Tag Archives: Chris Tse

In the hammock: reading Mimicry IV

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Holly Hunter has edited the latest issue of Mimicry. She has drawn together an eclectic package of art and writing that will place your finger on the pulse of emerging (well mostly!) voices. The magazine is devoted to poetry, fiction, nonfiction, comedy, music, art, photography and design. It is slim but is abundant in reading currents.

You even get a mix tape at bandcamp to listen to as you read.

Often when I pick up a poetry journal I gravitate to the familiar poets whose work I already love – like a music hook. I will share my initial hooks with the rain thundering down outside. In this case Morgan Bach because I  haven’t read anything from her for awhile and I just loved her debut book, Some of Us Eat the Seeds. Her two poems here are honed out of cloud and snow and blood because they are light and airy and serious.

 

Looking for balance to the red interiors

in a calm sea of grasses, the dull love

of dust on a hillside, the caress of each

muscle as it contracts and expands

to pull me to a summit. That place

I would reuse to leave if I could,

but the hours have me by the ankles.

 

from ‘Terrific’

 

After hearing Emer Lyons read in Wellington last year, I jump to her poems in an instant. She is nimble on the page and in the ear, and tacks in fresh directions that retune me as poetry reader.

 

i talk too much at parties

every bee i see is dead or dying

people set fire to the sky

set the dogs howling

record themselves singing the same thing

on repeat

repeating

(and The Fish goes

A A X B B X

1 3 8 1 6 8)

 

from ‘strays’

 

Chris Tse’s latest book, HE’S SO MASC, is a sublime read. I love this book because it risks and it opens. The poem here is ultra witty but dead serious.

 

20. It’s the way we step out of a burning theatre as if nothing’s wrong.

21. As if the smoke in our eyes is a lover’s smile caught in sunlight.

22. An uncontrollable fire is perfectly fine, given the state of the world.

23. Then why do I feel so angry?

24. Are you angry?

25. I’m angry.

 

from ‘Why Hollywood won’t cast poets in films anymore’

 

Essa Ranapiri was a highlight for me at Wellington Readers and Writers week this year.  Their poem, ‘her*’, catches the way they make words ache and arc and slip between your ribs. You need to read the whole thing. To quote a glimpse is barely fair (two lines out of thirteen).

 

i left him wrapped in curtains

to stall the acid action of my stomach

 

from ‘her*’

 

I have only just discovered Rebecca Hawkes on The Starling. She is so good. The poem here is a linguistic explosion on the page: like an intricate and lush brocade that amasses shuddering detail and smatters expectation. You want to spend the weekend with this poem.  (I want to hear her read so will be posting an audio clip of a Starling poem soon)

 

I ask their name and they make an unpronounceable sound / like the

curdling clink of cooling obsidian / so I call them the ultimate war machine

 / they hurl rocks into my enemies and when they beat the earth with their

fists / I feel the world quake under me / this is how I know I have fallen in

love / but also onto the ground

 

from ‘Crush’

 

We are served well with fresh young literary journals at the moment (literary doesn’t seem to catch what they do). They keep you in touch with poets that continue growing on you but also take you into new zones of reading, with unfamiliar voices making themselves felt. Indelibly!  I have just read Sophie van Waardenberg’s three poems and they touch me, make me want to write with their viscosity and tang.

 

my girl becomes a calendar and I curl up inside her

my girl becomes a tongue twister and I curl up inside her

my girl lets the spring in through her hands

she puts her hands over my ears and I remember how it feels

 

from ‘schön’

 

Cheers to a well-stocked journal to keep you going through wet wintry days. I am saving the rest of the journal for the next wild weekend. First up Louise Wallace (author of much loved Bad Things), Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor (the winner of the Landfall Young Writers Competition 2018) and Rachel O’Neill (who was recently awarded a NZ Writers Guild Puni Taatuhi o Aotearoa Seed grant to develop her screenplay).

The pleasure of good writing journals is that keep you in touch with what you know and catapult you into the unfamiliar where you accumulate new must-reads. Mimicry does exactly that.

 

See Mimicry on Facebook

Enquiries: mimicryjournal@gmail.com

Writers on Mondays at Te Papa: 4 poetry highlights

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Mon 16 Jul – Mon 1 Oct 2018, 12.15pm–1.15pm

Poetry is at Te Marae, Level 4, Te Papa

 

Cost Free event, every Monday lunchtime

 

 

Full programme here

Winter Eyes: Harry Ricketts

July 30, 12.15–1.15pm

Harry Ricketts – a poet, editor, biographer, critic, and academic, is joined by editor and Victoria University Professor of English Jane Stafford to discuss his latest work.

Harry has published over thirty books, including the internationally acclaimed The Unforgiving Minute: A Life of Rudyard Kipling (1999), How to Catch a Cricket Match (2006), and Strange Meetings: The Lives of the Poets of the Great War (2010).

His eleventh and most recent collection of poetry is Winter Eyes (2018). Winter Eyes has been described as ‘Poetry as comfort, poetry as confrontation’.

These are elegiac and bittersweet poems of friendship, of love’s stranglehold, of the streets and buildings where history played out.

 

 

 

Poetry Quartet: Therese Lloyd, Tayi Tibble, Chris Tse and Sam Duckor-Jones

August 6, 12.15–1.15pm

Come and hear the new wave of New Zealand poets in a reading and discussion chaired by poet and essayist Chris Price.

These poets write works of boldness with an acute eye on relationships in the modern world. Therese Lloyd’s The Facts, Poūkahangatus by Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Porou), He’s So MASC by Chris Tse, and People from the Pit Stand Up by Sam Duckor-Jones are diverse and exciting books of poetry.

Each writer engages with language in innovative ways to explore and reimagine love, trust, intimacy, and the politics of being.

 

 

 

Pasture and Flock: Anna Jackson

August 13, 12.15–1.15pm

Pastoral yet gritty, intellectual and witty, sweet but with stings in their tails, the poems and sequences collected in the career-spanning new book Pasture and Flock are essential reading for both long-term and new admirers of Anna Jackson’s slanted approach to lyric poetry.

Jackson made her debut in AUP New Poets 1 before publishing six collections with Auckland University Press, most recently I, Clodia, and Other Portraits (2014). Her collection Thicket (2011) was shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Book Awards in 2012. As an academic, Jackson has had an equally extensive career authoring and editing works of literary criticism. She is joined by poet and publisher Helen Rickerby for an exploration of her career as poet, essayist and critic.

 

 

 

Best New Zealand Poems 2017

August 20, 12.15–1.15pm

Best New Zealand Poems is published annually by Victoria University’s International Institute of Modern Letters.

Get ready for Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day on 24 August by coming along to hear seven of the best read work selected for Best New Zealand Poems.

Poets Airini Beautrais, Chris Tse, Marty Smith, Liz Breslin, Greg Kan, Makyla Curtis, and Hannah Mettner are introduced by Best New Zealand Poems 2017 editor Selina Tusitala Marsh.

Visit the Best New Zealand Poems website (link is external) to view the full selection.

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf Audio Spot: Chris Tse reads ‘I want things that won’t make me happy’

 

 

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Chris Tse, ‘I want things that won’t make me happy’, He’s so MASC, Auckland University Press, 2018

Auckland University Press page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Tse to join LitCrawl 18 as a programme curator

 

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Well this is good news! It seems the Wellington literary extravaganza just gets better and better.

Looks like a trip to Wellington is in order!

Chris Tse to guest curate LitCrawl 2018

Poet Chris Tse is the inaugural guest curator for LitCrawl. We are tremendously excited to welcome Chris to the programming team where he will be conjuring up events alongside directors Claire Mabey and Andrew Laking. 

Chris is the author of two poetry collections published by Auckland University Press: How to Be Dead in a Year of Snakes (finalist at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and winner of the Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book) and HE’S SO MASC. Chris has a long history of involvement with some of Wellington’s leading arts and culture events, including roles with the New Zealand International Film Festival, Wellington on a Plate, Young and Hungry, and the New Zealand Young Filmmakers Showcase. As well as writing, Chris is an occasional actor and musician, and a keen photographer.

We know Chris will help curate an amazing programme for LitCrawl. Why? Because he gets what it’s all about:

‘LitCrawl is the biggest little literary festival in New Zealand. I wish I could say that I’ve seen it grow from the beginning, but I missed the very first LitCrawl in 2014 (I was bawling my eyes out at a Tori Amos concert in Melbourne). But! I’ve had the privilege of appearing in each LitCrawl since then and I’m thrilled to be on board this year as a guest curator.

The audiences at LitCrawl are some of the most diverse you’ll see here in New Zealand or abroad. Survey the faces present at any given event and you’ll see people from all walks of life brought together by a common curiosity. Although literature is front and centre, I love the cross-pollination with other arts and culture circles that happens during LitCrawl. There’s an exhilarating energy at every event, and the post-match party has become the social event in Wellington’s literary calendar.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf interviews Chris Tse

 

 

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Chris Tse is a poet, actor and musician whose poetry first appeared in AUP Poets 4. His award-winning debut collection, How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes, responds to a moment in history – a 1905 murder – not so much by narrating that history but by installing a chorus of voices. I loved the book as you will see here.

I consumed Chris Tse’s new poetry collection, He’s so MASC, in one sitting, because I was caught in its grip. The knottiness belies the grace and fluidity of writing, but the tangle of self – the laying on the line and the holding in reserve – haunted me. It feels utterly exposing, playful, inventive and daring. It is warm, vulnerable, strong. I began to fear a review might appear heavy-footed alongside its lithe connections; like a delicately balanced house of cards, a review might miss the point and topple it over. Instead I have opted for an unfolding email conversation.

Chris made a deeply personal speech at his launch, acknowledging heartfelt gratitude to his friends and family. His tears, in hoping his friends and family were proud of him, moved me to tears. He told us that, for the first time in his poetry, ‘the speaker is one hundred percent me’.  This is the book that matters. Chris also hoped the book might find its way into the hands of people who might ‘see themselves in it’.

 

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Chris Tse, He’s So MASC, Auckland University Press, 2018

 

Paula: Are you hesitant to answer questions about this book? I am hesitant to ask them! In the first poem we meet wolves. The wolf is also there in the last poem and makes a number of appearances in between, with teeth and claws and transformations. They can never settle to a single trope or behaviour or ache. I don’t want to explain the wolf. I just want to say they were a subterranean sharpness that clawed me. I can’t stop talking about the wolf. They are plot device, semantic undercurrent, emotional barometer, love infected, unreliable protagonist, hidden key. Ah, there is that glorious knottiness. Can you say anything about the wolf?

 

The wolves are closing in

on the ballroom while the band members

look out and brace themselves

for the conflict to come. Shit just got real.

They pick up their instruments

and clear their throats.

from ‘Intro’

 

 

Chris: For me, a big part of getting this book ready for publication was figuring out how I’m going to talk about it. With Snakes, it was like there was a safe following distance between me as author and the book as a literary/historical object. With this book, I don’t feel the safety of that distance given its themes and content, and honestly that’s a little terrifying. I work in communications and part of my job is to train our staff in how to deal with the media and select committees. We drill them on all the possible questions they could be asked and the best ways to answer them so that nothing throws them. I’ve been feeling I need to do that for myself for this book just to make me feel less anxious about it!

I like to think of each of the poems in this book being a single wolf roaming the terrain of my personal history. The first wolf poem I wrote for the book was ‘Lupine’, but it began life as a poem about my brother and I. Eventually, as the poem begin to take shape, it was clear that my brother had nothing to do with what I was trying to say in the poem. From there on, the image of the wolf and its association with transformation and masculinity felt like a good fit for what I wanted to explore, and so wolves began to pop up in other poems. I love how you’ve described the wolves as an ’emotional barometer’ – that’s a really apt description of what I wanted them to do in the book. They seem to have a habit of popping up in poems where I’m feeling uncertain, heartbroken, or angry.

 

Paula: I think the diverse self exposures is one reason why this book has affected me so much – and the sway between distance and intimacy. Things are at a distance and things keep disappearing. Presence is handlocked with vanishings, and not just the speaker in the poem. That flitting in and out of view intensifies the emotional impact for me, the unspoken. I am wondering too if distance is also coupled with masquerades and masks?

 

I can almost run my fingers through

the sun-streaked strands of those days

 

when I was nothing but a silhouette

disappearing into fog—just a sketch.

 

I could step into a crowd and never

resurface. No one would suspect anything.

 

from ‘Belated backstory’

 

Chris: The masquerades and masks are definitely there for distance. I’ve been performing my entire life – in public and private – so it was essential that this book, as unflinchingly open and true to my experiences as it is, also acknowledged the masks I’ve worn to protect, to give myself confidence, and to play. Those masks have been an important tool of survival and a way to make sense of the mess that sometimes builds up in my head. It’s also in part a response to having a somewhat public life now and the expectations that some people have of me as a Chinese New Zealand writer, especially given how few there are of us. I’ve talked at length in the past about being piegeon-holed, so I won’t go into all of that again, but sometimes I do feel like I’m performing the part of a Chinese New Zealand writer to appease others and meet a certain need. I can’t and won’t ever deny that side of me, but this book was a chance to draw from the intersectionalities of who I am.

 

Paula: Yes! The Chinese New Zealand part surfaces here and there – I was thinking like little teeth marks teeth to carry on the Wolf presence:

 

I’ll go to my next grave                     wondering

whether I pushed them hard enough to never settle

for being the token Asian in a crowd scene or

the Asian acquaintance in an ethnically diverse television series

from ‘Punctum’

I like the way intersectionalities of self are so important. The ‘coming out as a poet’ poems feel high risk when masks and arm’s lengths are dropped or reduced. I found these poems witty and raw and touching a chord. Yet there is also the nerve-ending intersections with coming out sexually. The one standing in for the other.

 

There’s no such thing as the perfect time or the best way to tell loved

ones about your poetry inclinations. You need to muster up every

ounce of courage in your being and just say it: I am a poet. You could

say ‘I write poetry’, but there’s something non-committal about

that phrasing, like you only dabble now and then and would prefer

not to attach labels to your preferences. Prepare yourself for a full

spectrum of emotional reactions, from ‘You’re still the same person

to me’ to ‘I can’t be friends with a poet’.

from ‘I was a self-loathing poet’

 

Paula: Is this an example of letting the poetry do the talking?

 

Chris: Absolutely. And not just letting it talk, but also letting it have the last laugh, so to speak. It was important to me that a poem like that (which dealt with something that I don’t exactly fondly look back upon!) had a healthy dose of humour in it to soften some of the emotional barbs for me as a writer. It’s not that I’m trying to run from the memory of that moment in my life or downplaying its significance. Rather, I see it as a way to embrace it for what it is while still being able to continuously learn from it and move forward.

Those intersectionalities of the self are important, and possibly even more so for readers who are trying to find someone they can identify with. On the flip side, those intersectionalities can be so easily carved up and used as labels to make someone or something appear more palatable or accessible. Even I’ve been guilty of this: as this book was coming together I would joke with my friends that this was “the gay book”, but it could just as easily have been “the break-up book” or “the pop music book”.

 

Paula: Sometimes poetry books should come with playlists at the back! This was what I was listening to at the time.

Is there a poem that particularly resonates with you – where everything has fallen into place and it just works or it matters in other ways? For me it is ‘Release’. I gasped when I read this. Maybe it is feeling that is both intense and restrained. I love this poem. Then again I like the surprise and momentum of ‘The saddest song’. I also adored ‘Wolf Spirit —Fade’, the last poem, but readers have to discover this poem for themselves.

 

Chris: Well, being the mix tape/playlist geek that I am, I’ve made two playlists for this book: Side A and Side B! They feature songs and artists that inspired the poems or feature in the poems themselves.

 

I can fit the saddest song in the world in my carry-on.

I can fit the saddest song in the world in my right-side brain.

But I can’t fit it in my lungs or hold on to it with confidence

when underwater.               And I can’t fit the saddest song

on one side of a 90-minute cassette tape without

an uncomfortable interlude cutting into its breath.

from ‘The saddest song in the world’

 

 

‘The saddest song in the world’ is the poem that resonates the most for me – I consider it the heart and soul of the book. Writing ‘Release’ was a very confronting experience. I read that poem now and I feel so vulnerable, but it was important to me that it had a place in the collection. Every time I had to revise what was in or out, I fought for it to be in, even though it feels like a ‘selfish’ inclusion because of its personal significance, so I’m glad it resonated with you as a reader! I’ve never performed it and I don’t know if I ever could. ‘Punctum’ and ‘Performance—Part 2’ were the last two poems written for the collection, after my publisher had already seen a final-ish version of the manuscript. They were both based on two separate lines that I’d been holding on to for a long time but just didn’t want to play with any of the other poems. When those two poems were finished it felt like I’d clocked a video game – those two lines were the things I needed to complete my quest!

 

Paula: One of the great attractions in the collection is movement. There are vital points (themes, events, revelations, states of being) that shine out, that repeat and overlap, a bit like a constellation. But it is the movement between that creates the knottiness I first mentioned, and I am not thinking of an ugly mess of a knot, just intricacies and complications.

What attracts you in the the poetry of others. Did you read any books that got under your skin while you were writing this?

 

Chris: I can’t pinpoint what attracts me to a particular poet or type of poetry – keeping an open mind is essential – but lately I have been drawn to poets and books that aren’t afraid to be sassy, funny or messy.

Unsurprisingly, I read a lot of poetry by gay male poets while writing this book: D.A. Powell, Richard Siken, Stephen S Mills, Ocean Vuong, Saeed Jones, Danez Smith, Andrew McMillan and Mark Doty, to name but a few. D.A. Powell was one of the first contemporary gay poets that I remember reading while I was an undergraduate and being absolutely shaken by his syntax and the emotional intensity of his writing.

Reading Hera Lindsay Bird’s first book was a revelation – a real YES! moment that in its own little way gave me the confidence to carry on with the types of poems I wanted to write for the book. Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts and Bluets have also had a profound effect on me recently. Her work is often described variously as memoir, essay or genre hybrid. It’s all drawn from her personal experiences, which are then filtered through many layers of what interests and excites her. That, to me, is poetry. The way she’s able to draw in so many threads to weave a net of support over a single narrative is fascinating to experience as a reader.

 

Paula: Finally, I love the title. It feels like a little challenge. You are opening the space of masculinity – stretching poems wide open to its possibilities. As our conversation so clearly shows your book challenges us as much as it challenges you. I am really intrigued how certain books, such as this one, matter so much to me – often it is because they anchor themselves in human experience in distinctive ways. This seems like a scary, tricky question but what do you love about your book?

 

Chris: That is a scary question! It’s apt that you’ve mentioned the title because that is what I would pick. For the longest time – even before Snakes was published – I thought I knew what the title of this book would be. But somewhere along the way it became clear that my working title wasn’t going to cut it, and this book needed something spikier with loads more character. HE’S SO MASC instantly felt right – it’s cheeky, it’s a little irreverent and there’s a pop music connection (Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual). And I love what Greg Simpson, the cover designer, has done with it too – the dash drawing my name into the title, the italicised ‘so’. In a way the title is a challenge – the word ‘MASC’ is so loaded in gay culture and I wanted to turn that on its head. It’s my way of pushing back on everything I’ve ever been told that made me feel like I wasn’t enough or didn’t fit in.

 

Auckland University page

Chris Tse website

Friday poem at the SpinOff