23 December 2012

Merry Christmas and JAAM call for submissions and some other stuff

I've been a terrible blogger this year. It's been a great year though. Different. There's a big chunk in the middle where I got transported out of my ordinary life and into Europe. It was very cool. I keep on thinking I'll write about it, but I haven't yet. I did blog a bit while I was away, on a secret Tumblr blog, because I got a bit funny about the idea of any old person knowing where I was. But, if you want to follow my trip through Europe backwards, it's here: http://hcatatplay.tumblr.com/.

The only publishing I've done this year is JAAM, which has come out, hurrah!: http://jaam.net.nz/2012/12/17/jaam-30-in-a-letterbox-or-bookshop-near-you/. It has a particularly attractive cover. I love when you get the perfect image (by photographer Ingrid Boberg) and the rest just falls into place.

In other JAAM news, we've just put out a call for submission for the next one: http://jaam.net.nz/2012/12/20/call-for-submissions-jaam-31-the-2013-issue/. It's going to be edited by by co-managing editor Clare Needham (prose) and fellow poet Harvey Molloy (poetry). The deadline isn't for ages though (end of March next year) so no hurry. It's an open issue, but they're posing the question of what is the/your 2013 issue.

Despite having published no Seraph Press books this year, the ones I published towards the end of last year – The Cheese and Onion Sandwich, by Vivienne Plumb, and The Comforter, by Helen Lehndorf – have been trucking along very nicely. Vivienne has just finished her Randall Cottage residency. We've had to reprint The Comforter, a poem from it was included in Best New Zealand Poems, it was one of the Listener's 100 Best Books, and Helen has just been awarded the Massey writing fellowship: http://www.seraphpress.co.nz/1/post/2012/12/helen-lehndorf-awarded-massey-visiting-literary-artist-residency.html. All in all, a great year.

Also, I have a couple of exciting projects underway for Seraph Press in 2013, which I'll be announcing soon.

My own writing, it has to be said, has suffered a bit this year, but I've finished my 'cinema' poems, once and for all (probably), and am starting on something else. I have rashly decided that I'm going to write a poem a day for the two weeks I'm on holiday (they don't have to be long, they don't have to be good) as a bit of a creative kickstarter. I'll see how I go...

I hope you've had a great year, hope you get to have a good holiday, and Merry Christmas and all that. x x

19 December 2012

The return of Kilmog Press and Starch

I was very sad when earlier this year (I think, or maybe late last year?) Kilmog Press decided to stop publishing. Kilmog Press was run by Dean Harvard and was based in Dunedin. He made beautiful, beautiful books that I had admired since I first came across them, and I was very happy when he published my poetry sequence Heading North in 2010. (BTW, I still have a few copies for sale, if anyone wants to buy one.

So, I was delighted when a few days ago I got an email saying that Kilmog Press was getting back in the game, and was also going to publish the second issue of Starch, which had been close to publication. Hurrah. Here's the details: 
This might come as a surprise, indeed, also for some of the contributors themselves, but Kilmog Press has returned to publishing and has just this moment published STARCH: VOLUME TWO – 96 pages, hardback, hand sewn & stitched & bound, letterpress cover & titling, letterpress contents page : 18 contributors of poetry, short fiction, etc – Sarah Bainbridge, Iain Britton, Pauline Dawson, Bill Direen, Lynley Edmeades, Martin Edmond, David Eggleton, Henry Feltham, Roger Hickin, Mariana Isara, Hamish Keith, Jessica Le Bas, Maris O'Rourke, Bob Orr, Mark Pirie, Vaughan Rapatahana, Elizabeth Smither & Lani Wendt Young.

Normal RRP $50.00 - however, an early-bird-of-war-chest price of $35.00 + ($5.00) postage is available to until 31/12/2012 or stock lasts.
For copies: kilmogpress@hotmail.com or Kilmog Press PO BOX 1562, Dunedin.
I've put in my order. The first one was the most beautiful literary magazine ever, and this one sounds pretty spesh too.

03 December 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'The News' by Saradha Koirala

The News

At the zoo café you can watch pocket monkeys
tiny hands clinging to twiggy branches
swift and feathery as birds.

It’s here my brother tells me about his poppy seed child,
the first four weeks passed
swelling, beaming into existence.

That night a woman’s scream wakes the street
we leap from our beds but are no use. Cops the next morning
the next morning’s paper.

Everyone has news: Mum falling off her bike
and then completing a triathlon,
my brother the poppy seed

and me, ah.
I'm like . . . an old window
slowly remembering
it's really a liquid.

Saradha Koirala

From Tearwater Tea, forthcoming 2013, Steele Roberts.

Saradha Koirala is a poet and sometimes-teacher from Wellington. Her first collection, Wit of the Staircase, was published by Steele Roberts in 2009.

A month or so ago I got to read at Meow with Harvey Molloy and Saradha Koirala. I don't think I'd ever heard Saradha read her poetry before, and it was lovely especially to hear her read new work that will be in her second poetry collection, which will be published next year. I asked her if I could post this poem because it is the one that stayed with me the most afterwards. I was especially struck by the phrase 'an old window/slowly remembering/it's really a liquid.' Gorgeous and evocative. And, living in a 100-year-old house, I have windows like that, that you can see the lines in where the glass has slowly, slowly slipped down, or slumped down? Another thing I love about that image is that it's ambiguous, to me at least. Is it a positive or negative image? A liquid which moves so sluggishly it appears solid, a solid that still has some ability to change.

People are already putting up their Tuesday Poems, and you can find some more here, at the hub blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/.

Twitter Poetry Night NZ last night

Yesterday I posted about Twitter Poetry Night NZ, which went ahead last night and was a success, with lots of participants. At least one person joined Twitter especially to be part of it, and at least one person (me) joined SoundCloud so they could record their poems. Thanks to Ashleigh Young for organising such a cool thing. 

I missed it live, as I was busy hosting a barbeque/reunion of friends, but I caught up with some of it later last night, and will listen to more tonight. If you missed it to, you can still follow its progress and listen to some of the wonderful poems people recorded. And just to make it even simpler to follow, Ashleigh has storified it here: http://storify.com/ashleigh_young/poetry-night-nz.

And I managed, with surprisingly little fuss, to record a couple of poems using a SoundCloud app on my phone sitting in my bedroom, which were included in Poetry Night:

02 December 2012

Twitter poetry night tonight

Tonight, from around 8 pm, Twitter is going to turn into a Bohemian coffee house where you can have poetry read to you. You will want to click this link: http://twitterpoetrynightnz.tumblr.com/ to find out more.

And I'm about to go experiment with my new SoundCloud app to see if I can record a poem.

12 November 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'Delph, Whit Friday' by Harvey Molloy

Delph, Whit Friday

A clear sky hails arcs
of dry split peas and rice
from the silver shooters we blow
like flutes from candied lips.

It’s just gone three
and our kid’s kaylied already
from the Party Four
and how could it be that she
let my lips brush her cheek in the graveyard
just after she asked ‘Which church are you’?
As if I even knew.

This Friday the whole village is dressed in their finest
and nobody works. Look!
The red faced trombonist has lost his rag
and rushes towards a lippy scrag of a lad
who gives him the fingers and a face full of grain
and who just happens to be me.

Harvey Molloy

Harvey says of this poem:

I spent four of the happiest years of my childhood living in Markwood, Delph, Saddleworth, Oldham. I had no desire to move to New Zealand – though we had moved from Delph to the less than idyllic Sholver housing estate for the last year before boarding the boat at Southhampton. If you’ve seen the fine movie Brassed Off or the TV show The Last of the Summer Wine then you get an idea of where I used to live. I remember that we’d stock up on lentils and dried peas so we could pelt the brass bands with our peashooters. There was lots of drinking, laughing, merriment – it was Breughel on the Pennines. ‘Party Four’ was a four pint single can of beer sold by Tetley’s. They even had a Party Seven. This poem first appeared in Lancashire Life

A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate enough to do a reading at with Harvey and Saradha Koirala at Meow. This was one of the poems Harvey read that struck me the most. I don't know why, but I find I'm very drawn to Harvey's poems about where he's from - the north of England. Actually, I'm exaggerating – I think I'm basing that on only two poems, this one and 'Closer', which is really worth a read too: http://harveymolloy.blogspot.co.nz/2011/06/tuesday-poem-closer.html. For the full effect though you need to hear Harvey read it, in that northern accent.

Harvey Molloy is a poet and teacher. His first collection of poems, Moonshot, was published by Steele Roberts in 2009. He blogs at http://harveymolloy.blogspot.co.nz/.

Check out some of the other Tuesday Poems at the hub blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/.

29 October 2012

Tuesday poem: 'Sylvia fights off the boys'

Sylvia fights off the boys

Every time, it comes around
to this
I know when to expect it

He will caress my face with
his forefinger, his floppy
fringe hanging over
his eyes
He will trace
the scar on my cheek
back and forth
erasing it, and he will say
‘How did you get this?’

and each time
I tell another story

But the truth of it is
it was a rollerskating accident

and the truth of it is
a pirate with his rapier

and the truth of it is
I am a rotting apple
and it is my worm

and the truth of it is
it was the sharp bite of death

and the truth of it is
I hit my face climbing out
of my grave

but the truth of it is
good girls don’t have scars

A couple of days ago it was Sylvia Plath's 80th birthday, or, rather, it would have been if she had lived.

I'm glad she's remembered, though I often feel she's remembered for all the wrong reasons. She was a gifted poet – I can't believe she died at age 30. Who writes poetry that good before they're 30? How good would she have got if she'd lived longer? It's that death that gets in the way, that gets between us and her poetry. I guess that's just how it is.

When I was studying her, one thing that really struck me is what an all-American girl she had been. There was more to her than that, of course. This poem is my take on her at that stage of her life, when she was an all-American girl, going out with all-American boys. Though probably it's really about me. I have a scar on my face too, hence my obsession with hers. (Mine was acquired at a younger age, at primary school, when the boy playing cricket said 'Don't touch the ball', which had just flown past me. I, being contrary, immediately picked it up and ran away with it. He caught me and pushed me off a bank (it wasn't very high) and I cut my face.) 'Sylvia fights off the boys' is in My Iron Spine. Just to prove my obsession, there's another poem in there about Sylvia (and Ted) and her scar (and his scar).

I haven't blogged in ages, partly because I've been slack, and partly because I've been away. I might blog about that sometime. It was awesome.

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

14 October 2012

Reading poetry at Meow

I'm lucky enough to be doing a poetry reading at Meow on Tuesday 23 October (just after Labour Weekend) with Harvey Molloy and Saradha Koirala, MCed by Tim Jones.

Here's the deets:

Meow Café • 9 Edward Street • 7pm • Tuesday 23 October

Saradha is the author of Wit of the Staircase, published in 2009 and will be reading from her forthcoming collection, Tearwater Tea.

Harvey’s debut poetry book Moonshot was published in 2008. He’ll be reading poems from current work in progress.

Helen Rickerby is a poet, publisher and public servant. Her most recent poetry book was Heading North, published in 2010.

Here's the Facebook event thingy:

Here's the flyer:


17 July 2012

Tuesday poem: 'My mother and the projectionist', by Jenny Powell

My mother and the projectionist

She always missed
the beginnings, too busy
tidying minties and jubes,
stacking the chocolate,
cleaning her silver scoop.

If it was Mario Lanza
she wore her smock
with the smouldering
flair of a leading lady,
her hair plaited and coiled
in case he turned his gaze
to her seat in the circle,
close to the exit.

When she fell in love
with the projectionist
her life became a film.
Climbing the steps slow
and sultry she slid
into his room. They were
reel to reel, breath
to breath, body to body.

In the third drawer down
She hid his photo for 40 years
under a pile of jerseys.
A black and white flicker
of time on a silent screen.

This poem comes from Jenny Powell's latest book Ticket Home, a lovely hand-made chapbook from Cold Hub Press, who are busy over in Governor's Bay creating new New Zealand publications.

Jenny was the guest reader at the Poetry Society last night. It's been quite a few years since I've seen her read, and I really enjoyed hearing her again. This time I really noticed how she plays with rhyme and alliteration in her work - it's so much clearer when you hear it out loud. I have to confess I was a bit sleepy after the AGM, but she woke me up with her energetic reading style - especially with her first poem 'Southern woman' from Four French Horns.

She read quite a bit from this latest book, including 'My mother and the projectionist', which had struck me when I read the collection. As someone who has been obsessively writing about cinema for the last 5 or so years, it was right up my alley. But also such a romantic and tragic story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

I noticed that Harvey Molloy has posted a video of Jenny reading another of my favourites from Ticket Home: http://harveymolloy.blogspot.co.nz/2012/07/tuesday-poem-double-blow-by-jenny.html. It's called 'Double blow' here, but is 'Isabella Blow' in the collection.

And then, you'll find more Tuesday poems via the hub blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/.

03 July 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'The Sewing Room' by Vana Manasiadis

T h e  S e w i n g  R o o m .  T h e  d a u g h t e r s  a r e 
s u r r o u n d e d   b y  o p e n  b o x e s  a n d  c r a t e s . 
T h e  w i n d o w s  a r e  o p e n  a n d  t h e  w i n d ’ s 
p i c k e d  u p

What will we do with it then?

The dozens of boxes labelled Little Girls’ for a start?

You’ve heard her: don’t dare sell an inch for nothing to idiots

who’ll use woolblends for blankets and crushed silk for sheets

St Vinnie’s won’t do then

nor will ads in The Post

definitely not Trade Me

or friends who’ll frown and say: more trouble than worth, sad to say

We could keep it all

But where would we put it?

And I don’t sew

and I don’t have the time

What if we didn’t take it from her?

What do you mean?

I mean it’s all hers after all

But can she do anything with it now?

Maybe it could do something for her: whisk her away, lead her off

A trip?

Yes, now you’re getting it

She did love the sea

(although she never learnt to swim)

and she loved ships

she went on that cruise around the world

and she made us drink holy water

and sprinkled it into every room

We need to make a sail

Yes. A mighty patchwork

I’ve got the tartan over here, the red cord is next to you

and there’s this box: Special Occasions

and when we’re done we’ll fly it from the mast up on the roof

This’ll be big


It’ll be big enough to set the house adrift

turn the lawn blue

draw southerly sea-winds

flap seagulls out her way

Can you see her sailing up Akatea Street? Down The Parade?

Looks like she is heading towards The Strait

the Pacific

the Atlantic oceans

and now?

She’s caught the wind, she’s sailing alongside Poseidon’s very arm

Give me your binoculars: she’s floating

on the white organza

way above the sea spray.

Vana Manasiadis, from Ithaca Island Bay Leaves: A Mythistorima.

This poem is for Lela, for Matt, for Wiremu and for Iris, sailing above the sea spray.

I haven't blogged for ages. I hope this will be the beginning of a bit more.

06 June 2012

Poetry reading: Anne Kennedy, Anna Jackson, Helen Rickerby

Ok, so this is late notice, but at least it means you won't have time to forget! Hope you can come. I'm really looking forward to hearing Anne read myself, and Anna is a fabulous reader who doesn't read her poetry nearly enough as far as I'm concerned. Here's the details:

Come along for a rare opportunity to hear Auckland/Hawai’i-based poet Anne Kennedy read in Wellington, along with Anna Jackson and Helen Rickerby.

At Blondini’s Café, Embassy Theatre, 10 Kent Terrace, Wellington, on Monday 11th June at 7 p.m.

Anne Kennedy is an award-winning writer of poetry, fiction and film scripts. Her latest poetry book, The Darling North, has just been published by Auckland University Press. Originally from Wellington, she is normally resident in Auckland and Hawai’i, where she teaches creative writing at the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. She is a co-editor of Trout: an online journal of arts and literature.

Anna Jackson has published five collections of poems, most recently Thicket (Auckland University Press, 2011), which has just been announced as a finalist in the New Zealand Post Book Awards. Originally from Auckland, she now lives in Island Bay and teaches English literature at Victoria University.

Helen Rickerby has published two collections of poetry, most recently My Iron Spine (HeadworX, 2008), and Heading North, a hand-bound poetry sequence. She’s co-managing editor of JAAM literary magazine, and runs Seraph Press, a boutique poetry publisher. Originally from the Hutt, she has managed to move as far as Wellington.

15 May 2012

I'm the Tuesday Poem editor this week

And so I recommend you head on over to the Tuesday Poem blog to check out the poem I chose - or rather poems, because I chose three sections of Helen Heath's poem 'Postcards', from her newly published collection Graft: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/from-postcards-by-helen-heath.html.

Mary McCallum shared 'Tight', another of Helen's poems on her blog: http://mary-mccallum.blogspot.co.nz/2012/05/tuesday-poem-tight-by-helen-heath.html, and there are lots of other Tuesday Poems popping up in the sidebar of the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/.

07 May 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'Along River Road I' by Lynn Davidson

Along River Road I

The cows are all pregnant
or oozing at the rear.

The milk truck is low-bellied.

My unborn son kicks my ribcage
like it is swinging cowboy doors.

We can hardly contain everything.

One stormy night the meat-safe door flings open
with a hoarse shout

then sucks back impatiently through metal teeth.

When the sun comes it laps
against the hills –
it fills the valley.

My mother visits and kneels
at all these places:

          where ferns grow in a circle of pongas
          by the irises on the rise
          at the cornflowers along the palings
          at the fence where trembly calves patrol.

She brings me blackberries in a cup.
Lifts such sweet things for me to smell, to taste,
until I want to say      I know nature is lovely

I know I know

but it’s also strange and relentless and I long
for the settled grain of a page

for that big, still country
with its stable population.

On Saturday night I went to the most lovely event. It was at St Peter's Hall in Paekakariki, which is a cosy sort of old-style community hall. When we got there, the lights were dimmed and tables with white tablecloths were lit up in the glow of lamps and lights on the floor. We grabbed a glass of bubbly, admired the plates of delicious food, grabbed a lamington and sausage roll or two, and joined our friends at a table near the front. I had an excellent view.

When it all began, local poets Dinah Hawken, Lynn Davidson and Helen Heath sat on stage, their chairs gathered around a coffee table on which sat a large vase of gorgeous and fragrant flowers. Behind them were some lamps; I think there might have even been a rug - I hope you're getting the picture that it was very loungy. I guess I'm trying to give you a little bit of the flavour, the sense that this wasn't an ordinary literary event. When Dinah introduced the other two poets and asked them questions, this was much warmer than the average literary panel discussion. The poets talked about an aspect of their writing - the element of memoir, science, writing about difficult things, etc - and then read a poem that related to what they'd been talking about. I could have listened to their discussions all evening, but instead they ended after not quite long enough, and launched Lynn's brand new collection, Common Land. (Helen's debut poetry collection Graft was launched on Wednesday, but more about that soon.)

The first poem Lynn read during the evening was 'Along River Road I', and I was so struck by it. It is from a series of 'River Road' poems, about a time when the poet was young, recently married, pregnant and had just moved out to the wops (I think it was Taranaki).

The lines 'My unborn son kicks my ribcage/like it is swinging cowboy doors' seemed especially relevant - I had spent Saturday afternoon with a very heavily pregnant friend. While we sat and chatted on the grass near Otaki Beach, she was similarly being kicked in all kinds of places by her as yet unborn son. (I digress, but I also have to mention that while we were sitting there the sun was going down over the sea, and she excitedly pointed out to me that the moon was rising above the mountains. For a minute or so they were at the same height, gazing at each other across the distance. We decided this was a good omen and that they baby should come that night. Alas, we are still waiting for him.)

The whole poem really transports you to this other place and time. You can feel what it was like. You can almost smell it. But it tells you very little directly, it shows you.

But the kicker of this poem for me is the last bit:
                                            ...I long
for the settled grain of a page

for that big, still country
with its stable population.
Beautiful, evocative, and probably a feeling every writer understands.

I'm only partway through reading this collection, but I'm looking forward to the rest.

Common Land is Lynn Davidson's fourth collection of poetry - her previous collections are How to Live by the Sea, Tender and Mary Shelley's Window. She's also published a novel, Ghost Net. She was awarded the Louis Johnson Writer’s Bursary in 2003, and in 2011 was visiting artist in Palmerston North. She is currently working on a PhD in Creative Writing through Massey University.

And do check out some other Tuesday Poems via the blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/.

06 May 2012

Dear Heart love poetry reading

I'm superexcited and really honoured to be reading at this event with a whole bunch of amazing poets. I think it will be a cool night.

The details:

Please join us at an event to celebrate the publication of Dear Heart: 150 New Zealand Love Poems; our finest love poems, written from the 1930s onwards.

6.00pm, Wednesday 9 May
Meow Café, 9 Edward St, Wellington.

Editor Paula Green will be joined by a list of esteemed contributors
Jenny Bornholdt
James Brown
Lynn Davidson
Dinah Hawken
Ingrid Horrocks
Anna Jackson
Bill Manhire
Gregory O’Brien
Chris Price
Helen Rickerby
Harry Ricketts
Chris Tse

Books will be available for purchase and signing on the night, thanks to Unity Books.

23 April 2012

Tuesday Poem: from marionette by Jessica Wilkinson

Continuing my theme of young Australian poets who impressed me at the Short Takes on Long Poems symposium, these are a just a few of the sections that make up a long poem, marionette, by Jessica Wilkinson. Last week I wrote about Toby Fitch's 'Rawshock', which Jessica helped perform, and Toby also helped Jessica perform some sections from marionette. And they were performances rather than readings I think, they were more stylised somehow than a straight reading, more expressive.

I had been looking forward to this session, which was one of the last of the symposium, after reading this in the programme:
In this talk-performance, I discuss and read from my long poem and poetic-biography of early cinema actress Marion Davies, who was the lover of media tycoon William Randolph Hearst. In my opinion, Marion’s silencing by the early cinema screen was strangely metaphoric for her being silenced by Hearst, who largely controlled her career and (as much as he could) her actions in public.

While there are countless biographies, factual and fictional, of Hearst, there are very few accounts of Marion Davies’ life. Indeed, in some of Hearst’s biographies, she is barely mentioned despite being a prominent figure in his life. As a woman who lived the prime of her life in the early 20th century on the Great White Way (itself an erasure machine), Marion Davies is waiting to be spoken. Rachel Blau DuPlessis says in The Pink Guitar that such a gap in discourse cannot simply be ‘filled by a mechanism of reversal’; rather, we must ‘pull into textuality […] the elements of its almost effaced stories in all their residual, fragmentary quality.

marionette, then, is an attempt to pull together the stutters, fragments and strings of Marion’s story.
This ticked quite a few of my interest boxes - cinema, biography, silenced women's voices. In My Iron Spine I had a large section of poems about women from history, and one of my motivations was because many of these women, even those who had been really famous in their own time, were forgotten and unvalued now. They'd been silenced. One tension I had was that, while I was kind of giving them voice, I was giving them my own voice, or my version of their voice. Except perhaps when quoting them, I couldn't really give them their own voices back.  It seemed to me that this tension is something Jessica is also exploring in marionette - Hearst had been Marion Davies's puppet master, and now Davies is a marionette for this poet, even as she tries to breath life back into her. On this subject Jessica said: 'I'm very aware of/interested in that - the writer's frame around the work etc. I like to make it obvious that this biography is my biography - a series of fleeting encounters, and heavily influenced by my personal interrogation.' I suspect that the lower-case m on the title also reflects that lack of power that puppets, and the dead, have.

I've included three of these pieces (the middle two images are one piece), to show the varying styles and voices the poet uses in the different sections of this long poem. As she says, it's a 'series of fleeting encounters', which I can see will slowly build up a picture, perhaps much in the same way as a cubist portrait which shows someone from many different angles at the same time. (I couldn't find a super good example of what I mean, but this is on the right track.) I enjoy the different tones, even in just these three pieces: there's humour and seriousness, playfulness and stammering awkwardness, and very different shapes. I'm looking forward to one day reading the whole sequence, which is a book-length poem.

(Sorry if you can't read the top piece in particular. You could try CTRL+ to zoom in a bit. Maybe it's time to redesign my blog to a wider width.)

Jessica Wilkinson has recently gained PhD in creative writing from the University of Melbourne, and lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. She is the founding editor of RABBIT: a journal for poetry. Excerpts from her long poem marionette were published by Vagabond in January 2012. She is developing marionette with a composer and chamber ensemble for live performance in mid-2012.

As always, check out the other Tuesday poems via the hub blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/.

16 April 2012

Tuesday poem: 'Rawshock' by Toby Fitch


This week I'm not actually posting this poem right here in my blog, but rather linking to it on the Meanjin site, where you can see it in all its glory (click the link above).

This poem, or more specifically the reading of this poem by the author and another poet (Jessica Wilkinson), was one of the highlights of the long poem symposium I went to a couple of weeks ago. I found out later that this was the first 'paper' Toby had ever given, but you certainly couldn't tell. It even included audience participation: he showed us some Rorschach inkblots and asked us what we saw in each of them - a fun and revealing exercise in a group of people you barely know!

If you go read the poem, you'll see that each section is in the shape of a Rorschach inkblot - difficult shapes to recreate in words. They also echo the inkblots not just in shape, but in images transformed into words (ie bats, wolf masks, animal rugs - all things that can be seen in the inkblots).

Lest you think this poem just clever wordplay in a clever shape - it is also a modern retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, one dripping with symbol and resonance. On the page, it isn't an entirely easy read - the way some of the words are broken up makes it difficult to know how to read them, but it's fun to try. I don't think it's essential to know this, but each section is written in the voice of either O(rpheus) or E(urydice): E, O, E, E, O, O, O, E, E, O. Hearing it read out was amazing - especially cool were bits where the two readers crossed their voices over each other. It was all videoed, so when it's up on the NZEPC I'll share the link. My garbled explanation does it no justice.

I was stunned by some of the beautiful lines in this poem, and kept writing bits down. Both Emma and I independently wrote down this phrase that occurs just after Eurydice enters Hades: 'a man pushes the weight of his suicide up a hill'. We wanted to include it in our beach poem somehow, but we ran out of space (and I was relieved, because out of context it is just too tragic - not that it's not tragic in context!).

And in the final poem it all starts to break down: the words are literally pulled apart, as O(rpheus) is pulled apart by maenads, and his head floats off down the river, still singing.

Toby Fitch is currently working on a creative writing doctorate at the University of Sydney 'on Rimbaud, Mallarmé and various poetic tropes, including mistranslation, concrete and absinthe poetry'. His poetry collection Rawshock is being published this very month. You can find out more about him, and read more of his work here: http://tobyfitch.blogspot.com.

On a different topic, the last lines of the Tuesday Poets second-birthday collaborative poem are being written. Ah, I've just checked back, and Mary McCallum has just rounded it out with the last lines before midnight. Hurrah. You can read what we've written here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/ and you can also check out other Tuesday Poems from the sidebar.

15 April 2012

Joanna Preston at Poetry Society tomorrow

Monday 16 April, 7.30pm
The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave Street
Poetry open mic for all poets and performers. Please get your name on the list by 7.30pm. The open mic will be followed by a short break and then a guest reading from Christchurch poet Joanna Preston, winner of the inaugural Kathleen Grattan Prize, and the Mary Gilmour Prize (Australia), for her first collection, The Summer King.

12 April 2012

Farewelling Adrienne Rich

Last night I went to the loveliest poetry event. It has been organised fairly rapidly and via Facebook to celebrate the life and work of Adrienne Rich, who died a couple of weeks ago.

Last night around 20 of us turned up at Meow, armed with books of Rich's poetry, and read to each other some of our favourites. Some people talked about her life, and what she and her work had meant to them. I had only recently discovered her 'Twenty-one Love Poems' and was struck by them. I chose to read III, which had stood out for me. I'm a sucker for a good love poem, by which I mean a genuine love poem. I also kind of wanted to read XIII, but was a bit shy to read two. Actually, I had kind of wanted to read 'Diving into the Wreck', but it's very long and I wasn't brave enough. But I was really pleased when Harvey Molloy did, because I wanted to hear it.

In the second part of the evening we read a long poem together. It was a later poem I think, and not one I'd come across before. A quick Google search of the lines I remember suggests that it was 'An Atlas of the Difficult World'. Everyone who wanted to participate read a section before passing the book on to the next person. It was a really lovely and collaborative thing to do. And the poem had a killer ending.

After she died, I had realised that, while I've read her poems (though mostly some years ago) and a collection of her essays, I was actually not as familiar with her work as I thought I was. Hearing other people's favourites made me want to read more of her work. So I will.

The other thing it made quite a few of us want to do, was something similar. Perhaps celebrate the work of another poet, possibly someone who is still alive. Though I have to say I have been having fantasies of a collaborative reading of 'The Waste Land' (ha, I started typing 'The Waster Land'), because that's probably the poem more than any other that I love to hear out loud (except perhaps 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock').

Thanks so much to the organisers, Maria McMillan and Cathy Blakely, for coming up with the idea, bringing it to fruition, and bringing us together.

03 April 2012

Tuesday poem: Our bit of a long poem on the beach, and Adrienne Rich

diving into the white berries,           pushing up

This is only a fragment of a poem. It is the fragment that myself, Emma Barnes and Ya-Wen Ho came up wth to fill our assigned 100 metres of beach. I think there were 10 groups, which means our collective poem was a kilometre long. Long is appropriate - we were at Oneroa, which means long beach, and we had all been at a symposium on 'the long poem' organised by the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre.

That isn't very much text for such a long stretch of sand, but our letters were very big. And very attractive. They were expertly crafted by Emma, Ya-Wen and our rake. I made things with shells and stuff.

There was more we wanted to say. We wanted to reference Adrienne Rich, who had died the day before. 'Diving into the wreck' is the poem of hers I know the best. And being by the sea, it seemed appropriate. We also wanted to reference a phrase from Bernadette Hall: 'I weep white berries'. It's the from the first of her 'Tomahawk Sonnets', which she had read the day before. Both Emma and I had been struck by that line. I just did a google search, and see that it's (most likely) a reference to Freya, who cried white berries which brought Balder back to life in Norse mythology. For us, it was salt water, sea water, white bubbles of sea water as air leaves your lungs under water.

I've just come across this video of 'Diving into the wreck', which is rather lovely:

And, for more poetry, check out the Tuesday Poem: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/ – you'll see that another collaborative poem is taking shape there to celebrate the Tuesday Poem blog's 2nd birthday.

20 March 2012

Tuesday poem: '6 The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind'

While this image shows the very attractive cover of this new anthology of New Zealand love poetry, edited by Paula Green, it actually doesn't really do it justice. I had wanted to take some photos of the substantial hardcover book, with its thick creamy paper, gorgeous binding, place-marker ribbon, colour images - and possibly I will sometime later - but I haven't managed to today. I'm so proud and honoured to have a poem in this volume, which arrived by courier late last week. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but flipping through the pages I see poems by many of my favourite poets, living and dead. Makes me gushy.

Anyway, here's my poem, which is part of a longer poem sequence ('Nine movies') - the whole thing really is a long love poem.

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

Check out more Tuesday poems here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/

05 March 2012

Tuesday poem: 'severe weather warnings' by Vivienne Plumb

severe weather warnings

always come just as you have something nice planned/
thunderstorms a house-sized slip heavy rain causing localised
areas of surface flooding the grounds and soil will be sodden nil
visibility chains essential care required snow and black ice plus
low avalanche hazard/ the sheep were loaded into a cargo net and
flown out by helicopter/ the Desert Road is closed/ showers have
left the Rimutakas slippery and icy/ there will be a cold snap a
disturbed westerly flow a sudden southerly change gusts and gales/
we like our weather in New Zealand gives us something to talk
about flooding on the West Coast and Aucklanders are likely to
get drenched later today

This prose poem is in honour of the weather over the weekend, which was pretty awful and made early autumn feel like the depths of winter. I love this poem - as someone or other once said on The Simpsons, it's funny cos it's true. Like many New Zealanders, I find myself rather obsessed with the weather, despite my intentions of being a more interesting person than that.

This poem is from The Cheese and Onion Sandwich and other New Zealand Icons: Prose Poems, by Vivienne Plumb. Vivienne herself will soon be joining us Wellingtonians again - she is going to be this year's New Zealand Randall Cottage fellow from the middle of the year, where she will work on a new novel.

You can check out all the other Tuesday Poems via the hub blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.co.nz/

04 March 2012

Poetry reading and stuff (1-4)

I have been a bit quiet on this blog lately. I still feel like I'm just winding my way up into the year. This has meant that I've also been an appalling correspondent and way behind on all sorts of tasks. Once I finished working on the books I published last year (this, and this), and finished the year, I kind of collapsed - but in a good way.

What I have been working on is my own poetry, and it has felt really good to reconnect with that. I'm finally feeling like I'm nearly finished a big project - even though I keep on writing new bits for it, not just revising and polishing the poems.

Last year I attempted to read a poetry book a week, and failed. I'm failing already again this year, or at least I would be if that was my goal, but this year I think my goal will just be to read poetry books and record them. So, so far:

Stories I ain't told nobody yet by Jo Carson (1)

This book was among a bunch a friend gave me. They might really be short dramatic monologues in different voices, but they read like poems to me. The voices are all Southern (as in from the US South) - the author is from Tennessee. I found this really interesting, because I think we usually only hear these voices, this accent, when a movie wants a yokel or a redneck.

Urchin Belle by Jenni Fagan (2)

This is one of those gorgeous books produced by Kilmog Press, which has sadly stopped publishing.

Skin divers by Anne Michaels (3)

Dense, rich, often beautiful. Maybe a little too rich for me. I'm going to have to reread this. I read another of her books of poetry years ago, and had a similar response - I both didn't quite like it, and really loved it at the same time.

The Black River by C. K. Stead (4)

I liked how the black river (the styx) kept on turning up in various poems, like a black thread that just gently links things together. Also especially liked a poem where Karl and C. K. meet. C. K. is rather mean to Karl.

That's pretty poor for two months, especially given that there were holidays in there. In my defence, I have finally finished War and Peace. (My assessment: thumbs up, but not as good as Anna Karenina.)

13 February 2012

Tuesday Poem: 'Strangers on a Tram' by Fleur Adcock

(If you can't view the video, which should be embedded above, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfFFUilx2EI)

Fleur Adcock was one of the first New Zealand woman poets I discovered. And, what's more, she was even from Wellington! (Sort of - she'd already left the country by then.) I remember getting out those slim hard-back books of hers out of the school library, reading and re-reading. Reading lines like 'poetry is the most important thing', and being totally inspired.

The poem above is a new one to me - it's from a new collection, Dragon Talk, which was published last year. I'll have to go track it down.

06 February 2012

Tuesday poem: 'Vital Melancholy'

Vital melancholy

The first time you took me
to your home
town you brought me here
to the cemetery
Already you knew me
my penchant for graveyards

Wound tight with desire
we meandered between the rows
more than half immersed
in each other
You showed me
the hill where you camped one Halloween
where you ran home in fear
the shortcut

I was shocked to realise
only six years later
the romance has gone
from death
and gravestones make me sad
Your hand holding mine
keeps me from the earth
holds me in the sky

I never felt
I had anything
to lose

Two nights ago
driving the storm road
beside the lake
I realised I was afraid
Now knowing that the world
is frightening
for children because
they don’t understand it
and frightening for grown ups
because they do

I decided to post this poem (previously published in My Iron Spine) today because the last stanza is about driving beside Lake Taupo in bad weather, and we've just got back from a long weekend in that same area of the world. We had a quite different experience of bad weather on the way up - fog on the Desert Road. That can be quite a tense road at the best of times, but in the fog it was something else. I've had a go at writing a poem about that eerie but cool experience, but it needs some work.

Hope you've all had a pleasant Waitangi Day, whether you're in NZ or elsewhere.

31 January 2012

Tuesday poem: on the Tuesday Poem blog

I'm not posting a Tuesday poem here this week, because I was too caught up being the editor of the Tuesday Poem blog. I've chosen a few pieces from one of my favourite poems: 'Appointment with Sophie Calle' by Paula Green. You can read it here: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/2012/01/from-appointment-with-sophie-calle-by.html, and I hope you will. And then I hope you'll go and find the book and read the whole thing - the poem is a very long one, and as much as I wanted to, I knew it would be ridiculous to post the whole thing.

16 January 2012

Tuesday poem: 'The Stations of the Bucket Man' by Keith Westwater

The Stations of the Bucket Man


One Monday, Mr Jones walked out
of his Tinakori Hill campsite
with his birth certificate
bank statement and will
knelt in the gutter
at the intersection
of Grant and Park Streets
and died.


He was an urban Man Alone
before he went bush in the city.
His mother said his downfall
was his (bleeding) sensitivity.


The artist who painted him
with a halo and cross
was asking us to reflect
on what we would say
if we met on the street.


He stopped daily
at the Golden Arches
buying coffee and a bite to eat
in lieu of loaves and fishes.


The stockbroker’s assistant
nearly threw him out
of the counting-house
seeing he was not a Pharisee.


From his portrait
he looks over the shoulder
of the businessman
who wanted to buy his burial.
Who does he think he is?


One Christmas
there was room for him at the table
but he declined
stopping instead on the porch
to chat about the garden.


When he gave Wellington’s poor
money and clothes given him
they were, for a while
rich beyond relief.


In church he placed in the plate
twenty dollars just given him
then said to his benefactor
two would do.


One cold night
not long before he left us
he rested in a bus shelter
and told a passing Samaritan
he was alright
and thank you for asking.


At his funeral it was said
how useful a bucket was
living on the street –
for washing at the public fountain
for carrying things in
for using as a hat
when God wept on you.


Blessed are Wellington’s homeless
for they shall inherit the earth
on Tinakori Hill.

I love this poem. Every time I read it gives me shivers. I loved it from the first time I read it in JAAM 26 (or, actually, when I read it while typesetting JAAM 26). I most recently read it in Keith's debut poetry collection, Tongues of Ash. I thought of it again today, because Blanket Man (Ben Hana), a sort-of-but-not-really successor to the Bucket Man (Robert Jones), died yesterday. Both of these men chose, for various reasons, to become homeless. They both became Wellington personalities in a kind of uncomfortable way - for me at least. I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable around them - aware of my own privilege, my own mental health, a desire to help them along with a desire to stay the hell away from them. They had quite different energies - Robert Jones was more plodding and humble, I guess, while Ben Hana had more of a trickster energy, hanging out on busy intersections, worshipping the sun. Without meaning to mythologise either of them, they both made people think and feel, and they have been significant in the warp and weft of my city.

I'm not sure that, in my rant above, I really expressed what it is I think I'm trying to say. I think what I'm trying to say is that I'm sad. And that while they were homeless, they kind of belonged to us, to the city. That they matter. Or something like that.

Keith Westwater began writing poetry in 2003 while taking Dinah Hawken's Writing the Landscape course, and landscape and the natural world remain primary poetic interests of Keith's. Since then he has had work published in various literary journals and short-listed in competitions. His debut poetry collection, Tongues of Ash, was published last year by Interactive Press in Brisbane (for more information visit: http://www.ipoz.biz/Titles/TOA.htm). And Keith blogs here: http://www.keithwestwater.com/.

And then, if that's whet your appetite, check out the other Tuesday poems via http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/

And happy new year! I hope it turns out fabulously for you, and for me too.