Saturday, July 25, 2009

Voyagers Reading

The next Wellington meeting of the NZ Poetry Society features poets reading from Voyagers. I'll be reading my poem 'Nanosphere' and probably another selection from the anthology. Voyagers has received good publicity; it's been mentioned in a few national dailies, a weekend paper's giveaway magazine, and has had a couple of mention of the good old National Programme (always a good, steady, reliable supporter of poetry).

Monday 17 August, 7.30pm
The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St

The meeting will open, as always, with an open mic. Guest poets: Contributors to Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand. Entry: $2. Sponsor: Creative Communities / Wellington City Council.

We now have a new poet laureate, Cilla McQueen. I think that she'll be a good poet laureate; she's written a good solid body of work and one of her books, Antigravity, made a very strong impression on me in the 80s( I read it quite a few times). Antigravity has minimal punctuation and is very high energy--given how so many New Zealand poets, myself included, have found ourselves writing about science Antigravity was very prescient (hey, it has a SF title, proof enough that Cilla has been thinking outside the box for many years). I love that book. And then her poem 'Doggywobble'; that's a riot of a poem. Just magic.

I was at the National Library when she was announced poet laureate. Good snacks! I met up with a few poetry people, ah, but I'm not going to name drop. I thought there was a relaxed atmosphere at the gathering.

There's more on Cilla at the New Zealand Literature File and at the New Zealand Book Council.

National Poetry Day has been and gone. I didn't really plan for the day and so ended up doing a small improvised poetry reading at school. It was a bit of 'one man band' show really. There's was a small turnout and I sold a few Moonshots (shift that product!) but next year I'll be more organized and try to have the students read poetry and get a spread of NZ poems ready for the day. Still, we did something and a few students said that they liked it afterwards. I didn't keep them too long and you never know if any of them will catch the poetry bug and start enjoying it. Enjoyment is the point of the day. I needed a warm-up before the Palmerston North reading on the 5th anyway.

It's not confirmed but I should be visiting a school soon up on the Kapiti coast to talk with some of their students keen on creative writing. I'm also attending a workshop run by Bill Manhire at the end of the month devised for secondary school teachers and I'm looking forward to developing more activities to encourage young writers.

I'm not going to say too much about the Montana Book Awards. Truth is I'm a little frustarted with them and it's not sour grapes. As many others have noted, they are dominated by University Presses. I've lost a bit of confidence in the Montanas and I'm beginning to feel that we need some other kind of award or at least some fairer selection process. This is no disrespect to the winner, Jenny Bornholdt. It's just that the judges must start to realise that there are other presses out there publishing. Don't get me wrong, if a University Press wanted to publish 'Flies and Gods' (work in progress) then I'd jump at the chance. The University Presses have the resources and will to actively promote their own books. So University Presses are vital to poetry in New Zealand and I'm grateful for that . . . keep on publishing guys. . . but we do need a wider selection of judges on the panels at the very least. Did I say I wasn't going to say much about the Montanas? I'm getting off my soapbox now.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

minuit 4

I'm a yellow, you're a green; only the blues and reds between. I'm a turquoise and you're a pink; together we'll star in our own kitchen sinc. Find me before I get to old. Find me before I just do what I'm told.

And off to the shops I'll skip tomorrow!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

minuit 3

Falling north over Zanzibar in a plane like a midnight star. Will you, will you, take our call? See we're not so European after all. The name on the map is not my home. The forex dealer's Masurati was bought in Rome.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The rival/Lynn Davidson reading

I've just heard today that poetry editor Amy Brown has accepted my long poem 'The rival' for publication in The Lumière Reader. The poem's part of my new work (provisionally entitled 'Flies and Gods') and includes the phrase 'in order for the flows to escape' (a phrase which appears in Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus) which may yet be the name of the one of the sections of the new book. I don't know why but this phrase has stuck in my mind since I tried to read the book. (I'm not even sure I ever finished it). I'll probably read 'The rival' now at the Palmerston North reading next month. I'm pleased that Amy's accepted this as the poem focuses on the design industry and I really wanted a design-orientated publiation such as The Lumière Reader to showcase it.

And coming up next week--

New Zeland Poetry Society
Monday 20 July, 7.30pm
The Thistle Inn, 3 Mulgrave St

This month's guest poet is Lynn Davidson (Kapiti), who will be reading from her new poetry collection, How to live by the sea. The meeting will open, as always, with an open mic. Entry: $2.

Lynn Davidson’s fiction and poetry has appeared in journals and her short fiction has been broadcast on national radio. Davidson has received several grants and fellowships to develop her work, including the 2003 Louis Johnson New Writers' Bursary from Creative New Zealand. She has published collections of poetry, and her novel Ghost Net was released in 2003. Davidson also works as an educator and tutors short fiction and poetry both online and in the classroom.

On Wednesday night, the next Poet Laureate will be announced at The National Library. I'm not sure who the nominees are but if Richard von Sturmer is nominated and wins then I'll be happy.

Poem for today:

Ritual for a new year. Lynn Davidson

Monday, July 13, 2009

minuit 2

100s and 1000s of flavours make a world. One flavour, two flavours, three flavours, four: Minuit drop flavour packets on the floor. A tasty world. Will you take the risk?

Minuit 1

There's a part of me which never stops being a fan.
So I'm waiting for the new Minuit CD to come out.

I'm full of great expectations.
Nice type.
Good images.
You take one little bit then another different little bit then another little bit and you arrange them so they form a pattern.

It's a bead; no, it's a rice crispy. No, no, it's styrofoam. It's very light. Natural's not in it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Montana Poetry Day Poems

At 2.30 tomorrow (Sunday) National Radio will be talking about SF with Tim Jones, Helen Lowe and Russell Kirkpatrick, and publisher Lorain Day from Harper Collins.

Now this--

Montana Poetry Day poems on NZ Publishers' websites

To celebrate Montana Poetry Day 2009, Friday 24th July, a number of local poetry publishers, including Victoria University Press, Canterbury University Press, Mallinson Rendel, Huia Books and Seraph Press have placed a favourite poem on their website. MPD poems on websites include:

Break Up Poem by Charlotte Simmonds on the Victoria University Press website - visit:
Waking the taniwha by Karlo Mila on the Huia Books website - visit:
Wild Daisies by Bub Bridger on the Mallinson Rendel website - visit:
The Grey Ones by David Gregory on the Canterbury University Press website - visit:
Biograph by Scott Kendrick on the Seraph Press website - visit:

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

A House on Fire/Our Favourite Poems

Tim Upperton will launch A House on Fire, his debut book of poems published by Steele Roberts, on July 24, National Poetry Day, at the Palmerston North public library at 7PM.

Four Bananas in the 2008 edition of Best New Zealand Poems is an indication of what's in store for us in 'A House on Fire' then it's very fitting that his launch is on National Poetry Day as this looks like a major poetry event in NZ. Tim's also a good editor. A good editor, in my view, isn't necesarily someone who publishes all your work (though, of course, we love all those who do) but is someone who makes a speedy decision and who provides clear comments on your submission. Beware the black hole editor to whom information can go in but no information can ever escape and especially beware of the rare and highly dangerous editor who actually solicits a submission from you, sits on it for eighteen months or so, and then finally rejects it without comment. (This actually happened to me, just when I had returned to writing.)

We stopped by Te Papa on Monday and my son Taran took me up to the art gallery to look at John Reynolds' work of 7000 or so painted words from the Dictionary of New Zealand English called Cloud. You look up into a haze of local words and think of all those who have spoken them and old teachers like Harry Orsman (a lovely man who taught me Middle English) who collected them and pinned them in the dictionary so John Reynolds could release them like little white helium-filled balloons.

Image source: Craig Potton.

Due to a technical glitch, my review of Our Favourite Poems: New Zealanders choose their favourite poems didn't make it into the electronic edition of A Fine Line. Here's the full review:

Our Favourite Poems: New Zealanders choose their favourite poems.
Introduction by Iain Sharp.
Craig Potton Publishing. $24.99

In 1995, the British television programme The Bookwork asked viewers to name their favourite poem and was inundated with thousands of replies. When the cloud of postcards and emails settled The Bookwork collated the results and an anthology of the top one hundred poems called The Nation’s Favourite Poems was published. Back in July 2007 Craig Potton Publishing decided to publish a similar anthology and asked the public through the Sunday Star-Times to name their favourite poem. The result is Our Favourite Poems.

I know some poets are tired of the current enthusiasm for anthologies. They worry that the single volume of work is falling out of favour with the reading public as the anthology gains ascendancy. Just look at the market: there are anthologies about death, pets, parenting, Auckland, Wellington, Antarctica and even a Science Fiction poetry anthology. But I like anthologies: they make good gifts, reach a new readership, and make lesser demands on the reader. An anthology, especially an anthology focused on a genre or theme, can allow the reader to see the numerous possibilities presented by a particular subject. Andrew Johnston’s excellent anthology Moonlight delivers great pleasure from thorough reading, as does Mark Pirie and Tim Jones’ recent Voyagers: Science Fiction poetry from New Zealand.

What can be learnt from reading Our Favourite Poems carefully, as opposed to just dipping in? Iain Sharp’s introduction tries to tease out any lessons. New Zealanders when compared to their British counterparts like a number of North American writers: Edgar Allan Poe, Robert Frost, Harry Wadsworth Longfellow, Maya Angelou, Billy Collins, e.e. cummings and Emily Dickinson make our top 100 countdown. Twenty-five of the poems are by New Zealanders including great poems by James K. Baxter, Bill Manhire, Denis Glover, Margaret Mahy and Hone Tuwhare’s ‘Rain’ which comes in at number 1. There are five local entries in the top ten. Sharp rightly acknowledges that despite the dominance of open form, rhyme and rhythm are still vital components of many popular poems.

One lesson I took from the selection was the power of childhood exposure to poetry in forming our sensibilities—teachers still play a role in shaping the nation’s tastes. I like the nonsense and light verse in the anthology: Margaret Mahy, Spike Milligan, Roger McGough are all great fun and while I can almost appreciate the naive charm of Pam Ayres’ ‘Oh, I wished I’d looked after me teeth’ I wish that some of Tusiata Avia’s poems had kicked Pam out of the charts (if more teachers taught ‘My Dog’ then her place would be rightly secured). Some poets are conspicuously absent: I’m surprised that Sylvia Plath’s gothic sensibilities didn’t make it or that Wallace Stevens’ blackbirds and William Carlos Williams’ red wheelbarrow and chilled plums are nowhere to be found.
Have we had enough of anthologies? I’ve been thinking about how great it would be to have an anthology of New Zealand Horror/Gothic poems, so obviously I haven’t had my fill. At present, the International Institute of Modern Letters publish an online collection of Best New Zealand Poems—what about a ‘Reader’s Choice’ poetry award for New Zealand poems? Could a push for more local poetry perhaps encourage The Listener to go back to publishing a poem every week? We can only hope.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Albatross 20

The print copy of Albatross 20 arrived in the post this week. 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 looking for new poets and if you're an artist working in ink then Albatross welcomes submissions for cover art. Albatross is now a Facebook group and you can join by searching Facebook for Albatross Poetry Group.

I wonder if Facebook is the new Blogger. My blog is now more focussed than ever before on my writing. It's never been much of a chatty blog. Facebook reminds me of a personalised Usenet group (for verily, I was online BTW: Before the Web) only unlike Usenet the community is a community of people you've mainly had some contact with IRL. Facebook for me now is a little like a newsletter bulletin written by my friends. I come home, log on, and see what's been happening--this is very similar to how I was reading blogs anyway, only blogs have a more stable, journal quality. I'm blogging less but on Facebook everyday and I'm happy with this balance. The new writing seems to require even more time.

Obviously, I'm still blogging and reading blogs. This week I came across Denis Welch's blog for the first time.

The holidays begin soon and I want to try my hand at writing a short drama. I saw an abridged production of Vivienne's Plumb's The Cape at school and was very moved and impressed by the performance and the script. I have a copy of the play and it's essential holiday reading for me. One more day and then I get to sleep in!

Image source: Playpress.