Tag Archives: Paula harris

Wild Honey in Palmerston North

 

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Thank you so much Palmerston North poets and poetry fans for a special night celebrating women. Before the event started I discovered the poetry section in Bruce McKenzie Bookshop next door and spotted so many treasures. What a gorgeous book haven this place is. I could have spent hours there and bought a truckload of books – but was limited by what I could fit in my carry-on bag. Really one of the best gatherings of NZ poetry books I have seen in ages. Now I wish I had taken notes of all the books I had wanted to get – including some of mine that are out of print.

 

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Bruce McKenzie Bookshop, Palmerston North

 

What I have found special about the Wild Honey readings is the way other women are brought into the room through the poems read. This time among others Tusiata Avia, Alice Te Punga Somerville, Vivienne Plumb, Nina Mingya Powles, Elizabeth Smither, Ruth Dallas, Maria McMillan, Joan Fleming and Lauris Edmond. It was particularly moving that the event was held on the fourth anniversary of Joy Green’s passing, and that her friend Hannah Pratt read one of her poems (‘The Cardboard Box’). It was also great to have two fiction writers (Tina Makereti and Thom Conroy) read poems they love by NZ women. And I was especially moved that Jo Thorpe had driven down from Gisborne and Marty Smith from Hawke’s Bay to be there.

Marty and I had a lively conversation – and it reminded me why poetry matters. I forget there is an audience when I get to talk poetry with someone (on the radio, on stage, in an interview) and feel utterly enthusiastic about what poetry can do. Poetry is always a cause for celebration. Even when it is laying down challenges, speaking of tough things, getting complex and difficult, opening up self. It is sound and it is heart and it is interlaced.

I loved this event so much but I am also the kind of writer who likes two tablespoons of public light and acreages of privacy. It feels like it’s time to move back into secret terrain and times having had such support in bringing my new books into the world. Particularly Wild Honey.

Thank you Palmerston North: Bruce McKenzie Bookshop, Genny Vella and Palmerston North Library and the writers: Johanna Aitchison, Paula Harris, Thom Conroy, Paula King, Helen Llehndorf, Marty Smith, Hannah A Pratt, Jo Thorpe, Janet Newman and Tina Makereti.

Thanks to everyone who has bought the book, shared the book and supported my other equally special events in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin. I will be doing more next year!

Thanks especially to my publicist Sarah Thornton and to Nicola Legat, my publisher at Massey University Press.

This is my book of love and connections.

Thank you!

 

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The three Paulas!

 

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Conversing with the delightful Marty!

Paula Harris, winner of a US poetry prize, talks poems with Jessie Mulligan

 

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Listen here at RNZ National. Great interview! Really can’t get my ahead around a journal that says ‘this is not poetry’! We should be long over such restrictive attitudes to what a poem is.

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Poetry Shelf Review: Poetry New Zealand Yearbook 2018

 

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What I want from a poetry journal

More and more I witness clusters of poetry communities in New Zealand – families almost – that might be linked by geography, personal connections, associations with specific institutions or publishers. How often do we read reviews of, or poems by, people with whom we don’t share these links? Poetry families aren’t a bad thing, just the opposite, but I wonder whether the conversations that circulate across borders might grow less and less.

I want a poetry journal to offer diversity, whichever way you look, and we have been guilty of all manner of biases. This is slowly changing.

When I pick up a journal I am on alert for the poet that makes me hungry for more, that I want a whole book from.

I am also happy by a surprising little diversion, a poem that holds me for that extra reading. Ah, this is what a poem can do!

 

Editor Jack Ross has achieved degrees of diversity within the 2018 issue and I also see a poetry family evolving. How many of these poets have appeared in Landfall or Sport, for example? A number of the poets have a history of publication but few with the university presses.

This feels like a good thing. We need organic communities that are embracing different voices and resisting poetry hierarchies.

Poetry NZ Yearbook Annual offers a generous serving of poems (poets in alphabetical order so you get random juxtapositions), reviews and a featured poet (this time Alistair Paterson). It has stuck to this formula for decades and it works.

What I enjoyed about the latest issue is the list of poets I began to assemble that I want a book from. Some I have never heard of and some are old favourites.

 

Some poets I am keen to see a book from:

 

Our rented flat in Parnell

Those rooms of high ceilings and sash windows

Our second city

after Sydney

Robert Creeley trying to chat you up

at a Russell Haley party

when our marriage

was sweet

 

from Bob Orr’s ‘A Woman in Red Slacks’

 

Bob Orr’s heartbreak poem, with flair and economy, reminds me that we need a new book please.

There is ‘Distant Ophir’, a standout poem from David Eggleton that evokes time and place with characteristic detail. Yet the sumptuous rendering is slightly uncanny, ghostly almost, as past and present coincide in the imagined and the seen.  Gosh I love this poem.

The hard-edged portrait Johanna Emeney paints in ‘Favoured Exception’ demands a spot in book of its own.

I haven’t read anything by Fardowsa Mohamed but I want more. She is studying medicine at Otago and has written poetry since she was a child. Her poem’ Us’, dedicated to her sisters, catches the dislocation of moving to where trees are strange, : ‘This ground does not taste/ of the iron you once knew.’

Mark Young’s exquisite short poem, ‘Wittgenstein to Heidegger’, is a surprising loop between difficulty and easy. Again I hungered for another poem.

Alastair Clarke, another poet unfamiliar to me, shows the way poetry can catch the brightness of place (and travel) in ‘Wairarapa, Distance’. Landscape is never redundant in poetry –  like so many things that flit in and out of poem fashion. I would read a whole book of this.

Another unknown: Harold Coutt’s ‘there isn’t a manual on when you’re writing someone a love poem and they break up with you’ is as much about writing as it is breaking up and I love it. Yes, I want more!

Two poets that caught my attention at The Starling reading at the Wellington Writers Festival are here: Emma Shi and Essa Ranapiri. Their poems are as good on the page as they are in the ear. I have posted a poem from Essa on the blog.

I loved the audacity of Paula Harris filling in the gaps after seeing a photo of Michael Harlow in ‘The poet is bearded and wearing his watch around the wrong way’. Light footed, witty writing with sharp detail. More please!

I am a big fan of Jennifer Compton’s poetry and her ‘a rose, and then another’ is inventive, sound-exuberant play. I can’t wait for the next book.

I am also a fan of the linguistic agility of Lisa Samuels; ‘Let me be clear’ takes sheer delight in electric connections between words.

Finally, and on a sad note, there is Jill Chan’s poem, ‘Poetry’. I wrote about her on this blog to mark her untimely death. It is the perfect way to conclude this review. Poetry is everywhere – it is in all our poetry families.

 

Most poetry is unwritten,

denied and supposed.

Don’t go to write it.

Go where you’ve never been.

Go.

And it may come.

Behind you,

love rests.

And where is poetry?

What is it you seek?

 

Jill Chan, from ‘Poetry’

 

 

Poetry NZ Yearbook page