30 September 2008

Poetry Society/Paula Green/Mark Doty: Recent poetry events I have attended, part 2

The other recent poetry event I’ve been meaning to blog about is the last Poetry Society meeting.

It was a bit different – this time there was no guest reader, and everyone was to bring along three poems to read – one by themselves, one by a New Zealand poet and one by an overseas poet.

Not everyone followed this strictly, but that was fine. It was a good friendly bunch. I enjoyed what everyone brought, and there was quite a variety. Though, two people did both bring poems from The World’s Wife by Carol Ann Duffy – one about Mrs Darwin, and the other about Mrs Midas.

Jennifer Compton had left most of her poetry books in Australia, where she ordinarily lives, so she gave us two poems from memory: one of the Sings Harry poems by Denis Glover (which she recited so beautifully that I’m inclined to read them again) and that Shakespearian sonnet (I now think of it as the ‘Sense and Sensibility’ sonnet – you know the one ‘Let not the marriage of true minds’ … etc), which she said helped her through a particularly difficult labour. Jennifer was the Randall Cottage fellow for this year. It was lovely to have met her in person (she’s a regular contributor to JAAM, so I had met her ‘virtually’), and she’s been a committed supporter of Wellington poetry events while she’s been here.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to read a poem by Mark Doty, and I was going to select my NZ poem from my post-launch-poetry-book-splurge books.

I decided to read four short pieces from the long poem/sequence ‘Appointment with Sophie Calle’ by Paula Green, from her new book Making Lists for Frances Hodgkins. I enjoyed most of this book very much, but I’m totally taken with ‘Appointment with Sophie Calle’, and it seemed to me that it summed up a lot of what she was doing in the book as a whole.

In her endnote, Green says that her aim for this book was ‘to write an autobiography in the light of art’. Being a poet, it isn’t so straightforward: ‘I have erected all kinds of walls around these things I withhold in other words my autobiography is selective’.

I wasb't at all familiar with the work of Sophie Calle, but I now know that she is a conceptual artist who often uses the lives of herself and others in her works. (One project involved being a maid in a hotel, where she went through guests’ luggage and based an exhibition on it.)

It appears that what Paula Green is doing in her poem/sequence is taking a title of one of Sophie Calle’s works, and using it as a starting point for a prose poem. These are quite gorgeous, weaving what I assume are personal revelations with funny little stories and a breathlessness created by the lack of punctuation. This is a poem that I will read over and over and over. It’s always a delight when you come across a poem like that.

If you have a better internet connection than me, you can watch her reading some of the poems from this book at the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre website.

Another poem I’ve discovered lately, which I’ve read over and over, is ‘Demolition’ by Mark Doty (from My Alexandria). I hadn’t read anything by Mark Doty until a few months ago, though I’m told he came to the Wellington arts festival a few years ago (must have been while I stopped paying attention).

I was talking to a work colleague of mine, who is also a writer, about what I’m working on at the moment – poems that take a film, or films more generally, as their starting point – and he told me I had to read this poem by Mark Doty. He was kind enough to photocopy it for me, and I seem to have misplaced it but it was called ‘The Hours’ and is a musing about watching the novel The Hours being turned into a film. I really liked the poem, and it sent me off to the library to find more.

I came away with My Alexandria, and the first poem totally blew me away, and so this is the one I read at the Poetry Society. ‘Demolition’ is sort of about watching the demolition of a building built in 1907, but it’s also about how ‘We love disasters that have nothing to do/with us’ and the fall of Oscar Wilde, and Robert Lowell, and war and really all sorts of things. I read it to Sean, and he said it was like chocolate nemesis cake (the most amazing cake in the world, which we devour at our local Aro Cafe – basically it’s made of chocolate, with more chocolate, and then some eggs and some more butter perhaps, and probably some more sugar – it’s basically like cooked chocolate mousse – it’s delicious and you really need to share it) – basically its language is so rich that you wouldn’t really want any richer, but it’s delicious just how it is.

Some of my favourite lines:

"The unreadable," Wilde said, "is what occurs."

It's strange how much more beautiful
the sky is to us when it's framed
by these columned openings someone meant us
to take for stone.

But really, you should read it – it’s online here: http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/mark_doty/poems/14751

Moonshot is launched: Recent poetry events I have attended, part 1

I’ve attended a couple of literary events that I’ve been meaning to blog about.

The most recent was Harvey Molloy’s launch for his debut poety collection, Moonshot. It was in the midst of Exhibitions Gallery in Featherston Street. There was a good turn out, and so many interesting people to talk to that it rushed by without time to talk to all of them.

Tim Jones launched the book, which was very appropriate given their shared interest in science fiction poetry. Harvey then talked a little, and read some of his poetry – showing the range of his work from serious and moving, to more humorous. I enjoy hearing Harvey read his work - I think he really brings it to life.

Roger Steele of Steele Roberts (who published Moonshot) also talked (Probably the highlight of the night was when he said I was his hero – I’m not quite sure why this is but think it might have something to do with his liking for my last name – he only ever calls me ‘Rickerby’, in a very business-like tone. If I want to be taken more seriously, I might consider dropping my first name altogether), and he noted that there aren’t many independent poetry publishers around New Zealand. So good on him for continuing to publish poetry and get it out into the world.

Anyway, it was lots of fun, in the midst of a cool exhibtion. More about the launch over at Harvey’s blog.

28 September 2008

Me on the radio, part 2

My interview with Lynn Freeman about My Iron Spine played on National Radio this afternoon. I think it went pretty well - I didn't ramble too much. I hope I managed to make the book sound reasonably interesting.

If, like me, you were off doing something worthwhile with the sunny afternoon (we went to the Botanic Gardens with my parents and one of my brothers - unfortunately, so did most of Wellington as it turned out to be Tulip Sunday) you won't have heard it. Neither will you have heard it if you live overseas, unless you are Karen, who was alerted by her father that I was going to be on the radio and tuned in from New York to hear the first NZ accents, other than her own, for some time.

But if you want to here it, it's online here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/podcasts/artsonsunday.rss (this one for podcast/mp3), and here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/artsonsunday/20080928 (this one is streaming).

I totally love the way you can listen to these interviews over the net. I spent part of yesterday afternoon (while I was putting the final touches to JAAM 26, which will go to print tomorrow - but more on that later) listening to interview with writers over the last month or so. They were so cool to listen to - I got quite addicted. It's such a treasure.

27 September 2008

Me on the radio!

I'm terribly excited. I'm going to be on National Radio tomorrow (Sunday 28 September), interviewed by Lynn Freeman about My Iron Spine for the Arts on Sunday programme. The schedule for the whole thing is here: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/artsonsunday. I'm going to be on between 2.30 and 2.50 - most likely at around 2.40.

It will also be available on the net for 10 weeks after, so I'll post a link to that.

I did the interview on Thursday - Radio New Zealand is in the same building as where I work, and actually only one floor up, so I was away from my desk for only 15-20 minutes.

A little nervous, I put on lipstick beforehand, to make myself feel more confident and grown up. 'I know you can't actually see lipstick on the radio', I said to my colleagues. 'I think you can hear lipstick on the radio', said one, helpfully. See if you can hear it - it's bright red.

Lynn Freeman was lovely, and the interview was a lot like a chat - except with me trying to be more eloquent than usual (though I think I did a little bit of my usual digressing). We talked about specific poems, and about using people you know in your poems, and some of the women in some of the poems. And then I read 'Passion'. I probably should have read one of the ones we'd talked about, because they play the poem first, but I was prepared to read 'Passion', and when you're nervous it's hard to change your plans.

The highlight for me is that Lynn Freeman said she liked my book so much that she was going to keep it - for someone who was a book award judge, and who gets review copies of everything, that's quite a compliment.

20 September 2008

What's your favourite New Zealand book?

It's New Zealand Book Month, as those of you in NZ will probably already know.

Over on my day-job blog we're asking people what their favourite New Zealand book is, and why. The responses so far are widely varying, which I've found really interesting, with quite a bit of non-fiction.

If you're so inclined, it would be very cool if you wanted to add your two cents worth too. Just click here, and add a comment.

16 September 2008

Interviews on Tim Jones's blog/Sonnet competition

Interviews on Tim's blog

Tim Jones has kicked off a wee series of interviews with other writers with an interview with poet and novelist Helen Lowe. (He has some others lined up, including one with me about My Iron Spine.) Helen Lowe is a writer I hadn't come across before typesetting JAAM 26, which has poems and a story by her in it. Her Her first young adult novel, Thornspell, has just been published by Knopf in the USA.

Sonnet competition

I'm not much of a poetry-competition enterer – I guess because there's only one winner in a competition, whereas if you send your poems to magazines (which I actually do quite infrequently as well, though I aim to do this more often), everyone who gets something accepted is a winner.

But you might be different. You might want to enter the Wellington Sonnet Competition 2008. If so, you'll find the following info most useful:

Poet and biographer Harry Ricketts is to judge the Wellington Sonnet Competition 2008. “Any fourteen-line of poem about Wellington will qualify,” he says, “because the sonnet is a still evolving form that I find fascinating. Poems submitted to the competition need not have a traditional rhyming scheme, although formal sonnets will also be welcome.”

The New Zealand Society of Authors is running the competition, sponsored by New Zealand Post, in aid of the Wellington Writers Walk. For a $10 entry fee, (plus $5 for each additional poem submitted), people will be in to win a $1000 first prize, $500 second prize, $250 third prize or one of the 10 highly commended prizes of $50. The closing date is 22 September 2008 and entrants can download forms and conditions from http://www.authors.org.nz/.

Harry Ricketts is an Associate Professor in the School of English, Film and Theatre and Media Studies at Victoria University of Wellington. Born in London and educated at Oxford University, he has lived in England, Malaysia, Hong Kong and New Zealand. He is the author of eight collections of poems and the internationally acclaimed biography of Rudyard Kipling, The Unforgiving Minute, published in England by Chatto and Windus in 1999 and in the USA in 2000. He has published various essays and critical writings and edited collections of work by other poets. He is currently working on a composite biography of a dozen World War One poets and is co-editor of the quarterly review journal New Zealand Books.

13 September 2008

Open Mic Extremo at the Poetry Society

How confusing, they've switched the day on me. It's on a Thursday this month instead of a Monday.

What I'm actually talking about is the Poetry Society monthly meeting. They're doing something a bit different this time. Rather than having a guest reader, they're have a Grand Open Mic. People are two bring three poems to read:
  • one of their own
  • one by a New Zealand poet
  • one by an overseas poet.

I'm expecting to hear and discover some new cool poems, and I'm looking forward to sharing some things I've come across lately.

Rather than taking along old favourites, I've decided to bring along new favourites, and will be selecting something from one of the books I bought on my recent post-launch-poetry-book-splurge at Unity. I bought Mark Doty's Fire to Fire: New and Selected poems, Incognito by Jessical Le Bas, Making Lists for Frances Hodgkins by Paula Green, and South (revised and expanded Faber edition) by Chris Orsman. I've already decided on my overseas poet poem - it will be by Mark Doty. But I think I will write more about that, and him, in another post.

Anyway, the important details for the September Poetry Society meeting:

Thursday 18 September, 7.30 pm
Thistle Hall
Upper Cuba Street

09 September 2008

Moonshot launch – and you’re invited

Harvey Molloy, a fellow Wellington poet and blogger, has just published his first collection of poetry, Moonshot, and will be launching it on Wednesday 24 September. See the invitation below for details, or visit Harvey's blog.

I have managed to get myself a copy early, and have been reading and enjoying it.

It’s divided into two sections – the first, ‘Gemini spacewalk’, contains poems that all have something to do with space. I got to read an earlier draft of this manuscript, and being rather into thematic collections of poetry as I am, I encouraged him to focus on the space poems. Since then, he wrote a few more, which rounded out this section.

I think my favourite poem in this section (and probably in the collection) is ‘A walk on the moor’, which I always think of as ‘A walk on the moon’ – which is quite appropriate really because it features a child (a younger version of the author) pretending to walk on the moon. The moor in question, where the author was sent to play, is the same where Ian Brady and Myra Hindley murdered and buried children. That sends quite a chill over the poem.

Some are more directly space oriented, such as the poem ‘Gemini spacewalk’, while others are about scientists and astronomers. The thematic links are sometimes more lateral - the first poem in the collection describes black paint dropping on the white floor of a cockatoo cage at the zoo as black star in a white sky.

The second section, ‘Learning the t’, is more varied in subject matter. It ranges from ‘Tusalava’, which conjures a Len Lye film, to ‘Diwali’, which describes a family occasion. There’s a mixture of humour and seriousness. A favourite in this section is ‘Sylvia’, about (I can only assume) Sylvia Plath. It find it a chilling, evasive poem and exquisite poem.

I also have to say that it has a gorgeous cover, featuring the painting Phenomenon of Weightlessness by Remedios Varo, who is one of my fav painters. I even named the main character in my never-really-got-going-but-one-day-I’ll-figure-it-out-and-write-it novel Vara, after her. No one else much seems to have heard of her, so I was delighted to discover that Harvey is a fan too.

08 September 2008

Fathers' day poem

It was Fathers' Day yesterday. It was also the day I presented my nephew Daniel with his very own poem.

I actually wrote it a few years ago, but had never typed it up for some reason. I felt compelled to yesterday morning, partly because it was Fathers' Day again, but also because, after launching my book on Friday, and reading a poem about each of my brothers at the launch, I realised that everyone in that segment of my family had a poem except Daniel. There are several about my mum, dad and brothers in My Iron Spine, there is one about Chantelle (my neice) in Abstract Internal Furniture, and I wrote a couple for Colin and Charmaine for their engagement and wedding (one of them made it into their order of service). And I've written several poems about Sean. So now Daniel has one too:

Fathers’ Day

It’s Fathers’ Day
and we are eating pizza
because in his four years
Daniel has deduced
that pizza is what is eaten
on Fathers’ Day
Mother’s Day is KFC
and this law
is unalterable

But even this will change
and this law is unalterable
Because today I first heard Daniel
call Uncle Philip
Uncle Philip
and I can’t help mourn
the demise
of Uncle Willip

and soon wobowapta
will just be roboraptor
and soon aunts
won’t be cool enough for birthday parties
and soon it will be Fathers’ Day again
and Daniel might teach
his own children
the unalterable law
of pizza for lunch

I almost cried when I read this again, because even though Daniel is only a few years older, I'd already forgotten how he used to talk!

06 September 2008

My Iron Spine is go! (or rather, launched)

Yay! My Iron Spine is now well and truly launched.

Despite the vile weather (cold southerly, squalling rain), lots of lovely people turned out to help me celebrate. It all went by in a bit of a flash, but thankt you to everyone who came. It was really special having so many of my friends, family and workmates there. And all the children behaved impeccably, including the really little ones. (I was amazed! Ooh, and I have to tell you that almost-two-year-old Cole, when he was leaving, said ‘Goodbye Helliecat, goodbye booze, goodbye glass’, waving at all three of us. Charming!)

It began in a bit of a panic, because, as always I’m afraid, I was running late, and it was a bit of a rush to get everything ready. My first guests arrived before I’d put on my lipstick! (Bright red of course, and yes indeed, I was wearing mostly red.) After a bit of chatting and book signing, we did the formal speechy stuff, standing (coincidentally) in front of a photograph of a red chair.

My very dear friend, and fellow co-managing editor of JAAM, Clare Needham launched the book with a lovely and supportive speech. She considered how she ought to launch it – whether we should smash a bottle of champagne over it, or launch it on a catapult – but instead we toasted it. Then I thanked a whole bunch of people who had helped me with the book and the launch, and read a few poems. I had, at one rash point, considered reading the whole 11 pages of ‘Empress Elisabeth’, but instead read a selection of shorter poems – ‘Grows on trees’, ‘School project’, ‘Handicrafts with Minnie Dean’ and ‘Kate Sheppard and I go for a ride’ – and the beginning, end, and a little from the middle of ‘Empress Elisabeth’ – a bit more manageable than the whole thing!

More chatting, signing, chatting, cleaning up and then off down to Tulsi for a curry. A great evening.

We had the launch at the Toi Poneke Arts Centre Gallery, which was a really good venue. It has almost-doubled in size since I was last there (when we had a launch for Vivienne Plumb’s Scarab there), and is now an L shape. We were in the midst of Outside Culture, an exhibition of photographs by Angela Blachnitzky of inside furniture outside – couches dragged out onto verandahs, lounge chairs in overgrown back gardens. She thinks this is a peculiarly New Zealand thing to do, and, though I have heard reports to the contrary, it is certainly a very common thing to here (except us – we have outdoor resin chairs inside pretending to be dining chairs).

Anyway, now that the launch(es) is/are over, I’m wondering quite what to do next. While I am already working on poems for the next collection, I’m not done with My Iron Spine – I feel like I want to spend a bit of time introducing it to the world. To this end, I’m going to be guest reader at Poetry Live in Auckland next month (which I’m really looking forward to – they were all such lovely people), and a fellow poet has suggested we could do a reading or two around the place. Any other ideas?…

In the meantime, My Iron Spine should be hitting the shops next month – which means, really, that it will be in the wonderful independent bookshops around New Zealand, and hopefully also on Fishpond. I went into the fabulous Unity Books today – on a post-launch-poetry-book-buying splurge – and when chatting to a member of staff, discovered that she’d recently entered it on their computer system, so I hope it will be in stock soon. I also have a bunch of copies that I’m selling, should you wish to acquire one.

04 September 2008

My Iron Spine launch nerves

Tomorrow I properly launch My Iron Spine. Wish me luck! Now I just have to figure out what I'm going to say, what I'm going to read, and what I'm going to wear (probably something red).