Monthly Archives: September 2019

Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Catherine Trundle’s ‘Quiet’

 

Quiet

 

After this death I become    thin veined

my hands remade into petalled flesh.

 

I can hear the clink of my own laughter,

an undertow inside a metal chest.

 

The air tastes unexpectedly cheerful and,

at morning, like day-old smoke.

 

Since that day, I realise my face can be

both plain and shaded pyrotechnic.

 

His voice still combs through me like

bone fingers in wet hair.

 

The words I don’t use, that can only be said

in his vernacular, such as ‘risible’

and ‘hackneyed’

 

clock me awake, just when I am

arching    towards the left side

of our bed.

 

In Italian, they called a bed this size

matrimonial, like sleep and sex

can only be accomplished under a vow

inside a religion beneath a temple.

 

When you left, I felt the sky suck into my eyes

and all I could see were your old shoes

placed in the corner   and

 

your feet

becoming a garden

of marigolds.

 

Catherine Trundle

 

 

Catherine Trundle is a writer, mother and anthropologist, based in Wellington. She writes flash fiction, poetry and ethnography, and experiments with unpicking the boundaries between academic and creative genres. Recent works have appeared in Landfall, Not Very Quiet, Plumwood Mountain and Flash Frontier.

Listen to Catherine read ‘Undergrowth’ here

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Honey in Palmerston North

 

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Thank you so much Palmerston North poets and poetry fans for a special night celebrating women. Before the event started I discovered the poetry section in Bruce McKenzie Bookshop next door and spotted so many treasures. What a gorgeous book haven this place is. I could have spent hours there and bought a truckload of books – but was limited by what I could fit in my carry-on bag. Really one of the best gatherings of NZ poetry books I have seen in ages. Now I wish I had taken notes of all the books I had wanted to get – including some of mine that are out of print.

 

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Bruce McKenzie Bookshop, Palmerston North

 

What I have found special about the Wild Honey readings is the way other women are brought into the room through the poems read. This time among others Tusiata Avia, Alice Te Punga Somerville, Vivienne Plumb, Nina Mingya Powles, Elizabeth Smither, Ruth Dallas, Maria McMillan, Joan Fleming and Lauris Edmond. It was particularly moving that the event was held on the fourth anniversary of Joy Green’s passing, and that her friend Hannah Pratt read one of her poems (‘The Cardboard Box’). It was also great to have two fiction writers (Tina Makereti and Thom Conroy) read poems they love by NZ women. And I was especially moved that Jo Thorpe had driven down from Gisborne and Marty Smith from Hawke’s Bay to be there.

Marty and I had a lively conversation – and it reminded me why poetry matters. I forget there is an audience when I get to talk poetry with someone (on the radio, on stage, in an interview) and feel utterly enthusiastic about what poetry can do. Poetry is always a cause for celebration. Even when it is laying down challenges, speaking of tough things, getting complex and difficult, opening up self. It is sound and it is heart and it is interlaced.

I loved this event so much but I am also the kind of writer who likes two tablespoons of public light and acreages of privacy. It feels like it’s time to move back into secret terrain and times having had such support in bringing my new books into the world. Particularly Wild Honey.

Thank you Palmerston North: Bruce McKenzie Bookshop, Genny Vella and Palmerston North Library and the writers: Johanna Aitchison, Paula Harris, Thom Conroy, Paula King, Helen Llehndorf, Marty Smith, Hannah A Pratt, Jo Thorpe, Janet Newman and Tina Makereti.

Thanks to everyone who has bought the book, shared the book and supported my other equally special events in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. I will be doing more next year!

Thanks especially to my publicist Sarah Thornton and to Nicola Legat, my publisher at Massey University Press.

This is my book of love and connections.

Thank you!

 

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The three Paulas!

 

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Conversing with the delightful Marty!

Poetry Shelf Friday talk spot: Picking favourites on @radionz Bookmarks

 

You can listen here

 

On Wednesday I flew back from Palmerston North and stopped off at the Radio NZ studios to talk favourites for Bookmarks. Jesse Mulligan was sick so I got to chat with Wallace Chapman. Like Jesse, Wallace is an empathetic host – a terrific listener! In the opening minutes we discovered we both grew up in manses with sermon writing fathers.  I had such a fun time talking books and music that we didn’t get onto films, television and other favourite things. So I want to share a few things we missed on my list.

Everywhere I go I am asked about Wild Honey’s biggest challenge: easy – making choices! How many sleepless nights I have had mourning the women poets who didn’t get to be in the poetry house I built. It is estimated we make thousands of choices everyday (a quick Google check said around 35,000!). I have been choosing poets to read at my Wild Honey events, I have been choosing how to answer interviews, I have been struggling with what to put on my morning toast. I need a choice holiday!

Choosing for Bookmarks was tough. We have book-lined walls in almost all our rooms, along with decades of album gathering and movie and TV viewing. So how to choose?

It came down to things that have got in me in the gut – and in the heart. Pretty much everything I chose, I chose because I have felt it deeply.

My music:

Maria Callas singing ‘Casta Diva’ from Bellini’s opera Norma. Wallace loved the aria too and he kept cranking it up. I felt like I was going to start crying. This is the track when the world stops and I can’t do anything but listen. The same thing happened when we played Nina Simone singing ‘Mississipi Goddam’. Wallace cranked it up and we just listened. As I said this is a goddam moment in the world – and poets are voicing that in a thousand ways.

We ran out of time to play Aldous Haring singing ‘Horizon’ from her album Party.

In 2017 the Silver scroll finalists were all women so I decided to write about a few of them in Wild Honey – and check out the way their songs were also poetry (Lorde, Nadia Reid, Chelsea Jade and Aldous). I am interested in the way words become musical notes, and make chords in their own right. Music is always the first thing that affects me when I read a poem. So it was fun exploring the lyrics as poems in Wild Honey.

Aldous’s ‘Horizon’ is mysterious, haunting, evocative. I love the sonic play, the slow-paced short lines and the way the song keeps pitching towards the horizon. Here are some word chords: (bowl babe bad)   (neck edge wet)   (‘here is your princess / here is the horizon’).

I also love Aldous’s repetitions: ‘Say again this place’ ‘say again this place’.  Reality is intensified, anxieties are tripled.

You can listen to Aldous here.

 

My books:

I got to talk about Luminescent by Nina Mingya Powles (Seraph Press), Bill Manhire’s Lifted (VUP) and Elizabeth Knox’s The Absolute Book (VUP). Three books I carry with me – Elizabeth’s extraordinary new arrival is the most affecting book I have read in a long time. But I love and am affected by all three.

I ran out of time to bring in children’s books – I am a big fan of reading them! I was going to talk about my love of Gecko Books. And (another impossible choice!!) singled out My Dog Mouse by Eva Lindström.

I review most of Gecko Books on Poetry Box and there is never a dud one. They publish picture books and novels that feature heavenly illustrations, exquisite writing and stories that tap into the core of being human with a healthy dose of imagination. Also – and most importantly – it feels like Gecko books don’t have to obey current rules on how a book for children ought to behave.

In My Dog Mouse a girl loves taking Mouse (the dog!) for a walk and everything they do is super slow. They need time to look at things (teeth, clouds, things flying in the wind). The girl is very good at looking after Mouse when she takes Mouse for walks.  I won’t ruin this delightful story by showing the ending but this is a story of kindness and of sharing. Just made me warm up inside. The writing is both plain and poetic.

He’s old and fat with ears as / thin as pancakes.

 

 

 

Films and television

This didn’t make it into our discussions at all! Too busy loving books and music. I had picked ‘Shetland’ as an example of the British and Scandi noir that is my go-to-pick-me-up-when-I-can’t-read-another-word-and-just-feel-like-pleasing-diversions. Really anything from Father Brown to Midsomer Murders to The Killing to Shakespeare and Hathaway to Killing Eve to Big Little Lies to Agatha Christie.

But these were my two picks that survived:

A Star is Born with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper  2018

I loved the Judy Garland version but really love this remake – it’s got a love story at its heart and the chemistry is breathtaking –  it is a complete package the divine cinematography is like honey (a bit like that of Moulin Rouge) – the camera moves with such a sweet fluidity – the music is breathtaking – and everything heightens the loss and ache and heartbreak. So I really felt the movie.

 

The Marvelous Mrs Maisel  comedy on Amazon Prime with Rachel Brosnahan

On the recommendation of my daughter I binge-watched the two seasons – and it was rollercoaster viewing – set in 1958 New York at a time when women tried to be perfect, perfect looking, perfect mothers and perfect housewives. Miriam was helping her husband out as a stand-up comedian but she gets to wing it at a mic one night and finds she has a gift. I loved the series because it made every character – men and women – so complicated and complex – you laugh and you mourn. Mrs Maisel used her life as material – so against the 1950s demure-woman status quo.

There’s a new wave of young NZ poets getting personal, putting their lives, wounds, fears, anxieties on show at the poem mic. Hera Lindsay Bird, Tayi Tibble, Rebecca Hawkes, Sugar Magnolia Wilson, Sam Ducker Jones, Chris Tse, Grgeory Kan, all the Starling poets. But women have been doing it for decades in poetry. Stepping out of expectation and limitation into self-exposure. Take Fiona Kidman and Rachel McAlpine in the 1970s. Two extraordinary poets (yes I adore Fiona’s fiction but she is also a poet and it is a love of hers) who chose to write against the grain of what men were doing and write from the home – inwards and outwards – in myriad ways. Go back to the 1950s and you will find Mary Stanley. Go to the 1980s and you will find Janet Charman.

 

I had also jotted down other things I loved in the Arts

I got to mention the Uffizi Gallery and my bomb story.

But if I had had time NZ literary festivals were also on my list:

 

I adore going to NZ literary festivals: the Auckland Writers Festival, Going West Literary Festival, Raglan, Wellington Readers and Writers, Christchurch Writers Festival, the Ladies Literatea  – and listening to podcasts when I miss things. I would so love to go to some of the smaller ones at Mapua, Nelson, Featherston, Wanaka. Such community building occasions. My mother grew up in Mapua and I spent most summers there as a child holidaying with relatives. Feels like a DR Seuss moment: big and small, I love them all.

A few weekends ago I was at the much-loved Going West Literary Festival. Such a boost, tonic, good time. I posted about it here (got to hear Elizabeth talk about The Absolute Book!).

Witi Ihimaera launched his new memoir Native Son and performed an extract with musician Kingsley Spargo. Unforgettable. He had had a terrific conversation with Sue Orr earlier in the day where he talked about asking forgiveness of his younger self, because he had covered things up, bad experiences. The book was his way of opening up, of placing the bad things in the open and saying sorry to himself as a young man trying to cope.

I find festivals so nourishing as both a reader and a writer. At Going West we all mix up together! I love that!

 

Finally – I was going to introduce a new category: art jigsaw puzzles

as a way to get into a painting and as pain relief!! Van Gogh is great – The Mona Lisa was almost impossible.

I seemed to have had so many accidents over the course of writing Wild Honey – jigsaw puzzles were the perfect way of diverting a brain from pain and sinking into deep contemplation of a painting.

 

So there you go

what fun it is to be offered a chance to enthuse about creative things you love. Elizabeth’s new work (I want to write abut it) shows the importance of books and libraries, of words and languages. The same can be said for music and films and art. We need to celebrate and preserve our creations for so many reasons – because they are vital and over time we will keep seeing/hearing/reading them in new and necessary lights.

In this goddam moment when our world is in a state of such disrepair we should grab every chance we get to share our fascinations and to celebrate every step towards repair.

Thanks Wallace Chapman – your enthusiasm was infectious and I just loved our conversation.

Poetry Shelf audio spot: Diana Bridge reads ‘A pounamu paperweight’

 

 

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Diana Bridge reads ‘A pounamu paperweight’ from Two or more islands (Otago University Press, 2019)

 

Diana Bridge has a PhD in Chinese classical poetry from the Australian National University, received the 2015 Sarah Broom Poetry Prize and has published numerous collections of poetry. She received the Lauris Edmond Memorial Award in 2010 for her outstanding contribution to New Zealand poetry. Elizabeth Smither writes: Diana’s ‘range is both local and international, delicate and down to earth, and at the same time, probing and intensely rewarding.’ Vona Groarke wrote in her judge’s report for the Sarah broom Poetry Award that Diana’s work ‘is possibly amongst the best being written anywhere right now– for the arresting composure of the poems, for their reach and depth, for their carefully wrought thought and language, for the beauty of their phrasing, for how they are both intellectually astute and also sensual and accessible, for the way they catch you up short and make you wonder.’

Cold Hub Press published In the Supplementary Garden: New and Selected Poems with an introduction by Janet Hughes in 2010. Two or more islands came out in June of this year from Otago University Press. About eighteen months before, she completed, with Peter Harris, a collaborative translation of a selection of Chinese classical poems. As well, last year she was interviewed, as one of eleven New Zealanders who have worked on aspects of China, for a project called ‘The China Knowledge Project’. The collected interviews are to be published.

Harry Rickett reviews Two or more islands on RNZ National

Poetry Shelf interviews Diana Bridge

 

 

Poetry Shelf classic poem: Tate Fountain picks Emma Barnes’s ‘White Tuxedo’

 

White Tuxedo

 

I dream of you in a white tuxedo. It is a wedding. It is not our wedding.

But the face that you affix to yourself when you look into me is the face

of the man viewing the woman. Hello this is love. Your square jaw. Your

soft, capable, all knowing mouth. Hello even your bluest and greenest

eyes. Everyone is wearing white. I look down at myself and I am lace over

pearlescent white water wings and I am shaking with adrenaline. We walk

holding hands and you’re a helium balloon I tug to earth with my

unexpected weight. Your hands slip over me. You in a white fitted shirt

with your head thrown back. We lie in bed together wrapped tightly in disbelief.

Some of our best moments were sleeping. Some of our best

moments were only in our eyes. You tilt your head to turn to me and the

whole world follows behind you.

 

Emma Barnes

 

The poem was originally published in the journal, Sweet Mammalian 3

 

 

Note from Tate Fountain:

I rarely pass specific poems on to friends, despite the amount I read and my general penchant for sharing. ‘White Tuxedo’, however, was immediately dispatched to the other side of the globe: this is a very good poem, I told my best friend, the link attached in a Twitter DM. And it is, of course, precisely that. A very good poem. A bittersweet one, which accomplishes so much in something so seemingly simple.

‘White Tuxedo’ balances the delightful with the devastating, and both elements are augmented for the presence of the other. There is an ease to Barnes’ language, unadorned yet undoubtedly calculated, which lends both to fine poignancy—‘Your/ soft, capable, all knowing mouth’—and to forward propulsion—‘lace over/ pearlescent white water wings […]’. The fourth ‘sentence’, if you will—‘But the face that you affix to yourself when you look at me is the face/ of the man viewing the woman’—pierces. It verbalises a distinct discomfort, and the inescapable air of objectification, that I’ve so often found in ‘heterosexual’ experiences. (This is perhaps furthered by the wedding in the poem, and how pointedly it is not that of the narrator and the subject.) Of course, this line might just as well signal romance to someone else (‘Hello this is love’): perhaps an ode to the archetypes of affection by which they have seen themselves represented. This may be the loving look of literature, of cinema, of song—which is a valid interpretation, and a testament to the multitudes Barnes’ phrasing can contain (though it may also be the kind of feminine subjecthood that Barnes, in penning this particular poem, has explicitly reversed).

What I love most about ‘White Tuxedo’, though, is entrenched in each and every phrase: say it with me, gang—the intimacy of it all. This intimacy is a condition that I’m always looking for in poetry; in art, in life. The knowing of somebody, and an existence shared with them, that cannot be erased by the conclusion of it. The enormity of that understanding; making macro of the minute. Really, I have always had to share this poem just for its final statement, in which Barnes handles the depth of these ideas with sparing, rapturous clarity: ‘You tilt your head to turn to me and the/ whole world follows behind you.’ It’s delicious. It’s immediate, and it’s immense. It says everything it needs to. It’s very, very good.

 

Tate Fountain is an Auckland-based writer, actor, and academic, whose recent work can be found in Starling, Perception, Gold Hand and MIM. In 2018, she self-published the chapbook Letters, which found readers around the world, and she has just begun a literary newsletter, which she hopes might be read by five people.

 

Emma Barnes lives and writes Te Whanganui-ā-Tara. She’s working on an anthology of Takatāpui and LGBTQIA+ writing with co-conspirator Chris Tse. It’s to be published by AUP in 2021. In her spare time she lifts heavy things up and puts them back down again.

 

 

 

 

Maraea Rakuraku’s ‘Allies: A Checklist’

 

Allies: A Checklist

  1. Associated always with some godawful Act of Aggression
  2. Hero swoops in
  3. Woman swooning
  4. War won

 

Allies:  A Checklist Revisited

  1. Try listening. Actually, scrap that just listen.
  2. i.s.t.e.n. P.a.k.e.h.a men.
  3. Especially you. Specially, special,specifically you.
  4. Alone this checklist applies.
  5. It doesn’t.
  6. It does.
  7. Feel that?
  8. Pissed off? Beset upon? Mis-judged? Angry? Emotional? Overly emotional? Guilty?
  9. You sure bloody are
  10. Look at you, looking at me, looking at you
  11. Assessing
  12. Is she educated enough?
  13. Articulate?
  14. Published?
  15. Literary?
  16. Poetical?
  17. Pretty?
  18. Hot, enough?
  19. Enough already.
  20. Whatever is what, I’m not – white man, white woman,
  21. E noho.
  22. You do you.
  23. I’ll – do me.
  24. Wāhine Māori ma, E tū

Ally: Definition

A country that has agreed officially to give help and support to another one, especially during a war:

If Patriarchy is the Country, Women are at war.

If Women is the Country, Patriarchy is the war.

Ally: Definition

Someone who helps and supports someone else.

Doesn’t takeover. Doesn’t redefine. Doesn’t reinterpret. Doesn’t tell you about you. Doesn’t tell you how you can do you better. Doesn’t make it about them. Just doesn’t.

Ally: Definition

Someone who helps and supports someone else by – helping and supporting, someone else.

  1. Ally from the Latin word alligare,
  2. Alligare – to bind to
  3. We, are bound
  4. To make it happen: Amirite wāhine ma?
  5. As for binding – be it feet, a relationship or “spiritually”. No.
  6. Means no.
  7. No – maybe. No – later. No – after dinner. No – because it makes you sleep easier. No.
  8. Nothing ever stops the Patriarchy from being itself.
  9. Through narcissistic old white.
  10. Men who yet again, tell me they know me better than I know my…
  11. Self actualisation, theirs, reflective in a world created solely by them
  12. for them. Not us.
  13. Selina Tusitala Marsh stretching across the Pacific through whakapapa and words following,
  14. Teresia Teaiwa, who did it first,
  15. Grace Molisa, before her. And the legions –
  16. Legends before her, not myths
  17. Truths
  18. Friend
  19. I ally you and your story
  20. and your telling of it
  21. not mine
  22. yours
  23. In solidarity.
  24. Shoulder to shoulder.
  25. An ally jimmies. There is room enough for two, for multitudes.
  26. Sister, the light is enough for us all. Come. Here. Join me. Join us.

 

Maraea Rakuraku

 

 

Musician and actor Moana Ete read this heart-stunning poem at the Wild Honey National Poetry event at Wellington’s Unity Books and you could hear a pin drop the silence was so deep.

Tonight I am celebrating Wild Honey in Palmerston North, and tomorrow I am heading from the airport to RNZ to talk favourite books, music, poetry and movies with Jessie Mulligan on the Bookmarks spot. It feels like this intensely wonderful time I have had drawing my new book into the world is moving into a different phase. I can retreat into my quiet life and do secret things for a while. Time to recharge the empty fuel tank.

It is utterly fitting to post Maraea’s poem that muses on the word ‘ally’. The past weeks have been a time of poetry friendship, of warmth, empathy and connections. I am so grateful to everyone who has attended and participated in the Wild Honey events.

And I am so moved by Maraea’s poem – it makes my heart sing.

 

‘Sister, the light is enough for us all. Come. Here. Join me. Join us.’

 

Maraea Rakuraku is an award-winning playwright, poet, short story writer, critic, reviewer and broadcaster who lives in Wellington and the Bay of Plenty. She creates work that investigates, examines, calls out and celebrates Te Ao Māori and our navigation of 21st century Aotearoa New Zealand.

Her thoughtful, fierce intellectualism, and grounding in her Tūhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu identity, is matched only by her heart and commitment to giving voice.

With Vana Manasiadis, Maraea is the co-editor of and contributor to Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Poets in Translation (Seraph Press, 2018). In 2018 she started a PhD in Creative Writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Wellington.