Friday, August 12, 2011

A Tingling Catch contributor David Mitchell dies

David Mitchell (1940-2011), well-known New Zealand poet, performer, and cricketer, died in June this year. I’ve written a tribute for him on the Poetry Archive website and another Tingling Catch contributor, Michael O'Leary, has written a personal memoir for David on Beattie’s Book Blog.
David’s poem ‘gasometer/ ponsonby’ in A Tingling Catch (a cricket ballad focusing on some hardened meths drinkers on the boundary) was one of the most mentioned poems in reviews of the book. Terry Locke's favourite poem was Mitchell's and he noted further in English in Aotearoa that: ‘Mitchell has quite a presence in this book. He is the most significant cricketer/poet in our little pantheon.’ Michael Morrissey also praised David’s poem in Investigate as ‘a vivid exploration of what’s going on just wide of the field’.
Ron Riddell’s poem for David Mitchell as a poet/cricketer also featured in the Winter/Spring 2011 New Zealand Cricket Museum Newsletter. It’s true to say David was a significant New Zealand poet/cricketer. To my knowledge we haven’t had any international poet/cricketers in New Zealand. In England poet/cricketers like bowler John Snow or Hubert Doggart represented England at Test level. David played senior club cricket, however, at a high level and opened the batting. I know that J H E Schroder, Harry Ricketts, Robert J Pope and Brian Turner also played senior club cricket at a good level. I did not see David bat but New Zealand captain John Reid in the 1950s regarded him as one of five outstanding schoolboy cricketers while at Wellington College. David was an all-rounder and played mostly for the Grafton Club in Auckland until 2002 aged 62. His biographers Martin Edmond and Nigel Roberts note (in Steal Away Boy: The Selected Poems of David Mitchell, Auckland University Press, 2010): ‘Mitchell once took a hatrick bowling his little floaters on the Devonport #2 ground to win the game for North Shore: off the last three balls of the last over of the last match of his last season in Auckland.’ David’s penultimate ball was described as a ‘geometric figure of mythical significance’. Lovely.
David’s friend Ron Riddell also wrote a recent poem called ‘The Day Room’ which he kindly sent in to share here in memory of David:


The Day Room

for David Mitchell
I’m dropping off again, but waking to the view
waiting in the day room, for what, for who?
a man with a walking stick, another with a bag –
a flower, a book, a bunch of fruit.
Waiting and waking, always the same view:
a bird bath, a plot of roses, a bench or two –
once more there are no visitors, only the light
that comes and goes under the door
a soft breeze, a dove cooing from the garden.
Once in a while, out of the light emerge
figures in white, so like the company of angels -
darlings that drift in and out of the day room -
my haven and my life - where pages idly flap
by an open window - the wind my part-time
reader leafs through the sunlit sheets.
So, we’re here, waiting for the moment.
We’re here in the green room, cream or is it blue?
With the TV cricket no-one watches;
mood music from the foyer passing
awaiting the moment of Great Awakening –
perhaps the tea cart or the dinner gong?
a visit from a friend, a bit of hot gossip
what the papers say – or don’t - about
the role of poets in Woman’s Day.
I should pay more attention I suppose.
It’s not that I’m losing interest –
the comings and goings have their attentions
ghosts to consider and to surrender.
Who knows what is waiting;
whether in the skyscrapers of Sydney
the clouds or waves of Darling Harbour
or last sweeps, squeaks and bleeps of day?
Let the sirens wail; jets drone overhead –
say I’m content as I’ll ever be
in the day room that keeps its promises
where I rise and fly on wings of poetry.

Poem © Ron Riddell, 2011

Thanks Ron.

David Mitchell

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