It is National Poetry Day in New Zealand on Friday this week. It is a bleak and lonely week to have National Poetry Day even though poetry helps us reach to the very bottom of our souls. We look around the world and there is nothing but trouble, but poetry is mostly sweet in one way or another.
For me, it highlights friends who are no longer with me and the yearning for the time we spent together in better days gone past.
Friendships are mostly what has gotten me through life, good mates that I could clear the slate with, to tell them about every single time I wronged and every single time I felt wronged in return. My life has been up and down and that feeling firstly came from my mother who was the tempestuous type, when she loved you she really loved you and when she took you into the coal room with a leather belt she did damage. The worst kind of damage she did me was when I really needed her and she didn’t respond at all.
I was doubled up with Black Pete Raponi in Her Majesty’s Prison at Paparua over the winter of 1975. Peter was one of the most beautiful men one could ever meet. He was from up north and I believe he was adopted as a child by Pakeha parents. They had given him the world, but something was missing within Peter that nothing or no one could ever make up for. Peter was left to yearn his whole life through. This kind of yearning is not good for people and it did a lot of damage to Black Pete. He was a very good chemist burglar and he and I would often set off in my big black Rover 100 with gas cutting gear in the back so as to cut open the safes in chemist shops. This kind of behavior made us really good friends. I could count on him and he could count on me. He liked to overdose and he did it regularly. When you went to revive him he’d sometimes say: “No, leave me alone to enjoy it….it’s mine….I want to enjoy it.” Usually he’d be revived in the very nick of time.
He would often repay the same favour to me, that is to say he would often revive me in just the very nick of time. These chemist shops often held pure pharmaceutical Heroin, New Zealand being the last country in the world to stop prescribing Heroin for pain, and it was often mixed into cough mixtures in the 1940’s and 1950’s.
These chemist shops almost always had Pharmaceutical grade Cocaine, and then Morphine powder and “cans” (ampoules), and Omnopon, Palfium, Pethidine, Opium Tincture and so on and so forth. It was like a holiday in the South of France and in that state one couldn’t be annoyed by anything.
A famous writer (Anita Brookner) once said that time misspent in youth was often the only freedom one ever had in one’s life and I agree with that. No one in our group raised an eyebrow at the behaviour of another. There was no moralising and no one judged anyone else. Abnormal behaviour was tolerated. New Zealand, back then, was a place that one had to bust out of, one way or another.
Poetry, among it’s hundreds of very fine features, also helps us escape. In life, are we not here to help each other?
I have just bought a beautiful 1963 Volkswagen Kombi “Samba”. On National Poetry Day I’m going to load up my “Bubble” (New Zealand is under Covid induced “lockdown”) and drive them the long way to the supermarket whilst someone reads poetry until another takes turn at doing the same.
No doubt I’ll be glowing from ear to ear. I call this “Freedom”.
Poetry fans across Aotearoa New Zealand are eager to create a vibrant, diverse Phantom National Poetry Day on Friday 27 August 2021, after the global pandemic curtailed public gatherings last year.
The packed programme goes live today (Thursday 5 August), revealing the breadth of our annual nationwide celebration. More than 100 events and competitions are scheduled for late August. You can find the full programme at Phantom National Poetry Day.
Now in its 24th year, Phantom National Poetry Day is set to go off with a bang, with events all around the country – from cafés and bars to libraries, bookshops, marae, schools, universities and parks. Poetry will also pop up on public transport, city streets, beaches, and hospitals. There’s something for everyone, whether it’s poetry slams, open mic nights, readings, book launches, workshops or performances.
Among the highlights are:
Whangarei – Fast Fibres Poetry 8: poetry anthology launch and performances Auckland – Written Windows: poetry displays throughout Auckland Hospital, with a performance event including Selina Tusitala Marsh and Renee Liang. Hamilton – Flesh and Bone ii featuring poets from the moana, including Kelly Joseph, Maluseu Monise and essa may ranapiri. Wellington – Open Heart Surgery poetry evening at Good Books. Christchurch – Counterculture – Politics in Poetry Open Mic: contemporary political poetry from Ōtautahi poets. Queenstown – Pop-Up Poetry Workshop led by Amy O’Reilly and Bethany Rogers. Dunedin – Poetic Cabaret: dine with pitch-perfect poets and invited instrumentalists.
To celebrate both Phantom National Poetry Day and Australia Poetry Month, online warm-up event Aus x NZ Poetry Showcase is scheduled for Thursday 26 August. The evening will include lively virtual readings from Tusiata Avia, winner of the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the 2021 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards; shortlisted poets Hinemoana Baker, Mohamed Hassan and Nina Mingya Powles; MitoQ Best First Book Award (Poetry) winner Jackson Nieuwland; and Aotearoa Poet Laureate David Eggleton.
On Friday 27 August, Tusiata Avia will also appear at the WORD Christchurch Festival 2021 event Confluence and Jackson Nieuwland will take part in Wellington event Shouting Into The Void: Six Poets One Megaphone.
Poet and NZ Book Awards Trust spokesperson Richard Pamatatau says, ‘As always, this year’s Phantom National Poetry Day is an opportunity for our poets to bring words, ideas and language to people across Aotearoa. To celebrate who we are, what we stand for and to reflect on what has passed. In the midst of a global pandemic, and after last year’s socially distanced celebration, it is delightful to see activity and vibrancy surging back into the day, with so many events planned.’
Nearly 20 wickedly good poetry competitions are listed in the Competition Calendar, including online poetry competition Given Words 2021 – Noho Mai, in its 6th year, and E Tū Whānau’s inaugural Spoken Word Competition, with winners announced on Phantom National Poetry Day. To find out more and enter these competitions visit Competition Calendar.
Much-loved children’s poet Paula Green has created an inspiring resource for teachers to use with students – one which will spark their imaginations as they write poetry and create events. Find out more at Phantom National Poetry Day Schools Guide.
Phantom CEO Robin McDonnell says, ‘Phantom Billstickers LOVES poetry and has been taking it to the streets of New Zealand and overseas for nearly 40 years. There’s something delicious about finding poetry in unexpected places – on walls, lampposts, billboards – for all the world to see. Phantom National Poetry Day gives us an opportunity to go large and celebrate our local poets. What’s not to love!’
Held annually on the fourth Friday in August, Phantom National Poetry Day brings together poetry royalty and fans from all over Aotearoa New Zealand. Many of the programmed events will be FREE and open to the public. This popular fixture on our cultural calendar celebrates discovery, diversity and community. For the past six years, Phantom Billstickers has supported National Poetry Day through its naming rights sponsorship.
As a landlord, you know the hard slog and expertise it takes to sort out leases, maintenance and compliance. Not to mention finding good tenants!
We know it’s hard work because our Sales & Marketing Director, Rupert Fenton, grew up in a family that owned commercial properties. What he absorbed around the kitchen table turned out to be oddly relevant to his subsequent career at Phantom.
Rupert, a bit about your background…
“I grew up in the UK where my family had a small portfolio of commercial properties. I remember listening to my parents and grandparents talking about rates, rent rises, deferred maintenance and all the other stuff you need to stay on top of. So I never had the naive idea that owning a commercial property was easy money.
“In the end I didn’t join the family business, opting instead for the media business. I’ve spent 25 years now in the outdoor advertising industry in the UK and New Zealand. I’ve worked for start-ups and the world’s biggest outdoor media company. And now I’m part of a great team here at Phantom.”
On the surface of it, being a landlord and running a poster network seem like quite different businesses. But you say they’re similar. What do you mean?
“It’s the fundamental business model. If you get the right tenant/advertiser in the right location, you will get the best result.
“As a landlord you don’t want just any old tenant – you need a business that will really thrive in the space, as well as treating it with respect and paying the rent on time. As their business grows, you as the property owner will be rewarded with a greater return. In the same way, our advertisers benefit from being in high-quality spaces.
“By attracting the right advertisers into our frames, we’re rewarded when their campaigns succeed. They know they’ve done well so they’ll happily come back for more.”
Surely it’s straightforward – high foot traffic equals high value?
“Of course, a premium site on a busy street will command top dollar simply because of the number of eyeballs it attracts each week. But that’s just the beginning.
“Just as smart retailers look to add value to their stores, we add value to our poster sites. So you’ll see retailers taking on the online threat by innovating with their commercial space, like Barkers with in-store barber shops in its menswear outlets. We have the same can-do, innovative attitude.”
Can you give any examples?
“At Phantom we’ve been creating more four-in-a-row sites, because we’ve noticed that big brands like State Insurance or Mercury like to book sequential street posters that tell a story. We’ve also invested in extra-large sites, that act as eye-level billboards to give our clients extra impact. And we have the skills in-house to build shelves for product sampling, or to customise and colour-coordinate our frames with their brands.
“There’s a big pay-off, because now street posters can now serve a strategic purpose in big brand campaigns – and attract more customers.”
What about the role of posters in recovering from Covid?
“We understand how their businesses were hit by the lockdowns. Losing tenants and customers was a brutal blow, and it affected our business as well as theirs.
“That’s why we’re super-focused on maximising returns from our poster network and helping support the property owners where our frames live. You could say we’ve got skin in the game.”
Rock music and posters go together like Page & Plant, Lennon & McCartney, Tegan & Sara or those two dudes in Daft Punk. Together, they make magic.
Designers relish the opportunity to create something vivid and original. Musicians relish the chance to connect with their audience on the street. The results frequently end up in the collections of art-lovers.
We love them too.
At Phantom Billstickers, the very first poster we stuck to a wall was promoting a gig. Every week, we stick up a load more. So we thought it was time to celebrate the art of the music poster with a free prize draw for Phan Mail readers.
The Art of Rock is 348 pages of visual delight – a lavishly illustrated record of the rock concert poster. From the hallucinatory creations of the psychedelic era, to the in-your-face impact of 70s punk, this book has it all. There’s a foreword by Bill Graham of Fillmore fame, interviews with poster artists, musicians and promoters, and much more.
And it could be yours.
Be in to win
All you have to do is email Rupert Fenton at firstname.lastname@example.org, type in your name and contact number, plus the answer to this question:
How many poster sites does Phantom Billstickers have in Dunedin?
Continuing on the theme of NZ Music Month, here’s a blog Jim wrote in 2015 about his best mate Mike Jones and cutting his teeth on Kiwi music at the Mount Pleasant Community Centre.
A Tinker’s Cuss: Jim Wilson’s Blog, 19 March 2015
I wanted to say a little bit about the French person here on Koh Samui in Thailand.
The French person gets about the place with an innate sense of superiority and casts around sneering at the whole human race and exfoliating socialist fumes on everyone. They believe that everyone would be fine if they only did as they (the French person) wished.
The French person always has two selfie sticks in both back pockets. Now, it’s difficult to sit down with four selfie sticks aboard and it’s just lucky that the French person likes to stand as they deliver you a lecture stemming from their deep and inner intellectualism and academic egalitarian working-class background.
I remember having two French teachers in high school. The first one’s name was Evans and his Christian name was so strange I can’t for the life of me recall it. He taught us in one of those big towers at Otago Boys’ High School in Dunedin. What I most remember about him was that he thought France was infinitely superior to Great Britain and then by association New Zealand. He flung his long, gangly arms wide open and around as he spoke like he was getting ready to sign a peace treaty with the rebels in Algeria and yet at the same time wanted to tell them just how morally in the wrong they were. He had enormous hairy nostrils that flared cavernously as he paced up and down the room with his cane ready to deliver a decent Froggie Thwack as he went. He owed it to us and that was the egalitarian part of the equation.
Monsieur Evans tried to teach us how to speak French by starting with the nasal passages and arms first and by then working backwards. If he weren’t so damn interesting he would have been a completely repulsive human being. I believe the whole Flying Nun music explosion started as anguish in one of those classrooms and most probably in those nostrils right there. I bet Monsieur Evans drove a Ford out of a feeling of doing something generous for the Americans too.
The second French teacher was at Linwood High School in Christchurch. His name was Peter Sharp and he was a very good-looking, blonde haired athletic type. From memory, he played cricket for the Canterbury cricket team and he was very good at it. He commanded everyone’s attention in the classroom and then he demanded utmost concentration. If he thought you weren’t concentrating, then he’d fast bowl a piece of chalk at you. I believe he did this merely so that he could get some bowling practice in. I don’t know how well he aged. I can merely tell you that he was a prick when he was young. But I think we learned a lot from him too and there’s the rub.
My parents and I moved to Christchurch from Dunedin when I was 13 or 14. My brother died in a tractor accident on a road gang in Dunedin shortly after that.
When we moved to Christchurch, I met one of my very best mates and a joker who was a brother to me his whole life through. His name was Mike Jones and his mum owned a dairy down by the railway tracks on Wilson’s Road. Our family lived just across the street. My mum worked in Melhuish’s pickle factory that was almost next door to our house and my dad worked at Stainless Castings in Woolston. This was good work for both of them and they enjoyed it. It took me a while to get used to a Christchurch summer after a Dunedin one, but I enjoyed the change. Christchurch just seemed to have more fresh air.
A notion of what being a brother means is that he has been with me my whole life through and I have always cherished having good mates. There is nothing better for me than the feeling of being part of a team.
Mike Jones played bass in various Christchurch bands and when we were sixteen we hired the Mount Pleasant Community Centre hall to run dances. This would have been in 1968. We did a lot of these gigs and it was wildly good fun. We did gigs in the halls all around Christchurch in fact and this was well before bands really played the pubs as all hotels closed at 6pm.
The Mount Pleasant Community Centre Hall was mostly where I ‘cut my teeth’ in Kiwi music. I saw what could happen and not much new came after this. Oh, they keep on calling it different names, but it’s basically the same. We would get 600 or 800 people in that hall on a Saturday night and there would be ten bouncers working for us. You needed ten bouncers because half the hall might have had 570 people and the other half had 30 ‘Epitaph Riders’. The Epitaph Riders were the local bike gang well before everyone was either in a bike gang or selling coffee or amphetamines.
I remember that after these dances, Mike and I and a half a dozen others drove our Bradfords, Bedfords, Austins and Vauxhalls down to the Silver Grille on Manchester Street for a late night steak. I always drove a Volkswagen but mostly because I can’t stand the French. I guess you know.
One of our bouncers at these hall gigs (known in wrestling circles as ‘Dr Death’) ended up being a screw in Paparua Prison when I was incarcerated there on drugs offences a few years later. Then some of those Epitaph Riders became my best mates in jail. Dougal Johnson was one of them and but for him (and a few others) I would have been a real broken arse. As it was, I enjoyed it.
Loss, what do I know about loss? What could I possibly know…
Mike Jones became a junkie for a while and ended up in jail for manufacturing Heroin in the 1980s. I have many proud memories of him and here is one: at one time in Christchurch one of the ‘heaviest’ guys around was known as Griff and he terrorised many in the ‘home-bake community’ by taking their dope off them and other ‘rorts that a junkie will pull in order to survive.
‘Griff’ went around to Mike’s place one day in South Brighton and demanded Mike’s Morphine. Mike refused and so Griff got out a pair of scissors to cut a finger off. Mike was highly intoxicated and not making any sense at all, but he bellowed: “Go ahead” and this was when Griff had the scissors open across Mike’s fingers and he was screaming and ready to go as well. “Go ahead!”
You can’t and don’t call a policeman in a situation like this. Not before or after. You know it, the other guy knows it. Mike kept his fingers and the Morphine.
Funny the things you can feel proud of.
The stuff I know about Kiwi music doesn’t seem to fit into any particular format. I see others write about Kiwi music and I mostly don’t enjoy reading it (or worse I get angry). It seems that they always miss what are, for me, essential points. But I think we’re probably all like this (we have unique experiences) and meanwhile Facebook is driving us all mad and wanting our fingers to boot. They already have our minds it would seem.
I am committed to not looking at Facebook after 4pm. I’d rather get some fresh air.
Mike died about six years ago after he had interferon treatment for Hepatitis C which is not a very popular thing to get and yet a virus that almost all junkies attract. The treatment is worse than the virus. He developed liver cancer and he went to the wall very quickly. His voice is with me every day and mostly the way he played bass. I feel it rather than hear it and the man went to his grave still capable of raising a snarl.