23 February 2009

ODT reviews JAAM (and Landfall and others)

The Otago Daily Times has published a review by Gavin McLean of JAAM 26 on their website - it was originally published on 7 Feb. You can read it here (it's the second bit): http://www.odt.co.nz/entertainment/books/42595/recent-belles-lettres.

He seems to mostly like it, though would like wider inside margins (they're the same as most people's, but just for you, I'll make them wider next time - we listen to reader feedback).

21 February 2009

Oh, also

I've changed my profile pic to a black rectangle because of this: http://creativefreedom.org.nz/blackout.html

Webstock and digital poetry stuff

I feel like if I had double the amount of time, I'd still always be busy. Sigh.

Last week, one of the things I was busy with was Webstock, which is an internet conference that runs in Wellington every year. It was my first year going, so that in itself was quite exciting for me.

The talks were varied, and some were useful in a work-related way, while others gave me some ideas and thoughts for non-work internet stuff. Still others were exciting in a philosophical sort of way.

Outside of this, I was given a couple of ideas about poetry things that I could do on the web, or that you could do on the web.

The first was suggested by a workmate - and possibly as a joke. He said I could geotag my poems. This is actually a cool idea. I don't really know how it works, but you can add things to googlemaps. People often tag photos to a particular place, but there is no reason you couldn't do a poetry layer, tagging poems to the geographic place they are about. I might actually do this one, because I have a poem about Frank Kitt's Park, that was in my first book, and a poem set in Orakei Korako, and possibly some others.

The other suggestion was from a friend, when I was muttering about how I don't really get Twitter. She suggested that I could twitter a bit of a poem every hour. I suggested every day, which seemed more reasonable. I can't see myself actually doing this one anytime soon, but if you want to, let me know. I might even sign up to Twitter to follow it.

09 February 2009

Kate Camp is guest poet at Feb Poetry Society Meeting, Wellington

Totally ripped off from the email I got:

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you've all settled into 2009 and are looking forward to a great year of poetry.

We kick off this year with guest poet Kate Camp. Kate's first collection of poetry, Unfamiliar Legends of the Stars (VUP, 1998) won the NZSA Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry at the 1999 Montana book awards. Since then she has produced two more collections, as well as publishing widely in journals and online. She'll also be known to many of you for her monthly reviews on Radio New Zealand National.

Kate will be reading for us on Monday 16th February, at the Thistle Inn in Mulgrave St (near the Railway Station/bus terminus). The evening will open at 7.30 pm with an open mic; there'll be a refreshment break for you to support our sponsor, Thistle Inn, and then Kate will read for 20-30 minutes. There'll be an opportunity to ask Kate questions at the end of her reading. With luck, she'll bring along some books for sale and signing.

Entry is $2 at the door, which is upstairs.

05 February 2009

The Kathleen Grattan Award for original collection of poems or a long poem

Just read in my New Zealand Society of Authors email newsletter about this interesting new(ish) award that may interest fellow poets:

Auckland poet Kathleen Grattan, a journalist and former editor of the New Zealand Woman's Weekly, died in 1990. A member of the Titirangi Poets, her work was published in Landfall and other volumes including Premier Poets, a collection from the World Poetry Society. Her daughter Jocelyn Grattan, who also worked for the New Zealand Woman's Weekly, shared her mother's love of literature. She has generously left Landfall a bequest with which to establish an award in memory of Kathleen Grattan.

About the Competition

The award is for an original collection of poems or a long poem by a New Zealand or Pacific resident or citizen. Entries will be accepted from 1 May each year. The closing date will be 31 July each year and the winner will be announced in the November issue of Landfall. The announcement will be made in the November issue of Landfall. The winner will receive $16,000 and a year's subscription to Landfall.

For full details visit http://www.otago.ac.nz/press/landfall/grattanaward.html

03 February 2009

Murderess Minnie Dean's mystery gravestone

Minnie Dean is the only woman to have ever been hanged in New Zealand. She had been a baby farmer, who looked after unwanted or illegitimate children for money - though not much. Not really enough. She was convicted of murder after the bodies of children were found in her garden. She claimed the deaths were accidental. Maybe they were, but she hung for it anyway, and her body was buried in an unmarked grave in Winton cemetary.

Or at least it was unmarked until last week, when a plaque was laid over her grave. It says: ‘Minnie Dean is part of Winton’s history. Where she now lies is now no mystery.’ No one has admitted to putting the headstone there.

You can read more about it in my blog post on my day-job blog: http://blog.teara.govt.nz/2009/02/02/mystery-gravestone/. Or, for a less factual account of Minnie Dean, you can read my poem below.

I got interested in Minnie Dean after an acquaintance was writing a screenplay about her. I read some of the outline stuff and had a big chat with him about his plans. One inspiring moment was him sitting in our lounge, with a window at his back, saying how he sometimes felt a bit creeped out, like she was watching him, and then turning around to check what was behind him. On the whole, his screenplay was sympathetic-ish.

He in turn had been inspired by seeing a play that emphasised the myths the had grown up around her after her death - she became a bogeywoman, especially in Southland. Parents threatened children with her if they didn't behave, she poked children through their heads with her knitting needle fingers, and so forth.

So anyway, here's my poem about her, which appears in My Iron Spine:

Handicrafts with Minnie Dean

I have never before
been in the presence
of a murderess
The very word
ices my spine
a word
to be whispered, hissed

She has knitting needles instead of fingers
the little girls sing

Her fingers click click click
They cast nightmare-shadows, but
she can knit five booties
at once, five baby vests
five bonnets
It’s just as well, I think
looking down at my own empty needles
and judging
by the noise from the nursery
there are a lot of feet to warm
heads to cover
‘I love babies,’ she says
‘little cherubs’

You’d better be good or you’ll be sent to Minnie Dean’s farm
and you’ll never be seen again

I have tangled my wool again
She patiently showed me how to cast on
and it is all coming back slowly
but I’m not sure if I’m knitting
or purling When I look up
she is wearing a hat
that she wasn’t before
It is black, with a white rose
curled around the crown
‘My travelling hat,’ she winks
pokes a jewelled pin
where her fontanel would be
if she had one, but no
it’s just a trick
of the light
and the blood
dripping from the hat box
in the corner
is just a shadow

She runs them through with hatpins
She throws them out of trains

The draught is whisping
lisping under the uneven floorboards, skittering
through the walls and
around my feet
I feel her eyes on me
but when I look she is busy
sewing the seams on the bonnets
‘Now the little darlings
won’t get cold’
The babies that no one else
loves are calling for her
would die without her

She is not a woman on whom
I would turn my back

01 February 2009

Alain de Botton, Montaigne and clarity

I've just finished ready The Consolations of Philosophy by Alain de Botton. It's wonderful.

Sean had borrowed it from Scott (thanks Scott) and started reading bits of it out to me. Basically it's the friendliest possible introduction to six philosophers, their lives and thoughts: Socrates, Epicurus, Seneca, Montaigne, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. All mixed in with a bit of humour, some personal reflections and some pics. I really enjoyed it and now feel more intelligent.

Possibly my fav bit of the whole thing is from his section on Montaigne. It relates to my day job (as an editor), and to my writing. It made me feel better about having trouble with those chaps like Foucault and co in my honours year. And this book was a demonstration of it (or the opposite of what he's talking about) in action:
Every difficult work presents us with a choice of whether to judge the author inept for not being clear, or ourselves stupid for not grasping what is going on. Montaigne encouraged us to blame the author. An incomprehensible prose style is likely to have resulted more from laziness than cleverness: what reads easily is rarely so written. Or else such prose masks an absence of content; being incomprehensible offers unparalled protection against nothing to say...