Tag Archives: Hera Lindsay Bird

Poetry Shelf Spring Season: Emma Espiner picks poems

Photo credit: Jenna Todd Photography

I had two introductions to poetry. The first was through my husband who insisted that my apathy towards the form was because I was going about it all wrong. Poetry had to be read aloud to be understood, he told me. He read Cassandra’s Daughter and As big as a father in the living room of our home on a hill on the south coast of Wellington and I conceded, he was right. 


The second introduction was through the arrival of Tayi Tibble. Tayi is a gateway drug, and once I’d read In the 1960s An Influx of Māori Women I read everything else she had written and, still hungry, found Hera Lindsay Bird and Nicole Titihuia Hawkins. Type Cast and Monica sit together, a matched set of sitcoms from the 90s, deconstructed and devastated, repurposed. 


These young women brought me home to J.C. Sturm, a writer whose collection of short stories I stole from my university’s library as a graduation gift to myself last year. Her poem Coming Home reaches across the years since her death into the heart of our collective ache for identity and belonging. Sturm writes with clarity and prescience and her work sits comfortably alongside the best of Aotearoa’s contemporary poets.

Emma Espiner

The poems

In the 1960s an Influx of Māori Women

Move to Tinakori Road in their printed mini dresses
Grow flowers on white stone rooftops to put in their honeycomb vases.
Dust the pussy-shaped ashtray their husbands bought on vacation in Sydney.
Walk to Kirkcaldie and Stains while their husbands are at work.
Spend their monthly allowance on a mint-green margarita mixer.
Buy makeup at Elizabeth Arden in the shade too-pale-pink.
Buy vodka and dirty magazines on the way home from the chemist.
Hide the vodka and dirty magazines in the spare refrigerator in the basement.
Telephone their favourite sister in Gisborne.
Go out to dinner with their husbands and dance with his friends.
Smile at the wives who refuse to kiss their ghost-pink cheeks.
Order dessert like pecan pie but never eat it.
Eat two pieces of white bread in the kitchen with the light off.
Slip into the apricot nylon nightgown freshly ordered off the catalogue.
Keep quiet with their husbands’ blue-veined arms corseting their waists.
Remember the appointment they made to get their hair fixed on Lambton Quay.
Think about drowning themselves in the bathtub instead.
Resurface with clean skin, then rinse and repeat.

Tayi Tibble

from Poūkahangatus, Victoria University Press, 2018

As big as a father      

I lost him the first time
before I could grasp
who he was, what he did, where
he fitted with her

and it’s always seemed so dumb:
how to lose something
as big as a father.

I lost him the next time
to the rum-running Navy
who took him and took him
and kept right on taking

and it wasn’t my mistake
losing a vessel
as big as a father.

I lost him a third time
to a ship in a bottle
that rocked him and rocked him
and shook out his pockets

and no kind of magic
could slip me inside
with my father.

I lost him at home
when floorboards subsided
as he said and she said
went this way and that way

and dead in the water
I couldn’t hang on
to my father.

The last time I lost him
I lost him for good:
the night and the day
the breath he was breathing

 and death’s head torpedoes
blew out of the water
the skiff of my father.

  Jeffrey Paparoa Holman

    from As big as a father, Steele Roberts, 2002

Cassandra’s Daughter

Cassy for short.
We’re discussing the colour green
and why.  And how last night
in her dreamtime a wooden-horse
appeared.  And look–how the wind
puts shivers in the water, shaking
the keys in their locks.
Only five years old, she is
already in love with how
one word wants another
with astonishing ease.
Inside the alphabet now,
inside the lining of a word
she asks me as we sit
on the garden wall under
plum-coloured sun: why
were you born at seven o’clock
that night?  I was a morning baby
my mum says, the best kind.
I was born with my eyes open,
you see?  Would you like to
hear me sing?  I can almost dance,
too.  Would you?  I can hear
that she knows, Priam’s daughter,
all her years to heaven–
that every word was once
a poem, isn’t it?

Michael Harlow

from Cassandra’s Daughter, Auckland University Press, 2005

                


Typecast 

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a fat brown woman
with a pretty face, wild hair
& an ass that could
clap back against the haters
when she plays T.K, Vinnie & Maxwell
sleeping with them all at the same time. 

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a girl gang of Māori women
who eat the weight 
of their feelings in cheese 
at wainanga & help each other
craft responses to
cultural appropriation, Govt. Depts & fuckbois.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us an exhausted junior Dr.
tall & thin, newly-vegan 
who still eats hāngī on the marae
Waka Blonde Ngāti Kahu Khaleesi 
fangirling over Lance O’Sullivan
addicted to kawakawa ointment.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a fair-skinned Kāi Tahu Boss Lady
an expert in her field
who gets nominated for awards 
invited home to speak on panels
who snapchats her friends from the wharepaku 
saying she feels like a fraud on her own whenua. 

I want Shortland Street
to cast us an overworked
social science teacher
wearing Hine & Whitewood to work
teaching Harry, Ula & Jasmine
Whare Tapa Whā & The Native Schools Act
her passionate tangents hashtagged #WhaeasRants.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a solo Mum in her 40’s
whose babies are to different men
rose quartz, ratchet 90’s home done
tā moko on her big boobs
spilling from a pilling lace bra from Kmart
as she rushes late from school gate to mahi.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a long-grey-haired Kui
with a moko kauae 
who talks to our tīpuna 
in her dreams, by night
kaumātua kapa haka, 
rewana bug feeding, by day. 

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a Ngāti Porou Aunty
who sets Marge, Kirsty & Leanne straight 
when they mispronounce her reo 
takes her own time to teach them
then vents to Vasa at Box Fit
that they complained to the boss she was telling them off.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a co-sleeping
breast-feeding Māmā
who laughs at the Plunket nurse
when she tells her to leave her 
baby to cry in a cot
calling it sleep training.

I want Shortland Street
to cast us a young emerging talent
raising eyebrows even higher than her skirt hems
rubbing shoulders with the 
top surgeon’s fathers
Chris Warner wrapped around
her dusky middle finger.

Nicole Titihuia Hawkins

from Sport 47, 2019



Monica

Monica
Monica
Monica

Monica Geller off popular sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Is one of the worst characters in the history of television
She makes me want to wash my hands with hand sanitizer
She makes me want to stand in an abandoned Ukrainian parking lot
And scream her name at a bunch of dead crows
Nobody liked her, except for Chandler
He married her, and that brings me to my second point
What kind of a name for a show was F.R.I.E.N.D.S
When two of them were related
And the rest of them just fucked for ten seasons?
Maybe their fucking was secondary to their friendship
Or they all had enough emotional equilibrium
To be able to maintain a constant state of mutual-respect
Despite the fucking
Or conspicuous nonfucking
That was occurring in their lives
But I have to say
It just doesn’t seem emotionally realistic
Especially considering that
They were not the most self-aware of people
And to be able to maintain a friendship
Through the various complications of heterosexual monogamy
Is enormously difficult
Especially when you take into consideration
What cunts they all were

I fell in love with a friend once
And we liked to congratulate each other what good friends we were
And how it was great that we could be such good friends, and still fuck
Until we stopped fucking
And then we weren’t such good friends anymore

I had a dream the other night
About this friend, and how we were walking
Through sunlight, many years ago
Dragged up from the vaults, like
Old military propaganda
You know the kind; young women leaving a factory
Arm in arm, while their fiancées
Are being handsomely shot to death in Prague
And even though this friend doesn’t love me anymore
And I don’t love them
At least, not in a romantic sense
The memory of what it had been like not to want
To strap concrete blocks to my head
And drown myself in a public fountain rather than spend another day
With them not talking to me
Came back, and I remembered the world
For a moment, as it had been
When we had just met, and love seemed possible
And neither of us resented the other one
And it made me sad
Not just because things ended badly
But more broadly
Because my sadness had less to do with the emotional specifics of that situation
And more to do with the transitory nature of romantic love
Which is becoming relevant to me once again
Because I just met someone new
And this dream reminded me
That, although I believe that there are ways that love can endure
It’s just that statistically, or
Based on personal experience
It’s unlikely that things are going to go well for long
There is such a narrow window
For happiness in this life
And if the past is anything to go by
Everything is about to go slowly but inevitably wrong
In a non-confrontational, but ultimately disappointing way

Monica
Monica
Monica
Monica Geller from popular sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S
Was the favourite character of the Uber driver
Who drove me home the other day
And is the main reason for this poem
Because I remember thinking Monica???
Maybe he doesn’t remember who she is
Because when I asked him specifically
Which character he liked best off F.R.I.E.N.D.S
He said ‘the woman’
And when I listed their names for him
Phoebe, Rachel and Monica
He said Monica
But he said it with a kind of question mark at the end
Like……. Monica?
Which led me to believe
Either, he was ashamed of liking her
Or he didn’t know who he was talking about
And had got her confused with one of the other
Less objectively terrible characters.
I think the driver meant to say Phoebe
Because Phoebe is everyone’s favourite
She once stabbed a police officer
She once gave birth to her brother’s triplets
She doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks about her
Monica gives a shit what everyone thinks about her
Monica’s parents didn’t treat her very well
And that’s probably where a lot of her underlying insecurities come from
That have since manifested themselves in controlling
And manipulative behaviour
It’s not that I think Monica is unredeemable
I can recognize that her personality has been shaped
By a desire to succeed
And that even when she did succeed, it was never enough
Particularly for her mother, who made her feel like her dreams were stupid
And a waste of time
And that kind of constant belittlement can do fucked up things to a person
So maybe, getting really upset when people don’t use coasters
Is an understandable, or at least comparatively sane response
To the psychic baggage
Of your parents never having believed in you
Often I look at the world
And I am dumbfounded that anyone can function at all
Given the kind of violence that
So many people have inherited from the past
But that’s still no excuse to throw
A dinner plate at your friends, during a quiet game of Pictionary
And even if that was an isolated incident
And she was able to move on from it
It still doesn’t make me want to watch her on TV
I am falling in love and I don’t know what to do about it
Throw me in a haunted wheelbarrow and set me on fire
And don’t even get me started on Ross

Hera Lindsay Bird

from Hera Lindsay Bird, Victoria University Press, 2016

Coming home

for Peter

The bones of my tupuna
Safe in secret places up north
Must wait a little longer
Before they claim me for good
             The love of my second parents
             Unconditional from the beginning
              Unrelenting to the end
              Never quite made me theirs
That tormented paradoxical man
Father of my children
Convinced me we belonged together
But then moved on.
               The young ones (our young) he left behind
                Claimed my castle as their own
                Being themselves a part of me
                Always, bone of my bone
Years earlier, a much younger self
Lay face down in the hot dry sand –
                 Salt on her skin, the smell
                 Of green flax pungent in the heat,
                 Summer a korowai
                 Around bare shoulders –
And felt in her bones
Without knowing why
She belonged to that place.
Nearly a life-time later
On another beach –
                                             the sea
           A blinding shield at our feet,
           Behind us a dark hill fortress
           With sentinel sea birds
           Circling and calling –
I lay down beside you in tussock
And felt without warning
I had come home.                  

J. C. Sturm

from Dedications, Steele Roberts, 1996, published courtesy of J. C. Sturm estate

Emma Espiner (Ngāti Tukorehe, Ngāti Porou) is a doctor at Middlemore Hospital. Emma hosts the RNZ podcast on Māori health equity, Getting Better which won best podcast at the Voyager media awards in 2021. She won Voyager Opinion Writer of the Year in 2020. Emma’s writing has been published at The Spinoff, Newsroom.co.nz, Stuff.co.nz, The Guardian, and in academic and literary journals.

Hera Lindsay Bird was a poet from Wellington. She hasn’t written a poem in a long time, and no longer lives in Wellington. 

Michael Harlow has written 13 books of poetry, and was awarded the prestigous Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement for Poetry in 2018.  A collection of his poems, Nothing For It But To Sing was the Kathleen GrattanAaward forPoetry, and in 2014 he was awarded the Lauris Edmond Memorial prize for Distinguished Contribution to New Zealand poetry.  He has been awarded a number of Writers’ Residences including the Robert Burns Fellowship, the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship to France.  This past year The Moon in a Bowl of Water was published by Otago University Press.He lives and works in Central Otago as a writer, editor, essayist and Jungian Psychotherapist.

Nicole Titihuia Hawkins (Ngāti Kahungunu ki Te Wairoa, Ngāti Pāhauwera) is an emerging writer, avid home-baker and pro-level aunt. She lives in Te Awakairangi, hosts Poetry with Brownies and runs side hustles with her besties. She is most commonly found teaching English, Social Studies & Māori Activism at a local High School. Her debut poetry collection will be published by We Are Babies Press in 2021.

Jeffrey Paparoa Holman is a poet and non-fiction writer, most recently, Blood Ties: selected poems, 1963-2016, Canterbury University Press (2017); a memoir, Now When It Rains, Steele Roberts (2018); Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2021, an essay on prison reform; poetry in More Favourable Waters – Aotearoa Poets respond to Dante’s Purgatory, (The Cuba Press, 2021).

J. C. Sturm (1927 -2009), of Taranaki iwi, Parihaka and Whakātoa descent, is thought to be the first Māori woman to graduate from a New Zealand university (First Class Hons, Philosophy, Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka). She initially wrote short fiction, and her work was the first to appear by a Māori in an anthology. Her debut collection, Dedications (Steele Roberts, 1997), received an Honour Award at the 1997 Montana NZ Book Awards. She published further collections of poetry, and received an honorary doctorate from Victoria University of Wellington Te Herenga Waka.

Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Porou) was born in 1995 and lives in Wellington. In 2017 she completed a Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington, where she was the recipient of the Adam Foundation Prize. Her first book, Poūkahangatus (VUP, 2018), won the Jessie Mackay Best First Book of Poetry Award. Her second collection, Rangikura, was published in 2021 (VUP).

Spring Season

Tara Black picks poems
Victor Rodger picks poems
Peter Ireland picks poems

Poetry Shelf Classic Poem: Sugar Magnolia Wilson picks Hera Lindsay Bird’s ‘ Kiss me harder, Abraham Lincoln’

 

Kiss me harder, Abraham Lincoln

 

In poems you can do anything you like. You can start fires, or break the law. You can break the law by starting fires. You can set fire to the house of your worst enemy. In poetry, you can have worst enemies. In real life, I’m still working on it. In terms of candidates there’s that dickhead at the salad bar, not to mention the girl who used to ring me up and scream at me, but I’ve got a new phone number now and as much as I hate the salad guy, I’d like to think that I’m a contentious citizen who wouldn’t intentionally try to burn his house down. Besides, I don’t have his address. But I’m totally onto you, salad man! In poems you can make out with whoever you like, even if they died forever ago. In poems you can say, ‘Oh Abraham Lincoln, kiss me harder.’ I have a friend who’s angry at poetry because he says it makes life more beautiful than it really is, which is a dumb reason to hate anything. Hating poetry because it makes life more beautiful is like hating ketchup on your burger because it makes your burger more delicious than it really is, or hating the swans on the lake, for making the lake seem more peaceful. Fuck off swans! How am I supposed to make an accurate emotional assessment of the lake with you gliding around like a toilet paper commercial? Sometimes all I want is a poem that feels like real life. Something directionless and frightened, without any literary subtext, or clever double meanings. Clever double meanings are like those magic eye puzzle. You can get really good at seeing the hidden picture, but in the end you’re still the asshole sitting in the library at lunchtime saying ‘I can’t believe you guys can’t see the dolphins,’ to no-one, because your friends all left hours ago. Sometimes all I want is the poet to come clean and say, ‘I have no idea how to live.’ Sometimes I just want to list some things that I like. That song ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King.’ The names of lipsticks. Poached eggs on a stack of potato cakes. Houses. Flowers. Swamps and the monsters who live in them.  The internet.

 

Hera Lindsey Bird

The poem originally appeared in Sport 40, 2012 in a slightly different version.

 

 

Sugar Magnolia Wilson on ‘Kiss me harder, Abraham Lincoln’

I had a dream a few weeks ago that I asked Hera why she’d changed the line “Fuck off swans! How am I supposed to make an accurate emotional assessment of the lake with you gliding around all serene?” to “Fuck off swans! How am I supposed to make an accurate emotional assessment of the lake with you gliding around like a toilet paper commercial”. The first iteration comes from an issue of Sport back yonky-donks ago, I think 2011 or 2012. So, I assume it was a poem written in her MA year at the IIML. It was the first time I’d read anything by Hera, and I think the first time I’d really read anything by a young New Zealand poet that really spoke to me. In fact, I’m not sure I even knew that people under 300 could have poems published in New Zealand.

I think the toilet paper version is what’s in her book, and I feel like that line got snazzed up, but, I wish it hadn’t been snazzed. I love how not loud this poem is, how it’s almost bored. I read this line in a book once that said all beautiful girls are bored. And I think this is the poem version of that, a beautiful, bored girl. I love how it’s not trying to prove anything big or deep, but at the same time it stands up and says ‘you fucking know what? Poetry can be whatever the hell you want it to be” – it hits right at the heart of what old white dudes have been telling us poetry shouldn’t be since forever. But I’m totally onto you, poetry book guy! I think I took this poem too literally. I literally wrote a poem for my MA manuscript which was JUST a list of things I liked – my friend Ada, miso soup, small glittery things in dusty corners. No one in my class liked it. But I did and it was a confusing time.

I also love that this poem is like Dorian Gray, and Keats is Dead so Fuck Me From Behind is like his bloated painting in the attic. Or maybe this poem is like Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men, and Keats is Dead is like his coked-out body lying on a velvet bed with a neon orange party hat on? See? It’s way harder than she makes it seem.

Anyway. It’s one of my all-time favourite classic NZ poems. It’s changed the way I write and I am so grateful to have encountered it when I did. I also love the poem Hooting, but Paula says I’m only allowed to write about one (she didn’t, I’m just too lazy). But read it here

 

 

Sugar Magnolia Wilson is from a valley called Fern Flat in the Far North of New Zealand. She completed her MA in creative writing at the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington in 2012. Her work has been published in literary journals such as Turbine, Shenandoah, Cordite, Landfall and Sport. She is co-editing an anthology of the new generation of New Zealand poets with Hannah Mettner for AUP. Auckland University Press published her debut collection Because a Woman’s Heart Is Like a Needle at the Bottom of the Ocean earlier this year.

 

Hera Lindsay Bird is a poet from Wellington. Her debut collection Hera Lindsay Bird was published with Victoria University Press in 2016, and Penguin UK in 2017, and a Laureate’s Choice Pamphlet ‘Pamper Me to Hell & Back’ came out in 2018. She is an Arts Foundation new generation recipient, winner of the 2011 Adam Prize, the 2017 Jessie McKay Prize for Best First Book, and the 2017 Sarah Broom Prize.

 

 

Poetry Shelf noticeboard: Best NZ Poems is now live

 

 

We both know a language is waiting inside my tongue.

Please put down the adze, the skillsaw, the file:
Speak gently to me so I can recognise what’s there.

Alice Te Punga Somerville from ‘Rākau’

 

Kei te mōhio tāua, he reo kei tōku arero.

Waiho ki raro te toki, te kani, te whaiuru:
Kōrerotia whakamāriretia kia kite ai au he aha rā kei reira.

Translation from ‘Rākau’ by Te Ataahia Hurihanganui

 

Poet and novelist Fiona Farrell selected poems from 2018 that held her attention in diverse ways  – from books, journals and online sources. She questioned ‘best’ (a vague term), ‘New Zealand’ (poets needed to have been born here or lived here for some time) and ‘poem’ (she went to the Greek and cited a poem as ‘something made’).  Poetry offered her numerous reading pleasures:

Those hundreds of poems, gathered over a single year, formed a massive anthology, and if that means ‘ an arrangement of flowers’ – as it does by definition – then New Zealand poetry often reminds me of a garden I saw once, inland from Te Horo. Its flowers were a host of golden margarine containers and tin cans tacked to sticks. It was beautiful, this New Zealand version of common or garden. It was startling and provocative. What is beauty, after all? What is form and order? Why do we choose this and not that? Why does beauty exist in distortion? Why do we find it beautiful when a person stands on one calloused toe rather than with both feet firmly on the ground? Or when an apple is reduced to a crimson cube? Or when a sequence of words is forced from the patter of everyday speech? I’ve thought about that garden while plucking the blooms of 2018.

 

The refreshed site looks good;  you can hear some poets read and you can read notes from some poets on their selected poems (love these entries into poems). We get a new anthology – a harvest of poems that spark and simmer and soothe in their close proximity.

Tusiata Avia’s ‘Advice to Critics’ is like a backbone of the poet and it makes me sit up and listen to the sharp edges, the witty corners. There is the rhythmic hit of Hera Lindsay Bird’s love poem, there is the measured and evocative fluency of Nikki-Lee Birdsey’s ‘Mutuwhenua’, and the equally measured and evocative fluency of Anna Jackson’s ‘Late Swim’. Mary McCallum’s ‘Sycamore tree’, with its delicious syncopation and resonant gaps, first held my attention in her XYZ of Happiness. Bill Manhire’s ‘extended joke’ takes a bite at social media and I laughed out loud. Chris Tse’s poem reminds me of one of my favourite reads of 2018, HE’S SO MASC (and he has the best poet photo ever!)/. There is the inventive lyricism of Sophie van Waardenberg and the aural electrics of essa may ranapiri.
Fiona steps aside from notions of community, and questions of representation but these remain important to me. Part of the impetus of my blog is to nurture our poetry communities by showcasing and fostering connections, overlaps, underlays, experiences, events, ideas, feelings, heart. I am acutely aware that certain communities have not achieved the same representation as others, so I still check anthologies to muse upon the range of voices visible. Yep community is a slippery concept, heck I am consistently asking myself where I belong for all kinds of reasons, but as a white woman I most definitely afforded privilege, access and visibility even when I feel like an outsider. I have sat on the edge of the bed this morning stuck on the word ‘community’. Over the four years of writing and producing Wild Honey it was a key word, for all kinds of reasons, and it kept me going.

 

I love Fiona’s selection – the poems form an invigorating and uplifting day trip that offers breathtaking moments, surprising twists and turns, unfamiliar voices, old favourites and a welcome reconnection with some of my favourite reads of 2018 (I am thinking of Sam Duckor-Jones’s People from the Pit Stand Up for example). An anthology-garden that is well worth a day trip over Easter! I’ll be going back because I prefer to dawdle when I am travelling so still have sights to take in.

 

see me see me
by the sycamore tree
each child a propeller
sorry each child has a
propeller & is throwing
it up  & the dead seeds
spin & spin & spin & they
shriek my little ones & pick up another

Mary McCallum from ‘Sycamore Tree’

 

Visit Best NZ Poems 2018 here.

 

 

Reading The Friday Poems in a book

 

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Luncheon Sausage Books, 2018

 

A new poem. Wow just wow

A new poem that no one will forget any time soon.

A new poem. I think it’s important.

I wrote a new poem. You’ll be amazed at what happened next.

 

Bill Manhire from ‘Thread’

 

Steve Braunias kickstarted his Friday poem at the Spinoff four years ago – which prompted me to shift my Friday poems to Mondays! Decided to begin the week  with a poem in the ear and have since started an ongoing season of Thursday readings (I really like hearing other poets read, especially those I have never met). More importantly I also like the fact we have more than one online space dedicated to local poems. Steve tends to pick from new books which is great publicity for the poet. I tend to pick poems that have not yet been published in book form and find other ways to feature the new arrivals (interviews, reviews, popup poems on other days).

Steve’s anthology of picks from the Friday-Poem posts underlines our current passion for poetry. I don’t see him belonging to any one club (like a hub around a particular press or city) – unless he is inventing his own: Steve’s poetry club. And there is a big welcome mat out. You will find mainstream presses and boutique presses, established poets and hot-off-the-press brand new poets, a strong showing of Pasifika voices, outsiders, insiders. He is fired up by the charismatic lines of Hera Lindsay Bird and Tayi Tibble but he is equally swayed by the tones of Brian Turner, CK Stead, Elizabeth Smither, Fiona Kidman.

 

She cried wolf but she was the wolf

so she slit sad’s bellyskin

and stones of want rolled out.

 

Emma Neale from ‘Big Bad’

 

Who would he feature at a festival reading? At Unity Books on November 12th in Wellington he has picked: Dame Fiona Kidman, Bill Manhire, James Brown, Joy Holley, Tayi Tibble.

The anthology is worth buying for the introduction alone – expect someone writing over hot coals with an astute eye for what is happening now but also what has happened in the past (especially to women poets). And by hot coals I mean a mix of passionate and polemical. This person loves poetry and that is hot.

 

Where there’s a gate there’s a gatekeeper, I suppose, but I think of the past few years as an exercise in welcoming rather than turning away. Publishing works of art every week these past four years has been one of the most intoxicating pastimes of my writing life. But I came to a decision while I was writing the Introduction, and commenting on the work of women writers, and adding up the number of women writers: it’s time to step aside. An ageing white male just doesn’t seem the ideal person right now to act as the bouncer at this particular doorway to New Zealand poetry. Women are where the action is: the poetry editor at the Spinoff in 2019 will be Ashleigh Young.

Steve Braunias, from ‘Introduction’

 

I felt kind of sad reading that. I will miss Steve as our idiosyncratic poetry gate keeper.  Of course this book and the posts are unashamedly Steve’s taste, and there are a truckload of other excellent poets out there with new books, but his taste keeps you reading in multiple directions.

That said it’s a warm welcome to the exciting prospect of Ashleigh Young!

 

On most drives I like quiet because my mother

had a habit of appraising every passing scene, calling ordinary

things, especially any animal standing in a field, lovely

 

and this instilled in me a strong dislike for the world lovely

and for associated words of praise like wonderful and superb

but on our drive home tonight the sky is categorically lovely

 

Ashleigh Young from ‘Words of praise’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry Shelf interviews Manon Revuelta

 

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girl teeth Manon Revuelta, Hard Press, 2017

 

Manon Revuelta’s chapbook, girl teeth, prompted me to track her down and do an email interview over about a month. It was such a pleasurable conversation I didn’t want it to end. 

 

Paula: A number of years ago I picked your poem as the winner of the New Zealand Post Secondary School Poetry Competition. While I had to ponder for ages on the shortlist, your poem lifted above the rest and stuck to me with its glorious intricacies. It was a clear winner. In my speech on the night I borrowed from Ruth Padel and talked about the poem’s ‘chewiness’. All these years later I discover your chapbook, girl teeth, and am once again caught in the luminous effects of your writing. Can you build a little portrait of your writing life in the intervening years?

Manon: Thank you Paula, these are such kind words. It was such a lift to win that prize. That was all the way back in 2008, a whole ten years ago and my final year of high school. Since then my writing life has continued as more of an undertow, as I think it does for many. I studied English and Film in Auckland, where I took some wonderful courses with Lisa Samuels and learned all about language poetry. I also met Greg Kan, who became a good friend and as a fellow poetry nerd introduced me to some tremendous writers like Ariana Reines and Aase Berg. After university, I worked as a bookseller at Time Out Bookstore for a couple of years. That was such a blessing; I got to read a lot and organise poetry events and work amongst the most loving and inspiring group of people. I moved to London a few years ago, and when that became too exhausting and I fell in love, I moved to Berlin, which is where I am now.

 

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It’s taking a very long and occasionally dispiriting time to sort out what I’d like to do to earn a living, as I don’t think poetry is that. I’ve worked in countless subsidiary post-graduate roles from check-out girl to nanny to unpaid intern, but writing seems to be a really comforting constant in my life and all these things in their own ways have come to inform what I write and allow freedom for it. I have had poems published here and there, and last year my dear friends Anna and Owen published girl teeth, my first chapbook, with Hard Press. That was the accumulation of a couple of years of writing, and a very special project to me.

 

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Paula: I can really identify with this! London was a significant struggle and turning point for me as a writer (there were more to come though!). I find poetry fits so beautifully in the gaps of living – for me doing my degrees, being a parent, earning a living – yet it is so essential that poetry is larger than a gap. When I read your collection I am immediately struck by the right-hand pages that are uniformly devoid of text like little white pauses. It is akin to the silence after a piece of orchestral music that allows what you have heard to reverberate. The poems themselves are a satsifying mix of silences and sumptuous detail. What matters as you write a poem?

Manon: Oh London! It’s a beast. Everyone you meet seems so driven and everything is moving at such a fast pace and sometimes that means you’re inspired to seriously think about what you want and other times it means you just drown in everything you don’t want. I agree, it is important for poetry to be larger than a gap… but it’s sometimes barely possible for it to exist at all and I’m impressed that it makes its way in.

I suppose what matters to me as I write a poem is just that it at some point causes that indescribable glint? And that I can feel attuned to what that is for me, not someone else, and most importantly, enjoy the process. Poetry is my only opportunity to do strange things with language; to turn it into something elastic. For a long time I was really interested in formalism, and then swung the other way entirely, and I guess I have wanted to reconcile those… Italo Calvino quoted Paul Valery (I only seem to have read him in quotes) who said “one should be light like a bird, not like a feather”. I think that’s a great and far too quotable way of putting it, this velocity we respond to and attempt. That being said, I wouldn’t want to ever apply a rule to anything. I don’t know! You always find new ways of achieving things.

 

Paula: Italo Calvino is great – he is what inspired me to study Italian until there were no degrees left. I love his Six Memos for the Next Millennium. He has a lecture in there called ‘Lightness’. There is also quickness, visibility, multiplicity, and exactitude. He died before he wrote the sixth (consistency) or delivered any of them. I love your quote and fits your writing. There is both economy and agility on the line.

 

are poems shells

bone caves

gentle blunt beaks

lived in and left

for others to crawl into

Your first poem, ‘Shells’, is a delight. It reminded me of what Hinemoana Baker wrote on the back of her book, waha | mouth: ‘I’d like to think that opening this book to read is like standing at a mouth of a cave, or a river, or a grave, with a candle in your hand.’  Your tropes pull in multiple directions. On the one hand a poem might be held to the ear like a shell and who knows what you will hear. On the hand there is the mysterious dark space that Hinemoana draws upon. Do you ever relinquish music and mystery?

 

Manon: Yes that’s exactly where I got it from! The ‘Lightness’ lecture. I really love that book.

I liked posing a sort of question in that poem; I feel uncertain sometimes what poems are, what they are for. There is this intense inhabiting when writing and then they can later feel like such foreign things. Not in the sense of being possessed by some genius that flows through you; just that writing is a thing you are present in and then the written thing feels almost like a by-product. Mary Ruefle writes about a friend of hers whose poems, after time has elapsed, “look like handkerchiefs. Something I needed to blow my nose in, wipe some tears with, with a little lace at the edges and my initials in the corner. Poetry is so weird.”

That’s an incredible quote from Hinemoana; I love that image of a flame held up to illuminate a tiny part of something immense. I think the last two pieces in the chapbook, the more essayistic ones, were an effort to cast a wider light on things, to relinquish some mystery. Poems can be quite ciphered and condensed, which I love, but it felt good to write something more sprawling.

 

Paula:  What poets feel close to the way you write? Are there poets who write so differently to you but whom you admire?

Manon: That’s tricky… I can only look at what I like, rather than see if my work is close to it. I know some poets I’ve been reading lately are Carl Phillips, Anne Carson, Jean Valentine, Dorothea Lasky. I have always carried a torch for Paul Celan. There are of course poets who write differently to me but whom I admire greatly- perhaps someone like Alice Notley- her poems are very long! Also Hera Lindsay Bird. She makes me laugh and weep, a rare combination, at least in poetry.

 

Paula: I am moved by the arrival of a mother (your mother?) in the poems.

 

as a girl i watch my mother’s earlobe

pulled down by an earring and

the tiny hole

i can see right though and

i plant the sea there

from ‘girl teeth’

 

A mother (your mother?) reappears in the more essay-like longer poem, ‘Duchess’. There is such tenderness at work here, surprising in detail and revelation, it refreshes how we as adult daughters can write (our) mothers. Your Louise Bourgeois quote sets up the poem: ‘She shows herself at the very moment/ she thinks she is hiding’. Elizabeth Smither has a breathtaking poem, ‘My mother’s house’, in her latest book, Night Horses, where she watches her mother move through the house from her car.

What drew the mother, her various visibilities and invisibilities, into your poems?

 

Manon: Perhaps as a starting point, I have always been close with my mother; she is an incredible woman and occupies a huge space in my heart. I also think mother/daughter relationships are always to some degree complex and fraught and intense. There are so many invisible histories that make up what is visible in ourselves, our lives… I think in recent years I became fascinated by tiny signs of my mother’s influence coming through in me, and started to think about the deeper roots of my behaviour habits. A sort of psychoanalysis, I guess, which in turn led to an analysis of my mother, and of her mother, and of the ripple effects trauma can have in generations; the inheritance and expression and rectifying of those effects in and on the (particularly female) body. I was reading a lot of women who were interested in these ideas too; Louise Bourgeois’s journals, Chantal Akerman’s No Home Movie, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha. It’s also both disturbing and important to me to look at the way femininity is constructed, and so much of that for me has happened through my mother, and by her mother, and so on. It felt very right to try to map these things out in writing. Is motherhood/daughterhood something you’ve explored in your poetry?

 

Paula: Yes! My first book, Cookhouse was criticised for its domestic focus, as unworthy of poetic attention, but the key thread, the white-hot core, was maternal. My doctoral thesis explored the maternal as it asked whether it made a difference if the pen held by an Italian writer was a woman. I argue for hinges and connections and the power of ‘and’. I am also interested in the ripple effects that pass from mother to daughter (and daughter to mother) but that also pass through generations of women writing. We have inherited so many freedoms, as both daughters and writers, yet we still face a need to speak out on myriad issues that affect women detrimentally. I write about this in my new book within the context of reading New Zealand women’s poetry.

 

Breadcrumbs

What a rarity

to appear in my own map

like when

I’m watching my hands

wash each      other

or pulling a rope of my own hair

out of a drain

like its     pondweed

or even seeing the ham

chewed into something different

when I spit it into a napkin

 

Your poems are like lacework; they hook the personal along with intense visual detail and a delight in thought. Are you cautious about self revelation? About appearing in your own map? Do you have any taboo areas?

 

Manon: Well you can probably tell I like banality! I hope we are moving on from a hierarchy of ‘poetically worthy’ material … I know Lauris Edmond was really criticised for writing about domesticity and motherhood too, and she is still overlooked. I guess, I hope, all that fuels a fire and a revision. Your book sounds so wonderful.

I don’t feel cautious about self revelation, I think it would be strange to be writing poetry if that were the case. But it also isn’t really something I do on purpose. I think it feels very free and private, even though you kind of know it isn’t? It can be a bit unsettling (in a nice way) when that all gets turned inside out and you publish something, but I don’t think that makes me omit things. I love reading writing that is TMI, so that reassures me.

 

Paula:  Is there a poem in the collection where the stars aligned and it particularly resonates for you?

Manon: I think the essay about the week with my grandmother resonated a lot. We had only met once before and weren’t able to speak each other’s language, so it was quite an intense experience, observing the ways disconnected families connect, speaking in the absence of words, the shapes we make out of silence. There were all these things that seemed to slot in with it; going to see the ruins of a nearby castle, my reading surrounding rocks and this story of Pyrrha. It was initially conceived as a voiceover for a film – which is still in progress – so it feels like an ongoing project with things falling into place. It also resonates in the context of living in a place where I don’t speak the language properly.

 

Paula: I loved that poem. There is a poetic finesse that depends on fluidity, storytelling,

sharp images, slow-pitched discovery and absolute tenderness.

 

So: still alive. And so henceforth:

another cup of instant coffee and

toast, another bath, clothes put

on, cooked lunch, another long

afternoon nap while I go out

walking. We don’t know what to

do with each other: we sit together

at her table eating over-ripe

bananas, peeled grapes, carefully

de-pithed segments of mandarins.

The refrigerator humming. She

examines my hands in her hers.

from ‘Bec/Nid/ Vent/Rêves Beak/Nest/ Wind/Dreams’

 

PaulaWill Berlin slant your writing?

In my research for my book I have noticed New Zealand poets living overseas have such different relations with home in their writing (Katherine Mansfield, Fleur Adcock, Lola Ridge). Some are nostalgic and the poem becomes a surrogate home while others are almost patronising. I am intrigued to read what Hinemoana Baker produces in Berlin. Will poetry ever become a way of writing home?

Manon:  As far as writing from Berlin goes, I think I haven’t changed what I’m doing at all… at least as you say, the poem feels a surrogate home wherever one goes. The only thing is that living here allows a lot more time to write (cheaper living than NZ = working at a day job less, etc.) so I do feel I can have more of a balance.

 

Words open and close and open;

breathing through their sutures.

from ‘Bec/Nid/ Vent/Rêves Beak/Nest/ Wind/Dreams’

 

Your book is a joy to read Manon. Thank you so much for the conversation. I want everyone to race out and find a copy of the book. It is my chapbook of 2017.

Hard Press page

 

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Jacket 2: Vaughan Rapatahana on Hera Lindsay Bird, Simone Kaho and Mere Taito

 

from Vaughan Rapatahana at Jacket 2:

 

‘Kia ora. Talofa lava. Malo. Greetings, once more.

I am honoured and humbled to continue to commentate on poetry and poets in Aotearoa New Zealand, which swerve away from so-called ‘traditional’ ways to write a poem and concomitantly, away from traditional topoi.

In this commentary, I will extend from my final commentary post of March 2016, which was entitled ‘Coda 2,’ although that title is obviously a misnomer, as this country just keeps on producing poets of great ability, with serious credentials and a willingness to  s t  r  e  t  c  h  the paramaters of what a poem is, should be.

So, I am privileged to here introduce three further women writers — Hera Lindsay Bird, Simone Kaho and Mere Taito. All have recently had published new collections of poetry: the ‘new’ in this commentary title refers to this aspect — for all three have been writing poetry for some time. For me, they are intelligent, rather intensely tremendous talents.

I think that I will here replicate what I wrote in that ‘Coda 2’ piece, as the sentiments are exactly the same —

All three fit, if you will, the parameters I claimed would establish the future direction of an increasingly multicultural country. None of them could be classified as pākehā middle-class poets and all tend towards the experimental and/or performance and/or indigenous striates of poetry. Significantly and obviously, all three are women. Theirs is the future of poetry in the skinny country of Aotearoa — inevitably, for as I have stressed several times previously — the demographic of Aotearoa is rapidly and rather radically on the move into major diversity.’

Full article here

 

See my reviews:

Hera Lindsay Bird

Simone Kaho

Mere Taito and a poem

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hera Lindsay Bird’s interview with Cordite’s Jonno Révanche

For the complete interview see here.

Jonno Revanche: One of the things that stands out from your poetry collection is not just how funny it is, but it’s a very precise kind of humour, one that allows for introspection, sentimentality and emotional involvement. For example, in ‘mirror traps’ you declare it’s ‘love that plummets you down the elevator shaft.’ Sort of blunt, but still honest and witty in its own way. Do you find it hard to accommodate all these things? If so, do you feel like it took a lot of practice to get there?

Hera Lindsey Bird: This is a hard question to answer because it’s so second nature to me now, and I don’t mean to sound like I’m dashing off poems while laughing in a stolen Cadillac, but that particular hybrid of humour with a base of emotional honesty or engagement is almost all I care about in writing these days. There was a period when I first started, and I was writing a lot of controlled, aesthetically rigid poems but I quickly became bored of that, and when I get bored I get reckless, and when I get reckless I send a lot of joke poems about oral sex to my masters supervisor. But most of the work was admitting to myself what kind of writing I truly had the energy and enthusiasm for, and giving myself permission to write that way. My favourite writers in every genre always straddle the line between comedy and emotional engagement, George Saunders, Chelsey Minnis, Mark Leidner, Frank O’Hara, Lorrie Moore. It was just a matter of admitting that to myself, and then hot-wiring Cadillacs became a lot easier. I never write well when I’m sombre. Even my greatest personal tragedies I like to turn into a joke, which might be a personal failing but I don’t think has been a poetic one at least.

Three NZ writers to appear at prestigious Edinburgh literary festival – including two poets

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New Zealand writers making waves at home and abroad will present their work and participate in the prestigious Edinburgh International Book Festival in August.

A new partnership between the festival, WORD Christchurch and Creative New Zealand has resulted in the talented line-up of New Zealand writers, all with acclaimed books, set to make an impression at the renowned literary event.

The writers are award-winning and wildly popular Wellington poet Hera Lindsay Bird, critically acclaimed Auckland poet, playwright and fiction writer Courtenay Sina Meredith, and best-selling Wellington novelist, comic artist and blogger Sarah Laing. They will be accompanied by Rachael King, author and programme director of WORD Christchurch, who has worked with the festival to select the writers and curate their events.

Participation in the festival is part of the New Zealand at Edinburgh 2017 season which sees the return of a New Zealand season across the various Edinburgh festivals taking place in August. This follows an ambitious and successful presentation in 2014.

With the theme of Brave New Words, this year’s book festival programme features more than 1000 authors from 45 countries.

Hera Lindsay Bird will appear with recent Ted Hughes prize-winner Hollie McNish in Poetry Superstars, and perform in a late night spoken word showcase. Courtney Sina Meredith will join a 21st Century Women panel, curated by guest selectors Roxane Gay and Jackie Kay. Meredith will also appear alongside Scottish poet and musician MacGillivray in Reshuffling the Pack.  Sarah Laing will host a reading workshop of Katherine Mansfield stories, as well as talk about her book Mansfield & Me alongside English comic creator Hannah Berry in Graphic Novels of Influential Women.  Rachael King will also appear in the children’s programme.

“We are thrilled that the relationships developed during previous seasons have resulted in this new partnership. It will expose the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s audiences to new and talented voices from Aotearoa and provide a dynamic international networking opportunity for the writers,” said Creative New Zealand senior manager for international, Cath Cardiff.

The festival expressed an interest in working with a local partner to bring New Zealand authors to its programme. This worked well with WORD Christchurch’s aspirations to engage more with international partners and to promote New Zealand literature overseas.

“We are delighted to be working with WORD Christchurch this year and we are very much looking forward to welcoming some of New Zealand’s wonderful writers to the book festival in August,” said Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Nicky Barley.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Edinburgh International Book Festival on programming New Zealand writers into some fantastic events that will showcase their talents and ensure maximum exposure for their work,” said Rachael King.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival began in 1983 and is now a key event in the August festival season. It has grown rapidly in size and scope to become the largest and most dynamic festival of its kind in the world. In its first year the book festival hosted 30 events, now it programmes more than 800 events attracting around 220,000 visitors.

To support the writers to attend the festival Creative New Zealand has provided $20,000 towards airfares, accommodation and administration costs.

Biographies:

Hera Lindsay Bird has an MA in poetry from the International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington where she won the 2011 Adam Prize for best folio. Her debut, self-titled book of poetry HERA LINDSAY BIRD was published in July 2016 by Victoria University Press (VUP). It has become the fastest selling, most popular book of poetry the VUP has ever published, and won Best First Book of Poetry at the 2017 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

herabird.weebly.com

Courtney Sina Meredith is a poet, playwright, fiction writer and musician. Her play Rushing Dolls (2010) won a number of awards and was published by Playmarket in 2012. She launched her first published book of poetry, Brown Girls in Bright Red Lipstick (Beatnik), at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair, and has since published a short story collection, Tail of the Taniwha (2016) to critical acclaim. She has been selected for a number of international writers’ residencies. Meredith describes her writing as an “ongoing discussion of contemporary urban life with an underlying Pacific politique”. She is of Samoan, Mangaian and Irish descent.

courtneymeredith.com

Sarah Laing is the author of two novels, Dead People’s Music and Fall of Light, and a short story collection, Coming Up Roses. With a background in illustration and design, she runs the popular comic blog Let Me Be Frank, which she started when she held the Frank Sargeson Fellowship in 2008. She has contributed comics to magazines, illustrated children’s books, and co-edited Three Words: An Anthology of Aotearoa/NZ Women’s Comics. Her latest book, Mansfield & Me, is a graphic biography and memoir, which compares the life of New Zealand’s most famous writer Katherine Mansfield, to Sarah’s own life of creativity, insecurity and celebrity obsession.

sarahelaing.com

Rachael King has been the programme director of WORD Christchurch since 2013. She is the author of two books for adults, The Sound of Butterflies (winner of Best First Novel at the Montana New Zealand Book Awards) and Magpie Hall (long-listed for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award), and one for children, Red Rocks, which won New Zealand’s longest-running literary award, the Esther Glen Medal. Her work has been translated into eight languages and has garnered critical praise worldwide.

rachael-king.com

For more information contact:
Helen Isbister
Communications Manager
04 473 0187
helen.isbister@creativenz.govt

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.’