Photo credit: Kelley Eady Loveridge
It was with great pleasure I announced Jane Arthur as the winner of the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2018. I had not heard Jane read before, had read a few of her poems here and there, but her reading just blew my socks off. Poems have first life on the page but poems also have infectious life in the air. So I cheekily asked her to record two of the poems she had read. Jane is a poet on my poetry radar – I can’t wait to hold her first book and review it on the blog. Warm congratulations!
Jane’s acceptance speech:
When I found out I was shortlisted for this prize, I said to my partner, “This is the flashest thing that’s ever happened to me.” And he looked at me and at our baby and back at me, and raised his eyebrows. I mean, it’s a close call, though. Sarah Broom and Eileen Myles? This is definitely the coolest I’ve ever been.
In 2010, a year after I’d moved from Auckland to Wellington, my friend Harriet sent me a gift in the mail, with a note along the lines of “This is essential reading”. It was a copy of the newly released Tigers at Awhitu. I’ve read it a number of times since then, and Gleam, too – and they’ve meant different things to me each time. I’ve read them for pleasure, and I’ve examined their craft. Most recently was this month, and it’s the first time I’ve read them since becoming a parent – it was harder this time. But they’re so brave, and kind and clear-eyed. I’m thrilled to have my name associated with Sarah Broom.
The poems I submitted for this competition were mostly ones I wrote when I did my MA in creative writing at Vic in 2015. Since then, I’ve had a couple of jobs, moved house twice, got a second dog, launched a website, had a baby – and lost entirely my confidence in my writing. It’s always been tenuous, but I had quietly come to the realisation that I’m not a writer. Definitely not a poet. Not good enough. Not proper-writer enough. I’d stopped writing. I was embarrassed at myself for entering this competition.
Then I got a phone call. And I spent a few days feeling like I’d had too much coffee. And then I wrote a poem.
The way this competition runs means the poems are judged blind – the judge doesn’t know who wrote them, how famous or accomplished or awarded the poet is. They simply read the poems. And the judge is different each year. This is a wonderful way to even the playing field and let different tastes and styles rise to the surface. I mean, here I am. Eileen freaking Myles read my poems.
The prize means – I can barely believe this – I join the likes of Hera Lindsay Bird, who I did a Unity Books stocktake with once, and Elizabeth Smither, who’s from NP like I am. Once it’s sunk in, this prize will seriously up my confidence and give me ammunition to fire back at my imposter syndrome, and it will help me write a book.
Thanks again to the trustees, and the judge. And to the other finalists whose work I’ve really enjoyed discovering. But mostly thanks to Grisham – you are pretty flash.
Two poems from Jane’s reading at the festival:
“To check up on the state of your heart you must lie back”
“Keanu is afraid (a triolet)”
From our conversation on Poetry Shelf:
Paula: Which poem in your selection particularly falls into place. Why?
Jane: To check up on the state of your heart you must lie back” is one of those rare poems that burst out of me in one sitting (having been rolled around my brain for a day or so) and didn’t change significantly after that. An earlier version was published in Ika and two years later only a few words have changed. I wish I knew why some poems come out easily, it’s much more efficient. I am typically the world’s most painfully slow and fussy writer … more of a deleter.
Jane Arthur was born in New Plymouth and lives in Wellington with her partner, baby and dogs. She has worked in the book industry for over 15 years as a bookseller and editor, and is a founder of the New Zealand children’s literature website The Sapling. She has a Master’s in Creative Writing from the IIML at Victoria University, where her supervisor was Cliff Fell, a 2017 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize finalist. She also has a Diploma in Publishing from Whitireia Polytech and a Master’s in English Literature from Auckland University. Her poems have appeared in journals including Sport, Turbine, Ika, and Sweet Mammalian.
Photo credit: Kelley Eady Loveridge (Michael Gleissner with Paula Green, Stuart Airey, Jane Arthur and Robyn Maree Pickens)