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Michael, I Thought You Were Dead

A chance encounter with another poet gave Wellington poet and publisher Michael Fitzsimons the title for his new book.

He was battling cancer, and arriving at a book launch at Unity in Wellington one day found news of his death had been greatly exaggerated. “Michael,” said the other poet, “I thought you were dead.”

Michael, I thought you were dead launches in Movember, the month when men’s health comes under the spotlight. It is a book that talks about one man’s experience of cancer, but it’s also about being fully alive.

“There is light and lightness in the observations and a nice turn of humour that you don’t expect,” says publisher Mary McCallum. “The black humour of the title poem is just a start. A one point, for example, Michael describes putting on a pair of shorts and some fancy French aftershave to go and see the oncologist. It finishes: ‘I await the verdict. A scented man.’”

Speaking at the launch of the Fitzsimons’ book at – appropriately enough – a lifesaving club at Worser Bay, artist and writer Gregory O’Brien described it as “a love poem to the world and its inhabitants”.

“It is hard to imagine a book more infused with living, with seasonal growth and rebirth, with the wairua and spirit of being alive. In the middle of an encounter with death, we find ourselves at the very heart of life.”

McCallum says that for a press based on Ghuznee Street in Wellington, she is drawn to the way Michael describes the world in front of him – whether it’s from the eagle’s eyrie where he lives above the harbour, a bushwalk on the West Coast or his favourite hang-outs in the Cuba precinct. “He writes of intimate illuminated moments that suddenly take flight and give us a perspective as big as the world.”

We sit in the sun outside Milk Crate, drink coffee from yellow cups and talk about how well the West Indies are doing for a change against Pakistan, and how the day is shaping up here on Ghuznee Street. Serious young women with strategically ripped jeans wait in silence for the next bus, while we sit with the sparrows and flame-haired David Bowie across the asphalt and a caged sapling losing its leaves.
In this moment, I give up on anxiety. The coffee is so good. Sweet and chocolatey. A day of possibility. The shine.
(from “Markings”)

A proud member of the three-person South Wellington Poetry Society, Michael Fitzsimons is a writer and co-founder of Fitzbeck Creative. His first collection, Now You Know, was recommended in RNZ’s annual poetry highlights. Michael I thought you were dead is available at all good independent bookstores and at www.thecubapress.nz – ISBN 978-1-98-859507-8

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