WelCom December 2019
Dealing with a cancer diagnosis was the catalyst for a new book of poems from Wellington poet and publisher Michael Fitzsimons, with the arresting title of Michael I thought you were dead.
‘The book is an honest and searching account of what it feels like to confront one’s mortality and find spiritual meaning in life’s most difficult circumstances,’ says The Cuba Press publisher Mary McCallum.
Michael gets the cancer news no one wants to hear and finds fear and uncertainty have taken up residence in his house, muting joy and putting the world as he knows it on hold. But in time he discovers while his life might look like a shipwreck, there’s a lifeboat waiting to take him away to a new place, where the most ordinary things gleam with their own extravagance and sorrow slowly gives way to moments of praise.
Says Mary: ‘Mike writes of the world in front of him in his eagle’s eyrie or on a bushwalk – intimate illuminated moments that suddenly take flight and give us a perspective as big as the world. But there is light and lightness in Michael’s observations and a nice turn of humour you don’t expect. The black humour of the title poem is just a start.
‘My favourite poet with a ponytail greets me warmly at the launch of his latest book of poems. “Michael, he says, I thought you were dead.”’
Fitzsimons says writing the poems helped him make sense of what was happening to him. From the book: ‘Writing poems is my way of facing danger. Words on a page, however they tumble out, are my prayer’.
At the book’s launch, artist and writer Gregory O’Brien said, ‘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. This is a book of lessons, softly, wisely told.’
Michael Fitzsimons is a regular contributor to the Catholic media. His first book of poems, Now You Know, was recommended in RNZ’s annual poetry highlights.