Tag Archives: Chris Price

The NZ edition of Poetry

 

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I know I find it hard to listen.

I read too much. I often need a drink.

It isn’t the world that makes us think,

it’s words that we can’t come up with.

Sure, I can work up fresh examples

and send them off to the committee.

But the poetry is in the bird. And in the pretty.

 

Bill Manhire, from ‘Polly’

 

International poetry traffic is so often dependent upon fortuitous connections. The degree of familiarity with poetry from elsewhere is utterly paltry compared with the degree of familiarity I have with local writing. Yes I have studied American and British poetry but I am more aware of the luminous stars in these poetry constellations than the grassroot outings.

On the other hand, we are no longer dependent upon ocean voyages and the constraints of distance, but to what degree does our poetry travel (compared say with fiction)? Or our poetry conversations extend beyond our lapping tidelines.

I am acutely aware of my impoverished relations with contemporary Australian poetry. Perhaps Joan Fleming and Amy Brown could guest edit a local journal with an Australian focus? But then again our journals are often annual and offer vital but scant opportunities for local poets.

This is not the first time an overseas journal has showcased New Zealand poetry, but it is perhaps the example I am most excited by. The editors – Stephanie Burt (USA), Paul Millar (NZ) and Chris Price (NZ) – have worked hard to present a distinctive and diverse overview of our current poetry. The selected poets cross all manner of borders: age, geographical location, style, university affiliation, gender, ethnicity. This matters if we want to move beyond the legacy of white male predomination, urban bias and privileged poetry models. I cannot name a NZ journal that has achieved such movement.

Yes the five books Daisy Fried reviewed – from the fifteen 2017 publications she was sent – were all Victoria University Press. Her selection certainly does not reflect the contours of that year, and we can all stand on the sidelines and shout (or sing) about the books we loved, but I have no issue with reviews reflecting individual taste. However I do take issue that a short intro and five VUP books can respond to her opening question: ‘How to characterise a national poetry?’ Why would you even try! It is a personal take on five excellent books.

The rest of the journal is an altogether different joy. The effect of reading is symphonic in the different hues and chords. Every single poem lifts off the page and catches both ear and eye. Such freshness, such lightness, darkness, musicality, room to breathe, surprising arcs and links and undercurrents. I keep swaying between Anna Jackson’s glorious bee poem and the flickering titles that coalesce in Nina Powles’s offering or the infectious wit of James Brown, Ashleigh Young and Tim Upperton.  I am pulled into the bite of Anahera Gildea, Chris Tse and then Tayi Tibble and stop in the tracks of reading. Travelling with Janet Charman and the revelatory suite makes me weep. Switching to Anne Kennedy and the momentum coils and overlaps and poetry transforms a starting point into elasticity on the line. Bill Manhire flips me over into the second stanza, and the lacework of reading – intricate yet full of holes – offers mystery, surprise, wit, curious things.

 

The time of breathing into clasped hands

hovering over a lighter to make a flame

 

not knowing

that an angry man threw his eyes into the night

 

the belly of his shattered father

weeping rain for separation of earth and sky

 

Jessie Puru from ‘Matariki’

 

 

The editors did not feel beholden to poetry that targets versions of New Zealand/ Aotearoa; our poetry might do this and then again it might not. The poems have the freedom to do and be anything whether they spring from spoken-word rhythms or  talkiness or thinginess or anecdotal revelations or sumptuous Baroque-detail or story or slanted humour or cutting political edges.

The poets: Anna Jackson, Kate Camp, Michele Leggott, Therese Lloyd, Jessie Puru, Essa Ranapiri, Tayi Tibble, Robert Sullivan, Kerrin P. Sharpe, Hera Lindsay Bird, Dylan Horrocks, James Brown, Murray Edmond, Jenny Bornholdt, Anne Kennedy, Bill Manhire, Nina Powles, Janet Charman, Anahera Gildea, Bernadette Hall, Vincent O’Sullivan, Courtney Sina Meredith, C.K. Stead, Chris Tse, Tim Upperton, Gregory O’Brien and John Pule, Faith Wilson, Ashleigh Young, Albert Wendt, Steven Toussaint, Erik Kennedy

This issue is a cause for celebration – I absolutely love it – and my celebration will take  the form of a subscription. New Zealand poetry has been well served – congratulations!

 

Poetry here

 

everything I never asked my grandmother

I can understand but I can’t speak

no one has played that piano since

New Zealand is so far away from here

let me translate for you the poem on the wall

 

Nina Powles from ‘Some titles for my childhood memoir’

Poetry Shelf Winter Season: Chris Price off-piste

 

Six Thinkers

 

Six thinkers

 

Anne thinks that Brian should stop pestering her to marry him.

Brian thinks if only Anne would only stop worrying about how they were

going to live.

Catherine thinks that Dean would be a far better choice for her daughter.

Dean thinks that Erica is the hottest thing since Elvis Costello.

Erica thinks that accountancy students may be the most boring people on

earth.

Frank thinks that Catherine should just leave Anne alone to make up her

own mind.

 

Brian thinks it looks like rain as he hesitates on the porch.

Catherine isn’t sure, but she offers Brian an umbrella.

Dean sees that drip Brian leaving Anne’s place as he pulls into the next-door

 driveway in his Ford Capri.

Erica has been ready for ages but she still goes to the mirror to check her

make-up when she hears the car.

Frank thinks That boy’s got his head screwed on the right way, Erica’s a real

 doll, if I were his age . . .

Anne thanks God (in whom she no longer believes) that Brian’s gone at last,

and wonders what her father is looking at through the kitchen window.

 

Catherine says Would you like to join us for a barbeque, Dean?

Dean leans over the fence and says No thanks Mrs Franklin, I’ve got some

serious studying to do.

Erica says Yes, he’s got exams next week.

Frank says Gotta get your priorities straight eh Dean?

Anne says Well, maybe after exams, then?

Brian says nothing, he’s halfway to Forrest Hill, grateful that the rain’s held

off, whistling, not a clue in the world what a no-hoper he is.

 

Dean passes that git Brian on his way home and pretends not to see him so

he won’t have to offer him a lift.

Erica wonders whether Dean really is the man for her, when accountants

 are so uncool, even if he does have a Ford Capri and a flat on his own

with a view of the Harbour Bridge.

Frank lingers at the window, which affords him a good view of Erica’s

 cleavage as she stands at the fence talking to his wife.

Anne finally twigs to the reason for the amount of time her dad spends at the

kitchen window.

Brian gets home and puts on a cup of tea for his mum, who is asleep over

the racing pages, radio cantering on in the background.

Catherine wonders why her daughter doesn’t get out more, meet a few

boys like Dean.

 

Erica thinks Dean just wants to get into her pants, he’s like any other boy,

in the end.

Frank thinks he wouldn’t mind getting into that girl’s pants, if he were a

 younger man . . .

Anne thinks I know what you’re thinking you dirty old bastard.

Brian thinks I wonder what’s for dinner?

Catherine thinks that young women today just don’t know how easy

they’ve got it.

Dean thinks about slipping his hand down Erica’s jeans as he slides into

the bath with Elvis Costello up loud on the stereo.

 

Frank starts guiltily as his daughter clatters the knives and forks onto the

tray with unnecessary force.

Anne decides she’s never going to get married, at least not until she’s finished

her degree and got a few year’s work behind her.

Brian sets the table, and puts the steaming cup quietly down where his

mother can’t knock it over when she wakes.

Catherine comes inside and says, Well, time to light the barbeque, eh Frank?

Dean flings some Brut about his steaming person, wraps a towel round his

waist, strolls into the lounge and flicks through his address book.

Erica walks in her parent’s front door and sits thoughtfully by the

telephone in the hall.

 

Anne begins buttering the bread, but her mind is elsewhere, and she butters

the teatowel thoroughly before she realizes.

Brian finds some fish fingers and frozen peas in the freezer and thinks

that’ll do us as his mum’s snore begins to ruffle the pages of the paper,

 ever so slightly.

Catherine wonders if her daughter might be pregnant, she’s been so vague

lately, and now this thing with the teatowel.

Dean finds Glenda’s phone number and begins to dial.

Erica decides it’s time to begin again.

Frank begins to build up a nice wee blaze.

 

©Chris Price, from Husk (Auckland University Press, 2002)

 

 

‘Six Thinkers’ was a response to an exercise Bill Manhire set the IIML’s MA workshop of 1998. The exercise was simply to write a poem in the form of a list (although Bill did hand out a couple of example poems along with that instruction, one a recipe poem by Gary Snyder, the other an Allen Ginsberg poem that used anaphora – every line began with the word ‘Because’).

My initial idea was simple: I would write down the first six letters of the alphabet, in order, a bit like a multi-choice test, and use each letter to begin a new line. The next step was to assign a name to each initial, so I found myself with a cast of characters whom I needed to set in motion.

The added constraint was that I applied the rotating end-word pattern of the sestina to those six names at the beginning of each line, which gave me a template for a story in six six-line stanzas plus a three-line tailpiece that also had to (once again, drawing on the sestina) use all six names. I may have had the formal pattern in place, but the poem itself came to me very early one morning, and I got out of bed to write it down. I’ve never repeated the mongrel sestina form, nor have I produced another study of multiple characters like this one. It’s the first and last time that I’ve tricked myself into writing a story in poem form.

 

Chris Price‘s latest book is Beside Herself (AUP,2016). She convenes the Poetry and Creative Non-fiction MA Workshop at the International Institute of Modern Letters. ‘Six Thinkers’ appeared in her first book, Husk (AUP, 2002).

 

From Paula: For Poetry Shelf’s Winter Season, I invited 12 poets to pick one of their own poems that marks a shift in direction, that is outside the usual tracks of their poetry, that moves out of character, that nudges comfort zones of writing. It might be subject matter, style, form, approach, tone, effect, motivation, borrowings, revelation, invention, experimentation, exclusions, inclusions, melody …. anything!

 

 

 

Stephen Burt’s Letter from NZ celebrates local poetry

Letter from New Zealand

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.’

Chris Price shares a New Zealand poem on World Poetry Day 2017

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Great choice!
Published on Mar 20, 2017

Victoria International Institute of Modern Letters senior lecturer and New Zealand poet Chris Price shares one of her favourite New Zealand poems for World Poetry Day 2017, written by Sonia Yelich and published in Clung (Auckland University Press, 2004).

A week of poems: Chris Price’s ‘Hasta la vista’

 

 

 

Hasta la vista

Things were fatal but not urgent.
We used more make-up and less speed.
We saw the hectic colour on one side
and the blank space on the other.
What went up came down then drilled its way
metres deep into the earth. Under
the turned table we learned to live
on our own chewing gum
while unfamiliar implements played
dinner music above our heads.
We adapted — it was what we knew
how to do — but the sugar cubes kept
getting smaller. Whereas before
we had been known by name,
now we only crept to the watering holes
under cover of darkness, then sat
with chins on our knees and waited while
the new customers declined our terms
in favour of their own impenetrable
argot. Sign met size and came off
second best, bedding down with lice
and livestock in the basement of
the air we used to own.  While
they were busy ransacking
the drawers there was still time to rue
our civilised discontents, but now
the sudden silence impends overthrow.
We stare at one another, suspended
in the pause before the shouting
and splintering Hollywood has, as it
turns out, so well prepared us for,
the breathless interval before our new
lives, hat and coatless in the snow.

©Chris Price    First published in Sport 38

nzepc launches its fourth Six Pack Sound

Poets Jenny Bornholdt, Janet Charman, Owen Connors, Andrew Johnston, Bill Manhire and Chris Price contribute dazzling audio recordings of recent work and comment on their Six Pack selections. They join a gallery of recorded performances by poets working in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific region. Click, listen and browse Six Pack Sound’s growing sampler of remarkable poetic voices.

See here.

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