We drove an old MK1 Land Rover on a hot New Jersey night toward Atlantic City (‘AC’). I bet Southside Johnny has driven this route many times and could do so in his sleep. We had the Carolina Chocolate Drops playing loud on the stereo and were ebullient to be doing a clean poster run again and to have found ‘open ground’. We were happy to be running free and to be expanding as human beings. It was good.
In the back seat was a Les Paul Gold Top in an old Epiphone case. This case had been dropped so many times you wondered about the previous owners. It was bound in so many loving luggage tags that you would have thought Jordan Luck had owned it. A good loving. A real good loving such as the world needs. Aaaah, poetry. Woodbury’s favourite son is Jordan luck.
The luggage tags showed the time honoured rock n’ roll route: Scottsdale, Arizona – Austin, Texas – New Orleans, Louisiana – Macon, Georgia – Muscle Shoals, Alabama – Detroit, Michigan – Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis, Tennessee – Seattle, Washington. The Betty Ford Centre – Promises – The Stone Pony, Ashbury Park – Chick’s Hotel – The Gluepot – Ranfurly – Whangarei on a cold Monday night – The Whitehouse, Invercargill. Yes, we know them all well. Yes, we earned it together and forever it is ours. Let’s not have it all slip away and poetry keeps it there.
We were carrying poem posters by four Kiwis and two Americans: Brian Turner, Michele Leggott, Stephen Oliver, Tusiata Avia, Joe Treceno and Robert Pinsky. These are all fine and thoughtful poets who make a difference in the world each time they are read.
We stayed in nearby Egg Harbour and went into AC to poster each day. We ate salt water taffy until it was running down our chins and this whilst the Carolina Chocolate Drops were still playing loud in our heads. The air was fresh and it was good to see a beach again. You have to cherish the sea. A seashore in Aotearoa is the most beautiful in the world, but I am here. And here is mighty good and enthralling.
We mostly postered up and down the famous Boardwalk, adding also a few choice spots in the surrounding areas. I think the most satisfying experiences I have postering with poems is when I see people stop and read the words. I saw a woman jogger on the Boardwalk stop to read Michele Leggott’s poem ‘Wonderful to Relate’. This woman combed through it line by line and was tracing with her forefinger. For me, it was like time had stopped as I waited for a reaction. I got one, the woman was obviously moved and maybe it’s my imagination, but she seemed to jog away in a much more coordinated manner and like her breathing had changed. I think it had. Mine did. We had made a difference. That’s what we came for.
Here’s what Pablo Neruda said about poetry:
“On our earth, before writing was invented, before the printing press was invented, poetry flourished. That is why we know that poetry is like bread; it should be shared by all, scholars and by peasants, by all our vast, incredible, extraordinary family of humanity.”
Yes, that’s why we do it. Little steps to change.
Keep the Faith,