Turner’s book headlines celebration of the arts

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Oturehua writer Brian Turner headlined an evening of the arts in Alexandra last weekend, launching his latest anthology in a combined event that also saw the opening of the latest art exhibition at Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery.

Turner’s book Night Fishing was a compilation of works of remarkable “clarity of feeling and thought”, Alexandra poet Michael Harlow, who launched Turner’s book, said.

Turner was a “maestro” of words and a “poet/philosopher” who had received an “extraordinary number of accolades”, Harlow said.

“He has a list of awards that is longer than my writer’s arm.”

As a man of letters, Turner was an “all-rounder”, Harlow said. As well as being a nationally recognised and awarded poet, Turner was an esteemed essayist and editor, had been a respected sports journalist and sportsman, and was an ardent environmentalist. His concern for the natural world and mood to articulate that had been clear “right at the beginning of his writing”.

Harlow said Turner’s voice “made a sense of place very real”, and the intertwining of poetry and philosophy, as evidenced in Turner’s work, represented an important wisdom that was needed by society. Poetry enriched the culture of nations and communities, and events such as book launches celebrated “the art of the imagination and the imagination of art”.

Harlow and Turner both read works from Night Fishing at the launch, including this couplet of Turner’s, titled “Fact of Life”:

Home is not where the heart is

it’s what the heart goes hunting for

Central Stories general manager Maurice Watson said it was a thrill to be launching books such as Turner’s, and a combination of different kinds of art in exhibitions at the Alexandra gallery would continue to be pursued.

Turner’s book launch was followed by the opening of Central Stories’ latest exhibition, “A Muster of Artists”, which features six of Central Otago’s notable painters, a photographer, one of the country’s senior jewellers, a nationally recognised weaver and two internationally recognised glass artists.

It also features poems from three nationally recognised poets, all of Central Otago: Turner, Harlow and Jillian Sullivan. Several works from each poet are presented in large letters on the walls of the gallery, surrounded by artworks from visual artists in the exhibition.

The evening also featured the introduction of the new Central Otago arts co-ordinator, Rebekah de Jong, of Alexandra.

Central Otago District Arts Trust chairwoman Jan Bean paid tribute to the exemplary work of the previous and inaugural arts co-ordinator, Maxine Williams, who had dedicated herself to nurturing the arts for many years in her role.

The trust was looking forward to Central Otago’s profile as an arts destination continuing to flourish through the work of Ms de Jong, Mrs Bean said.