31 January 2011

Tuesday Poem: from The Time of Giants, by Anne Kennedy

from Cinema, the sad ending 'o'


Have you seen Psycho? No. Vertigo? No.
Rear Window
No.Rope? Nope. They don't
make them like that any more. No.
In that case have you read
The Inferno? No.
In that case did you see
The Towering Inferno? No.
Have you seen you know? No.
Have you? No.
Okay have you read Plato? No.
Bassho? No.
Sappho? No.
Purgatorio? No.
Paradiso? No.
Umberto Eco? No.
Daniel Defoe? No.
Othello? No.
Orlando? No.
Waiting for Godot? No.
Living in the Maniototo? No.
Crow? No.
Wodwo? No
Alice Munro? No.
Gregory Corso? No.
Edgar Allan Poe? No.
Allen Curnow? No. Wystan Curnow? No. Any Curnow? No.
Black Rainbow? No.
The Rainbow? No.
Whanau? Nau.
The Pisan Canto? No.
Rimbaud? Naud.
Don DeLillo? No.
Alan Sillitoe? Noe.
Joy Harjo? No.
Leslie Marmon Silko? No.
Steven Winduo? No.
Timothy Mo? No.
Henry D. Thoreau? Neau. Paul Theroux? Noux. Any Th...? No.
Robinson Crusoe? Noe.
Ivanhoe? Noe.
Te Kaihau? Nau.
The Kumu Lipo. No.
Under the Volcano? No.
The Aloe? Noe.
The Loss of Eldorado? No.
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow? No.
Barbara Trapido? No.
Henry and Cato? No.
The Wide Window? No.
The Grim Grotto? No.
Oh, the Places You'll Go!? No.
Kate DiCamillo? No.
Go Dog Go? No.
Do you remember Yoko Ono? No.
and the Paycock
? No.
Anthony and Cleo-
? No.
The Canto
? No.
? No.
vid? No.
sip Mandelstam? No.
Flann O'
Brien? No. Greg O'Brien? No. Any O'B…? No.
Baby No
? No.
The Go-
? No.
The po-
em with the women coming and go-
ing? No.
You do know
the coming and go-
ing one? No.
no coming and going then? No.
War And Peace?

I mentioned the other day that I'd recently reread The Time of the Giants by Anne Kennedy. The context of this poem is that Moss, the protagonist, is out on her first date with Paul, her new boyfriend. She is taking pains (literally) to avoid him from finding out that she is a giant. They are about to go into the movie (Shakespeare in Love). From their discussion, you might guess that they are rather different sorts of people. Moss is rather more cultured.

What I love particularly about this poem, or rather section of a poem, is its playfulness, its rhythm and rhyme and cleverness, and all the different ways of saying no. I haven't tried reading it out loud - I'm sure it would be awesome - but it's the kind of poem that reads itself out loud in your head.

Anne Kennedy is a novelist, award-winning poet and short-story writer, editor, literary critic and scriptwriter. She's recently returned to Auckland from Hawai'i, where she was teaching creative writing.

Head on over to the Tuesday Poem blog for more Tuesday Poems: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

30 January 2011

January poetry reading (2–5)

The Time of Giants by Anne Kennedy (2/52)

I was fortunate enough to meet Anne Kennedy at the launch for Crumple in Auckland in November. We've been corresponding and she very kindly sent me a copy of The Time of Giants. This is a re-read for me. I read and enjoyed it back in 2005 when it came out. I've enjoyed it even more this time through though - as I often do when I reread things I liked the first time. You often get more of the nuance and layers and so forth.

One thing I hadn't picked up on the first time, possibly because I hadn't read it yet, was its parallels with Autobiography of Red, by Anne Carson. Both are collections of linked narrative poems, aka verse novels, which modernise a character from myth. In Carson's case, a monster from Greek myth, and in Kennedy's case, a giant from Irish myth (though Moss, the protagonist, is not herself from a myth, she is a descendant of Irish giants, such as Finn MaCoul, whose story is told in the second section).

Moss and her brother Forest are giants, though their parents are normal height. This is really the story of Moss and her efforts to keep her normal-sized boyfriend Paul from realising she is so tall. I took this also as metaphorical for that feeling that I'm sure most people have - that they are some kind of freak, and are going to be found out at some point.

It's a really playful collection, with a playful story and playful and surprising use of language. I'm going to publish a piece as my Tuesday Poem soon, so you can see what I mean, if you haven't already read it.

Friend's poetry manuscript 3/52

I won't say much about this, with it being unpublished and all and still in progress (though basically ready to be unleashed on the world in my opinion). But I will say that it's great, and I'm excited about it. I'm going to be giving feedback and praise, so will read it a few more times, but I won't cheat by recording each read-through though.

100 Traditional Smiles, by Anne Kennedy 4/52

Because I'd just read The Time of Giants, and because I had recently acquired this book as part of a big bag of poetry books that a friend donated to me, I thought it was a good time to read it.

I'm not sure I should be counting this one, as it claims to be a novella, and is clearly written in prose, but it's very poetic prose, with only the loosest narrative (much looser than The Time of Giants), so I am claiming it as prose-poetry verse novel(la).

Like The Time of Giants, it's wonderfully inventive and surprising. In the more than 100 sections (I would count them, but I put the book down somewhere and now can't find it) of varying lengths, from short to really short, it jumps between a series of characters, including 'the woman' (actually I think several of them are referred to as 'the woman' and I wasn't always sure which one was meant, which I'm sure was deliberate), the Italian couple, Eileen, Irene, Leslie, the Hoboken couple (former New Zealanders living in New Jersey), the graphic designer and even, in a few places, an 'I'. They are in various parts of the world - New Jersey, as I mentioned, Auckland, Gore, New York, Nottingham. Some know each other, some don't, but there are threads, or rather wools, connecting many of them.

Northland, by Michele Leggott (5/52)

Northland is a gorgeous hand-made book from Pania Press (Jack Ross and Bronwyn Lloyd). I was keen to get my paws on a copy because it's about, or perhaps rather set in, the same areas as my book Heading North. Northland is a gorgeously produced book, and it was lovely revisiting some of these places in poetry. I think my favourite of the poems was 'listening', with the repeated line at the end of the three stanzas 'unwinding the bird in my throat'.

29 January 2011

New lit magazine from Kilmog

In other exciting news today, Kilmog Press, a Dunedin publishing company known for it's gorgeous hand-made books (including my own Heading North) is going to publish a literary journal, called Starch. AND, it's going to be hardback. It's open for submissions. It will be very cool. More info here: http://kilmogpress.blogspot.com/2011/01/open-for-submissions-starch-new-zealand.html

Seraph Press gets new website

Woo! Seraph Press (which is basically me) has finally grown up and got it's own URL: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz. And I've finally built it a new site, which is currently not entirely dis-similar to the old one. I will be able to add news more easily, as it has a built-in blog, and I'm sure there are many other fabulous things I could do.

The old one (which I'll start redirecting from or something) was built on a Paradise homepage, with an old version of Dreamweaver that I got from my old work. And, because I don't know CSS, it was built in a series of tables and really was a bit of a pain (though it loaded super-fast).

This one is built on Weebly. Is anyone else using that? How are you finding it? It looked quite flexible and is, you know, free, unless you get pro, which I might perhaps, though mainly so I can add my favicon back (and add video).

For my first proper post on seraphpress.co.nz I've linked to Helen Heath's interview with Helen Heath. I published Helen Heath's debut chapbook Watching for Smoke, in 2009 (goodness, was it so long ago!). As part of her continuing series of interviews, she's put herself in the interviewee's chair. Check it out on her blog: http://www.helenheath.com/2-jan-2011/quick-ten-helen-heath.

24 January 2011

Tuesday Poem: 'Daddy' by Sylvia Plath (as read by Sylvia Plath)

If you can't view this embedded video, you can watch it on YouTube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6hHjctqSBwM

A quick Tuesday Poem today. I stumbled across this yesterday, and goodness me it's so exciting to hear Plath read her own poem - to hear what her voice sounded like for one (I have listening to recordings of her a long time ago, but I don't remember her voice being so deep), and also to hear how she reads this - where she puts stresses, the rhythm she uses, where she pauses.

When I came across this, I also came across the only surviving recording of Virginia Woolf's voice, and I know there will be so many other wonderful treasures of poets reading their work and writers voices, but I'm afraid to get started looking for them, because where will it end!?

Well, you can go and have a look for poetry on Youtube, but you can also go look for more Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

23 January 2011

Nox, by Anne Carson (no. 1)

To be honest, I'm not even sure if this book really qualifies as poetry. It isn't immediately recognisable as a poetry book - it's much thicker for a start, is in a box, and is concertina folded. And when you look at the pages, you don't find what you'd immediately recognise as poetry. There are fragments, photos, scribbles, things that appear to pieces of peeled paint, and lots and lots of definitions of Latin words.

But, when you read them, they feel like poetry, and it's by a poet, so I'm counting it.

I'm a big fan of Anne Carson. She's a Canadian poet and the author of what, if asked, I say is my favourite poem: 'The Glass Essay' (I've written about it a couple of times on this blog). She's better known, I think, as the author of Autobiography of Red - a kind of verse-novel retelling/revisioning of a Greek myth about the monster Geryon and his relationship with Herakles - which I also love, but not as much.

I asked for Nox for Christmas, and it duly arrived via the internet - I haven't seen it in Unity Welly, though I did paw it in Unity Auckland but didn't have enough room in my bag to bring it home. As I said, it's a big book. As a physical object, it's gorgeous. (Oh hey, here's a video showing it on Youtube.) It's a facsimile of a scrapbook Carson made as an epitaph for her brother after he died. It tells his story, sort of, in little fragments, snatches, glimpses, riddles almost. She only had little snatches of him, really, because he 'ran away' at some unspecified age (sometime in early adulthood) to avoid prison - I don't think we are told what for, but intimations are drug dealing or possibly something to do with the death of a girl he loved - though that might have been later. And after he skipped the country the only direct contact Carson had with him was about five phonecalls over twenty-two years. So, anyway, these story snippets are mostly on the right-hand pages.

The book begins with a reproduction of a typed, slightly water damaged, poem in Latin.

On many of the left-hand pages are definitions of Latin words, much as one might find in a Latin-to-English dictionary. The definitions (it took me a little bit to realise, I'm afraid, but I was a bit ill at the time, so forgive my slowness) are of the words in the poem, defining each word's various meanings, subtleties, layers, and gives the word in the context of a few phrases. While these definitions are not always easy to read, they are each like little poems. For example, the definition for aequora begins:
a smooth or level surface, expanse, surface; a level stretch of ground, plain; inmensumne noctis aequor confecimus? have we made it across the vast plain of the night?
Later, she tells us about the poem that begins the collection. It is by Catullus (poem 101), and he wrote it as an elegy for his brother, who had recently died. Carson, who teaches Classics at university, says how it had moved her, and how she tried several times to translate it, but:
Nothing in English can capture the passionate, slow surface of a Roman elegy. No one (even in Latin) can approximate Catullan diction, which at its most sorrowful has an air of deep festivity, like one of those trees that turns all its leaves over, silver, in the wind. I never arrived at the translation I would have liked to do of poem 101.
She does, further in to the book, include an English translation of the poem, but the real translation of the poem is the accumulation of these definitions, which show the weight and power that sits behind each word.

As well as highlighting one of the difficulties of translation, it also for me emphasised the power of poetry - in a good poem, each word has all those layers of meaning sitting behind it. It may mean one thing on the surface, but another thing below that, text and subtext, punning and play.

It's getting late, and I'm ranting a little now, but this is a rich book - not easy, perhaps, but rich in language and rich in ideas and meaning - and a book I suspect I will return to over and over.

22 January 2011

2011, Year of Poetry*

*I should note first off that 2011 is not the year of poetry in any kind of official sense, and is in fact, according to Wikipedia, the International Year of Forestry, International Year of Chemistry, International Year for People of African Descent, and World Veterinary Year.

There's nothing like being on holiday to make me stop and think.

As soon as I did, I realised something was wrong.

I realised that poetry, something I consider one of the most important things in my life, has been consistently pushed (by me, I confess) to the bottom of my priority list. I have been neglecting it. The writing and revising of my own poetry, and the reading of other people's poetry, and generally being a poet (so, sitting around, especially in cafes, looking kinda melancholy and deep, thinking profound thoughts) doesn't have strict deadlines, and so is generally trumped by things that do.

Some of the things that get prioritised above my own poetry are also poetry-related - publishing other people's poetry through Seraph Press and JAAM - but I realised that while those things are very important to me, for my self personally my own poetry is more important, and I should stop putting it at the bottom of my list.

OK, so easier said than done.

I'm not planning to give up Seraph Press or JAAM, I have a full-time day job, I have a partner I quite like to hang out with often, and friends I like to see from time to time. I also really like sleeping. So how am I going to make this the year of poetry?

Well, I do have some ideas. One is to spend less time on the net, especially Twitter and Facebook, not so much because of the time, but more because I find it makes me attention-deficient - anxiously checking and clicking, finding that I'm looking for some kind of 'hit'. It puts me in a space that is kind of opposite to the space I need to be in to write poetry.

Something that puts me in a good head space to write poetry is reading poetry. Usually I find it very mind calming; slowing, but often sparking - a word, phrase or image often sends me off in a parallel or perpendicular direction. Also, you know, I like poetry, and I think it's important to have an idea of what the local and international poetry community is up to.

So, I have arbitrarily decided I'll try to read at least one poetry book a week. And while I'm unlikely to write detailed reviews and analyses of them, I do want to record them in some way - so expect blog posts.

I'm also looking for recommendations, so let me know collections or poets you think I'll like, or think I should read. I'm particularly interested in broadening my familiarity with contemporary overseas poets - though they are sometimes hard to get hold of around here.

Another thing I'm going to do is make sure I spend a lot of time hanging around in cafes - I tend to write better there, where - despite the busyness - there are fewer distractions that at home.

That said, my major poetry plan for the year is to finish 'Cinema' - what I hope will be my next book. I've been working on the poems for it for a while, and think I have most of what I need for the book - though I still have a few in mind. After Christmas I spent a few hours going through what I had and pulling out all the poems I didn't like so much, or which I don't think fit. Now I want to work on the structure/order/flow/narrative of the collection as a whole, and polishing the individual poems. Probably then I'll find spaces where new poems should be, which will want to be written too.

Secondary to that, is my next epic poetry project, which I started on in the middle of last year, and which I expect to take a while.

It's going to be a busy year.

18 January 2011

Late Tuesday Poem: 'Partying with Katherine Mansfield'

Partying with Katherine Mansfield

‘Don’t be a bore,’ says Katie
as she pulls me up by my arm
to the dance floor

She was proud to be the first woman
in the whole of London to wear purple stockings
She shows them off as she shimmies
her skirt above her knees

I teach her the twist and she spirals off
towards D H who has found
an ironing board from somewhere and
they take turns at sliding down, shrieking with laughter

She’s smiling and kissing
everyone in the room, sipping punch
now joining me at the open window
breathing in the cool night air

‘Today is a new day, a new year, a new age
It’s a new world,’ she says
‘We mustn’t live as if it isn’t’

Better late than never, I guess. My first Tuesday Poem of the year is the last poem in My Iron Spine, but one I mean to have lashings of hopefulness and forward-lookingness. Katherine was indeed said to have been the first woman in London to wear purple stockings. When I read her stories at high school (and liked them) the impression we got of her - or I did at least - was of some sweet kind of tragic creature. But actually she was much more exciting than that, and much more full of life.

Many Tuesday poets are getting back into it today. You can find them via the Tuesday Poem blog.

15 January 2011

Submit to Enamel

Submissions for the third issue of Enamel magazine close today. Have you submitted? I haven't. But we still have time! We have around 12 hours! I'm not sure I will manage it, but you can. You can! More details here: http://enamelmag.blogspot.com/2010/09/enamel-3-submissions-opening-november.html

09 January 2011

Farewell Harvey McQueen

I was so sad to hear that poet and anthologist Harvey McQueen died on Christmas morning.

There are lots of other and better farewells for him on the net, including this one by his wife Anne Else on Harvey's own blog: http://stoatspring.blogspot.com/2011/01/last-post.html, but I just wanted to say a short quiet farewell too. I didn't know Harvey very well, but met him at various literary things, and more recently I've known him through his blog. He wrote a lovely review of my first poetry collection, which I always appreciated. The thing I remember him most and often for is a kowhai seedling I got at the launch for his book This Piece of Earth - if you bought the book you got a seedling. The seedling is now a smallish tree and, while I'm no longer in the habit of naming all my plants, I've always thought of that tree as 'Harvey'.

Here's a few of the other tributes: