Monthly Archives: November 2017

Vaughan Rapatahana’s Ternion: I love this generous embrace

 

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Ternion Vaughan Rapatahana (Liverpool: erbacce-press, 2017)

 

 

Vaughan Rapatahana travels and lives in three distinctive places:  Aotearoa, the Philipines and Hong Kong. His poetry reflects an impulse to travel because the linguistic movement, whether aural or visual, is paramount. Words dart, dash, stretch, stutter, link, break down, break apart. There is vertical uplift and downward slants. Such linguistic playfulness is not simply a matter of exercising the dimensions and possibilities of language; each poem travels with a movement of heart and mind.

 

There is the hiccup of letters and words in ‘my father’s death’, a poem that faces the hard-to-say in fits and starts. Physical detail anchors the experience:

 

only

the young oldest son

there to witness

his shrivelled size,

the estranged demise

-astray the slim single bed

 

The diverse subject matter embraces the movement of a global traveller, with several languages sharpening the line, hooking place and experience, opinion and identity. He rails against the weakness of English (‘railing against’). He rages against blinkered if not blind identity views: ‘why/ are  we/ mis interpreted/ all the time?’ (‘I carry a rage’).

The detail is pungent and thick on the line – especially when place is at the poem’s core:

 

hong kong, you old bastard;

your flabbergasted lips

basting the back alleys

in jisms of sputum,

disabling sophomore solons

garbled in yellow

under colourless sun.

 

from ‘hong kong town, 2015’

 

What I love about Vaughan’s poetry are the multiple jigs: the way death brushes against life, humour touches against sharp-as-axe political edges, confession corrupts reticence. Poetry is a way of cooking up a brew that resists boundaries, rules, decorum, models. I especially like the scene at the fence where poetry is the topic pf conversation:

 

‘Smells good,

you cookin’ up another one

of those bloody poems of your’s mate?;

offered my gap-toothed neighbour,

through the interrupted picket fence.

 

‘reckon,’ I said, stirring up

a bit of everything on the page,

so to speak.

 

from ‘boil up’

 

The neighbour hopes the poem hasn’t got any of ‘those clever-dick tricks’ when he wants ‘plenty of/ good old carrot & onion words’. I love this poem. On the one hand, Vaughan is responding to the age-old incomprehension at what a poet does, but it also gets right down to the guts of how he brews a poem. There are clever, tricky acrobatics on and off the line that signal intellectual engagements with the world, but there is also a Hone-Tuwhare-like cheek and an absorption of an everyday physical world. We might get ‘cacophonous condiments’ along with ‘a little watercress    on the side’ and a good stir of Te Reo.

Murray Edmond claims the collection as ‘a rich feast’ on the back cover and I agree. The poems spark in myriad directions that touch mind and heart, and I can think of few local examples that are so linguistically and creatively fluid.

 

Postscript: Vaughan’s must-read poem for Tusiata Avia and Fale Aitu / Spirit House resonated so deeply I felt like crying. A poem like this underlines the way we write within poetry communities, not in estranging isolation, but in arm-to-arm states of poetry and human connection. I love that. I love this generous embrace.

 

manuia Tusiata, manuia

this is the best body of poetry

 

I’ve hugged for years.

 

from ‘fa’afetai Tusiata’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final episode of Poem on a Madrid Terrace

‘It appears the cold weather has finally arrived in Madrid after an extended summer… Anna Borrie and I read ‘You’ by C.K. Stead in the final episode of ‘Poem on the Terrace – New Zealand Poets’, where we introduce kiwi poets to a Spanish-speaking audience.’

Charles Olsen

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Listen here

Congratulations to Alice Glenny; winner of the Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award

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Kāpiti poet Alison Glenny has won the 2017 Kathleen Grattan Award with ‘The Farewell Tourist’, a poetry collection inspired by a visit to Antarctica.

She receives a $10,000 prize and a year’s subscription to Landfall, and Otago University Press will publish her collection in 2018.

Glenny says she wrote an initial draft while completing a postgraduate certificate in Antarctic Studies last summer at the University of Canterbury.

“One of the amazing things about the course is it includes a short residency in Antarctica, and the early parts of the book were written either in the library at Scott Base (the library with the best view in the world!), or in a tent on the Ross Ice Shelf.”

Other influences include the “endless light of the Antarctic summer”, and the writings of explorers from Antarctica’s so-called Heroic Age, and scientific writing about human-driven climate change.

“Are we really willing to resign ourselves to saying farewell to Antarctica’s unique ecosystems? I truly hope not.”

The judge of the 2017 Kathleen Grattan Poetry Award was prize-winning New Zealand poet and fiction writer Bill Manhire who says the collection “pushes against the boundaries of what poetry might be”.

“The Farewell Tourist was the manuscript I wanted to reread most often, each time getting refreshed pleasure from what was already familiar, and also finding new things to enjoy and admire.”

The biennial poetry award from Landfall and the Kathleen Grattan Trust is for an original collection of poems, or one long poem, by a New Zealand or Pacific permanent resident or citizen.

Landfall is published by Otago University Press.

 

About Alison Glenny

Glenny was born in Ōtautahi/Christchurch, and currently live in Paekākāriki, on the Kāpiti Coast. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University Wellington, and a postgraduate certificate in Antarctic Studies from the University of Canterbury.

She has taught creative writing at Whitireia Polytechnic, and published short fiction and creative nonfiction. She currently works in the area of public housing.

Further details here.

Warm congratulations to the Landfall Essay prize winners: Laurence Fearnley and

Landfall Essay Competition winners share prize for radically different topics

Two New Zealand essayists writing on very different topics – life as an army recruit and the power of scent – are joint winners of the 2017 Landfall Essay Competition.

Laurence Fearnley, of Dunedin, and Alie Benge, of Wellington, will share the $3000 cash prize and both will receive a year’s subscription to Landfall.

The judge of the annual award was outgoing Landfall editor David Eggleton.

Of the 64 entries received, the two finalists’ essays proved especially difficult to separate, though their topics and their strategies are very different, he says.

“Alie Benge’s essay, ‘Shitfight’, which is about raw army recruits in Australia being prepared for a theatre of war in the Middle East, has a physicality and dynamic urgency to it that stopped me in my tracks,” says Eggleton.

Whereas he says Laurence Fearnley in her essay ‘Perfume Counter’ makes scents – at once treasurable, resonant, mysterious – synaesthetic emblems of how we perceive the world.

“Her assured and measured writing brings her surroundings alive with sharp, descriptive clarity.”

Their winning entries will be published in Landfall 234, available later this month. Landfall is published by Otago University Press.

There are five shortlisted essays: ‘Gone Swimming’ by Ingrid Horrocks, ‘Reaching Out for Hear’ by Lynley Edmeades, ‘A Box of Bones’ by Sue Wootton, ‘I Wet My Pants’ by Kate Camp and ‘Trackside’ by Mark Houlahan.

For more information about the Landfall Essay Prize and past winners, go to http://www.otago.ac.nz/press/authors/awards/otago065482.html

The winners

Alie Benge is a writer and copy-editor living in Wellington. She has previously been published in Headland and has work coming out in Takehē and Geometry. She is working on a novel inspired by her childhood in Ethiopia.

Laurence Fearnley lives in Dunedin. In 2016 she was the recipient of the Janet Frame Memorial Award and the NZSA Auckland Museum Grant and she is currently researching and writing a book of essays and stories based on landscape and scent. For the past year she has also been co-editing an anthology of New Zealand mountaineering writing with Paul Hersey. This work has been generously funded by the Friends of the Hocken Collections and will include non-fiction, archival material, fiction and poetry and will be published by Otago University Press in 2018.

Laurence has published ten novels and two books of non-fiction, as well as short stories and essays. She was awarded the Artists to Antarctica fellowship and in 2007 the Robert Burns fellowship at the University of Otago.

Two poems from Briar Wood’s Rāwāhi

Diptych

 

We walk the long sea shore to pick

scallop and cockle while she flicks

shells from her pocket

hinged like a locket

where poems appear, like tricks.

 

A child is quoting limericks

while I search the shore for lyrics.

We sort words—rocket,

pacific,  quick, stich.

Jamie loves tongue-twister music.

 

 

Paewai o Te Moana

 

The sea at night is blacklit,

kikorangi, kōura, topazerine, pango,

a haul of images pouring from nets,

darker than oil underground

 

at the edge of Parawhenuamea

rave streams, jostling yachts,

brown iris flags, meadowfoam, puka

 

Tai Timu, Tai Pari, arawhata ki

 

pocket beaches of pebble shell rock

meaning a joining of waka

across the slanted playing field

 

virtual beaches on imaginary roads

where poetry and geometry are almost

compatible, wai weld, creolerie,

 

ocean patter in ngā kupu,

tūātea, ngaru mata, rahopē

 

moana waiwai, karma moana,

beforeglow and sonar,

 

like finding

 

whakaea

 

©Briar Wood, Rāwāhi   Anahera Press, 2017

 

Briar Wood’s poetry collection gathers, with a wide embrace, details of travel and living, and as the lived-in world grows on the page, the poems set up all manner of conversations. This book draws upon whakapapa, love, relations, ecology, the past and the present. Its warmth and its empathy are infectious. I love the way you can take two poems, such as these, and listen to the talk across and beyond their bridges.

Briar grew up in South Auckland and has returned to Northland places where her Te Hikutū ki Hokianga, Ngāpuhi Nui whakapapa resonates with ecological concerns.

 

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Trish Harris’s My Wide White Bed is an astonishing uplift

 

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The Wide White Bed Trish Harris  Landing Press 2017

 

Trish Harris spent eight weeks in the Orthopaedic Ward at Hutt Hospital as people – visitors and patients – came and went about her. Someone brought her a journal and that became both her private room and the subsequent resource for My Wide White Bed.

The poetry is airy, with acute observations, luminous things, and an awareness of community experience rather than a single perspective. It is immensely readable; I gobbled it in a flash, loving the sweetly crafted lines, the wit and the reflection.

The sequence comprises untitled poems that begin with the idea of a ship:

 

The hospital sails

like a tall ship

down the crease of the valley.

I am stabilised

mid-mast

laid out on a wide white bed

head facing east.

 

The book struck such a cord with me because it took me right back into the thick of hospital stays where intimacy thresholds dissolve, discomfort displaces comfort and walls and windows are unsteady.

This is not a bitter grim read but an essential read in the light of the current state of hospital care. The politics are subtle and various:

 

They arrive

as elderly women with

broken bones

strained muscles.

Back home

they are the strong ones

caring for senile husbands

sick sisters

dying mothers.

They come to this place

of illness

for a rest.

 

Trish pulls us into the lives of others as much as she exposes her own story, and that is what elevates the reading experience. Names are changed but the dialogue, the situations and the revelations sound out as vital human truths. This is poetry of connection, of empathetic relations in tough circumstances. Single lines glow:

 

Merle is doing crosswords.

That’s why she buys the newspaper.

At home her husband grows daisies and dementia.

 

The book should be in the drawers beside every hospital bed, and in the gift shop, because the book, like the boat with the wind in its sails, is an astonishing uplift. Plus I recommend placing a journal and pen in bedside drawers, so patients can open up their own privates rooms to write or doodle windows and doors and secret sails.

 

Then again pick up this book for a wet Sunday and savour the rewards. I love it.

 

 

All night long I ease

the white blanket over shoulder

across belly and over hip

dreaming of transformation.

 

In the morning the nurse says

You look like a cocoon.

 

I smile. The covers bulge

with antennae buds and

the scratching of wings.

 

©Trish Harris The Wide White Bed

Trish Harris has a BA of Applied Arts (Creative Writing) from Whitireia New Zealand. She has worked with words – editing, writing, creating and tutoring – for over thirty years. In 2016, Escalator Press publisher her memoir, The Walking Stick Tree. Her poetry has appeared in various journals.

 

 

 

 

Better off Read: Pip Adam talks with Nina Powles

 

 

 

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Episode 51: Pip Adam talks to Nina Powles about her new work LUMINESCENT

Listen here.

‘In this episode I spoke with one of my favourite Wellington poets Nina Powles. I first spent time with Nina around Helen Rickerby’s table where a group of us were hand-binding copies of her first collection Girls of the Drift.

Nina is an outstanding poet, non-fiction writer and zinemaker. She is half Malaysian-Chinese, half Pākehā. Nina has an MA in creative writing from Victoria University of Wellington and won the 2015 Biggs Family Prize for Poetry for the first draft of Luminescent. She is the author of the chapbook Girls of the Drift (Seraph Press, 2014) and several poetry zines.

Nina’s new work Luminescent is an extraordinary work.’

 

Paula: I love this collection so much. Here is my review.

 

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