In place of a Tuesday Poem this week, I have a Tuesday Poet. Below is a short interview with Tim Jones, about his new poetry book, Men Briefly Explained. It's part of a blog tour Tim's been doing around the interwebs (you'll find more of his visitations here: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/2011/12/magical-mystery-tour-is-coming-to-take.html)
And once you've read this, you'll want to check out all the Tuesday Poems, here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.
Did you set out to write a poetry book about men?
I was going to answer "no" to this question, but a dive into the dusty depths of my hard drive suggests that the answer should actually be "yes"!
Even before my previous poetry collection All Blacks Kitchen Gardens was published by HeadworX in 2007, I had noticed that I had written quite a few new poems about men, and I thought of putting them together in a chapbook which I was going to call "Guy Thing" - I even wrote a title poem. I had in mind the Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop Mini Series, which I really like.
The chapbook idea never turned into anything, but about three-quarters of the poems I had planned to include in it made their way into Men Briefly Explained. The rest of the MBE poems were mainly written in 2010, when I had scaled my ideas up from a chapbook to a new collection. By that stage, I was writing with the theme of the collection in mind. These newer poems are mainly in the second and third sections.
I still really like the idea of putting a chapbook together, though - I'd like to do that one day. Perhaps my poem about the final boss in the first Lara Croft game will finally see the light of day...
I'm a bit obsessed with poetry books as collections - as a complete whole, with a structure and shape. Did you put your collection in order, or did you publisher do it, or was it a combination of the two?
It was mainly me, with a few suggestions from Dr David Reiter of Interactive Press, the publisher, who is of course also a very widely published poet himself. The sections stayed pretty much as they were, but there was a little bit of re-ordering within them.
This is my second book published by Interactive Press. The first, Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, which I co-edited with Mark Pirie, was a much trickier exercise to sequence - we shuffled the poems in that around quite a lot before arriving at the final order, and since the book won an award and has sold surprisingly well, it seems the effort was worthwhile.
If you were involved, how did you come to decide to arrange it in this way?
The poems in the prospective "Guy Thing" chapbook I mentioned earlier were mainly about me, and mainly about youth and young manhood, plus I had a number of poems looking at men, real or imagined, in the third person - and those men seemed, when I went back and thought about the poems, to be middle-aged.
A book about men that purported (at least in its title) to explain them, but stopped at the middle years of their lives - the stage I'd reached - didn't really seem adequate, so in 2010, I concentrated on writing poems for the third section of the book, where the protagonists of the poems range from middle-aged to posthumous. Deliberately setting out to write a group of poems on a pre-decided topic was quite a departure for me, but once I got into the swing of it, the remaining poems came quite quickly.
And did you also structure your previous poetry collections?
This is the first of my collection to have one overarching theme. In my previous collections, I've grouped the poems into sections that have had some kind of coherence - for instance, there is a section of my first collection, Boat People, that I think of as the "Russian section", poems either about Russia or strongly influenced by Russian poetry; and in both Boat People and All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens, the final section of the book consists of speculative poetry.
What's next for Tim Jones? Are you working on your next poetry collection?
After a long hiatus, I've again started writing the occasional poem from time to time, but my main focus at the moment is on writing short stories. Quite apart from the fact that that's what I want to be doing, I am obliged to do this, because when I was awarded the NZ Society of Authors Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010, it was on the basis of producing another collection of short stories, so I had better bestir myself!
With this collection, I again have a theme in mind from the start, rather than (as with my first two collections) coming up with the theme by finding a commonality within the stories I wanted to include. I have noticed that both publishers and reviewers of short story collections show a strong preference for linked or at least themed collections. Personally, I prefer variety, but since I've thought of this theme it has generated lots of story ideas. Whether I should write the stories based on these ideas, or whether I should simply provide readers with a title, an outline of the story idea, and a few blank pages for them to fill in themselves, is a decision yet to be taken.
How To Buy A Copy Of Men Briefly Explained
Men Briefly Explained is published by Interactive Press (IP) of Brisbane. You can find out more about Men Briefly Explained, and buy it direct from the publisher, on IP's mini-site for the book: http://www.ipoz.biz/Titles/MBE.htm
On Tim's Men Briefly Explained page, there are more options for buying the book in person and online, plus latest reader reactions and reviews: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/p/men-briefly-explained.html