would love to be able to go to this! I love the Manawatu poets
would love to be able to go to this! I love the Manawatu poets
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 déjà vu
Because the trees
Because the population
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.
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.
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.
You can also go to the Landfall Exhibition if you live in Dunedin. Opening is Thursday May 25 at 5.30 pm.
Congratulations on your short-list placing!
Thank you Paula!
What poetry books have you read in the past year?
And this is why you should always keep a reading diary … I’ll have to cobble this together from flawed memory and my messy bookcase. Here goes: most recently, a ‘slim volume’ in the Penguin Modern Poets Three series with work by Malika Booker, Sharon Olds and Warsan Shire. In contrast, also Sentenced to Life and Injury Time by Clive James. Before these: Undying by Michel Faber, the poetry collections on the Ockham longlist, Bill Manhire’s Some Things to Place in a Coffin and Tell Me My Name, Walking by a River of Light by John Gibb, South D Poet Lorikeet by Jenny Powell, Getting it Right by Alan Roddick, Alzheimer’s and a Spoon by Liz Breslin, Taking my Mother to the Opera by Diane Brown, Fracking & Hawk by Pat White, The Trials of Minnie Dean by Karen Zelas, Taking My Jacket for a Walk by Peter Olds, Wolf by Elizabeth Morton, Where the Fish Grow by Ish Doney, Family History by Johanna Emeney, Possibility of Flight by Heidi North-Bailey, Withstanding by Helen Jacobs, Conscious and Verbal and Learning Human by Les Murray, Poems New and Collected by Wistawa Szymborska, Poems 1962-2012 by Louise Glűck, and X by Vona Groarke.
I like keeping an anthology handy too, and in the past year have been dipping in and out of two: Andrew Motion’s Poetry by Heart (on the bedside table) and Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke’s The Map and the Clock (next to the sofa).
What other reading attracts you?
Oh boy, you should see the pile of books by my bed – too many to list here. I enjoy both fiction and non-fiction (especially essays, biographies or memoir). Fiction-wise, I’ve recently finished Fiona Farrell’s wonderful Decline and Fall on Savage Street and am now reading Where My Heart Used to Beat by Sebastian Faulks, and some short stories by William Trevor. I’ve recently reread Olive Kitteridge and My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout (I love all of Strout’s work!). Vincent O’Sullivan’s All This By Chance is standing by for Easter.
Nonfiction-wise, I’m itching to start neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s The Strange Order of Things and Marilynne Robinson’s new essay collection What Are We Doing Here? (I love all of Robinson’s work!).
Name some key starting points (or themes) for your collection.
This is quite a hard question for me to answer because The Yield wasn’t pre-planned as The Yield – it grew very slowly into The Yield, and I only recognised that I had a coherent collection very late in the process. In hindsight I can see quite clearly that the poems are bound together by themes of give and take, love and loss, flexibility and rigidity, toil and harvest. This finally clicked into place for me after I wrote the poem called ‘The Yield’. It was only after that that I felt I had a potential collection in my hands. But most of the poems in the collection were written in the couple of years preceding that moment, and during those years I had no idea whether a book would eventuate. I had hope, but not much evidence!
Did anything surprise you as the poems come into being?
Every poem I write is a surprise to me. I can never get over that fact – it amazes me, always.
Find up to 5 individual words that pitch your book to a reader.
These words are from The Yield: haul, reach, lift, roam, home.
Which poem particularly falls into place for you?
Not sure if I can select one – they all have their place.
What matters most when you write a poem?
I like a tight synthesis of sound and sense.
What do you loathe in poetry?
Sometimes in an art gallery I stand in front of a painting I find ugly or too obvious or (conversely) too obscure – challenging, anyway, a canvas that maybe bores me or offends my personal sense of aesthetics, perhaps even my values. But still, alongside my ‘this is not one for my living room wall’ reaction, I can still respect the graft and the craft that went into making it – so long as it’s well made. Ditto, poetry. What I appreciate, above all else in poetry, is knowing that the poet has really leaned in. That’s a fundamentally appealing quality for me, even if I can’t adore the finished product. But if a poem is attentively made, and it somehow moves me – then I’m all in.
Where do you like to write poems?
In my study or on the kitchen table (though I scribble scraps in my notebook anywhere, any time).
What are strengths and lacks in our poetry scenes?
We seem to have a lively open mic scene all over the country, with a new fizz of high energy youthful involvement alongside the different – no less intense – energy of more experienced voices. I love the diversity of this, the way it opens our ears and hearts and minds to each other. It’s good, too, to see extroverted poets out there connecting with audiences, attracting media comment and generally flying the flag for poetry. But don’t forget the page! I’m a big believer that poetry is a craft learned by practice. Getting better at it is done through serving a kind of apprenticeship, learning the tools of your trade, and being supported, mentored and informed by more experienced practitioners, so for me it’s really great to see newer literary journals like Mimicry and Starling rising up (though I’m sad to see the end of JAAM).
Nothing matches the developmental push that comes from submitting work to a well-read editor to be scrutinised word by word. It’s healthy, too, to have enough possible publication places to be able to avoid only submitting work to your friends or classmates. So, I think we can do with still more editor-curated poetry publications to nourish the development of poetry in Aotearoa-New Zealand. Another lack: we need more platforms for the kind of stimulating and informative longform poetry review that critics like Lynley Edmeades, for example (in a recent Landfall Review Online), are so good at writing. But also, no one should be expected to write a seriously-considered review for nothing. Work is work, even if at the end of the day it’s not mud, but ink, on your hands. Funding, funding, funding: there’s a permanent problematic lack!
Have you seen a festival poetry session (anywhere) that has blown you off your seat (or had some other significant impact)?
I was at the 2010 Granada Poetry Festival in Nicaragua – truly a festival, a celebration of la poesia. The readings were held in parks and plazas. The Nicaraguan people have a passionate regard for poets and poetry – they turned out in their thousands to hear readings from their own and international poets. One particular event stands out for me. It was an evening reading, outside, warm and dark in the main town plaza, with about 2000 people in the audience – all ages, children, teenagers, parents, grandparents. Their listening was so attentive (most poems were voiced twice, once in the poet’s language and again in Spanish translation) – I watched face after face absolutely blossom in response to some lines. There was a feeling of us all being tapped into a high-voltage current – such power. Sheer zappery! And all from words.
If you could curate a dream poetry session at The Auckland Writers Festival which poets would be there and who would mc or chair it?
Sharon Olds, Louise Glück and Rita Dove in conversation with Carol Ann Duffy.
Sad to miss this event! Glad I get to read to the book!
Book launch for BAD THINGS: a new book of poems by Louise Wallace. With readings from Lynley Edmeades, Bill Manhire, Tayi Tibble and Chris Tse. All welcome.
Books by all authors available for purchase on the night, along with limited edition cover art prints by Kimberly Andrews.
Drink, nibble, get your books signed and be merry.
This terrific project forms a little poetry reading house where you enter the rooms off the side and you don’t know what you will find. There is a vitality and a freshness as established and emerging poets and those in-between come together in poem conversations. Love it! (I am part of it but no idea how the poetry house would unfold)
Landfall 233 edited by David Eggleton
Last Sunday I was feeling travel worn, flat, depleted, sick and I could not settle on anything. The kind of day where you pick this up and put it down. You pick that and then this and then that and then this. And then find yourself back at the start again. It was only when I opened the new Landfall I found my self settling back and reading.
The 70th Birthday issue is terrific. It includes testimonies from Chris Price and Iain Sharp (both candid on the difficulties of editing a key literary journal), Philip Temple (on the controversial dismissal of Robin Dudding and efforts to revive the flagging enterprise) and Peter Simpson on Charles Brasch and Landfall. Simpson quotes Brasch musing on when to quit editing. He decided he must stop at 15 years – although it stretched to 20. He concluded:
‘I shall have nothing to live for, nothing I badly want to do, nothing I am forced to do in order to live …’
Sometimes I like to read a journal from first page to last page in order to follow the contours and harmonies of editing. This time it was pick n’ mix poetry. As I read I jotted down:
vibrant fresh vital diverse essential reading unfamiliar voices much-loved voices direct indirect
Adore the Art Portfolios by Chris Corson-Scott and Heather Straka.
Two prose pieces caught me eye first. Both surprising and stick like biddibids.
‘Last-ditch Daisies’ Aimee-Jane Anderson-O’Connor
‘It’s All I Had’ Joanna Cho
Then the poetry:
‘Four Transformations on a theme of Philip’ by Anne Kennedy is like a return to her brother (1951 – 1973). Every time I pick the book up it falls open here and I read it again. The short lines shift patterns on the pages like little twitches of contemplation, memory, bright retrieved detail with indents, parentheses, fluency.
Catch me in the garden
and put me in a jar
the air where I was
in the palm of your hand
‘Morning Song’ by Emma Neale builds a loving grandfather portrait that weds sharp detail with war undertones spiky within a family’s daily life. It is sumptuous writing with things hiding off the edges.
Gramps stole eggs, green seeds of song, from their nests
to show us wonder; hairline cracks ran
our sooks’ hearts as we watched the robbed mothers fly home.
‘Mr Anderson, You Heartbreaker’ by Helen Rickerby teases and bites into Hans Christian Anderson and his depiction or wooing of women and harnesses Helen’s adult eyes on the Little Mermaid.
And really, if she’d just held onto her tongue
she could have sung him to her
reeled him in, drunk him down
one prince, on the rocks, coming up
‘Storm’ by Amanda Hunt is a glorious lyrical snapshot that slows down the pace of contemplation to the point each detail is under an enviable spotlight. ( I am reminded of how Janet Frame wanted to slow down the pace of her poems)
a butterfly flutter
of moth-soft feathers
glancing across my shoulder
‘Fear of Feathers’ by Michael Gould delivers a surprising passage through the lines to the final enticement ‘life is good.’
Some sounds of birds (unseen but heard)
may confound those with no sense of the absurd
‘Personal Space’ by Johanna Emeney refreshes the domestic poem beautifully and needs to be read in its completeness to catch the humour, the pathos, the politics, the poetry, the feeling. I am including the last stanza.
She should clear a space
beneath the sudden worry of crowded floors,
the scatter of feet; the shock of doors,
run downstairs and shut herself in
the last room at the bottom,
then spin, arms open,
to see just how wide
she has forgotten.
‘Inflammable’ by Anna Jackson is a poem that catches the dark and light of life and living beneath the flicker of candle light. It reminds me of the way a particular moment, against all the millions lost and faded, that is luminous on return.
The world was flammable we knew it was.
‘Art Is Weak’ by Nick Ascroft is smart and sharp and hooks you from the first line.
Conceptual art is not so empty sleeved
‘The Bee Elle’ by Lynley Edmeades curls and coils deliciously around a physical view and subterranean ideas.
Everyone is hooked up
to various elsewheres
as if our bodies don’t matter.
‘How a New Zealand Sunrise is Different from Other Sunrises’ by Erik Kennedy is like a landscape poem standing on its head and is thus invigorating to read (I am a landscape poem fan for all kinds of reasons).
Pinks and yellows collude to orange the hillside,
but they trick you into thinking the hills are proper orange
on their own, like an oyster catcher’s lurid bill