31 August 2008

Transported, by Tim Jones

I haven’t been getting too much time to read of late, but when I have snatched some time, I worked my way through Tim Jones’s recent short story collection Transported (Random House, 2008). Tim is a literary and blogging friend of mine, and he’s also the guest editor of JAAM 26, which I’ve just finished typesetting.

Transported is Tim’s second collection of stories – his first, Extreme Weather Events, was published in 2001 by HeadworX, who also published his two collections of poetry: Boat People (2002) and All Black’s Kitchen Gardens (2007). Unusually for a poet (I think?), he’s also published a fantasy novel, Anarya’s Secret (Redbrick). From all of that, you can see that Tim Jones is an extraordinarily flexible writer, with a rather large range of styles and interests – and not just between books, but also within books and within pieces. For example, some of the poems in All Black’s Kitchen Gardens are little poetic science fiction stories.

In a recent blog post, Tim talks about this mixing of the ‘literary’ and the ‘genre’ as ‘interstitial fiction’ – fiction that falls between the cracks and gaps of our usual categories. This crossover of ‘literary’ and ‘genre’ styles is an area Tim is obviously really interested in – in his own work and in that of others. In his call for submissions for JAAM 26 he particularly encouraged writers of ‘speculative fiction’ to submit.

And it’s definitely in evidence in Transported. In here, you’ve got orcs, philosophers, astronauts, poets (actually, the astronaut is a poet), flying people, politicians, alien neighbours, people in the future, people from the past, a girl who can make inanimate objects move just by walking past them. This isn’t your typical short story collection, and that’s what’s so cool about it.

My favourite stories probably are the ones that perhaps tend towards the literary. What do I mean by that? It’s a pretty loaded statement, and one I’m not going to be able to justify entirely, but I guess I mean the ones that tend towards a quiet, reflective tone; the ones in which maybe nothing much happens, but which are especially full of meaning.

Anyway, several of my fav stories combine, in terms of the subject matter, literary/high culture with the ordinary, the banal – what one might call low culture, should one wish to be snobbish (though I would never suggest such a thing.)

In ‘The Visit of M. Foucault to His Brother Wayne’, philosopher Michel Foucault comes to New Zealand and stays with his brother Wayne, a dairy farmer in Southland. Foucault is not especially good with farm work, but has some skill in milking. ‘Borges and I’ begins with the narrator and the South American writer Borges watching the rugby. The narrator advises Borges that ‘only woofters drink coffee at half-time’.

This imaginative combination of things considered high culture and things considered low culture is, of course, what Tim is doing in the entire book, and a great deal of his writing. He plays with this idea in another of the stories I particularly liked, ‘Measureless to Man’. When the poet Coleridge is having trouble with getting started on ‘Kubla Khan’, one of his attempts at a beginning also (though less successfully than Tim) combines high culture with the ordinary: ‘In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / a block of council flats decree…’

Another thing that only just struck me about many of my favourite stories in Transported is that a significant number of them are the ones that have ‘real’ people in them – people from history. Others like this are the fantastically titled ‘A Short History of the Twentieth Century, with Fries’, which features ‘Lenin and his posse’, and ‘Win a day with Mikhail Gorbachev!’ I think this points to a preoccupation of mine, more than anything else – of sticking real people into fictional narratives, which is something I very much enjoyed doing in My Iron Spine.

One of the other stories that I really liked is ‘Said Sheree’. It’s kind of a love story between Sheree, a Tier One poet, and Miranda, a Tier Two poet. In this version of reality, New Zealand’s funding system for poetry has categorised everyone into various tiers. Because Miranda and Sheree are in different tiers, theirs is a forbidden – or at least not approved of – love. Along with the fantastic satire, and interesting ideas, it’s also a sweet, moving, and quite sad love story. I was also delighted with it when it mentioned that Miranda, the Tier Two poet, has two poems accepted for JAAM – I think that is our first mention in a published literary work!

Reading this collection I became aware of just how full of ideas Tim’s brain must be – I just can’t fathom how he came up with some of the ideas in these stories. I expect he is the kind of person with folders and folders full with so many ideas for poems, stories, novels that it would take a lifetime for him to finish them. So expect to see many more publications from him.

To read more about Transported, you can find links to and quotes from reviews on his blog here, and here.

Poetry week in Wellington

Phew! You could spend almost all your waking hours going to poetry things in Wellington this week.

Monday 1 September

1 pm to 2 pm

Writers on Monday – 2008 Randall Cottage fellow Jennifer Compton in conversation with Mary McCallum. National Library Auditorium, Molesworth Street.

7.30 pm – whenever

Howltearoa, with special guests The Gracious Deviants, ‘a two-piece acoustic act who have been performing together for several years now and are well known for their deft lyrics and brilliant harmonies’. Starts with open mike (poetry, spoken word, acoustic music). Southern Cross, Abel Smith Street.

Wednesday 3 September

7 pm

The final of this Winter Reading series, featuring Michael O’Leary, Marilyn Duckworth and Bill Dacker. City Gallery, Civic Square.

8 pm

If you rush from the Winter Reading, you will only be a bit late to a poetry performance/fundraising event featuring members of Wellington’s Word Collective, and Auckland’s Litteratti. They’re raising money to finish a digital feature film Godspell: www.godspell-movie.com. That’s at Happy.

Friday 5 September

My book launch! (For my new poetry book, My Iron Spine.) If you’d like to come, flick me an email and I’ll send you an invitation (helen.rickerbyATparadise.net.nz).

30 August 2008

Submissions for new literary mag close tomorrow

Ok, so obviously it would have been way more useful if I'd managed to post this earlier, but you still have most of two days. (I confess I thought they had already closed).

Enamel is seeking submissions of poetry, short stories and artwork for its first issue. Check out the Enamel blog for submission guidelines and more info.

Enamel is being started by Emma Barnes, poet and recent returnee from Japan. And fellow blogger.

I'm delighted that Enamel has accepted a poem of mine - the first of my new bunch of movie poems to be accepted for a literary magazine (though not the first to be published - 'New Worlds', in the Winter Readings anthology, is the first one in print).

29 August 2008

Winter Readings and launches

It was an historic day yesterday at Te Ara, where I work. We’re a creative bunch of people, and quite a few of us have published books at one time or another. But yesterday was the first time two of them had been launched in one day!

The first launch was my colleague Carl Walrond’s. He’s written a book called Survive! Remarkable Tales from the New Zealand Outdoors. It’s full of accounts of people who got lost in the bush and elsewhere, and survived, or not. Carl says he’s been lost in the bush before, and once got lost in Invercargill (the city, I think, rather than any wilderness area), so had some inside knowledge to write it.

Carl was kind enough to bring his launch to us at work (he had another with his Ngaio neighbours, but couldn’t mix them with us urban sophisticates apparently). He also brought his family, booze, snacks and ribena. When I found out it was 6.30 already, and had to scuttle off, I quickly sculled my wine-glassfull of ribena. My colleague Olivia guffawed at me, and reminded me: ‘Dignity at all times’ (which is my motto), thinking I’d just sculled a glass of red wine.

What I had to scuttle off to was my own launch – well, launch number one – at the Winter Readings. I had a great time hearing the other readers read, especially Harvey Molloy, who went first. And I had a great time reading too, and was delighted at people’s response. It was fun signing books, and getting Harvey to sign my copy of his book, Moonshot, which were hot off the press.

Another highlight was meeting a couple of people, Mary and Elbowlina, who I’d only met online before.

So I feel that My Iron Spine is now half launched, and I’m now looking forward to launch two – next week at the Arts Centre, in the middle of this intriguing exhibition: Outside Culture.

Also next week, the final Winter Reading, featuring Michael O’Leary, Marilyn Duckworth and Bill Dacker. Wednesday, 7 pm, City Gallery.

27 August 2008

Tomorrow's Winter Reading – Update

Winter Readings newsflash: I've heard that, unfortunately, Evelyn Conlon has had to cancel at the last minute. But, fortunately, Harvey Molloy is going to read with me instead. This is particularly cool because his first book, Moonshot, is just about to be published. And, with any luck, he might have some hot-off-the-press copies with him tomorrow.

I've heard Harvey read several times, and have always enjoyed it very much, so am looking forward to hearing him tomorrow - along with me, Niel Wright and Will Leadbeater.

I'm currently still agonising over what to read, and am about to time myself to make sure I don't take too much time.

24 August 2008

Winter Readings Two; My Iron Spine launch(es)

This Thursday at the Winter Readings, I'll be reading with Niel Wright, Evelyn Conlon and Will Leadbeater. (6.30 pm for a 7 pm start, at the City Gallery, Wellington). It's also the (first) launch of My Iron Spine. Harvey Molloy, who is going to be our MC, has intros for everyone over on his blog.

My second launch, which will be more focused on just this book, is all set for Friday 5th September. If you're reading this and would like to come, flick an email to me at helen.rickerbyATparadise.net.nz, and I'll email you an invitation.

Week of poetry readings

Last week was a busy poetry week – I went to two readings in three days!

The first of these was the Poetry Society meeting on Monday night. Australian Geoff Page was the guest poet, and I very much enjoyed his engaging style. His poems bounce along with his regular iambic rhythm, and often rhyme, which is fairly unusual these days. I guess there is probably more of a tradition of this in Australia, what with the bush poets and Banjo Paterson and so forth. You can catch Geoff Page at the Writers on Mondays event on Monday (25th) at 1 pm at the National Library, Wellington.

There was a pretty decent turnout for this reading, with some new faces. I really enjoyed the open reading as well. A particular standout poem for me was Harvey Molloy’s ‘The ghosts of the St James’, a new poem he’d written after taking his class to the St James theatre in Wellington, and hearing about the two resident ghosts: Yuri and the Woman in Red. This poetic retelling (and invention) of their stories was fabulous, and right up my alley.

My second poetry event of the week was the first of the Winter Readings series at the City Gallery, where Mark Pirie, Rob Hack, Richard Langston and Harry Ricketts read.

Mark has become known for dressing up and using props in his poetry readings. (One such occasion, where he dressed as Courtney Love for reading his ‘Ballad of Courtney Love’, apparently got twisted into a rumour that he went to the Prime Minister’s Awards in drag. Some journalists heard this and wanted to interview him about it, and were reportedly most disappointed to discover it wasn’t true). On this occasion he appropriately wore his cricket jersey and cap from Lords, as he was launching Slips, a book of cricket poems (along with Bottle of Armour and Trespassing in Dionysia, both previously uncollected early poems, published by Original Books).

Harry is always great to see read, and I enjoyed the poems of Richard Langston also, who I first heard last year. But the highlight for me was discovering Rob Hack – a poet whose work I don’t think I’ve come across before. He’s currently working on a collection about his experiences of the islands (he spent some of his childhood in Niue, and seems to have connections to Rarotonga). He read a couple of poems from the manuscript and I was really struck by them. I look forward to seeing more of his work.

Next week’s Winter Reading is on Thursday, not Wednesday. I’ll be reading and launching My Iron Spine. Yay!

18 August 2008

Winter Readings start Wednesday

This year's Winter Readings kick off on Wednesday (which was a surprise to me, because I thought they were all on Thursdays - don't be fooled - it goes Wednesday, Thursday, Wednesday) with Helter Skelter, featuring:
Plus launch of Mark Pirie's new books Slips: cricket poems (ESAW) and Bottle of Armour and Trespassing in Dionysia (both Original Books).

It's at the City Gallery, and starts at 6.30.

Wine/juice and books for sale. Earl of Seacliff will publish an anthology of poems by the readers featured to celebrate the event.

My book is having it's first launch at next week's Winter Reading(!!), which is on Thursday 28th, also at the City Gallery, also starting at 6.30.

For more info visit NZLive.com.

16 August 2008

Poetry Society meeting on Monday

From the Poetry Society:

This month's meeting is on next Monday, 18th August, at 7.30pm. Our guest is Geoff Page, an Australian poet of considerable experience, who is currently touring New Zealand. Jennifer Compton, who is the current Resident of the Randall Cottage, knows him well and highly recommends him.

We are meeting this month at Toi Poneke, the Wellington Arts Centre at 61 Abel Smith St. For those of you who are long-term Wellingtonians (we are few in number, but we do exist), it used to be the Department of Education building. For recent arrivals, it's on the same block as Real Groovy.

We'll be starting with an open mic, and if you want to take part, but are shy about sharing your own work, I have a collection of others' poems to draw from that you can read instead if you like.

The main downside of this venue is that the receptionist goes off duty at 8pm and the outer doors are locked, so it doesn't pay to turn up late in the hope of avoiding being shoulder-tapped for the open mic.

From this month we will be having a $2 entry fee, to help cover the venue hire, since Creative New Zealand's grant didn't go that far this year. I regret that, contrary to past practice, this fee will apply to members as well as visitors.

But it'll be worth it.

14 August 2008

My Iron Spine now a real book!

My Iron Spine came back from the printer today! And a week early! And it looks great! And it feels gorgeous! (Love that matt laminate.) I’m so excited! Can you tell?

And now it’s up on HeadworX’s site, so it’s like a real book. Launch one – at the Winter Reading on Thursday 28 August – is two weeks away. And planning for launch two, which will be on 5 September, is coming along nicely. Will be sending out invitations soon.

04 August 2008

My judge's report on the Junior Open Section of the 2008 Poetry Society Competition

A month or so back I judged the Junior Open section of the 2008 New Zealand Poetry Society International Poetry Competition. I've just noticed that they've put my judge's report up on the website, along with a list of the winners (it's the first time I've seen their actual names - all the judging was blind).

If you are curious, you can have a look at it here: http://www.poetrysociety.org.nz/openjunior