Remembering Joanne

Rob McGregor and Joanne Rye-McGregor happily spent 30 years together. Photo: supplied.

A year on from her passing, Joanne Rye-McGregor’s life of love and adventure is being celebrated through her poems, which have been collected in a book by her husband, Rob McGregor.

With help from the Tauranga Writers, Rob launched the self-published Collected Poems: Joanne Rye-McGregor on Sunday, July 26 – a year on from her death almost to the day.

“There are poems in the book that she wrote in her final weeks, on scraps of paper,” says Rob.

“She wrote poems for people she knew who had lost loved ones that have taken on a new meaning for me.

“Joanne has left a huge hole in my life that will never be filled. That is how it should be, because I will carry her with me.”

Rob wrote the introduction and drew the illustrations for the book, which seems appropriate, considering him and Joanne were creative collaborators all throughout their 30 years together.

They ran art retreats for more than 20 years.

“Many of our repeat students came to the book launch. There were more than 40 people there from throughout the country.

“I’m sure they kept coming for the delicious food Joanne would make, rather than the art.”

Joanne was a regular inspiration for Rob’s art, as he was for her poems.

They were also inspired by their many travels together, with poems throughout the collection detailing snippets of their trips. Her poem Timbuktu speaks of the time she slept on sand dunes in Africa while on a trip with her daughter, Briar Macken.

“The book’s cover is a photo Briar took on that trip – Joanne is sitting on the dune where they slept.

“When they woke up, they saw tracks of dung beetles that must’ve climbed all over them throughout the night.”

Rob and Joanne’s life in Mount Maunganui is also one of their biggest creative inspirations.

“In her final months she wrote: ‘today I sky-walked, treading on clouds reflected in the wet sand’. It was about a walk we took on the beach outside our house.”

The illustration on the page following the poem is an hour glass with their view inside of it, showing the sands of Joanne’s lifetime running out.

Joanne died in an armchair at home, overlooking that very view. She was 57.

She battled breast cancer for almost a decade, which later developed into incurable lymphangitis carcinomatosa in her lungs.

“She put up a good fight. She lasted another two years after her lymphangitis diagnosis – they didn’t expect her to last longer than a week.”

She kept her witty sense of humour and lust for life until the end.

For her memoriam, she wrote: ‘haha, emergency exit and I’ve left the cancer in a body that is now dead. I win! Wear something that has some sparkle and do not even think about reading out a poem ewwwh [sic]’.

A fitting final message from the beloved writer, teacher, film maker and friend who is missed by many.

“I’ve spent the year finishing this book, typing out her travel diaries and writing in our photo albums.

“She was a perceptive, wonderful person. As I’ve written on the back of the book, your days move much slower when you live in the present like Joanne did.

“The collection of her poems reflect the long days in her short life.”

To buy the book, email Rob McGregor: r.mcgregor@kinect.co.nz

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