New Zealander Blair Reeve has been writing and performing a rhythmic and comical style of performance poetry since 1995. He spent the first seven years of the new millennium teaching English in Japanese junior high schools before moving to Hong Kong where he continued to teach phonics to primary students until 2013. He graduated from Massey University (NZ) in 2012 after studying Japanese and English Literature and then turned his attention to more sustained creative writing by joining the City University of Hong Kong’s Masters in Fine Arts program. He completed this in 2014, and one year later published his first children’s book Hogart The Hedgehog Turns Nink. In September 2016 he published his second book for young readers, Greta von Gerbil & Her Really Large Lexicon. Currently he works from home, caring for his infant daughter and mentoring post-grad students at Chinese U for their portfolios in creative writing. He was a feature author in the Hong Kong Young Readers’ Literary Festival in March 2016 and will be performing at the upcoming TEDxWanChai event on October 29.
How long have you been involved in poetry?
I’ve been involved in poetry since I was a kid in the 70s. First as a reader of comic verse—things like Spike Milligan, limericks & nonsense verse. In high school I really took to analyzing poetry, but I didn’t start writing until I was about 20. I was a pretender of anguished verse, which came from being one of those dyed-in-the-wool Cure fans. I then took up writing poetry as something to be read aloud and performed. This transition from pretender to writer/performer happened around 1996.
What inspires you to write?
My inspiration comes entirely from other poets and poetry. When I see writing I like it makes me want to write better. Hence my early poems were all like bad Goth lyrics. Then I was inspired by other performer-poets during my Dunedin days of the 90s and some of the old Victorian stuff I read at that time, especially Gerard Manly Hopkins who had a really playful word thing going on. Dr. Seuss continues to be an inspiration when I read to my daughter and that led me to wanting to write comical anapestic rhyming verse. This is so much fun I’m sticking with it for the time being.
How does Hong Kong influence your writing?
Hong Kong influences my writing in an indirect way. My social scene is miscellaneous and so it frees me to be as experimental as I like. It also means the cultural inputs into my writing are diverse, and I like that. I like that my poetry is informed by so many different perspectives. But my writing tends to be interior and imaginative rather than worldly, and in that sense, Hong Kong as a direct subject has yet to make it into my writing.
Here’s an extract from Blair’s new children’s book.
Flaytoo the Friendly Mayfly (extract)
Said Phlooty the Mayfly to Flaytoo his boy,
“You’re four hours old now, you’ve played with that toy
since the moment your mother gave birth to you son.
You’ve only got twenty more hours to have fun,
so don’t hesitate, Flayt, get out in the sun.”
“We’re fish food, young chap, and that’s perfectly fine.
I’ve nothing against fish who do need to dine,
but there’s no need to hurry yourself to their plate.
Your time here is precious. Their stomachs can wait.
So listen up kiddo, go fly to the ends
of the field and make lots of new wonderful friends.
Because mayflies like us—we don’t live very long.
We’ve only one day till the end of our song.”
Then Phlooty the Mayfly unflicked his four wings,
and left Flaytoo flying alone without strings.
“Say what?” exclaimed Flaytoo, “I’ve only one day?
That barely leaves time for a Mayfly to play!
Well I certainly mustn’tly waste my time ruing
those four hours gone when I ought to be doing
what Phlooty suggested—travelling and seeing
how other flies spend their lives living and being.”
Peel Street Poetry is an open mic poetry night at Orange Peel. It runs every Wednesday of the month except the first. The environment is friendly and they love new performers, so come share your poetry or just listen along to some of Hong Kong’s sharpest poetic talents.
Peel Street Poetry Open Mic
Date: 2nd, 3rd, 4th (and 5th) Wednesdays of the month
Venue: Orange Peel
Edited: 1 November 2016 – extract amended, last line was missing