Book Launch: John Newton and Bernadette Hall – WORD Christchurch Spring Festival 2020

A packed audience gathered in the best independent bookshop in Christchurch, Scorpio Books, for this much anticipated launch.

The lovely Tamsin welcomed us all to the launch on behalf of Scorpio Books and then Fergus Barrowman, publisher and editor at Victoria University Press, spoke about his loving nurturing of these two projects and his long association with both authors.

Bernadette Hall spoke of how much she loved this book that she had created, putting aside her usual modesty and reticence about her own oeuvre. She was especially enamoured with the sequence of sonnets that constituted the "new" in the book's title: Fancy Dancing: New and Selected Poems 2004-2020. She read some of these sonnets and then gave an effusive introduction to her friend and collaborator, Robyn Webster, the artist who provided the artwork contained within the collection.

Robyn Webster spoke about how what had been a collaboration had turned into a firm friendship and how she had been honoured to be asked to contribute her art to Fancy Dancing. On Robyn's website her opening statement about herself and her art is: "My artistic concerns are mainly around connectedness between people, ideas and things." Hall's poems, also about these themes, had found their perfect partner.

It was left to John Newton to close the proceedings by reading from his very funny verse novel, Escape Path Lighting, which is about a dissolute poet called Arthur Bardruin who lives on Rock Oyster Island which may or not be based on Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf. The novel contains a cast of colourful and eccentric characters which include Juanita Diaz, a Lacanian analyst who works at the Blue Pacific Wellness Farm, Frank Hortune, a musician whose lifestyle rivals Arthur's in its decadence, Marigold Ingle, with whom Arthur finds a sanctuary of sorts after he washes up on her beach, and Marigold's parrot, Chuck, who knows how to swear in Spanish. Added to these are a plethora of meth cooks, spiritual seekers, lifestyle farmers, elderly bikers, possibly dubious "healers" and world-weary fishing guides to make a picaresque satire.

Suffice to say, a good time was had by all.

WORD Christchurch

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