Monday, April 23, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut/Poet to Poet series

Thank you

I just heard yesterday that whilst I was in Rarotonga Kurt Vonnegut died. I’ve read and taught Slaughterhouse-five many times and I’ve never met a single university student who has hated the novel—although some told me it was ‘pretty weird’ which I guess is a pretty good short description. Player Piano sat unread on my shelf for years and has now most probably been culled. (I move around too much to keep a library and my books live in cardboard boxes stored in a garage). The other news this week was the Virginia Tech massacre and media feeding-frenzy. It’s horrible how schools and campuses are now settings for violent, meaningless murders.

On a more chirpy note, before I go and teach the first classes of term two, I wanted to say a little about Faber’s new ‘Poet to Poet’ series as I’m enjoying Michael Hofmann’s selection of poems by Robert Lowell. I find this series the most exciting publishing development in poetry since Earl of Seacliffe came out with their radical $5 pocketbooks. In the words of the jacket blurb: “In this series, a contemporary poet selects and introduces a poet of the past. By their choice of poems and by their personal and critical reactions they express in their prefaces, the editors offer insights into their own works…” The books are attractively designed, with good cover photographs of the poets, and most importantly of all, like Earl of Seacliffe’s mini-series books, they aren’t too expensive—for $15.99 you get an elegantly wrapped dead poet, way under the $20+ you pay for poets alive and kicking.

Image from UCSB

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Back from Rarotonga/Takahe 60

bloody tourists

I’m back now from Rarotonga after a full week of basically doing very little aside from loafing, reading, snorkeling, kayacking, driving around in a small rental car and letting the days go by. This was our second visit. Before leaving I finished Ian Hamilton’s excellent biography of Robert Lowell; I love the rhythms and sounds in his poems and the mystery of some of them. I’m not sure what they mean but they take me somewhere. (I’m not that fond of his more obscure sonnets and his use of rhymed couplets). Lowell came from the distinguished Lowell family that also includes the fanciful astronomer Percival Lowell who dreamt of grand Martian canals channeling water from the Martian polar caps to dying Martian cities. Robert Lowell suffered from an extreme kind of mania. He’d be alright for most of the year and then he’d begin to ‘speed up’. Early signs usually involved a fascination for a new girl, an increased tendency to engage in lengthy monologues, and finally outright raving about God, Hitler, etc. until the police arrived. Then he plunged into a dark post-manic hangover state where he found it hard to do anything: what we’d now call a bi-polar disorder I guess. He’s a complex character, similar in some ways to Olsen, and was at one time quite a prominent intellectual figure. Hamilton’s account of Lowell’s political influence, including meetings with Jackie O, are intriguing.

This weekend I’ve been busy with family as relatives are here from Florida—I lived in Gainesville, Florida from 1987-1992 completing my Ph.D—and I hadn’t seen them since graduation. We had a good talk about the war: the current issues of the hardly left-wing Time do seem to reflect a current sentiment in the US. Bush is incompetent, arrogant, out of step with public sentiment and grinding down the US armed forces. There is no exit strategy and we all have to endure the rest of his wretched presidency.

I haven’t got to the Armageddon expo or the comic event at the Southern Cross—but I did stop in at Graphic comic store in Cuba and admired the display of original comic art by Dylan Horrocks and Tim Bollinger amongst others.

Shameless self-promotion spot: My poems ‘Albedo’ and ‘Big Bang’ are now on sale in the current issue of Takahe magazine (Takahe 60).

Image from reflection-rarotonga.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Seeker. McDevitt

This was a last minute holiday purchase from the new Borders after a nice lunch with SunnyO.

Image from Mcdevitt's page at the SFWA site.

Best New Zealand Poems 2006

Best New Zealand Poems 2006 is now online featuring excellent poems by Hinemoana Baker, James Brown, Geoff Cochrane, Bernadette Hall, Elizabeth Smither, Richard von Sturmer, Alison Wong and others. Enjoy! Tomorrow I'm off to Rarotonga armed with sunblock, Lonely Planet South Pacific, a few books (a collection of Lowell's poems and Caitlin R. Kiernan's Silk) and a notebook. I'm looking forward to snorkeling and talking to a few locals about tourism (I'm teaching tourism in the Pacific towards the end of next term.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

NZ Comics Weekend (2007-04-21)

I bumped into my old friend Tim Bollinger in town on Saturday and he gave me a flier for this upcoming event that I'll going to...I've taken this info from the NZ Comics site.

NZ Comics Weekend (2007-04-21)

The Wellington folks are holding NZ comics weekend again here in Wellington and you are all invited to attend New Zealand Comics Weekend 2007

  • Southern Cross Garden Bar & Restaurant 39 Abel Smith St Wellington
  • Weekend of April 21 and 22 10:00 till late each day (bring comics)
  • 20 Opening Night 6:30pm Friday 20 at Graphic comics shop and launch of Pictozine 2 with Originals art show
  • Armageddon After party both nights! (from 6pm)

If you can't make it down to Wellington please send some of your comics to the organizers so they can sell them on behalf for you. The address is:

2/5 Semeloff Terrace
Aro Valley

Please tell them how much you want to sell them for and the unsold will be returned if include a self addressed stamped package to return them to you.

There will be tables to sell comics and do Jam comics on. On both afternoons there will be talks in the afternoon on comics. And its at a pub! so that means Drink! Draw shall keep you all posted as the team organise it.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Karori morning

My poem 'Karori morning' is in this week's The Listener (the one with Christ on the cover). (Why have a blog if not to self-promote?) And have a squizz at the current Trout which features poems by Smither, Ross, Campbell, Harlow, Le Bas and others...

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Hicksville. Dylan Horrocks

Going my way?

I ended up buying the Jarvis CD as well as a copy of one of my favourite albums of the summer of 1983, John Coltrane’s Sun Ship (recorded back in ’65). Yesterday we took a stack of our CDs in to Real Groovy at the top of
Cuba St. and asked for exchange value. I like Jarvis’ titles—is ‘Heavy Weather’ a reference to Bruce Sterling’s SF novel of the same name? The rest of the day was spent trying not to think about my sore front tooth, still smarting after the root canal ( yea, I’m a baby), cooking cannelloni and finishing Dylan Horrocks's great NZ comic book epic Hicksville: a comic about researching the history of comic books and thinking about the relationship between art and commerce. It’s a beautifully drawn, interesting comic. Today I’m writing assessments, grading, dipping into a biography of Lowell and polishing up a poem called ‘The referee.’ Trawling the web this morning, I found information of the posthumous Tolkien book The Children of Hurin, illustrated by Alan Lee.

Illustration by Dylan Horrocks.