Tag Archives: Cliff Fell

Press release: Sarah Broom Poetry Awards results

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Wellington poet Hera Lindsay Bird is the winner of the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize 2017.

Bird is a Wellington-based poet and bookseller whose debut book of poems, the eponymous Hera Lindsay Bird, was published by Victoria University Press in 2016. It has been reprinted many times since, her poems being celebrated for their verbal flamboyance and humour, their ‘playful and exuberant’ qualities (NZ Listener). Bird has an MA in poetry from the International Institute of Modern Letters where she won the 2011 Adam Prize in Creative Writing. Earlier this week, she won the prize for best first book of poetry at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

Cliff Fell and Sandi King joined Bird as finalists for the prize at the Sarah Broom Poetry event at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 21 May. Each read work from their prize submissions, introduced by guest judge for 2017, Britain’s Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.

Duffy describes the entries for the prize as ‘eclectic and exciting’, and the three shortlisted poets as ‘those who shone brightest in a sparkling year’.

The Sarah Broom Poetry Prize was established to celebrate the life and work of Sarah Broom (1972-2013), author of Tigers at Awhitu and Gleam.  It is now in its fourth year, and we are pleased again to be working together with the Auckland Writers Festival to showcase and celebrate New Zealand poetry.

Hera Lindsay Bird wins Sarah Broom Poetry Award to an audience whoop

 

Carol Ann Duffy was the guest judge for the 4th annual Sarah Broom Poetry Award announced today at the Auckland Writers Festival. There is a generous monetary gift for the winner but the event also showcases the work of three New Zealand poets.

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Carol Ann read a selection of Sarah’s poems after underlining ‘the vital sense of importance of poetry to Sarah’s wellbeing.’ It was the best reading of Sarah’s work I have heard and I felt with each poem I was in a chamber of return. I returned to the exquisite craft of Sarah as a wordsmith, to our conversations, to the effect her writing has upon me.

We got to hear the three poets read before the winner was announced. I would have liked the judge to comment upon the entries as a whole, the posts she selected and the winner but for some reason she refrained from doing so. Is this the way it is done overseas?

 

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Hearing the three read, however was a highlight. Hera was up first and I started firing words in my notebook: anarchic, surreal, funny, acutely funny, cranky, provocative, sharp, torrent-of-consciousness-like in a finely crafted way which seems like an oxymoron, personal, confessional, sweetly fluent, spikey-fluent. I could have listened to her for hours.

 

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Cliff Fell was a marked shift in register and preoccupation. I was hooked on the rhythms to begin with, undulations of words like tidal flows; the detail accruing and dilating. There was an infectious quiet energy that drew me in – I wanted to sit down and reread the sumptuous poems on a page at a dawdle pace. I loved ‘The Pin Cushion,’ ‘The Song of a Pebble.’ And the sonnets with their random rhymes.

 

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Finally Sandi King read. I wasn’t familiar with her work but her poems drew upon love and memory with reverence and reverberations. Lines stood out and marked the writing as both personal and reflective. ‘Words are flutter boards beneath the surface.’ ‘It has taken a lifetime of tides to accept yourself.’

 

Hera admitted she had entered the competition as she wanted Carol Ann Duffy to read her work. This is indeed a special thing for those who enter each year: the chance to have an offshore judge spend time with our local poetry.

Grateful thanks to Michael and Sarah, and the AWF, for showcasing New Zealand poetry at this event. The Award is a vital part of and for our writing communities. Good to see the VUP folk in the crowd backing their authors.

The Sarah Broom Poetry Award finalists: an interview, some poems

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This world is only ever

water, rock and black air.

It cannot accommodate us;

we cannot, will not complain

when the water deafens and knocks us.

We shut our eyes

and meet its volleyed blackness.

 

©Sarah Broom, from ‘Caving,’  in Tigers at Awhitu (Auckland University Press, 2010)

 

 

 

 

The Sarah Broom Poetry Award supports New Zealand writers through an annual poetry competition. The finalists are invited to read their work at an Auckland Writers Festival event and the winner gets a substantial cash prize. This award matters not only because it offers a financial reprieve for a poet, but because it showcases our poetry. We are an eclectic bunch writing in diverse ways with diverse preoccupations within diverse communities. The award also returns me to Sarah’s poetry; an annual pilgrimage for which I am grateful. Her work continues to resonate on a personal level and along the fertile line, ever revealing, ever fresh and vital. I applaud Michael Gleissner and Sarah Ross for all the hard, behind-the scenes the work they undertake to make this award happen. Thank you.

This year’s judge is Carol Ann Duffy who will also appear at the Auckland Writers Festival.

The finalists: Sandi King, Cliff Fell, Hera Lindsay Bird

 

 

The Poems

 

 

Where the World Looks In

 

It’s true that everything’s always moving:

The way a sunbeam glances off the corner of the fridge

Or the shadows turn from violet to indigo.

 

Or the way your voice will slip a semi-tone

When you’re talking on the phone

And you think someone else is listening.

 

So I’ll wait for you under the first arch of the bridge

Where the river longs to persist,

To abide beyond its turbulence and flow

And all the other laws that words will not obey.

 

And I want the words to say

Something else again

Or just to be there when the river is blessed

Like a mirror where the world looks in.

 

© Cliff Fell

 

 

 

The Way Home

 

Flamboyant: noun

  1. The condition of being flamboyant
  2. A group of flamingos

http://www.yourdictionary.com/flamboyance

 

 

The lush wetland

of my unconscious mind is squawking

in the same way I formed thoughts

before I was old enough to know words.

Just out of sight I hear

wildlife, and the shore

bright with the colours of sunset

discarded in the morning

grass.

 

I reach through the wire fence

and grasp the legacy left to me,

orange/pink

and fragile. Thousands

of flamingo feathers

 

which I scoop secretly into a bag

and carry back to the motel

to admire the fluffy whiteness

of the tiniest feathers. I lay

the long ones in a row

to assess

their intensity of pigment,

their readiness for flight.

 

Sometimes I dream that my body

is wrapped in a bolt of organza.

It’s orange/pink,

a hood-to-ankle garment.

In the mirror, behind my reflection

I can see the Manawatu Estuary

coloured in with my childhood

dreams. I lift primary flight feathers

to the sky, soar

over road and cars and houses

all the way back to Nana and Grandad’s lawn.

 

In Nana’s flowerbed I find

two ornamental flamingos, pink

so pink. She bends as if to feed

from the shallows, he waits

fondly beside her.

They are translating the garden

into bird

of paradise.

 

I shelter with these two as long as I can hold

then wade on home, finally

orange/pink,

into the flamboyance of flamingos.

 

© Sandi King

 

 

 

 

The Questions

 

 

The Sarah Broom Poetry Award is a terrific supporter of New Zealand poets and poetry. Can you name a New Zealand poetry book that has resonated with you in the past few years. What do you love about it?

 

Sandi: Bill Nelson’s collection Memorandum of Understanding is stuffed with the kind of poetry I love to read. There is variety in the content that sparks my imagination. Some of the poems have an ambiguity, but of a giving nature. If the poem could talk to the reader it might say ‘I have more. Come back tomorrow and read me again.’  His clutch of poems titled ’How to do just about anything’ feature a liberal use of the second person that I enjoy.

Cliff: There are quite a few, but I particularly admired Dinah Hawken’s Ocean and Stone and recently enjoyed reading Hannah Mettner’s Fully Clothed and So Forgetful. But the book that resonated most with me in recent years is Rachel Bush’s Thought Horses, published shortly after she died in March 2016. It’s not only that she lived in Nelson and that I’d read some of the poems as they came into being, but the way the collection finds her – particularly in poems I hadn’t seen before – facing her death with such fortitude, wit and wisdom. Rachel has always had this wonderfully elastic syntax, and a giddy playfulness to the way she can shift focus in a poem. All of that is heightened in this collection. It’s a book that’s marvellously re-readable. I discover little gems I hadn’t noticed before, nuances and images, every time I enter its lost domain, its domain of loss.

Hera: I try not to talk about why I like certain books because I always end up lying by accident, but I always like reading Geoff Cochrane. Can everyone just take my word for it? It’s better this way.

 

 

What are some of the strengths or weaknesses of New Zealand poetry and its communities?

 

Sandi: I have found a lot of generosity. Writing groups meet together to nuture each other, and develop their work into the best it can be. We have organisers like Bill Sutton who organise events where poets can come together and hear each other. We have poetry competitions which offer hope to everyone who enters. There are still opportunities to be published thanks to the commitment of small publishers, plus a variety of journals and websites, and there are excellent educational opportunities available. New Zealand has talented mentors too – I have been extremely fortunate to be mentored by Renée.

Cliff: There’s so much going on in New Zealand poetry, you would have to be very dedicated to keep up with it all. Its strengths are its poets, of course. They’re probably its weaknesses, too. But I’d imagine that New Zealand poetry is generally thriving, gaining greater recognition overseas. Cheers to all responsible for that! As for its communities, apart from the point that individuals can create their own community, their following, these days, I’ve had a notion for a while that in the arts, in poetry in particular, in its real nose-to-the-grindstone communities, New Zealand resembles the city-states of late medieval, Renaissance Italy, with their arts flowering in different styles. There are similar alliances and rivalries and moments of cross-pollination, as there were then, and distinct local sounds or voices or concerns are beginning to develop, the way the Dunedin sound developed in music. The rivalries in poetry have been going on for generations, as we all know. All of this is, obviously, down to our demographics – relatively small population – and our geography, our topography, in that it means journeying between centres is bound to be epic, on some level. Who would the Papal State be in such an analogy? CNZ, I suppose, with the patronage it confers. Of course, this is a notion – and in some ways a ridiculous one – that I would favour, indulge in, due to my interests. Also, I’m an outsider, so that probably colours the way I see things. But I think there’s a kernel of truth to it. We may not exactly have to learn the taste of other people’s bread, but it’s not a bad trope for how things are.

 

Hera:

 

con: poor overall fighting technique, weak in physical combat department

pro: lots of wine

con: nobody to talk to at parties about Survivor

pro: except Louise Wallace and Holly Hunter

con: small population size leading to difficulty maintaining rigorous critical culture, ancient confusing unexplained feuds going back decades, lack of money, too many poems about mountains, easily hurt feelings

pro: if people hate you they have the decency to do it in private, to their friends and loved ones

con: James K Baxter

pro: oh relax, I’m only joking

 

 

 

Do you see your shortlisted collection as a surprising departure from your previous poetry, a continuation and deepening engagement with your poetic concerns, or something altogether different?

 

Sandi: To be honest, I was excited by the opportunity to have my work read by Carol Ann Duffy and looked through everything I have written for poems I thought she might like to read.

Cliff: More a continuation probably, though I’m not sure – and either way, hopefully some kind of a deepening engagement. To be honest I was amazed that my entry came together at all, as I hadn’t really been writing for a while. I wrote two new poems on the deadline day and heavily revised four others. When I looked at the collection again, on learning that I’d been shortlisted, one thing that did surprise me was to discover that three of the poems were ekphrastic in nature. How that came about, I really don’t know.

Hera: Some are following on from my first book, others are a little looser. I’m trying as hard as possible not to think about it while I write. The phrase poetic concerns is such a great one. It always makes me think of Byron having trouble with his swans.

 


I am putting you on the spot here, but if you were reviewing your collection, what three words would characterise its allure?  

 

Sandi: Sensual, adventurous, satisfying

Cliff: Yes, horribly on the spot, as I would hate to review my own collection. It would be a public self-mauling that no one would want to witness. Flawed. Flibbertigibbet. Fatal. Will they do? Oh, and Astronomy. That’s four words, but there are plenty of stones and stars, and also caves, in my poems. Too many probably.

Hera: Silly, unsettling, imagistic

 

 

When you write a poem, what talismans or cornerstones or spark plugs or jump leads or release pads do you favour? I am thinking, for example, of the way some poets are drawn to musicality, storytelling or the element of surprise.

 

Sandi: Many of my poems are portrait poems or persona poems. The beginning of a poem can sometimes be the sound of the character’s voice, and trying to thread that into the poem

so that maybe the reader can imagine the character speak when she reads the poem. Often a segment of story develops from the portrait as I write. Otherwise a poem will begin from a little stub – something I have seen, heard or felt. When I discover a stub, I write it down. Months later, I’ll look at that stub again, and sometimes it will be the start of a poem. It’s like taking cuttings from people’s gardens – you achieve variety without having to try too hard for it.

 

Cliff: Yes, I certainly believe in talismans and little rituals. I once knew a builder in Scotland who wouldn’t go up on a roof without a kilt pin in his trouser pocket. It’s easy enough to understand why, when you think about it. In my case, well, first up I consume a quantity of petrol. That’s for the spark plugs. Then I get into some kind of trance-like fire-eating routine, blowing flames around the room, hoping the poem and all my electric guitars will spontaneously combust. Or I imagine I’m being carried in a coffin into what has been billed on the invitation as an ‘outrageous’ party. This is in fact a gate-crasher’s ploy, as the hosts have notably declined to invite me. I only learned about this exclusive mother of all parties when I saw an invitation a so-called friend taunted me with. So when the night-watchmen I’ve hired as coffin-bearers carry me through the door, we thump into the hubbub, noise of glasses being smashed, voices, music, people banging on the lid and so on. I think they must have set me down in the middle of the dance floor, because when I emerge, naked as the day I was born, there she is, Topsie-Terpsichore, spinning and pirouetting and doing the scorpion in my arms. And we dance all night. Maybe it’s West Coast swing, on the track to begin with, but then it gets crazy, circle dancing around the coffin, big bass lines pumping out of the PA and deep into your rib-cage, and a frenzy of many arms and legs. Later, there will be sweaty, abandoned sex on the grassy shores of a lake. Moonlight and embarrassment, of course.  A boat, though perhaps it’s just the coffin floating away. I seem to remember there was a high wire-mesh fence we had to clamber over. Stuff like that. It all helps.

 

Hera: Everything at once. I like poetry pushed to its stylistic limits. For instance, take a poem about a swan in the moonlight. That might be a good poem. But what if…… instead of one swan you had a thousand swans? And what if instead of moonlight……the moon had never existed & instead there was a giant neon exit sign, hanging in the sky? I’m just being indirect because I don’t want to write a manifesto too early. I think one of the tasks of poetry is to teach yourself to write as many different ways as possible, and then to trick yourself into never thinking about them in the moment. Like mixed martial arts, if people used mixed martial arts to express their feelings about autumn.

 

 

 

 

 

The Finalists

 

 

Hera Lindsay Bird is a poet from Wellington. Her debut self-titled collection Hera Lindsay Bird was published in 2016 with Victoria University Press; it has been reprinted many times, and is currently on the shortlist for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. She has an MA in poetry from the International Institute of Modern Letters where she won the 2011 Adam Prize in Creative Writing. She works as a bookseller at Unity Books Wellington.

Bird’s work has been featured in The Guardian and Vice Magazine. She has been published in a number of journals and publications including Best New Zealand Poems, The Spinoff, The Listener, The Hairpin, Hue & Cry and Sport. In 2016 she ran a free, ten-week creative nonfiction class called TMI. She likes watching the figure skating at the winter Olympics and murder mysteries set on trains.

 

 

Cliff Fell is the author of three books of poems, The Good Husbandwoman’s Alphabet (illustrated by Fiona Johnstone, Last Leaf Press, 2014), Beauty of the Badlands (Victoria University Press, 2008) and The Adulterer’s Bible (Victoria University Press, 2003). The Adulterer’s Bible was awarded the 2002 Adam Prize in Creative Writing and the 2004 Jessie Mackay Prize for Best First Book of Poetry. Other poems have appeared in the online anthology Best New Zealand Poems and in various New Zealand and overseas publications. He has been a regular contributor to the RNZ National Nights programme, talking about poetry.

Born in London to an English mother and New Zealand father, he has lived in New Zealand since 1997 and worked, sometimes very briefly – and tenuously – as a roadie, musician, bank clerk, bar-tender and also in farming, forestry, and film-making. He studied History and Archaeology at Exeter University, received an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University and currently lives in the Motueka river catchment. He is a tutor of creative writing in the Arts programme at Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology.

 

 

Sandi King (previously known as Sandi Sartorelli) is a New Zealander of English, Irish, Danish and Moravian descent. She currently lives in the Hutt Valley with her youngest son Guy. She has a degree in Creative Writing from Whitireia New Zealand. Her work has been published in a number of journals and websites including 4th Floor, Blackmail Press, JAAM, Renée’s Wednesday Busk, Snorkel and takahē.

In 2013 three of King’s poems were highly commended in the Caselberg Trust Prize, the New Zealand Poetry Society Competition and takahē Poetry Competition. In 2015 her poem ‘Timing’ took first place in the Upper Hutt Poetry Competition. The most recent publication to include her work is the book Poetical Bridges/Poduri Lirice (2017), a collection of New Zealand poetry translated into Romanian, and Romanian poetry translated into English, created by Valentina Teclici.

 

 

Hera Lindsay Bird, Cliff Fell, and Sandi King will read poems from their submissions at the Sarah Broom Poetry Prize event at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday 21 May 4.30-5.30pm.

This is a free event. Guest judge Carol Ann Duffy will introduce the finalists and announce the winner of this year’s prize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Chords and the Truth: an evening of music and poetry for grownups (The Adulterators starring Cliff Fell and John Newton)

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The Adulterators (Cliff Fell & John Newton) w/ Mahoney Harris
Wed Oct 8 at 7:30pm to Thu Oct 9 at 10:00pm
The Dog’s Bollix in Auckland, New Zealand

Three Chords and the Truth: an evening of music and poetry for grownups

Cliff Fell’s The Good Husbandwoman’s Alphabet This gorgeous sequence holds you within its frame

TGHWA cover for Paula     TGHWA cover for Paula

Cliff Fell, The Good Husbandwoman’s Alphabet, Last Leaf Press, Motueka, 2014

 

Cliff Fell has published two previous poetry collections, The Adulterer’s Bible (Victoria University Press, 2003) and Beauty of the Badlands (Victoria University Press, 2008). His debut book gained the Adam Prize in Creative Writing and the 2004 Jessie Mackay Prize for Best First Book of Poetry. He currently lives on a farm near Motueka and teaches at Nelson Marlborough Institute of technology.

His new book, The Good Husbandwoman’s Alphabet is a team effort, as Cliff has worked in conjunction with artist, Fiona Johnstone and photographer, Ivan Rogers. The book is both slender and aesthetically beautiful. The images are alluring hooks that can either be read as self-contained visual poems or as part of an alternative narrative thread that forges subtle connections with the arc of Cliff’s text. Exquisite.

The poem takes the alphabet as its framing device. Each letter pirouettes upon the possibility of words, the power of words, the shimmering vulnerability of words. The voice of the husbandwoman gives us glimpses, only ever glimpses as we discover in ‘G,’ yet she accumulates, piece by piece, in the relations she unveils. Signals of self in ambiguous traces. You get to the end and hold a trembling portrait that flips and twists to become a portrait of the husbandman. Or is it. The ‘he’ and the ‘you’ slip and slide so you are not sure where husband ends and adultery begins (this poem has its origins in The Adulterer’s Bible).

This gorgeous sequence holds you within its frame. The mysterious code on the final page sends you back to see the portrait in a new light. An intense and aching light and I am not spoiling the hit of the revelation by speaking of it here. The lines are deft and bereft (ah the ache) and befit the narrating woman. Little pockets of confession, reflection and quiet. It is a joy to read.

 

Bridle

These words: throat-lash, brow band, bit—

how a horse gets broken in.

Each night I am unbridled.

Never try to understand a marriage.

It’s beyond the knowing of all but the finest

gentleman: how the bridle’s said to fit the bride.

 

NZ Book Council page

Victoria University Press site

NMIT page

Poem Friday: Cliff Fell’s ‘Once’ absorbs the pitch and shfts of Dante

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Once

Once when I was living in Florence

cycling home in the early hours

I heard an owl high in the campanile

and took a wrong turn down a wooden ramp,

an excavation in the Piazza Signoria—

and found myself in the city beneath the city

cycling between small ancient houses,

through alleys vaulted by the world of light

and the paving stones I knew.

They say we go into the ground

to know where Death will take us,

but I had entered this other world

in lively wonder— for I was in love with poetry

and the spectral light it casts over

the past and present and perhaps even the future,

though it is hard to say for sure what light

poems will cast over the time that is yet to come

or even that they will survive.

I only knew and cared that I was alive

in the catacombs and tumble

of a lost city, and that what I thought an alley

was really a thoroughfare leading to the river

between small shop fronts

such as you might find today

in cities like Herat or the Byculla backstreets

of Bombay— Mumbai as we must say.

Now I had to dismount to push the bike

and it seemed I had been heading

somewhere beneath the Uffizzi

for I had come to the waterside, though still

on a stratum below this world—

I could hear cars moving above me

on the via Lungarno,

the swish of their tyres on the cobble street,

close to the corner of Pontevecchio

and the nook where Dante once waited, alone and forlorn,

hoping to catch a glimpse of Beatrice,

as the pall-bearers carried her away.

Nothing ever happens twice,

and yet as I stood in the dank and must

of that underworld scene,

in what was once the Etruscan city,

I felt those old stones tensing up,

as though they could sense the poet in the shadows

waiting for the cortege to pass him once more,

and then to pass again.

 

Cliff Fell lives near Motueka. His latest publication is the illustrated poem, The Good Husbandwoman’s Alphabet, which is available in good bookshops or through messaging him on his Facebook page.

Cliff’s note: I can’t remember now exactly why or how I came to write ‘Once’,  but I think it must have been after a trawl through old notebooks and finding an entry from my Florence diary, where I lived in 1983 and ’84. I know it all sounds imagined, but in fact it’s based on a real event. I really did take a wrong turn on a bicycle down an archaeological excavation ramp in the Piazza della Signoria and find myself in the Etruscan city. Perhaps I didn’t get as far as the river, though. And there was an owl, too – but that was in the Piazza San Carmine, where I lived in my little car, an Allegro, through the autumn of 1983.

Paula’s note: Reading this poem I was taken right into the throbbing heart of Firenze with the shining detail of place, but I was also taken into the heart of Dante’s Inferno. It as though the narrating voice has absorbed the pitch and shifts of Dante as he (whichever) journeys deep into the underworld. This air of another poem accentuates the way Cliff’s poem is rich in strata. It is a physical journey located in time and place, but the poem also layers other travels. The old poet standing in the shadows awaiting his Beatrice is companion to the new poet on his bicycle (new world, contemporary time, young, alive). There is the way the movement into wrong turns and unexpected places yields mnemonic connections, and the way this physical and cerebral movement can be likened to the process of writing. The writing trope fits the poet perfectly (and I am also reminded of the freewheeling link between cycling and writing a poem). The way when you write a poem you stumble, take wrong turns, enter dark and light, emerge from dark and light, notice that things are not always as they initially seem. Each line of Cliff’s poem is handled with a deft touch, and each line takes you into the translucent sheen and surprise of the world with one stroke and into the lyrical beauty of Dante with another.