Monday, April 30, 2012

Rilke's Advice to a Young Poet.

Dennis Hopper reads this so well. More poems here at Tuesday Poem. 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Bye bye Blogger, hello Wordpress?

I'm not a happy Blogger. The interface keeps jumping around. I'm constantly asked if I want to 'update' my template.  I don't. I know HTML and I'd like to be able to tweak my own template.  I just want to open the template, tweak the HTML, and put it back.  That's how we built the Web. Back in the day.  Hey, I was on the Web before XTRA!  I want that basic control--I'm starting to get seriously annoyed by additional complexities. When you update you lose all your modifications; all those scruffy disorganised links which are messy in a way only your garage is messy. I want to control my information. Can I tidy up my room in my own time and in my own way?

So much of this blog is about links. I use the blog to jump to people, organisations, online publications, resources.  It may be a big mess but it's my big mess.  Today I wanted to add a few links but it was not to be. Hurdles and hoops were put in my way. Still,  I was able to 'restore' my blog. Gee, thanks.

I'm thinking of perhaps running a Wordpress site and a blog. Wordpress has nifty menus. Perhaps I could store my links there . . . anyway, I have 'restored' my template.

I know that the grumps will go. I'll create a new blog that mirrors this one and I'll play around a little.  I'll let you know how I get on.  Be warned: save your template.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

But The Wise Perceive Things About To Happen by Cavafy

But The Wise Perceive Things About To Happen

For the gods perceive things in the future, 
ordinary people things in the present, 
but the wise perceive things about to happen.
Philostratos,  Life of Apollonios of Tyana, viii, 7 
Ordinary mortals know what's happening now,
the gods know what the future holds
because they alone are totally enlightened.
Wise men are aware of future things
just about to happen.
Sometimes during moments of intense study
their hearing's troubled: the hidden sound
of things approaching reaches them,
and they listen reverently, while in the street outside
the people hear nothing whatsoever.

Constantine P. Cavafy

I've only just heard of Cavafy this month. You can read more of his poems here.  
More poems here at Tuesday Poem. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Armageddon 2012

I've just spent an enjoyable day with Joker, Alice in Wonderland, Poison Ivy, Adventureland characters and many more entertaining characters over at Armageddon.  I was working as a volunteer for a well-know NZ organisation committed to Environmental and Social Justice issues. I was not actually familiar with all the characters on show although I do play Mass Effects 2!  The totoro suit was amazingI'm not sure how the wearer could endure such heat. People talk about 'geeks' and 'nerds' etcfine, that's all easy copy and I don't mind being called a geek at all.  But there's also a lot of arts and crafts on show: artists showing their cartoons, their jewelry, their make-up skills.  I don't watch a lot of TV but one show I do watch is Project Runway. I think there's something very inventive and fun about making these costumesisn't that what the rugby Sevens is all about?  I did notice a sort of disconnect between major films and some of the cosplay. I didn't see a Katniss or a Pru.
Photo: Kent Blechynden/ FAIRFAX NZ from Stuff.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Pine cones by John Horrocks

Pine cones

After the pines fell and the cones
scattered over the hillside,
my father said we should bag them,
save them for winter fires.

But I, wary of prudence, left
them there, grey and open,
like the boy who forgot
to mow the lawns on Saturday
and knew, somehow,
that some things would not
be fitting, not find their useful place.

This poem talks to me directly. Nothing is wasted. Clarity is key. But the poem also leaves me wondering about 'utility', about what kinds of feelings we have about land and place, about intuitive knowledge. "Prudence", too, reminds me of an old Victorian snakes and ladders game where prudence was a ladder—here it could easily be a snake.

Many thanks to John for this poem.

More poems here at Tuesday Poem.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An interview with John Horrocks

John Horrocks
Photo from Rona Books.

John Horrocks spent much of his childhood at his grandparents’ house at Rotorua. His poems recall the lake at this time — when the water was clear and many of the surrounding hills were covered in bush — and the town itself, with the spa in the Government Gardens in its final years.

John's most recent book is Something in the Waters (2010) is published by Steele Roberts. His previous volume of poems, Raw Places (2006) was based on his experiences as a farmer in the Tararua foothills.

What poetry has influenced your work? Who did you read as child and who inspires you now?

I stumbled across poetry at home when I was around 9 or 10 as we had a copy of the Young Pegasus Anthology. I loved the big narrative Victorian poems such as Southey’s “Abbot of Inchcape Rock” and Newbolt’s “Drake’s Drum”. My favourite was “The Charge of the Light Brigade”. All very unfashionable now. Hard to say who inspires me at the moment. Many poets I like, such as Dylan Thomas, Vincent O’Sullivan, James K Baxter, Lauris Edmond and Wallace Stevens, are not those I’d go to for models. Favourites I return to are Horace, the Greek poet Cavafy and, more recently, Czeslaw Milosz. Perhaps that’s atavistic – they have something of that narrative approach that drew me to poetry in the first place. It says something about the power of good translators that each of these poets writes in a language other than English but is still accessible. I’m very interested in the process of translation and have favourites who are superb translators of poetry– Robert Bly, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Lowell, Heaney.

Your work has a remarkable focus on the local. Raw Places is almost entirely set on your farm in the Tararua foothills; Something in the Waters is an extended mediation on the Rotorua Spa Baths. How did this focus come about?

I do find it easier to build a series of poems around a particular place. I tend to start with a visual image, rather than a pattern of words. Our farm, Te Mara, was very wild and dominated by two hills, Misery and Pleasant. Those names alone were enough to set off a poem. The others were responses not only to how I felt about living there, but the presence of all the others who had been on that piece of land. There are three poems in that collection about our shearing shed, all of which relate to the people who had worked in it or what its timbers said about the trees that had been felled to build it. So I sometimes claim I have a niche position as NZ’s premier shearing-shed poet! The Rotorua poems are rather different, as the spa there became a metaphor for processes of healing and transformation. I also couldn’t resist the weirdness of the electrical equipment in the spa, some of which can still be seen in the Rotorua Museum. And these poems are about water, with the nearby lake always present and prompting some dire thoughts about what has happened to it since I knew it as a child.

‘Something in the Water’ has an extraordinary power. The book reads to me as a single sustained long poem. What was the process of writing this book like for you?

I started writing these poems about fifteen years ago but never tried to get any published, as they don’t stand alone. They do belong in a sequence. Many were related to the historical photos of treatments in the bathhouse and the very first poem grew from how I imagined the relationship between patient and healer in what was called the needle bath, in which the patient stood upright in an apparatus that sprayed him with jets of water. During this project I felt uneasy at times about what seemed a very unpoetic choice of subject but I decided to push it as far as it would go. Because I had started my working life as a psychologist I was interested in this burrowing into oneself and the underground treatment rooms, the nakedness, the heat itself – all worked for me as contexts for the type of perilous journey into the unconsciousness that Jung describes. So I hope all this does not make the poems seem driven by a programme, though at the time I finished the collection I didn’t really care how the poems might be received. I was fortunate that the publisher, Roger Steele, who has strong links himself with Rotorua, spent so much time with me working on the book. The presentation was vital, as it depends as much on the photos and other illustrations as on the poems themselves.

At the same time I was writing a paper on the metaphor of the spa as a “Cureland”, the name once given to Rotorua in much of its publicity material. I presented this at Berkeley in San Francisco last year and it has since been published in a journal, so I suppose this was an unusual genesis for a book of poems, for I was thinking about issues such as the social function of spas, the nineteenth century diagnosis of neurasthenia, placebo effects, gadget quackery, and how the enclosed world of a spa has contemporary descendants such as virtual reality worlds like Second Life.

Ingrid, your daughter, is also a writer. Do you read each other’s drafts?

Rarely. Ingrid was lucky enough to be part of Bill Manhire’s last undergraduate writing course when she was 19, so from early on she had other people mentoring her and looking at her poems. Both her mother , Ginny, and I did read drafts of her book “Travelling with Augusta,” but that was non-fiction. I have a feeling that it’s best to keep some distance from the work of other members of your own family.

Do you have a writing routine or practice?

Wish that were true. What I do find is that it’s difficult to write poetry if you have commitments to write other types of material at the same time. When we were living on a farm that was a surprisingly productive place for writing

I have to ask this question—there’s a catchy song by Brooke Fraser called ‘Something in the Water’. Is this a coincidence?

Yes, a coincidence. It’s quite a well-used, rather corny phrase, redolent of bad jokes and murder mysteries. I may come to regret that as a choice of title.

Do you have a new project that you are working on?

Yes. One is editorial – I’m putting together a collection of writings about the Wairarapa. For the rest, I’m still writing poems and am working on a story set in Wellington during WW1. We live at Day’s Bay and the characters are drawn from Katherine Mansfield’s story “At the Bay” but are older, balder, dead, or involved in crooked business deals. Readers of this blog will have to guess who they might be. There is, of course, a murder as well. It’s quite ambitious and part of the fun is trying to get to the end of the project, successfully or not.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Batman: a Melbourne sonnet by Natasha Dennerstein

Batman: a Melbourne sonnet

The oil in your Tullamarine eucalypts
is highly combustible, Melbourne.
You're a little bit Rome; a Greek
tragedy on a Jewish holiday.

You were built on wool, on gold, on wheat.
Now you're an indigenous,
Vietnamese, Lebanese drag-queen.
I love your stockings, girl,

your two hundred dollar panties
from Jung Brothers on Collins,
the leafy Paris Hilton end.
On the occasional corner, an occasional

whiff of brimstone, of wool, of laksa,
of gold, of wheat, of tabouleh.

Natasha Dennerstein

Natasha Dennerstein was born in Melbourne into a Russian/Polish Australian family and now lives in Wellington. She has spent many years working as a psychiatric nurse.

You can read more of Natasha's poetry here and here.

A big thanks to Natasha whose poem is published here for the first time.

More poems here at Tuesday Poem.

Monday, April 09, 2012

The Last Surrealist

My poem 'The Last Surrealist', which first appeared in Emma Barnes' Enamel, can now be read at Best New Zealand Poems 2011, edited by Bernadette Hall. There's also a sound file of my reading of the poem recorded at the Braeburn Recording Studio.

Best New Zealand Poems is supported by a grant from Creative New Zealand.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

"What Kind of Times Are These" by Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich died earlier this week. It's her asking of "why does it have to be like this?" that I find engaging in her work, her insistence that poetry is important for us as we scramble to foster shared languages that do not shut down, in their naming, the possibilities of a decent life. She was an outstanding, brilliant poet.

There's an obituary by Julie Bindel at the Guardian.

More poems at Tuesday Poem.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Presentation at GiftEDnz

This weekend I attended Giftedness Unfurled, the 2012 conference in Wellington, at the Amora Hotel, of The Professional Association for Gifted Education. The conference was lively, relaxed and invigourating. There is such a diversity of approaches and resources. I'm the Dean of Gifted and Talented Students at my school and so it's important for my work to be able to meet with other teachers in this area. Resourcing is a major concern in this field: there are some who are struggling to find any time or money at all for their work in this area. There are a number of teachers, such as myself, who are given a management unit for their role, have a budget, and fit in their work as Deans around a busy teaching schedule. Finally, there are Deans or Coordinators who have considerable time and budget allocations for their work. There are also a number of GATE
Coordinators (Gifted And TalEnted) who service a number of school, taking children out of classes to offer extension activities. I was reassured that the practices I’ve implemented at my school are in keeping with other models of best practice discussed at the conference.

The presentations were exciting. Jay Sloss’s talk on philosophy in schools—with clips of Peter Singer—was full of ideas and he concluded his talk by giving away 8GB data sticks chocked full of resources. Jay actually teaches philosophy at his school to senior students. His school has had enough vision and creativity to take different parts of the NCEA senior curriculum and put them together so that students can study philosophy and earn the vital credits they need to pursue further studies. Jay also told us that in a few years the MoE will roll out philosophy as an NCEA subject. My experience running a philosophy club at lunchtimes (which I plan to do again later this year) has been very positive. Many students are hungry to grapple with the questions posed by philosophy. I’m certainly interested in trying to develop this area as part of a GATE programme.

Louise Porter also gave a thought-provoking Keynote Address on ‘Conceptually gifted learners.’ I admit to not being familiar with ‘conceptually gifted’ as a category of giftedness before—it’s implications are many as these learners often fall through the cracks in some testing. Pattern recognition abilities may be very high yet language abilities may not be above the norm. Louise also asked us to think about ADHD and ADD and how these fit with giftedness. If I understand Louise correctly, then she wants us to consider how a gifted student, who is able to become so absorbed in a task or activity that they perform at a gifted level, can also be said to also suffer from a attention deficit disorder. How can you be gifted and suffer from an attention deficit? Louise does not deny that attention deficits exist, she just wants us to consider how such a disorder could be selective given that high levels of focus are needed to learn at a gifted level. I’m still trying to consider the full implications of this argument—I know a conference keynote address has been a success when I wake up the next morning and I’m still chewing over what I heard the morning before.

I rarely blog about my work as an educator but I want to end on a final note about teaching and teachers in NZ. My experience is that most teachers and educators in NZ are very passionate about their work and are striving to make a real difference for their students. This applies in all sectors: primary, intermediate and secondary. I worked in business for years before becoming a teacher and my colleagues in design did not share this same level of passion about their work. Teachers want to be paid a decent, fair wage so they can support themselves and their families. Still, it’s the passion that drives them above all else — happy teachers are ones that feels supported in their practice and supported in their ability to make a difference.

Finally, my own presentation on 'How to Grow Poets' went down well with a very friendly, supportive audience. All in all, a wonderful conference.

It's going to be a busy weektomorrow evening I'm attending a three hour workshop at Victoria University Wellington for World Autism day.