Tuesday, April 28, 2009

August Readings

Palmerston North library: it didn't look like this in 1984.

The holidays are over, alas, and now I'm back at work. I do use the holidays to write and I started a couple of new poems which I'm leaving to sit for a while.

On Wednesday August 5th I'll be reading in Palmerston North at the public library for 20 mins-half and hour. I'm grateful to be given this opportunity to read in Palmerston North as part of the 'Stand up Poetry' series which has also featured readings by Sean Monaghan, Hinemoana Baker, and Joy Green. I lived in Palmy for two years in the mid 80s writing my M.A. thesis on literary theory. I worked hard in a small flat and there was nothing much else to do in Palmerston North then than study and work at my part-time jobs: I knocked on people's doors asking market research questions and home tutored a couple of high school students. Oh, and I did extramural marking for Massey. I also remember volunteering to do some English Language tutoring for a Cambodian refugee. It was a simpler, pre-digital age and besides I was still in my 20s. I used to bike everywhere . . . no car and I hadn't even got my license then.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, the reading. I'll be reading mainly from Moonshot but I'll also read some new poems. It should be fun.

Image source: Day Out NZ

Poem for today: Rainer Maria Rilke: Duino Elegies. The First Elegy.

Monday, April 20, 2009

J.G. Ballard


Lying in bed this morning, listening to my transistor, I heard that J.G.Ballard had died. Ballard had been terminally ill with cancer for quiet a while so his death was expected, although still ( I am grasping for the right word here, Shocking? Unsettling? Saddening?) Ballard was in many ways a sort of English Bill Burroughs--without the heroin and crazed hallucinations. Both writers redefined science fiction and both owed certain allegiances to surrealism. Ballard was primarily a creator of surrealist landscapes as landscape and geography lie at the centre of his writing--plot and characters are nearly always incidental.

My first memory of J.G. Ballard was back in 1975 in England when there was a short piece on a BBC book programme on TV about Crash. Ballard took us to the site of the crash and explained at length how the crash had affected him. I didn't read the book for many years (just before the slightly ridiculous Cronenberg film) instead reading in the 70s The Drought and The Wind from Nowhere. Even to a teenager these are obviously variations of the same book and I'm pleased that I was a canny enough reader back then to notice that there was a more than a touch of World War II in these novels. (Plot: It stops raining and things get bad. Plot: It get windy and things get bad.)

In 1979, two books by Ballard captured my imagination: High Rise and Concrete Island. I read both novels two of three times. These novels are an education in how to look at urban landscapes. (Plot: Massive high rise apartment block reverts to barbarism. Plot: Man crashes on motorway concrete island and cannot escape). After concrete island I started to look at motorways quite differently: I started to appreciate them in a new way, the lines they form on a landscape, the swoosh of cars racing past (so many stories, so many strangers passing, so many destinations,) the threat of collision, the cinematic quality of the road. Around our towns and cities there are other strange spaces that we never clearly see. In my last visit to London about five years ago I found myself looking at construction sites, abandoned warehouses, airport terminals and thinking about Ballard. By that time I'd read a great deal of his work (the re:search edition of The Atrocity Exhibition remains a favourite).

I hope that some of the obits being written mention Ballard's importance to the arts. There's more than a touch of pop art and surrealism in Ballard's depiction of women. There are, in sense, no women in Ballard's work that are not 'male fantasies'; so as a reader you are directly confronted with that fantasy--everywhere within the culture around you--and Ballard then turns and twists this fantasy. But then it's all a fantasy. Ballard has a pornographer's imagination although this imagination is bizarrely populated with crashed cars, bombers submerged in a beach, topless young wives fighting feral dalmatians, extreme close-ups of bothced rhinoplasty operations, etc. all described with an obsessive eye for detail. Ballard's influence on music must be noted: both Joy Division and the Comsat Angels (named after a Ballard story) acknowledged him although his greatest influence was on the 1990s band Suede. ('Picnic By the Motorway', 'High-Rise' and the cover and title of 'Sci-Fi Lullabies' all are Ballardesque).

In 1996 I wrote 'Abandoned car--to J.G.Ballard.' This was an experimental piece, part prose poetry, part theory, written to accompany a series of photographs taken by Peter Beverstock of abandoned cars on Wellington's southern coast. The work was published online and mentioned on a J.G. Ballard newsgroup. The work was later translated into Japanese by Yokoyama Ryo and published with some of Peter's stunning photographs in the University of Tokyo journal Ten Plus One. Abandoned Car has never been published in print in English. I like to think that Ballard read my homage to him. This week I've been writing a poem about skateboarders in the Lombard parking building--and it's all Ballard's fault, really. Thank you J.G. Ballard.

Image source: Guardian blogs.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Renee Liang

Renée Liang has asked poets to send in couplets to be written on tiny lanterns and installed in the pit bar at BATS Theatre during the Wellington season (21 April – 2 May) of her play Lantern. Couplets can be emailed to Renee Liang , dropped off at BATS, or added as a posting to the NZ Poetry Society’s Facebook page. I penned this for a lantern:


A small hand clasps the paw

of a torn-eared bear.

So look for the poem when you sip your coffee in the bar before the show. This week I've spent a bit more time online than usual and some sites have caught my eye: Fun Trivia is good fun (though some quizzes are quite hard),and NZ History Online's a great site, I've also found Meliors Simms' blog and this week Helen Rickerby launched Jaam's new website. Reading the Guardian I found out that T.S Eliot wrote a rejection letter to George Orwell expressing regret that Animal Farm wasn't up to scratch.
There are also two poetry events coming up:

Clare Kirwan

From the national coordinator of the New Zealand Poetry Society:
This month's Guest Poet is Clare Kirwan, a performance poet from Liverpool. Clare is on her first World Tour, which she has named Dead Good Down Under, a reference to her membership of Liverpool's Dead Good Poets' Society. She is a comedian as well as a poet, and this looks to be a great evening.

"Welcome to a world where silence speaks many languages, bones grow in gardens, and the birdsong is only in your head. A world where all things are made of glass but breakages need not be paid for, where moments are crystallized: the lollipop man murdered, the iron statue running for it, and your mum planning world domination."

Clare is doing other gigs while she's in the country. Last month she did Poetry Live in Auckland, and later this month she appears in Thames. She spent Easter in Christchurch, so she's not far away, and has promised me she won't lose her voice to a bungy jump.

See you on Monday 20th April, 7.30pm (for open mic) at the Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St.

Image source: Deadgoodpoetssociety.

And this in from Gill Ward & Linzy:

Sunday 26 April Lembas Café 4-6 pm

34 Poplar Ave Raumati

Jenny Bornholdt and Gregory O'Brien. The reading starts with Open Mike.

Try and choose a shortish poem for the open mic as we have a double bill to follow.

In 2005 Jenny was the 5th Te Mata Estate NZ Poet Laureate, she was a Menton Scholar, and has published at least seven books and edited collections with Greg O'Brien. Gregory O'Brien has written and painted full time since 1984. Has held a Sargeson Fellowship and was writing fellow at Victoria University in 1995.He has published (I think) 8 books of poetry and several books about NZ Art including the wonderful Welcome to the South Seas introducing art to children and A Nest of Singing birds about New Zealand School Journal cover art. Just out is Back and Beyond:Nz Painting for the Young and Curious.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Voyagers/Albatross 20/Best NZ Poems 2008

Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand edited by Tim Jones and Mark Pirie and published by Interactive Publishers will be available from June 1st. My poem 'Nanosphere' is included in the very diverse anthology. The publishers, Interactive Publications Ltd (IP) of Brisbane, have now put up both a mini-site and an orders page for the book: The IP mini-site is at: http://ipoz.biz/Titles/Voy.htm The IP Orders page is: http://ipoz.biz/Store/orders.htm

I'd like to see some many more anthologies of these kinds: NZ Fantasy Poetry, Gothic Poetry, Post-Punk Poetry . . . these categories could be used to produce some interesting anthologies.

Roger Desy

My poem (post-punk?) Corporate Identity appears in Albatross 20. This edition of Albatross, edited and published by Richard Smyth, includes a fantastic line-up of poetry by Lyn Stefenhagens, LisaMarie Brodsky, Joan Colby, Roger Desy, Melissa Holm, William Keener, Linda King, Mitch LesCarbeau, Michael S. Lewis-Beck, Paula Sanders McCarron, W. Dale Nelson, Sherry O'Keefe, Tom Sexton, Michael Shorb, Kim Triedman and Fredrick Zydeck. Albatross is available in both print and PDF format (just clink on the cover). Thank you, Richard!

Image source: Tom Kootz over at Barnwood.

Best New Zealand Poems 2008 has just been published online. There's a great diversity of poems from Hinemoana Baker, Emma Barnes, Amy Brown, Bernadette Hall, Sam Hunt, Emma Neale, Richard Reeve, Tim Upperton, Sam Sampson, Richard von Sturmer, Tom Weston and many others worthy of mention. James Brown writes an insightful introduction explaining his choices and giving his view of the current state of NZ poetry.

This week I finished a brief article for the New Zealand Poetry Society magazine on poetry in schools and then came down with a nasty 48 hour bug which now seems to be shifting.

Finally, A Hell on Earth , Pico Iyer's piece on Tibet in the New York Times Review of Books.

The article ends: "Two days later, however, as he was addressing the journalists in Tokyo's Foreign Correspondents' Club, another Tibetan man was imprisoned, for five years, according to Human Rights Watch. His crime? Daring to tell relatives abroad about what is happening inside Tibet."