"Riddell’s great strength is his positive view of human existence."
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Ron Riddell

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A Wonderful Weekend of Poetic Dialogue in Hiruharama on the Wanganui River PDF Print E-mail

by Ron Riddell

On the weekend of November the 27th and 28th there was a much-anticipated gathering of poets in Jerusalem. Nine poetic pilgrims made the hot, winding journey up the river road to share their poetry; their thoughts about life; their hopes for "papatuanuku" (mother earth) and humanity.

In a series of moving exchanges, poetic thoughts and voices were sought and found. New ways of looking at life and art were explored; new ways of sharing, of hallowing a common creative ground; new ways of looking at how we create positive, unifying and healing relationships.

It was the hope of the organizers, Saray & Ron Riddell that a "further seed" be planted at Jerusalem; a spiritual seed that takes its essence from living creative impulses. To their great delight, this planting was successful.

Sister Sue and Sister Margaret (whose Order of the Sisters of Compassion the organizers had worked with previously in the context of the Wellington International Poetry Festival) were very considerate with their assistance in making the Jerusalem Retreat Centre available as the venue for the event.

By candlelight on Saturday night music was played by Tessa Priest , cello; Aladdin Jones, bouzouki and Ron Riddell, hand drums. Susan Frykberg sang Baxter poems, Gregorian chants and other participants read poetry. On Sunday morning participants read poetry by other poets – poems that they had loved since childhood; poems which meant something special to them – and later made creative poetic responses to these memories.

Above all, it was a healing, joy-filled and peaceful weekend. During a time of sadness and tragedy for a country as a whole, the Jerusalem Poetry Dialogue was an oasis offering hope, through the clear, regenerative voice of the great Whanganui River: "Ko au te awa, ko te awa lo au" (I am the river and the river is me).

Finally, as part of the closing ceremony of gratitude the group visited the grave of Hemi (James Baxter) to read poems and pay tribute, to lay a flower and a river stone by his tomb stone. It was an uplifting, joyous and unforgettable experience, which hopefully there will be many more of (Poetic Dialogue for Peace & Healing) in Jerusalem and elsewhere.