21 February 2008

Johanna Aitchison at the Poetry Society

On Monday night I went along to the Poetry Society’s monthly meeting, where Johanna Aitchison was guest reader.

I enjoyed it very much and felt it was a great pity that there weren’t more people there to see her. I’ve been wondering how the society can attract more people along to it meetings, which generally really good. Any suggestions? I shall do my bit by trying to remember to post about upcoming readings – next month Tim Jones (writer, blogger, guest editor of the next issue of JAAM) is guest reader.

That said, the smallness of the audience did make for a cosy, friendly evening - we all sat in a circle and it was really informal.

After the open reading - where a few of us shared some poems - Jo read to us from her new book, A Long Girl Ago (VUP, 2007), and some new work.

I first came across Jo’s poetry in various literary magazines, including JAAM, where I remember publishing some of her work while she was living in Japan. Her chapbook Oh My God I’m Flying was published by Pemmican Press in 1999.

In the poems Jo read I was struck by their playfulness with language, her attention to sound in words, and the sometimes quite crazy leaps in logic. It all made sense, but a different kind of sense. These things may have always been her work, but they seem more marked now.

I was really interested when she talked alter about how, during the three years she spent in Japan, she spent most of the time in silence, or else talking bad Japanese or bad English – she explained that she needed to speak very childlike English with incorrect grammar in order to be understood.

She said that through this process she had to find a new language, because the old one didn’t work anymore. You can see, or rather maybe hear, that in her poetry, which I’m looking forward to reading more of. I bought her book and have added to my pile of ‘poetry I’m really looking forward to reading’ – which I’m starting to get through.

3 comments:

Johanna Sparkle said...

Thank you very much, Helen. I was happy to see you at the reading. I was also very disappointed that there weren't more people there, as I'd planned a pretty raunchy reading, which I think would have benefitted from a larger audience. Ta muchly for buying my book. Love, Jo

Helen Rickerby said...

Thanks again Jo. Nevertheless, it was a much enjoyed and appreciated reading.

Regarding the Poetry Society, I was disappointed to hear that they only recieved half of the funding they applied for from Creative New Zealand. I think this is a great pity since they've been doing a lot of good work making the society a national organisation, rather than being so Wellington focused. There will be a lot they won't be able to do with less funding.

Tim Jones has quite a bit to say about this over on Books in the Trees.

ali Morrison Jack said...

Want to contact Johanna Aitchinson - are you the student whom I directed in a lead role for 'And So To Bed' many years ago at BOI College? If so I am thrilled that you are writing - as an English teacher I would be - I read about your latest anthology in today's Weekend Herald and the name clicked. Please contact me at - alimj@orcon.net.nz Ali