Tag Archives: Emma Neale

Poetry Shelf audio spot: Emma Neale reads ‘Man Up’

 

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‘Man Up’ from Tender Machines, Otago University Press, 2015

 

Emma Neale received the inaugural NZSA/Janet Frame Memorial Award, the Kathleen Grattan Award for an unpublished poetry manuscript (The Truth Garden), the University of Otago Burns Fellowship and the NZSA/Beatson Fellowship. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the Sarah Broom Poetry Award and the Bridport Poetry Prize, and her poetry collection, Tender Machines, was long-listed in the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Her novel, Billy Bird, was short-listed for the Acorn Prize in the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and long-listed for the International Dublin Literary Award. She is the current editor of Landfall.

 

Otago University Press page

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the hammock: Reading Landfall 235

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Landfall 235 launches Emma Neale as the new editor. The cover aptly features ‘The House Party’; Kathryn Madill’s monoprint is strange and seductive with sunken black space and textured skin. It is like a poem that tempts and then holds you in an intricate grip. There is a Madill sequence inside that is equally sumptuous, surprising, lyrical.

This is an addictive issue – think of it as a musical composition that carries you through diverse and distinctive reading effects across an arc from first poem to final story. I do hope more Pasifika, Māori and Asian poets send in submissions for the next issue to increase the diversity of voice.

The two visual sequences (by Madill and photogapher Russ Flatt) are stunning. Flatt’s photographs reconstruct memories from the ‘subconscious grief’ and experience of growing up gay in Auckland in 1970s and 1980s. Wow. This is the power of art to take you some place that transcends ideas and feeling but that is ideas and feeling.

Landfall 235 also includes the winner of the Charles Brasch Young Writers’ Competition,  Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor, fiction (including a keenly observed piece by Airini Beautrais) and reviews. It welcomes established elders such as Elizabeth Smither and Bernadette Hall and barely published authors such as Sarah Scott and James Tremlett.

 

 

Here are a few poetry highlights:

Tracey Slaughter has turned from her dark, edgy must-read fiction to poetry. She was recently shortlisted for the 2018 Peter Porter Poetry Prize and I can see why. Her poem, ‘the mine wife’, with short-line fluidity, fictional momentum building, spiky detail, gritty feeling, is all about voice. A vulnerable, risking, space clearing, ‘self’ admitting voice:

 

the hand is a useless

surface for showing

the love it takes

to clear a path. Under

layers you wait for me to sift

your face from its mask.

 

from ‘the mine wife’

 

Lynley Edmeades‘ list poem, ‘The Age of Reason’, kicks off from Jean Paul Sartre’s title to move from ‘longing’ to ‘baby’, scooping up Simone de Beauvoir on the way, and all the staccato thoughts that propel a micro portrait: because why because how because who. I adore this!

 

Because fear of death

Because a dog might do

Because antidepressants

Because déjà vu

Because the trees

Because the population

Because plastic

 

from ‘The Age of Reason’

 

‘A Love Letter to My Mother: A work in progress’ by Wen-Juenn Lee is layered and probing and direct. I am wanting to read the whole work:

 

She takes astronomy classes at night.

I do not ask her why she stargazes

what she looks for              in the oily darkness

we go to a poetry reading on migrant women

I do not tell her

I remember her crying on the plane

 

from ‘A Love Letter to My Mother: A work in progress’

 

Nick Ascroft’s playful word shenanigans in ‘A Writer Wrongs’ are a delicious shift in key as rhyme binds  writer, hater and waiter:

 

So my fish is pallid.

So there’s a little pebble in my freekeh salad.

Is it necessary a balladeer batters

out a ballad?

 

from ‘A Writer Wrongs’

 

I haven’t encountered Rachel Connor‘s poetry before. She is a medievalist and a  postgraduate student in Otago University’s Department of English. I want to read more of her poetry! Her poem, ‘Home’, captivates with its quirky tropes and agile pivots upon ‘swan’:

 

A swan like a carved radish kickstarts its way across the water.

It should be easier

to temper my words and make iron gates of them,

to remember the names picked out in gold

that echo a memorial garden.

 

from ‘Home’

 

Tim Vosper offers my favourite ending in ‘The False Way to the Real’

 

When it comes time to kill the lamp

the leaf will turn into a shade.

 

from ‘The False Way to the Real’

 

I am fan of Sugar Magnolia Wilson’s poetry and have fingers crossed she gets a book out soon. ‘Betty as a Boy’ is lush with detail and movement:

 

And you, outside the upmarket  grocer’s, camouflaged top, khaki pants

slashed with a silk of red, a backpack strung with things that clink,

disappearing into your androgyny— the inverse of a newly minted drag queen,

appearing like a flaming comet, burning to be noticed.

 

from ‘Betty as a Boy’

 

Here is another unfamiliar poet I want to see a collection from. Susan Wardell’s poem pulsates with glorious surprising life. I will quote a piece but I urge you to read the whole thing: place rich, lithely troped, visually sparking, enigmatic, humane.  I am drawn to the voice, to the word hunger, to the portrait built.

 

They say

when meaning is gone, all that is left

is the grain

of the voice.

 

Well, hers sweeps the room like salt-flecked taffeta.

 

from ‘Grain of her Voice’

 

Writing journals, literary journals open up new avenues of reading and engagement. Landfall 235 is no exception. I have not finished, I have not yet read the reviews and all the fiction, but congratulations Emma Neale, you have taken the literary torch from David Eggleton, and the boost he gave, and turned your astute editorial eye to our advantage. I have new poets I am keen to track  down. I have seen familiar poets with fresh eyes. Kind of like a poetry house party in my head.

 

Landfall page

You can also go to the Landfall Exhibition if you live in Dunedin. Opening is Thursday May 25 at 5.30 pm.

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From NZ Festival: Landfall editor, Emma Neale, talks to ARTicle magazine about her reading life

 

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The first book to capture my imagination was

My mother read aloud a lot of AA Milne, Beatrix Potter to me and my sister when we were small; I loved the Narnia books; and one novel that still stands out for me was a copy of The Last of the Great Whangdoodles, by Julie Andrews Edwards – it was a book bought for the plane flight to America when I was 8. There was something momentous about it being a hardback, being written by the person I thought of as Mary Poppins, and its imaginative fantasy world, with moments of ludicrous word play (the sweet tooth – a tooth with a tiny flower tattooed on it) totally transported me.

 

Full article here

 

Monday Poem: Emma Neale’s ‘Called’

 

Called

(2015)

 

It is October in Dunedin.

Rhododendrons fan out flamenco skirts;

magnolias, magnanimous with their moon-cool glow,

light the path south so the sun stirs us early;

although the river, the creek boulders,

the city’s cinched green belt, still hold the cold

like an ice store’s packed down snow.

 

The days shiver with filaments

of ua kōwhai: soft rain that dampens paths,

shakes loose carpets of white stamens, yellow flowers

bruised and trodden like flimsy, foil cornets.

School holidays send out falling, silvery arcs

of children’s sky-flung laughter; our bodies drink it in

as if love’s parched ground sore needs this watering.

 

Yet the radio stays hunched in the kitchen corner,

hard grey clot in the light’s fine arteries

muttering its tense bulletins

and as if they sense this late spring still harbours

frost’s white wreck, or some despotic harm abroad

seeps too near, our sons more than anything want

their old games: secret codes, invisible ink, velvet cloaks;

hide ’n’ seek in public gardens’ clefts and coves—

 

and again, again, can we tell them again

 

the chapters of how they first appeared

in the long, blurred myths we are entangled in;

kingfisher-blue wells of their eyes a-gleam

as if they know how much all adults withhold.

They want us to go back deeper, to when

we both were star-spill, sea-flume, spirits,

only belatedly woman, man, climbing up from a shore

feathered in sand black and soft as ash,

driven by some gravid magnetism towards each other

 

in case we changed to birds, lizards, trees,

or back to sea-salt borne by wind;

an urge clear as hunger coursing the cells’ deep helix

to complete this alteration, half bury and re-germinate

the fleet molecules of self, so we could run our mortal hands

the right, kind way along the children’s plush skins,

learn, pulse on pulse, their true, human names.

Yes, we must go back and back; as if to swear

even to this dread epoch’s wild, original innocence.

 

©Emma Neale

 

Emma Neale received the inaugural NZSA/Janet Frame Memorial Award, the Kathleen Grattan Award for an unpublished poetry manuscript (The Truth Garden), the University of Otago Burns Fellowship and the NZSA/Beatson Fellowship. Her poetry has been shortlisted for the Sarah Broom Poetry Award and the Bridport Poetry Prize, and her poetry collection, Tender Machines, was long-listed in the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. Her novel, Billy Bird, was short-listed for the Acorn Prize in the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and long-listed for the International Dublin Literary Award. She is the current editor of Landfall.

 

 

 

 

 

Are NZ poetry reviews an endangered species?

 

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I have a swag of poetry books from 2017 that I have not yet got to – but over the next months I am flagging them through a suite of Summer Postcards.

How important is it that our poetry books get reviewed?

Poetry books get so little attention in the media these days. NZ Books still offers a handful of poetry reviews.  Not sure about Takahe. There is Landfall-on-line steered by poet Emma Neale and the occasional attention in print media (Siobhan Harvey in The Herald). For members there is the quarterly NZ Poetry Society Review. There are a few reviews at The Spin Off or in The Listener. Poetry (USA) recently did a NZ cluster and you find some in the Poetry New Zealand Annual. Pantograph Punch has supported poetry, but until they can pay reviewers a decent amount, they are no longer doing reviews.

 

From The Pantograph Editors:

The Hardest Call

Because of these changes, we’ve made the difficult decision to hit pause on publishing reviews. It’s been one of the toughest decisions we’ve made.

During the existential crisis of 2017 (refer above) we came to the somewhat crushing realisation that in underpaying our writers (sometimes as low as $50 a review), we were contributing to a structure that systematically devalues those writers and privileges voices who can afford to write for low pay. In trying to support critical culture, we were simultaneously contributing to its decay.

It’s one of the hardest decisions because it feels so contradictory: we’re stopping doing one of the exact things we believe in the most.

We strongly believe in critical dialogue, and one of our areas of focus for 2018 is finding a way to bring reviewing back. We’re committed to creating a sustainable pathway for future critics, so one of the things we’ll be doing is creating a fund which will be dedicated to commissioning reviews. Our commitment is to be able to pay reviewers a minimum of $300 per review, and if you feel as strongly about this as we do, we invite you to donate to that fund here.

Pantograph Punch

 

You can read the full piece and contribute to the funding call here. They favour posting less (one a week) and building a climate of critical dialogue. This is exciting news. Bravo PP!

 

We are hungry for critical forums. Joan Fleming recently started a vital discussion on reviewing with her Facebook friends:

 

The Question of Claws

As I step into a new role at Cordite Poetry Review – that of NZ Commissioning Editor – I have been troubling my head about how critical to be of New Zealand poetry books that strike me as undeveloped. Particularly when I’ve admired a writer’s poems in journals, and am frustrated by their book; or am struck by the first few stunning poems of a collection, which then disappointingly levels out. It is tough to be honest in a poetry culture that is so intimately small. Often in our poetry reviewing, there is gentleness where I want rigour, and there is faint praise where I want productive disagreement. We are overly careful because we are reviewing friends and colleagues. We don’t want to offend. It is tricky. Do aesthetic battles push writers to better writing, or ought we to only support and encourage each other, trusting that we are all already pushing ourselves?

On the one hand, the stakes are so low: there is no money, there is no fame (except for the occasional meteoric anomaly!), and poetry is hardly a career. On the other hand, the stakes are painfully high. We are talking about our raw-edged souls on the page here. In a Facebook thread, I asked the question (provocatively worded, I suppose): “Should we be showing our claws more often?” For claws, read: Do I dare to write a thoughtful yet unfavourable review?  I hope to think there is nothing in me that wants to tear down other writers because of agendas, grudges, or jealousies – but we all have our lenses and leanings, our sometimes-unconscious preferences and biases.

I, myself, am trying to thicken up my own dreadfully thin skin. A solution to this bind (and this is not an original thought – I think Ellie Catton suggested this way back) is to foster more trans-Tasman reviewing: New Zealand poets reviewing Australians, and Australians reviewing New Zealand books. At Cordite, we’re doing a little of this. We have lots of NZ books on our review list. I wonder if a New Zealand publication might take up this challenge? (Pantograph Punch: I’m looking at you!)

Joan Fleming

 

Last week I posted a piece on my Poetry-Shelf aims to see if it was worth keeping up the blog. Is it relevant? Does it matter that I do this? I want to post poems and do reviews, interviews, news, events, musings on local and international poetry. And at times involve other people (as I have done), but in the current drive for decent payment, how can this possibly work?

I strongly believe we need a go-to-place for NZ poetry that crosses borders of all kinds. I like the idea of a mix of reviews (long and short) so that a decent number of published books catch your attention. Ha! so there is a new James Brown out! Or Joan Fleming is reading from a new book at TimeOut (if only!). 

To have a long review of your book where the reviewer has paid utmost attention is ideal. But to have no reviews and feel like your book has drifted into the ether is heartbreaking.

I posted this on Joan’s Facebook feed:

I review books on my blog that I love. My life is too short to absorb the toxic fallout of writing about books that I don’t love. I aim to celebrate and explore what a book of poetry might do.

I so often read negative reviews that incense me because the writers seems straitjacketed by a narrow reading and clear bias (I don’t like experimental poetry but here I am reviewing it kinda thing!). Or poets and reviewers who insist there are certain things a poem must do, and if it doesn’t, then it is a failure.

I am not afraid to put my claws out when an important book warrants it – as with the AUP literary omnibus. That attracted utter venom towards me on social media and affected me in all kinds of other ways – but I would still do it. My doctoral thesis (Italian) challenged the way the academy is driven to deconstruct and tear apart, rather than forge connections and produce different intellectual models of thought.

That said, in a world that continues to privilege the status of white men, we still need claws to unpick the ideas that shape us and that we so easily become immune to and accept.

Ellie Catton once used the word kindness in talking to students about writing. Our PM has used the word in view of governing a nation. I want to review out of kindness. That doesn’t mean I will say things I don’t mean when I talk about your poetry. It doesn’t mean I only say good things. It means I pay attention to the fact a human being has written it. It means I work hard to find path ways through a book that might present itself with shuttered windows on foreign pathways on a first reading.

Sometimes the bridge between the reader and a book fails. When I can’t cross that bridge, I am going to share a book where I can.

I believe we can have critical discussions and write out of state of kindness.

This may not be the majority point of view, but it is my view. I have almost finished a book that rescues some of the women from the past who have been misread, unread, muted and sidelined by men with their claws out because in their view the women were not writing poetry.

We, as women poets, have come a long way since our banishment to the shadows, but things are still not ideal. So I will continue to be part of the small (and it is SO very small) group of writers who go public on what they love (outside institutions, financial reward and so on, so beholden to nobody) because I want you (in the widest reach a pronoun is capable of) to fall in love with poetry and what a poem can do.

As I said at the Poetry & Essay conference in Wellington in December this is a matter of JOY!