Saturday, August 30, 2008

Writers on Monday: Jennifer Compton

1 September: Jennifer Compton

Since 1972 New Zealander Jennifer Compton has lived in Australia, where she has forged a career as an award-winning poet and playwright. Back in Wellington as 2008 Randell Cottage fellow, she brings us up to date on her work and life in conversation with Mary McCallum.

About Jennifer Compton

Jennifer Compton was born in Wellington, in 1949 and had two poems published in the NZ Listener when she was 15. In 1972 she travelled to Sydney, and attended the Playwrights’ Studio at NIDA. The play she wrote for this course, Crossfire, jointly won the Newcastle Playwrighting Competition in 1974 and premiered at the Nimrod Theatre in Sydney and was published by Currency Press. The play was presented by Downstage Theatre in Wellington in the late 70s. Before her two children were born she flew backwards and forwards across the Tasman and worked in both countries. Her radio plays (A Wigwam For A Goose’s Bridle, Morning Glories, Several Local Dandelions) were produced by the ABC and RNZ. And she won the Bank of NZ Katherine Mansfield Award in 1977 for her story ‘The Man Who Died Twice’.

Then she moved with her family to Wingello, a small town on the Southern Highlands of NSW, and concentrated on writing poetry and short prose. In 1995 her poem Blue Leaves won the Robert Harris Poetry Prize and she was awarded the NSW Ministry For The Arts Fellowship during which she wrote a book of poetry, Blue, which was short listed for the NSW Premier’s Prize, and a stage play, The Big Picture, which premiered at the Griffin Theatre in Sydney and was published by Currency Press. It was performed by Circa Theatre in Wellington in the late 90s.

Jennifer’s book of poetry, Parker & Quink, was published by Ginninderra Press in 2005 and her next book of poetry, Barefoot, is ready to go. A book of reflections about travel and place - The Wrong Side Of The Road - is nearly complete. This year she has been happily ensconced at the Randell Cottage and working on a novel set in the Wairarapa.

Writers on Mondays is presented by the International Institute of Modern Letters in partnership with the National Library of New Zealand.

These events take place at 1-2pm, at the National Library Auditorium.

They are open to the public and free of charge.

Image: ABC Radio, Australia.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Winter Readings: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da

Micahel O'Leary: The Earl of Seacliffe

Reading Three: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Wednesday, 3 September 2008
Michael O'Leary
Gemma Claire
Marilyn Duckworth
Bill Dacker

Plus launch of O'Leary's Paneta Street (HeadworX)
MC: Nelson Wattie
City Gallery Theatre, Wellington. 7-8pm
Admission to all readings is by koha
Note: The organisers reserve the right to adjust the programme in unforseen circumstances

Athena Montessori College School Production

2b or nt 2b, is on this weekend. Please come along, bring friends and family, and support the students who’ve been working so hard on this for the last month.

Friday 29 August 7pm
Saturday 30 Sugust 1pm
Adults $4, Children $2
At Newtown Community Centre, corner of Rintoul and Colombo Sts.

Jessica, one of our students, has spent all day today baking batches of yummy muffins and there will also be tea, coffee and juice available before both shows.

2b or nt 2b takes tragic characters from classic plays by Shakespeare, Ibsen, Chekhov and Sophocles and gives them a modern spin. They are now teenagers living here in Wellington in 2008. They’re all pretty miserable, but it’s amazing how different you can feel once you realise you’re not the only one having a bad day.

WARNING: The play contains swearing and cool music.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Moonshot/Tonight's reading

This morning I am so happy!
Moonshot hascome back from Astra print. I picked up two boxes yesterday from Steele Roberts and it looks great. It's just how I wnated it to be. I felt a little overwhelmed seeing it out in print.

And there's been a change in tonight's programme for the Winter Readings. Evelyn Conlon wont be able to read and so I've been asked by Mark Pirie to read in her place. Michael will MC in my place.

Thanks, Mark, for this opportunity to read. What a fortuitous start.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Revolution: Thursday's Winter Reading

Yes, I'm getting all ready to MC the Revolution session on Thursday of the 2008 Wellington Winter Readings. The big event of the night will be the launch of Helen Rickerby's new collection of poems, My Iron Spine. I'm also hoping that my book Moonshot will be out from the printer so I can try to flog a few of them off on the night. Here's the programme. I'm placing short bios under the names of each reader. (And I promise I will give short and sweet introductions on the night).

Reading Two: Revolution Thursday, 28 August 2008. 6.30PM. City Art Gallery, Wellington.

Niel Wright

Niel Wright (a Wellington writer, publisher and critic) (75 in a month’s time) last year completed his 36,000 line epic poem THE ALEXANDRIANS after 47 years of continuous composition. Mark Pirie has for the past few months been working with Niel on a long overdue book of selected shorter poems from THE ALEXANDRIANS to be published through HeadworX.

Helen Rickerby

My Iron Spine is Helen Rickerby’s second collection of poetry. In first, Abstract Internal Furniture, (HeadworX, 2001) she playfully combined the mythic with the everyday to examine themes of identity, self discovery, the construction of femininity, and relationships between friends and lovers.

She currently working on what she hopes will become her third collection of poetry, which she plans to call Cinema as the poems are inspired by films.

She was among the group that founded JAAM magazine, of which she is now co-managing editor. She also runs the small publishing company Seraph Press.

She has a BA in English literature and art history, and a masters degree in English literature from Victoria University. Like most Wellington writers, she works for the government – currently as an editor for Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Evelyn Conlon

Evelyn Conlon is a young Napier-based poet. She has had work published in the Wellington journal "broadsheet" and in this year's Winter Readings anthology. In 2007 she won the inaugural Earl of Seacliff Poetry Prize for her poem written on last year's Poetrywall here at the Gallery. Her winning poem was published in the "Poetrywall Anthology" and was featured on its cover.

Will Leadbeater

Will Leadbeater was the poetry reviewer for the New Zealand Herald from 1980-88 and has had published five collections of poetry. He has judged competitions for I.W.W. and in 1975 he won an American Poetry Competition judged by Donald Hall. For several years in a row, he has been invited to three schools by the Book Council's "Writer’s in Schools" programme. This year he was awarded the 2008 Earl of Seacliff Poetry Prize for his collection Jubal's Lyre published in the ESAW Mini Series. Jubal's Lyre is his first poetry publication for a number of years.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Blackmail Press

Blackmail Press 22 is now online featuring an incredible diversity of poets including Selina Tusitala Marsh, Tracy Osbourne, Thane Zander, Emma Barnes, Sam Silva, W.S. Vun, David Barnes, Ray Succre, and many, many more. Go and have a read.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Geoff Page

I saw Geoff read on Monday at the NZPS and he was great. Go if you can...

25 August: Poetry Oz - Geoff Page.

An Australian poet who has published 16 collections of poetry, two novels, two verse novels and a reader’s guide to contemporary Australian poetry bring news of writing across the Tasman and talks about his own work with Greg O’Brien.

Writers on Mondays is presented by the International Institute of Modern Letters in partnership with the National Library of New Zealand.These events take place at 1-2pm, at the National Library Auditorium.

They are open to the public and free of charge.

Wellington Sonnet Competition

NZ Post are running a Wellington Sonnet competition to support the Wellington Writers Walk.

Here are the details:

Wellington Writers Walk

We are pleased to be supporting the Wellington Writers Walk with a Sonnet writing competition to raise profile or the Writers Walk on Wellington's waterfront.
The Wellington Sonnet Competition 2008 is organised and administered by the small group of volunteers that oversees the ongoing development of the Wellington Writers Walk along Wellington's waterfront.
The Walk is an iconic installation and the volunteer effort required for its continuance is deserving of our support.
For terms and conditions of entry and an application form,
click here.
Entries close on 22 September 2008.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Takahe Poetry Competition

Takahe Poetry Competition
$5 per poem entry fee.
Judge: Michael Harlow, poet and editor.R
esults will be published in the December 2008 issue of Takahe.Prizes: 1st: NZ$250; 2nd: NZ$100; 3rd: one year's subscription to Takahe; 4th: one year's subscription to Takahe.
1st and 2nd prize winners will also receive a year's membership to the NZ Book Council.
The competition rules and entry form are on the website, at:
Post entries to: Takahe Collective Trust, Box 13-335, Christchurch 8141, New Zealand.
Closing date: 30 September 2008.

Geoff Page on Monday 18th August

This in from Laurice Gilbert, the New Zealand Poetry Society coordinator:

Hello fellow poetry lovers. This month's meeting is on next Monday, 18th August, at 7.30pm. Our guest is Geoff Page, an Australian poet of considerable experience, who is currently touring New Zealand. Jennifer Compton, who is the current Resident of the Randall Cottage, knows him well and highly recommends him.

We are meeting this month at Toi Poneke, the Wellington Arts Centre at 61 Able Smith St. For those of you who are long-term Wellingtonians (we are few in number, but we do exist), it used to be the Department of Education building. For recent arrivals, it's on the same block as Real Groovy (I think).

We'll be starting with an open mic, and if you want to take part, but are shy about sharing your own work, I have a collection of others' poems to draw from that you can read instead if you like.

The main downside of this venue is that the receptionist goes off duty at 8pm and the outer doors are locked, so it doesn't pay to turn up late in the hope of avoiding being shoulder-tapped for the open mic.

From this month we will be having a $2 entry fee, to help cover the venue hire, since Creative New Zealand's grant didn't go that far this year. I regret that, contrary to past practice, this fee will apply to members as well as visitors. But it'll be worth it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Big bang

This poem was first published in Takahe and appears in Moonshot. The story of Penzias and Wilson is best told in Simon Singh's Big Bang.

Big bang

Penzias blames the pigeons’
white dielectric deposits
soiling the horn's silver ear

Wilson blames radio hams in New York
talking to Pittsburgh from loft apartments
he points the antennae at Brooklyn Bridge

the static remains constant

dressed in starched white shirts
worn with black ties as thin as their patience
they check each fuse & soldered wire

still the uniform hiss at all points in the sky
stops them from hearing the glow of stars
Wilson thinks of it as a mystery rattle
in a test-driven only Cadillac

Wilson traps & deports the pigeons in spring
when they return home the woods ring
with the crack of Arno’s revolver

they don’t know that they hear
the sound of space-time breaking
on its own most distant shore
they don’t know that they’ve found
the faint first sound before stars

ten years later in a white pleated
tuxedo shirt with a pintuck collar
Penzias steps up to the podium
to deliver his acceptance speech

the applause from the Royal Academy settles
& he remembers how a choir of pigeons
softened their cooing when he came to the trap
sixteen onyx black eyes dark as a starless sky

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Bard Business

Yesterday morning I participated in a very enjoyable drama workshop on performing Shakespeare held by Lin Clark of Canterbury University and organised by the New Zealand Association for the Teaching of English (with help from the Wellington branch). Lin taught us this great little ditty for remembering Shakespeare's meter (note that place' and 'feet' are additional words added to the end of the lines to make it work as a poem--so don't count these syllables!). Here we go:

The iambus comes at steady pace
Swift the trochee takes his place
Follows the dactyl on pattering feet
And the last but not least is the rare anapaest.

(And don't forget the spondee: Go home! Come here! etc).

I asked Lin where she learnt such a poem and she thinks it might have been at school.

Then I came home and watched the Olympics. I'm relieved that the Tall Ferns beat Mali--that was a nail biting match.

Thanks for the poem & the workshop Lin.

Image: NZ Herald.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Black River

I'm getting ready to launch Moonshot in town soon. So I need to work out a guest list, a venue, and a musician (hopefully) as well as someone to introduce me…an art gallery would be a good venue, I remember the publisher saying that … and then there's the more informal launch at school. Anyone play guitar?

Hugh Roberts on C.K. Stead's The Black River.

I liked The Black River. Roberts is right about Stead playing games in the book. Stead also has a good ear: read The Art of Poetry (1) aloud and you'll a very well crafted and pleasing piece of poetry. And that Sarah Maxey, wow, she really 'da bomb' (as the kids say) in design. Hard out!

Two New Zealand news stories have irritated me this week. I'm appalled by the treatment of a scientist by ESR (Enviromental Science and Research) who lost both her legs and the fingers of one hand to a meningococcal disease. How could they really expect her to believe that she hadn't caught meningococcal at work? I accept that such work is dangerous and that there are risks involved but for an scientific organisation to expect her and the public to swallow such hogwash is just not good enough. I would have liked to seen more tough questions put to the managers who made these decisions.

And are we really going to have an election campaign that involves secretly recording MPs comments at a political party's function? That's not good enough either. I think politicians of all parties should be able to speak their minds in a private conversation without fear of such conversations being leaked to the media. Just snooping for the sake of snooping isn't good enough. People with brains of all political persuasions aren't going to just mouth party policies.

(I'll get off the soapbox now. Are teachers still allowed to voice opinions online? I'd better go check the new regulations . . . You mean you're a teacher and you blog opinions without using a pseudonym? I'm sorry, I thought I wasn't in Singapore anymore. Besides, at least I was better paid in Singapore and the students were so well-behaved!

Here a poem by David Eggleton.

Image: Auckland University Press.

Friday, August 01, 2008


I am Damo Suzuki. The Fall.

Bleaching Sun. The Phoenix Foundation.

Always be Round. Bill Direen

That's When I Reach for my Revolver. MIssion of Burma.

Rita Dove.