Monthly Archives: May 2017

Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day celebrate 20 years with diverse poetry collection

Twenty established poets have picked a poet each in this celebration. Will post links to poems over the next few months. It’s a great project, and I’m delighted to be part of it. My pick is Simone Kaho.


To mark the 20th anniversary of Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day (NPD), 20 leading Kiwi poets were asked to select one of their own poems, something they felt spoke to New Zealanders now. They also chose a poem by an emerging poet, writers they feel make essential reading for us in 2017.

The result is the 20/20 Collection – 40 poems by New Zealand poets who represent the diversity and vibrancy of talent in our contemporary national literature. The list includes Poet Laureates, Ockham New Zealand Book Awards winners, and strong new voices from recent collections and anthologies.

NPD has been running continuously since 1997 and is always celebrated on the last Friday in August. Poetry enthusiasts from all over New Zealand organise a feast of events – from poetry slams to flash and pop-up events – in venues that include schools, libraries, bars, galleries, surf clubs, and parks. This year’s NPD will be held on Friday 25 August.

Launched today, the 20/20 Collection will be published in groups of ten poems between now and NPD. Featured poets are: Jenny Bornholdt and her pick, Ish Doney; Paula Green and Simone Kaho; Vincent O’Sullivan and Lynley Edmeade; Apirana Taylor and Kiri Piahana Wong; Alison Wong and Chris Tse; Tusiata Avia and Teresia Teaiwa; Kevin Ireland and Gregory Kan; Diana Bridge and John Dennison; Andrew Johnston and Bill Nelson; Michael Harlow and Paul Schimmel; C.K. Stead and Johanna Emeney; David Eggleton and Leilani Tamu; Elizabeth Smither and Rob Hack; Richard Reeve and Michael Steven; Robert Sullivan and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku; Bill Manhire and Louise Wallace; Selina Tusitala Marsh and Reihana Robinson; Cilla McQueen and David Holmes; James Norcliffe and Marisa Capetta; and Brian Turner and Jillian Sullivan.

Paula Morris, NPD spokesperson for the New Zealand Book Awards Trust, said that she was “excited to see the range of voices selected here, and the ethnic and geographic diversity in the poets chosen by our twenty established writers. This list speaks to a ‘new’ New Zealand literature, and reflects how much our culture is changing and growing.

Many of the poets featured in the 20/20 Collection will take part in events on 25 August, Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day 2017. Event organisers are encouraged to register their poetry event online as soon as possible: http://www.nzbookawards.nz/national-poetry-day/how-to-register-your-event/

Now into their second year of naming rights sponsorship of National Poetry Day, Phantom Billstickers will support NPD and 20/20 on the ground, online and in print, with funky billstickers that celebrate our nation’s poets. Business Development Manager Kelly Wilson says, “If given a platform, poetry speaks to people. We are very proud at Phantom to support National Poetry Day and provide platforms all around the country for the poetic voice of New Zealand.”

Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day is proudly administered by the New Zealand Book Awards Trust.

Poetry Shelf Autumn Season: Poets pick a word – Anna Jackson picks vinegar

I could have chosen any of these words – there is a lot to say for velocity in a poem for instance – but I have just read Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl so I am choosing vinegar.  Vinegar Girl is a reworking of the story of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew – a play I have always liked.  Anne Tyler has the heroine, Kate, courted by her father’s research assistant, Pyotr, for visa reasons, and the title comes from his perplexity over the proverb she uses in an argument with him: you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.  But why would you want to catch flies, he wonders.  Actually what I liked about the book was how sweet it was – I am still buzzing about it – but I think there is a place for sharpness in poetry.  To move from flies to fleas, Donne’s flea poem makes a witty courtship poem because of his acerbic disparagement of the conventional pieties of the girl he is courting – and because he includes in the poem her equally quick disparagement of his self-serving arguments with her squashing of his flea.  I like a certain acerbity in a poem, a sharp-sighted view of the world, that I find in the poetry of Helen Rickerby for example, with her historical portraits in My Iron Spine that are somehow unsparing and sympathetic at the same time, or in the poetry of Anne Kennedy, with the attention she pays to the gaps between what we say and what we think, how we say things and what we mean (perhaps not quite the gap we think), what we begin to say and the revisions we make.  And in Janet Charman’s writing, too, I find the same unsparing sympathy, the same rather unnerving attention to the way language works to express and betray us, and the same resistance I find in both Helen Rickerby’s work and Anne Kennedy’s to the way women’s lives have been told in stories that are not the stories we might want to tell if we were the ones telling them – and we are.

©Anna Jackson 2017

 

Anna Jackson lives in Island Bay, Wellington, lectures at Victoria University, and has published six collections of poetry, most recently I, Clodia (AUP, 2014).  With Helen Rickerby and Angelina Sbroma she quite often runs conferences and other events for talking and thinking about writing, this year a conference on Poetry and the Essay.

further unsettled thoughts on the Old Guard @AWF17 after reading two reviews

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‘Hera did not get a chance to read another poem (until I invited her to do so in question time) or to talk about the way her book offers so much more to the reader. The quirkiness, the sharp surreal detail, the blurred borders, the fluency, the sense of confession that may be grainy truth mixed with grainy lies. The exuberant joy in language. The electric switches and dovetails as the poem moves.’ PG

I wrote a short piece on The Old Guard New Gard event at AWF17 because for whatever reason Andrew Johnston did not give equal airspace to Hera Lindsay Bird. He had a conversation with Bill Manhire that roamed wider and deeper. I filled several notebook pages with thoughts to return to.

 

What has intrigued and unsettled me is the way some people are still immune to the fact a woman is given less talk-space in a public forum.

 

David Larsen sung the session’s praises but made no mention of the lopsided allocation of time; the simple fact Andrew invited Bill to read two poems (one longish) and Hera one felt wrong. Unlike David, I do not think there was a deep and wide ranging engagement with what Hera’s poetry is doing. From her mouth. By hearing her poems.

It felt like David was at another session: ‘They’re an uneven pair, in that Manhire has vastly more past to talk about, and all of it’s so interesting that the session could easily have edged into being MANHIRE! (…and Bird.) Johnston didn’t let that happen’

This statement almost implies the New Guard, with less life and writing experience, has less to talk about. I don’t think it works like that. And it did happen.

David also wrote: ‘Bird talked more than he did about the specific character of her work, and also about its reception and what the experience of sudden fame has been like.’

Again I felt the conversation was limited and did not expose the variety of things Hera’s debut collection is doing.

 

Briar Lawry’s review on The Booksellers site also remains blind to the partial eclipse of Hera but catches the conversation flow.

 

I do not know why the sideline happened, and I do not think it was deliberate, but I am drawing attention to it because it seemed like a replay of the Old Guard of New Zealand poetry where men ruled the poetry roost and women’s voices were sidelined, and even worse, denigrated, devalued and not given prominent visibility in the fledgling canon. And that felt like such an irony.

I have experienced several examples of being sidelined by a male poet in a public forum but I was not and am still not prepared to hang out personal anecdotes. However I am prepared to challenge or highlight ways in which women are disadvantaged by men in our literary landscapes.

Poetry Shelf Autumn Season: Chris Tse picks mother

 

 

Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida is a personal meditation on the nature of photography. In the first half of the book, he uses photographs from well-known photographers as case studies on how the meaning or “worth” of a photograph can differ from person to person. The second half untangles his response to a photograph of his mother as a child. Though he describes and considers the photograph in detail, notably the way in which it has shaped his understanding of photography, he writes: “I cannot reproduce [the photograph]. For you, it would be nothing but an indifferent picture, one of a thousand manifestations of the ‘ordinary’; it cannot constitute the visible object of a science; it cannot establish an objectivity, in the positive sense of the term; at most it would interest your studium: period, clothes, photogeny; but in it, for you, no wound.”

The ‘wound’ he refers to is a photograph’s punctum: a detail “which attracts or distresses [the viewer]”. Since reading Barthes’ book, I’ve been pondering the possible application of studium and punctum to the reading of poetry. There can be details in a poem that stand out to us as mere documentary or social intrigue ­– and then there are the details, lines and images that wound us and draw us in far deeper than we are sometimes willing to go. As readers we will be drawn to different aspects of a poem, but what I love about poetry – much like photography and most other art – is how it can meld historical facts and context with personal viewpoints and unexpected imagery.

I was particularly interested in Barthes’ assumption that his reader would be “indifferent” to this photograph, and as such chose to withhold it from us, claiming some sort of “ownership”. At first, I thought this was disingenuous of Barthes. This means we cannot make a call ourselves and determine whether his assertion is objectively true. He has told us but not shown us, and I felt slighted by his withholding of an integral part of his examination of photography.

This got me thinking about whether or not anyone can determine who a poem might be “for”. When we write a poem, do we cast our poems into the world knowing (hoping) that they will find their way to a very specific reader that we had in mind when we wrote them? I’ve written many poems about my family; in some ways they are also “for” my family – a record, an acknowledgement, a bridge. Despite that, my mum has said that she doesn’t understand some of these poems, even though they’re based on stories she told me about her childhood and she and her siblings appear in them! I’m surprised when people share their (sometimes intimate) responses to these poems. They’re often not the type of reader I imagine reading my poems, so it pleases me that such personal, reflective poems can move others.

On the flipside, I also wonder what sort of poetry is out there “for” me. I enjoy reading a broad range of poets, but I’d be reticent to say I’m the sort of reader these poets were hoping to attract. I like to picture poems and readers as particles floating out in the ether, waiting for a slight nudge or stroke of chance to bring them together. Nothing is ever made for everyone, though reading the vitriolic comments hurled at writers, musicians, filmmakers, artists etc on the internet would have you believing otherwise.

 

©Chris Tse 2017

 

 

Chris Tse is the author of How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes, which was named Best First Book of Poetry at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. His poetry and non-fiction have recently appeared in Mimicry, The Atlanta Review and The Pantograph Punch.

 

 

Press release: Sarah Broom Poetry Awards results

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Wellington poet Hera Lindsay Bird is the winner of the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2017.

Bird is a Wellington-based poet and bookseller whose debut book of poems, the eponymous Hera Lindsay Bird, was published by Victoria University Press in 2016. It has been reprinted many times since, her poems being celebrated for their verbal flamboyance and humour, their ‘playful and exuberant’ qualities (NZ Listener). Bird has an MA in poetry from the International Institute of Modern Letters where she won the 2011 Adam Prize in Creative Writing. Earlier this week, she won the prize for best first book of poetry at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Cliff Fell and Sandi King joined Bird as finalists for the prize at the Sarah Broom Poetry event at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 21 May. Each read work from their prize submissions, introduced by guest judge for 2017, Britain’s Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

Duffy describes the entries for the prize as ‘eclectic and exciting’, and the three shortlisted poets as ‘those who shone brightest in a sparkling year’.

The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize was established to celebrate the life and work of Sarah Broom (1972-2013), author of Tigers at Awhitu and Gleam.  It is now in its fourth year, and we are pleased again to be working together with the Auckland Writers Festival to showcase and celebrate New Zealand poetry.

A few thoughts on the Old Guard and the New Guard #AWF17

 

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Hera Lindsay Bird (winner of Best First Book of Poetry at the Ockham NZ Book Awards and winner of the Sarah Broom Poetry Award 2017)

 

I am currently writing a book on New Zealand women’s poetry which means I have spent the past year exploring the way women have come into their own on the poetry stage.  The Old Guard and the New Guard session featured Hera Lindsay Bird and Bill Manhire  in conversation with chair, Andrew Johnston.  Hera and Bill decided the labels were fluid as indeed they are. I loved that!

I wrote a swag of notes based on Bill’s conversation and readings and scarcely anything on Hera because for some inexplicable reason she was sidelined on stage.  She got to talk about the fizzing international reaction to a couple of her provocative poems and to read one of them (after saying these poems were her least favourites in the book). Bill was invited to read several. Hera did not get a chance to read another poem (until I invited her to do so in question time) or to talk about the way her book offers so much more to the reader. The quirkiness, the sharp surreal detail, the blurred borders, the fluency, the sense of confession that may be grainy truth mixed with grainy lies. The exuberant joy in language. The electric switches and dovetails as the poem moves. It felt like Hera had 20% of talk time but maybe that was not quite accurate. There was scant if not zero engagement with what her poetry is doing beyond the shock factor. The audience would have had difficulty taking away diverse entry points into her poetry after this event.

The session felt like a step back in time where if a woman speaks it is claimed she is dominating.

I don’t know why this happened but in my view there is no excuse because it appeared to be downright sexist. There are of course countless other possible reasons. Gender issues aside – panelists need equal time in the spotlight and a wide-ranging engagement with what they do.

I loved what Bill had to say and I plan on sharing that at a later date.