Hawke's Bay Today
Poetry’s changed her life
Quite by chance 25 years ago Carole Stewart was transfixed by a woman in a fire engine-red coat which offset her shock of white hair, reading her poetry aloud.
That woman was the late celebrated poet, short story writer and performer Bub Bridger, who had not begun to write until she was in her 50s, and it made Stewart realise it was never too late to begin anything.
‘‘It unlocked something in me. I was impelled to buy paper and pens and on the way home, parked on an outcrop in the Manawatu Gorge and started to write.’’
When Stewart returned to Hawke’s Bay she began attending poetry and writing workshops, which coincided with the formation of the Hawke’s Bay Live Poet’s Society by Keith Thorsen, former Creative Hastings arts adviser. Stewart became a foundation member of the society and president.
The society met monthly at the now closed Cat & Fiddle, and has for some time been meeting at the Hastings Community Arts Centre.
This weekend the Live Poets celebrates its 21st birthday with the inaugural Hawke’s Bay Poetry Conference in Havelock North, at which Stewart will be facilitator. Since finding her inner writer, Stewart has had some success with travel and historical writing published in national magazines and newspapers, and selfpublished a book of children’s poems: Flower Fairies and Birds of Aotearoa New Zealand.
Stewart is a former psychiatric nurse who trained at Napier Hospital. She grew up in the area, and was thrilled to have her poem The Phoenix chosen by Napier Inner City Marketing and Napier City Council to decorate the lane side of the Sainsbury, Logan & Williams building in Tennyson St.
The years since Live Poets began seem to have flown, says Stewart.
Now 71, she has signalled her intention to stand down from the Live Poets committee to focus on other things but says she’s ‘‘loved every minute of it’’.