On the evening of the winter solstice, Thursday 22nd June, we came together to celebrate the release of Megan Kitching's debut poetry collection, At the Point of Seeing. We had a lovely evening celebrating the release of this brilliant debut with everyone. There were some beautiful poetry readings and fantastic speeches. A huge thank you to the University Book Shop Otago for hosting us, and a big thank you to everyone who came along to help us celebrate.
And thank you also to Carolyn McCurdie who launched the book for us and gave a brilliant speech. Here's the launch speech that she gave:
'I am so chuffed to be here. I feel as if I've been sitting on the sidelines for quite a long time, watching the evolution of the work that has here become Megan's first poetry collection. It has been exciting to watch, and a privilege to watch.
I first met Megan years ago when the Blacks Road poetry group met monthly in Martha Morseth's Blacks Road living room. She joined the group when she was a Masters student at Otago, and that she had a true gift struck me from the first. I was slightly in awe of her quiet seriousness, knowledge of form and her scholarly attention to detail. I learned a lot.
Then she left us for London and a PhD looking at the influence of the natural sciences on eighteenth century poetry. When she returned to Dunedin, to our delight, she rejoined the group. We all benefitted from her exacting, high standards. For a long time she would not accept that she was a poet. To her mind, her work wasn't good enough. That her confidence in her work has grown to the degree that we all meet here today to celebrate a book of her poetry is something I find truly moving.
And if Megan isn't a poet, then nobody is. She brings to her work, and more, to her way of being in the world, a depth of looking, what feels to me like a kind of reverence for the truth, the actuality of whatever is in her gaze. It's in the title: At the Point of Seeing. The perfect title. The universe meets her, and she it, at that very point. And for me, the reader, sharing in that encounter feels transformative for my own seeing. What else is poetry for?
And this gaze penetrates. In the poems is a sense that the barriers that shut the human from the leaf, the bird, the tree, are at one and the same time, real, real but permeable and also not real. The arresting cover photo conveys something of this. With more than a suggestion of the human, these tree branches embrace, wrestle, nest. And crucially, are weather-shaped. We can recognise ourselves here, in this shaping. The poems do this too. Carolyn reads the poem 'Miro' (pg.49) from the collection.
And here's the wind: Carolyn reads the poem 'Prevailing' (pg.52) from the collection.
Other barriers fall in this work. The poems pay their respects to historical figures like David Hume, Isaac Newton, Albertus Magnus. These are not distant, but here, in the entwining of ivy round a chimney, in a cramped hand drawing ink across paper.
The poems I love the best are love songs to the natural world, plants, trees and birds. Carolyn reads the poem 'Maelstrom' (pg.57) from the collection.
And in the poems where the poet herself is a more central presence, she's good company. She's a gentle companion, with a wry, self-deprecating humour. Here, for example, the poet contends with challenges of a southern winter. Carolyn reads the poem 'Walking is Controlled Falling' (pg.44) from the collection.
I invite you to walk with Megan through these poems. Despite her description of her walking here, she is in fact, sure-footed.
This is a remarkable collection. Reading Megan's poems deepens me. Her work, will, I'm sure, deepen you.'
– Carolyn McCurdie