Congratulations on your short-list placing!
What poetry books have you read in the past year?
My favourite NZ books in 2017 were Stu Bagby’s Pockets of Warmth (Antediluvian Press) and John Gibb’s Waking by a River of Light (Cold Hub Press). Recent publication of their respective collected poems has sent me back volume by volume through Galway Kinnell and A. R. Ammons, admired late US poets. Also a delight to have Alistair Te Ariki Campbell’s Collected Poems – VUP’s finest ever publication!
What other reading attracts you?
Very interested lately in female North American long-form poets, specifically Rachel Blau du Plessis, Beverly Dahlen, Daphne Marlatt and Eleni Sikelianos. I read a lot of European and Asian fiction in translation. Non-fiction usually includes Victorian and ancient history.
Name some key starting points (or themes) for your collection.
Finding myself unexpectedly between teaching engagements and having to re-think my assumed identity. The New Pacific Studio fellowship in late 2011, when I was encouraged to be creatively selfish. Since then I seem to have established a modus operandi that keeps me writing whatever else is going on.
Did anything surprise you as the poems came into being?
There was a strong awareness that these were some of the poems I had waited a long time to be able to write.
Find up to 5 individual words that pitch your book to a reader.
Right here now and always.
Which poem particularly falls into place for you?
‘Li Bai’ focuses many of the concerns in the book about environment, identity, time, culture and memory, etc. ‘The characters’ probably does the same in a more succinct, oblique manner. I suppose my basic allegiance is to poetry.
What matters most when you write a poem?
I want to tell the truth and communicate with others. The work is more important than I am.
What do you loathe in poetry?
Where do you like to write poems?
What are strengths and lacks in our poetry scenes?
Strengths: the new work appearing from younger poets, inventing the future and guaranteeing there will be one; growing bilingual and multilingual awareness has enriched our Pacific possibilities and commands response. Both factors indicate our unique position and opportunities in the Anglosphere.
Have you seen a festival poetry session (anywhere) that has blown you off your seat (or had some other significant impact)?
Have not attended festivals.
If you could curate a dream poetry session at The Auckland Writers Festival which poets would be there and who would mc or chair it?
NZ now: Airini Beautrais, Sarah Jane Barnett, David Howard and Erik Kennedy, MC’d by Stu Bagby.
For all time: Tomas Tranströmer, Charles Olson, Lauris Edmond and C. P. Cavafy, chaired by William Carlos Williams.