When Paula Green started our Going West conversation on ‘The Poetry of Place’, she asked Leilani Tamu and me whether we had a favourite place, somewhere that restored us. Leilani spoke about the sea that links the islands of the Pacific, and how she keeps a connection with that, and I mentioned a bush walk by a stream in Wellington and an archive I like to work in.
I thought afterwards that the places I’d referred to offer different kinds of ‘restoration’: one an environment that allows for a soft focus, a space for the mind to relax and wander, and the other an environment of concentration.
It also occurred to me that both of these can be had in a good bookshop. Unity Books in Wellington does this; so do the others I’ve encountered that offer a good selection of poetry, lots to browse through and dive into. Foyles in Charing Cross had the added enjoyment of this view from its gallery space up near the cafe: neighbouring buildings trimmed (or rather untrimmed) with flax and cabbage trees. The odd placement of these plants (natives of New Zealand, growing out of the tops of London buildings) seemed very New Zealand in more ways than one.
I thoroughly enjoyed Going West. It was great too to be in conversation with Leilani, having heard her at the Truth or Beauty conference in Wellington last year (her book, The Art of Excavation, is terrific), and with Paula, whose work I have known and enjoyed for some time and who also provides another kind of forum for discovering New Zealand poetry – her excellent blog, NZ Poetry Shelf.