This is an excellent programme with the usual eclectic array of NZ voices/writers.
Poetry at Going West:
Plus this little run of highlights:
And many more!
This is an excellent programme with the usual eclectic array of NZ voices/writers.
Poetry at Going West:
Plus this little run of highlights:
And many more!
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.
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.’
Sad to miss this event! Glad I get to read to the book!
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.
Writers on Mondays 2017, hosted by Victoria University of Wellington’s International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML), brings together a line-up of new and established talent to showcase what’s happening in the world of New Zealand writing and beyond.
To launch the 2017 programme the IIML is presenting the first free Wellington performance of Tell Me My Name, Bill Manhire’s sequence of thirteen riddle poems set to music by composer Norman Meehan and performed by vocalist Hannah Griffin and Victoria New Zealand School of Music violinist and lecturer Martin Riseley. The concert takes place at 5.30pm, Tuesday 11 July at Meow, 9 Edward Street.
The popular lunchtime series at Te Papa Tongarewa begins on 17 July and the first three weeks feature award-winning authors from America, Australia and New Zealand.
It kicks off with Catherine Chidgey, winner of the $50,000 Acorn Fiction Prize at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, in conversation about her prize-winning book The Wish Child and her writing career to date.
On 24 July, 2016 Stella Prize winner Charlotte Wood, one of Australia’s “most original and provocative writers” (The Australian) appears with New Zealand novelist and convenor of the IIML Master of Arts fiction stream Emily Perkins.
On 31 July, American poet and essayist Marianne Boruch joins the IIML’s poetry and creative nonfiction convenor Chris Price to explore how her work approaches the big topics of love, death and human knowledge. Marianne Boruch’s restless curiosity ranges across science, music, medicine and art, asking questions such as “why does the self grow smaller as the poem grows enormous?”.
Director of the IIML Professor Damien Wilkins says the combination of new voices and established writers in Writers on Mondays is wonderful.
“This free series is a great way for readers and writers to get together for entertaining, informative, uplifting, even perplexing sessions of talk and performance.”
On 7 August poet and novelist Anna Smaill introduces a quartet of poets with exciting new books. Featuring work from the cutting edge of NZ poetry with Louise Wallace (Bad Things), Hannah Mettner (Fully Clothed and So Forgetful), Maria McMillan (The Ski Flier) and Airini Beautrais (Flow).
In Hopeful Animals, 14 August, Damien Wilkins, Tracey Farr and Pip Adam discuss and read from their recent novels, and consider how fiction continues to provide a vital lens on contemporary life.
Writers on Mondays will acknowledge National Poetry Day with the annual Best New Zealand Poems reading on 21 August. Best New Zealand Poems 2016 editor and Arts Foundation Laureate Jenny Bornholdt introduces this lively session featuring 13 poets at the top of their game.
On 28 August The Fuse Box gathers some of our best writers to shine a light on the creative process. Playwright Gary Henderson, novelists Rajorshi Chakraborti and Elizabeth Knox, and poet James Brown join editors Chris Price and Emily Perkins to take a look at the wiring of creative writers and celebrate the launch of this collection of essays on creativity from Victoria University Press.
Acclaimed playwright Victor Rodger, the Victoria University/Creative New Zealand Writer in Residence for 2017, has assembled a panel of writers to explore how the work of others can inspire and challenge. Mitch Tawhi Thomas, Moana Ete, Jamie McCaskill and Faith Wilson discuss the dynamics of creative communities on 4 September.
The final month of events showcases work from the current cohort of writers in the Masters in Creative Writing Programme at the IIML. It begins with fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction writers in The Next Page, 11 and 18 September, then moves to Circa Theatre for Short Sharp Script, 25 September and 2 October, where actors perform dynamic new work by participants in the Master of Arts scriptwriting workshop.
The Writers on Mondays series runs from 17 July to 2 October, 12.15–1.15pm, Te Marae, Level 4, Te Papa Tongarewa, with the exception of the opening concert at Meow and the two Short Sharp Script events at Circa Theatre. Admission is free and all are welcome.
The full 2017 Writers on Mondays programme is can be viewed and downloaded from the IIML’s website.
Writers on Mondays is presented by Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters with the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and additional support from Circa Theatre and National Poetry Day.
For more information contact Pip Adam on firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
by Stephen Burt
complete piece here at PN Review May-June, 2017
‘To live in Christchurch at the end of 2016 is to encounter, daily and seemingly everywhere, construction: cranes, scaffolds, burly workers in lemon-fluorescent vests, bright orange cones, PVC pipes jutting up from the ground, all of it part of the ongoing, city-wide multi-year recovery after the earthquakes of 2010-11. The fences and pits are a great inconvenience, a melancholy sight for those who grew up in what was (I’m told) the most sedate and stable of NZ cities. For me, on the other hand, the construction is mostly inspiration: I see a city that’s putting itself back together, a nation that has recognised (and chosen to pay for) a shared public good, while my own home country, the United States, is tearing itself apart.’
With Donna in Berlin, New Year 2013/14.
You have to start somewhere
in these morose times,
a clearing in a forest say,
filled with golden shafts of sunlight
and skirmishes. A little later
your itinerary will take you past
weathered churches on plains that stretch
as far as the eye can see.
from ‘The lifeguard’ in The Lifeguard (2013) and Selected Poems
To celebrate the arrival of Selected Poems (Auckland University Press, 2017), Ian Wedde agreed to talk about poetry with me.
Born in Blenheim (a twin of Dave) in October 1946, Ian has lived in Bangladesh, England, Jordan, France, Germany, now lives in Auckland with his wife Donna Malane, a screen-writer and novelist, they have five children and five grandchildren, has published seven novels and sixteen collections of poetry as well as books of essays and assorted art books and catalogues. Most recent book is Selected Poems (AUP, 2017) with marvellous art work by John Reynolds. New Zealand poet laureate 2011-12, Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement (poetry) 2014.
Cover and internal art work: John Reynolds
PG: Did poetry feature in your childhood? What activities delighted you as a young boy?
IW: There wasn’t a lot of poetry in my childhood, though my father chanting John Masefield’s ‘Cargoes’ as he rowed across Waikawa Bay in the Marlborough Sounds was memorable – the rhythm was right but the words were deeply weird to me, which was what I liked.
Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.
PG: What were some key influences when you first started writing?
IW: A link between the deeply lost-in-it world of reading stories and the hypnotic secret ecstasy of writing things, or trying to. Also the fascination of not understanding either what I was reading sometimes (I happened on Browning’s ‘Sordello’ by accident) or why writing was so mesmerising. Also Kipling, because of the poems associated with the Jungle Books, which I was addicted to.
PG: Or at university?
IW: At university I was obsessive about getting my hands on contemporary American poetry after or off the shoulder of the great modernists – post Pound-and-Eliot if you like. Post-Beats, for that matter. William Carlos Williams above all, though of course Spring and All and Kora in Hell were published in the 1920s – but those early books like Spring and All and Kora in Hell incorporated prose and poetry, they seemed to be experimental and interesting in ways that the accredited modernist masters were not. I loved Williams’ humanity and love of sparrows and weedstalks, but also the marvellous delicacy of thought that articulated his lines. Robert Creeley was important, his frugal counterpoint; Denise Levertov’s makeover of the exhausted lyric; Gary Snyder’s ecological ethic that made for a new kind of eclogue; Frank O’Hara’s urbane vernacular and before long Ted Berrigan, especially Berrigan’s Sonnets. John Ashbery’s ‘The Tennis Court Oath’ amazed me. Also French poets, but always sheeting back to Rimbaud. Pablo Neruda in bulk, his marvellous relish for the sensuous world and its political demands on our responsibilities. Elizabeth Bishop’s The Complete Poems. John Wieners because he broke so many rules without showing off.
I study my son’s face, to treasure it.
Each day (now, & now) it’s changed & I’ve lost
what I love, loved.
from ‘Paradiso Terrestre’ in Earthly Sonnets for Carlos (1975) and Selected Poems
PG: The birth of your first son prompted Earthly: Sonnets for Carlos. While some New Zealand men have written fatherhood poems (notably Graham Lindsay) I cannot think of another extended sequence such as yours. The prolonged contemplation allows greater complexity when facing what might at first seem unsayable – the miracle of a new-born baby. Did your son’s arrival throw your relationship with writing in the air?
IW: I usually threw my infant son in the air. It was a time of wonder. I also walked around with him quite a lot at night, those rhythms shaped how I thought and how the poems moved.
PG: What draws you to the longer sequence?
IW: A disinclination to get to the point in timely fashion or to admit there is one worth ending with. There are dear friends whose conversations and phonecalls I love because they do go on. Mostly I like giving in to the drifts and swerves of language that takes me to places I can’t get to by intention. A tendency rapidly to lose interest in the self-centred, anecdotal lyric in which a certain kind of modesty often strikes me as sham.
PG: Have other things elbowed your writing—refreshed, transformed, derailed, sent askew in good ways, sparking in new directions? A book or theory or idea or chance encounter or unexpected experience?
IW: Probably art more than anything, and music. The ways in which our perceptions of phenomena trigger thought I find fascinating and seductive. I’m an easy weeper – I’ve been known to sniffle during the opening credits of movies just because it’s so amazing that we can do this stuff. I love art in its many guises because at its best it can be so capable of subversion – of subverting representation as mimesis, subverting personal testament, or markers of class and taste – and because at its worst it can be all those things, and boring to boot, especially as cultural capital. Music perhaps because it’s just off the camber of what language does in poetry, unless of course we’re talking about poets as song-writers, that fabulous ancient lineage. During the time I spent in Jordan in 1969-70 the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish and others was a revelation – how it had a vast, loyal, politically disenfranchised radio audience of Palestinians and at the same time reached deeply into classical histories, reached the audiences of the Egyptian singer Oum Kalsoum and spoke to intellectuals such as Edward Said.
(..) If trees &
suchlike don’t tell on me I understand
my son will & soon, too. His new blue eyes
see everything. Soon he’ll learn to see
less. O the whole great foundation is sand.
But the drought has broken today, this rain!
pecks neat holes in the world’s salty fabu-
less diamond-backed carapace & doubt comes
out, a swampy stink of old terrapin.
What shall I say? ‘I hid nothing from you,
but from myself. that I dream, little one,
from ‘for Rose’ in Earthly Sonnets for Carlos (1975) and Selected Poems
PG: For me Sonnets for Carlos is a collection imbued with love deep within the roots of the line. Yet when I regard the expanse of your writing across the decades, love seems to be an active ingredient whether it is for the dead poet Horace, blistered peppers on the hot plate, the beauty of a city street, family or the wide stretch of home. Do you agree? What do you see as active ingredients that have endured?
Late autumn’s good up around
The neighbourhood mountain’s misty flank in the morning
When the piss-trail of the morning’s promenade’s fresh
And even an old dog can still feel
The sac of earth trembling under his running feet.
from ‘5.4 To Mount Victoria’ in The Commonplace Odes (2001) and Selected Poems
IW: ‘Love’ is an easy word to utter and an even easier one to claim. Looking at what’s in this new book of selected poems, what I think I see repeated quite often is a claim that I ‘love’ the commonplace world – William Carlos Williams’ world of sparrows and weedstalks, if you like. I love appetite and enjoyment and relish and so the preparation of meals and so forth. I love thought that has a vigorous appetite, that enjoys tasty discussion. But I think you have to love this kind of ‘love’ knowing it comes at a cost, that grief or anger are its stalkers. I think there’s quite a lot of anger and frustration in my poems.
PG: In your introduction, ‘Enjoyment,’ you talk about the joy of writing poetry. That feeling must be contagious because in my view your poetry is a joy to read. For some writers, writing is a dark and painful process while for others it is energising. Do you also have patches like these? Do you have writing patterns, routines or rituals?
IW: For me writing – or thinking about writing – poetry really is a tremendous pleasure, at once a kind of rapture or abeyance of self, and a complete deployment of the self’s capacities. I’d never describe it as painful, though it can be tough when the critical phase kicks in and you realise that your rapture has generated a steaming heap. But then there’s a certain pleasure in consigning the pile of shit to its bucket. Much of what I write starts with walking around with a little notebook, and in a sense nothing in the notebook is ever wasted, even if what happens to it ends up getting chucked.
PG: You refer to the pleasure generated when ‘a poem veers off, carried along by a momentum that’s not quite mine, towards a direction neither I, nor the poem’s reader, is anticipating.’ There is a sense of writing into the unknown, but could you conversely say you write into into the known in unpredictable ways?
IW: No, I’m really talking about how my let’s call it ‘overarching concept’ can be highjacked by language itself – I go along with that, in a sense, and try to keep a very light hand on the tiller (as in that mixed metaphor).
PG: I am thinking, for example, of The Commonplace Odes and Three Regrets and a Hymn to Beauty where home infuses the poems in searing physical detail along with home-nourished states of mind. I rate these two books in my handful of sublime New Zealand reading experiences ( I am thinking too of the way your books have been long-term, book mentors along with those of Michele Leggott, Bill Manhire, Bernadette Hall, Cilla McQueen). The language is pitch perfect but it is that glorious tension between the known and the unknown that elevates me—along with the roving intellect and the physical beacons. I am reminded of Kafka’s yearning to read books that, like an axe, cut through the frozen sea within us. Do you have a book in your oeuvre that has particularly worked for you?
IW: Do you mean books I’ve read? I think there have been lots of them, over time. Perhaps the one that keeps on being non-negotiable is Rimbaud’s Oeuvres complètes (Gallimard, 1972) and subsequent translations, including those by Samuel Beckett, John Ashbery and Jeremy Harding, among others. Rimbaud’s pronouncements in May 1871 at the age of seventeen in letters to Georges Izambard and Paul Demeny that ‘I is somebody else’ (Je est un autre) remains for me one of the most potent codes with which to approach the way in which the poet (at seventeen) can become a ‘drunken boat’ that morphs into the child the poet was ten years earlier, playing with his toy boat on a pond, and finally the ship that swims under the frightful gaze of the prison hulks that incarcerated the Communard prisoners of 1871 that were the seventeen year old Rimbaud’s heroes. But if you mean one of my own books that I think has come close to that kind of sorcery, then pass.
you’re the trouble I’m in
because there’s a lot of sweetness in my life
with that rude kind of magnificence
as when they hung Le Bateau upside down,
unusually animated and sparkling.
Happy birthday Montgomery Clift:
where did I see this guy – in Red River
or From Here to Eternity?
Accept and you become whole
bend and you straighten.
from ‘A hymn to beauty: days of a year’ in Three Regrets and a Hymn to Beauty (2005) and Selected Poems
PG: The allure of language in its slippery elusive glory, its ability to make music and bear all manner of freight, is a potent force for the poet. When a poem succeeds for you, or comes close, what is language doing? Do you have a poem or two that continue to resonate at the level of language? For me, there is an ongoing musicality, an enviable musicality, that provides shifting keys harmonies and chords.
IW: I think any poem that’s worth reading ‘resonates at the level of language’, which is to say the language doesn’t just do what it’s told to, rather it subverts or distracts the task of making itself understood. ‘Musicality’ in the language of poems can be a distraction or, at worst, an indulgence, an invitation to the categorisation ‘poetic’. I like the idea of meaning-chords as riffs, vertical rather than linear.
(..) the lovely world has everything I need,
It has my kids, my sweetheart, my friends, it has a new book
With mouth-watering risotto recipes in it,
The kind of plump rice you might have relished,
Horace, in the Sabine noon, yellowed with saffron.
‘The zen poet’ is another of you, he wrote a poem
About making stew in the desert which changed my life.
A good cookbook is as good as a book of poems
Any day, because it can’t be any more pretentious
Than the produce you savour with friends as night falls.
from ‘1.2 To the cookbook’ in The Commonplace Odes (2005) and Selected Poems
PG: In ‘To the cookbook,’ we read that ‘A good cookbook is as good as a book of poems.’ Women have long been denigrated for domestic traces in their writing. I take issue with this on so many levels. Food, including the cooking of food, adds a sensual zest, like finely judged salt and pepper, to your poetry, and indeed opens fascinating windows upon relations between food, life and writing. How do these connections work for you? Are you offended if I describe some of your poems as mouth-watering?
IW: Not in the least offended. It’s a compliment, thank you. And then, Neruda’s ‘Ode to Tomatoes’ is one of the most slyly political poems ever written, as is Gary Snyder’s ‘How to Make Stew in the Pinacate Desert’.
PG: The word subversion crops up in your introduction. You relish subverting expectations of what language ought to or can do. Do you see other subversions at work?
IW: I try to subvert myself, not always with much success.
PG: The Selected Poems underlines how important your reading life is and how it has sustained and infiltrated your writing life. Name three books from any time or any place that have mattered deeply.
IW: Geoff Park’s Nga Uruora: The Groves of Life; May Gibbs, The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie; Ovid, Metamorphoses.
PG: Name three New Zealand poetry books that have resonated with you.
IW: Nga Moteatea (4 vols.); R.A.K. Mason, Collected Poems; take your pick of poets who are also song-writers, we have some great ones: Hinemoana Baker, Teremoana Rapley, Bill Manhire, Dominic Hoey known as Tourettes, the Dam Native crew, lots more in this country.
PG: Have you been attracted or influenced by any poetry movements? Or conversely repelled?
If I wanted to translate
silence I would have to be
deaf, to remember silence
I would have to recognise
its opposite, for instance
singing, a miracle, not
too much to ask I hope, and
why wouldn’t I hope, why not?
from ‘Shadow stands up’ in The Lifeguard (2013) and Selected Poems
PG: In your introduction you suggest it is over to the reader to make sense of the way your writing has changed—over to us to decipher the recurring motifs and predilections, the side steps, the shifts in attention and concerns. Time and age are under the spotlight right from the start, in the first poem addressed to Matisse. Just one question then. Do you feel you have greater freedom at 70 when you pick up your writing pen?
IW: I have less compunction about putting the pen down and going for a walk. With or without my notebook.
Henri Emile Benoît Matisse je vous salue!
Let me tell you a secret.
Your work goes on.
I’d only seen your things in art books
bite sized. I dreamed there was a bright room
in my head somewhere
which you were making real stroke
by counterpointed stroke
& where I would some day retire
to an armchair in the corner:
the final element of a composition
that perfectly described itself.
from ‘Homage to Matisse’ in Homage to Matisse (1971) and Selected Poems
Auckland University Press page
Radio NZ review
Herald piece with Greg Fleming
Discussed in Anna Jackson’s essay on the Epistle Poem
I picked up the latest Sport the other day and the cover was so good that I didn’t want to open the issue for ages. Sam Duckor-Jones’s drawing is like a poem that is strange, off-kilter, mesmerisingly good (someone is adrift awkwardly in the sky).
Just inside there is list of books that Victoria University Press are publishing this year: 8 fiction, 11 poetry, 2 plays/poetry-music, 9 non-fiction. I have been musing lately on VUP’s productiveness and how it is to be utterly lauded. In a tough publishing climate, VUP work hard to showcase New Zealand writing in diverse forms and with diverse preoccupations. I hear niggles (especially when VUP got such a clean sweep at the Book Awards) yet I have no time for such gripes. This is a chance to celebrate a publisher sticking its neck out and publishing quality writing whichever way you look. I don’t see the VUP stable as a set of clones – the exact opposite. On my blog I only have time to review the books I love (and even then I don’t get to them all) and interview poets that have struck a chord at some point. It is very seldom I skip over a VUP poetry book because it has missed the mark for me as a reader. If I look back at books published over the past few years, I see an eclectic mix as opposed to a restrictive school of poetry. Think of the wry wit of James Brown, the breathtaking musicality and heart-stopping moves of Bill Manhire, the grit of Geoff Cochrane, the anarchy and surrealism of Hera Lindsay Bird, the contemplative detail along everyday trails of Jenny Bornholdt, the inventive, unpredictabliity of Hannah Mettner. I have adored this poetry and yes, I will sing its praises from the rafters.
In ‘The Old Guard New Guard’ session at AWF17 and in response to Andrew Johnston raising the clone issue, Bill Manhire summed up his aims and ways of working when he was teaching at IIML. The conversation utterly resonated with me and a few things he said corresponded perfectly with my idea for Poetry Shelf’s Winter Season (to be posted in July!). The essential aim was for students to find their own voice (Teju Cole talked about this a little too). I loved this idea: ‘Write what I don’t know but it will somehow be mine.’ In workshops, Bill wanted students ‘to jump the tracks, to go sideways from themselves.’ He wanted them ‘to turn themselves into other poems’ and ‘to produce poems that mattered to them.’ Bill also applied this to himself and talked about the way he might get too comfortable and thus seek out ways to elbow himself sideways off the writing tracks (my words sorry as I didn’t record this). These notions really resonated with me. As poets we are all attached to the mysterious thing called voice: our voice, how to sustain it, how to tilt or transform or nurture it. I love the idea of sidestepping the usual ruts and paths.
The latest issue of Sport is chiefly a celebration of writing that has come out of Wellington or is part of the VUP stable. I don’t have an issue with this and I applaud the range and diversity of writing within. There is a fabulous interview (Bill Manhire interviews John Gallas). I now want to track down John’s poetry – the taster of poems confirms he is a poet to add to your shelves. Hope the poetry interview (or of other genres) becomes a regular feature of Sport particularly if it is conducted over months at leisure by email as this one was. Great reading!
Also loved the cluster of essays in the middle by John Newton, Virginia Were and Giovanni Tiso. Another essential ingredient that adds verve and challenges.
The poets range from James Brown to Frances Samuel ( conjunctional wit produced out of found material to slightly strange, reader-hooked storytelling); from the luminous detail of Elizabeth Smither to the surreally personal and personally surreal of Rata Gordon; from the bolt in the eye of Claire Orchard to the tender detail of Harry Ricketts. One of my favourite new poets, Amy Leigh Wicks, haunts me, as does Bill Nelson, in the unfolding detail and the way the poems move. Good to read Bob Orr sharply conjuring place, Rachel O’Neill’s prose-like agility, Jake Brown’s bright jumpcut portrait of a town, the stark, sharp tug of Natalie Morrison’s fairytale-ing.
I haven’t finished reading yet: still Anna Jackson, Vincent O’Sullivan, Jake Arthur, Helen Heath, Kerrin P Sharpe and more. In my bag for today. Ha! A poetry bag!
So this seems like the perfect occasion to say congratulations to Fergus Barrowman and his team at VUP. As a writer, reader and commentator on NZ poetry, I am in debt to the extent of your gifts to NZ literature. As for Bill Manhire, I reckon it is about time a poet got the top Honours in a Queen’s Honour’s list along with those who have done extraordinary things in the business world. Bill has gifted so much with generosity and humbleness, he has enhanced what we both read and write, and has written poetry collections that sing like no other.
Yes there is magnificent poetry in all its forms accruing the length and breadth of NZ, fabulous poets and poetry projects, tireless ambassadors (Michele Leggott, Bernadette Hall, Emma Neale, David Eggleton) but this is VUP’s year and I applaud you!