Saturday, August 26, 2006

Notes of a Bag Lady. Margaret Mahy

I’ve also finished Margaret Mahy’s short essay Notes of a Bag Lady which compresses an amazing amount of personality, humour and eccentric wit in a small essay. Especially memorable are Mahy’s recollections of deciding, as a child, that she was a witch and her decision one day, after reading Kipling, to proclaim herself to her friends as a jungle child capable of drinking from puddles and eating berries and leaves. Looking back, she knows that her school friend, who had known her all her life, could not have believed for a moment that she was what she claimed to but this sliver of reality made little difference to her choice.

Just a reminder that the last Poetrymath reading is at the City Gallery with Andrew Fagan, Sandra Bell and Jeanne Bernhardt (plus launch of Andrew Fagan’s Overnight Downpour) Wednesday, 30 August 2006, 7.00-8.00 p.m. MC: Mark Pirie.

Image from Four Winds Press.

Flour Babies. Anne Fine

Flour Babies is the story of a school project for a science fair that involves each student in a year 10 class taking care of a bag of flour as if it was a baby and recording their experience in a journal. Simon Martin considers the whole experiment an opportunity of creating mayhem but to his surprise he finds himself becoming interested in his own father—who left him when he was a baby no bigger than a bag of flour—and his reasons for leaving. Anne Fine has a light, comic touch to her writing. In the hands of a lesser writer the story could quickly turn sappy but Fine’s humour never allows the story to become sentimental. Flour Babies won the Carnegie medal in 1992.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Takahe 58

The latest Takahe magazine (Takahe 58) arrived in the mail on Saturday. The magazine features the short story ‘Monkeys on the Roof’ by my partner Latika Vasil as well as fiction by Jennifer Compton and poetry by Jenny Argante, Sue Wootton, John O’Connor, Jennifer Compton (again!) and Sue Emms. It’s an impressive line-up that will make for good reading this week.

Raewyn Alexander also reviews David Beach’s Abandoned Novel. Raewyn, I’m afraid that I don’t agree with your claim that one of the words in the poem ‘Parachute’ is incorrect. You say that you believe that the phrase “…was pulling the cord” should be “wasn’t pulling the cord” and add that “this apparent contradiction makes the entire poem seem off.” Are you sure about this Raewyn? I think that the poem makes perfect sense as it stands: he is pulling the cord but to her horror she sees that the chute isn’t opening!

Image from Takahe

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

the gospel of judas

I've just finished reading the Gnostic text The Gospel of Judas which is a bona fide Gnostic text translated by scholars and published by the National Geographic Society. Gnostic Christianity is very different from traditional Christianity in that the 'Creator God' of this world is neither a supreme being or inherently good. If you're interested in this fascinating text, hop over to the very extensive web site created for the book by The National Geographic Society. I've also finished Bill Manhire's short, poignant essay Under the Influence which reminded me of the lasting damage alcoholism can do to the relationship between a father and his son. (A commentator to the Gospel of Judas points out how dysfunctional the first family was: God and the kids fight and then the grandsons both come to a bad end.)

The Poetry Cafe Wedde reading at the Bodega was a great success--there was standing room only! It was packed. The open mike session was of a high quality and Wedde read some very warm poems from The Commonplace Odes. I read two poems 'Binoculars' and 'Battle of San Romano.' Wedde read To my sons and you could hear a pin drop in the packed basement bar. A great evening--poetry is getting the bums on seats at the right venues (not too stuffy).

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Another makeover

I hope that you like the new look. I thought I'd go back to using a template with a white background and place the sidebar on the left for a change. I'm also going to set the blog in the screen-friendly verdana font. It was good to see Ralph Proop's poem 'Fruition' chosen as yesterday Dominion Post's Friday Poem.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Forever Peace

Joe Haldeman remains one of my favourite SF authors. In a field awash with seemingly endless series, Haldeman still writes tightly-written self-contained novels which offer observations on contemporary US society and values. Forever Peace—which explores some of the themes of his early, groundbreaking 1974 Nebula winning novel The Forever War, depicts a world in which an ultimate weapon which could destroy the entire universe has been discovered. Haldeman’s own synopsis from his web site provides a pithy description of the book. And Steven H Silver's review neatly puts into focus some of my own reservations about the novel—there’s a little too much Hollywood in the final scenes and the character of the religious fanatic out to do murder in God’s name reminded me a little of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code which this novel predates. I’m not sure if the novel really merits a Nebula but, as the recent issue of Locus notes, the entire Nebula ballot often consists of less than 500 votes—even if, like the British legal system, this ballot is entirely cast by Haldeman’s peers who are all members of the Science Fiction Writers of America. Despite what is a somewhat weak ending this still remains a powerful novel. Forever Peace won the Nebula award for best novel in 1998.

Yesterday evening I attend the first of Poetrymath’s winter readings at the City Art Gallery. I thought it won of the most successful poetry readings I’ve attended. There was an enthusiastic audience and the gallery setting complemented the poetry. The treat of having five writers read their work meant that we had a great variety of material and all of the readers seem very much at ease with the audience. A great start to the Winter readings and the nicely produced anthology for the series sells for a very reasonable $15.

Image from

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Wedde at The Bodega

Poetry Café is back at the Bodega Bar, 101 Ghuznee Street, Wellington, just off the motorway. Monday 14 August at 7.30 PM Ian Wedde will be the guest poet.

Ian Wedde was born in 1946 in Blenheim, NZ and grew up there, in what is now Bangladesh and in England. University in Auckland, then lived again in Europe and the Middle East. Has published a dozen or so collections of poetry since the early 1970’s as well as four novels and a couple of books of essays. Most recent poetry collection was Three Regrets and a Hymn to Beauty in 2005, the essay collection Making Ends Meet was also published in 2005, and a new novel, The Viewing Platform, is being published by Penguin in September 2006. In 2005 he held the Meridian Energy Katherine Mansfield Memorial Fellowship in Menton. Right now Ian’s working as a freelancer based in Wellington.

from A Hymn to Beauty: Days of a Year


you’re the trouble I’m in

because there’s a lot of sweetness in my life

with that rude kind of magnificence

as when they hung Le Bateau upside down,

unusually animated and sparkling.

Happy birthday Montgomery Clift:

where did I see this guy – in Red River

or From Here to Eternity?

Ian will be supported by songwriter *Warner Emery (from the Phoenix Foundation).

Plus: ++++ Great prizes on Open Mic

Where and when:
Monday 14 August,
Bodega Bar
Ghuznee St
, Wellington

Entry is FREE. Try winning a bar tab or prize in
our popular Open Mic session this month.

Thanks to Linzy Forbes for the email circular. Image from Poetry Café.