Saturday, March 29, 2008

Plays coming up at Te Whaea

These look good . . .

The Tempest

By William Shakespeare
Fri 29 August - Sat 6 September

Elements of tragedy are combined with romantic comedy, in what is considered to be one of Shakespeare’s greatest and final works. An all-male cast directed by acclaimed British director John Bolton.

Te Whaea Theatre, 11 Hutchison Rd , Newtown
TIMES: Mon – Sat 6.30pm, Sun 31 Aug 4pm
$15/$10 school parties $5 per person
04 381 9253 (automated line)
After Democracy
One act plays by Edward Bond, Harold Pinter and Caryl Churchill
Fri 20 - Wed 25 June

collection of modern one act plays by some of Britain ’s most revered contemporary playwrights, Edward Bond, Harold Pinter and Caryl Churchill. Using theatre as an instrument of change, we explore a world that follows the break down of democracy. We are shown a world that should be, might be or could be. Directed by Christian Penny, Bill Guest, Rachel More and David Neville.

HERE: Te Whaea Theatre, 11 Hutchison Rd , Newtown
TIMES: Mon - Sat 7pm, Sun 22 Jun 4pm
$15/$10 school parties $5 per person
04 381 9253 (automated line)
By William Shakespeare
Sat 30 August – Sat 6 September

Blending the theatrical and supernatural, Shakespeare explores the darkest side of human desire. Jonathon Hendry directs his first piece at Toi Whakaari with an all-female version of the ultimate Scottish play.

WHERE: Basement Theatre, Te Whaea, 11 Hutchison Rd , Newtown
TIMES: Mon – Sat 7pm, Sun 31 Aug 4.30pm
$15/$10 school parties $5 per person
04 381 9253 (automated line)

I love this photo of Robert Creeley. The dog makes it magic.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A short history of tractors in Ukranian. Marina Lewycka

Facebook has recently brought me into closer connect with my family back in Oldham, Lancs (and Rhodes). Recently my aunty sent me this book as a present and I finally got around to cracking open the covers. (Regular blog readers will know that I am a slow reader).

Reviews of Books has a very snappy synopsis which, as it's Easter Monday morning and I'm lazy, I'm going to reproduce here:

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian is set in Peterborough, where 84-year old Ukranian immigrant Nikolai Mayevskyj announces to his daughters that he's in love and will remarry. The object of his affection is Valentina, a 36-year old old Ukranian woman with a visa about to expire and a pair of marvelous breasts. She's determined to use Nikolai to achieve the Western lifestyle she's assured she deserves, and he's willing to let her while he works on his book about the history of tractors. Meanwhile, his daughters, although markedly different in outlook and lifetime rivals, band together to thwart Valentina's ambitions. Valentina's turns their family home inside out, digging up old family secrets in the process. It's a battle of wills with all the participants shaped by their own pasts through recent Eastern European history. Marina Lewycka's novel is a comic look at family bonds and Western lifestyles and has received mostly positive reviews. The Telegraph says, "Lots more happens but the plot is really a vehicle for social satire, some good jokes and an overdose of slapstick. It adds up to a clever, touching story."

Not all reviews were so favourable. Andrey Kurkov in The Guardian says "What we are offered is the banal tale of a Ukrainian woman who enters the UK on a tourist visa and who is prepared to go to any lengths to remain in the country."

The novel works for me in a number of ways. Unlike Kurkov, I didn't find the characters to be two dimensional. Yes, there's a certain caricature like quality in how they are described but this is all for comic effect. And the novel does end with a courtroom drama. But the characters do change and develop over time. As the daughters battle Valentina's invasion of their father's home they begin to learn a great deal more about their own family. And Lewycka explores some interesting ideas. If you have to survive then how does this change your view of 'human nature'? How much of ruthlessness and cruelty are due to circumstances? Valentina crosses the line from being a survivor into being a sadistic bitch but it's a thin line and Nadezhda, the liberal younger daughter fighting Valentina, begins to recognize aspects of her sister Vera in Valentina's ruthlessness. Lewycka writes in short sections and chapters; her style could be described as 'poetic Vonnegut.'

Oh, by the way, the 2008 Hugo nominees are available over at Locus Online.

Image: Guardian.

Friday, March 21, 2008


I recently finished Bang! The Complete History of the Universe by Brian May, Patrick Moore and Chris Linnott. It's a lavishly illustrated but by no means lightweight book and I had to take in the account of the early universe slowly. I like the idea of a universe before stars and galaxies and I'm amazed that we're smart enough as a species to be able to postulate models of such a universe. Rather than leaving me feeling small and insignificant, astronomy books lighten my spirits by making feel connected to a vast cosmic chain of existence (I could not exist without carbon!). The book is sprinkled with humour and there's no doubt that all three authors have a passion for space.

Open the pod bay door please Stanley

Well, Arthur C Clarke has died. The man who invented the idea of the telecommunications satellite and certainly one of the more enduring writers of the Golden Age of SF. There's a detailed obituary by John Clute over at The Guardian and some comments on Clarke's work over at Tim Jones's blog.

(Tim, btw, had a good reading at the NZ Poetry Society at the Paramount Theatre Caf
é earlier this week).

Jill Chan along with a host of poets appears in Mascara 3 (I've just started to dip into this) and if like me you didn't get to attend many of the Readers and Writers event at the Wellington Festival of the Arts then you can read Helen Heath's detailed notes over at her blog.

And fans of David Mcleans illustrations might enjoy having a look at his Vertigo Tarot Deck.

I do have one easter egg: a small Terry's Orange (thanks Latika).

Images: Bang! The Guardian, British Foods

Thursday, March 13, 2008


  1. Robbers & Cowards. Cold War Kids
  2. Blue Train. John Coltrane
  3. Is This It? The Strokes
  4. Make Believe. Weezer
  5. Back 2 Mine: Mercury Rev.
  6. Sci-Fi Lullabies. Suede
  7. A History of Jamaican Reggae. (Box Set)
  8. Favourite Worst Nightmare. Arctic Monkeys
  9. Divertimenti. K.131 & K.287. Mozart
  10. Ole. John Coltrane
  11. Gymnopedies. Satie
  12. For Your Pleasure. Roxy Music
  13. Back To The Bus. Babyshambles
  14. Back To The Bus. The Paddingtons
  15. The Harder They Come. Jimmy Cliff
  16. Out Of The Moon. Goldenhorse
  17. The Smiths. The Smiths
  18. True. Trinity Roots
  19. Goldberg Variations. Glen Gould
  20. Birds. Bic Runga
  21. Ray Of Light. Madonna.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

T.S.Eliot. Selected Poems

I just finished re-reading my 1980 edition of Eliot's Selected Poems. The transports back immediately to 1980 and my first tutorial at Victoria University: the only boy in a tutorial of around 17 female students. (Now, that's an education!). At the back of the book are some hastily scribbled 6 digit telephone numbers (remember those?) but I can only read the name 'Lindi' (somebody I once studied with?) The early Eliot stills works for me--the musical qualities of Prufrock and The Wasteland are delightful. And despite all the personae and literary high modernist refs. there's a painful, confessional element to the poems. Eliot can't quite bear to speak the source of his hysteria but has to circulate around the pain and trauma. We can only wonder about some of those weekends at the Metropole. What's so disappointing is 'Choruses from The Rock' which apart from some good, highly relevant lines in the first section, falls quickly into hectoring us about girls on motorbikes riding pillion, how Sunday's are for worship not for Sunday drives, and how the destiny of the British race (now would you be including the Irish in that, Mr Eliot?) has been forgotten. It's all a load of tosh, of course, and it's a good job that at least there's Four Quartets in the later Eliot's works.

I'd better get off to school now....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A lyric & an Art Show

My lyric 'The war against liberty' is now over on teenypoet's website.

We had a 13 hour school trip on Wednesday. We took in an excellent performance by Wai, then went to the City Art Gallery. In the evening we took in the 'Bro'town' show.

The conceptual art retrospective last me completely cold apart from McCahon's chilling I am A Scared painting (a great description of the end of the line). No more art about art galleries please (yawn). It's like poetry about poetry in anthologies with no good jokes.

Last Riot

What I enjoyed was AES+F's Last Riot and Brett Graham & Rachael Rakena's Aniwaniwa-―te hokinga mai/the return. I took the family again to both Aniwaniwa and The last Riot. The kids didn't enjoy Aniwaniwa as much as I did. I think it totally rocks: it has a SF sensibility to it. We are in some strange ship, watching an archive. We lie on a floor; we're having a noho. Remember The Tomorrow People? Worlds and energy swim before us. People unfold in time, from carbon: (none of this is in the catalogue of course!). And Whirimako Black, she has a wonderful voice.


And Last Riot? I could talk about the Wagner, the renaissance references, the strange choreography of morphed bodies pushed by invisible forces. But that's not what struck me or my family: it's creepy, the future and past combined; a strange compelling violence fills the air. This is tomorrow and yesterday (at the same time): 1938, 2038, . . .

Both the last riot and Aniwaniwa are 'must see' shows.

Images: City Art.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Poetry New Zealand 36

Owen Bullock

My (longish) poem 'The Exorbitant' appears in the current issue of Poetry New Zealand. Many thanks to the editor Owen Bullock who showed me where it could be trimmed and snipped to give more shape. Thanks Owen!

Other writers in the issue include:

Robert James Berry, Iain Britton, Patrick Carrington, Tony Chad, C.E. Chaffin, Craig Cotter, Blair Ewing, Jan FitzGerald, GaryForrester, the late and much missed Bernard Gadd, Jan Kemp, Edward Mycue, John O'Connor, the indefatigable Mark Pirie, Kerry Popplewell, Anne Rugis, the always enjoyable Elizabeth Smither, Karl Stead Jo Thorpe, & St James Harris Wood.

(And forgive me if I've left you out as I was looking to see if you had a web page I could link to.)

The featured poet is the lively Marisa Johnpillai and there's a good review by Siobhan Harvey of Jill Chan's Becoming Someone who Isn't.

Once again I'm feeling under the weather (so is my son Taran). Sigh.

Image:NZ BookCouncil.