Tag Archives: Bill Manhire

Poetry Shelf Spring Season’s poetry fans: Peter Ireland picks Bill Manhire

 

Kevin

 

I don’t know where the dead go, Kevin.

The one far place I know

is inside the heavy radio. If I listen late at night,

there’s that dark, celestial glow,

heaviness of the cave, the hive.

 

Music. Someone warms his hands at the fire,

breaking off the arms of chairs,

breaking the brute bodies of beds, burning his comfort

surely to keep alive. Soon he can hardly see,

and so, quietly, he listens: then someone lifts him

and it’s some terrible breakfast show.

 

There are mothers and fathers, Kevin, whom we barely know.

They lift us. Eventually we all shall go

into the dark furniture of the radio.

 

©Bill Manhire from Lifted (Wellington: Victoria University Press, )

 

 

Note from Peter:

Between the earth and sky of my 1960s Ashburton was the radio; a New Zealand-made Ultimate complete with earth and aerial wires. I remain in the dark about what you were to do with the earth, but the aerial provided passable reception when attached to the wire wove base of my bed.

The Ultimate was a budget model, suffering in comparison with those radios with a short-wave function that I coveted, but I should have known better than to paint it white in a moment of teenage idleness.

In a house without books and lacking the wit to utilise the local library the radio was my source of stories, together with those told by my father and relations.   I went to bed early most nights to listen to the serialisation of books like Nevil Shute’s A Town like Alice, or Alistair Mclean’s Ice Station Zebra and South by Java Head and was transported.

How could one not feel addressed by Kevin?

In this wondrous poem, Bill makes some stabbing observations in that last ravishing verse, about mothers and fathers we barely know, lifting us, and dark furniture of the radio as ultimate destination. Whether the mothers and fathers are truly those we don’t know, or those we did and couldn’t know, I am more saddened than heartened at the thought. As destination I wouldn’t book to go there, but I do keep returning to Bill’s poem and the transcendent possibilities of its ‘celestial glow.’

 

Peter Ireland works at the National Library in Wellington where, among other things, he looks after the Poet Laureate. And still listens to the radio.

Bill Manhire, inaugural New Zealand Poet Laureate, has published award-winning poetry, edited anthologies, written short story collections and founded IIML. Lifted won the Poetry Category in the 2006 Montana New Zealand Book awards.  This year he released a new collection of poems, Some Things to Place in  a Coffin, and in collaboration with musician Norman Meehan, published Tell Me My Name, a book of poem riddles (or riddle poems) set to music.

 

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National Library poetry event – Six o’clock: Poets under the influence

  • Date: Thursday, 19 October, 2017
  • Time: 5.30pm light refreshments for 6pm start
  • Cost: Free
  • Location: Te Ahumairangi (ground floor), National Library, corner Molesworth and Aitken Streets
  • Contact Details: For more information, email events.natlib@dia.govt.nz

A bevy of poets mark 50 years since the end of six o’clock closing

Iain Sharp presents Gregory O’Brien, Freya Daly Sadgrove, Bill Manhire, Jenny Bornholdt, Lindsay Rabbitt, and more.

The end of the ‘6 o’clock swill’ was a defining moment in New Zealand’s social history, one which changed the way we drank and socialised. New Zealanders’ unique and often fraught relationship with drink has been both a stimulus and an inspiration for some of the country’s great poets from Denis Glover to Apirana Taylor.

To mark 50 years since the end of ‘the swill’ the National Library is bringing together some of the country’s best poets, and poetry, both new and old, featuring ‘the drink’.

The event will comprise some special related Alexander Turnbull Library collection items, music from the collection of the National Library and films from Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision.

Refreshments available with tastings and craft beer and cider.

Going West was a hit with me

 

Going West is a festival that devotes itself 100 per cent to showcasing an eclectic range of New Zealand writers: local, ultra-local (Westies), from out of Auckland. It draws upon fiction, poetry and nonficton and never fails to delight.

Due to the fire in the roof of Titirangi hall the festival moved into the beautiful ex Waitakere council chambers – better parking, not so far to drive for me, excellent green room, cosy space for sessions but I missed the hall and the bush and the village. As a temporary last minute venue – which must have been such stress on the team – it worked just fine.

As usual the food and shared conversations were excellent. Usually I go the whole weekend – but this year, just the Friday night and Saturday was possible. It means I sadly miss out on a suite of sessions today.

On Friday night we got to see our new Poet Laureate, Selina Tusitala Marsh in performance and, just as she sparks the poetic hearts of students in South Auckland (and elsewhere), she sparked the poetic hearts of festival goers. She delivered her Laureate ‘thank you’ speech again, a speech which acknowledges the people that have supported her, in the form of a list poem.  She read her poem for the Queen with generous anecdotes to accompany it along with the revenge poem (he who shall not be named did not shake her hand), and the poem on three Queens, the last being Alice Walker.

The tokotoko was passed round for everyone to touch and imbue the stick with individual mana. Skin prickling for so many of us.

Every New Zealand Poet Laureate has gifted something to poetry fans. Selina, one of our beloved poetry icons, with the charisma of Sam Hunt, Hone Tuwhare and Glenn Colquhoun, is one of the most important Laureate choices to date. Those of us lucky enough to hear her on Friday night, will know just what treasures we have in store.  It matters, as she says, that she is a brown face. It matters to every brown poet, every fledgling brown poet, and every student white and brown, who has yet to discover the liberating power of poetry.

It matters because Selina’s poetry shows how words can make music in the air, build vital connections to heart and mind, and challenge how we view the world.

If you get a chance to see her over the next few years – take it!

 

In a perfect and unplanned arc, Bill Manhire, our first Poet Laureate, and another beloved poetry icon, was part of the final session of the night. With jazz musician Norman Meehan, vocalist Hannah Griffin and Blair Latham on sax, we got to hear tracks from their new collaboration: Small Holes in the Silence. I have heard them before but the magic intensifies if anything on a subsequent hearing. The alchemy of word, musical score and manuka-honey voice is simply exquisite. It is absolutely breathtaking.

The next day, in our session, I described how listening to their new album/book, Tell Me My Name, is like a flotation aid. You listen and you lift above domestic routine, chores, head clutter. So yes, I floated home, adrift still in the after-effects.

 

Saturday was a long day, a good day. I had only managed a few hours sleep for various reasons so felt  like I was in between here and there, wwhich is the theme of the festival. On the way I passed so many ALTERNAT ROUTE signs I wondered if I would find my way home through all the detours that might then be in place. I felt like I was entering a found-poem trap and I would get stuck in it.

Sitting on stage with Bill and Norman for our session was a bit like sitting in a cafe – I wanted Norman to hit the keyboard and play melodies here and there. I loved the idea of him playing something while we listened to see what word score unfolded in our heads.  The inverse of Norman taking Bill’s poem and seeing what melody surfaces. It was fun to talk – people just happened to be listening!

Sadly I missed Diana Witchel and Steve Braunias – but I am going to make up for that and read the book: Driving to Treblinka. The audience loved this session.

I did hear Dame Anne Salmond in conversation with Moana Maniapoto and it was for many of us, an extraordinary thing. The conversation just flowed – it felt unafraid of anything: wisdom, human warmth, tough stuff, vulnerabilities, empathy.

In 1960 Anne met Māori and asked herself: ‘How come I’ve grown up in this country and know nothing about these people and this world?’

Eruera Stirling advised her: ‘If you are really interested in Māori Studies then the marae is the university for you.’

Anne: ‘I am a scholar but there’s a lot of stuff you can’t learn with your mind – you have to learn through your skin.’

Anne: doesn’t necessarily agree with the idea of one world with different views but prefers perhaps the  idea of a ‘mulitverse with different realities.’

Anne: ‘You can’t be an expert on the Treaty if you can’t speak Māori.’ She said  it would be like someone who couldn’t speak French acting as an expert on the French constitution.

Anne: ‘If the river is dying I am too.’

This is why I am both a reader and writer and a festival attendee. Because someone like Anne in conversation with someone like Moana can blast apart my thinking and feeling.

I have a copy of Tears of Rangi by my bed to read.

 

I got to hear Sarah Laing and Johanna Emeney read and talk. I have to say I love both the books (Mansfield and Me and Family History) and have written about both.  I love the way they showed that poetry/memoir does not need to stick to facts (Airini Beautrais said the same thing in her interview with me). The gold of this session was hearing the multi-talented Sarah read an extract with an enviable array of accents. Wow!

Loved hearing tastes of Pip Adams and Kirsten McDougall’s new novels – and the way the unreal can unravel the real in such innovative ways. They worked double hard not to spoil the reading experience, for those of us who still have the treat in store, by giving too much away. Just little tempting clues.

Loved hearing the very articulate Linda Cassells talk about the genesis of the Allen Curnow biography she edited after the death of her husband, Terry Sturm, and the way Bill Manhire stepped into the gap, with CK Stead ill,  read us a few poems, and shared a few anecdotes.

Thanks Going West. This was one very good festival – I was delighted to participate as both reader and writer.

 

 

 

 

The Mixtape: Bill Manhire with Kirsten Johnstone is so good @RNZNational

This breath-of-fresh-air conversation between Bill Manhire and Kirsten Johnstone weaves in and out of music, poetry and life with music clips. Great way to celebrate NZ poetry with Poetry Day looming. Aucklanders will get to hear Bill at Going West this year.  His words are put to music by Norman Meehan on the Friday night and they are both in conversation with me on the Saturday.
Poetry music gold! Maybe KJ will do mixed tapes with more poets.
19 Aug 2017

The Mixtape: Bill Manhire

Bill Manhire

Bill Manhire Photo: supplied

 

 

‘Friday, August 25th is the 20th National Poetry Day – and there are plenty of opportunities for people of all ages to hear, read, write and collaborate on poetry of all styles around the country.

 

Making our mixtape today is Bill Manhire, one of our best known and acclaimed poets, and one of the most influential – he’s taught hundreds of successful fiction writers, playwrights and poets over the years he was at Victoria University.’

 

 

The latest Starling: fresh young voices, new poems by Chris Tse and a Bill Manhire interview

 

 

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The Starling Issue 4

 

Ok, I am a big fan of this.

This is an excellent issue. Featured writer, Chris Tse’s poems are rich in direction and effect.

Most importantly, the editors are adept at selecting fresh young voices that make you hungry for poetry (and short fiction ) and what words can do. I was going to single a few out – but I love them all! Eclectic, energising, electric, effervescent.

 

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Bill’s interview is a good read:

On rhyme: ‘On the other hand I think sound patterns are at the heart of poetry – they tug words away from meaning and towards music. And one bizarre thing is that the need to find a rhyming word can force you to move in directions you might not have otherwise imagined. Rhyme can make you surprise yourself.’

On needing a dose of humour: ‘The greatest danger for poets is self-importance. Some poets really do believe themselves to be wiser and more perceptive than the rest of the human race.’

On getting students to bring poems by published poets to share in class: ‘The main thing would be that no one in the class would have their minds made up beforehand; or be trying to bypass the poem in order to find out ‘what teacher thinks’. It’s much better for the students to bypass the teacher and get to know the poem directly. Paradoxically, a good teacher can help this happen.’

Louise Wallace & guests to launch her new collection August 10th

Sad to miss this event! Glad I get to read to the book!

 

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Book launch for BAD THINGS: a new book of poems by Louise Wallace. With readings from Lynley Edmeades, Bill Manhire, Tayi Tibble and Chris Tse. All welcome.

Books by all authors available for purchase on the night, along with limited edition cover art prints by Kimberly Andrews.

Drink, nibble, get your books signed and be merry.

VUP page


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