Monthly Archives: April 2019

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: David Howard awarded UNESCO Ulyanovsk residency

Writers from Slovenia and New Zealand to be the first participants of the Ulyanovsk UNESCO City of Literature Residency Programme

D4OrruYVUAEUk6M.png

In September, David Howard from Dunedin (New Zealand) will visit Ulyanovsk. The author is going to develop a poetic sequence set in Ulyanovsk, as well as to collaborate with a local composer on a musical setting for his texts. Howard is the author of six books, a participant of several international residencies, was awarded several literary awards, was a participant of exhibitions and performances, an editor of several books, including the book, devoted to Russian authors. His works were translated into European languages; the book «The Ones Who Keep Quiet» (Otago University Press, 2017) featured in the New Zealand Listener’s Books of the Year. David received the New Zealand Society of Authors Mid-Career Writers’ Award (2009), the University of South Pacific Poetry Prize (2011), and the University of Otago Robert Burns Fellowship (2013).

Full details here

Poetry Shelf in conversation with Elizabeth Welsh

 

 

DSC_0937.jpg

 

 

Elizabeth Welsh, Over There a Mountain, HoopLa Series, Mākaro Press, 2018

 

Elizabeth Welsh’s debut poetry collection, Over There a Mountain, is an exquisite read: surprising, absorbing, complex. She is an academic editor working for international university presses, she founded the online journal The Typewriter, and co-edited Flash Frontier. Her poetry has appeared in local and overseas journals and in 2012 she won the Auckland University Divine Muses Emerging Poets Award. She lives in Auckland with her family.

The collection brought Anne Kennedy’s marvelous Time of the Giants to mind as Elizabeth has also produced a long narrative poem made of glistening pieces and fluent lines. There is a sense of magic at work, a myth-like underlay, seams of real experience, and a satisfying blend of true and invented settings. This is the story of a daughter whose parents are mountains  – who puzzles and struggles and faces what it is to be a mountain daughter, to be with a mountain mother and a mountain father. This is fable but this is also satisfyingly human as the mountain daughter navigates how she is formed ‘by’ and ‘outside’ relationships.

Over There a Mountain was one of my favourite poetry reads of 2018.

 

Over-there-a-mountain-cover

 

 

It’s hard to know how to be    with a mother who is

a mountain. It’s hard to feel how to be   with a father

who is a mountain. It’s hard to understand how to be.

It’s hard to explain that luminous bond, that bewilderingly

stretched distance.

 

 

Paula: Narrative and character mattered so much as I read Over There a Mountain. What poetic effects were you drawn to as you wrote?

 

They were slow-moving, glistening tail-lights

in the guttering of a kasrt dawn.

 

Elizabeth: Yes, both narrative and character are central to Over There a Mountain, given its form as a narrative poem. It was actually near to completion when the poem evolved and settled into a book-length narrative (albeit split into three distinct parts – the mountain-daughter’s childhood, adulthood and last years), tracing the arc of the mountain-daughter’s life and eventual transformation. As it is involved in, or at least plays with, contemporary myth-making, the oral quality and auditory effects were particularly important to me. When I was unable to find a specific sound or rhythm, I took liberties with words, much to the confusion of my publisher at times. I remember ‘alpinic’ and ‘huffly’ both resulting in interesting discussions.

 

Paula: I love the liberties with words, the sonic playfulness, because that added to the mysteriousness, the strangeness. You hear mystery. Poetry is all the better for made up words.

I was totally captivated by the protagonist daughter – the underlying daughterness – and her electric movements. What discoveries, joys and struggles unfolded as you wrote your way into the daughter?

 

Her mountain-father found it easy, catching sight of her

in a bottle-green jersey scaling a vertiginous cliff, shoulder

blades painted with a dipped sphere of wet Cheshire moon;

 

she became all manner of oceans.

 

Elizabeth: Thank you – I’m really pleased you felt that way about the mountain-daughter. It was an interesting exercise, as I fell pregnant and gave birth to my daughter around roughly the same time (tracing my notes back, it appears the mountain-daughter began to emerge about a year before I fell pregnant when I was living far from home in south London). Whether it was timing or synchronicity or chance, I became increasingly fascinated by familial bonds and ways to refigure, disrupt, defamiliarise them. The domestic is traditionally wrought as such a safe, sanitised space, but is so expansive in its reach; it maintains such a hold on us, even as we age. And the mountain-daughter is both us and not-us, she struggles in ways we don’t and struggles in ways we do; at times, it was quite liberating to construct her character. The particular challenge for me was tracing her ‘daughterness’ – I love that word(!) – throughout her later years as a chronicle of growth, with grafts and accretions, trying to do justice to the shape her inheritance would take. I’m sure we never lose our sense of being the child of our parent(s), whatever form that relationship takes.

 

They told her the mountain stories as love stories, taking

her each dusk to pick bear’s garlic together. Not touching,

they bobbed like pendulums as she murmured: we just keep

hardening and hardening and hardening until all we are

is unfolded, thrown wide.

 

Paula: I love the way I build a setting for the narrative in my head that draws upon my own mountain experiences. Did you have real places that loomed large in your imagination?

 

Sleeping afterwards in the southern heat of a midday sun,

she dreamed of Tākaha Hill, Pancake Rocks, both faint

and singing outlines.

 

Fa!

 

Elizabeth: The collection is deeply rooted in the New Zealand landscape, so there are quite a number of real places that surface throughout the poem. But while parts of the poem are specifically geographically located – including Mount Saint Bathans, Punakaiki, Mount Peel, Tākaka Hill, Mount Aspiring, Dolomite Point, Miranda and Picton – a significant portion of the narrative is deliberately hazy as to its precise location. The Southern Alps, around the Mackenzie country, particularly Lake Tekapo and Mount John, as well as Arthur’s Pass, heavily influenced ‘the mountain-daughter’s childhood’. And the edge where the Waitākere Ranges meets the Tasman Sea provided inspiration for the final section – that wild, untamed, rugged topography ‘what is this line of sea she came to? […] Bucking the empty trug to the picketed boundary of sopping, wolfing dunes’.

Also, venturing globally, a very fortunate and well-timed encounter with the ancient Montserrat (and the Benedictine Abbey there, complete with Holy Grotto), a multi-peaked mountain range that is part of the Catalan Pre-Coastal Range in Spain, spurred on the narrative and general ‘mountain thoughts’.

 

Paula: Ah maybe that is one part of the strong connections I feel with the book – like a channel for subconscious attachment- because I see the tail end of the ranges and smell the Tasman Sea from our place and I drive around the Mackenzie country and Central Otago with my partner artist.

Do you have a cluster of poetry books with which you have strong goosebump connections? Whatever they might be?

Elizabeth: Oh yes, I know what you mean – that feeling of simultaneous exhilaration and unease/disquietude. Poetry collections that I have felt an extremely strong kinship with over the years and which, without doubt, have hugely informed my creative practice include Maggie Nelson’s Bluets – these fragments/propositions change me, confront me every time I read them with their candour, urgency and meditative illumination – Anne Kennedy’s Sing-Song, Mary Oliver’s Swan, Alice Oswald’s Dart – the primal, polyvocal, experimental quality of this poem still haunts me – as well as Woods etc., Fleur Adcock’s Tigers, William Carlos Williams’ Paterson, Anna Livesey’s Ordinary Time – this collection is a true gift; it lived within arm’s reach when my daughter was very young – Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing with Feathers, Mary Stanley’s Starveling Year, H.D.’s Helen in Egypt and for its shimmering poetic sensibility, Jessie Greengrass’ Sight.

 

 

 

 

Paula: I love this list! I haven’t read Jessie Greengrass. I have been musing on activities that augment poetry writing. For me: running, walking, gardening, cooking and of course reading. Listening to music. What activities enhance writing for you or keep it in balance?

Elizabeth: So much of my life is filled with motherhood at the moment, which enriches and enhances my writing and thinking and being in every way (although actually getting words to paper can be somewhat challenging). In particular, baking bread with my daughter each week is such a therapeutic act for us both and always leaves me poetically inspired. Tending to our garden and wild span of bush also slows me down and reminds me to be patient, to be present.

 

Two mountains encase a flushed fire,

two mountains eat hot soda damper with their daughter.

 

 

Elizabeth reads from Over There a Mountain

Mākaro Press page

Extract at Turbine / Kapohau

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Jack Ross’s ‘What do you want?’

 

 

What do you want?

 

 

said the librarian

in Friendly Feilding

to come in from the cold

was my reply

 

we’re closing an hour early

for a function

the function I’d driven down for

I walked away

 

he’s crying

but he doesn’t know

why he’s crying

said my sister

 

to the primer one teacher

who wanted to know why

I guess I do too

I guess I do

 

I was small and afraid

of a brand-new place

so many people

but what remains

 

is kindness

my sister

trying to help

unavailingly

 

Jack Ross

 

 

Jack Ross’s novel The Annotated Tree Worship was highly commended in the 2018 NZ Heritage Book Awards. He has written five poetry collections and six other volumes of fiction. He works at Massey University, and is the managing editor of Poetry New Zealand. His blogs here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Gail Ingram launches new collection

Contents Under Pressure a new poetry collection by Gail Ingram illustrated by Rata Ingram published by Pūkeko Publications 5.30-7.00pm Spark Room, Ground Floor at Tūranga New Central Library, Christchurch.

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-13 at 3.17.20 PM.png

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Tracey Slaughter launching debut poetry collection

57343548_2313894715553840_463463456985579520_n.jpg

 

 

 

You are warmly invited to the launch of
Tracey Slaughter’s debut poetry collection

Conventional Weapons

on Thursday 9 May at 5.30pm

at Poppies Bookshop Hamilton
307 Barton St, Hamilton

Free event. All welcome.

Conventional Weapons, p/b, $25

 

Victoria University Press page

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Friday talk spot: Jeffrey Paparoa Holman and ‘Normal Service’

 

Normal Service

It feels like months since I’ve come near to anything like writing poetry. Sometimes it just happens like that: there’s a season, not that the well is dry, just that the bucket hasn’t been lowered. The first few months of this year have been taken up with getting myself ready to leave my position at the University of Canterbury, deciding not to re-apply for another three years as an adjunct. Time to go, after nine productive and stable years.

I tell people, “I’m not retiring, just moving offices”, which is true, but it is a major change. Every weekday morning, Jeanette and I have cycled out to the Ilam Campus, stopping off for a coffee most days near Hagley Park. Now, I don’t have to go anywhere, which is different from having nowhere to go, but it will take some getting used to.

What I won’t forget is that in the last two weeks of my tenure, all has been overtaken and devoured by what happened on the afternoon of the fifteenth of March when the whole campus was locked down as a result of what we were first told was, “ a firearms incident at the Al Noor Mosque”. It soon became obvious it was a fatal shooting, there had been many casualties, that some were dead, and as the afternoon wore on, the numbers climbed as the scale of the tragedy was revealed.

So much has happened in this city since that day, on a public stage and in private places, that don’t need any reminders here. The stories, the narratives of grief, shock, anger and even a kind of numbness are all being woven together, in a community that knows disaster, that must now confront terrorism and its aftermath at our very heart – a place of worship.

I had no intention, no inclination, to write anything resembling a poem. It was enough just to try and get my head around what was happening and as well, carry on clearing my desk, saving files, changing email addresses and saying goodbye to good friends on the staff of Canterbury.

Jeanette and I sometimes go for breakfast at Under The Red Verandah, a famous city eatery reborn after the poet and publisher Roger Hickin’s original establishment was wrecked in the earthquakes. While we were there on Thursday morning, my wife asked me if any poetry was there in the wake of what had happened, and I recall saying, no, I couldn’t even contemplate writing a poem.

But as I walked around afterwards, I heard a line, an insistent phrase, quite clearly: “Normal service will not be resumed”. It just sat there. Then another: “There has been a slaying”.  It isn’t often I feel I must obey an instinct as strong as this, but started to write what was really a form of litany, compressing the underlying horror I felt. The poem came in couplets that began with what sounds like a public service announcement, which the next line undermines. At least I hope that is the effect.

I worked on it during the day, and on Friday I took it out to Christchurch Mens’ Prison, Paparua, where every week, three Christchurch poets – Bernadette Hall, Jeni Curtis and I – run a book group in the library overseen by Susan, our wonderful librarian.

There was a security lockdown that day and we had no prisoners turn up. We all sat around and shared our lives, and the poem was read. Susan took a copy for the prison’s monthly library magazine. Whatever it is worth, a silence for me was broken and some of the men in that jail will get to read it, maybe even give a response at a later group.

W. B. Yeats once wrote, “…but all that is personal soon rots; it must be packed in ice or salt”. For Yeats, style, form – made new – was vital in preventing the poet from lapsing into subjective egotism. A disaster like this is not about me, but the victims.

 

Normal service

 

mō ngā mate Mahometa e rima tekau i hinga ki Ōtautahi 15 Māehe 2019

Normal service will not be resumed
There has been a slaying

Normal service is impossible
Children executed

Normal service disconnected
Mothers slaughtered

Normal service is terminated
Elders eliminated

Normal service makes no sense
Terror is walking

Normal service is banned for life
Blood on the welcome

Normal service is now shut down
Thank you for weeping

 

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman
4 April 2019

 

 

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman writes poetry, memoir and history. His most recent work is Now When It Rains: a writer’s memoir, published by Steele Roberts (Aotearoa) in 2018.

 

 

Rob Stowell, the videographer at Canterbury had recorded this reading of the poemW

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Murray Edmond launching collection

ME_BBYK_LaunchPoster.png

 

Dear friend,

We hope you can join us at Strange Haven, 281 Karangahape Rd, around 6:30pm on April 30th, to celebrate the publication of a new book of poetry by Murray Edmond.

You’ll be able to have a drink on us, buy a book from the handmade edition of 200, and even hear it from the pigeon’s mouth.

Aroha,

Compound Press

 

Screen Shot 2019-04-12 at 7.32.41 AM.png

 

 

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Verb Events in May

 

We have top international authors visiting Wellington with us in May: Take time to come along and listen live to conversations and performances that will inspire and buoy you, the perfect antidote for Autumn …

Luke Wright (UK): Monday 13 May, 7.30pm
Funny, erudite and inventive poet Luke Wright performs a best-of set.
Information and tickets on our website here.
Presented in association with Auckland Writers Festival
“One of the funniest and most brilliant poets of his generation” – The Independent
“Cool poems.” – Patti Smith

John Boyne (Ireland): Tuesday 14 May, 7.30pm
Internationally acclaimed Irish novelist (Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Ladder to the Sky) is speaking with our own acclaimed writer Pip Adam. Information and tickets on our website here.
Presented in association with Dunedin Writers Festival with the support of Culture Ireland
“…one of the most assured writers of his generation.” – The Guardian

Graeme Simsion (Australia): Monday 23 May, 7.30pm
Acclaimed author of The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect and the latest, The Rosie Result speaks about this phenomenally successful series with a profound message at its heart.
Information and tickets on our website here.
“Incredibly funny, life-affirming and warm-hearted” Heat