31 October 2008

Hinemoana Baker and the Poets Six at Howltearoa

From the Word Collective:

Another Howltearoa will be happening this coming Monday the 3rd of November at 7:30 at the Southern Cross.

This month we have the special pleasure of Hinemoana Baker and the Poets Six as our guests! We will also be having our usual open mic, which is free to poets, story-tellers, free-stylers, singers and of course yodellers.

Southern Cross is on the Corner of Abel Smith & Cuba streets.

We look forward to seeing you there!

27 October 2008

My Iron Spine's first review

My Iron Spine has received its first review, over here at Southern Ocean Review. It's an oddish review, but a review nevertheless.

And good on Southern Ocean Review for reviewing so much NZ poetry - I think it's getting harder and harder for poetry books to get a review, especially since the Fairfax papers (Dominion Post, Christchurch Press and so forth) started carrying that silly glossy mag thing instead of having their own proper review pages.

I think blogs are helping to fill the gap a bit though, and I've had some very appreciated coverage: an interview on Tim Jones's blog and this piece on Harvey Molloy's blog. And thank goodness for Arts on Sunday on National Radio! - my interview with Lynn Freeman should be here on the net for a bit longer.

Also, just noticed that My Iron Spine is now listed on New Zealand Books Abroad and Timeout bookstore's websites. Yay!

20 October 2008

Returned from the north/ Me interviewed

Last night we got back from our trip up to Auckland and Northland.

We went up because I was the guest reader at last week's Poetry Live in Auckland. Preceding me was guest mucisian (and poet) Anna Rugis, who filled the space with music using only her voice and her body - her rhythm section was her feet and/or her hands slapping her thighs.

I think the reading went well - I certainly enjoyed it. They're a lovely bunch of people and I had a whole half hour to read my poetry. I particularly appreciate this because many of the poems in My Iron Spine are quite long, and so if I read just one of them, then it takes up a good deal of your 10 mins reading time. At Poetry Live I read most of '11 fragments of God' but decided at the last minute against reading another long poem - 'Artemisia Gentilleschi' - because I thought it was asking a bit much in audience concentration when they had to listen to me read for so long, and so read fairly short poems.

After Auckland we headed up to Northland - spent one night in Whangarei (which has four second-hand bookshops!) and then two nights in a very cool cottage in Rawene (the picture is our view across the Hokianga).

In my absence, Tim Jones has published his interview with me about My Iron Spine on his blog. Also, My Iron Spine is now on Fishpond, so anyone and everyone can buy it.

07 October 2008

Julian Novitz wins BNZ Katherine Mansfield short story awards

I was totally chuffed to hear today that Lynn Freeman, who was the MC for the awards ceremony, quoted some of my poem 'Married to genius' (which is in the voice of John Middleton Murry, Katherine Mansfield's husband, and is about their relationship). Lynn interviewed me on National Radio the other week about My Iron Spine, and mentioned she liked this poem.

Anyway, the really good news about the awards is that the fabulous Julian Novitz won the premier prize with his story 'Three couples'. This makes me happy because I think Julian's writing is fantastic and I think he deserves all the recognition he gets. He's started good, and he's getting better.

Also, it makes me feel slightly smug, because I clearly recognised talent when I published one of his very first short stories in JAAM 16. I met him a year or two later when he came up to Wellington.

I could rant at length about his first book, My Real Life and Other Stories, which I loved and gave to lots of my friends. It was a collection of short stories, which were good individually, but because they were interconnected, the book had more resonance – a bit like a novel. His first novel, Holocaust Tours, was at least as well-written, but perhaps the darker subject matter made me reluctant to hand it out as presents. But I was really impressed with the thinking and writing behind it, and thought it deserved more attention than it got.

The other winners were Joseph Ryan, who won the novice category, and Clare Tanton, who won the young writer's prize. More info here.

04 October 2008

101st blog post/My Iron Spine and feminism/biography binge

This is my 101st blog post. Wow. I feel like I ought to perhaps have fireworks – or probably that should have been for my 100th post, which passed by without me noticing. Anyway, to the real point of this post…

Over on his blog, Harvey Molloy has written a really thoughtful response to My Iron Spine – the lovely man. And the rest of this post is basically a reworking and expansion of my comment that I posted about his post (how circular!). Anyway…

It’s really interesting hearing others’ views on one’s own work, because they come at it from different angles, and often see things that you hadn’t deliberately meant, or emphasise different things. But they’re all true and valid (well, maybe not all…).

When I was writing My Iron Spine, I didn’t set out to write something feminist/political, or at least much less so even than my first book – or rather parts of my first book. I was writing about the lives of people who interested me, and it turned out that they were women (mostly) so I went with that. Not to say that I’m not interested in men – some of my heroes are men, and I’m extremely fond of a large number of real-life men. I was talking to a friend yesterday about this, and she said that growing up most of her heroes were men, because they seemed more active. I said I always tended to seek out women in literature and biographies, and I think that is probably because it was easier for me to relate to someone else if they were female – turning them into little mirrors.

But anyway, reading Harvey’s review of my book has made me realise that in fact it is inevitably feminist, because those women were all constricted by things that did (generally/always?) relate to their gender. And many of them are not as well-remembered as they ought to be simply because of their gender, I think. I certainly didn’t seem to make them out to be victims – in fact the opposite – nor did I mean to make the men in their lives out to be evil (though a couple of them kind of were). But he’s totally right, cumulatively it all adds up to a statement.

I’ve been sick all week – nasty cold – and, in between doing some work work (I can edit so much faster at home!), I’ve been on a biography binge – reading some that have been lying around the house for a while. I started on Olive Schreiner (1855-1920), a South African writer, best-known for The Story of an African Farm, but also the author of Women and Labour, which is about socialism, gender-equality and work. Then I read a biography of Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), best-known for writing A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and now I’m reading a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald (1900-1948), who I really only know as F Scott Fitzgerald’s wife, but she was also a writer and painter.

I haven’t got very far with Zelda yet, I think she’s only about 18 at the moment, but what has struck me with all three of them is that they were all trying to not be bound by what convention said women should be, or how society said people should act. The other thing that’s struck me, once again, is that simple linear progress in most things is a myth – it’s all swings and roundabouts – and in the place of women in society, it’s the same. Mary Wollstonecraft managed about 100 years before Olive Schreiner to earn her own living for most of her life, something Schreiner thought women should do, but didn’t quite manage herself. Wollstonecraft, if she lived now, would still be considered brave and often shocking, I think.

In contrast with all these strong, independent women who were fighting for the rights of women to be seen as the equals of men, I caught a little bit of The Flavor of Love on TV. This is a reality show where a bunch of women compete to ‘be with’ (I don’t even know what that means – it’s not like he’s actually going to marry them) rapper (and narcissist) Flavor Flav. How far we’ve come! Sigh…