Author Miles Spence, 94, releases book of poems for National Poetry Day
Jazz musician, artist, World War II veteran and author Miles Spence is this week launching a book of poetry – just two months shy of his 95th birthday.
The writer of War and Pieces and Lead Astray Beautifully also has another two other books completed, ready to be sent to the publisher.
Spence's collection of poems, Drippings from a Teapot, is being launched this week to coincide with National Poetry Day on Friday. The poems are inspired by events that happened around him, some dating back to the 1970s.
"I've been working on them like jazz – jazz is very poetic," Spence said. "You go out for practice on certain nights of the week ... and on the weekends, writing."
The collection's title dates back to his work as a gardener in retirement at Auckland when he used a teapot to water the plants.
War and Pieces, published in 2004, is an autobiographical third-person account of one man's experiences in the navy during World War II. Spence wrote the book, featuring a character called John Pilgrim, during his long recovery after a fall from a roof in 1988. At the same time, Spence wrote a post-war story featuring Pilgrim, called The Valley of the Purple Death, which is one of the two books, along with Journeys on a Treadmill, that are now ready for publication.
Spence was born at Christchurch in October,1922. He enlisted in the Royal New Zealand Navy in June 1941, aged 18, and was later seconded to the Royal Navy, serving aboard HMS Victorious where he joined a Dixieland band. He bought his first clarinet in New York.
After the war, Spence went to the United States where he pumped gas during the day and jammed in the jazz clubs at night. He eventually toured the west coast of the US as the only white member of a jazz band.
Back in New Zealand, he had a long teaching career and continued to play jazz, setting up Milez-A-Jazz band in Nelson after moving from Auckland in 1999. Skilled on the tenor and alto sax as well as the flute and clarinet, Spence also played for the Sentimental Journey Trio until about two years ago.
He still plays when he can and continues to listen to jazz.
"Oh, yes, it's real music," Spence said.
* Drippings from a Teapot will be available to buy from the author for $20. Call 548 7153 to organise a copy.