).  He has followed Andrew Fagan’s music and poetry closely since he first started listening to pop at age 11 in 1985 and counts himself a Fagan fan. He was the publisher of Fagan’s poetry book Overnight Downpour in 2006. PANZA owns and holds all four of Fagan’s slim volumes.

The 37th issue of the newsletter from Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa is available now for download as a pdf.

Inside Winter 2020, Volume 10, issue 1: All You Need to Know to Have an Intelligent Computer by Niel Wright; poetry by Stephen Oliver; poetry on the Australian bush fires; review: Act Normal by Fagan and the People; new publications by PANZA members; donate to PANZA through PayPal; recently received donations; about the Poetry Archive.

The Poetry Archive of NZ Aotearoa (PANZA) now has over 5,000 titles.

Thanks to all those who have donated to the Archive over the past year.

The Poetry Archive of New Zealand catalogue has now been updated to reflect new acquisitions February 2020-July 2020.

The Archive began in February 2010 with around 3,000 titles and has grown substantially in the past few years. PANZA would particularly like to thank Auckland poet, editor and novelist Alistair Paterson, Wellington poet/publisher Mark Pirie, Wellington publisher Roger Steele, Cecilia Johnson and the late New Zealand anthologist, poet and memoirist Harvey McQueen for their sizeable contributions to the fast-growing collection.

A full list of donations is listed in each issue of Poetry Notes, the PANZA newsletter.

The 36th issue of the newsletter from Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa is available now for download as a pdf.

Inside Summer 2020, Volume 9, issue 4:  Significance of RAK Mason’s Uncollected Poetry by Niel Wright; classic New Zealand poetry by Stella D Capes; obituary: B E Turner (1936-2019); comment on Aenfer Na Fili and Tommy Kapai by Niel Wright; poetry by Alex Jeune; new publications by PANZA members; donate to PANZA through PayPal; recently received donations; about the Poetry Archive.

The Poetry Archive of NZ Aotearoa (PANZA) now has over 5,000 titles.

Thanks to all those who have donated to the Archive over the past year.

The Poetry Archive of New Zealand catalogue has now been updated to reflect new acquisitions September 2019-January 2020.

The Archive began in February 2010 with around 3,000 titles and has grown substantially in the past few years. PANZA would particularly like to thank Auckland poet, editor and novelist Alistair Paterson, Wellington poet/publisher Mark Pirie, Wellington publisher Roger Steele, Cecilia Johnson and the late New Zealand anthologist, poet and memoirist Harvey McQueen for their sizeable contributions to the fast-growing collection.

A full list of donations is listed in each issue of Poetry Notes, the PANZA newsletter.

The Poetry Archive of NZ Aotearoa (PANZA) now has over 5,000 titles.

Thanks to all those who have donated to the Archive over the past year.

The Poetry Archive of New Zealand catalogue has now been updated to reflect new acquisitions January-August 2019.

The Archive began in February 2010 with around 3,000 titles and has grown substantially in the past few years. PANZA would particularly like to thank Auckland poet, editor and novelist Alistair Paterson, Wellington poet/publisher Mark Pirie, Wellington publisher Roger Steele, Cecilia Johnson and the late New Zealand anthologist, poet and memoirist Harvey McQueen for their sizeable contributions to the fast-growing collection.

A full list of donations is listed in each issue of Poetry Notes, the PANZA newsletter.

The 35th issue of the newsletter from Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa is available now for download as a pdf.

Inside Winter 2019, Volume 9, issue 3:  Laura Solomon (1974-2019) by Mark Pirie; National Poetry Day poem: Farewell to a Poet by Michael Duffett (USA); obituary: Michael Duffett (1943-2019); poetry by Marion Rego; new publications by PANZA members; letter to the editor; David Eggleton appointed NZ Poet Laureate; donate to PANZA through PayPal; recently received donations; about the Poetry Archive.

This year’s National Poetry Day is being held on Friday, 23 August 2019.
PANZA has chosen a rare poem in memory of the New Zealand poet, typographer, publisher and wit Denis Glover (1912-1980).
The poem, ‘Farewell to a Poet’ is by the UK-born American poet and Professor Michael Duffett, who himself passed away on 9 July this year. Two months prior to Duffett’s death, his book The Presence of Love: Poems Selected and New had been released in New Zealand by my publishing company HeadworX. It’s nice to remember both of these poets on National Poetry Day in New Zealand, and recall their friendship.
Duffett once wrote: “[New Zealand] remains unique in my memory as the one land in my travels about which I have exclusively positive memories.” New Zealand turns up in Michael Duffett’s most well-known book of poetry, Forever Avenue, published in California in 1987.
Duffett visited New Zealand in 1979 and spent some time with Denis Glover in the final year of his life. Duffett visited him again a few weeks before his death in 1980.

On my return from the South Island, I spent time in Wellington with Denis Glover, to whom I instantly warmed. He was a force of nature, a booming laugh, a great bright alcoholically-reddened nose like Mr. Punch and an irresistible cheerful manner. I recall a visit to the bank with him and, on being asked by a timid young lady bank clerk how he would like his cash, he boomed in reply, “Any way at all, my dear. It all goes down the drain.” I have come to see that as an absolutely accurate assessment of the meaning of money.
On another occasion when Denis had cajoled my services to drive him to the Alexander Turnbull Library, I drove to his home. Denis lived in a curiously-designed house that had a bathroom on one side of the living room and a bedroom on the other. As I arrived (early, or maybe Denis was late) his wife Lyn hurried into the garden to meet me. I later realised it was to forestall me from bumping into a semi-clad poet on the way from bathroom to bedroom. Denis, to whom embarrassment was unknown, knew what Lyn was up to and bellowed from inside the house, “Let the bloody man come in if he’s here!”
Moments later, I sat with a cup of tea in the living room, the bathroom door opened and there was the great poet in his skivvies, giving me the naval salute to his Russian Commander’s hat (a gift from the Soviets). I wish I had had a camera!

Michael Duffett’s poem is of interest because it explores (with empathy) Glover’s decline. His official biographer Gordon Ogilvie, in Denis Glover: His Life (1999), recounts that Glover had fallen down steps during his shift to Breaker Bay Road from Strathmore, which led to his eventual death (four days later), with his wife Lyn by his bedside on Saturday, 9 August 1980. Yet Michael Duffett presents the further view of a Glover in decline, slipping in his bath. Duffett too acknowledges closely the coroner’s official view that Glover’s death was ‘bronchopneumonia’ from the effects of liver disease brought on by his drinking. Duffett appears to be a person or friend in the know.
The image of Glover being “innocent and free” in his death sums up perfectly the complexity of Glover’s persona and life, and is a profound image of Denis Glover, the man and myth.
It’s remarkable that an outside voice from overseas could come away with such an apt description of Glover, after only knowing him a short while. Michael Duffett shows the value of overseas commentators on New Zealand literature.

FAREWELL TO A POET

Once back in Wellington I rendezvous’d
With Glover, took him snoring home one day
Squeezed in the back. “Is that Denis Glover
You’ve got in there?” (as if I’d kidnapped
A national figure) the petrol-pump
Attendant asked, amazed. I took him home,
Arranged to take him into town next day.
I did and as we parted, fierce yet fond
And fondling yellow eyes gleamed at me,
Knowing they were seeing me forever.
We never met again; he must have known it.
Dear Denis, human man, fell in his bath
A few weeks later, and never rose again,
Went back to his Maker at that moment
As he came, as innocent and free
As naked, striding, new-born babe.

Poem © Michael Duffett, 2019

Article © Mark Pirie

Portrait of Denis Glover, 1973. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/4-021052-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22828773

 

The 34th issue of the newsletter from Poetry Archive of New Zealand Aotearoa is available now for download as a pdf.

Inside Spring 2019, Volume 9, issue 2: W. Francis Chambers (1876-1954) by Rowan Gibbs; comment on Lynne Frith; report on PANZA Exhibition and Robin Hyde plaque; obituary: P V Reeves (1927-2019); poetry by Margaret Jeune; new publications by PANZA members; donate to PANZA through PayPal; recently received donations; about the Poetry Archive.