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Poets on Zoom

National Poetry Day celebration on Zoom. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

Level 4 was no obstacle for a group of Wairarapa poets who took to Zoom and the airwaves when covid stopped their in-person celebration.

Wairarapa Word’s meeting for National Poetry Day was cancelled due to the lockdown but went ahead virtually instead.

The poetry reading by about 20 writers had been planned to happen at the premises of Arrow FM, and broadcast live.

Madeleine Slavick online.

The event was organised by Rachel Gomez and Madeleine Slavick, who described how they pivoted online.

“I think it was lovely. We had great feedback on Facebook and by email,” Slavick said.

A full range of poetry was read, including work for children and a focus on the natural world. It was in English, Spanish, Czech, Scots, and Te Reo.

“With poetry, there is such a range of expression and unique approaches. That was very evident in the pieces people shared.”

Participants included Ra Smith of Kahungunu ki Wairarapa, Chris Daniell with Outdoor Poems, musician Niels Gedge, Dan Keane from Wairarapa Library Service, Kiri Riwai-Couch, poet and artist Ellen Rodda, storyteller Gaye Sutton and Wairarapa historian Gareth Winter.

The group was experienced dealing with covid restrictions, having done last year’s event during level 2.

“This year we had a harder lockdown, but we really wanted to do it,” Slavick said.

“We had everything planned to happen in-person at Arrow FM,” she said.

All the participants were going to go to the studio, do their readings and have lunch at an event planned more than four months ago.

“We were going to go into the recording room one at a time and then have a get-together,” she said.

Describing the group as ‘die-hards’, Slavick said the decision to use Zoom had been made quickly.

“It wasn’t just a Zoom call, it was also broadcast live on radio,” she said.

“It was a lovely event.

“Because it was lockdown and we couldn’t see each other in person, it was a special occasion, which technology allowed us to do.

“Poetry on Air was a joy to put together, even with lockdown,” said Gomez.

Wairarapa Word was founded in 2012 as a poetry group.

“While Wai Word has grown and includes all genres of writing now, we honour our roots and have celebrated Poetry Day every year,” Slavick said.

  • A podcast of the event is at www.arrowfm.co.nz/programmes/show/198/national-poetry-day/

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