31 December 2011

2011, year of not as much poetry as I had intended

Sometimes I feel I'm in a time loop. Looking back at a post I wrote in Jan last year, I find I've articulated the very things I'm still feeling: that I keep pushing my own poetry to the bottom of the list. I decided that 2011 was going to be my Year of Poetry. I decided I was going to read a poetry book a week. I decided I was going to finish and polish the manuscript for my next book. I was going to focus more on my own poetry and less on publishing poetry.

So, this year, instead of publishing my average of one Seraph Press book, I published two. They are both wonderful, and I'm glad I published them. But after the middle of the year I did end up feeling that publishing (the two Seraph Press books, plus JAAM) was dominating my time entirely.

I haven't managed to read 52 poetry books this year. I stopped recording them back in May at 16/52. But I've also read these, in no particular order because I can't remember:
  • Cookhouse, by Paula Green (17/52)
  • Spark, by Emma Neale (18/52)
  • The City, by Jennifer Compton (19/52)
  • Thicket, by Anna Jackson (this is her new one, which sent me back to:) (20/52)
  • Catullus for Children, by Anna Jackson (and) (21/52)
  • The Long Road to Teatime, by Anna Jackson (22/52)
  • Hill of Wool, by Jenny Bornholdt (23/52)
  • The Moonmen, by Anna Livesey (24/52)
  • Western Line, by Airini Beautrais (25/52)
  • Men Briefly Explained, by Tim Jones (26/52)
  • Tongues of Ash, by Keith Westwater (27/52)
  • The Mirror of Simple Annihilated Souls, by Kate Camp (28/52)
  • Poetry Reading at Kaka Point, by Peter Olds (29/52)
  • Pocket Edition, by Geoff Cochrane (30/52)
  • The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and other New Zealand Icons: Prose Poems, by Vivienne Plumb (Ok, so I did publish it, but I had to read it multiple times, so I'm going to count it) (31/52)
  • The Comforter, by Helen Lehndorf (ditto) (32/52)
  • Green Man Running, by Anna Jackson's honours class (I taught them how to hand-bind this little collection one Saturday afternoon) (33/52)
  • 2011, by Anna Jackson (this is a little book of 11 poems Anna put together to commemorate the year) (34/52)
  • The Same as Yes, by Joan Fleming (a Christmas present) (35/52)
  • Nice Pretty Things and others, by Rachel Bush (also a Christmas present, and I haven't actually finished it yet, but I'll make sure I do today). (36/52)
So, 36. Not quite 52, but on the way.

I also haven't quite finished Cinema, the sadly neglected thing that it is, but I have gone so far as to sort it into an order, and hand it over to a trusted friend to read and give me feedback. (Pretty much the first thing she said is that she doesn't think the order is right!) Even though there are still some unfinished poems in there, it has helped make me feel like it isn't too far off being done.

Thinking back on the year, some other cool poetry things have happened. I've been part of Tuesday Poems for its second year (I don't always manage to post or be a good community member, but I try), and we Wellington members had two meet-ups - appropriately at the book-filled Library bar.

I did a couple of readings this year, both of which were really enjoyable - for me at least. In March I read at the Ballroom with Helen Heath and Helen Lehndorf as Helen Cubed. This was a wonderful experience, and one I hope we will reprise. At the end of the year, in early December, I read at Blondini's with Vana Manasiadis, Emma Barnes and Stefanie Lash. Much scarier than the readings was going out to Newlands College, doing talk to a hall-full (well, actually it was half-full) of students (which including reading a few poems, which I found much more comfortable than talking), running a writing workshop (which went really well, to my great relief) and presenting prizes to students who had placed in a poetry competition I had judged.

And I've had a few things published around the place. Most exciting for me was probably Sport publishing a poem sequence 'Nine Movies' (which is from Cinema) in it's entirely - all nine poems. Another big highlight is Paula Green selecting a couple of my poems for a new anthology of love poems that is being published in 2012. Sadly that had to be cut back to one when it got the publisher, who needed it to be a shorter book, but I'm still very excited. And it was also cool when my poem 'If this is the future...', which had been published in issue 2 of Eye to the Telescope, was the Thursday poem in the Dominion Post. (My in-laws still have the clipping stuck to their fridge.)

So, my year wasn't quite as poetry-filled as I hoped it would be, but it also wasn't quite such as failure as I thought it was before I started reflecting. And I'm going to try to make 2012 an even better year of poetry - one where I write more anyway.

20 December 2011

(Very late) Tuesday and Christmas poem: 'Pōhutukawa' by Vivienne Plumb

Vivienne Plumb has just been announced as one of the two Randell Cottage fellows for next year (she's the NZ one in the second half of the year, Florence Cadier is the French one in the first half of the year). She plans to use the time to research and write a novel with political themes set in Wellington. I'm very proud to have published her most recent book, The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and other New Zealand Icons: Prose Poems, from which 'Pōhutukawa' comes, in October.

I chose this because it's a very Christmas poem, a very New Zealand Christmas. Red pōhutukawa threads on the ground, hot asphalt, asparagus, fractures.

And look, I have 10 minutes left of Tuesday!

Check out other Tuesday (and some Christmassy) poems over at the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

12 December 2011

Tuesday Poet: An interview with Tim Jones about Men Briefly Explained

In place of a Tuesday Poem this week, I have a Tuesday Poet. Below is a short interview with Tim Jones, about his new poetry book, Men Briefly Explained. It's part of a blog tour Tim's been doing around the interwebs (you'll find more of his visitations here: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/2011/12/magical-mystery-tour-is-coming-to-take.html)

And once you've read this, you'll want to check out all the Tuesday Poems, here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.

Did you set out to write a poetry book about men?

I was going to answer "no" to this question, but a dive into the dusty depths of my hard drive suggests that the answer should actually be "yes"!

Even before my previous poetry collection All Blacks Kitchen Gardens was published by HeadworX in 2007, I had noticed that I had written quite a few new poems about men, and I thought of putting them together in a chapbook which I was going to call "Guy Thing" - I even wrote a title poem. I had in mind the Earl of Seacliff Art Workshop Mini Series, which I really like.

The chapbook idea never turned into anything, but about three-quarters of the poems I had planned to include in it made their way into Men Briefly Explained. The rest of the MBE poems were mainly written in 2010, when I had scaled my ideas up from a chapbook to a new collection. By that stage, I was writing with the theme of the collection in mind. These newer poems are mainly in the second and third sections.

I still really like the idea of putting a chapbook together, though - I'd like to do that one day. Perhaps my poem about the final boss in the first Lara Croft game will finally see the light of day...

I'm a bit obsessed with poetry books as collections - as a complete whole, with a structure and shape. Did you put your collection in order, or did you publisher do it, or was it a combination of the two?

It was mainly me, with a few suggestions from Dr David Reiter of Interactive Press, the publisher, who is of course also a very widely published poet himself. The sections stayed pretty much as they were, but there was a little bit of re-ordering within them.

This is my second book published by Interactive Press. The first, Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand, which I co-edited with Mark Pirie, was a much trickier exercise to sequence - we shuffled the poems in that around quite a lot before arriving at the final order, and since the book won an award and has sold surprisingly well, it seems the effort was worthwhile.

If you were involved, how did you come to decide to arrange it in this way?

The poems in the prospective "Guy Thing" chapbook I mentioned earlier were mainly about me, and mainly about youth and young manhood, plus I had a number of poems looking at men, real or imagined, in the third person - and those men seemed, when I went back and thought about the poems, to be middle-aged.

A book about men that purported (at least in its title) to explain them, but stopped at the middle years of their lives - the stage I'd reached - didn't really seem adequate, so in 2010, I concentrated on writing poems for the third section of the book, where the protagonists of the poems range from middle-aged to posthumous. Deliberately setting out to write a group of poems on a pre-decided topic was quite a departure for me, but once I got into the swing of it, the remaining poems came quite quickly.

And did you also structure your previous poetry collections?

This is the first of my collection to have one overarching theme. In my previous collections, I've grouped the poems into sections that have had some kind of coherence - for instance, there is a section of my first collection, Boat People, that I think of as the "Russian section", poems either about Russia or strongly influenced by Russian poetry; and in both Boat People and All Blacks' Kitchen Gardens, the final section of the book consists of speculative poetry.

What's next for Tim Jones? Are you working on your next poetry collection?

After a long hiatus, I've again started writing the occasional poem from time to time, but my main focus at the moment is on writing short stories. Quite apart from the fact that that's what I want to be doing, I am obliged to do this, because when I was awarded the NZ Society of Authors Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010, it was on the basis of producing another collection of short stories, so I had better bestir myself!

With this collection, I again have a theme in mind from the start, rather than (as with my first two collections) coming up with the theme by finding a commonality within the stories I wanted to include. I have noticed that both publishers and reviewers of short story collections show a strong preference for linked or at least themed collections. Personally, I prefer variety, but since I've thought of this theme it has generated lots of story ideas. Whether I should write the stories based on these ideas, or whether I should simply provide readers with a title, an outline of the story idea, and a few blank pages for them to fill in themselves, is a decision yet to be taken.

How To Buy A Copy Of Men Briefly Explained

Men Briefly Explained is published by Interactive Press (IP) of Brisbane. You can find out more about Men Briefly Explained, and buy it direct from the publisher, on IP's mini-site for the book: http://www.ipoz.biz/Titles/MBE.htm

On Tim's Men Briefly Explained page, there are more options for buying the book in person and online, plus latest reader reactions and reviews: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/p/men-briefly-explained.html

05 December 2011

Tuesday Poem: 'Wabi-sabi' by Helen Lehndorf


I was thirty-three before I learned
people stuck in snow
can die from dehydration.
I would melt icicles
on my tongue for you, resist
the drinking down, drip it
into you. Then repeat, repeat
until my lips were raw.

Deep snow squeaks. We
stop on the Desert Road
because of the snow. You
throw snowballs at the
‘Warning: Army Training Area’ sign.
I take macro-photographs of
icicles on tussock.

When we drive up the Desert Road
we lose National Radio, we lose
cellphone reception, we lose
all hope. I was thirty-seven before
I considered not trying to always fix
things. I read an article in the New Yorker
about wabi-sabi – the beauty in the
broken and the worn. The integrity
of the much-used utilitarian object.

But then there was another article
about a woman flying to Mexico
to be put in a coma
so she can wake up mended. It is
like rebooting a computer, said the doctor.

Despite wabi-sabi, I want that.
To live in snow and not be thirsty.
I want good reception all the way
up the country. I want a shiny, clean
version of myself. Closedown,
hibernate, restart.

Helen Lehndorf is the author of the latest Seraph Press book, The Comforter, which I'm very proud to have published. We had two launches for it this weekend, one in Palmerston North (where Helen lives) and one one in Wellington. I've written briefly about them over on the Seraph Press site, but basically they were wonderful and magical launches. As part of her launch speech, she talked about how she had been writing this book for more than a decade - though the poems in it must have changed a lot, as many of them are about things that have happened within that decade. But basically, this has been a book that has been a long time coming for Helen, and one which is the realisation of a dream and the product of a lot of grit, hard work and determination.

Helen has also taught creative writing through Massey University, and so I'm sure she's helped other people along with their dreams.

'Wabi-sabi' is the opening poem in the book - partly because it's one of my favourites in the book (possibly my absolute favourite? But I have other favourites too), and also because it seemed to me to be an anchor of the collection. We begin here in the depths of winter, and we more towards warmer seasons, and back again.

This poem also, as people at the launches will have heard me say, epitomises what I love so much about Helen's poetry. It is sharp-eyed and specific. It introduces a number of interesting ideas and has more than one thing going on at once. When it talks about life and love, it's authentic and fierce, not clichéd. And it is impossible not to be moved by it.

For more about The Comforter, visit: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/the-comforter.html

And to check out more Tuesday poems, visit the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

30 November 2011

I'm doing a poetry reading

My dear friend Vana is back in NZ for barely any time at all, and so we decided to hastily organise a poetry reading with our friends Emma Barnes and Stefanie Lash. Sorry for the short notice! The details are below, and if you're a Facebooker, the event is here: http://www.facebook.com/events/321034821241035/.

Hope you might be able to make it.


December the 7th, 1911: King George and Queen Mary rode through Delhi amidst a military salute and the singing of the national anthem. The royal couple met with 150 rajahs, maharajahs and sultans. Elephants were banned from the parade for fear of them charging.

And, 100 years later: Vana Manasiadis, Helen Rickerby, Emma Barnes and Stefanie Lash read poems at 6 pm, at Blondini's (the cafe at The Embassy theatre), Kent Terrace, Wellington

Come one, come all. The cafe/bar will be open. The reading is free. Vana and Helen will have some books to for you to buy if you're interested. There will be no elephants.

Vana Manasiadis’s first poetry book was Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima. She grew up in Island Bay, and has lived in Athens, Paris and Bologna and is currently living in Crete.

Helen Rickerby is the author two collections of poetry, My Iron Spine and Abstract Internal Furniture, and one hand-bound chapbook, Heading North. She runs Seraph Press, a boutique poetry publisher, and is co-managing editor of JAAM magazine.

Emma Barnes has had poems selected for Best New Zealand Poems in 2010 and 2008. She was the editor of Enamel, a short-lived but much-loved literary journal.

Stefanie Lash completed a MA in creative writing in 2005. Her poetry has been widely published in journals.

28 November 2011

Tuesday poem: 'Return to Nussbaum Riegel' by Tim Jones

Return to Nussbaum Riegel

This is a tent.
This is another tent, next to the first tent.
This is a bag full of urine.
This is the vast inconceivable.

This is a rock.
This is another rock
These are the deposits of a long-vanished glacier.
The frigid wind, whistling over the frigid ice, passing over long
generations of mummified seals making their stealthy way from the sea,
has formed these rocks into the unearthly shapes we call "ventifacts",
photographs of which form the bulk of my presentation today.

This is me.
This is Guido.
This is Guido, Nails and Barry.
Guido, Nails and Barry
are men with whom I will always share a special

This is Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
He wrote his famous poem "Ulysses" while visiting Antarctica
on the first "Artists in Antarctica" programme
with Bill Manhire, Chris Orsman and Nigel Brown.
(This is Bill Manhire, Chris Orsman and Nigel Brown.)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson inscribed his famous poem "Ulysses" on a cross
placed on Observation Hill by the survivors of Scott's Polar Expedition of 1910-1912.
To read it, you need a magnifying glass
and an iron constitution.

This is the Polar Party.
These are the Polar Party's drinks and nibbles.
The Polar Party went on till 5 a.m.,
then made camp. Scott opened his diary,
wishing, not for the first time,
that he had brought a pen.

Note: Nussbaum Riegel is a rocky transverse ridge in the centre of the Taylor Valley, one of the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. The Dry Valleys have been among the main subjects of the New Zealand Antarctic research programme.

Tim Jones is the author of a whole bunch of books across a range of forms - poetry, short stories and a novel, embracing and combining both literary fiction and speculative fiction. He was awarded the NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010. He co-edited (with Mark Pirie) the anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (Interactive Press, 2009), which won the Best Collected Work category in the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

'Return to Nussbaum Riegel' is from Tim's latest book, Men Briefly Explained, his third collection of poetry. It's published by Brisbane-based publisher IP Australia, and is available not only as a printed book, but in various electronic formats also. You'll find various ways to get your paws on a copy here: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/p/men-briefly-explained.html.

I wanted to share this poem in particular because I love the way it deftly glides between epic seriousness and humour. I'm particularly amused by Alfred Lord Tennyson in Antarctica as part of the Artists in Antarctica programme, and also by the 'polar party' ('These are the Polar Party's drinks and nibbles'). It becomes apparent part way through that this is the narration of a slide show or perhaps a Powerpoint presentation - can't you just imagine the presenter - standing there perhaps with his laser pointer. He'd be a gruff sort, I think. Ruddy faced.

I love the rhythm of the poem - each stanza beginning staccato, working its way up to a longer phrase - and then a joke. There are some gorgeous images in here too. How about: 'the frigid wind, whistling over the frigid ice, passing over long / generations of mummified seals making their stealthy way from the sea...' Lovely!

I'm going to be interviewing Tim on this blog soon, as part of a blog tour he's doing. And you can read lots more Tuesday Poems via the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

27 November 2011

The Comforter by Helen Lehndorf

I've been away (on a fantabulous road trip around the South Island), but before I went away I was very busy getting this gorgeous book ready for printing, and then when I came home, it was all printed. Hurrah! It's Helen Lehndorf's debut poetry collection, and it's fabulous.

We're launching it next Friday in Palmerston North and next Saturday in Wellington. If you'd like to come and I've been so remiss as not to send you an invitation, then email me (helen.rickerbyATparadise.net.nz) and I'll let you know the details.

More about the book here: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/the-comforter.html

31 October 2011

Tuesday poem: 'bach cds' by Vivienne Plumb

Vivienne Plumb: With a New Zealand mother and an Australian father, Vivienne Plumb has one foot on either side of the ditch. One of literature’s all-rounders, as well as six previous collections of poetry, she has written plays, short fiction and a novel. She has been the recipient of several awards, including the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship, the Hubert Church Prose Award, and the Bruce Mason Playwrighting Award.

This poem is from a book I've just published (!!!!) (as Seraph Press): The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and other New Zealand Icons: Prose Poems. This book grew out of a series of prose poems that Vivienne was writing, mainly about iconic New Zealand things. Some of these poems made their way to the middle section of Crumple, which I published last year, but I felt these New Zealand icon poems deserved a book of their own.

In these poems, which are often hilarious and frequently have a tug of fond nostalgia, I find a New Zealand I recognise. One filled with our national cuisine (represented by such things as whitebait, crockpots and muttonbird), with sheds, dogs, tramping, birds, sly-grogging, The Warehouse, inter-island ferries, inter-city buses, motels, gambling and bad weather.

Because summer is on the way (I even got sunburnt yesterday!), I chose this poem from the collection. When I first came across it, I thought it was Bach CDs (as in Johann Sebastian), but very quickly realised my mistake. We never had a family bach, but I've stayed in other peoples, and they are so often filled with the stuff you almost discard, but not quite.

There are a few more sample poems from the book that you can download on the Seraph Press site: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/cheese-and-onion.html.

And, for even more poetry, check out the other Tuesday Poems: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/Link

24 October 2011

Tuesday poem: 'i carry your heart' by E E Cummings

Sean is reading this poem at his sister's wedding. It looked on paper like a difficult or awkward poem to read, so I went hunting on the internet to see if there were recordings of it being read, and there are quite a lot. I'm guessing it's a wedding favourite.

The different versions include this extract read by read by Heath Ledger, which I like better than the the previous entire version. I think he makes it sounds more natural, and meaningful. And, quite frankly, less sucky.

I'm not sure I'd come this poem before, but I am familiar with e e's work, and had been a bit of a fan ever since I read some of his work in the first-year English poetry anthology. But this poem, I really just don't know how I feel about it. I'm wondering whether he might have taken a bunch of lines from valentine's cards and made a poem out of them, except that root of the root, sky of the sky stuff - that's not really greeting-card material. Not that I'm quite sure what it means... But yeah, do you think it's a genuine love poem, or is a parody of love poems?

Speaking of love poems, sadly, once the manuscript got to the publishers, Paula Green had to cut some poems out of her anthology of love poems. So only one of my two poems is going to make it to print. It's this one here, which I've been thinking of a bit this week, as Sean spent a bit of time in hospital. He's all good now though, but must take care and wear warm coats and so forth.

There's lots more poems for you to enjoy via the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

10 October 2011

Tuesdsay poem: 'Finding Sepela: 22 February' by Tusiata Avia

Finding Sepela: 22 February

I am driving through the river/ that is my road/ to find my daughter/ there are black sea creatures/ eating white hippos/ big as cars/I drive on the footpath/ the drowning of wildebeasts/ whole herds of them in Breezes Rd

I get to the Aranui traffic lights and put my hand to my chest/ I swear to her/ drive with my hand on my heart/ look into the dust cloud/ blacken my eyes

there are giant worms/ under the ground/ as big as Cairo/ they eat the fish and chip shop/ I promise her/ her little ears/ so far away/ her heart/ the sacred dome/ the creamy marble/ the white antelopes

five days go by/ and still I drive/ all on the roadside age/ a woman pushes a pram/ a cat peers out/ a rabbit/ a bird/ I pass them/ all women wear bare feet and walk/ rhino/ elephants/ trains of them lie/ in Phillipstown/ where they fall/ it is catholic/ this dream/ it is total

the house of saints is not brick and mortar/ but still it falls/ everyone is leaving for their home/ in the sky/ Japanese/Chinese/ Kiwis/ and everyone/ see them flying home/ bright babies/ through concrete steel and glass

I promise my daughter/ and run to Barbadoes/ the holy sisters are fallen/ look up through the broken window/ god the mother has turned her back away/ she looks down on us/ she sends us white and blue

My daughter is three/ she shelters under the battle club/ she’s hides inside the ground/ the enemies of god/ circle on the backs of buzzards/ they rain bricks on the bus depot/ the primary school/ the preschool

I snatch her up/ like a football/ I sprint the slowest steps/ it is underwater/ this dream/ it is eternal

Tusiata Avia is a poet, performer and children’s writer. Of Samoan-Palagi heritage, she lives in Christchurch. Her first collection of poetry, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt was published in 2004. Her solo show of the same name premiered in 2002 and has toured nationally and internationally. Her second book, Bloodclot, was published in 2009. She held the CNZ–Fulbright Pacific Writer in Residence, University of Hawaii, 2005. She was the 2010 Ursula Bethell Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury.

'Finding Sepela: 22 February' is one of five poems by Tusiata in the latest issue of JAAM that all deal with different aspects of the Christchurch earthquakes. The others are great too, but this is the one that struck me the most. She makes the experience so immediate, but also so mythic. One of my favourite bits in the poem is: 'there are giant worms/ under the ground/ as big as Cairo/ they eat the fish and chip shop'. I can feel the unreality of the whole experience, and the desperate tug to get as fast as you can to the people you love. And then the relief, when she snatches up her daughter. It isn't all over, but that part of the quest is.

Along with Tusitala's poems, poems about the quake and its after effects by Fiona Farrell and Kerrin P. Sharpe open the issue. They are, as Anne says in the editorial, 'Christchurch writers who bear testament to the solidarity, bravery, and artistic spirit of the people of that city.' She also says: 'It is my hope that, once houses, streets and businesses have been re-established in Christchurch, there will be something - many things - to commemorate the collective grief and survival, such as the poetry wall the people of Sichuan province erected after their 2008 earthquake; and that forums such as JAAM will have been the places where writers first documented the earthquake, and that these documents will be some of their imaginative possessions.'

JAAM 29 has just been published and, with the help of other kind folks, I'm in the process of getting them to all the places they have to go. This issue was guest edited by Anne Kennedy, and you can read more about it here in this blog post I've just written: http://jaam.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/jaam-29-unleashed/.

And then you could pop over to the Tuesday Poem blog, and read some more Tuesday poems: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

04 October 2011

Tuesday poem: 'Lady Lazarus' by Sylvia Plath

(If you can't see the video embedded above, you can find it here on YouTube: http://youtu.be/esBLxyTFDxE

I love hearing recordings of Sylvia Plath reading her work. She has such a rich voice, and she brings out the rhythms and rhymes in her poems. I think the quality I like the most about her voice is that there's some kind of ironic edge to it - a wryness? Maybe it isn't an edge - perhaps it's a bubble of a laugh, just held in.

Anyway, 'Lady Lazarus' is one of the poems of Plath's that I especially loved when I studied her. I should read some more of her work again - I think I'd find I now connected with poems that I couldn't understand then.

More Tuesday Poems via the hub blog! http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

27 September 2011

(Late) Tuesday poem: 'The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' by me

6 The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (from 'Nine Movies')

I’m pretty sure I know now
what love tastes like
and it takes something so
to balance the sweet sharp salt
the corners of your tongue
to wash away the sticky syrup
that gets on my hands
and makes it hard to think

Running through the passages, tunnels of us
all made of books, stacked floor-
to-ceiling, and if they should topple
we’d be trapped beneath Brontës and Eliots
Dostoyevoskys, Tolstoys
Atwoods and Couplands and Greenes
Living in constant danger of being crushed
by the weight of Western literature
is just one of the risks we take

I know there are rooms inside of me
that you’ve never been to
You’ve whole basements
you’ve locked yourself out

The highlight of my week last week was finding out that a couple of my poems have been selected for a new anthology of love poetry, which is being compiled by Paula Green (a poet I very much admire). One of the two was this poem, which is part of a longer sequence called 'Nine Movies'. The whole thing is a love poem really, but not the soppy kind of love - at least I don't think so. I was aiming to capture the real kind of love, that might not start off all love-at-first-sightish, but grows, gets strong, faces difficulties, has a lot of fun, lives in the everyday. Love that isn't afraid of getting its hands dirty.

As you might suspect, each poem takes its name from the title of movie. This is probably favourite poem in the sequence. I think it's the last one I finished, and then I went back and added some of my favourite stuff and cut out some stuff that didn't seem quite necessary.

More Tuesday Poems via the Tuesday Poem blog – http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/ – which has just reached 100 followers. Cool!

18 September 2011

New issue of JAAM almost out

It's off to print this week, and we've got our CNZ grant to help pay for it all (yay!). Anne Kennedy, our guest editor, has done an amazing job and assembled such a fabulous bunch of writers that I must confess I was a bit intimidated. Anyway, I've posted a pic of the cover over on the JAAM site, go see: http://jaam.wordpress.com/2011/09/18/jaam-29-sneak-peek/

12 September 2011

Tuesday Poem: The Cheese and Onion Sandwich, by Vivienne Plumb

I've been working a lot in the last week or so on the next book I/Seraph Press am/is going to publish. It's by Vivienne Plumb, and now has a title The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and other New Zealand Icons: Prose Poems. As you might expect, it includes the above poem, but that version of it is actually from Crumple, where it is also included.

I'm really looking forward to getting The Cheese and Onion Sandwich out into the world, and hope to do it while the world cup is still on. There's a lot of representing ourselves to the world going on, and what I love about the prose poems Vivienne has written is that they represent New Zealand to me in a way I understand. As you might expect from her, if you know her work, they're pretty tongue in cheek, they gently and fondly skewer, and they're hilarious.

There's lots more Tuesday Poems via the Tuesday Poem blog. Go check them out!

30 August 2011

In place of a Tuesday Poem

I've just come back from a few wonderful days in Gisborne, where it was so hot and sunny. So I haven't sorted out a Tuesday poem again this week.

I'm delighted that my poem 'Enchantress of Numbers' is the Tuesday poem over on Helen Lowe's blog this week: http://helenlowe.info/blog/2011/08/30/tuesday-poem-enchantress-of-numbers-by-helen-rickerby. Helen is one of a peculiarly large number of NZ poet Helens (obviously it's a poetic name...), and she also writes novels and short stories.

There are lots more Tuesday poems for you to read via the hub blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/. Also on the hub blog you'll find a poem by Peter Olds, whose latest book Coming Ashore was launched last week, the night after he recieved the Prime Minister's Award for poetry.

15 August 2011

Tuesday Poem: 'Three Hummingbirds' by Janis Freegard

Three Hummingbirds

My mind is full of aspidistras. I went to the house of
the glorious witch. We ate hummingbirds’ eggs and
small slices of persimmon glazed with honey. I wanted
her to teach me how to fly, but all I could say was
‘aspidistras’. In the courtyard, hummingbirds hummed –
a sad tale of missing eggs. I took the hand of the
glorious witch. We walked together among the
persimmon trees. ‘Teach me how to dream of
aspidistras,’ I begged her. She laughed her honey-
glazed laugh and then, and then, we were flying like
hummingbirds, high above the courtyard.

In the white stucco room with the man from Japan, we
listened to some wilder shade of green. I sensed the
presence of mules, underground. The man from Japan
performed magic tricks with a cigarette. There was a
cup on top of his wardrobe and I said: there’s a cup on
top of your wardrobe and he said: it’s got spaghetti in it.
I haven’t laughed so much since I learned to fly. The
underground mules toil subconsciously beneath the
motorway. I’m wondering how far until breakfast.

Two days ago I was floating beneath the surface
wondering whether to come up for air and today I’m all
hummingbirds. My garden is full of persimmons and
cups of spaghetti. I have flown with a witch until
breakfast. A man from Japan made a white stucco room
disappear which has got to be a good thing. I have
played with mules and danced through aspidistras. Our
minds, unfortunately, have minds of their own. Three
hummingbirds. All humming.

Janis Freegard

A few months ago I went to the launch of Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus, Janis Freegard's debut collection of poetry (published by Auckland University Press). At it she was dressed up quite fantastically, including wearing a mask with a very long beak- you can see her wearing it in this video of her reading a 'The Icon Dies' on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfS_b52SBNE.

At the launch she also read the poem which I think is my favourite in the collection - 'Three Hummingbirds'. Thanks Janis for letting me share it. I enjoy it's energy, it's sort-of narrative thread, but most of all the surrealism. Though, there may be more realism to it than I suspected: Janis says 'the cup of spaghetti on top of the wardrobe and the magic trick with the cigarette come from a real life incident.'

Janis Freegard was born in South Shields, England, but has lived in New Zealand most of her life. She has a science degree from The University of Auckland, with Honours from Victoria University of Wellington. Her work was included in AUP New Poets 3 (2008) and, also a prose writer, she won the BNZ Katherine Mansfield short story competition in 2001. Freegard lives in Wellington, New Zealand with an historian and a cat and blogs at http://janisfreegard.wordpress.com.

Check out the other Tuesday Poems, which are appearing already, via the Tuesday Poem blog.

13 August 2011

Poetry stuff goin' on

Monday 15 August: Joy Harjo

Born in Oklahoma, with a Muskogee Creek heritage, Joy Harjo is an internationally known poet; a performer, a writer (of plays among other things), and a saxophone player. She has received many awards for her poetry including the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. Her books include: ‘In Mad Love and War (1990); ‘She Had Some Horses’ (reprinted 2008); and most recently ‘How We Became Human: new and selected poems’ (W. W. Norton & Company 2002). She has released three award-winning CD’s of original music. Until recently, she taught at the University of New Mexico. She has spent many years in Hawai’i. Read more about her, listen to her poems at : www.joyharjo.com

Patricia Grace will chair this session.

Writers on Mondays is presented with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and additional support from Circa Theatre and City Gallery Wellington. These sessions are open to the public and free of charge.

Date Monday 15 August

Time 12.15-1.15pm

Venue Te Papa Marae, 4th Floor, Te Papa 9 (note: no food may be taken into Te Papa Marae)

Monday 15 August: Kay McKenzie Cooke

The New Zealand Poetry Society is pleased to present Dunedin poet Kay McKenzie Cooke. Kay is a poet and short story writer with an extensive background in the early childhood sector. She won the Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for her poetry collection, Feeding the Dogs, at the 2003 Montana New Zealand Book Awards. Her poetry has also appeared in a range of literary journals and magazines, as well as anthologies. Her second volume of poetry, Made for Weather, was published in 2007.

The evening starts with an open mic, and there is a small door charge of $5 ($3 for NZPS members).

7.30pm, The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St, Thorndon

Sunday 21 August: Alex Staines

Guest Poet: Alex Staines
Guest Musician: Steph Casey
Plus: Open mic (from 4pm)
Time: Sunday 21 August, 4 - 6pm
Place: The Ballroom Café, cnr Riddiford St & Adelaide Rd, Newtown

11 August 2011

I was inspired by this

From an article talking to the winners of this year's book awards. Kate Camp said:

Inspired a couple of years ago by a visiting Canadian poet with a big ego and boundless ambition, she decided to follow her instincts wherever they led her. The resulting collection is "not particularly user-friendly", she says, "even the title's a little bit difficult ... To think that you can be just going off in your own direction without much regard for whether anyone's going to be following you there, and then for it to get a really positive response is amazing."
Yay for going your own way!

08 August 2011

Tuesday Poem: 'If this is the future...' and Eye to the Telescope

I apologise for being such a slack blogger. I have once again not organised any of the many poems from other poets that I intend to ask permission to post.

Instead, my Tuesday poem is a poem by me, called 'If this is the future...', which you will find in the second issue of Eye to the Telescope, the Science Fiction Poetry Association's online journal of speculative poetry: http://eyetothetelescope.com/archives/002issue.html (my poem is the first one in the issue).

I wrote this poem last year, about the very peculiar way I was feeling before Sean had some surgery. (It turned out to be nothing like how I imagined - it was actually much less horrible than I expected.) After I wrote it, I thought, 'Hey, that's a science fiction poem!' and thought that if I'd written it earlier I could have submitted it to Voyagers. So when Tim Jones said he was editing the second issue of Eye of the Telescope, which was to have a focus on New Zealand and Australian poets, I immediately thought of this poem. You can read a media release about Eye of the Telescope issue 2 here: http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.com/2011/08/eye-to-telescope-2-robots-time-machines.html

And you'll want to go an have a nose at the other Tuesday poems, which are already popping up, via the blog here: http://www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

26 July 2011

Tuesday poem: Untitled poem by me

This Tuesday poem is rather late, but hey, it's still Tuesday.

I'm posting this one (which is from Abstract Internal Furniture) for two reasons. Firstly, because when I began my talk to the unsuspecting Newland's College junior students, I started with this poem, and they seemed to like it. I introduced it as a poem about a friend of mine who had a sucky boyfriend. My second reason for posting it is because that same friend, who now lives in the UK, came over for lunch on Sunday with her husband and kids. She now has a very nice husband, which is a vast improvement.

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

24 July 2011

Poets on radio

Two wonderful poets, Jennifer Compton and Anna Jackson, were on the radio this morning on the Arts on Sunday show, talking, presumably, about their new poetry books. You can listen to them here, just as I am about to: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/artsonsunday/20110724.

23 July 2011

A poem of mine elsewhere

I was really delighted that Janis Freegard published my poem 'Stranded in Paradise' from Heading North as her National Poetry Day Poem yesterday. You can read it here: http://janisfreegard.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/national-poetry-day-poem-stranded-in-paradise-by-helen-rickerby/

22 July 2011

Poetry Day Poem: 'Poem without the L word' by Helen Lehndorf

Poem without the L word

My little black cheese.
My heart-shaped river stone.
My enamel bento box.

My odd sock.
My yard bird.
My dearest speck.

Oh curly one.
Oh restless leg.
Oh sweet and sour.
Oh sifted flour.

My warm brown egg.
My coffee pot.
My mulch, my humus,
my thick layer of good rot.

You lush and lilting.
You wreckless eric.
You converse classic.

Every hour, on the hour
on 45, 33
and on imported, limited-release EP.

Happy National Poetry Day!

Last week, on Friday, I did one of the most terrifying things of my life. At least, it would have been terrifying if I had really allowed myself to think about it - but I feared the terror would be disabling, so I mostly didn't think about it. I went back to high school.

Harvey Molloy had asked me to judge the poetry competition he runs at his school, and then asked if I'd be willing to talk to the junior students about being a poet and publisher, and then run a writing workshop - both things I'd never done before. I think it all went well - the children didn't riot in the hall, and the kids in the workshop were great and seemed really engaged. As part of the workshop we looked at list poems, and I got them to come up with different ideas for list poems (they had some really good ones! I wrote them down so I could steal them), and then start writing them (though we ran out of time).

I took along some examples of list poems, and one of them was 'Poem without the L word'. They liked it, but at the end a few of them chimed that they didn't understand the last bit - they didn't know what an EP was! 'Ah! You won't even know what a record is, will you?' These kids probably don't even own CDs!

They got the point though - the way of saying something without saying it, which is kind of what I think poetry is - or perhaps saying something, while also saying something else.

I love that the things Helen lists, things she loves - or rather, things the narrator of the poem loves (let's not confuse these two things) - are so particular - and some of them are kind of odd. No one else's list would be quite like this. I also really love the rhythm and rhyme she sets up in this poem - it's playful, and not overdone.

Helen Lehndorf is a poet and writing teacher from Palmerston North, and is someone to watch. I would say that of course, as later this year I'm (as Seraph Press) going to publish her debut poetry collection, The Comforter. But then, I wouldn't be publishing it if I didn't think that. You can find out more about her here on her official Helen Lehndorf, Writer page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Helen-Lehndorf/220615784632554.

13 July 2011

My poem elsewhere

I'm delighted that Tim Jones has published by poem 'This is the way the world ends' as his Tuesday poem this week: http://timjonesbooks.blogspot.com/2011/07/tuesday-poem-this-is-way-world-ends-by.html.

The poem was inspired by the film Southland Tales, which I love and pretty much everyone else in the world hated. Except the audience I saw it with at the film festival, who erupted into spontaneous applause at the end. It's a kind crazy movie. Tim describes it as if Tarkovsky was combined with Michael Bay and given millions of dollars to make a movie. That's pretty accurate.

11 July 2011

Launch of Anna Jackson's new collection Thicket

Instead of a Tuesday poem this week, here is an invitation to the launch of Anna Jackson's new poetry collection, Thicket. There's more about the book on the AUP website, and here's the poem I posted on the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/2011/06/margo-or-margaux-by-anna-jackson.html.

The invite:
You are invited to come and help me launch Thicket by drinking wine, eating olives and listening to a few poems
at the Stout Research Centre
12 Waiteata Rd
5 – 6.30ish, Friday, 15 July

10 July 2011

Vana Manasiadis talks to Kim Hill about what's going on in Greece

My dear friend Vana, whose book Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythisitorima I/Seraph Press published in 2009, was on the radio yesterday morning talking to Kim Hill about the situation in Greece at the moment. Vana has lived in Crete for the last few years, but is currently spending time in Athens. She talked about what it's like in Athens at the moment and gave a background to Greece's economic troubles. Most interestingly, to me anyway, she talked about the grassroots movement, the 'Aganachtismeni', which has been holding general assemblies around the country, and particularly in Athens. You can listen to the interview on the Radio New Zealand website: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/saturday/20110709.

04 July 2011

Tuesday poem: 'Second Person to Drown' by Emily White

Second Person to Drown

There is only one
Poem of the Sea about you.
It’s not exactly a Poem of the Sea
so much as it is a Poem in the Sea but
it’s still about you and anyway it goes like this:

You can’t feel its pull but you know that the
tide is taking you somewhere, and it doesn’t
matter. You are plankton. You are scattered
around in little pieces. You can breathe just fine
but all around you is the sound of drowning.

Little fishes tickle your face. It seems like
they are everywhere, and they mesh around your
body like a net. You curl into a crescent. You
feel the watery salt arms of the ocean encase you,
you touch your hair and it’s seaweed now; a
kelpy squelch against your wrinkled palm.

You think you know that you are not plankton,
but since you aren’t near the shore anymore,
you might yet be plankton, in little pieces,
rolling through water on your tummy,
your microscopic tummy –

riding an invisible tide, and
a wet claw that drags you
to the sea floor.

Emily White

This is one of the poems in the chapbook I helped make the weekend before last. There were lots of lovely poems, but this is one of the ones that struck me the most. I love how it starts - with a sort of prologue, with a bit of shuffling almost - a little bit of wry humour. I wonder who it is addressed to. And then begins the poem within the poem. It's beautiful and creepy and, I think, a very light sea-green. I particularly love 'You are plankton. You are scattered/around in little pieces.' The poem floats around, like the subject of the poem. The drowning person becomes part of the sea, remembers they don't belong in the sea, grow again into a sea creature. And then the poem ends with that 'wet claw', which I imagine to be enormous and black against the pale sea green.

Emily White is an honours student in English literature at Victoria University. I expect we'll see more of her poetry in the future.

And for more Tuesday poems, visit the Tuesday Poem hub: http://www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

02 July 2011

What I did last Saturday

I made a book! Actually, I made a couple of books, and several other people made more books as I taught them how.

The book was a little chapbook called Green Man Running, and the other people were my friend Anna and some of her students. Anna's been running an honours course in poetry and poetics this year, which sounds awesome enough by itself, but the students have been also writing their own poetry. Some of them had previously written poetry, but for some of them it was their first go.

Green Man Running has two poems from each of them. It was the fastest publishing process ever - Anna sent me the poems on Friday afternoon, I typeset them quite late on Friday night after mooching around on the couch watching some kind of rubbish television with Sean for most of the evening, sourced the paper on Saturday morning, printed them early on Saturday afternoon, and we folded and sewed them into books later in the afternoon, and were all done by afternoon tea time. This is result:

They were very excited to be in their first book, and a gorgeous book it is too, if I do say so myself. It was fun to make it, and I so much enjoyed hanging out with them and reminiscing about honours - it was my favourite academic year, even though it seriously fried my brain (though that was more at the end when I had to do five exams in less than two weeks).

There were two cover choices - cream paper or white, and they were all bound with a green hemp thread.

The thread colour doesn't come out so well in that photo.

Here's the tour of the book, from the beginning, middle to the end:

Inside cover, showing off the green cover card.

The contents page. Just like a real one.

It's still not that easy to tell that's green thread, is it? Or maybe it's just that my monitor is so crap. Anyway, it's a sort of forest-green colour.

It even had a contributor-notes section, which was particularly cool because they were written by other students, and tended to have a rather surreal tone.

There were some really great poems in there, and I hope to be able to share one or two as a future Tuesday poem. And I expect to see some of their names around in the future.

The easiness of making these books led me to make another wee book for a couple of work colleagues who left last week. In fact, I might make all of Seraph Press's books like this from now on - all I need is a good photocopier! Actually, from my previous experience, it can take a lot of time to make handmade books, but, then again, many hands makes light work and it's a fun thing to chat around a busy book-binding table.

27 June 2011

Tuesday Poem: 'Memories of the civil war'

Memories of the civil war

When the Springboks came
we were six or seven or eight.
I didn’t know much
about that
but I knew all about
the Royal Wedding.

Karen says
that she was probably
making veils for her
friend’s Barbie. They’d play weddings
‘But don’t worry,
we’d always drown her afterwards’.

I was in Standard One
and my friend Catherine
was English and had the
same haircut as Lady Di. In class we
wrote stories about royal visits
but not about riots in
the streets of Wellington.

Brian was fifteen
and lived in the Waikato.
‘We were very pro-tour and pro-rugby’.
He begins to explain how
it was the last straw
for the Kiwi blokes
who’d recently been
told they were racist and
sexist and now
they couldn’t even watch the footy.

I think we must have watched
one game on television, because
I remember my South African mother
saying she wanted the Springboks to win.
I remember some other kid
telling me that his mum said
South Africans were bad. Most kids
just said ‘Your mum can’t be South African –
she’s not black!’

Joeli says she remembers being
scared, but she hadn’t been
back long from Iran, escaping
during the revolution. Loud noises
still terrified her.

We’re watching footage on the television
twenty years later. There’s a riot and
I can see the building
where I work.
I had no idea
what was going on
outside my window.

I wrote this about 10 years ago, after watching an documentary about the 1981 Springbok tour. (It was published in Abstract Internal Furniture.) At the time I worked at the National Library, and it was chilling seeing footage of The Battle of Molesworth Street.

Next month it will be 30 years since the tour. Because, as the poem suggests, I don't really remember it, I'm fascinated at how it really tore the country apart. I had an interesting talk with some of my colleagues this afternoon about it - some of them were involved in protests, some of them were arrested. They all had interesting stories and also ideas about what happened and how it hooked into the psyche of our country. I'm looking forward to hearing more stories - I feel like people haven't really talked about it enough. I think there's still some healing and understanding yet to happen.

For more Tuesday Poems, visit the hub blog: http://www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

Submit to Pasture

I haven't even had time to write about the gorgeous new literary magazine Starch, which arrived in my post box last week (though I will), and already it has a sibling publication: Pasture. Both of these, published by the talented Kilmog Press, are hardback and hand-bound and gorgeous.

Pasture is calling for submissions, but you have to be quick! Submissions close on 1 July 2011. That's Friday! Details in pic below (you'll need to click it to make it bigger to read it properly):

In case, despite clicking the pic, you still can't read it, it basically says that you can submit poetry, short fiction, reviews or essays to starcheditors@gmail.com. Put Pasture in the subject line. All submissions in one word doc. Include bio and postal address. Submissions close 1 July.

20 June 2011

Hansel in the house, by Anna Jackson

Hansel in the house

When you lie in your bed at night
hearing your parents talking?

That’s the sound of your coffin
being assembled for you to climb in.

That’s when you have to get out
of the house, of their life.

And all you want from them
is to leave the door open.

All you want . . .

All you want is for them
never to wish you were gone.

I'm the editor of the Tuesday Poem hub blog this week, and I asked Anna Jackson if I could publish a poem from her upcoming collection, Thicket, which is coming out in July. (I'm very much looking forward to it.) And then I thought, ooh, I could publish another poem from her collection over here, to give you all a double taste of the book. I chose this poem because it really struck me. I'm a big fan of fairy tales - or maybe fan is the wrong word: I'm interested in them, but find them often disquieting and disturbing. And this poem is certain disturbing - especially the image of your parents talking being the sound of them assembling your coffin. *Shiver*.

The poem I chose for the Tuesday Poem blog isn't as dark - or rather it has a different kind of darkness - a much more pleasant kind. Go check it out here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/2011/06/margo-or-margaux-by-anna-jackson.html and then take a look at the other Tuesday Poems (in the right-hand side bar)

12 June 2011

Forthcoming Seraph Press books: New Zealand Icons by Vivienne Plumb, and The Comforter by Helen Lehndorf

Seraph Press is basically just me, and over on the Seraph Press site I've just announced the two books it/I is/am going to publish in 2011: New Zealand Icons: Prose Poems by Vivienne Plumb, and The Comforter by Helen Lehndorf. You can read more about them over there: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/1/post/2011/06/forthcoming-books-in-2011-poetry-by-vivienne-plumb-and-helen-lehndorf.html.

11 June 2011

More poetry books I have read (13-16)

I am giving up on writing separate posts for each poetry book I've been reading, at least until I feel like doing it again. I may resort to just listing them. There are many other things to juggle, and while I generally fail, I try to juggle them in a sensible, prioritised fashion. No, that's a lie - if I tried to do that I'd spend much more time writing my own poetry, and less time on twitter or reading news on the internet. Instead, I have good intentions.


Because Paradise, by Charlotte Trevella (13/52)

I was really curious to read this book because the year I judged the junior section of the New Zealand Poetry Society's annual competition (2008) the winning poem was by Charlotte Trevella. (It was 'Other people's gardens' and you can read it on the Poetry Society site) Turned out one of the highly commended poems was also by her. And it turned out that she'd won the year before, and possibly the year before that. So definitely someone to watch.

And yet, when reading Because Paradise, I wished that I could forget I knew that, forget that she was a teenage wunderkind, because it kind of affected how I read the book. I particularly found the poems that were full of nostalgia a bit hard to take - I mean, what does a teenager to be nostalgic for - they've barely lived. Then again, children and teenagers are probably the most nostalgic people of all, and I guess there is something about that teenage nostalgia for childhood, that seemingly carefree time they've just left.

Despite my misgivings, and feeling that Trevella would have been better to have waited until she was older before pubishing her debut collection, there were some lovely poems and lovely lines in there. And I'm still a fan of 'Other people's gardens'.

In Vitro, Laura Solomon (14/52)

Laura Solomon's debut poetry collection. I wrote about this book when I included a poem from it as my Tuesday Poem: http://wingedink.blogspot.com/2011/05/tuesday-poem-conversation-overheard-on.html.

Small Stories of Devotion, by Dinah Hawken (15/52)

This is an amazing book. It's not the first time I've read it - I read it several times many years ago when I was first discovering Dinah Hawken - probably back in 1995 when Mark Pirie and I interviewed Dinah for one of the very first issues of JAAM. I love many things about this book, starting with the shape (it's almost square). It's full of gloriously connected but varied poems. It's mysterious but also grounded in physical reality. I always recall it as a book of female power, but it's much more than that. It's hard to describe. It's beautiful. Reminds me it's time to go and read Hawken's most recent collection, The Leaf-Ride.

Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus, by Janis Freegard (16/52)

I went to the launch of this, and was lucky enough to get to see the author reading whilst wearing a rather fantasic long-beaked mask. (You can see Janis in the mask reading a 'The Icon Dies' on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfS_b52SBNE).

I have a particular liking for poetry books that work as books, so enjoyed the arrangement of Kingdom Animalia - there six sections relating to a different order of animals (Linnaeus's taxonomy apparently), with the poems in them referencing in some way an animal (or animals) in that order. Woven between them are poems about Linnaeus, parts I to VII.

The poems I particularly enjoyed in the collection tended, I found, to be the more surreal ones. 'Three Hummingbirds' is a favourite.

30 May 2011

Tuesday Poem: 'The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind' from Nine Movies

6 The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I’m pretty sure I know now
what love tastes like
and it takes something so
to balance the sweet sharp salt
the corners of your tongue
to wash away the sticky syrup
that gets on my hands
and makes it hard to think

Running through the passages, tunnels of us
all made of books, stacked floor-
to-ceiling, and if they should topple
we’d be trapped beneath Brontës and Eliots
Dostoyevoskys, Tolstoys
Atwoods and Couplands and Greenes
Living in constant danger of being crushed
by the weight of Western literature
is just one of the risks we take

I know there are rooms inside of me
that you’ve never been to
You’ve whole basements
you’ve locked yourself out

This is another poem from my 'Nine Movies' sequence - I posted part 1 'The Opposite of Sex' a couple of weeks ago. I generally find love stories in movies pretty dumb and unbelievable, but I'm still a sucker for a love story that seems authentic, rather than schmaltzy.

Check out the other Tuesday Poems, which you'll find over on the hub blog: http://www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/. The official Tuesday Poem is already up - it's 'Travelling at Night' by US poet and film maker Kathryn Hunt, and includes a video of the poet reading her poem.

21 May 2011

Poetry reading: The Book of Blood by Vicki Feaver (12/52)

I first came across a poem by Vicki Feaver several years ago when I was nosing through some poetry anthology that a friend had for her poetry course at university. I was really struck by her poem - it was about Judith, whose story is told in the Apocrypha. I'd written a bit about Judith too in my poem about Artemisia Gentileschi and her paintings: 'Artemisia Gentileschi, 1593–circa 1642' - Gentileschi painted several pictures of Judith, including two of her beheading Holofernes (which is what she was famous and celebrated for).

You can read Vicki Feaver's poem 'Judith' on the English Poetry Archive site. It's a poem written in the voice of her protagonist - something that I've enjoyed doing to. It was a poem that made me want to read more of Feaver's work, and I've looked out for books by her around the place - in bookshops and libraries - but never saw any. So, now with the wonders of the internet, I decided to order a book. The book that Judith is from, The Handless Maiden, is out of print, so I bought the more recent The Book of Blood. It arrived surprisingly quickly.

I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed with this book. I wanted there to be more in there that I loved, but a lot of the poems just left me kinda cold. They didn't feel rich, they didn't feel necessary. But, looking back on it, I have fond feelings about the book, remembering how it very quietly seemed to tell a cumulative story of a life. Of sadness, of being left, and then finding love again, but that not solving everything.

In any case, there was one poem I really love, which makes the whole collection worthwhile: 'Hemmingway's hat'. It's a sort of genderbending poem about new love. No, it's more than that - it's about how we are the sum of various parts, of our histories. It ends with joy.

Poetry reading: Lost Relatives by Siobhan Harvey (11/52)

I haven't been keeping up with recording the poetry books that I've been reading, but I have been reading. I'm in danger of losing track, so it's probably time to start recording them again.

First up is Lost Relatives by Siobhan Harvey, which I've mentioned previously when I included a poem from it, 'Tooth', as my Tuesday poem. I said then that it was lovely meeting old friends in here - poems I'd come across in other places, including some I'd published in JAAM many years ago. The book tells a story of loss, and of gain. Of leaving an old home and family and country behind, and coming to a new country, building a new life, with a new family, and new connections.

16 May 2011

Tuesday poem: 'The Opposite of Sex' from Nine Movies

1 The Opposite of Sex

The first time is always awkward

You held the Jaffas where I could reach
your hand too close
to my leg

Apparently Lisa Kudrow has a degree
in something
We’re always so surprised
when actors aren’t stupid

Later that night
I jumped into a taxi
and the driver looked at you
through his rear-vision mirror
and asked
‘Are you breaking that poor guy’s heart?’

This poem is the first section of a sequence called 'Nine Movies', which has just been published in Sport 39 - all six pages of it! So I'm publishing it here as a kind of celebration. You can read the rest of the sequence in the latest Sport. It's kind of a love story. Well, actually, it is a love story. *Spoiler* It ends happily - at least the poem sequence ends happily. The story hasn't ended, but it continues very happily. It may be based on a true story.

There are lots of other great things in the lastest issue of Sport too, including poems by the other members of Helen Cubed (Helen Heath and Helen Lehndorf), so Sport is now with 66% more Helen. They've also just got a new website: http://www.sportmagazine.co.nz/

Another thing I'm celebrating is that I got a new, whizzy and very cute computer/laptop/netbookish thing. It has things like a web cam, so I have finally entered the 21st century. So, I decided I would record myself reading this poem. I did, and the not-especially-high-quality results are below.

If you are having trouble viewing it here, you can watch it on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ud_1i1zckig

And go and check out the Tuesday Poem hub blog, with the featured poem, and all the other Tuesday Poem blogs: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

10 May 2011

Tuesday poem: 'Conversation Overheard on the Road to Salem' by Laura Solomon

Conversation Overheard on the Road to Salem

Think you're so fancy in that pointy hat,
with the audacity to just assume your black floating cape is the best.
Those warts are only stick-on, m'dear.
I can see right through you.

Those newts you keep in jars, gloating of their powers,
are just as plastic as dolls.
Pathologically competitive, that's your problem –
if I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times.
Pretending you know how to walk the line,
you're barely balancing as we ease on down this road.

Still, for all my bitching, we're on the same side,
we'll hold onto each other when the deal goes down –
you pretend to float and I'll pretend to drown.

Laura Solomon came to prominence back in the 1990s when she had two novels published by Tandem Press (Black Light and Nothing Lasting) - which I remember as really exciting, because she was so young. Since then she's been mostly overseas, in the UK, but has continued writing novels. In Vitro, from which this poem comes, is her debut poetry collection, which has recently been published by HeadworX.

The poems in In Vitro are mostly told in the first person by a wide variety of narrators, from a fertility scientist of dubious sanity, to the ghost of a man who was hit seven times by lightning, to Guy Fawkes, to crows and bats.

I chose this poem, again with a first-person narrator, because I was haunted by that last line 'you pretend to float and I'll pretend to drown'. Drowning witches was one way to test if they were in fact witches - the idea being that if they floated then they were a witch, but if they drowned then they were innocent, and dead.

There are many other Tuesday poems for your enjoyment. You'll find them here: http://www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

25 April 2011

Tuesday poem: 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' by T. S. Eliot

I was a bit unsure about sharing this audio of T. S. Eliot reading 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock', because I love this poem, but I wasn't sure what I thought about his own reading of it. But actually, it's growing on me.

11 April 2011

Tuesday Poem: 'Milk for Money' by Emma Barnes, and all the other Best NZ Poems 2010

I'm not going to actually repost this poem, which was included in Best New Zealand Poems 2010, as selected by Chris Price, rather I simply direct you it there: http://www.nzetc.org/iiml/bestnzpoems/BNZP10/t1-g1-t3-body-d1.html.

'Milk for Money' is one of the longer poems I've ever seen of Emma's, and it uses the length to tell a lifetime, or rather several lifetimes. I love its shifty, mythic use of time. As well as time, it bends gender, it bends language. It's full of love, it's full of loss, it's full of colour.

I was delighted to see that so many of my friends and acquaintances have poems in this latest selection of Best New Zealand Poems (and there are others I'd definitely have included, if it were my selection, which it obviously wasn't). Congratulations to you all! Check them out: http://www.nzetc.org/iiml/bestnzpoems/BNZP10/contents.html.

Also, it was the Tuesday Poem's first birthday last week, and to celebrate we collectively wrote a poem, exquisite-corpse style. And now it's done, and you can check it out on the blog: http://www.tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/. I wrote my bit on Friday afternoon, and found I was really nervous about it beforehand - I'm not much of a collaborative writer, and I tend to keep my work away from prying eyes until I'm sure I'm ready to release it into the world. But actually, it was really fun.

As always, for more Tuesday Poems, check out the sidebar on the blog.

04 April 2011

Tuesday Poem: 'You have to walk before you can fly'

You have to walk before you can fly

It’s Chantelle’s first birthday
and I’m watching her learn.

She hands me each piece
of crumpled plastic.
A gift? Or an order?
She hides a torn corner of cardboard
inside her new book.
When she opens the pages
she finds it again. It’s as simple
and as wonderful
as that.

We think she is a lot
like the cat.
They have similar habits, they
think they are Queen and
you have to keep an eye on them both.
But cat is content
with her life, while Chantelle
can already say
Mama, Dada and fish.

Chantelle and I
are an orchestra. She shakes
her rattle and I
shake mine. I am aware
I am trying to amuse her
because I want her to like me. Fortunately
it’s still easy to find her favour.

‘In twenty years’
says Sean
‘We’ll be getting ready
for her twenty first’.

I doubt it will be that easy then.

We gave Chantelle fairy wings
for her first birthday. They are
green and patterned with glitter. She
doesn’t understand them yet – she hasn’t
worn them. She doesn’t yet
care about trying to look pretty.

She slithers over to
scavenge a bite of
our apples. She is learning
to walk without support.

It's the Tuesday Poem's first birthday this week, so it seemed appropriate to post this poem about my niece's first birthday. I read this poem at the launch of Abstract Internal Furniture, by then she was almost two, and had gotten the hang of the wings. She wore them to the launch, and tottered across the empty space in front of me as I read the poem - knowing it was about her. It freaks me out that we were recently celebrating her 11th birthday, but time will march on. She still has the wings apparently.

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Tuesday Poem blog we're going to be writing an exquisite-corpse-type collaborative poem over the next wee while. Will be interesting to see what we come up with! Also, check out the other Tuesday Poems via the blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/