The gift shop
When Josephine leaves Ellis Island she is not yet sure what she takes away with her, and what she leaves behind in the glass cabinets, and she wonders if the gift shop sells little blue bottles of hope, gathered as carefully as saffron, to keep in a coat pocket and season the next day, and then the day when it is most needed.
© Paula Green New York Pocket Book Seraph Press, 2016.
To celebrate my new poetry collection, Fairfax invited me to share some book titles for their regional papers. It is very fitting the weekend I am at the glorious IBBY Congress in Auckland, my first pick is by Margaret Mahy.
The Lion in the Meadow, Margaret Mahy
No matter what I write, Margaret Mahy’s fiendishly elastic, daringly inventive way with words is like my phantom grandmother. Take a lion, a matchbox, a boy and a mum and you get a classic story to which New Zealander writers are all in debt. The ending is genius and still gives me goosebumps.
for the other three … see here
Sarah Jane Barnett recently interviewed me about my new collection, New York Pocket Book. The shoe was on the foot, for a change! I really enjoyed the questions. Took me right back to New York!
For the complete interview go here.
SJB: The poems in New York Pocket Book touch on the idea that the experience of being a tourist can give us a new way to see and experience ourselves. The collection’s main character, Josephine, closely observes her new experiences – the ‘American accent dipping and pausing,’ the ‘Manhattan sky.’ The idea works on two levels, with Josephine experiencing New York and with the reader experiencing Josephine. Can you speak to this idea in terms of your poetry? Do you see the poem as a way to provide a reader with a new experience of themselves?
PG: Perhaps any book refreshes our view of ourselves to varying degrees, but I really like the multiple reading experiences you have spotted. Learning another language for years, I always felt I wore my clothes slightly differently, that I had licence to be a slightly different person. I get that feeling when I stay in foreign cities. I am both myself and not myself. I eat things I might not normally eat. My daily routine goes out the window. So is it a stretch to say the reader in entering a book that is anchored in an iconic place, triggers different relations with the world and self? I don’t know but it’s a fascinating idea. One of the upshots of learning another language, is the way you learn more about your own language. Conversely, when someone speaks a foreign language they always leave clues about their mother tongue. When we experience a new city, we open windows on the familiar as much as we do the unfamiliar. So perhaps the poem is the surrogate new city, the surrogate new language.
Josephine is somewhat elusive. You are right in that you view her through a New York filter (and vice versa) and everything else lands in accidental traces. Some readers might crave more of her backstory but I resisted that. There are some red-hot traces though hiding away. This is a pocket book after all.
Such nervous anticipation as poets wait to see poems become book object.
I am no exception. Finally I have a copy of New York Pocket Book and I so love what Helen Rickerby from Seraph Press has done. It is like a little guide book I could take to NYC in my purse. I picture myself writing a suite of city pocket books so I could have a little row of them on my shelf. What madness. Rome Pocket Book. London Pocket Book. Paris Pocket Book. But I have always wanted to go to Barcelona. If only.
Tonight , well at 5pm, I am looking forward to 15 poets taking us on a mini world trip with city poems. The links might be tenuous but that is part of the delight.
When: 5 until 7 pm
Where: Gow Langsford Gallery, Lorne Street (in Michael’s show)
Paula Green, Helen Rickerby, Angela Andrews, Sophie Van Waardenberg, Courtney Sina Meredith, Murray Edmond, Vana Manasiadis, Sophia Johnson, Gregory Kan, Michele Leggott, Albert Wendt, Janet Charman, Steven Toussaint, CK Stead, Robert Sullivan.
You are most welcome!