Monday, November 1, 2010

Launch of A Tingling Catch at the Basin

A Tingling Catch: A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems 1864-2009 was launched at the Basin Reserve Long Room on Sunday 31 October.
Michael O’Leary MC’d the event and introduced cricket historian, former national selector and former President of NZ Cricket Don Neely to launch the book. Don warmly commented on my task of selecting and compiling the book. He then finished in unscripted and dramatic fashion by removing his NZ Cricket tie (as President of NZ Cricket) and presenting me with it in appreciation of my work and as recognition of the book’s service to New Zealand cricket.
Here’s the text of his complete speech read on the day:

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Long Room at the Basin Reserve.
  Today, even though I am in my second home, I confess to feeling like a fish out of water. For three decades I have been used to addressing audiences about cricket and introducing famous international cricket people, players, commentators, writers, officials and leading politicians from the Government, the Wellington City Council and the Diplomatic Corp.
  Today I am delighted to launch Mark Pirie’s, ‘A Tingling Catch’, A Century of New Zealand Cricket Poems, 1864 – 2009, to an audience of people whose love of poetry is as great as my love of cricket.
  The famous English cricket commentator, writer and poet, John Arlott, once told me that there had been more books written on cricket than any other sport. This was 20 years ago and I have no reason to suspect that this fact is still true. Included are a number of anthologies of the poetry of cricket, all of them from England. To the best of my knowledge no other test country has compiled an anthology. Hence, 'A Tingling Catch’ becomes an important statistic in the history of New Zealand and world cricket.
  Some of my favourite English writers, Alan Ross, R.C. Robertson-Glasgow, Herbert Farjeon, Norman Gale and Alan Gibson, were also printed poets like Arlott. In common their writings on cricket display an incomparable blend of poetic imagination, shrewd judgement of character, verbal resource, and ready humour.
  My cricket acquaintances were firstly players.
  We have all grown-up reading Wisden and have over 150 books relating to cricket on our bookshelves. We talk, observe and think on a similar wavelength.
  ‘A Tingling Catch’ has taken me to a new view of cricket. Poetry is about ideas from a different perspective and I felt that I needed to have a discussion with the poet who wrote the verse.
  The language of the poems differed from my cricket vocabulary and I found this stimulating. Some of the poems jumped off the page and reminded me of some long-forgotten game or situation that I had encountered on the field.
  The cover captures the summer game being played on a much-loved venue. ‘A Tingling Catch’, takes me back to the first time that I caught a cricket ball and the sting in my hands conveyed a skill attained to match my older brother – a badge of maturity.
  Every variant of the game is captured from playing in the backyard or street, to school, club, first-class, test cricket, social cricket and pen-portraits. The historic, the self-deprecating, the tragic, the amusing, the sad – all have their rightful place in this most comprehensive anthology.
  Mark is to be congratulated on the thoroughness of his research. For 5 years he has raided newspapers, libraries, magazines and books in search of gems, to produce a richly, entertaining history of verse and song about cricket spanning 146 years. We can enjoy the book today -- and for the rest of our lives.
  Mark you never played cricket for New Zealand except in your dreams but rest assured that you have made a vital contribution to the history of cricket in New Zealand.
  It is with great pride that I declare ‘A Tingling Catch’, by Mark Pirie – launched.

  Don Neely

After Don spoke, I made a speech as editor of the book:

I’d like to say a few words at the launch of A Tingling Catch today.
  Firstly, I’d like to thank David Mealing for agreeing to keep the NZ Cricket Museum open for people to look around, the Long Room caterers, Scarlet Events, for organizing the drinks/refreshments, and Don and Paddianne Neely for all their help with the book over the past few months, and for recognizing the need for a book of this nature and contributing the Foreword when I first contacted them back in March 2009. Thanks too to Don for making the launch speech today and for the gift of the tie. It’s a moment I’ll always treasure. I’d also like to thank those who’ve helped with the book launch today and, of course, the contributors, (the superb cover artist Jocelyn Galsworthy) and the advisors to the book, some of whom are here and will read later.
  A Tingling Catch has been a labour of love for me over the past 4-5 years. It’s a book that I think is the best anthology I’ve prepared to date. As I’ve observed of anthologists, if they have a passion for a subject it usually brings out the best in them. This book combines two of my main loves: cricket and poetry.
  As well as this obvious interest driving me to put the book together, there was also an underlying belief that what I was doing was in some way a service to New Zealand cricket. I was never a great player myself though I’ve played a fair bit of Wellington club cricket over the years. So I thought maybe I could do something for New Zealand cricket by producing this book. I think there have only been three other anthologies of cricket poetry produced in the last 100 years, and neither of these focuses on a single country. It’s possible A Tingling Catch might even be the first nationally focused anthology of cricket poetry produced.
  When I began the book, most of the people I spoke to only knew of a handful of cricket poems written in New Zealand. I was delighted to find so much material. In the end there was more material found than I could use for the book. This is always a nice position for an editor to be in, and as a result I have started a blog for the book to post some of the poems that were left out as well as commentary and new poems recently found. It’s called “Tingling Catch” and is well worth seeking out. Hopefully poets I’ve missed will write to me and I can add their poems to the blog. It can be found by typing in the book’s title on Google. Already there have been over a thousand page views in the past few weeks, and news sites in India, Sri Lanka, the UK and America have picked it up.
  Now I’d like to read a poem of mine from the book ‘The Pavilion’ and then hand you over to the contributors who are most welcome to read a short poem from the book.

        Mark Pirie

A lively poetry reading followed the speeches. I played captain in a Lord’s cap and selected batting positions for each of the poets. As I had already read a poem in my speech I did not bat in this innings and as Niel Wright’s poem was 2 pages long he didn’t bat either. Here’s the batting order and team I made on the day and the poems they read:

Long Room Poets XI

  1. Nicola Easthope           ‘How does your sun?’
  2. David McGill                ‘Cricket Limerick
  3. Richard Langston          ‘A Game Not Played in Oklahoma
  4. Nelson Wattie              Karori Park
  5. Tim Jones                     ‘Swing’
  6. Michael O’Leary          ‘Hey man, Wow! [Jimi Hendrix]’
  7. John Ansell (wk)           ‘Cricket Initials’
  8. Harry Ricketts               Kelburn Park
  9. Don Neely                    ‘What is Cricket?’
  10. Niel Wright                   DID NOT BAT
  11. Mark Pirie (captain)      DID NOT BAT
It was a fun innings, with each poet not afraid to play his or her shots.
Afterwards people went to the New Zealand Cricket Museum and explored in detail the history of the game.

Captain Mark Pirie sorts out his batting order

Tim Jones reading his poem 'Swing'

Cricketer Malcolm Murchie and MC Michael O'Leary

Nicola Easthope with Harry Ricketts and a friend

Long Room team mates David McGill and Niel Wright discuss tactics

Don Neely addresses the audience

Don Neely giving his NZ Cricket tie to Mark Pirie
NZ Cricket Museum Curator David Mealing with Mark Pirie

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