30 January 2011

January poetry reading (2–5)

The Time of Giants by Anne Kennedy (2/52)

I was fortunate enough to meet Anne Kennedy at the launch for Crumple in Auckland in November. We've been corresponding and she very kindly sent me a copy of The Time of Giants. This is a re-read for me. I read and enjoyed it back in 2005 when it came out. I've enjoyed it even more this time through though - as I often do when I reread things I liked the first time. You often get more of the nuance and layers and so forth.

One thing I hadn't picked up on the first time, possibly because I hadn't read it yet, was its parallels with Autobiography of Red, by Anne Carson. Both are collections of linked narrative poems, aka verse novels, which modernise a character from myth. In Carson's case, a monster from Greek myth, and in Kennedy's case, a giant from Irish myth (though Moss, the protagonist, is not herself from a myth, she is a descendant of Irish giants, such as Finn MaCoul, whose story is told in the second section).

Moss and her brother Forest are giants, though their parents are normal height. This is really the story of Moss and her efforts to keep her normal-sized boyfriend Paul from realising she is so tall. I took this also as metaphorical for that feeling that I'm sure most people have - that they are some kind of freak, and are going to be found out at some point.

It's a really playful collection, with a playful story and playful and surprising use of language. I'm going to publish a piece as my Tuesday Poem soon, so you can see what I mean, if you haven't already read it.

Friend's poetry manuscript 3/52

I won't say much about this, with it being unpublished and all and still in progress (though basically ready to be unleashed on the world in my opinion). But I will say that it's great, and I'm excited about it. I'm going to be giving feedback and praise, so will read it a few more times, but I won't cheat by recording each read-through though.

100 Traditional Smiles, by Anne Kennedy 4/52

Because I'd just read The Time of Giants, and because I had recently acquired this book as part of a big bag of poetry books that a friend donated to me, I thought it was a good time to read it.

I'm not sure I should be counting this one, as it claims to be a novella, and is clearly written in prose, but it's very poetic prose, with only the loosest narrative (much looser than The Time of Giants), so I am claiming it as prose-poetry verse novel(la).

Like The Time of Giants, it's wonderfully inventive and surprising. In the more than 100 sections (I would count them, but I put the book down somewhere and now can't find it) of varying lengths, from short to really short, it jumps between a series of characters, including 'the woman' (actually I think several of them are referred to as 'the woman' and I wasn't always sure which one was meant, which I'm sure was deliberate), the Italian couple, Eileen, Irene, Leslie, the Hoboken couple (former New Zealanders living in New Jersey), the graphic designer and even, in a few places, an 'I'. They are in various parts of the world - New Jersey, as I mentioned, Auckland, Gore, New York, Nottingham. Some know each other, some don't, but there are threads, or rather wools, connecting many of them.

Northland, by Michele Leggott (5/52)

Northland is a gorgeous hand-made book from Pania Press (Jack Ross and Bronwyn Lloyd). I was keen to get my paws on a copy because it's about, or perhaps rather set in, the same areas as my book Heading North. Northland is a gorgeously produced book, and it was lovely revisiting some of these places in poetry. I think my favourite of the poems was 'listening', with the repeated line at the end of the three stanzas 'unwinding the bird in my throat'.

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