26 October 2010

Tuesday Poem: 'Grey'

I'm so late with my Tuesday poem today, so I thought I'd post one of mine, rather than sort of waste someone else's. 'Grey' was in Abstract Internal Furniture. I find now that I've gone off quite a few of the poems in there - one does that after a decade I suppose - but I still have a fond spot for 'Grey', and believe as much, if not more, now in the importance of grey, of that grey space, than I did then.

Check out all the other Tuesday Poems here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

24 October 2010

In which I finally announce Seraph Press’s next publication: Crumple, by Vivienne Plumb

I haven’t been meaning to be so coy about announcing this, but I’ve just been so busy. Alongside JAAM 28, I’ve also been working on Crumple for several months.

I’m really excited about this book. Of course I get really excited about all the books I publish, because I only publish books I love. And also I’m a big fan of Vivienne’s work. But this book also has come along at a time when the theme/story of it – at least in my interpretation of it – was exactly where I was at at the time.

I’ve been agonising this weekend over writing a blurb for Crumple, trying to make it evocative, without being an English-101 interpretation of the collection. But basically, for me, this book is a journey between ‘crumple is a word / I refuse to acknowledge’ ('crumple') to ‘Best not to endure life / in the shallows, better to dive deep –’, ('Forty-League Boots'); a journey which takes us all around the world – to Poland, China, Australia, Italy, and then back home to New Zealand. But is New Zealand home, or where in New Zealand is home? There is never a sense of settling, we roam up and down the country, we get lost in Kiwi icons which turn surreal, almost nightmarish. But no, there is a sense of settling, in the end. Home isn’t any one place, it is people, and it is life, and actually, it’s also people we’ve loved who are no longer alive.

Crumple is a serious book, but it wouldn’t be Vivienne Plumb’s if it wasn’t also frequently very funny. Her humour is quirky, deadpan, sharp. She has a way of skewering the ridiculous in the everyday, but also the beautiful and miraculous in the everyday.

This is the cover, or, at least, it is the cover as it is at the moment. I’m forever making teeny little adjustments to it, but it’s almost there I think. The image is a photograph I took (and only slightly photoshopped for emphasis) of the hearts on the fence in Vivian Street, Wellington, where the service station used to be. It’s been an ugly, fenced wasteland for a while now, but every time I walk past it and see the hearts on the fence, it makes me smile. The hearts were made by OutdoorKnit guerrilla knitters. I love them. I feel that by making beautiful things like this they’re giving everyone a big hug. There is so much ugliness, sometimes especially in cities, and it’s wonderful to make something colourful and beautiful. These hearts, and also the ‘It will all be OK/You are doing ok’ message on Buckle Street, were a source of comfort for me during Sean’s health ‘thing’ this winter (and they were right - it's all clear now). I felt that what they were saying in wool form has resonance with what Vivienne was doing in poetic words.

If you don't know Vivienne's work, there is a lot to catch up on. She's published six previous books of poetry - ranging from full-length collections: Salamanca and Nefarious, to various smaller volumes and one mini (Doppleganger, with Adam Wiedemann). I published Scarab: a poetic documentary, a hand-bound chap book which traced the illness and death of her son from cancer, back in 2005. (I have a small number of copies left if you want one - let me know.) She has also published a collection of short stories, a novel (Secret City) and a novella, and has written and published several plays. Phew! You can read more about her here, should you wish to continue to be amazed: http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/plumbviv.html.

We’re going to be launching Crumple in Wellington on Saturday 20th November (afternoon) and in Auckland on Wednesday 24th November (evening), so if you’re in or near either of those places I hope you’ll be able to come and celebrate with us. More details about that soon.

And it’s not long now, so best I finish up everything with this book and get it to the printers as soon as possible!

23 October 2010

In which Vana gets a website and blogs about Heading North

Vana Manasiadis – whose debut collection, Ithaca Island Bay Leaves, I was extremely proud to publish last year – has got herself a website: http://www.vana-manasiadis.com.

She's also written a wee piece, a musing, on Heading North: http://www.vana-manasiadis.com/1/post/2010/10/heading-north-and-sometimes-looking-out.html. Vana was one of the first readers of Heading North, and her encouragement was significant to me when I was wondering what to do with it, or, indeed, whether to do anything with it. Hooray for people who get what you're doing and believe in your work!

Two posts in one day! Why yes, I am procrastinating.

What I did on my holiday, or, my visit to Cape Reinga and what I found there

I recently wrote a bit about my latest Northland holiday on my work blog: http://blog.teara.govt.nz/2010/10/21/te-rerenga-wairua/. It's mainly about what an amazing place Cape Reinga – Te Rerenga Wairau – is, and how I have some pretty strong reservations about the landscaping and 'interpretation' they've done since I was up there last.

Northland has become a really special place for me. I wrote Heading North about the first trip Sean and I took up there. People have asked if I'm going to write another book about this trip. So far I haven't written any poetry about this, but I can see it being incorporated into a big epic poem/patchwork that I've been working on for a few months, alongside 'Cinema'. Actually, that's a lie. I have left 'Cinema' on the sidelines, was suddenly writing this new thing ('How to live'), while dealing with everything that was going on, and have recently abandoned both – temporarily, while I try to hurriedly finish off JAAM 28 and the thing I haven't quite finished, and think I'd better announce this weekend, before it's actually finished.

21 October 2010

18 October 2010

Tuesday Poem: 'White Heron Flying' by Jenny Powell

White Heron Flying

and the jarring road
to Nha Trang
curdle into self distraction

and the relentless day
scatter seeds
of snivelling self doubt

Highway 1,
main road north
to the coast, place of Hao’s
heart and home

xxxxx Late night
xxxxx and a feast of welcome,
xxxxx forcing myself to food,
xxxxx craving Disprin and sleep

xxxxx Leave
xxxxx at 5 am for the beach
xxxxx crowds on sand and sea
xxxxx broadcasts of the ‘news’

xxxxx Lumber
xxxxx to Tai Chi, Hao lithe
xxxxx and graceful moving
xxxxx leopard like, camouflaged

into the balance
of waves, turning the tides
shifting the spaces

sinks and lifts
arms circle in backstroke
legs test the ground ahead

resistance leaves
sink and lift, arms play
in patterns above, behind

xxxxx Tiredness
xxxxx dissolves, anxiety
xxxxx falls away shoulders
xxxxx drop back straightens

xxxxx Turning
xxxxx to the sun rising,
xxxxx breathing into the balance
xxxxx of sea and white feathered clouds

xxxxx Leopard
xxxxx faces heron,
xxxxx Hao follows my flight
xxxxx across his morning sky

Jenny Powell is a poet and teacher who lives and writes in St Clair, Dunedin.This poem comes from her most recent collection Viet Nam: A Poem Journey, which has just been published by HeadworX.

The book is a kind of travelogue around Vietnam, but with a twist. After having a Vietnamese teacher, Hao, stay with her family, Jenny had a strong desire to travel to Vietnam to visit him, but due to medical reasons, it is impossible. And so the poet turns inwards: 'Is it possible to love a country you have never been to? Is it possible to visit a country in your imagination?' she asks in the introduction. The poems show that it is.

The surprising thing about the poems, given their imagined nature, is the specificity. She visits markets, meets people, dodges traffic, and, in this poem, has a headache. It's the headache and the desire for disprin that, for me, anchors this poem in reality, while the leopard and the heron elevate the poeticism. It's definitely one of my favourite in the collection.

It's been a while since I've posted a Tuesday poem - my insane busyness is showing signs of slowing, so I hope to be a more regular poster again.

The other Tuesday poets are much more reliable. You can find them here, on the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.

05 October 2010

Not a Tuesday poem: let's talk about Baxter

I've been a bit non-stop busy, and then away (a week and a half travelling around Northland!), and so have been not so great on the Tuesday Poem front. I will try to do better next week.

But, I want to direct your attention to a new post on Tim Jones's blog, where (in response to a question) he asks people about their thoughts on Baxter: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/2010/10/tuesday-poetry-question-does-james-k.html.

I've just been doing a wee refamiliarisation study of Baxter, and so have been thinking about him a lot. I'm really interested to know what other people have to say about him - whether they read him, whether he's been influential, how they place him, and so on. So I hope you'll leave a comment over there on Tim's blog.

Ok, off to proofread JAAM, which is, yes, running a little late...